Wednesday, October 10, 2007

one death every eight weeks

Visitors to the Aboriginal cemetery on Rottnest are all too few. Rotto Bloggo has touched on the beautiful island's sorry indigenous history before (eg 'Tie them up like dogs'), but it's worth mentioning regularly.

So it was good to read this excellent Phil Haberland column on Perth Extra on Sunday: "If sadness was something you could physically touch, you would feel it here", Phil notes about the cemetery.

"Between 1838 and 1903, Rottnest was a prison for Aborigines. More than 3000 were transported from all over WA to the island to serve sentences for breaking British laws, of which they had no knowledge or understanding (such as six months for stealing a pipe or two years for killing a sheep).
"With chains around their necks and legs, they endured barbaric treatment and conditions. This is not "bleeding heart" history – just a statement of fact that can be found at the Rottnest Museum.

"There are more than 360 unmarked graves in the Aboriginal Prisoner Cemetery. That means that over 60 years, Aboriginal prisoners must have buried one of their number every eight weeks."

Phil talks about the cemetery and also thinks about Kate Grenville's The Secret River, and invites visitors to have a look at the place.

"...if you are at Rotto's pie shop or holidaying there, take the kids for a stroll, explain what happened, and for what it's worth, maybe say a prayer.For me, the word "sorry" still comes to mind."

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the saddest sign of all and no-one seems to care! I love Rotto with the best of them. But when returning to Rotto the other weekend after a 20 year absence this sign made me sit down and weep.

    Can't these poor men be free in death? Do they always be referred to as Prisoners?

    Doesnt anyone see a a difficulties in marking over 300 graves? We know their names. Green and Moon did a great job of identifying almost all of them. Why arent they marked as such?

    Does anyone really think that anyone of these men would see the significance of a sign mimicking the Aboriginal flag? It was only conceived as protest icon only 31 years ago?

    has anyone thought that the burial site might be a little bit bigger than is set out? There are over 300 graves there. Even buried sitting up that takes up a big space.

    Has anyone thought to dig these poor souls up and send them home up North or from hence they came?