20/1/11 Freedom Fighters Commemoration

20/1/11 Freedom Fighters Commemoration

Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were amoung five Tasmanian Aborigines who conducted a campaign of resistance to European settlement in 1841. The other three were Pyterruner, Truganini and Planobeena. They had been brought to Melbourne by the officially appointed Protector of Aborigines, George Augustus Robinson.

They raided station after station from Dandenong to Cape Paterson. They stole firearms and burnt down stations, trying to avoid unnecessary deaths and gunfights. They killed 2 whalers, Cook and Yankee, wounded 5 settlers, burnt down numerous farmhouses and evaded capture for 8 weeks. Three military expeditions were launched against them. Although they set out to drive the settlers from the bush, they didn’t harm women or children and only fired at those that fired at them. Considering the outrages that had been perpetrated on them and their families in Tasmania, it´s extraordinary that they didn´t kill many more settlers when they had the opportunity to even up the score.

Their capture was effected by an overwhelming party of soldiers, police, settlers and black trackers near Anderson´s Inlet, not far from Cape Patterson. During the 8 weeks of their roaming, reports of their feats sent a shiver down the spine of the Europeans who were living in Melbourne and its surrounds.

They arrived in chains under military escort in Melbourne on 21st November 1841. All five were charged with murder and appeared in court before Judge Willis on the 20th December 1841. The jury delivered a verdict after half an hour finding the men guilty of murder, and the women not guilty. The jury made a very strong plea for clemency for the men ´on account of general good character and the peculiar circumstances under which they are placed´.

The next day Judge Willis sentenced the 2 men to death and the 3 women were discharged into Robinson´s care. The jury´s plea for mercy was rejected by the Executive Council of New South Wales. On the 20th January 1842 Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were led to the scaffold, where the current RMIT building is located. Here they were hanged watched by a crowd of about 5,000. The first public judicial execution in Melbourne.

Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were buried outside the Melbourne cemetery (under the current Victoria Market).

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