Indigenous History at Millpost and BLM
We recently had another visit from ANU students and researchers (including our mate and indigenous archeologist Deadly Dave) who are studying aboriginal history at Millpost. On the day we discussed the management plan for the stone axe quarry and the ways forward it has opened up for us, including how we can protect it as a sacred place and how it can best be appreciated as a place of learning and as a cultural place for the local mob. In a chilling premonition we joked on the day that the site was unlikely to be destroyed by mining or blasting (the main concern OEH has). The next day we heard about the 46000 year old site in the Pilbara destroyed by Rio Tinto, an inexcusable act of greed and an undeniable marker of colonialism's ongoing grip on first nations people. A few days later we marched in Canberra in protest and remembrance of the 430+ Indigenous lives taken at the hands of our cops since the Australian government's royal commission into aboriginal deaths in custody. What reconciliation? How can we have the gall to speak the word reconciliation (let alone celebrate it) when the conflict we are meant to reconcile is still happening every day?
Students from ANU have since returned to Millpost, and while surveying the creek found potential (probable) stone axe grinding grooves, see them on the right. These grooves add another layer to the story of land use here. The axes cut from the rock at a quarry were brought down to these creek beds and shaped and sharpened on the stone next to the water. The creek flows out from Millpost off the escarpment and into Weereewa, a hugely important site in the landscape, the southern end of which is just visible from the axe quarry. It’s easy to picture the route Ngunawal/Ngambri people took through Millpost, connecting the fertile limestone plains and the largest freshwater lake in Australia. Millpost consists largely of productive Themeda grassland grazed by roos and a place to harvest seed. We also know from its presence that Dharaban (Yam Daisy) was probably cultivated here. We also have since heard about the corroborees held in the district, including nearby at the Queanbeyan river, and it’s possible Millpost would have formed a similar meeting place. Understanding Millpost as an aboriginal place is not just an exercise in historical preservation/conservation, we must come to understand our role as the current custodians of the land on which this history formed and to find ways for the modern Ngunawal/Ngambri mob to reconnect with their ancestral country.
The current broader conversations associated with the Black Lives Matter movement are valuable not just for the way they hit the top of town, but for their impact on local levels. This includes in our own heads, where we are reminded of the actions we should be taking as individuals and communities.
These are all thoughts we must bear in mind as we continue with the draft management plan for the quarry and into Millposts future.
Murray Watson 30/6/2020