Reconciliation Week – public art on our doorstep

Andrea ChesterLeave a Comment

Womin Djeka. Like me, you have probably walked past this sculpture in Victoria Street outside building 13 many times. Did you know it is a memorial to the two Aboriginal men whose names appear on the concrete blocks?

Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner were part of a group of 16 Aboriginal people brought from Tasmania to Victoria to help “civilise the blacks” in Victoria. Records suggest that Tunnerminnerwait was asked to investigate conflicts in western Victoria, where white whalers had massacred between 60 and 200 people from the Gunditjmara clan.


It was soon after visiting the site of the killing that Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner joined a group of three women including the Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Truganini, who had by then left her role as a negotiator for Mr Robinson. The group waged a six-week guerrilla-style war against the settlers as they moved towards Wilson’s Promontory. They set cattle stations on fire, stole guns and shot dead two white whalers. Their motivations for the killing are not fully known, but Dr Land said it may have been linked to the whalers’ history of “mistreatment of Aboriginal women”. The conflicts sparked a hunt from officials, who sent out three military groups as well as Aboriginal police officers or ‘native police’ to search for the guerilla fighters.

The Frontier War memorial you might have missed in the heart of Melbourne

These two men were the first people to be publicly hanged in Melbourne in 1842 following a six-week conflict with white settlers. They were buried in unmarked graves on the site of what is now Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market.

With many thanks to Alison for sending this through.

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