Following on from Terry Smythe's Denny Day Mark Tedeschi QC picks up the story of the aftermath of the Myall Creek Massacre, concentrating on events and the participants around the trial of the perpetrators of the massacre of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children in 1838 in northern New South Wales.
The cover of the book refers to it as the "trial that defined a nation" and it's hard not to agree 100% with that statement. Whilst it could be said that the book concentrates considerably more on the outcomes and surrounding civil changes that occurred at the time of the trial - rather than the massacre itself - it's important to realise that out of the dreadful acts of eleven men, some good eventuated including modern-day civil rights, equality, religious freedoms and the secular state. That doesn't hold true, unfortunately, for recognition of the lives lost in the massacre itself and we should never forget that or them.
The circumstances and events surrounding this massacre are utterly appalling. These killers behaved appallingly. Their crimes were beyond appalling and we should all be aware of what they did, and the manner in which they did it. We should also remember that this trial came at a time when it was virtually unknown for Europeans to be charged with any crimes against Aboriginal people. As a consequence, some small amount of justice was achieved. Awareness was raised, and good people were able to stand up for what is right.
At the heart of these people is a most fascinating man I'd never heard of. The Attorney General of New South Wales at the time - John Hubert Plunkett is a study all to himself, a religious man who believed fervently in the separation of church and State; the provision of secular education; the provision of health care to all regardless of religious background; equality before the law; emancipation; and fair and decent treatment of all people regardless of their backgrounds.
The fact that Plunkett persisted with two trials of the alleged murderers is a relief. What he also did for the society in which we now live is worth knowing.