Mount Dispersion Massacre Site Aboriginal Place | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Mount Dispersion Massacre Site Aboriginal Place

Item details

Name of item: Mount Dispersion Massacre Site Aboriginal Place
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Aboriginal
Category: Massacre/battle site
Location: Lat: -34.57111056980 Long: 142.7311314400
Primary address: Tapalin Mail Road, Euston, NSW 2737
Parish: Matalong
County: Taila
Local govt. area: Wentworth
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Dareton
Hectares (approx): 2.05
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT192 DP760808
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Tapalin Mail RoadEustonWentworthMatalongTailaPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

Located on the banks of a prior course of the Murray River near Euston, the Mount Dispersion Massacre Site is of special significance to several Aboriginal tribal groups including the Kureinji and Barkandji peoples as the site of a colonial massacre. On 24 May 1836, while travelling along the Murray to its junction with the Darling, explorer and surveyor Major Thomas Mitchell and his party encountered a large group of about 180 Aboriginal people at Lake Benanee. This encounter was cordial but according to Mitchell the people followed him and were carrying spears and intimidating his group. Three days later, on 27 May, fearing that his party might be subject to attack, Mitchell conducted an ambush of the Aboriginal people at a small hill beside the Murray. Shots were fired, at least seven Aboriginal people were killed, and the remainder fled across the Murray River. Versions of events of the Mount Dispersion massacre differ greatly, from Mitchell's own accounts to those of his men and of an Aboriginal survivor. Mitchell's original account, submitted to the Governor immediately upon his return to Sydney, stated that after the massacre he learned the Aboriginal people had come from the Darling with the intent to fight him. Mitchell's later published book justified the event by emphasising that the ambush was an act of self-defence. In the book Mitchell portrayed the Aboriginal people as hostile tribes from the Darling River who were intent on revenge for an incident on the Darling River during his 1835 expedition in which his party shot and wounded one Aboriginal man and killed another Aboriginal man and a woman who was carrying a baby. An account of the Mt Dispersion massacre from Tilki, the only recorded Aboriginal survivor, presented the conflict from his personal perspective as a child on his mother's back - he stated that as she and other women were searching for mussel-fish in the river, Mitchell's men fired into the group and a musket ball carried off part of Tilki's left thumb. An Executive Council enquiry into the massacre found Mitchells account of the reasons for sacrifice of human life were poorly expressed as '...more of exultation than regret'. The enquiry resulted in a minor reprimand but no official action against Mitchell or his men. Despite the tragic events of 1836 the river retains cultural significance to Aboriginal people today and provides a link to past cultural practices and belief systems. There are many creation stories associated with the Murray River - one version recounts its sacred association with the Great Warrior (or Hunter) and the Cod creation story line where the ancestral creator, Norallie, sent the Great Warrior to create the Murray River. The Great Warrior chased the Giant Cod who swam and thrashed backwards and forwards, creating the river meanders. According to this story, in return for creating the river, the Great Warrior was rewarded with two wives. Telling the truth about the colonial history of New South Wales helps to address past injustices, allowing for healing and reconciliation. The telling of the events at the Mount Dispersion Massacre Site contributes to the understanding of the shared history of New South Wales. (Ashley Edwards, August 2019, Mount Dispersion Massacre Site Aboriginal Place Assessment Report)
Date significance updated: 27 May 20
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
NPW Act - Aboriginal Place  24 Apr 20 851512

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Electronic 2020Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage NSW
Database number: 5067415

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