THE news that the Elliston District Council has had its reconciliation monument wording recognised with a local government award for Promoting Indigenous Recognition is surely vindication for the council that the councillors made the right decision, and for the Wirangu people who were determined to have the monument’s wording reflect their history.
It was about this time last year that the controversy about the wording that would accompany a reconciliation monument on the Elliston Coastal Trail (pictured) started to come to the fore, over whether the word ‘massacre’ should be included.
It might seem trivial, a town divided over the use of a word, but the people on both sides of the issue only wanted the best for their community.
Many of those who fought against the use of the word ‘massacre’ were afraid of what it would do to Elliston’s reputation so it is great to see the wording has actually done the opposite.
By acknowledging the deaths of Aboriginal people at Waterloo Bay 1849, the monument and wording opened up an opportunity for reconciliation in the Elliston community and has set an example for communities across the state and country and the award win seems to be driving this message home.
This national recognition is not just a big deal for the Elliston District Council either, this is a big deal for the Wirangu people who pushed for the wording and told their story patiently.
The debate over whether or not what happened is a massacre can now fall to the wayside because, as written in the wording, the “monument commemorates an incident, referred to by the traditional owners of this land as ‘The Massacre of Waterloo Bay’”.
The wording written on the stone is not going to change anyone’s mind if they do not believe what happened was a massacre, and it is not meant to.
However, the wording does provide an opportunity for visitors to the area who see the monument to educate themselves about all of Australia’s early history and that can only be a good thing.
As Elliston District Council chairman Kym Callaghan said in today’s story on page 3, completing the wording part of the project was not easy but the award announced last week was recognition that the right decision was made for the Wirangu and the wider community.