Mount McKenzie Massacre in Barrington Tops 1835

Andrew Laurie Lookout in Barrington Tops National Park near the Gloucester River

Truth telling is gaining recognition. It’s essential for the future wellbeing of Australia that we acknowledge and address our brutal past.

Here’s an extract from the NPWS Barrington Tops Plan of Management that mentions just one of the many incidences in colonial New South Wales.

(Source: Barrington Tops National Park Plan of Management, NSW NPWS, Sep 2010, page 30-31)

The early history of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal interaction in the region is one of conflict. The rapid European settlement of the land surrounding the planning area, led by timber getters and miners, displaced Aboriginal people from traditional lands and restricted access to food sources. Historical records indicate that by 1840, soon after the arrival of European settlers in the area traditional food sources were almost exhausted. Many Aboriginal people were dispossessed and in some cases there were active attempts to eliminate the local Aboriginal population.

Mount McKenzie Aboriginal Place, in Barrington National Park, is an example of this broader history. In 1835 a group of Aboriginal people were massacred in retaliation for the killing of five convict shepherds. A group of local residents, assisted by settlers from Port Stephens, set out to find the Aboriginal people responsible.

They found a group of Aboriginal men, women and children camped on the edge of a cliff near the Gloucester River. It was reported that the Aboriginal people leapt to their deaths after being surrounded by settlers. However oral evidence suggests they were shot and thrown over the cliff edge by the settlers.

The Mount McKenzie Aboriginal Place was gazetted in 2002 in recognition of the special significance of this site to the local Aboriginal community.

As a consequence of the past conflict and displacement of Aboriginal people, there was restricted access to their traditional lands. More recently these links to the planning area have been reinvigorated and are a continuing focus for Aboriginal communities.

A few years ago there was a reconciliation between the descendants of both the local Aboriginal people and the European search party involved in the Mount McKenzie massacre. Interpretation signs are displayed at Gloucester River on the history of the events at Mount Mackenzie.

The Aboriginal community has requested that the actual site is not promoted and visitation is discouraged.

(Source: Barrington Tops National Park Plan of Management, NSW NPWS, Sep 2010, page 30-31)

Other massacres around Barrington Tops

Belbora (between Gloucester & Wingham)
Between 1 Jan and 31 Dec 1834
AA Co employees left damper poisoned with strychnine in the huts, and a number of Binghi perished.
• Motive: Reprisal for theft of property
• Aboriginal dead mean: 8 (min estimate: 6, max estimate: 10)
• Coloniser dead: 0

Paterson River, Hunter Valley
1 March 1827: Alleged affray on EG Cory’s estate.
• Motive: Opportunity
• Aboriginal dead: 12
• Coloniser dead: 0

See the Australia-wide map of massacres here