Flying Foam remembered
A vista of greenery, red rocks and the bright blue water of King Bay provided a stark contrast to reflections on a dark day in the history of the Burrup Peninsula at Sunday’s memorial service for the Flying Foam Massacre.
About 60 people attended the service at the standing stones overlooking King Bay to pay their respects for the 149th anniversary of the massacre, in which almost the entire population of Yaburara people, traditional owners of Murujuga, was killed by police and settlers over a period of months.
The massacre started in February 1868 after a policeman was killed by a party of Yaburara people as they rescued a fellow tribesman who he had chained to a tree for stealing some flour.
Police and colonists went on to kill Yaburara men, women and children in retribution and only a handful survived.
The total number of people killed is unknown but was estimated to be about 100.
Yaburara and Coastal Mardhudunera Aboriginal Corporation heritage officer and memorial service organiser Audrey Cosmos said the tragic event was of great significance for the Yaburara people as well as the wider history of the Pilbara.
“It’s has a big (impact) for me, on a personal level as well as trying to get it done and put it out there as professionally as I can in a way that people remember and respect it,” she said. “It happened that many years ago, but then when you look at it, it’s not that long ago.”
Speaking at the event, City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said the massacre’s scale and brutality was shocking even by colonial-era standards.
“All the way from the State government in Perth was (issued) a direction to take settlers, make them special constables, and go out and apprehend the people who had killed the policeman,” he said.
“They didn’t just apprehend some people, they actually killed nearly the whole tribe. It was so bad, the record of the number killed was actually scraped out from the book because the other people were so shocked at how many people were killed.”
Greens Member for Mining and Pastoral Robin Chapple said little was known about the massacre but it was important to remember such a “horrendous” event had taken place in the Pilbara.
“It is one of Australia’s worst massacres, and we have moved on from that but we should never ever forget the injustice that was done,” he said.
Mrs Cosmos said she was pleased to see such a large public turnout, showing word about the Yaburara people’s history was getting out.
“It’s recognised worldwide. It’s just that I think it needs to be pushed here now locally, so everyone can come together, black and white, to remember it,” she said.
The service also included a call to stand up for the Burrup, a movement to register the Burrup Peninsula on the World Heritage List.
Mrs Cosmos said she hoped to make the memorial service for next year’s 150th anniversary even bigger.
We have moved on from that but we should never ever forget the injustice that was done. Robin Chapple
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Craig Bonney, Greens Senator Robbin Chapple, Yaburara and Coastal Mardhudunera Aboriginal Corporation heritage officer Audrey Cosmos and City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long at the memorial plaque for the Flying Foam Massacre on the Burrup Peninsula.