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Murder at Myall Creek

With special guest:

  • Mark Tedeschi QC AM
    … in conversation with Bill Kable

Our guest today is the well-known former Crown Prosecutor for New South Wales and author of Murder at Myall Creek, Mark Tedeschi.

Mark has written a deeply moving account of the massacre of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children in 1838 which led to a trial that defined the nation of Australia. If the law of the land in Australia was to have any credibility, if the principle is that we are all equal before the law, then this is a watershed case.

At the time of the massacre it was only 50 years since Captain Arthur Phillip and his first fleet arrived in Australia yet the inhabitants of the country for the previous 60,000 years were under threat of genocide from the new arrivals.

There were many in the community who were sympathetic to all Aboriginal killers and this was expressed in the editorials of the major newspapers such as The Sydney Herald (before it added “Morning” to its masthead). Against this background there were some heroes that stood up against the general view of the free settlers, the squatters, the military, the emancipists, the newspapers and even the convict population which still amounted to 36% of the population. Principal among these was John H Plunkett who as Attorney-General at the time had the duty to prosecute the eleven convicts and former convicts who were put on trial for murder.

As a modern day criminal prosecutor Mark Tedeschi can step into the shoes of John H Plunkett and tell us what he would do differently today. The trial itself went into the second day which was unusual. If the hearing were held today it would last more than three months, probably more than six months.

This is a story about a gruesome destruction of families who believed they were living peacefully with the invaders of their country but because of the colour of their skin they were killed in cold blood. It is also a story about the welcome response of the judicial authorities and the long-term effect.

Every year on the anniversary there is a commemoration of these events held at Myall Creek in northern NSW where the descendants of the perpetrators can join with the descendants of those murdered and become part of a larger family. We hope that in conformity with the views expressed by Martin Luther King we will arrive at a place where people are recognised for their character rather than the colour of their skin so that trials such as this, similar to a war crimes trial, will never occur again.

Mark Tedeschi QC AM

As a Barrister and a Crown Prosecutor for forty years, Mark Tedeschi QC has appeared in some of the most significant criminal cases in Australia. He was the Senior Crown Prosecutor in New South Wales for fifteen years and is the President of the Australian Association of Crown Prosecutors. He has had many articles published on the law and is the author of a legal text book. Mark has also published many articles on history, genealogy, photography, and horticulture. Prior to writing Murder at Myall Creek Mark wrote the critically acclaimed biography Eugenia and Kidnapped the story of the kidnapping and murder in 1960 of Sydney schoolboy Graeme Thorne.

Song selection by our guest: Concerto in E Minor by Elgar

Listen Now (mp3)

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