Bringing the past home 

Smithton High School students currently undertaking research for a project commemorating the life and times of Tunnerminnerwait visited historically relevant sites in Melbourne last week. (Pictured from left) Cameron McCulloch, Erica Quinn, Jackson Grey, Ellie Gale, Ashley Medwin, Brittany Russell, Philippa Parker and Liza van Lulofs Umbgrove with Smithton High School’s Peter Benson (far left), Tim Dunham and Dione Parker (far right) and CHAC’s Camilla Woolley. Absent: Ella Saltmarsh, Samantha Kay, Abbie Davison and Robert Saltmarsh. Picture: Ashleigh Force. 

History. Smithton High School students involved in ‘The Tunnerminnerwait project: Bringing his story home’ last week travelled to the place where the Indigenous freedom fighter’s story came to a close.

The History and English Extension and Visual Arts classes visited historically relevant sites in Melbourne from Wednesday October 19 to Friday October 21 as part of their research for the project.

Through collaboration with Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation and local tour guide Rob Saltmarsh, the students are researching the historical figure and will unveil a commemorative sign on the 175th anniversary of his death early next year.

Tunnerminnerwait was born on Robbins Island in 1811. He is an important figure in Australia’s frontier conflict history and often overshadowed by more prominent historical figures.

After a resistance to the European invasion, Tunnerminnerwait and his companion Maulboyheenner were trialled and executed on January 20, 1842 at the Old Melbourne Gaol.

The local project received a $3500 grant during round one of Circular Head Council’s 2016/2017 Community Small Grants Scheme earlier this year, which will be used to create the commemorative signage.

As part of their research for this monument, students retraced Tunnerminnerwait’s footsteps throughout Melbourne for the Victorian component of his life. They visited historical places such as the Old Melbourne Gaol, the Queen Victoria Market, the Melbourne Museum, State Library of Victoria and the recently established ‘Standing by Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner’ monument on the corner of Victoria and Franklin streets.

“Walking through the Old Melbourne Gaol, through to the monument and where they are buried – it gave me an idea of what would have happened on the day,” year nine student Brittany Russell said of the trip.

“I was thinking about what I would have seen if I was there.”

Ellie Gale, year nine, said it was important to share this local history with the wider community.

“We’re shining a light on a story that was forbidden for a long time.”

Eleven students attended the excursion accompanied by CHAC’s Camilla Woolley, Rob Saltmarsh and Smithton High School’s Tim Dunham, Dione Parker and Peter Benson.

Assistant principal Mr Dunham said the educational tour provided valuable historical information for the project as well as a personal growth experience.

“We now know a lot about the story so the next step now is to focus on what we want the sign to represent and then take this story to the Circular Head community.”

The Tunnerminnerwait project: Bringing his story home, will culminate in the unveiling of a commemorative sign located at Green Point, Marrawah on January 20, 2017 for the 175th anniversary of his execution. 

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