History research

In recent months, the Miranda Must Go campaign has been contacted by a number of residents from the Hanging Rock/Macedon Ranges region who wish to learn and share more information about our past and how dispossession has affected the area’s Aboriginal people.

There are number of local histories written about the Macedon Ranges, but few have focussed on the specific experiences of Aboriginal people and the impact colonisation has had on local tribal groups. One exception is a 2001 honours thesis by Kyneton teacher and historian Rachel Moait (née Tanner) which details her research into the Gunung Willam Balluk clan of the Macedon Ranges and also observes that there has been a lack of attention to Aboriginal histories in the area. Rachel’s thesis is widely circulated amongst local residents who want to know more about the region’s history.

Recently, Rachel contacted Amy Spiers through the Miranda Must Go campaign to say she is interested in undertaking further historical research on the Macedon Ranges in order to provide more resources for local people and schools. Rachel wants to encourage people to contact her if they would like to help. Particularly what would be most helpful is if people can suggest sources and provide access to records, like settler diaries and journals, that may offer further insight into the early period of colonisation and provide information about the local Aboriginal tribal groups and their contact with settlers.

Rachel is wishing to connect with other local historians, residents and Aboriginal groups who are working to learn more about the area’s history. If you have any leads that might help her research efforts or would like to connect with her, email Rachel (rachtann@yahoo.com.au) or Miranda Must Go (mirandamustgo@gmail.com).

Last week Rachel and Amy visited Skelsmergh in Carlsruhe (near Kyneton) on the invitation of current resident Steve Marriott. Steve explained that Skelsmergh is located on land that Charles Ebden occupied in 1837, becoming the first pastoralist to settle in the Port Phillip District north of the Great Dividing Range. Steve speculates that Ebden chose to settle the area as he was attracted to the deep waterholes in the Campaspe River in this location, which he believes were also significant to the local Aboriginal people. He is consulting with land councils and Aboriginal Affairs Victoria to learn more about the significance of the area for Aboriginal people.

Steve also shared information, drawn from J. O. Randell’s squatter histories of the Campaspe and Coliban districts, that indicates Ebden and other early settlers of the Carlsruhe area were hostile towards Aboriginal people. In Scars in the LandscapeIan Clark notes that Ebden and his employees had reportedly participated in massacres of Dja Dja Wurrung people.

Below is a picture looking across Skelsmergh and Carlsruhe towards Hanging Rock. You can see Hanging Rock in the centre of the horizon between the poplar trees.

How It Goes

On Tuesday 14 February 2017, Miranda Must Go campaigners held an Anti-Picnic at Hanging Rock. We gathered to contest the site’s habitual associations with Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and instead draw attention to the real losses and traumas Aboriginal people have experienced due to European settlement.

As Valentine’s Day is the date when the schoolgirls of Lindsay’s novel go missing and fans traditionally celebrate the book by holding picnics at Hanging Rock on 14 February, Miranda Must Go supporters decided to come together to present alternative histories and storytelling at the iconic site.

Amongst those who attended the Anti-Picnic were Aboriginal activists and supporters Viv Malo, Robbie Thorpe, Marjorie Thorpe and Clare Land. Also present were local residents and community groups, including Friends of Hanging Rock, as well as Macedon Ranges Shire Council Arts and Culture coordinator Robyn Till and Councillor Bill West.

On the day we presented a reading of a satirical play, “How it Goes”, by Elspeth Tilley, author of White Vanishing: Rethinking Australia’s Lost-in-the-Bush Myth. Tilley expressly wrote the play for the Miranda Must Go campaign. The reading was performed by Carissa Lee, Ash Dyer, Ben Hjorth, Catherine Ryan, Amy Spiers and Beth Sometimes.

The play is available to download and Tilley welcomes, indeed encourages, people to use, perform or remix it under the Creative Commons license.

How it Goes, a play by Elspeth Tilley by amyspiers on Scribd

We also ended the day with a lively, open discussion about the campaign and the concerns it raises.

In the video below Aboriginal activist, Robbie Thorpe, explains why campaigns that contest dominant white Australian myths are important.

You can also watch an ABC News story about the event below.

More documentation from the day to come…

Reflections on Miranda Must Go

Yesterday’s Miranda Must Go event was fantastic. We had an anti-picnic at Hanging Rock, read Elspeth Tilley’s satirical play about white vanishing myths and finished with a really fabulous, open discussion about the concerns of the campaign. Two ABC media crews came and we were featured in the ABC News that evening. I am most grateful to everyone who attended, and those who couldn’t but sent us well wishes and support. I am most especially thankful that Aboriginal rights activists, such as Robbie Thorpe and Clare Land, joined us yesterday as it was a real privilege to hear them speak. Also big thanks to Elspeth Tilley for her play, “How It Goes“. Its critique of settler invasion was welcomed by attendees. The picture above is from the reading (note the carving of Miranda in the tree watching over us). More documentation to come.

I just want to acknowledge that over the last few weeks the Miranda Must Go campaign has received some criticism from a diversity of perspectives: the “informed” literary theorists argue that Picnic at Hanging Rock actually draws attention to colonial dispossession via subtext; there are concerned white people (that fail to understand that the campaign’s aim is to acknowledge the effects of colonial dispossession) who have accused the campaign of trying to tell Aboriginal stories that non-Aboriginal people have no right to tell; there are other well-meaning people who fault Miranda Must Go for not telling Aboriginal stories and fixating only on the Aboriginal people who died and dispossessed in the region; also moderate Miranda-fans who argue we should have balance/multiplicity and celebrate both white and Aboriginal stories; white “progressive” Hanging Rock residents who believe the campaign’s aims are too extreme; plus your usual right-wing trolls who reject the fact that Australia was founded on violence and invasion.

I expected much of this criticism and have reflected on it. After listening to a diversity of people speak yesterday, however, and hearing their support for the campaign, my commitment to the aims of Miranda Must Go has only toughened. This campaign is not too extreme. Instead we need thousands more initiatives like it.

It was disturbing to watch Miranda-fans at Hanging Rock in flowing frocks skipping around on stolen Aboriginal land yesterday as we listened to local officials pay lip-service to the importance of Aboriginal stories while maintaining that Miranda should stay. What it highlights is that these white vanishing myths do not only discursive but real violence, shifting attention to white lives, losses and stories, and establishing a convenient and palatable settler attachment to the Australian landscape, whilst obscuring and trivialising Aboriginal peoples’ ongoing losses, struggles and traumas. While white Australia cannot openly confront the violence of settler colonialism or ratify a formal treaty with Aboriginal people and acknowledge their land rights, Miranda and her white vanishing friends really have to go.

If anything it demonstrates that there is so much work to do in every locality in Australia to bring attention to the injustices Aboriginal people have faced, and continue to endure, as a result of colonial invasion. My most sincere wish is that this campaign inspires others to contest the white symbols and monuments in their area and keep trying to alter the dominant narrative.

For more information about the rationale behind the campaign, please read this piece I wrote for VICE: www.vice.com/en_au/article/what-really-happened-at-hanging-rock

Many thanks for your support,

Amy Spiers
(artist, activist and Miranda Must Go campaigner)

Join us on Valentine’s Day

You are cordially invited to the Miranda Must Go Anti-Picnic on Tuesday 14 February 2017, 12.30-4.30pm at Hanging Rock Reserve.

At Hanging Rock a myth of vanishing white schoolgirls is obsessively retold while the actual removal and displacement of Aboriginal people and culture is actively ignored.

Hanging Rock is effectively haunted by a convenient fiction rather than an uncomfortable fact.

The “Miranda Must Go” campaign seeks to challenge the habitual retelling of the Picnic at Hanging Rock story at Hanging Rock and direct attention to the real losses and traumas Aboriginal people have experienced due to European settlement.

2017 marks the 50th anniversary since Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic At Hanging Rock, was published and Valentine’s Day is the date when the schoolgirls go missing in the novel. On 14 February, Miranda Must Go supporters will gather to contest the habitual associations with Joan Lindsay’s novel by presenting alternative histories and storytelling at Hanging Rock.

Program:

You can find us on the day based at the Petanque Shelter at Hanging Rock (see map).

12.30-2.30pm: Lunch at Hanging Rock.  Bring things for a picnic – we will have bbq facilities at the Petanque Picnic Shelter. Visit the Hanging Rock Discovery Centre to view a new video artwork by artists Amy Spiers and Zoe Scoglio (view trailer).

2.30-3.00pm: Reading of a satirical play, “How it Goes”, by Elspeth Tilley, author of White Vanishing: Rethinking Australia’s Lost-in-the-Bush Myth. Tilley has expressly written the play for the Miranda Must Go campaign. The reading will be performed by Carissa Lee, Ash Dyer, Ben Hjorth, Catherine Ryan, Amy Spiers and Beth Sometimes.

3.00-4.30pm: Discussion and Q&A. A discussion about Miranda Must Go and the aims of the campaign. The discussion will include representation from local community groups, Macedon Ranges Shire Council and Miranda Must Go supporters, with special guest Aboriginal activist Robbie Thorpe.

RSVP and share the event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/208574542949012/

Support this event and preorder a campaign t-shirt, sign or poster to collect on the day: https://www.gofundme.com/mirandamustgo

Suggest a speaker or contribute to the day, get in touch: mirandamustgo@gmail.com

#MirandaMustGo in the news

The campaign launched two weeks ago and has been covered by local and national media. Click on links below to find out more about why Miranda should go:

Support the campaign

  • Share. Tell friends about Miranda Must Go and invite them to our event. Use the hashtag #MirandaMustGo.

Save the Date

This year on Tuesday  14 February, 2017 the Miranda Must Go campaign will hold an action and event at Hanging Rock.

It is important that our objection to the white vanishing myth is heard on this day.

2017 marks the 50th anniversary since Joan Lindsay’s Picnic At Hanging Rock was published and 14 February (Valentine’s Day) is the date when the schoolgirls go missing in the novel. It is also a day people traditionally celebrate the book by holding picnics and film screenings at Hanging Rock.

Please save the date! 

Full details will be distributed to subscribers closer to the date.  Join us on Facebook or Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed.

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