Kate Auty and Lynette Russell
'The Tasmanians' in Port Phillip 1841-42
Auty and Russell take us to another time in the capital of Melbourne. This is a story about displaced, isolated and abandoned Palawa. Two – Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner – were executed. Three women – Truganini, Planobeena and Pyterruner – were returned to their country, grieving and brutalised.
This essay is an examination of the conduct of an erratic and incompetent trial judge (Willis) who had failed in other jurisdictions and who was now 'in charge' of a fledgling colonial justice system, and of a Protector, G.A. Robinson, complicit in a great injustice.
Across the narrative the reader is introduced to groups of Europeans, both official and unofficial, acting as hunting parties, their conduct approved both tacitly and, finally, officially.
Readers will be shocked by the treatment of the Palawa in this tragedy – not Shakespearean times, but Victoria in the 1840s.
Just two amongst the appalling issues examined here are the direction by the judge to proceed with capital changes, overruling a prosecution application reducing them, and the trial being forced on in the absence of significant witnesses.
This essay is a challenge to the fairness of the legal process that led to the hanging of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner on a horror day, watched by thousands in early Melbourne. It is a warts-and-all review of the state of civil society in early Victoria as it related to a race without a voice.