I initially wrote this for Alex Bhathal’s Facebook page, and it’s been one of her most popular posts. It’s also shown me how much resistance there can be to making an honest reckoning with our history, despite being in so many ways haunted by it. Even today, making the simplest acknowledgement of this history goes too far for certain individuals, who become significantly bothered online.
We should remember that this electorate is named after John Batman, a man who committed horrific crimes against Aboriginal people as a ‘bounty hunter’ in Tasmania before coming to Melbourne. Batman ‘purchased’ the ancestral lands of what now makes up Melbourne’s north in a meeting on the banks of the Merri Creek in 1835. The So-Called ‘Batman Treaty’ was not a treaty at all, but handed across a few blankets, tomahawks and knives in a transaction that Wurundjeri Elders believed to be a gift in exchange for passage, called ‘tandarrum’.
Here, just like everywhere in Australia, a treaty or treaties with our first nations never took place, making Australia unique in the world. It is only right that our local Wurundjeri people are fighting to rename Batman Park in Northcote, as well as the federal electorate of Batman. I think it would be a simple sign of respect for the deceit of the meeting that day in 1835.
I was flabbergasted when this fairly faithful potted history brought one person to the most extraordinary revisionist contortions about John Batman, of the ‘he was not such a bad bloke after all’ variety.
Thankfully comments like these are largely self-moderating.
The original article about the Wurundjeri campaign can be found here.