Sacred land where 300 Indigenous Australians were massacred returned to Darumbal people

A sacred site at the foot of a Queensland mountain where 300 Indigenous people were massacred has been handed back to the Darumbal people.

The state government handed over control of the culturally significant site at the foot of Gai-i, formerly Mount Wheeler, in a ceremony in bushland southwest of Yeppoon on Thursday.

The Gawula Aboriginal Land Trust, representing the Darumbal people, became the trustee of the 13.5-hectare reserve, surrounded by land where the Darumbal people already hold native title.

In the late 1800s, early European settlers massacred more than 300 Darumbal people at the base of Gai-i during a violent confrontation.

For Darumbal woman Aunty Sally Vea Vea, the handover is a “settling” after past atrocities.

“They treated killing us like a sport,’’ Aunty Sally said.

“This trauma has been passed down generations. We have stories of people with us today whose grandmothers and aunties saw these atrocities.

“Now we’ve got the massacre site back, there’s been a settling inside me. I know we’ve done right by our old people, who still live there in spirit.”

The mountain’s name was returned to the Indigenous title in 2018 after lobbying by local groups wanting to remove links to past atrocities.

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“Getting the mountain’s name changed from Mount Wheeler to Gai-i in 2018 was a big step forward for us as Captain [Frederick] Wheeler was responsible for these massacres on our country,’’ Aunty Sally said.

“The Darumbal people will continue to care for country and tell people of the history of this place – the good and the bad.”

Queensland’s resources minister, Scott Stewart, said the government was proud to work with First Nations people across the state to formally recognise their deep connection to country.

“This moment is a shining light in what is a deep, dark history of dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this state,” he said.

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