Appin Massacre

The Appin massacre of 1816 is perhaps the most devastating and tragic event to occur to the Dharawal and other local clans, and was a low point in the relationship between Aboriginal and European inhabitants.

In April 1816, after two years of ongoing conflict between the Colonial settlers and the Dharawal, Dharug and Gandangara people across the south western region of Sydney, Governor Macquarie ordered an attack on the Dharawal people living in the 'Cow Pastures'. Captain Wallis and his men set out from Leumeah in the middle of the night and headed towards what is now known as Cataract Dam in pursuit of Indigenous people of the area. This was the first military ordered massacre of Aboriginal people in Australia and the attack resulted in the loss of a large number of the local Dharawal population.

The Appin Massacre was a tragedy for the Dharawal people, not only through the loss of lives that day, but also through the resulting displacement of the few survivors, many of whom fled to other parts of their Country and beyond.

Diseases brought by the Europeans also depleted the Dharawal population. In 1845, the number of Aboriginal people in the Campbelltown Police District had dropped in 10 years from 20 to none. Tribal life in the district continued in a limited way.

Corroborees were still held at Camden Park and Denham Court until at least the 1850s. During 1858, about 200 Aboriginal people attended the celebrations at Campbelltown marking the opening of the railway line.

The few remaining Dharawal people and the wider Aboriginal community are still healing from the events of 1816 and the impacts they had on their way of life, traditions, and stories, which have now largely been lost.

Remembering the Appin Massacre

Today, the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Tharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Aboriginal Committee Reference Group of Campbelltown City Council, foster Aboriginal culture in the Campbelltown area. Campbelltown City Council also holds a memorial flag raising ceremony to remember those who perished and to show Council's commitment to reconciliation.

Non-Aboriginal Australians are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about local Aboriginal culture and history through the work of these groups. A determined willingness to learn from our history will assist the process of reconciliation.