But there are more than a dozen monuments in Gippsland to pastoralist Angus McMillan, who is widely believed to have led this and other massacres. Until 2018, a federal electorate was named after him.
Also in the early 1840s, at Tambo Crossing, north-east of Bairnsdale, Mr Thorpe’s great-great-great grandfather, William Thorpe, and another boy survived a massacre of about 70 Gunnai people (committed by perpetrators that Aborigines’ “chief protector” George Augustus Robinson termed “Christians”) by hiding in a log.
Last week, beside Warrigal Creek, two huge intertwined gum trees sprawled above Mr Thorpe as the Gunnai and Gunditjmara man burnt eucalyptus leaves “to bring a good energy to the space”.
The truth about our past needs to be told “so we can move forward, together”, says Mr Thorpe, who tells the massacre story on video in a new state government-funded online campaign called Deadly & Proud.
In the campaign, which starts on Monday, 21 Indigenous people from across the state tell true stories, with an interactive map. It is a step on the government’s path towards a treaty with Indigenous people.
Others featured in Deadly & Proud include Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung elder Aunty Fay Carter, who says her ancestors were punished for speaking their language or conducting ceremonies before their 1939 walk-off from the Cummeragunja mission in southern NSW.
Gunditjmara/Boandik elder Uncle Johnny Lovett and Tyson Lovett-Murray tell of the Convincing Ground massacre at Portland Bay in Victoria’s west, and of their ancestors’ resistance to attacks.
And Tracey Rigney, a Wotjobaluk and Ngarrindjeri woman, speaks of her pride that her ancestor Jumgumjenanuke, a Wotjobaluk man from Victoria’s north-west, was a member of Australia’s first international cricket team in the 1860s.
Mr Thorpe, a mentor for trainees at the Charcoal Lane social enterprise restaurant in Fitzroy, said the Warrigal Creek massacre was a trauma that had been repressed.
“If it’s something that you’re ashamed of, you’re going to repress that,” he said. “But it’s time that we start to go, ‘OK ,well that happened, and how do we heal from it?’
“Not say, ‘We know all the answers,’ or, ‘That was a long time ago, get over it.’ When we approach something that we don’t know a lot about, it’s like being in the dark.
“What do you do when you’re in the dark? You walk slowly, because you can’t see where you’re going. And I think if we approach it quickly then it’s going to be tragic for future generations because we’re going to stumble over things we don’t understand. So we need to spend time and to really move forward gently.”
The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria is working towards forming a treaty with the state government.
Mr Thorpe, a nephew of activist Robbie Thorpe and cousin of Senator Lidia Thorpe, said a treaty was “a fantastic thing that should have happened a long time ago”.
It could be a big step towards dealing with past injustices that had been hidden, repressed and denied, and healing and then dealing with current injustices such as youth suicide and deaths in custody. He said it was courageous for “all of us” to confront stories such as the Warrigal Creek massacre.
A “safe place” might be needed where we could hear these stories and be educated.
He said as well as acknowledging and healing past wrongs, “we also need to celebrate as well, celebrate our survival, our culture. Those parts need to be uplifted too, all those stories.”
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Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.