“I was never told while I was growing up that the Henty family were involved in an organised ethnic cleansing of First Nations peoples.


“Without permission from British authorities, the family illegally squatted on the Gunditjmara homelands, where they stole and damaged tens of thousands of acres of land and waterways. For both the British and First Nations peoples, this settlement was a crime.

“Edward Henty was the first to arrive, where, in his words, he ‘stuck a plough into the ground, struck a she-oak root, and broke the point; cleaned my gun, shot a kangaroo, mended the bellows, blew the forge fire, straightened the plough, and turned the first sod in Victoria’.

“He was performing a colonial ritual, like James Cook did, to enact an invasion based on claims of terra nullius.

“This marks the beginning of the harm that continues to be inflicted on Gunditjmara peoples and their country at the hands of the Henty family, the state of Victoria, and the settler colony of Australia.

“This harm is especially articulated in the ongoing dispossession of Gunditjmara peoples from their land and the memorialisation of colonial figures.”

James Henty.

James Henty.

An audit of monuments in the Glenelg Shire Council, based at Portland, shows there are five statues and memorials specifically dedicated to the Hentys in the shire, most of them in Portland. Of 14 monuments, almost all memorialise the Hentys, the explorer Major Thomas Mitchell, who alerted the Hentys to rich pastoral lands inland in 1836, or early whaler William Dutton, who was in Portland when the Henty brothers arrived.

Only two monuments mention Aboriginal people: one is dedicated to Reginald Saunders, Australia’s first Aboriginal military officer, and one known as the Gunditjmara Tribe Memorial.

Henty said to preserve monuments to colonisers like her descendants was to preserve “a fantasy”, and their fate should be placed in the hands of Indigenous people.

“My personal belief is that the Henty monuments be removed from their intended site and relocated, i.e., to a museum or park to fallen monuments, or ceremoniously destroyed.”

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