The beautiful valley of Cocanarup (Kukenarup in Noongar language) by the Phillips River, 15km west of Ravensthorpe, has been shrouded under a shadow of sadness for 135 years.
The land was chosen by the first European settlers of the area, to extend their pastoral leases. The indigenous Noongar families befriended the newcomers, showed them the fresh water spring and shepherded their sheep against the ravages of the dingoes (See Cocanarup for more details))
But it all went terribly wrong. Crimes were committed, lives were lost and the Noongar families left the district.
In 2007 descendants of these families, approached the Ravensthorpe Historical Society, asking for its support in building a memorial to those who lost their lives at Kukenarup. BHP gave a generous donation to enable the project, and meetings began between all interested parties, facilitated by the Dept of Indigenous Affairs.
During the first meeting at the agreed site, two wedge-tailed eagles circled overhead. We learnt from one of the Elders that not only was the eagle their family totem, but that in folklore the eagles take care of departed spirits. We all agreed the site, high above the Phillips River, overlooking the old sheep station of Cocanarup, was an auspicious place to build a memorial. The eagle theme is used in the design.
Throughout the process of planning and designing, firm and lasting friendships have been made. And now, eight years on, we are extremely happy to announce that the dedication of the memorial took place on Thursday 21st May 2015. Noongar families came from Kalgoorlie, Norseman, Esperance and Albany. They specifically asked that descendants of the original Dunn family of Cocanarup be involved in the dedication ceremony.
It truly has been a process of reconciliation, a healing of wounds, a lifting of the shadow and looking to a stronger future. It is an achievement of National significance – there are only a few other memorials in Australia to both indigenous people and European settlers.
RHS is grateful for the assistance of Lotteries WA, the Department of the Environment, Main Roads WA and the Shire of Ravensthorpe for their assistance in this momentous project
The Bush Heritage Blog site has more on this momentous day. Another description of the ceremony can be found on the Department of Aboriginal Affairs website
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