Menu
IT'S TIME FOR CHANGE: Dean Loadsman, Janelle Brown, Michael Kennedy, Julie Perkins, Uncle Roger Duroux and Aunty Robyne Bancroft.

COUTTS CROSSING: A new name, lease on life

Many in the Aboriginal community are calling for the town of Coutts Crossing to be renamed. It was named after Thomas Coutts who is believed to have murdered many Gumbaynggirr people:

THOMAS Coutts, who Coutts Crossing is named after, was the owner of a large property in Kangaroo Creek in the 1800s and is believed to be responsible for the death of at least 23 local Aboriginal people.

Known for his hostility towards the Gumbaynggirr people, regular The Daily Examiner columnist Janelle Brown wrote of the massacre in her weekly column Giinagay Jinggiwahla ('hello' in first nations' languages).

Janelle wrote that in 1848, Mr Coutts asked some of the Gumbaynggirr people to do work on his property. Despite his previous hostilities towards them, they took up his offer for work.

In return, Mr Coutts gave them bags of flour, only the flour was laced with arsenic. At least 23 people lost their lives.

Janelle added that there has been a suggestion that the recent graves found in the Piccaninni Creek area, near Glenugie, may be connected to the Kangaroo Creek massacre.

While Mr Coutts was later charged with murder, it was later dropped because they found a 'lack of evidence'.

"The firsthand account of Gumbaynggirr witnesses was not taken into consideration as the testimony of Aboriginal people, by law, was not accepted," Janelle wrote.

Mr Coutts left the area two years later after ongoing attacks from Gumbaynggirr people. It was in 1861, the village of Coutts Crossing was established.

The Daily Examiner spoke to five members of the Clarence Valley Aboriginal community to find out their thoughts on changing the name of Coutts Crossing.

 

Ungle Roger Duroux
Ungle Roger Duroux Caitlan Charles

Uncle Roger Duroux

I think that it was a disaster and sorry that it happened. I'm sorry that the person (Thomas Coutts) never got charged, he never got found guilty. There have been too many of these in our country.

I think it should be spoken about a lot more and discussed whether it should be renamed with the help of everybody - so my thoughts are that I'd like to see it change.

It should be addressed right across (the country) because it's something that happened in our local community as well as right across Australia - they should be acknowledged by signage or something.

The (people were) tricked and (Coutts) got them to work and fed them and poisoned them. It's a disgusting way of handling things and I don't see why he was let off.

My suggestion is getting all Australians to understand what has happened in the past and it wasn't right - Australia has a black history that is really dark.

We don't blame anyone, but we'd like to see the changes come about.

 

Aunty Robyn Bancroft
Aunty Robyn Bancroft Caitlan Charles

Aunty Robyne Bancroft

We need to change the name as soon as possible, I've been saying that for years and years, why have the name of a town where a man poisoned Aboriginal people? What's to be proud of about that?

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it - it's all very well saying that's in the past but we can't move on unless (people) know our past. Our past is part of Coutts and (Thomas) Coutts is nothing but a murderer.

Those people at Coutts Crossing, I'm sure half of them don't know the history of that place, (they're) living in this town and there is this guy who poisoned Aboriginal people and tried to get away with it.

Education is very important and sooner people know about what has happened to Aboriginal people, especially in the Clarence Valley. There are many massacres that have happened here, it's not only Coutts, so just remember that other massacres have happened.

A murdering past, and they got away with it because they were the justice, the law of the day, the squatters, they didn't have to tell Sydney anything, they kept it hidden -'Let's go out and kill the Blacks'.

I've been wanting to get the name of Coutts Crossing changed for so many years and I spoke to (Clarence Valley) Council - of course change the name, for God's sake, it can't be that bloody hard.

Why are you supporting this man who was nothing but a murderer?

 

Dean Loadsman
Dean Loadsman Caitlan Charles

Dean Loadsman

Change the name. I didn't learn about the massacres until I was quite a lot older because going through school we didn't learn about this stuff, it wasn't taught. It wasn't taught at all, I was naive, I didn't know about any of these massacres, the Stolen Generation either so we need to get the word out and educate all the community.

Even now, I get shocked that people don't know about this. Even Janelle when the post came up on Facebook saying 'We didn't know' - changing the name is part of the reconciliation process, it's part of the healing process. For me it's healing.

 

Julie Perkins
Julie Perkins Caitlan Charles

Julie Perkins

I think Janelle made a good point about Uluru, what a major change that was. I don't like it when people say 'That's in the past, just get over it' - it's a continuing hurt and pain with people - it's intergenerational trauma, it's not for people to just say 'It's a name, who cares, get over it'.

I don't think that is a true acknowledgment of the pain specifically those people are connected to that area. It does affect all of us regardless of where we are from. But for the people of the area, it's a continuing pain.

It's not about making people feel guilty, it's not about that. It's about the sense of reconciliation and moving forward together and acknowledging the past.

The hurt and pain that people have, that is the truth. It's acknowledging truth and it's how you take that together. We're not sitting there trying to live in the past, we have to acknowledge truth.

 

Michael Kennedy
Michael Kennedy Caitlan Charles

Michael Kennedy

I've always heard the story - through my aunts and uncles and relatives and the Aboriginal community.

I go out (to Coutts Crossing) and I just don't like it, the association with that place.

I'd love to have that name changed - but it's all about that learn, share and growing about Aboriginal cultural purpose.

We can't just move on. Now that Aboriginal culture is in a state of awakening, it's all about that learning, sharing and moving forward together.

That's why it was so good to have that discussion this week, during Reconciliation Week.

As Uncle Roger said - white Australia has a black history. I read one of the comments (on Facebook) where (someone) who's lived out here for 61 years and she's never heard the story.

To us, that is just plain ignorance, ignorance of not knowing about local Aboriginal history but that's her own local history and she doesn't know.

Where is her self-quality as an individual?

She should take it on herself to increase her own education and awareness. Those kind of statements that I read last night - ignorance is the first word that came to mind. I felt so embarrassed and so shameful.

Last year in Queensland alone, 10 places had their names changed because they had the word "nigger" at the front.