Call for Roebourne pioneer street name change

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
VideoIn 1868 government resident Robert John Sholl gave the order to kill Yaburara men, women and children. 150 years on, calls have been made to remove his name from public displays

Leading Pilbara figures want to see history rewritten to highlight Pilbara pioneers’ roles in wiping an Aboriginal group off the map as the 150th anniversary of one of Australia’s worst massacres approaches.

Former government resident Robert John Sholl is remembered by a street name in Roebourne and a paver on St Georges Terrace in Perth.

In 1868, Mr Sholl enlisted special constables, led by John Withnell and Alex McRae, to Murujuga to murder Yaburara men, women and children.

The order was given after a group of Yaburara men killed a police officer, his assistant and a pearler while on a mission to free a fellow tribesman, who had been arrested for stealing a bag of flour.

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That event, the Flying Foam Massacre, decimated the Yaburara population to a point where it could not recover.

Yaburara and Coastal Mardudhunera Aboriginal Corporation program manager Audrey Cosmos said the memory of Sholl’s actions caused grief to Aboriginal people in the region.

“For me, it is personal, knowing that it was my ancestors out there that were massacred,” she said.

“It wasn’t just a one-day event — it went through to May, so you can imagine the trauma they were put through.”

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple said having a street named after Sholl in Roebourne was akin to having a statue of Saddam Hussein.

“The two posses sent out were not provided with any method of constraint, so quite clearly the intention was to go out and remove the population,” he said.

“Sholl is reported as saying it was a good outcome because it secured the safety of the white community,” he said.

“This is not a left-right issue, it is something that would be respectful to the community in Roebourne.”

Mr Chapple said a debate should be had about potentially moving Sholl’s St George’s Terrace paver to a museum instead.

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel said seeing Sholl’s name on public roads and walkways was not a good look.

“Especially in Roebourne, where it is mostly Aboriginal people living there,” he said.

“He instigated the killing of all these people, so I think it is pretty fair to ask for a name change to maybe another Aboriginal name.”

Mr Michel said the paver on St Georges Terrace also needed to be moved somewhere more appropriate.

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