Campaign to change the narrative of the Rock

Don't cry 'Miranda' here: Amy Spiers is campaigning for Hanging Rock to be more about Aboriginal stories. Photo: Penny Stephens, THE AGE

Don't cry 'Miranda' here: Amy Spiers is campaigning for Hanging Rock to be more about Aboriginal stories. Photo: Penny Stephens, THE AGE

An arts PhD student has begun a campaign to direct attention away from white vanishing myths to the real Aboriginal losses and traumas at Hanging Rock.

Amy Spiers' 'Miranda Must Go' campaign is hosting a Valentine's Day 'anti-picnic' at the Rock tomorrow and invites members of the community to attend to find out more.

The Melbourne-based artist undertook research as part of her PhD studies at the Victorian College of the Arts into the public presentation of history in Australia, i.e. what is marked in the landscape, what is memorialised.

For the past four years Ms Spiers has been making a video artwork featuring interviews with tourists and visitors to the Rock which will be showing at the Hanging Rock Discovery Centre from February 14-28.

"The responses we got from people was that they know lots about (the famous novel and film) Picnic at Hanging Rock and (central character) Miranda but very little about Aboriginal history at the Rock," she explained.

Ms Spiers said that according to the Wurundjeri Tribe Land Cultural Heritage Council, Hanging Rock was an inter-tribal meeting place and sacred site on the border of three different tribal groups' land.

She said not a lot was widely know about their history there and why so little of it remains, but clues lay in stories including explorer Major Thomas Mitchell noticing smallpox scars among Indigenous people in the area in 1836; and in 1863, because of conflict with pastoralists, remaining Aborigines were taken to Coranderrk mission north-east of Melbourne.

"If there's a story to tell it's all this evidence that there's not a lot of information available and I think that's something that should bother us and upset us," she said.

"Instead of going there and thinking about white women going missing we should think about Aboriginal people going missing."

But Friends of Hanging Rock president Luke Spielvogel​ said Indigenous groups' stories about Hanging Rock were sensitive for a reason.

"They remain their stories to tell, and so we have to be really sensitive about the way we engage with that," he said.

Mr Spielvogel said Indigenous heritage as well as Miranda's story were both important parts of the broad story at Hanging Rock and that shared culture should be embraced.

"For 40,000 years Hanging Rock has brought Indigenous people to it as well as Europeans to it," he said.

"It's diverse, it engages a broad range of people and I think if we can tell all those stories together it leads to a broader understanding.

"The Rock's Indigenous heritage is an important conversation and if this campaign progresses that then all for the better."

Ms Spiers received seed funding from Macedon Ranges Shire Council for her research and said she had been contacted by local people in the Macedon Ranges who wanted to start covering this history.

She believes local families may have diaries and settler journals but because they might talk about conflict with Aboriginal people they may not want to bring them to light. She is hopeful her campaign may uncover such things.

Anyone with documents or other information may email Ms Spiers at mirandamustgo@gmail.com

Tomorrow's picnic will be held from 12.30pm to 2.30pm followed by a play reading by Elspeth Tilling who wrote the book White Vanishing about the prevalence of 'lost in the bush' myths in Australia.

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