1788 The Year No One Talks About

1788, the dreaded year it all started. A child named Alinta and her friend were playing near the seaside. Alinta had beautiful dirty blonde hair, was good at sports and always smiled. She had many friends, but her best friend was Kirra. Kirra had the same hair as Alinta but was the smarter out of the two. Alinta and Kirra were the only two who were able to speak English, having been taught by a wandering foreigner who was lost and marooned. 

Usually, the shore was fierce and brought huge waves that would collapse into high rocks but it was unusually peaceful, giving Alinta a strange feeling, almost like the calm before the storm. She looked out to the distant horizon and saw eleven tremendous sailing ships moored a few hundred steps away. The ships had towering white sails, polished hulls and colourful banners. 

Alinta pointed a trembling finger at the ships, and as Kirra followed her finger, she gasped in terror. Kirra started breathing faster and faster, as frightening thoughts about the safety of her village raced through her mind. It all suddenly stopped as Alinta smiled bravely and put her hand on Kirra’s shoulder. 

“It’s going to be alright Kirra, I’m sure they’ve come to bring lots of gifts and food for us just like the wandering foreigner,” Alinta said, trying to calm Kirra down. 

They quickly ran back to the village, weak with high hopes, stumbling through well-worn paths in the thick undergrowth. As they caught sight of the familiar huts, sounds like thunder echoed through the forest, causing kookaburras and cockatoos to flee in alarm. Distant agonised shouts came after the sound and as the girls looked at the centre of the camp, they saw splattered blood on the ground. Alinta felt sick as she stared at the bloody sight.

They looked around desperately, looking for any minute sign of life or trace of where their people had been taken. The girls’ hearts sank, intense nervousness and uneasiness giving way to tears. After moments of hopelessness, they remembered what the elders always told them: never lose hope. Keep trying, it’s always there. Just then, a large party of people burst into the village’s clearing. Alarmed, the girls spun around to face the intruders but immediately relaxed.

It was the neighbouring tribe, the Darug people, who had helped them in the past and had a history of sharing resources and ancestors. 

“We came as soon as we heard the sounds like thunder, even though the sky is clear today. It echoed throughout the land and we worried your tribe was in danger. Clearly, our suspicions were right and it looks like some heinous deed was done. Where were you girls when his deed was done?” the leader said gravely. He was a strong and courageous looking man, whose skin was drawn on with white ash.

Alinta and Kirra breathlessly recounted what they saw and heard to the group of serious-faced men. As they heard the story, the men looked at each other in horror and disbelief. The leader stepped forward, his face hardening in staunch determination. 

“We will help you, but also for the safety of my people. Only Baiame knows the extent of this strange people’s power,” he said grimly, looking at the sudden gathering of charcoal clouds. The air became charged and damp, clouds growing immense, swallowing the sun. A storm was brewing.  

The men stayed for a short while, watching the storm grow in wrath and power while regaining their strength for the journey and battle ahead. Finally, Alinta and Kirra bid their farewells to the leaving men who were armed with spears, shields and clubs. The girls pushed down a dark sense of foreboding, where it was left to grow in unity with the maelstrom. An hour later, as the girls apprehensively paced around the camp, they heard random bursts of thunder and looked at each other with dread. 

The girls were frightened but remembered that so many people that they knew and cared for were in danger. Alinta and Kirra adamantly resolved to confront the people who took their people. They began the unforgiving journey into the heart of the storm. Lightning flashed, making them jump in terror, and thunder followed quietly, but ominously. They came to a cautious crawl as they caught sight of the towering ships. Kirra let out a shocked gasp. A bloodied pile of familiar bodies were dumped a few paces away from the ship. Kirra immediately thought everyone has been killed but then looked closer it was the remnants of the fierce warrior from before they said there prayers and headed on.

There were many white-skinned people in strange coloured hides that completely covered their body, leaving only their hands and heads unclothed. As soon as they saw them, the girls ran towards them, fueled by emotion. The men from the ships threateningly aimed sticks at them and fired once aiming over their heads. The deafening crack once again sounded and smoke poured from one of the men’s sticks. Alinta and Kirra immediately ducked in fear and held each other as the men advanced and shouted menacingly. Pulling out one of the few phrases they knew, they shouted, “No, please do not hurt us! We mean no harm.”

After hearing this, they were visibly surprised and motioned for the girls to stay on the sand. The strange people left and brought back what the girls assumed was their tribe leader. He was an elegantly adorned man, had curled white hair, and wore vibrant and soft hides of blue, black and white. 

“We want our people back, where have you taken them?” Alinta shouted at him 

“Follow me, we have them on board, but you cannot return home”, he answered.

The girls hesitated, remembered how the wandering foreigner helped them in, and realised that this man would help them as well.

The girls anxiously followed the captain while thick raindrops fell from the sky. They were taken down in the hulls, where they heard familiar murmurs. The tribe rejoiced at their return but only for a short while as they realised the girls would have to share their fate. 

Years later, after the tribe was used to integrate European culture into Aboriginal land, Alinta and Kirra became citizens and adopted European culture into their lives. They were the last product of a long tradition in Australia and they were surrounded by the industrial clasps of colonisation, like a lone gumtree in the midst of asphalt. 


These stories were written in our Factory Feedback program, which was created with, and generously supported by, the Dusseldorp Forum.