Cape Grim sits in isolation in Tasmania's far north-west corner, home to a couple of windfarms, an air pollution control centre operated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and a dairy farm operated by 'Moon Lake Investments Pty Ltd trading as VDL Farms formerly known as The Van Diemen’s Land Company (VDL)'.
The original Van Diemen’s Land Company (VDL) was established in 1825 under Royal Charter; King George IV granted 143,500 hectares of land to VDL, and 16,800ha still remains under Royal Charter to this day.
Apart from being recognised as one of Australia's earliest established companies, It has also been suggested that VDL were a key contributor to the attempted genocide of Aboriginal people in Tasmania that occurred during the early 1800s. According to historian, Ian McFarlane, most of the Aboriginal people of Tasmania's north west were methodically hunted down and killed by VDL Company hunting expeditions, acting under the direction of the company's Chief Agent, Robert Curr.
"We have to lament that our own countrymen consider the massacre of these people an honour."
In an award-winning book written by James Boyce, Van Diemen's Land, it speaks of a woman named Rosalie Hare, who stayed at Curr's house. Hare noted, in her journal, attacks from Aboriginal people in the area but also noted, "We are not to suppose the Europeans in their turn take no revenge. We have to lament that our own countrymen consider the massacre of these people an honour. While we remained at Circular Head there were several accounts of considerable numbers of natives having been shot by them, they wishing to extirpate them entirely if possible."
The Cape Grim massacre took place after a recorded incident where, in December 1827, a number of Aboriginal men from the Peerapper clan of West Point were killed while attempting to protect Aboriginal women from molestation by convicts who were working as assigned servants for the VDL Company. One shepard was also speared in the leg during the skirmish. In response, Peerapper men a month later to take retribution; over 100 ewes were killed, with many being driven off a cliff.
Weeks later, a punitive expedition was undertaken by a number of shepherds and 12 men were killed in a sneak attack made under the cover of night. A few days after this, the same shepherds encountered party of Aboriginal men, women and children in what is now known as Suicide Bay. Reports of the massacre vary, but it is believed that approximately 30 people were killed, mostly men. Many of the bodies of the deceased were then thrown from off the 60m cliff face on to the rocks below.
These murders, committed on the 10th February 1828, are what we today remember as the Cape Grim Massacre.
In November that same year, Lieutenant-Governor Arthur declared martial law, allowing roving parties to shoot or capture Aboriginal people for resettlement. In 1830 it was estimated there were only 60 Aboriginal people of the north-west tribe where just 3 years previously the numbers had been estimated at over 500.
Today, there is an MOU between the VDL and the Aboriginal Heritage Council (AHC) that allows for local community groups to access this and other significant sites in the area.