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Mass graves hidden in a remote Aboriginal Outback town are discovered more than a century later


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Mass graves hidden in a remote Aboriginal Outback town decimated by Spanish influenza are discovered more than a century later

  • Mass graves have been found hidden under a remote Aboriginal outback town 
  • Current-day Cherbourg lost about 15 per cent of its population of 600 in 1919 
  • Just ten people were spared infection at indigenous settlement from the disease
  • Researchers have now used radar detecting devices to locate two burial sites

Mass graves have been found hidden under a remote Aboriginal outback town which saw its population decimated a century ago by Spanish influenza.

Barambah Government Reserve in south-eastern Queensland – in what is now known as Cherbourg – lost 15 per cent of its population of 600 in just three weeks in 1919 to the global flu epidemic.  

Only ten people were spared infection from the illness and the final death total saw 90 deaths recorded at the Aboriginal settlement.

Barambah Government Reserve (the settlement’s hospital pictured in 1911) was the site of Australia’s worst Spanish influenza outbreak as the community lost 15 per cent of its population during the global pandemic of 1919

The resting place of those killed has until now remained a mystery, but researchers have now used ground-penetrating radar to find what they believe were the victims' final burial sites

The resting place of those killed has until now remained a mystery, but researchers have now used ground-penetrating radar to find what they believe were the victims’ final burial sites

For a hundred years the resting place of those killed has remained a mystery, but researchers have now used ground-penetrating radar to find what they believe were the victims’ final burial sites.

The settlement’s ill-fated population were among at least 25 million people to die worldwide from 1918 to 1919 as a result of the unusually deadly disease.

While the pandemic was widespread globally, Cherbourg’s case is unusual as the mortality rate for Australia as a whole was only about 0.003 per cent. 

The Wakka Wakka community based around Cherbourg initially believed there may only be one burial site, but university researchers ended up finding two

The Wakka Wakka community based around Cherbourg initially believed there may only be one burial site, but university researchers ended up finding two

University of Queensland archaeologists used a magnetic gardiometer to assess potential sites, spurred on by a desire to investigate Cherbourg’s pandemic story. 

The settlement's ill-fated population (news report from the influenza outbreak in the Aboriginal community pictured) were among at least 25 million people to die worldwide from 1918 to 1919 as a result of the unusually deadly disease

The settlement’s ill-fated population (news report from the influenza outbreak in the Aboriginal community pictured) were among at least 25 million people to die worldwide from 1918 to 1919 as a result of the unusually deadly disease

‘They were looking to see whether or not there was any different shape underneath, which would indicate there was something there,’ Wakka Wakka elder Eric Law told ABC News.

The Wakka Wakka community based around Cherbourg initially believed there may only be one burial site, but the UQ researchers ended up finding two.

Both sites had been suggested by a Cherbourg Council Survey seven years earlier, although they had not been confirmed.

The areas have now been marked out and a report will be prepared to present to the council for further action.

The indigenous elder said he hoped a definitive burial site could be located once and for all so current and future generations could have a stronger link to their ancestors.  

‘Our councillors have been wonderfully supportive and The Ration Shed have played the part of gathering all the information, expertise to show us where these people are,’ uncle Eric said.

‘In our culture, we have this connection with the spirits — with those people who have left us — and to get the full benefit out of that, we need to be absolutely sure that that’s where they are.’

While the pandemic was widespread globally, Cherbourg's case is unusual as the mortality rate for Australia as a whole was only about 0.003 per cent (pictured a Spanish influenza quarantine camp on the New South Wales/ Queensland border in 1919)

While the pandemic was widespread globally, Cherbourg’s case is unusual as the mortality rate for Australia as a whole was only about 0.003 per cent (pictured a Spanish influenza quarantine camp on the New South Wales/ Queensland border in 1919)

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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