Convincing Ground

The Convincing Ground is the site of a whaling station (established in 1829) located in Portland Bay, southwest of Melbourne.  In 1833 or 1834 the Portland Bay whalers fought with the local Kilcarer gundidj clan (of the Gunditjmara people) over a beached whale. The local clan claimed the whale as a traditional food, whereas the whalers wanted the carcass for its oil and baleen. In order to ‘convince’ the natives that the whale belonged to them, the whalers fired on the group.

The exact details of this confrontation are difficult to determine, since the event was not recorded until several years after it occurred. In 1841 George Augustus Robinson, Chief Protector of Aborigines in the Port Phillip District (1839-1849) reported to Superintendent C.J. La Trobe that 'a large number' of local Aborigines were 'slain' at the Convincing Ground in a violent conflict with whalers. This episode has been called a 'massacre' by some historians, although others strongly contest this description. The number of people killed could be anywhere from 60 to 200.

Convincing Ground, an interactive painting, re-creates the scene of a highly contested massacre near Portland, Victoria. The visual story incorporates conflicting accounts by the local oral historians of the region (the Gunditjmara people of the Portland area), the 'black armband' historians (the massacre believers), and the 'white blindfold' historians (the massacre deniers).