Mark Tedeschi AM QC is the Senior Crown Prosecutor for New South Wales. This is Tedeschi’s third true crime book. The other two, both published by Simon & Schuster Australia, are: ‘Eugenia: a true story of adversity, tragedy, crime and courage’, published in 2012 and ‘Kidnapped: the crime that shocked the nation’ published in 2015. ‘Eugenia’ was shortlisted in 2013 as a finalist in the Australian Book Industry Awards and the Australian Crime Writers Association Ned Kelly Awards. Kidnapped was also shortlisted for a Ned Kelly award. Mark is also the author of ‘Shooting around Corners’, a book of his photography over 25 years, published by Beagle Press in 2012.
Tedeschi’s new work explores the most sensational trial of mass murder in Australia’s legal history which occurred in 1838 when eleven convicts and former convicts were put on trial for the murder of 28 aboriginal men, women and children at Myall Creek in the New England district of New South Wales. The trial created enormous controversy at the time, because it was virtually unknown for Europeans to be charged with the murder of Aboriginals.
The prosecutor at the trial was John Hubert Plunkett, the Attorney General of New South Wales. This trial was this greatest test, as it pitted his forensic skills and his belief in the equality of all people before the law against the combined forces of the free settlers, the squatters, the military, the emancipists, the newspapers, and even the convicts. The trials of the perpetrators marked one of the very few times during the colonial period when the law was used as an instrument of justice in support of Aboriginal Australians. The case can be seen through modern eyes as prototype war crimes trials.
In this account of Plunkett’s battle to achieve justice for those murdered at Myall Creek, we see a man who was mired in contradictions and controversy, whose ideology drew him apart from mainstream colonial society. John Plunkett was very much a man defined by his native Ireland’s long history of subjugation and religious discrimination. He was driven to bring drastic changes to a nascent society in one of the most remote parts of the British Empire.
John Hubert Plunkett arguably did more to create modern-day civil rights in Australia than anyone else before or since. If Governor Macquarie was the architect of colonial Australia, then John Hubert Plunkett was its visionary. Whilst Macquarie is universally recognised in modern day Australia for his building projects, his administrative skills and for expanding the boundaries of the colony, John Hubert Plunkett is virtually unknown. Yet, Plunkett did more in his 24 years as Solicitor General and Attorney General of New South Wales to shape the future of modern-day Australian political, legal and educational institutions than anyone else in his day – or since. As a fearless campaigner for the civil and political rights of all men, regardless of their race, religion, status or wealth, he can rightly be called the ‘Martin Luther King of colonial Australia’.
Mark Tedeschi’s MURDER @ MYALL CREEK, published by Simon and Schuster Australia, will be officially launched on November 3.