DiscoverLady Killers with Lucy Worsley22. Marie Christensen - Murderous Matron
22. Marie Christensen - Murderous Matron

22. Marie Christensen - Murderous Matron

Update: 2024-01-171


It’s the 14th September 1896, just a short distance from Brisbane, on Australia’s east coast, and the sun is rising on Minjerribah Island, the ancestral land of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait ‘Quandamooka People’. It’s an area rich in Aboriginal culture. It’s also a colonised area, steeped in racism and division, and this is where the murder of six year old ‘Cassey’ takes place.

To investigate this tragic crime and its contemporary resonances, Lucy Worsley is joined by Guest Detective Vanessa Turnbull Roberts. Vanessa is a proud Bundjalung Widubul-Wiabul First Nations woman, a Law Graduate and recipient of the Australian Human Rights Medal for her work around the adoption laws and forcible removal of First Nations children.

Lucy hears that our case begins at ‘Myora Mission School’, an institution set up by white settlers who wish to establish a ‘reformatory’ for Aboriginal children. In reality, it’s part of a wider ‘management’ system aimed at controlling the First Nations population. The children are being trained in domestic duties to work as servants for white families. There’s also evidence that some of the children – including six-year-old Cassey - have been forcibly taken from their homes.

Whilst the children are under the supervision of their matron – a Danish settler called Marie Christensen – Cassey is killed. Marie’s cruel and fatal actions are witnessed by First Nations women Budlo Lefu, Topsy Mcleod and Polly Roberts who bravely speak out on Cassey’s behalf.

Professor Rosalind Crone from the Open University travels to Australia to visit the site of the Mission School and meet local tribal elders.

As the tragic murder unfolds, Vanessa explains that the subject which really underpins everything in this case, is Australia’s ‘Stolen Generations’, the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities. Although this began during the earliest days of white settlement, Vanessa – herself, a survivor of the ‘Family Policing System’ – reveals, it is not a thing of the past.

Produced in partnership with the Open University.

Producer: Nicola Humphries
Readers: Paula Delany-Nazarski, Clare Corbett and Jonathan Keeble
Sound Design: Chris Maclean
Series Producer: Julia Hayball.

A StoryHunter production for BBC Radio 4

With thanks to The Minjerribah Moorgumpin Elders-In-Council and North Stradbroke Island Museum on Minjerribah

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22. Marie Christensen - Murderous Matron

22. Marie Christensen - Murderous Matron

BBC Radio 4