“Secret histories” of Australia

Ongoing human rights crimes have been committed against Indigenous Australians, starting with their dispossession and decimation within the first few years of European colonialism. Featured here are six historical incidents.

1) Pemulwuy who led a 12 year resistance against colonial forces until he was captured and died from his injuries.

2) “The Blackline” was the name of Governor Arthur’s 2,200 soldiers who systematically attacked Tasmanian Aboriginal communities driving them towards the Peninsula to be captured and killed.

3) Battle at Waterloo Creek where 50 Indigenous Australians were killed defending their communities from New South Wales forces, followed by the murder of 300 other Indigenous people.

4) 28 Kwiambal elderly people and children massacred by 12 White men. Eleven of the killers were subsequently arrested and then acquitted due to public pressure. During a second trial seven were found guilty and hanged: the first and only colonialists executed for the murder of Indigenous people.

5) Kalkadoon people engaged in defence of their land from 1878 to 1884. In 1884 the Queensland police began a six year battle killing 900 Kalkadoon people.

6) Jandamarra, a Bunuba man from the Kimberly region in Western Australia went from being a stockman to tracker helping police to capture Bunuba leaders. He would later help free them and helped the resistance against colonialists.

Map representing over 400 Indigenous Australian language and social groups that existed at the time colonialist forces settled from Britain. Part of the Bayala Nura (Yarning Country) exhibition.

“Because I know that when I die the Tasmanian museum wants my body.” – Truganini

Truganini feared she was the last Indigenous person in Tasmania and understood keenly the dehumanisation of her body and her people. She died on 8 May 1878 and as she predicted her remains were put on display. A century later her people reclaimed her remains, cremated her, and scattered her ashes into the sea as she had initially requested. Truganini is (erroneously) famed for being “the last Aboriginal in Tasmania.” While this population was decimated, Indigenous elders and scholars have shown that this is not true. Not only did Indigenous people survive and thrive into the present day, Truganini’s legend is her courage and resilience in the face of relentless violence of colonialism.

“Spirit of the Patyegarang” @bangarradancetheatre performs the friendship between Patyegarang, “a young Aboriginal woman from the Eora nation who shared her language and culture with one of the first Settlers, Lieutenant William Dawes.” Their friendship was uncovered in his journals found in 1972. (Part of the excellent Garrigarrang exhibit at the Australian Museum.)

Information: Bayala Nura (Yarning Country) exhibition. Photo: Zuleyka Zevallos.

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