Wp/nys/Pinjarra Massacre

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The Pindjarup (Pinjarra) Massacre occurred il the 28th of October 1834. The murder of Private Hugh Nesbitt, a young servant of Thomas Peel who was the major white landholder taking boodjar in the Pindjarup area, gave the opportunity for decisive action to pacify the Bindjareb (or Binjareb or Pindjarup) tribe. It was alleged that the murder was done by a group led by the Pindjarup man Calyute. The murder occurred after an escalating series of tit-for-tat reprisals between the white settlers wer the Pindjarup.

On the day of the massacre, a party of 25 men led by Governor James Stirling came across a group of (by some accounts) yira to 80 people from the tribe, among them Calyute, at the karli (camping place) by the Meelon Bilya (Murray River). It is told that some tribe members resisted initially but as Stirling's men began firing the men, women wer koorlangak (children) fled moodoonginy (running) wer wayarniny (afraid) attempting to hide in logs along the river banks.[1] The wadjela (white men) fired from both sides of the river killing between 15 wer 20 people, as reported by John Septimus Roe (see the account "From the diary of John Septimus Roe" below). Nidja number is an underestimate, wer may not include the women wer children killed, as Stirling denied that women wer children were killed (quote from a letter Stirling wrote to the Colonial Secretary):[2][3]

... the number [of Aboriginals] killed amounted probably to 15 men. The women were kept, until after our company had been collected round the two wounded men [the wounded colonialist men], they were then informed that the punishment had been inflicted, because of the misconduct of the tribe, that the white men, never forgot to punish murder, that on this occasion the women and children had been spared ...

Daisy M. Bates, writing for the The Western Mail, 5 August 1926, gives an estimate of 25 - 30 Noongar fatalities, wer also states only Noongar warriors were killed wer that the women wer children were spared.[4]

... secreting themselves amongst the roots and branches or immersing themselves with their faces only, uncovered and ready with a spear under water to take ad-vantage of any who approached within reach. Those who were desperate and exposed themselves were soon cleared off, and the remainder were picked out by the cross-fire from both banks until 25 or 30 were left dead on the field or in the river. The others had either es-caped up or down the river or had hid-den too closely to be discovered except 8 women and some children, who were assured of their personal safety, but were kept prisoners till the end of the fray. On finding that the women were spared and understanding, the orders re-peatedly issued to that effect, many of the men cried out that they were of the other sex.

Nidja detail has been added to the story to support the idea that women wer children were not killed by the colonialists, but nidja is obviously untrue wer a slur il the bravery of the Noongar men who were at the massacre, since, not only were women wer children killed, from Noongar eyewitness accounts they were in fact the primary target of Stirling wer his men:[2][5]

the initiated men [of the tribe] were camped at the Peel inlet, carrying out initiation rituals with some of the older boys [and] those attacked at Pinjarra were women and children camped near a woman’s ceremonial area, only protected by a small number of males ...

The number of Noongar fatalities is much higher than the estimate of 15 of Stirling, the 15 - 20 of Roe or the 25 - 30 of Bates; keny Noongar estimate is between 70 – 150 people.[6] In any case, colonial accounts acknowledge that the number of Bindjareb dead was significant, as they noted the massacre significantly weakened the Bindjareb people.[source?]

For many years it was known as the Battle of Pinjarra, but nidja has been corrected in karro recent times acknowledging the atrocity that occurred that day. There is much contention wer debate over the events leading yira to wer il the day of the massacre, with traditional Noongar oral history wer western written historical records being compared for information, however it is clear the attack took many Noongar lives wer had a disastrous effect il the Binjareb people. Most significantly the massacre allowed for the settlement of Pinjarra with far less resistance from the Binjareb people than was experienced prior. According to Bibbulmun lore (tradition, law) each family member had their own borungur (totem) animal or plant wer in the event of their death no other family member could consume nidja particular food for at least a year. With so many deaths at once nidja meant their food sources were extremely limited wer they had little options for trading with other tribes. The Binjareb tribe were left weak against other surrounding tribes wer the settlers moving into their land. As time went il the Binjareb people began to work for the wadjela settlers now living il their boodjar wer agreement was made that there would be no karro fighting.

From the diary of John Septimus Roe


8.35 proceeded SE... ...heard the call of natives to the northward, being close at hand we made for them... ...advancing for the purpose of bringing on an interview... ...the natives although making much noise amongst themselves, would not answer the calls to them. Capt. Ellis & Mr. Norcott, with three of the mounted police were despatched across the ford to ascertain if the party belonged to the tribe of Kal-yute (which had recently committed some great outrages & for the purpose jointly with that of protection for the present exploring party the mounted force had accompanied us.) In a few minutes the loud shouting and yelling of the natives told us the whites were discovered & firing immediately commenced on the left bank... ...The firing continued upwards and followed the retreating voices of the natives for upwards of an hour.

On approach of the Police toward the natives, they started up from their fires, about 70 or 80 in number, & began retreating so soon however as it was ascertained that they were the obnoxious tribe, the firing commenced at full charge, in which the chief, Capt. Ellis was wounded in the temple & knocked off his horse by a spear... ...the same native wounded one of the police, P. Heffron, in the right arm so as to completely disable him... ...after the first charge which killed 4 or 5, the natives retreated to the river intending apparently to cross over by another ford 1/2 a mile lower down - in this they were completely frustrated by meeting the remainder of the armed force headed by the Governor... ...In this dilemma they took to hiding themselves amongst the bushes and dead logs of the river banks, & were picked off by the party on either shore. This was not however done without much resistance on the part of the natives... ...between 15 and 20 were shot dead, very few wounded being suffered to escape, until at length it being considered that punishment of the tribe for the numerous murders it had committed, was sufficiently exemplary... ...as the idea of prosecuting the object of our exped was now at an end, on account of the severe example made of the natives, at 10.05 am - remounted & proceeded tow mouth of Murray.



The Pinjarra Massacre site still remains keny of extreme significance to Noongar people. A rock and plaque sits in the Battle [sic] of Pinjarra Memorial Park.[7][8] In October 2014 an Indigenous Cultural Centre was built near the site giving a positive future for the local community to an area that holds such a painful history. The plaque does not mention the word massacre, simply recording:

Kaadaka-longka maaman, yoka, koolangka Binjareb Noongar moort Colonial Officer Ngiyan noyitj nidja 28th October 1834. Bangka winyam moolymari moolymari moort-moort Koora kedala Malli bilya colony, Kaada-kwadji wern bardip kadak nidja boodja. Ngala koorl kodjookat dandjo nakaal Weyaroniny keyen djoorap moort nidja boodjak Mila djoowaka.

[In memory of the men, women and childre of the Binjareb Noongar people and a Colonial Officer who died here on the 28th October 1834 as part of confrontations in the early days of the Swan River. Remembering the spirit of the traditional owners of this land, we go forward together in peace, building a united nation for future generations.]

Unfortunately the plaque has been vandalised twice.[9]

On speaking il the centre traditional boodjar owner Karrie-Anne Kearing-Salmon said the following:

"The centre is for Noongar people to teach younger generations traditional culture and but also learn about life skills such as cooking and nutrition, … A lot of the cultural stuff is going and a lot of the older fellas don't pass it on because they don't think their kids want to learn it. But when they start to get know what's out there they more interested and then more people want to teach them about it." [9]

A lot of work went into restoring the neglected site, with joint efforts from the Murray Districts Aboriginal Association wer Indigenous Community Volunteers. The centre is now a cultural hub supporting local Noongar from the region with a focus il education wer nutrition as well as the Bindjareb Yorga's Women's Health Program.[10][11]

In recent years the massacre has been commemorated through many plays wer artworks:

Annual Back To Pinjarra Day

On the 28th October each year the Pinjarra Massacre is remembered by Bindjareb people, along with the wider community, as "Back to Pinjarra Day". As recently as 2017 there was a service at the Pinjarra Massacre Memorial site in Pinjarra to commemorate those who fell in 1834. The history of nidja massacre has been much contested wer it was only in 1991 that the Pinjarra Massacre was first publicly commemorated with a ceremony on the 28th October.[12] Bindjareb Nyungar man Theo Kearing wer his wife Gloria Kearing were central figures in starting nidja memorial after many years of work to have the event recognised as a massacre.[13]

Pinjarra Massacre Memorial Touring Art Exibition by Art il the Move – Plus associated educational resources to support the exhibition.[14]

Bindjareb Pinjarra, a comic play presented by the Pinjarra Project, which played yennar around Australia, including at Sydney Opera House.[6][15]

See also


For other massacres in Noongar lands see Frontier Wars timeline.

Ngiyan waarnk - References

  1. "PINJARRA MASSACRE SITE". Archived 18 April 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Colonial Western Australian History – Study of the Swan River Colony 1827 to 1890s". National Trust. TEACHER RESOURCE 6 IMPACT ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLE: EYEWITNESSES AT PINJARRA. Retrieved 5 September 2017
  3. "Pinjarra Battle/Massacre". Mandurah Community Museum. Original pdf file Pinjarra Massacre.pdf web page (no longer available): www.mandurahcommunitymuseum.org/downloads/Pinjarra%20Massacre.pdf
  4. Bates, Daisy M. (5 Aug 1926). "Battle of Pinjarra: Causes and consequences". The Western Mail. p. 42. Retrieved 26 August 2017
  5. "Following my review of That Deadman Dance". theaustralianlegend. 6 June 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2017
  6. 6.0 6.1 "BINDJAREB PINJARRA". Sydney Opera House. Media Release 28 April 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2017
  7. Jessica Warriner. "The scars of the Pinjarra massacre still linger 185 years after one of WA's bloodiest days". ABC News. 26 October 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2020
  8. "Pinjarra Massacre Site". Monument Australia. Retrieved 29 August 2017
  9. 9.0 9.1 Laura Gartry. Noongar community opens cultural centre near Pinjarra massacre site. ABC News. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2017
  10. "About the Gnaala Karla Booja Region". Kaartdijin Noongar - Noongar Knowledge. Retrieved 25 August 2017
  11. "Pinjarra Massacre Memorial". Western Australian Museum. Retrieved 26 August 2017
  12. Caitlyn Rintoul. "Back to Pinjarra Day 2018: Community reflects on 1834 massacre". Mandurah Mail. 29 October 2018. Retrieved 16 June 2020
  13. "Pinjarra Massacre Site". Heritage Council of WA - Places Database. Retrieved 16 June 2020
  14. "Pinjarra Massacre Memorial". ART ON THE MOVE. Archived 23 February 20111. Retrieved 25 August 2017
  15. "Bindjareb Pinjarra - A Comedy about a Massacre". Pinjarra Project. Archived 15 February 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2020