Site Name Murdering Flat
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Wulluwurrung or Nundadjali
Colony PPD
Present State/Territory VIC
Police District
Coordinates (imprecise to approx. 250m) -37.621,141.582,0
Date Between 1 Oct 1838 and 31 Oct 1838
Attack Time
Aboriginal People Killed 40
Aboriginal People Killed Notes Killed: M 40 F;Probable: M F;Possible:M F;Wounded:
Non-Aboriginal People Killed 1
Non-Aboriginal People Killed Notes Killed:M 1 William Heath, a shepherd of settler John Henty F;Wounded:M F
Attacker Category Servants of settler Francis Henty
Attacker Details Servants of settler Francis Henty
Motive Reprisal for killing hutkeeper.
Type Of Motive Reprisal
Weapons Used Firearms, cannon
Notes Number of items stolen from shepherd's hut.
Narrative William Heath, a shepherd at John Henty's run stated that a hut-keeper at Clover Flat, Wannon River, was killed by seven Aborigines and the hut robbed of several items. There is an oral tradition that 40 Aborigines were slain in retaliation. On 22 May 1885 Francis Henty wrote to the Coleraine Albion stating that 'Murderers Flat' [sic] was at the junction of Bryan Creek and the Wannon River, and that one of his shepherds was killed here but that there was never a massacre of Aborigines at what had been known as Clover Flat. Henty believed the matter had become confused over the years with the Fighting Waterholes massacre at Konongwootong. Francis Henty was responding to an article by "Vagabond" in the Melbourne Argus, that attributed several Aboriginal deaths to Francis Henty. Two later writers, McGaffin (nd) and Bassett (1962), supported Henty's claim. However in 1969, Aldo Massola described the massacre in the following terms: The far end of Clover Flat, south of the Wannon River, was a favourite camping ground. While the blacks were holding a corroboree and feasting on some freshly killed stock they were fired upon by the settlers, using an old cannon loaded with bolts, nails, gravel and stones with telling effect. The place was afterwards known as Murdering Flat. As far as is known there was no grave; the bodies were put in the river. In February 1839, Dr G.C. Collier, who had recently been at Portland, wrote from Launceston to the Colonial Secretary in Sydney, alleging a "most awful and atrocious massacre committed upon the aboriginal natives at Australia Felix by sheep and cattle herdsmen in the employ of Messrs Henty", following the murder of a hut-keeper. Collier said that Edward Henty then set off with: two armed men and all the powder and balls that could be found at their stores at the Bay. Upon their arrival Mr Henty issued his edict, armed, equipped, and ammunitioned to I believe the number of 14 men. They proceeded to take, as stated by them, their revenge and fell in the evening with a hut full. Upon their hearing the noise of some footsteps the Aborigines came out and an alarm was given the whole, and as they came out they were shot, and those stockmen that had the firearms were found with a pole at the end of which a one-half of a sheep was placed, and some unfortunate mothers, with infants in their arms, crying for mercy, were perforated through. On March 25 1839, Governor Gipps directed Captain Foster Fyans, police magistrate at Geelong, to muster as many Mounted Police as possible and travel overland to investigate affairs at Portland. Fyans spent a month riding around the district, taking sworn depositions from all who were said to have been implicated in the events described by Dr Collier. According to Michael Cannon, "unless perjury on a large scale took place, it appears that Dr Collier's allegations were grossly exaggerated versions of other incidents" and that Collier's letters were designed to alert the government to appoint a police magistrate at Portland.
Sources Massola 1969; Cannon 1983: 627-637; Clark ID 1995: 26-8 (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating **