Site NameConiston (1)
This massacre is part of a group of massacres
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Place NameYurrkuru and other places
Language Group, Nation or PeopleWarlpiri, Anmatyere, Kaytetye
Present State/TerritoryNT
Colony/State/Territory at the timeNT
Police DistrictBarrow Creek
DateBetween 15 Aug 1928 and 31 Aug 1928
Attack TimeDay
VictimsAboriginal or Torres Strait Islander People
Victim DescriptionsAboriginal
Victims Killed30
Victims Killed Notes
Attacker DescriptionsMounted Police, Settler(s), Stockmen/Drover(s)
Attackers Killed0
Attackers Killed NotesDingo trapper, Fred Brooks, who was killed on 7 August, 1928.
TransportHorse, Camel
Weapons UsedFirearm(s), Spear(s)
NarrativeIn 1828 the region around the Lander River and Hanson River was 5 years into a drought. Few places were left where people and livestock could drink and Aboriginal people were increasingly spearing cattle for food. Prior to the Coniston massacres, colonists complained that Aboriginal people were increasingly audacious or 'cheeky' and it was reported that Aboriginal people known to colonists as 'Warramulla' around Tanami and the Granites goldfields who had gained a reputation for wildness and attacks were planning to drive colonists out of the region (Bradley, 2019, p 2 & Kimber, 2003-2004, Part 1).
On 7 August 1928 a group of Warlpiri, Anmatyere and Kaytetye men led by Kamalyarrpa Japananglea, also known as 'Bullfrog', killed dingo trapper Fred Brooks at Yurrkuru, a Warlpiri, Anmatyere and Kaytetye camp about 14 miles (22 km) from the Coniston Station homestead. The killing took place in reprisal for Brooks's kidnapping one of Bullfrog's wives. After his body was found in a rabbit hole, Mounted Constable George Murray, who was a veteran of the Boer War and World War I, led a punitive expedition of eight armed men around the Lander River and among the ranges to the west. The expedition included 'Mounted Constable Murray, Stafford, Saxby, Briscoe, the 'half-caste' Wilson and three Aboriginal trackers, Paddy, Major and Dodger.' (Bradley, 2019, p 51). This expedition lasted 16 days. On this first expedition the killing started at Coniston on 15th August when two Aboriginal men, Padygar and Willigar, came into the camp armed with boomerangs and spears. Paddy and Major attempted to arrest and chain them, and when they resisted, Murray shot Willigar in the head and Padygar was restrained (Bradley, 2019, pp 43-57). Willigar later died of the wound.
The following day on 16 August, the expedition departed Coniston and returned on 31 August. Government Resident, J.C. Cawood, reported in a telegram to Canberra that 17 Aboriginal people were killed (Bradley, 2019, p 96). Mounted Constable Murray, later claimed that during this expedition he shot 1 prisoner resisting arrest at Coniston, then he killed 17 Aboriginal people at another camp, 'The firing broke out - I don't know who started it, but the whole 17 were dead when it finished.' Then 50 miles west in the Granites, two more were shot, and a prisoner died on the return journey (Northern Standard, 3 March 1933, p 5). They returned to Coniston with another prisoner, Arkirkra. Accounts in court proceedings and from various sources differ slightly in numbers and in the order of events, but these incidents remain consistent. There are also several days unaccounted for (Bradley, 2019, p72) and Aboriginal oral records of the period are specific about where further killings took place, though it is not clear on which expedition they occurred. It's likely those on the Lander as far north as Six Mile Soak and Tipinpa, and to the west were either part of this first or the second expedition. Bradley describes 6 locations where the expedition encountered Aboriginal people, north of Coniston along the Lander River, and westwards to the ranges beyond Cockatoo Springs and present day Yuendumu (Bradley, 2019, p xi & p 122).
Concluding this expedition, Mounted Constable Murray took the two prisoners, Padygar and Arkirkra, and a witness, a boy named Lala, from Coniston to Alice Springs (Bradley, 2019, p 74).
SourcesWoodward, 1973, p 82; Read & Read, 1991, pp 33-37; Bell 1993, pp 67-68; Toohey 1979; Edmond, 2013, p 104; Morrison; Schubert, NT News, August 25, 2018, pp 24-25; Wilson & O'Brien, 2003, pp 59-78; Bowman, 2015; Bradley, 2019, pp xi, 2, 43-57, 72, 74, 96, 122; Kimber 2003-04, Part 1; Making Peace with The Past Northern Standard 3 March, 1933, p 5 Robinson, 1945; (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating***