Site Name Freshwater Creek
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Brataualung
Colony PPD
Present State/Territory VIC
Police District
Coordinates (imprecise to approx. 250m) -38.480,147.016,0
Date Between 1 Jul 1843 and 31 Jul 1843
Attack Time
Aboriginal People Killed 60
Aboriginal People Killed Notes Killed: M F; Probable: M F; Possible: M unspecified but could be as many as 60 -150; on later raids up to 170 may have been killed F; Wounded:1 - shot in the eye.
Non-Aboriginal People Killed 0
Non-Aboriginal People Killed Notes Killed: M F; Wounded: M F
Attacker Category Overseer / Stockmen
Attacker Details 20 horsemen known as the 'Highland Brigade' organised by Angus McMillan, Macalister's former overseer.
Motive Reprisal for killing of Ronald Macalister, nephew of Lachlan Macalister
Type Of Motive Reprisal
Weapons Used Double-barrelled Purdy
Notes In retaliation for a series of murders and indignities commited by Aborigines; The Highland Brigade - Later this group killed two more family groups near Warrigal Creek and then a few days later killed others at the mouth of the Warrigul Creek.
Narrative In July 1843, Ronald Macalister, nephew of squatter Lachlan Macalister, was murdered by Brataualang Aborigines, near Port Albert. According to Gippsland historian, Peter Gardner, he was murdered after a shepherd threw hot coals on the bare feet of Aborigines as a joke, although G.A. Robinson in 1844, said he was murdered after some depraved white men, had, in a fit of drunkenness, ''shot and killed some friendly natives.'' It was at least the fifth murder of a white person in Gippsland within 12 months. An avenging party of 20 horsemen, known as 'The Highland Brigade' was organised by Angus McMillan, Lachlan Macalister's former overseer, and likely a close acquaintance of the murdered man, to look for the killer. The 'brigade' was 'sworn to secrecy'. The clearest account of the events that followed is provided by Willy Hoddinott, also known as 'Gippslander' and published in The Gap magazine in 1925. Willy was the youngest son of settler, Uriah Hoddinott, who arrived in the region in 1847, four years later. [It is interesting that anonymity was still needed 80 years after the events had transpired]. The brigade coming up to the blacks camped around the Waterhole at Warrigal Creek surrounded them and fired into them, killing a great number, some escaped into the scrub, others jumped into the waterhole, and, as fast as they put their heads up for breath, they were shot until the water was red with blood. I knew two blacks, who though wounded came out of the hole alive. One was a boy at the time about 12 or 14 years old. He was hit in the eye by a slug, captured by the whites, and made to lead the 'brigade' from one camp to another. Another account by the son of another pioneer was published in 1940. Macalister used "a double-barrelled Purdy, a beautiful and reliable weapon, which in its time had done great execution." A later writer claimed that 60 Aborigines were shot while still another claimed to have spoken to two survivors up to 150 blacks were shot: "as fast as they put their heads up for breath, they were shot until the water was red with blood." Everyman who could find a gun or a horse went after the blacks, and came up with them around a large waterhole [at Gammon Creek, east of Alberton] which was surrounded by the whites. They killed the blacks as long as their ammunition lasted [some say about half an hour]. Many escaped into the bush. Others sought cover in the waterhole, but often, as one raised his head for breath, he was shot. More than a hundred blacks were killed (Hoddinott in Bartrop 2004: 201). In reviewing every known account of the massacre in 2001, Peter Gardiner believes that the Highland Brigade went on a rampage through the district, killing Aborigines in five different locations. He believes they killed two family groups at Warrigal Creek waterhole and then a few days later, killed others at the mouth of the Warrigul Creek. At Freshwater Creek, they captured, brutally tied up and murdered a dozen men, women and children. They then shot down another family group at Freshwater Creek and repeated the same actions at Gammon Creek and possibly Red Hill. In all about 170 people were destroyed. Human bones have been found at each of these sites on several occasions. The rampage would fit the criteria of 'genocidal massacre'.
Sources Gardner 2001: 47-61; Pepper and de Araugo 1985: 24; Cannon 1990: 171; Shaw 1996: 133; Bartrop 2004: 99-207.
Corroboration Rating ***