Site Name Pinjarra
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Pinjarup Noongar
Colony SRC
Present State/Territory WA
Police District Pinjarra - Peel region
Latitude -32.63
Longitude 115.871
Date 28 Oct 1834
Attack Time
Victims Aboriginal People
Victims Killed 15
Victims Killed Notes Est. 15-80 people died. Ny-atch, Murray man, Doong-gol, Murray man, Yoon-ya, Murray man, Merja, Murray man, Bungar, Murray man, Melgar, Murray man, Kin-jar, neighbouring tribe, Kunjan, neighbouring tribe, Yag-ann, neighbouring tribe, Ballung, neighbouring
Attackers Colonisers
Attackers Killed 1
Attackers Killed Notes Police Superintendant Theophilus Tighe Ellis speared and died from Injuries.
Motive Opportunity
Weapons Used Muskets, Bayonets
Narrative Captain James Stirling’s plan to create a settlement south of Perth at Pinjarra was thwarted by the ‘Murray tribe.’ He told the Colonial Office that they ‘threatened to destroy all the whites in the district’ and argued that if a ‘check’ was not made on them, they may ‘tempt other tribes to pursue the same course, and eventually combine together for the extermination of the whites.' The ‘check’ occurred on 28 October 1834 when Captain Stirling and 24 soldiers and civilians cornered the ‘Murray Tribe’ of some estimated 80 men, women and children in what has become one of the most infamous punitive expeditions in Western Australian history. A large number of people were killed, the event itself created political controversy and, later, historians debated whether the ‘check’ was legal, a ‘just battle’ or a ‘massacre’. Stirling’s own words on this matter were explicit and suggested the massacre description was apt. In his report to the Colonial Office he declared that he had set out to punish the whole tribe and that his intention was to instill fear in the Aborigines and break their resistance. The only way to deal with Aboriginal people, he wrote, was to ‘reduce their tribe to weakness’ by inflicting ‘such acts of decisive severity as will appall them as people’. The Perth Gazette reported on an uncompromising warning to the survivors that if there were any more trouble ‘four times the present number of men would proceed amongst them and destroy every man woman and child’. [Owen 72-74; The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 1 November 1834, p.383.]
Stirling later wrote to British Colonial Secretary Stanley, 1 Nov 1834. Letter Number 14. He stated he said this to the surviving prisoners: ‘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, and that on this occasion the women and children had been spared, but that if any person should be killed by them, not one would be allowed to remain alive this side of the mountains. Upon this they were dismissed.’ [Letter Number 14. Quoted in Contos et al, 1998.] The 'mountains' Stirling refers to are the Darling Scarp that is a mountain range east of Perth that extends for over 400 km from Bindoon in the North to Pemberton in the South West. Stirling was effectively threatening to kill 80% of the Noongar population of the South West. Another account from 1927 states 'The whites opened fire. About 80 blacks were killed and the bodies of many of the dead floated down the river. A bugle then blew to cease fire, after which the native women and children were gathered together and Sir James Stirling warned them that a similar punishment would come back to blacks in the future if any more whites were killed or molested. About 50 natives were buried in one great hole, which was afterwards located in Mr Oakley’s field beside Captain Fawcett’s property at Pinjarra Park.' Grose, 'The Background to the Encounter’, 1927, pp.30-34. Large stone monument, Battle of Pinjarra Memorial Park, McLarty Road, Pinjarra, 6208.
Sources Perth Gazette, 1 November 1834: 382; Green 1981: 84-85; Contos,1998; Harris, 2003; Green 2003: 187-198; Owen 2016: 72-75. (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating ***