Site NameFlying Foam Murajuga, Burrup Peninsula.
Aboriginal Place Name
Language GroupJaburara (or Yaburrara, Yapurarra)
Present State/TerritoryWA
Colony/State/Territory at the timeWA
Police DistrictRoebourne - Pilbara region
DateBetween 1 May 1868 and 15 May 1868
Attack TimeDay
VictimsAboriginal People
Victim DescriptionsAboriginal
Victims Killed60
Victims Killed Notes15-150
Attacker DescriptionsSettler(s), Shepherd(s), Police, Pastoralist(s)
Attackers Killed3
Attackers Killed NotesPolice Constable William Griffis, an Aboriginal police assistant named Peter and a pearling worker named George Breem were killed.
Weapons UsedCarbine(s), Pistol(s)
NarrativeOn 7 February 1868 Jaburara (or Yaburara) people Coolyerberri, Pordigin, Woolgelgarry, and eight others were identified as killing Police Constable William Griffis, his Native Assistant Peter and a pearler named George Breem. Despite three local Jaburara men being charged and convicted of the killing, Local Magistrate and Government Resident Robert Sholl authorised two parties of punitive expeditions - one led by Alex McRae and seven others, and one by John Withnell and eight others. In one incident on the 17 February there were at least 15 Aboriginal people including children shot dead. This punitive expedition went on for weeks. The ‘conspiracy of silence’ about these events minimised fatalities. The actual number of Aboriginal people killed was erased from a letter from McRae to his sister. However local David Carley wrote ‘it is very well-known by all old hands about Nickol Bay, and the 'Flying Foam Passage' that in one day there were quite sixty natives, men, women and children shot dead. The natives themselves have shown me the skulls of 15 who were shot. Three of the skulls were those of children, and two of these small skulls had bullet holes through them’ (Carley, SROWA, Cons. 388, File 13). Historian Peter Gifford has recently described how the punitive party ‘harried the Yaburara mercilessly, killing indiscriminately for weeks on end until the Resident Magistrate who had licensed this retribution, Robert John Sholl, now sickened by it, put an end to it’ (Gifford 2017, p xii). There is a brass plaque to the massacre located at Burrup Peninsula and a stone arrangement acknowledging the massacre at Murujuga.
SourcesThe Inquirer and Commercial News, April 1, 1868; 3,; ‘The Governor – Statement of D Carley (ii) re: slaughter of natives at “Flying Foam” passage (3679/86)’, SROWA, Cons. 388, File 13; Gara, nd; Gara, 1983; Dyson, 2002; Owen, 2016, pp 135, 144, 147; Gifford, 2013; Birman, W 'Sholl, Robert John (1819–1886)', ADB, Vol 6, 1976. (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating***