Site Name Ord River Station - East Kimberley
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Worla, Jaru, Kitja
Colony WA
Present State/Territory WA
Police District Halls Creek - East Kimberley
Latitude -15.502
Longitude 128.346
Date Between 17 Nov 1886 and 11 Jan 1887
Attack Time day
Victims Aboriginal People
Victims Killed 120
Victims Killed Notes 120
Attackers Colonisers
Attackers Killed 1
Attackers Killed Notes John Durack.
Transport
Motive
Weapons Used Winchesters, Revolvers
Narrative John Durack and his cousin John Wallace Durack of the Ord River pastoral station were allegedly ambushed by a group of Aboriginal men about 97 kilometres from their camp. John Durack was fatally speared. Colonists across the Kimberley including Michael Durack, Sergeant George Trusclove PC Strickland and a man called Kelly, Special Constable Reen, Unnamed Native Assistant, and a party of an unnamed men that made twenty men formed a punitive expedition. Official reports declared that only two men were killed. Later reports from solicitor Richard Septimus Haynes described, in a letter to The West Australian: ‘... when 100 or 150 natives were slaughtered in cold blood, happened within the last six years, some little distance inland from Derby, and was related to me by an eye-witness.’ Another police file note stated ‘that he [was] with others about the time J. Durack was murdered, rounded about 120 natives up and shot a large number consisting of men, women and children.’ Later P.M. Durack, a descendent, writing in 1933, recalled the incident for the Royal Western Australian Historical Society: ‘Later on a punitive force of police and volunteers were sent out by the government and a lot of the blacks were shot.’ According to Aboriginal oral history via Jack ‘Banggaiyerri’ Sullivan: ‘When they started forming the stations, Johnnie Durack would ride around from the old station with a pack, round and round to find the good places. One day he was in the lead while another fella drove his pack, and he putdown to where he was going to cross a creek. That was where he ran into the blackfellers. Instead of frightening them away he straightaway pulled out a gun – bang bang bang bang – and chased one feller down to the creek. The blackfeller ducked around and as Johnnie passed him, looking out for him, of course he let drive from the side and got him. When his mate found out he was speared he just galloped away leaving the pack horses there. If he had let the blackfellers go it would not have happened, but they all had the bloody wind up.’ [B. Shaw, 1983: 68. Summary from Owen, 2016, 228-230.]
Sources WAPD, East Kimberley Wyndham Police Station. Ambush of John Durack and Party by natives, 17/11/86 to 12/12/86', report 11 January 1887, ‘Report from P.C. Ritchie of the wilful shooting of 'Young Jacky' and 'Monday' by 'Nipper'. J.J. Durack implicated. December 28, 1897, ‘ SROWA, AN 5/1, Cons.430, File 298/1887; The West Australian, 14 November 1892; 3 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/3042051/804064, WAPD, ‘East Kimberley, Wyndham Station, Death of John Durack by Natives, Undated Note Signed ‘Gurney’, Det, Received by the Police Dept,15 November 1892’, SROWA, AN 5/1, Cons. 430, File 2108/1892.p.3; Durack 1933:43; Owen 2003: 135-145; Owen 2016: 225-232. (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating ***