Site NameJohn 'Big Johnnie' Durack Massacre
This massacre is part of a group of massacres
Aboriginal Place Name
Language GroupWorla, Jaru, Kitja
Present State/TerritoryWA
Colony/State/Territory at the timeWA
Police DistrictHalls Creek - East Kimberley
DateBetween 17 Nov 1886 and 11 Jan 1887
Attack TimeDay
VictimsAboriginal People
Victim DescriptionsAboriginal
Victims Killed120
Victims Killed Notes120
Attacker DescriptionsMounted Police, Settler(s), Pastoralist(s), Miner(s)
Attackers Killed1
Attackers Killed NotesJohn Durack.
Weapons UsedRevolver(s), Winchester(s)
NarrativeJohn 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 a man called Kelly, Special Constable Reen, an unnamed Native Assistant, and a party of unnamed men that made twenty men in all, 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.’ (The West Australian, November 14, 1892, p 3) A 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.’ (WAPD, ‘East Kimberley, Wyndham Station, Death of John Durack by Natives.) 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.’ (Durack 1933, p 43) According to Aboriginal oral history via Jack ‘Banggaiyerri’ Sullivan as told to Bruce Shaw: ‘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.’ (Shaw, 1983, p 68)
SourcesWAPD, 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; West Australian, November 14, 1892 p 3; 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; SROWA Acc 741/1, Wyndham Police Occurrence Book, 1886-1888, Entries 26 Nov 1886 and 1 Dec 1886; Durack 1933, p 43; Owen 2003, pp 135-145; Owen 2016, pp 225-232. (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating***