Site Name Goldfields Road - Halls Creek
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Kitja
Colony WA
Present State/Territory WA
Police District Halls Creek - East Kimberley
Latitude -17.442
Longitude 128.122
Date Between 1 Jul 1888 and 30 Sep 1888
Attack Time day
Victims Aboriginal People
Victims Killed 35
Victims Killed Notes 35-150
Attackers Colonisers: Settlers
Attackers Killed 1
Attackers Killed Notes George Barnett
Weapons Used Winchesters, Revolvers
Narrative In July 1888 George Barnett was speared and killed by Jaru/Kitja people while travelling between Fletcher Creek and Halls Creek. In reprisal, a punitive expedition was launched which resulted in ‘a massacre that is regarded as one of the most sweeping in local history.’ The massacre was widely publicised throughout the district with the editor of Northern Territory Times (voicing public opinion) writing that the police should disregard any laws, and ‘simply admonish them and disperse them in the Queensland fashion’ that is, shoot them all. The Eastern Districts Chronicle posited that the punitive expedition: ‘travelled over 700 miles [1127 kilometres]. The party found and dispersed over 600 adult male natives and a number of females and children.’ The 1929 memoirs of August Lucanus, a special constable (and former German soldier) in the punitive expedition, stated only that ‘there must have been at least 200 blacks, and they had not even tried to obliterate their tracks, we soon overtook them and they put up a fight, the women howling and sooling the men on to us. We dispersed them at last, and returned to Wyndham.’ Mary Durack added that ‘Barnett’s brother cut a triangular notch in the stock of his rifle for every native he shot with it... and the notches numbered thirty-five!’ Colonel Angelo, the government resident of Roebourne at the time, later wrote of this incident: ‘accounts differ as to what actually happened but it is almost certain that from sixty to seventy natives there and then paid the extreme penalty. When I visited the scene a couple of years ago human bones were still to be found although over fifty years had elapsed since the massacre... The terrible vengeance meted out by the enraged diggers on that occasion has indeed proved a salutary lesson to the East Kimberley Blacks.' [ Owen 2016: 231-233.]
Sources Northern Territory Times, 18 August 1888; Eastern Districts Chronicle, 13 October 1888:2; Daily News 5 September 1929: 6; Durack, 1936: 35-6; Angelo 1948; Clement 1989: 8; Clement and Bridge 1991: 46; Owen and Choo 2003:135-142; Owen 2016: 231-233. (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating ***