The story of colonial Australia is as much a story of dispossession as it is of settlement, and dispossession often went hand in hand with terrible brutality. As a result, a great many regions of Australia have massacres of Indigenous peoples woven into their story—some are widely acknowledged, some will never be fully known, and others are sources of historical argument.
And so today we’re looking at a violent incident that occurred in Western Australia 178 years ago, in which 21 Nyoongar people were killed in a raid by mounted troops.
The place was Pinjarra, about an hour’s drive south of Perth—and the event is variously known as the ‘Battle of Pinjarra’ or the ‘Pinjarra Massacre’. And this is the point, because language and labels are powerful, and an event’s meaning in history can be summed up in a single name.
Only in the last 15 to 20 years have the circumstances of the killings in 1834 been scrutinised and the evidence makes the conventional white story look very shaky.
It’s the basis of a website and of a stage production called Bindjareb Pinjarra which is now on a national tour of Australia.
© 2012, Michael Shirrefs & ABC RN