Cape Grim Massacre

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The Cape Grim Massacre took place on February 10, 1828 in northwest Van Diemen's Land (now known as Tasmania ). Four shepherds with muskets killed 30 Aborigines from the Pennemukeer clan from Cape Grim and threw the bodies from 60 meter high cliffs into the sea. The hill on which the massacre took place was later named Victory Hill by the shepherds .


The border conflict between Europeans and Aborigines was characterized by violence and cruelty, the kidnapping and rape of women and a large imbalance in armament. The author Jan Roberts said:

“In general, Aboriginal males were shot when they were sighted and women captured to serve the needs of the shepherds and sealers; many took two Aboriginal women each. "

In 1826 the Van Diemen's Land Company established sheep farms on Cape Grim and in Circular Head . When the peerapper clan returned to Cape Grim from West Point in December 1827, they found some shepherds, their huts, and many sheep. Attempts by the shepherds to lure some of the Aboriginal women into their huts were stopped by the Aboriginal men; this led to a fight with one of the shepherds, he was wounded in the thigh with a spear and an Aboriginal was shot.

In revenge, the tribe drove a flock of sheep over the cliffs and impaled 118 of them. In February 1828, a punitive expedition by Van Diemen's Land Company killed twelve Aborigines in retaliation.


On February 10, 1828, four shepherds ambushed 30 Pennemukeer aborigines from Cape Grim while they were collecting dark shearwaters . The first shepherds fired at the families camping on the beach, then drove those who took shelter in the rocks up the hill, where they were massacred, before the shepherds finally threw their bodies over the cliffs - the same cliffs, over that the sheep had been herded. The shepherds now named the area Victory Hill . The Aborigines who escaped the massacre referred to the white settlers as Nowhummoe ("devil") and avoided Cape Grim, although they occasionally plundered isolated huts.

George Augustus Robinson investigated the massacre two years later and stated:

"On the occasion of the massacre a tribe of natives, consisting of women and children, had come to the [Doughboy] islands. Providence had favored them with fine weather ... They swam across, leaving their children at the rocks in the care of the elderly people. They had prepared their supply of [mutton] birds, had tied them with grass, had towed them on shore, and the whole tribe was seated round their fires partaking of their hard-earned fare, when down rushed the band of fierce barbarians thirsting for the blood of these unprotected and unoffending people. They fled, leaving their provision. Some rushed into the sea, others scrambled around the cliff and what remained the monsters put to death. Those poor creatures who had sought shelter in the cleft of the rock they forced to the brink of an awful precipice, massacred them all and threw their bodies down the precipice ... I went to the foot of the cliff where the bodies had been thrown down and saw several human bones, some of which I brought with me, and a piece of the bloody cliff. As the tide was flowing I hastened from this Golgotha. "

“In the case of the massacre of a native tribe with women and children, they came to Doughboy Island. Providence had lured them with fine weather ... they swam and left their children by the rocks in the care of the elders. They had gathered their stash of Muttonbirds, tied them up with grass and tied them ashore, and the whole tribe sat around their fire sharing the hard-earned reward when a band of ferocious, bloodthirsty barbarians descended on these unprotected and harmless people. They escaped, leaving their supplies behind. Some rushed into the sea, others crawled around the cliffs, and whoever stayed was killed by the monsters. Those poor creatures who had taken shelter in the crevices of the cliffs were driven to the edge of a terrible precipice, all massacred and their bodies thrown down the precipice ... I went to the bottom of the cliff where the bodies had been thrown down and saw some human bones. I took some with me, and also a piece of bloody cliff. When the tide came, I hurried away from this Golgotha . "


The responsible magistrate Edward Curr (1798-1850), a manager of the Van Diemen's Land Company, denied the number of people killed and prevented an investigation into the massacre. He also did not report the incident to Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur (1784-1854).

Disasters for the northwest tribe continued in February 1828 with an ambush by sealers who shot a man and abducted seven women to Kangaroo Island . In March, sealers who had been ambushed in a cave caught fourteen women swimming ashore after collecting crustaceans and mutton birds. The women were penned together, tied up and taken to Kangaroo Island to serve as sex slaves .

Lieutenant-Governor Arthur declared martial law on November 1, 1828, allowing wandering groups to either shoot Aborigines or capture them for deportation . (see Black War , Black Line )

In 1830 it was estimated that there were only 60 Aborigines from the northwestern tribe, after having been more than 500 three years earlier. George Augustus Robinson was appointed to round up the last of the survivors and move them to a "safe place" on Flinders Island , an island off Tasmania's north coast. In 1830 he found the 18-year-old Aboriginal Tunnerminnerwait from the Parperloihen clan , whom the sealers called "Jack of Cape Grim", and six abducted women in a seal hunter camp . Robinson threatened the sealers with legal action if they did not release the Aborigines, promising the Aboriginal safety and later return to their traditional land.

Robinson also investigated the massacre, interviewed two of the shepherds, and visited Victory Hill with one of them. He also interrogated Aboriginal women who lived with sealers on Robbins Island. Robinson concluded that about 30 people were murdered in the Cape Grim incident.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. NJB Plomley, Friendly Mission: The Tasmanian Journals and Papers of 1829-1834 GA Robinson , Tasmanian Historical Research Association, 1966, cited by Lyndall Ryan S. 135-137, The Aboriginal Tasmanians , 1996, ISBN 1-86373-965-3 and Jan Roberts, p. 3, Jack of Cape Grim , 1986, ISBN 0-86436-007-X
  2. a b c d e Jan Roberts, pp. 1-9, Jack of Cape Grim , 1986, ISBN 0-86436-007-X
  3. a b Josephine Flood, pp. 82-83 The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People , 2006, ISBN 1-7411-4872-3
  4. Inward Despatch No.1. Curr to Directors. January 2, 1828. AOT VDL 5/1. quoted from Ian McFarlane, Cape Grim Massacre 2006, accessed December 26, 2008
  5. a b Lyndall Ryan, pp. 135-137, The Aboriginal Tasmanians , Allen & Unwin , 1996, ISBN 1-86373-965-3
  6. ^ R Hare, The Voyage of the Caroline from England to Van Diemen's Land and Batavia , 1927, p. 41. closely cited by Ian McFarlane, Cape Grim Massacre 2006, accessed December 26, 2008
  7. NJB Plomley, Friendly mission. Hobart, 1966, pp. 175, 181, 196; see also letter from Goldie to Arthur, November 18, 1829, AOT CSO 1/33/7578, pp. 116-117. Quoted from Ian McFarlane, Cape Grim Massacre 2006, accessed December 26, 2008
  8. ^ Ian McFarlane, Cape Grim Massacre 2006, accessed December 26, 2008
  9. ^ Ian McFarlane, The Companian to Tasmanian History - Frontier Conflict , 2006. Accessed December 27, 2008
  10. Josephine Flood, pp. 82–83 The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People , Allen & Unwin , 2006, ISBN 1-7411-4872-3 . Robinson's account of the massacre from his diary is published in this book.