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Reflections on Oombulgurri

Bolton, G. (2010) Reflections on Oombulgurri. Studies in Western Australian History (26). pp. 176-190.

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In 1927 a Western Australian royal commission found that a year previously at least eleven East Kimberley Aborigines met their deaths at the hands of a party of police and civilians. Two young policemen who were members of the party were charged with the murder of one of the Aborigines, but at the committal hearing the magistrate dismissed the charges. Historians have since disagreed strongly about this incident. Most, including myself when younger, Peter Biskup, Brian Fitzgerald, Neville Green, Christine Halse, and Kate Auty have agreed with the general conclusions of the royal commission, though without committing themselves to a specific number of victims. Rod Moran argues that there was no massacre; the story originated in the over-vivid imagination of a neighbouring missionary, Ernest Gribble. Others, among them Colin Tatz and the late Greg Dening, believe that the royal commission greatly underestimated the carnage, and that more than a hundred Aborigines met their deaths at the hands of the punitive party. Certainty on such a hotly debated episode seems unlikely, but this essay can at least offer some reflections on the issues arising from it.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: University of Western Australia. Centre for Western Australian History
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