Flying Foam massacre

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The Flying Foam Massacre was a series of confrontations between white settlers and Aboriginal people around Flying Foam Passage on Murujuga Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia. The confrontations occurred between February and May 1868[1] triggered by the killings of two police officers and a local workman. The confrontations resulted in the deaths of unknown number of Jaburara (or Yaburrara, Yapurarra) people with estimates ranging between 15 and 150 dead.[2]


The confrontations followed the killings on 7 February, on the south west shore of Nickol Bay, of Police Constable William Griffis, an Aboriginal police assistant named Peter, and a pearling worker named George Breem, by some Jaburara people.[3][4] along with the disappearance of a pearling lugger captain, Henry Jermyn. Three Jaburara were arrested and convicted of Griffis' murder. Sentenced to death their sentences were commuted to twelve years' penal servitude on Rottnest Island.[5]

Pearlers and pastoralists from the surrounding region, with the approval and support of the Government Resident in Roebourne, R. J. Sholl,[6] organised two armed and mounted parties, which travelled overland and by sea to Murujuga, the heartland of the Jaburara. The two parties moved towards each other on the peninsula in a pincer movement. Anthropologist T. J. Gara – utilising official sources and oral tradition – suggests that one attack by the parties, on a Jaburara camp at King Bay, on 17 February, killed at least 15 people, including some children.[7] Because these confrontations were the main factor in a sharp decline of the Jaburara population, they are significant and controversial in native title cases for descendants of the Jaburara, as well as cultural heritage issues surrounding the World Monuments-listed Jaburara rock art on Murujuga,[8][9]


On 17 February 2013, the 145th anniversary of the first massacre, Aboriginal elders and other leaders held the first Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance Day at the King Bay Massacre site. Supporting actions were held at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, Western Australian Parliament, New South Wale Parliament, Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, Tandanya Indigenous Arts Centre in Adelaide, in Brunswick, Melbourne, and in the Victorian central Highlands towns of Taradale and Daylesford.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dyson, Michael R. (2002) Flying Foam Massacre: a grey era in the history of the Burrup Peninsula: British justice or downright vengeful bloody murder. Karratha, W.A. Printed by Karratha CAD Centre
  2. ^ Timelines
  3. ^ Gara, T. J. "The Flying Foam Massacre: An Incident On North West Frontier, Western Australia", in Archaeology at ANZAAS (ed. Moya Smith), Western Australian Museum, Perth, 1983, pp86–94.
  4. ^ History of Roebourne
  5. ^ Illustrated Sydney News, 3 October 1868
  6. ^ Sholl Biography in the Australian Dictionary of Biography
  7. ^ Gara, T. J. "The Flying Foam Massacre", op. cit..
  8. ^ Four Corners – 20 March 2000: Secret White Mens Business
  9. ^ Regional Report of Inquiry into Underlying Issues in Western Australia – 12.9 Curriculum Content and Teacher Training

External links[edit]

20°34′52″S 116°48′29″E / 20.581°S 116.808°E / -20.581; 116.808Coordinates: 20°34′52″S 116°48′29″E / 20.581°S 116.808°E / -20.581; 116.808