Frederick Walker (native police commandant)

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Frederick Walker
Frederick Walker (Commandant of Native Police).jpg
Frederick Walker, circa 1860.
Nationality English
Occupation Station manager, police officer, and explorer.
Title Commandant of the New South Wales Native Police Force (1848-1854)

Frederick Walker (14 April 1820 – 19 September 1866) public servant, property manager, Commandant of the Native Police, squatter and Australian explorer.

Frederick Walker is today best known as the first Commandant of the Queensland based Native Police Force. He was appointed commandant of this force by South Wales government in 1848, eleven years before Queensland became a separate colony. However this force remain most accurately described as a Queensland force. Beyond one or two patrols on the southern side of the Macintyre River this force operated solely on territory which in 1859 became colonial Queensland (the Macintyre River form the border between New South Wales and Queensland).

Early years[edit]

Walker was born in Hampshire, England and lost his father John Walker in an early age and the mother, the allegedly French-born Maria Teresa Henrietta Swinburne, was said to have struggled on with six children of which two were handicapped.[1]

He emigrated to Australia by the Ceylon in 1844 and was shortly after employed on William Charles Wentworth's Murrumbidgee River station Tala (south eastern New South Wales) where he ultimately served as superintendent. He was appointed Clerk of Petty Sessions in Tumut on 5 January 1847 and he functioned in this position at Wagga Wagga in April same year.[2] On 18 August 1848 he was appointed "Magistrate of the Territories and its Dependencies" and Commandant of newly established Native Police Force[3] on the recommendation of his former employers William Charles Wentworth (1790–1872) and Augustus Morris (1820?-1895), both members of the New South Wales Legislative Council.[4]

Macintyre River[edit]

Walker had attracted attention, it was later stated, by his capacity to engage local Aborigines, understand their culture, speak their language and use this to secure peaceful coexistence between them and the white settlers. The Native Police Force was formed in August 1848 and commenced working in late that year subsequently arriving at the Macintyre River (at the present-day southeastern border of Queensland) on 10 May 1849 with a band of fourteen 15- to 25-year-old Aboriginal troopers picked from four different Murrumbidgee tribes, by all accounts a well drilled and highly disciplined band greatly committed and attached to their Commandant who remained exceedingly proud and protective of his men.[5]

As Commandant of the Native Police Force, Walker was successful in ending the attacks of the Bigambul people in the Macintyre district. His stated aim was their annihilation, and by 1854 only 100 of the Bigambul people were left alive.[6]

Burke and Wills expedition[edit]

In 1861 Walker led a party in search of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. His meticulous journal of the search has been transcribed.[7] However Walker failed to locate Burke and Wills and their party, arriving in the Gulf of Carpentaria ill, and died at Floraville Station on his return journey.[1]


Walkers Creek, located near Marathon Station in far north Queensland is named after Frederick Walker.[4]

Frederick Walker's grave is located 71 kilometres (44 mi) south of the township on Floraville Station, in far north Queensland. The inscription reads:[8]

On August 17 1848 Frederick Walker, aged 28, was appointed to the position of Commandant of the Corps of Native Police having emigrated from Australia from England. The Corps commenced with fourteen troopers recruited from four different New South Wales tribes. In 1850 Walker had three units and two lieutenants in the corps and by 1852 he increased the Corps with 48 additional Aboriginal troopers who were drilled and trained in the use of carbines, swords, saddles and bridles. The Native Mounted Police Corps were responsible for maintaining law and order beyond the settled districts. On 12 October 1854 Walker was dismissed from the service for impropriety of conduct due to his heavy drinking. After his dismissal he continued to live on the frontier and briefly formed an illegal force of ten ex-troopers from the Native Police Corps to protect settlers in the Upper Dawson region. In August 1861 fears had grown for the safety of the Burke and Wills expedition and Walker was sent at the insistence of the Royal Society of Victoria to search for the ill-fated expedition.

Frederick Walker was in many ways a remarkable man. His exploration of the Gulf assisted in opening up the region and his maps were considered accurate. Walker did not find Burke and Wills but he did find Camp 119, the last Burke and Wills camp before they turned south on their return journey. After lengthy explorations of the Gulf region Walker was then employed by the Superintendent of Electric Telegraph to survey a 500 mile route from Bowen to Burketown in a bid to compete against South Australia to have Burketown the end of the Trans-Oceanic link from Europe. Although Frederick Walker lost the race and Darwin became the terminus. He did survey the line. He arrived in Burketown with his party of four Europeans and four Aboriginal assistants at the height of the Gulf Fever – a typhoid which affected the Gulf after the arrival in Burketown of a vessel on which all the crew except the Captain died. Walker commenced his return journey but at Floraville he became ill and after several days he also died of the Gulf Fever on 19 September 1866. The entry in the expedition's logbook recorded the passing of a pioneer of the gulf: 'as soon as the horses were brought up and a couple saddled Perrier and Ewan were starting for the doctor of the Leichhardt search expedition which was camped about six miles off. But he (Walker) died before they mounted. He died at noon and was buried on the evening of the same day.


  1. ^ a b Denholm, David. "Walker, Frederick (1820–1866)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  2. ^ NSW Government Gazette. Tuesday, January 5, 1847. Petty Sessions; Moreton Bay Courier 15 May 1847, page 3.
  3. ^ Bell's Life in Sydney 12 Aug 1848, page 2; Maitland Mercury & Hunter River Advertiser, 23 Aug 1848, page 3
  4. ^ a b "Frederick Walker – An Australian Pioneer". Retrieved 2006-03-28. 
  5. ^ Ørsted-Jensen, R. The right to Live (unpublished manuscript). I. 
  6. ^ Copeland, Mark (1999). "The Native Police at Callandoon – a blueprint for forced assimmilation?" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  7. ^ Walker, Frederick. Choat, Colin, ed. "Journal of Expedition in search of Burke and Wills" (ebook). Project Gutenberg of Australia. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  8. ^ "Burketown, Queensland". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 February 2004. Retrieved 2006-03-28. 

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