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The Jaburara ('Northerners') were an Indigenous Australian people who once lived about the Pilbara region of Western Australia and the Dampier Archipelago. The traditional tribe is virtually extinct,[1] though some people of Jaburara descent are still active.[2]


The Jaburara (Yaburarra) are thought to have spoken a language similar to Ngarluma, affiliated with the Ngayarda languages.[3]


The Jaburara owned some 200 square miles (520 km2) of territory from around Dampier, Burrup, Nichol Bay and the peninsula northwards to the Dolphin and Legendre islands.[1]

Early contact[edit]

During one of Phillip Parker King's voyages on HMS Mermaid to survey the Australian coast, an attempt was made to communicate in February 1817 with members of the tribe, three of whom had been sighted off-shore floating on a log in the vicinity of present-day Karratha (Good Country). The intermediary used was the ship's interpreter Bungaree, who, speaking the Broken Bay Dharug language could not understand them, but managed to calm their anxieties by undressing and showing he wore ritual scars.[4]

Resistance and extinction[edit]

The Jaburara, together with other local tribes such as the Ngarluma and Mardu-Dunera fought against the colonization of their lands by white settlers.[5] According to an American whaler at the time, the law that accompanied settlement in their region could be summed up as 'a word and a blow: the blow, which is generally fatal, coming first'.[6] In 1868, near the present-day township of Roebourne, in an area known in the local language as Murujuga (hip bone sticking out), two policemen and a native tracker had been killed. The suspects, three Jaburara men, were duly caught and sentenced to imprisonment. Two parties, made up of north coast pearlers and settler pastoralists had been given permission by the district authority to apply lethal force 'with discretion and judgement',[7] and they attacked Jaburara encampments in a pincer movement. In what is now known as the Flying Foam massacre it has been estimated that up to 60 Jaburara were killed.[7] In one camp alone, some 15 were killed.[8] Following the La Grange massacre, this episode constitutes the second known example of the use of massacre to forcibly remove an indigenous north Western population.[9] One small 'family' was recorded in the first half of the 20th century as still surviving[1] but the massacre effectively cut off the tribe's connections to the islands.[10]


The Jaburara heritage is attested by rock quarries, extensive archaic petroglyphs, grindstones used by native women to make flour from native seeds, nomadic camps, and middens to be found along the Jaburara Heritage Trail, which winds through an area containing some of the most extensive remains of ancient Aboriginal rock art, some dating back 25,000 years.[11][12]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Jaburara-ngaluma. (northern Ngaluma)
  • Jaburrara-ngarluma.
  • Madoitja. (perhaps).[13]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Tindale 1974, p. 242.
  2. ^ Taylor & Scambary 2005, p. 46.
  3. ^ Thieberger 1993, p. 100.
  4. ^ Shellam 2015, pp. 89–91.
  5. ^ Stannage 1981, p. 99.
  6. ^ Gibbs 2010, p. 28.
  7. ^ a b Knafla 2016, p. 79.
  8. ^ Gara 1983, pp. 85–94.
  9. ^ Walsh 2015.
  10. ^ Veth 2015.
  11. ^ Van Driesum 2002, p. 343.
  12. ^ Flood 1999, pp. 66–67.
  13. ^ Tindale 1974.