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Nemarluk (1911? – August 1940) was a fierce warrior who lived around present-day Darwin in the Northern Territory. He fought strongly against both white and Japanese intruders who had come, unasked, into his people's tribal lands.

Reported to be 6 feet 2 inches tall,[1] he was head man of the Chul-a-mar, the "Red Band of Killers". The men close to him and most loyal were Minmara, Mankee, Mangue and Lin. People of the area who knew him, described him at this time as being "proper fighting man and funny man". When fighting, the men were always painted red. Nemarluk and his followers lived and camped mainly on the Moyle Plain, and at the mouth of Port Keats, now (Wadeye).

One of the most famous incidents concerning Nemarluk and his men was the killing of the Japanese crew of the lugger Ouida at Injin Beach, near Port Keats in 1933. In the 1930s, he was imprisoned in Darwin's Fannie Bay Gaol. He soon managed to break out and made his escape by swimming across Darwin Harbour to the (then) remote Cox Peninsula.[1][2] That was a most impressive feat as the Harbour is at least 8 kilometres wide with very strong tides, so swimming it was no mean feat without meeting a crocodile along the way.

Popular Culture[edit]

The popular fiction writer of the 1950s, Ion Idriess, wrote about the last three years of his life and his battle with the tracker, Bul-Bul, brought in by the Northern Territory police in a final desperate attempt to put an end to Nemarluk's fight.[3]

He also reportedly inspired the lead character in the film Jedda (1955).[4][5]


At some point in time, probably around 1940, Nemarluk became ill with pneumonia and was taken into town to hospital. There are many stories told about Nemarluk's death. Some say he died in hospital, others that he recovered and was let free in the general prisoner amnesty after the bombing of Darwin.[6]

Nemarluk is commemorated in the Northern Territory through a street in the Darwin suburb of Ludmilla,[7] an Aboriginal community near Wadeye,[8] an Administrative Area in the Victoria Daly Shire,[9] and a Darwin special needs school.[10]


  1. ^ a b Shaw, Bruce (2000). "Nemarluk (1911? - 1940)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  2. ^ "Nemarluk on the Run Northern Territory Resistance Hero". Koori History Website. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  3. ^ Idriess, Ion L. (1941). Nemarluk: King of the Wilds. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. p. 213. 
  4. ^ "N.T. Natives Appear In Colour Film". The West Australian. 69, (20,899). Western Australia. 15 July 1953. p. 4. Retrieved 16 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  5. ^ "Black stars in a big Chauvel film". News. 61, (9,338). South Australia. 15 July 1953. p. 21. Retrieved 16 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  6. ^ "Fannie Bay Goal Stories". Northern Territory Government. Archived from the original on August 15, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  7. ^ "Nemarluk Drive". NT Place Names Register. Northern Territory Government. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "Nemarluk". Place Names Register Extract. Northern Territory Government. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "Nemarluk". Place Names Register Extract. Northern Territory Government. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "Nemarluk School". Nemarluk School. Northern Territory Government. Retrieved 2015-11-26.