Wauba Debar

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Wauba Debar's grave and headstone in Bicheno

Wauba Debar (1792–1832) was a female Aboriginal Tasmanian. Her grave is a historic site located in the east coast Tasmanian town of Bicheno, which memorialises her rescue of two sealers, one of them her husband, when their ship was wrecked about 1 km from shore during a storm. She assisting first her husband, then the other sealer safely to shore.

The grave site overlooks Waubs Bay and Warbs Harbour both of which were named after her, and is listed on the Tasmanian Heritage list.[1]

Wauba Debar, as a teenager, was one of many Aboriginal women kidnapped and enslaved by sealers and whalers for sexual partners during the European colonisation of Tasmania. She was a strong swimmer.

She died in a boat off the coast whilst travelling towards the Furneaux Group and her body was brought ashore and buried. Local settlers, including John Allen, raised funds in 1855 to erect the headstone on her grave, immortalising her act of heroism.[2][3][4]

Although, there are conflicting stories about the death and burial of Wauba Debar. In 1893, elderly Bicheno residents said Wauba was buried 10 years before the date on the headstone, placing her death around 1822.[5]

In 1893, her body was exhumed by the Tasmanian Museum in Hobart, since aboriginal remains were becoming increasingly scarce. The local Municipal Council was aggrieved, but found that the law of the time gave no legal recourse, except perhaps for any clothes found with the body. The remains were reportedly forwarded to different places, with the skull in the museum in Hobart.[6][7][8]

Her remains were returned to the Aboriginal community in 1985.[5]


  1. ^ eHeritage, Headstone of Wauba Debar, State Library of Tasmania. Retrieved 18 October 2008
  2. ^ Bicheno Online Access Centre, Community History. Retrieved 18 October 2008
  3. ^ Derek John Mulvaney, Encounters in Place: Outsiders and Aboriginal Australians, 1606-1985, University of Queensland Press, 1989, ISBN 0-7022-2153-8
  4. ^ Duggan, Brinley (3 October 2021). "Wauba Debar: John Allen paid for her headstone, 13 years after her death". The Examiner.
  5. ^ a b Megan, Stronach (15 December 2020). "Wauba Debar, an Indigenous swimmer from Tasmania who saved her captors". History Guild.
  6. ^ "Gruesome Proceedings With an Aboriginal's Remains". The Bendigo Independent. No. 9257. Victoria, Australia. 23 September 1893. p. 2. Retrieved 28 September 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Our Hobart Letter". Daily Telegraph. Vol. XIII, no. 227. Tasmania, Australia. 23 September 1893. p. 6. Retrieved 28 September 2023 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Through GlamorganGLAMORGAN". Daily Telegraph. Vol. XXIV, no. 254. Tasmania, Australia. 24 October 1904. p. 6. Retrieved 28 September 2023 – via National Library of Australia.