Pinjarra Massacre Site

Author

Shire of Murray

Place Number

03957

Location

McLarty Road Pinjarra

Location Details

Along the Murray River. includes Murray Districts Hospital site

Other Name(s)

Battle of Pinjarra Memorial Area
Pinjarra Massacre Memorial Site

Local Government

Murray

Region

Peel

Construction Date

Demolition Year

N/A

Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents
State Register Permanent 18 Dec 2007 HCWebsite.Listing+ListingDocument, HCWebsite.Listing+ListingDocument

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management
Category
Municipal Inventory Adopted 29 Aug 2013 Category A
Aboriginal Heritage Sites Register Permanent
Register of the National Estate Registered 30 Jun 1992
Register of the National Estate Interim 30 Jun 1992

Statement of Significance

Battle of Pinjarra Memorial Area is part of the site where Bindjareb people were killed by European colonists on 28 October 1834, and is of exceptional significance, to both the Nyungar community and the wider community, as an important part of contact history. Battle of Pinjarra Memorial Area has associations with important Nyungar leaders, such as Gcalyut, a prominent resistance leader of the Bilyidar Bindjareb Nyungars, and Nunar, a senior man of the Bindjareb Nyungars, and others. Battle of Pinjarra Memorial Area has associations with Governor James Stirling, J. S. Roe, Thomas Peel, and Captain Ellis.

Physical Description

Battle of Pinjarra Memorial Area is a memorial site comprising an area of vacant land with a number of large trees and natural bush on the west bank of the Murray River, including Polly Island, and a monument commemorating the massacre.

History

In April 1834, a group of Bindjareb Nyungars, led by Gcalyut, raided Shenton’s Mill in South Perth. Captain Ellis and a party of the 21st Regiment eventually caught Gcalyut and a few others. They were taken to Perth and publicly flogged, Gcalyut receiving 60 lashes. In July 1834, Edward Barron, a retired army Sergeant Major, journeyed to Mandurah to buy a mare from Thomas Peel’s, only to discover the horse had escaped into the bush. The next morning when Monang and Unia, Gcalyut’s sons, came into Peel’s settlement, Barron asked about the horse. The Nyungars indicated that they knew where the horse might be and Barron asked if the pair would accompany him in a search. A white servant, 19-year-old Hugh Nesbit, also offered his services. After travelling about a mile towards Lake Goegrup, a number of Nyungars, including Gcalyut, joined the small search party. By the time they had made it to the lake, there were over twenty Nyungars in attendance. Later Barron reported that he noticed the sound of spears being placed into throwing sticks and three spears hit Nesbit and struck him to the ground. Barron also took a spear in his kidneys but was able to retreat back to Peel’s settlement. The killing of Nesbit prompted fear and anger throughout the colony. Captain Ellis and a party of men were sent to the Murray area to hunt for Nesbit’s murderers. Joined by soldiers from the barracks at Mandurah, the group searched for a month. With the exception of two old women, no Bindjareb Nyungars were found. After Stirling’s return to the colony from England in August, Peel lobbied for increased military protection in the Pinjarra District. On 25 October, the Perth Gazette published a short paragraph stating that Stirling’s ‘Exploring Party’ had departed on a ten day expedition. On 25 October, James Stirling and John Septimus Roe rode out of Perth, meeting up with various persons on their way to the Pinjarra District. By 27 October, their party numbered 25 people. The party headed east from Peel’s settlement on 27 October, along the north bank of the Peel Estuary and within the hour across the Serpentine and Murray Rivers towards Pinjarra. Their camp at ‘Jim-Jam’ was on the southern bank of the Murray River, just upstream from where Ravenswood Bridge now stands. They had been informed that a sizeable band of Nyungars were camped on the river near the present site of Pinjarra, and they made camp in striking distance of this location. On 28 October, Stirling sent Ellis, Norcott and three of his troopers across the river, around to the west of the camp, for the purpose of ascertaining whether they were the tribe who speared Nesbit and Barron. Ellis recognized several of them to have been present at Nesbit’s murder. In the meantime, Stirling positioned the rest of the party out of sight around the camp. Roe was sent to guard the ford, while Stirling and the remainder of the party took up strategic positions on the eastern bank of the river. An eyewitness account states that Ellis’ party initiated the attack against the retreating Nyungars, and that the Aborigines were unprepared for battle. However, Stirling’s account suggests that he acted in self-defence. As the Nyungars attempted to slide down into the river, the parties on the eastern bank opened fire. Survivors scattered into the bush and were chased by Stirling’s horseman: the firing continuing for upwards of an hour. The Europeans sustained two injuries. Corporal Heffron was wounded in the arm by a spear, and Ellis received concussion from either a spear blow or a fall from his horse. Ellis stayed in a coma for two weeks and died of his injuries on 14 November. The number of Nyungars killed has been much contested. Stirling’s official report to Britain stated that fifteen Nyungar men were killed in the exchange. Roe estimated that between fifteen and twenty had died, while an eyewitness put the figure at more than thirty. In June 1985, through research conducted by the Western Australian Museum, the site of the ‘Battle of Pinjarra’ was registered with the Western Australian Aboriginal Sites Department. In 1991, on Back to Pinjarra Day, the first remembrance ceremony for the Pinjarra Massacre was held at the Memorial Area, initiated by Theo Kearing and his wife, Gloria.

References

Ref ID No Ref Name Ref Source Ref Date
Heritage Council of WA Assessment Pinjarra Massacre Site

Other Reference Numbers

Ref Number Description
042 Municipal Inventory

State Heritage Office library entries

Library Id Title Medium Year Of Publication
5473 Murray Districts Hospital Aboriginal significance : a report. Report 1997
3478 Pinjarra Massacre Site Research and Development Project : report for stage 1. Report 1998

Place Type

Historic Site

Uses

Epoch General Specific
Original Use OTHER Other
Present Use OTHER Other

Historic Themes

General Specific
PEOPLE Famous & infamous people
PEOPLE Early settlers
PEOPLE Aboriginal people
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Aboriginal Occupation
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Racial contact & interaction

Creation Date

29 Jun 1998

Publish place record online (inHerit):

Approved

Last Update

01 Jan 2017

Disclaimer

This information is provided voluntarily as a public service. The information provided is made available in good faith and is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, the information is provided solely on the basis that readers will be responsible for making their own assessment of the matters discussed herein and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information.