Wednesday, 22 April 2020 22:16



In 1816 under the command of various military leaders three detachments were dispatched by Governor Macquarie to `inflict terrible and exemplary punishments` on the Aborigines of the Appin area.

appin massacre

Early in the morning of 17 April 1816 the military’s leader for the Appin area Captain Wallis and a number of his men came across a Dharawal men’s camp. They slaughtered the men who were mostly elders, cut off their heads and took them back to Sydney.

While Captain Wallis returned to Sydney the remaining men hunted down the local Aboriginal clan (Dharawal people). They found the camp where the women and children were staying. They shot and trampled them under their horses and drove them over the cliffs at Broughton Pass.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie's regiments were ordered to pursue and fire upon any Aboriginal people who attempted to escape apprehension as the soldiers scoured the settled and unsettled areas about Sydney.

The governor declared that Aboriginal men shot and killed during such encounters were to be hung from trees in prominent positions, to strike fear and terror amongst the surviving Aboriginal population.

For example, in his instructions to Captain Shaw of the 46th Regiment, Macquarie stated:

"On any occasion of seeing or falling in with the Natives, either in bodies or singly, they are to be called on, by your friendly Native Guides, to surrender themselves to you as Prisoners of War. If they refuse to do so, make the least show of resistance, or attempt to run away from you, you will fire upon and compel them to surrender, breaking and destroying the spears, clubs, and waddies of all those you take Prisoners.

Such Natives as happen to be killed on such occasions, if grown up men, are to be hanged up on trees in conspicuous situations, to strike the Survivors with the greater terror. On all occasions of your being obliged to have recourse to offensive and coercive measures, you will use every possible precaution to save the lives of the Native Women and Children, but taking as many of them as you can Prisoners."

broughton pass

Broughton Pass

The bodies of slain warriors were also decapitated, though in secret, and their heads sent off to museums in Europe.

Camps were created to house those people captured, whilst prisoners were transported to penal establishments such as Port Arthur and children were taken from families and tribes for re-education.

Gatherings of six or more Aborigines were declared illegal, customary practice was outlawed, as was the carrying of spears, and the non-Aboriginal civilian population was granted permission to shoot and kill those Aborigines who did not adhere to the tenets of the various proclamations issued by government.

The campaign - or "service" as Macquarie called it - was to be executed with "secrecy and despatch" (Organ 1989).

This brutal and barbaric action on the part of the authorities was also to make it clear to the rest of the population that the Aboriginal people were to be treated in a manner which would ensure the security of the ever expanding settlement.


'Secret Service: Governor Macquarie's Aboriginal War of 1816' by Michael K. Organ - University of Wollongong
Available Online (with references) in PDF format: