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'Killing times' at Coniston

It's like a Port Arthur Massacre. And the Trade Center in New York. A Bali bombing. That's the history you know? It didn't happen anywhere. It just happened where we stand, on the bank of the river.

William Jampijinpa Brown, 2013

A photo of Liddy Napanangka Walker and Coral Napangardi Gallagher standing beside a headstone.
Liddy Napanangka Walker and Coral Napangardi Gallagher at Frederick Brooks’s grave, Yurrkuru, 2011. Photo: Hannah Quinliven.

Remembering Yurrkuru

In 1928 central Australia was in the grip of prolonged drought. Tensions were running high between local Aboriginal people and settlers who competed for access to precious water sources.

On 7 August 1928 at Yurrkuru soakage near Coniston station, Warlpiri man Kamalyarrpa Japanangka, also known as Bullfrog, bludgeoned dingo trapper Frederick Brooks to death with an axe and buried him in a shallow grave.

In the violent retribution that followed, local pastoralists and Aboriginal trackers rode with Constable William Murray on a vigilante expedition, shooting and killing Warlpiri and Anmatyerre men, women and children. Warlpiri people tell of entire family groups being mown down. A series of investigations exonerated Murray’s shooting party. These killings, which became known as the ‘Coniston massacre’, occurred within living memory of the oldest generation of Warlpiri men and women.

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