Caledon Bay crisis

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The Caledon Bay crisis refers to a series of killings at Caledon Bay in the Northern Territory of Australia during 1932–34. These events are widely seen as a turning point in relations between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

In 1932, five Japanese trepang fishers were killed by Aboriginals in the Caledon Bay area of northeast Arnhem Land. In another incident on Woodah Island, two white men named Fagan and Traynor were killed. A policeman investigating the deaths, Constable Albert McColl, was subsequently also killed by Yolngu.[1] McColl had handcuffed a Yolngu woman as part of a plan to catch Dhakiyarr (also known as Takiar, Tuckiar and Takiara) but was killed by a spear through the heart while being led by the woman to where she had told him Dhakiyarr was camping.[2]

The killings triggered panic in Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory, generating fears that Aborigines — the majority of the population in the Territory at the time — might stage an uprising. A punitive expedition was proposed by police to "teach the blacks a lesson".[3] (In 1928, during a previous punitive expedition in the Northern Territory, police had killed up to 110 Aboriginal men, women and children; an event known as the Coniston massacre.)

Many feared another such slaughter, and a party from the Church Missionary Society travelled to Arnhem Land and persuaded Dhakiyarr and three other men, who were sons of a Yolngu elder, Wonggu, to return to Darwin with them for trial. In Darwin, to the horror of the missionaries, Dhakiyarr was sentenced to death by hanging, and the three other men were sentenced to twenty years hard labour.[4] On appeal to the High Court of Australia, Dhakiyarr’s sentence was quashed,[5] and he was released from jail, but disappeared. Rumours suggested he had been killed by police.

The resulting crisis threatened to bring about even more bloodshed. To defuse the situation, a young anthropologist, Donald Thomson, offered to investigate the causes of the conflict. He travelled to Arnhem Land, on a mission that many said would be suicidal, and got to know and understand the people who lived there. After a seven months’ investigation, he persuaded the Federal Government to free the three men convicted of the killings and returned with them to their own country, living for over a year with their people, documenting their culture.

He formed a strong bond with the Yolngu people, and in 1941 he persuaded the Army to establish a special reconnaissance force of Yolngu men known as the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit, including Wonggu and his sons, to help repel Japanese raids on the northern coastline of Australia.

The historian Henry Reynolds has suggested that the Caledon Bay crisis "was a decisive moment in the history of Aboriginal-European relations. The High Court condemned frontier justice, the punitive expedition did not ride into Yolngu country and there had been an unprecedented outburst of public sentiment demanding a new deal for Indigenous Australians."

Murder of Japanese Fisherman

On 17 September 1932, five Japanese fishermen were killed by aboriginals at Caledon Bay; one escaped.[6] [7][8]

There had been killings of Japanese fishermen in 1921 and 1926.[9][10]

Murder of Albert McColl

On 1 August 1933, a group of police, led by Mounted Constable Ted Morey and including Albert McColl (1902-33), were trying to track down aboriginal people they believed were involved in the killings of the Japanese.

They came across a group of aboriginal women. McColl and the women became separated from the others. The women included Djaparri, a wife of Dhakiyarr, a Yolungu elder. He attempted to contact his wife, McColl shot at him and misfired; Dhakiyarr threw a spear at McColl, killing him.[11][12][13]

Various motives for the murder have been suggested, including McColl having sexual relations with Djaparri, and Dhakiyarr covering up the murders of William Fagan and Frank Traynor.

Murder of Fagan and Traynor

In September 1933 it was reported two men, Fagan and Traynor, had disappeared.[14][15]

The trial

Dhakiyarr was arrested, charged with murder and sentenced to death.[16] The trial was full of numerous irregularities.[17]

He appealed to the High Court which overturned the sentence. [18]

Dhakiyarr was freed and taken to Kahlin compound. He was never seen again.[19]

References

  1. ^ Egan, Ted, 1996, Justice All Their Own. Melbourne University Press.
  2. ^ This incident is dramatised in the documentary film Dhakiyarr vs the King (2004) by Tom Murray and Allan Collins.
  3. ^ Howard Morphy, 2005, "Mutual Conversion? The Methodist Church and the Yolŋu, with particular reference to Yirrkala", Humanities Research, vol. XII, no. 1, p. 43]
  4. ^ Murray, Tom (2002) Producer. Tuckiar vs the King and Territory. ABC Radio National Hindsight.
  5. ^ Tuckiar v The King [1934] HCA 49, (1934) 52 CLR 335 (8 November 1934), High Court (Australia).
  6. ^ "MASSACRE OF PEARL DIVERS". Northern Star. 57. New South Wales, Australia. 29 September 1932. p. 7. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  7. ^ "CALEDON BAY BLACKS". The West Australian. XLIX, (9,713). Western Australia. 16 August 1933. p. 13. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  8. ^ "CALEDON BAY MASSACRE". The West Australian. XLIX, (9,770). Western Australia. 21 October 1933. p. 5. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  9. ^ "KILLING OF 5 JAPS. REPORTED". The Daily Telegraph. 2, (195). New South Wales, Australia. 29 September 1932. p. 7. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  10. ^ "IN THE NORTHERN MOUNTED". The West Australian. XLIX, (9,746). Western Australia. 23 September 1933. p. 5. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  11. ^ "CONSTABLE SPEARED". The Uralla Times. New South Wales, Australia. 17 August 1933. p. 1. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  12. ^ "TRAGIC STORY TOLD". Tweed Daily. XXI, (177). New South Wales, Australia. 26 July 1934. p. 5. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  13. ^ "SPEARING OF POLICEMAN". The West Australian. 50, (15,006). Western Australia. 26 July 1934. p. 18. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  14. ^ "MURDER BY BLACKS". The Mercury. CXXXIX, (20,638). Tasmania, Australia. 29 September 1933. p. 9. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  15. ^ "NO EVIDENCE AGAINST CALEDON KILLERS". The Courier-mail (193). Queensland, Australia. 11 April 1934. p. 14. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  16. ^ "CALEDON BAY MURDER CASES". Northern Standard (28). Northern Territory, Australia. 13 April 1934. p. 5. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  17. ^ "CALEDON BAY MURDER". The West Australian. 50, (15,089). Western Australia. 31 October 1934. p. 16. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  18. ^ "HIGH COURT HEARS APPEAL BY TACKIAR". The Advertiser (Adelaide). South Australia. 30 October 1934. p. 15. Retrieved 30 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia. 
  19. ^ Mickey Dewar, 'Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda (1900–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dhakiyarr-wirrpanda-12885/text23275, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 30 May 2018.

External links

  • Thomson, D., & Peterson, N., 1983, “Donald Thomson in Arnhem Land”, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne. Revised ed. publ. 2003, ISBN 0-522-85063-4
  • Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda The first Aboriginal Australian whose case was heard in the High Court Archived 6 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine. at the National Archives of Australia
  • ATSIC The First Reconciliation Act
  • Albert McColl] at Explore Democracy
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