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Jandamarra’s boomerang


Pidgeon, now known by his Aboriginal name ‘Jandamarra’, was the leader of the Bunuba resistance in the Napier Range during the mid-1890s, and is a character of mythic proportions. His status, and in many ways his short life, parallels that of the Irish–Australian hero Ned Kelly.

Accused and jailed for stealing stock, Jandamarra missed the education necessary to become a man in traditional Bunuba society. Instead, he attracted the attention of successive European mentors, becoming a skilled horseman, fist fighter and marksman of unequalled accuracy.

Inevitably, he was recruited as a police tracker. Constable Bill Richardson engaged Jandamarra to join him on a foray into Bunuba country in 1894, where they captured 17 prisoners, including Elemarra, a legendary leader of Bunuba resistance to the pastoralists.

In the dead of night on 31 October, Jandamarra shot Richardson, releasing his countrymen and fleeing to the safety of the limestone parapets of the Napier Range.

A week later, Jandamarra and his followers ambushed advancing cattle drovers at Windjana Pool, but two stock boys escaped to tell the tale. The Kimberley pastoralists and Perth’s political establishment were in uproar, commissioning a succession of punitive raids on the Bunuba; oral history tells that scores of people were massacred.

It was not until Micki, an Aboriginal man from the Pilbara, was recruited that the revenge party got close to Jandamarra. The fatal confrontation occurred at Tunnel Creek, where Micki fired his rifle and Jandamarra plummeted 30 metres to his death.

While the exact provenance of the boomerang is unknown, it is likely to have been abandoned by Jandamarra after a battle at the Two Mile Creek homestead.

Boomerang (late 19th century)
 Boomerang (late 19th century)

 Boomerang (late 19th century)

 Boomerang (late 19th century)


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Boomerang (late 19th century), natural pigments on wood, weight 248 gm
Dimensions L 52.5 x W 7.4 cm
Registration No. X 49848
Image source: Museum Victoria

© Museum Victoria Australia