The Battle of Pinjarra

Outline of Massacre
The Pinjarra massacre was a battle that took place in Pinjarra, Western Australia. The massacre took place on the 28th of February,1834. The conflict was between 60-80 Aboriginals of the Binjareb tribe, and 25 European soldiers and policemen who carried out the attack lead by Governor Captain James Stirling.

Reasons of Massacre
The attack on the Binjareb tribe was motivated by earlier attacks on white settlers. These attacks were carried out by the Binjareb tribe. According to the Aborigines, the white settlers were invading their land, which lead to conflict with the settlers. The Binjareb tribe was aggressive and they had a reputation for their attacks on other Aborigines and white settlers. Governor Captain James Stirling didn't want the Binjareb tribe and the Weeip's Wadjuk people to form an alliance. Governor Stirling didn't want these two aggressive tribes working together in order to kill white settlers. The Pinjarra massacre also happened because Governor Stirling wanted revenge on the Binjareb tribe for the earlier attacks on white settlers. Governor Stirling wanted to affirm his authority and power over the Aborigines.

Actions taken by both groups
The European soldiers and policemen, lead by Governor James Stirling, planned to surprise the Binjareb tribe by attacking them in the early hours of the morning. This was the time when the tribe would be at their most vulnerable. The Europeans also planned to cover off any escape routes, including the nearby river. The attack occurred at around 8:35am. When the tribe was notified of the attackers, the women and children ran towards the river, but there they met many soldiers and policemen. This group included Governor James Stirling. The women and children were the hardest hit by the attack, while the Aboriginal men battled courageously against the other European soldiers. After Governor Stirling and his men had fired their guns for an hour at the Aboriginals, they then searched the surrounding areas for any survivors for half an hour.

People held accountable

The Pinjarra massacre was a planed attack and was only carried out by soldiers and policemen. No settlers or members of the public were involved in the killings. This meant that the massacre was perfectly legal according to the law. Therefore nobody was held accountable for the 15-20 deaths of Aboriginal men. The amount of women and children that were killed is unknown, but it is estimated that around 30-40 Aboriginal women and children died. Eight women and a few children were taken as captives.

Aboriginal Massacres in General

Reasons for Conflict
Many massacres between Aborigines and the Europeans occurred after white settlers arrived on the shores of Australia in 1788.  It took more than 100 years for white settlement to expand over the whole country. In that time, around 20,000 Aboriginals were killed and when compared to the 2,000 Europeans that died, the difference speaks for itself. Many conflicts continued to occur after this period.
Some reasons as to why so many conflicts occurred between Aboriginals and white settlers are:
  • Many white settlers thought that Aborigines were: barbaric savages, dangerous, treacherous, without morals and possibly cannibalistic. This angered Aboriginal people and caused conflicts.
  • White people thought that they were superior to Aboriginals, and that they had power over them. This meant that the Europeans thought that the Aborigines had no right to interfere in any work of the theirs. Some white people thought that Aboriginal people were pests in the progress of colonisation of Australia.
  • Aborigines and Europeans had different religious views, traditions and beliefs. One example is the difference between their skin colour. One key belief that Aborigines had was "The Dreamtime". This was a religion to Aboriginals but the Europeans had their own religion.
  • Europeans failed to accept that the land belonged to the Aborigines. They then decided that the land was Terra Nullius (no mans land) and called it their own land. Aboriginal people became angry because the Europeans were invading their own land, and then claiming that it was theirs. This caused several conflicts.
  • Europeans wanted the Aborigines land so that they could build their houses, farms, buildings etc. White settlers who wanted to build farms needed more space for their sheep and cattle.
  • Europeans built their farms which drove away the many animals that the Aborigines hunted for food. This made Aboriginal people very annoyed and would have starved many Aboriginals to death. So the Aboriginals retaliated by killing the sheep and cattle of the Europeans. The Aborigines thought that this wasn't against the law as the sheep and cattle were on Aboriginal land. The Europeans however, thought that they land was theirs. This would lead to the Europeans retaliating and this would continue until a battle between both sides occurred, or until someone surrendered and stoped.

Effects of Conflict
After the Europeans arrived in Australia, they declared it as Terra Nullius and claimed it as their own. The white setters then started to sell land off to other settlers who had migrated. The Aboriginals at first thought that the white settlers were just visiting, but boat after boat was arriving on the shores of Australia. Soon, the Aborigines realised that the Europeans were here to stay. The Aboriginal people saw this as a illegal act as the land rightfully belonged to them. Even though the land was theirs, it was literally being taken away from their hands. The Europeans brought many new beliefs and a new culture to Australia. The white settlers also brought diseases with them to Australia.  One disease that was a major killer of Aborigines was smallpox*, which killed around 50% of Aborigines in the early years of European colonisation. Due to the many differences between Aborigines and the Europeans, conflict between the two races was also a big issue. Conflict had a major effect on the decline of the population of Aborigines. *(Smallpox is a highly contagious disease. Characteristics of smallpox are: fever - which could cause death, weakness, and blisters filled with pus that form into scabs. Often, the scabs would eventually leave permanent scars.)