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For the Sydney suburb, see Pemulwuy, New South Wales.
Nationality Eora
Other names Pimbloy, Pemulvoy, Pemulwoy
Ethnicity Aboriginal Australian
Occupation Political leader
Known for Resistance to British occupation of Sydney area
Movement Aboriginal resistance
Children Tedbury

Pemulwuy (aka Pimbloy, Pemulvoy, Pemulwoy, Pemulwye,) (c1750 - 2 June 1802) was an Aboriginal Australian man born around 1750 in the area of Botany Bay in New South Wales. He is noted for his resistance to the European settlement of Australia which began with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.[1] He is believed to have been a member of the Bidjigal (Bediagal) clan of the Eora people.

Early life[edit]

Pemulwuy was a member of the Bidjigal[2] people, who were the original inhabitants of Prospect Creek, a tributory of the upper George's River. He was related to the Toonga-gal (Toongabbie) and Burramatta-gal (Parramatta) clans of the Woodland Dharug people (J.L.Kohen, The Darug and their Neighbours, Darug Link, 1993) with whom much of his later Resistance was undertaken. The George's River is the source of [[Botany Bay], with whom the British colonists associated him.[3]

Pemulwuy was born with a turned eye. According to historian Eric Willmot:

Normally, a child that showed an obvious deformity would've been, well, people would have expected that child to be sent back, to be reborn again. It was generally thought that humans, like everything, came from the land. And that a woman, the actual act of conception, was a woman being infected by a child's spirit from the land. And that child grows within her. And so he was different and he became more different. He became better than everybody else. Whatever anyone else could do, Pemulwuy did it better. He could run further, he was one of the best, he could use a spear like no-one else could. And so, around him, was created an aura of difference. So much so that he was said to be a clever man. In an Aboriginal society, clever man is often a man who deals with the spiritual nature of things and sorcery even.[4]

When Pemulwuy grew into manhood he became Bembul, which represents "the earth", and after his escape from custody in Parramatta (1797) he was also named "Wagun" (the Crow). According to historian Richard Green "he wasn't very impressed with the mix of cultures. He preferred that we stayed within our own peoples."[4] Another name for him was "Butu Wagun" which means "Black Crow".<http://www.abc.net.au/tv/messagestick/stories/s2893382.htm>

Pemulwuy became a Karagdi (in Dharug), or Spirit Man ( kadaicha man ) in Wiradjuri, of his tribe. His opposition to the British was in opposition to Bennelong's appeasement of the British, and for the first two years of the British colonisation of New South Wales observed the British, like Bennelong.. Pemulwuy would sometimes pass meat to the colonists, but mainly stayed in the background, as evidenced by the lack of British reference to him from 1788-90.[4]

In 1790 Pemulwuy began a twelve year guerilla war against the British, including the occupation of Parramatta in March 1797, a war that only ended on his beheading at Rooty Hill in 1802.

Pemulwuy's War[edit]

Pemulwuy's War
Date 1790-1802
Location Botany Bay, Liverpool, Parramatta, Hawkesbury River, New South Wales
Result British victory, Pemulwuy's death
Kingdom of Great Britain British colonists Aboriginal Australians
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great Britain Governor Arthur Phillip (1790 - 1792)
Kingdom of Great Britain Governor John Hunter (1795 - 1800)
United Kingdom Governor Philip Gidley King (1800 - 1802)

Origin of Conflict: Spearing of McIntyre[edit]

On 9 December 1790, a shooting party left for Botany Bay, including a sergeant of marines and three convicts, including Governor Phillip's gamekeeper John McIntyre. According to Watkin Tench:

About one o’clock, the sergeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the bushes near him, and supposing it to proceed from a kangaroo, called to his comrades, who instantly jumped up. On looking about more narrowly, they saw two natives with spears in their hands, creeping towards them, and three others a little farther behind. As this naturally created alarm, McIntyre said, “don’t be afraid, I know them,” and immediately laying down his gun, stepped forward, and spoke to them in their own language. The Indians, finding they were discovered, kept slowly retreating, and McIntyre accompanied them about a hundred yards, talking familiarly all the while. One of them now jumped on a fallen tree and, without giving the least warning of his intention, launched his spear at McIntyre and lodged it in his left side. The person who committed this wanton act was described as a young man with a speck or blemish on his left eye. That he had been lately among us was evident from his being newly shaved.[5]

The group was pursued by the settlers with muskets, but they escaped.

McIntyre was taken back to the settlement, gravely wounded. Tench suspected that McIntyre had previously raped Dharug women and murdered Dharug men, and noted the fear and hatred that the Aboriginal people, including Bennelong (an Aboriginal man who Governor Phillip had captured, in hopes of interaction with the Aboriginals) showed towards him.[6]

"The poor wretch now began to utter the most dreadful exclamations, and to accuse himself of the commission of crimes of the deepest dye, accompanied with such expressions of his despair of God’s mercy, as are too terrible to repeat," wrote Tench of McIntyre.[5] The gameskeeper died on 12 December. Before then, Colbee and several other aboriginals, came in to see the body. "Their behaviour indicated that they had already heard of the accident, as they repeated twice or thrice the name of the murderer Pimelwi (sic), saying (incorrectly) that he lived at Botany Bay," wrote Tench".[5]

Several historians believe it is likely Pemulwuy killed McInyre to stop his rape and murder of Dharug people. Pemulwuy: The Rainbow Warrior by Eric Willmot, 429 pp, Second Edition, Weldon International, 2010 (first published 1987), ISBN 9780646530796[4]

Governor Phillip's Military Expeditions[edit]

Governor Phillip ordered two military expeditions against the Bidjigal led by Tench in retaliation for the attack on McIntyre. He regarded the Bidjigal as the most aggressive towards the British settlers and intended to make an example of them. He ordered that six of their people be captured or if they could not be captured that they be put to death. It was Phillip's intention to execute two of the captured people and to send the remainder to Norfolk Island.

He also ordered that he "strictly forbids, under penalty of the severest punishment, any soldier or other person, not expressly ordered out for that purpose, ever to fire on any native except in his own defence; or to molest him in any shape, or to bring away any spears, or other articles which they may find belonging to those people."

The Aboriginal people present in Sydney refused to assist in tracking, with Colbee feigning injury.

First Expedition[edit]

The first expedition failed, with the heavy loads carried by the British military making them no match for the speed of the Aboriginal people. According to Richard Green, "with simple spears, rocks, boomerangs, stones, he [Pemulwuy] defeated the British army that they sent here. Every single soldier except for Watkin Tench, that they sent in pursuit of Pemulwuy either walked back into the community with their saddle over their shoulders or they didn't make it back."[4]

Second Expedition[edit]

During the second they took innocent women prisoners and shot at two innocent men. One of whom, Bangai, was wounded and later found dead.[6]


As a leader (Spirit Man) or his people, Pemulwuy persuaded the Eora (Coastal Dharug), Dharug (Woodland Dharug0 and Tharawal people to join his campaign against the newcomers (The Eora and Dharug belonging to the same, Dharug, language group). From 1792 Pemulwuy led raids on settlers from Parramatta, Georges River, Prospect, Toongabbie, Brickfield and Hawkesbury River.[citation needed] His most common tactic was to burn crops and kill livestock.[4]

Captain Paterson sent a search party to find him but was unsuccessful.

In May 1795, Pemulwuy speared a recalcitrant convict near present-day Chippendale (for raping Dharug women and murdering Dharug men).[7]

Encounter with Black Caesar[edit]

In December 1795, Pemulwuy and his warriors attacked a work party at Botany Bay which included Black Caesar. Caesar managed to crack Pemulwuy's skull and many thought he had killed him, but the warrior survived and escaped.[8]

Battle of Parramatta[edit]

Battle of Parramatta
Date March 1797
Location Parramatta, New South Wales
Result British victory, capture of Pemulwuy
Kingdom of Great Britain British soldiers
European settlers
Aboriginal Australians
Commanders and leaders
100 (est.)[9]
Casualties and losses
50 killed (est.)

In March 1797, British troops and colonists who had set out in the morning to track Pemulwuy's Warriors north of the Parramatta River, then found themselves retreating back towards Parramatta in the afternoon with Pemulwuy in hot pursuit.

The soldiers and militia did not stop until they had gained the British fort east of Parramatta (Harris St opposite Macquarie St) which, in the evening, was attacked by approximately 100 Dharug warriors under the leadership of Pemulwuy (pron Pem-way). Pemulwuy's Warriors effectively took the British town of Parramatta captive for approximately 12 hours, the only time such an occupation occurred in Australian history. Ref: George Barrington (Chief Constable of Parramatta) A History of New South Wales,1802, and John White(Surgeon)The Minerva Journal, 1787.

At the end of the seige of Parramatta, Pemulwuy stood before the Fort taunting the British to 'come and get' him. Pemulwuy was shot seven times and taken in irons to a local Hostel, and locked in a room to die. Five others were killed instantly.[10] The seige has more recently become known as the Battle of Parramatta.[11][12][13]

The next day, Pemulwuy miraculousy escaped captivity, earning him the name "Wagan" (The Crow). He continued leading the Dharug resistance until shot and beheaded in 1802 at Rooty Hill. (Pemulwuy: The Rainbow Warrior by Eric Willmot, 429 pp, Second Edition, Weldon International, 2010 (first published 1987), ISBN 9780646530796. His head was sent to England for "scientific" studies, and is now considered lost.[10][11][12][13]


Despite still having buckshot in his head and body, and wearing a leg-iron, Pemulwuy miraculously escaped from the Hostel. This added to his authority as Karadji or 'Spirit Man'. (clever man or doctor).[14]

Pemulwuy recommenced his Resistance against the British by November 1797. In late February 1798, Pemulwuy led a group of Dharug warriors, estimated to be at least 100, in an attack on Government Farm (Old) Toongabbie.

Thereafter, however his injuries affected his ability as a fighter and his resistance was on a smaller and more sporadic for the rest of his life.[9]

Convicts William Knight and Thomas Thrush escaped and joined the Dharug Resistance.[7]


Pemulwuy continued leading the Dharug resistance until shot and beheaded in 1802 at Rooty Hill.

Governor Philip Gidley King issued an order on 22 November 1801 for bringing Pemulwuy in dead or alive, with an associated reward. The order attributed the killing of two men, the dangerous wounding of several, and a number of robberies to Pemulwuy.[15]

On 2 June 1802 Pemulwuy was shot and summarily decapitated by British sailor Henry Hacking, near Rooty Hill. (Hacking was the first mate of the English sloop Lady Nelson). (Pemulwuy: The Rainbow Warrior by Eric Willmot, 429 pp, Second Edition, Weldon International, 2010 (first published 1987). His head was sent to England for "scientific" studies, and is now considered lost.

"After being wounded (at the Battle of Parramatta), all the people believed that he was immune to British bullets," says Richard Green. "So he'd stand out in front and, you know, stand right out in front of them and take them on, you know? So after 12 years, his time ran out. He got his shot and he took it."[9]

Thus Pemulwuy's escape from Parramatta was used by Hacking as a justification for the beheading.

Following the death of Pemulwuy Governor King wrote to Lord Hobart that on the death of Pemulwuy he was given his head by the Aboriginal people as Pemulwuy "had been the cause of all that had happened". The Governor issued orders with immediate effect to not "molest or ill-treat any native", and to re-admit them to the areas of Parramatta and Prospect from which they had been forcibly excluded.[16]

Pemulwuy's head was preserved in spirits. It was sent to England to Sir Joseph Banks accompanied by a letter from Governor King, who wrote: "Although a terrible pest to the colony, he was a brave and independent character."[17] Both of these (Decapitation and Export)actions were specifically against Dharug practice and belief systems, which determined that the whole body(including head)were to be buried together so that the spirit might rest.(J.L.Kohen, The Darug and their Neighbours, Darug Link, 1993

Pemulway's son Tedbury continued the struggle for a number of years before being killed in 1810.

In 1816, and against the express wishes of the founding Governer of NSW, Arthur Phillip, Governer Macquarie sent a punitive expedition against the Dharug and Tharawal people for supporting the Resistance. Macquarie's orders led to the first massacre of Aboriginal people in Australia, mostly of Tharawal people, at Appin and Cataract in NSW (collectively known as the Cataract Gorge Massacre). There were no repercussions against the perpetrators of the Cataract Gorge Massacre.

After this massacre, Macquarie rewarded Aboriginal 'compliance' by opening a 'school' for Aboriginal children at Parramatta. This school was later relocated to "Black Town".

Skull controversy[edit]

Repatriation of the skull of Pemulwuy has been requested by Pemulwuy's Dharug ancestors.

In 2010,. the British Prince William announced he would return Pemulwuy's skull from to his Dharug relatives.Consistent with British practice, however, Pemulwuy's skull has not yet been located or repatriated (in England repatriation is often seen as a 'low priority' or even to be resisted) (see also Elgin Marbles ).[18]


Pemulwuy, and his Resistance movement, are now held in great esteem by the Eora and Woodland Dharug people of New South Wales.

He is rightly regarded as the first (Aboriginal) Australian resistance leader, having successfully led the Dharug people against the British invaders for 12 Years, from 1790 to 1802. There were few indigenous people who actively resisted Imperial Britain for so long (compare, for example, to the New Zealand Wars, the Anglo-Zulu War, and the Indian Rebellion of 1857).

He is also the only Resistance leader to have ever taken a town ( Parramatta in March 1797) from the British in Australian History, albiet briefly.

The Holroyd suburb of Pemulwuy, New South Wales is named after his attack on the nearby British village of Prospect,[19] and Pemulwuy Park in Redfern, New South Wales is named in honour of him.[20]

In the 1980s the Australian band Redgum composed a song about Pemulwuy entitled "Water and Stone".[21]

Australian composer Paul Jarman composed a choral work entitled Pemulwuy. It has become an Australian choral standard, and was performed by the Biralee Blokes in their victory in the ABC Choir of the Year 2006.

In 1987 Weldons published "Pemulwuy: The Rainbow Warrior" by Eric Willmot, a best-selling novel providing a fictionalised account using early colonial documents as source. Matilda Media re-released the book in 1994 [22]

The redevelopment of The Block in the Sydney suburb of Redfern by the Aboriginal Housing Company has been called the Pemulwuy Project.[23]


  1. ^ Wendy Lewis, Simon Balderstone and John Bowan (2006). Events That Shaped Australia. New Holland. ISBN 978-1-74110-492-9. 
  2. ^ Keith Vincent Smith (2010). "Pemulwuy". Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "Pemulwuy". Biography of Pemulwuy. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Summer Series - Pemulwuy: A War of Two Laws Pt ", Message Stick, Sunday 5 December 2010 accessed 3 March 2014
  5. ^ a b c Watkin Tench, The Settlement at Port Jackson, Chapter Eight accessed 3 March 2014
  6. ^ a b Tench, Watkin, "Chapter viii", A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson 
  7. ^ a b Keith Vincent Smith, "Australia's oldest murder mystery", Sydney Morning Herald 1 November 2003 accessed 26 February 2014
  8. ^ Shane Moloney, "Pemulwuy & Black Caesar", The Monthly March, 2013 accessed 26 February 2014
  9. ^ a b c "Pemulwuy: A War of Two Laws Part 2", Message Stick Sunday 16 May 2010, 1:30pm ABC1 accessed 3 March 2014
  10. ^ Collins, David. An account of the English colony in New South Wales 2. p. 27. 
  11. ^ Dale, David (16 February 2008). "WHO WE ARE: The man who nearly changed everything". "The Sun Herald". 
  12. ^ J Henniker Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates and Men of the Time, Sydney, 1873
  13. ^ Al Grassby and Marji Hill, Six Australian Battlefields, North Ryde: Angus &Robertson, 1988:99.
  14. ^ "Pemulwuy". Dictionary of Sydney. www.dictionaryofsydney.org. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  15. ^ F. M. Bladen (ed.), "Government and General Order. 22 November 1801.", Historical Records of New South Wales, IV — HUNTER AND KING, p. 629 
  16. ^ F. M. Bladen (ed.), "Governor King to Lord Hobart. 30 October 1802", Historical Records of New South Wales, IV — HUNTER AND KING, p. 868 
  17. ^ F. M. Bladen (ed.), "Governor King to Sir Joseph Banks. 5 June 1802.", Historical Records of New South Wales, IV — HUNTER AND KING, p. 783 
  18. ^ "Prince William takes up search for lost Aboriginal skull". The Times]. 2010-02-04. 
  19. ^ "Pemulwuy". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  20. ^ "Pemulwuy Park, Redfern". City of Sydney. Retrieved 26 October 2010. 
  21. ^ Redgum - Water and Stone on YouTube
  22. ^ "Pemulwuy: The Rainbow Warrior". Google Books. Google. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  23. ^ "Redevelopment News". Aboriginal Housing Company. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 


Further reading[edit]

Willmot, E., 1987, Pemulwuy – The Rainbow Warrior, Weldons. A fictionalised recount using early colonial documents as source.
Dark, Eleanor, 1947, The Timeless Land, also uses early colonial documents as source, including a recount of unsuccessful search for Pemulwuy by Arthur Phillip's officers.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pemulwuy — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
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Excerpt from the Member for Sturt's Address in Reply about efforts to return the Pemulwuy skull.

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The Bishop Shanahan High School Chorus performs "Pemulwuy" in HD at the 2013 Spring Concert. Chorus conducted by Tim Lambert.

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Brisbane Boys College - nice song but poor video.

Hon Christopher Pyne MP - Repatriation of Pemulwuy's Skull - House of Representatives - 25 June 2013

See more: http://www.pyneonline.com.au/media/speeches-media/repatriation-of-pemulwuys-skull.

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13 news items

Broadway World
Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:48:45 -0700

The city will come alive with the mighty sound of close to 500 men and boys, aged 8 to 83 from every Australian state, as they take part in the Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival, a multi-generational gathering of male singers from 10 to 13 July 2014.
ABC Online (blog)
Fri, 11 Jul 2014 12:41:15 -0700

Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival Finale. 12 July 2014 , 5:48 AM by Rob Minshull. Choirs Brisbane has the opportunity to experience the mighty sound of nearly 500 men and boys from across Australia as they perform in a choral extravaganza live in ...
New Matilda
Sun, 06 Jul 2014 20:35:08 -0700

Over 150 activists, tenants, elders and students gathered early Monday morning after reports that bulldozers would be sent in to begin construction on the controversial Pemulwuy project, which would see commercial developments for non-Aboriginal people ...
The Daily Telegraph
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 20:21:34 -0700

Mr Moopnar was a Fairfield resident for 17 years, before moving to Pemulwuy, near Prospect, but he still shops at Fairfield Forum. Centre manager, Jocelyn Marr said she was thrilled to be able to reward loyal customers for shop. “On a daily basis, we ...

Brisbane Times

Brisbane Times
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 02:05:16 -0700

One was set up on the site in 2006 to protest against zoning changes by the Redfern-Waterloo Authority, which had allegedly been made with the intention of preventing the development of the AHC's Pemulwuy residential and commercial development.
Sydney Morning Herald
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 22:21:16 -0700

A “visual haiku” depicting the connection between the human spirit and the weather; a glass jar installation inspired by the story of Aboriginal resistance fighter Pemulwuy; and a video art piece examining the gentrification of Fitzroy's Gertrude ...
New Matilda
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:39:14 -0700

This is a song worthy of a man like Vincent Lingiari, of Eddie Mabo, of Truganini, of Pemulwuy, of Barangaroo, of Jandarmarra, of the brave fighters of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. It's a song that serves as an anthem to Aboriginal people who believe ...
Newcastle Herald
Fri, 04 Jul 2014 04:57:28 -0700

''Then hidden away at the bottom, the head in the jar is of rebel Aboriginal leader Pemulwuy.'' The second linocut (pictured) is tagged, King Bungaree and the Bottle Tree. Almost obscured above are flying foxes, a subtle poke at the massive relocation ...

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