17th Feb marks the accepted anniversary date of the Flying Foam Massacre that occurred in 1868. However, this day was only the start of the massacre, which continued for some months and occurred not just in the Flying Foam Passage area but was a systematic punitive expedition designed to decimate the Yaburara people who owned and occupied the country now known as the Burrup Peninsula. It is estimated that about 150 men, women and children were killed between February and May, 1868, with the punitive party “committing the most cowardly and diabolical acts on women and children”. This genocidal act had a devastating impact on the Yaburara community that continues to be felt with deep pain today.
Below are transcripts of records that relate to the Flying Foam Massacre.
Feb 11, 1868: Instructions issued to Alex McRae and John Withnell by Resident Magistrate Robert Sholl, in which he clearly instructs the punitive party to kill the Yaburara people
Feb 18, 1868: Resident Magistrate Robert Sholl’s Despatch to the Colonial Secretary
Feb 18, 1868: Depositions of the natives concerning the death of Constable Griffis, the native assistant, and George Breem
Feb 26, 1868: Robert Sholl’s post-massacre report to the Colonial Secretary
Feb 25, 1868: Alexander McRae’s report
Feb 25, 1868: John Withnell’s report
Apr 1, 1868: Report on how lucrative the pearling industry is in the region, providing evidence for the financial motive in the massacre