The Appin Massacre

Captain Wallis open fired on a camp of Aboriginal Australians before driving them off the edge of a cliff

‘A few of my men heard a child cry. I formed line ranks, entered and pushed on through a thick brush towards the precipitous banks of a deep rocky creek. The dogs gave the alarm, and the natives fled over the cliffs. It was moonlight. I regret to say some [were] shot and others met their fate by rushing in despair over the precipice. Fourteen dead bodies were counted in different directions.’

-Excerpt from the diary of Captain James Wallis

In 1816 indigenous men, women and children were rounded up and forced over a cliff in what became known as the Appin Massacre. Originally estimated to be 14 deaths Indigenous historians now believe the number to be much higher.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie dispatched three military regiments in an attempt to “rid the land of troublesome blacks.” The massacre was fuelled by long-standing land feuds between the settlers and Indigenous Australians along the Nepean River.

"They murdered those people, there's no doubt about it the orders were to strike terror into the survivors by hanging anyone killed in the trees." said Dharawal woman Glenda Chalker, a descendant of one of the survivors of the massacre.

The massacre in Appin was part of a government ordered attack on the local indigenous community. According to Gavin Andrews, a descendant of the Indigenous people in the area at the time the government allowed settlers to forcibly take land off indigenous Australians:

"The message sent to the colony at that time was that if you needed the land and the blacks were in the way, it was ok to kill them if you went out and shot were immune from any prosecution." 

When the indigenous Australians were killed, they were hanged from the trees to serve as a warning to the rest of the Aboriginal community.

Every year we commemorate those Indigenous Australians who lost their lives in the callous attack. Sister Kerry Macdermott and ceremony co-ordinator encourages the community to attend the memorial:

“Each year it grows larger and larger ... I think this year is going to be extra special, especially if a lot more people come out I think it will show real respect to our local Aboriginal people if we all show up in a large crowd.”

Header: Wikipedia, Alexander Schramm, A Tribe of Natives on the Banks of the River Torrens, 1850

Related Articles

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address