Dundalli - A Story of Aboriginal Resistance in Brisbane


In my previous article, there was mention of a notorious aboriginal called Dundalli, hanged in 1834 on the site of the present Brisbane Post Office. Here is some information not hitherto published. It was taken down by me from the man who captured Dundalli and got £25 pound reward.

His name was William Baker Tomkins, always known as plain William Baker. When known to me, from 1878 to 1881, he was a well-known farmer in the Rosewood Scrub, where he afterwards kept a hotel near Walloon. Both he and Mrs. Baker were fine, genial, hospitable people, and great favourites. His narrative, taken down by me in 1878, is now before me, and in after years, when he was dead, it was clearly corroborated by his widow, who added one or two items, being present at the time when Dundalli was arrested.

Dundalli was accused of the murder of 13 whites, including Gregor and Mary Shannon, and two sawyers, on the Pine River. He was also charged with spearing a German missionary named Hausmann, at Humpy Bong. Click Here for Other Reference. Click Here for Other Reference.

His reputation was so bad that any outrage in any direction was promptly placed to his credit. All efforts at capture were failures, even when a reward of £50 was offered.

Dundalli was a Bribie Islander, of the tribe of “Jooaduburrie,” and if he had remained on Bribie, among his own people, or kept away in the scrubs of the Blackall Range, he would probably never have been captured. But he came in to Fortitude Valley, and was stripping bark for the settlers, going under the various names of “Jimmy Donald,” “Wikou,” and “Brown.”

But the other blacks knew he was the terrible Dundalli, and one of those, “Woomboonggoroo,” a Brisbane black, told Baker, who enticed him in and gave him work stripping bark. Then he went straight to Sneyd, the gaoler, and asked for assistance. Sneyd said it was useless, as a reward of £50 had been offered in vain. But he sent two constables, Downes and Frederick, who went in plain clothes, carrying a halter, as if looking for horses.


At the right moment, Baker, a tall powerful man, caught Dimdalli suddenly by his mass of long hair and pulled him back, calling to the constables: “This is the notorious Dimdalli.” The constables seized him, put on the handcuffs, and tied his legs with the halter.

This was alongside Massey’s brickyard in the Valley, and Massey’s dray was requisitioned to take the black to the lockup. Baker hauled him to the dray by his feet, and Dundalli made one tremendous spring and nearly got clear, but Frederick hit him across the nose with a pistol, and then he remained quiet.

Both Mr. And Mrs. Baker were among the crowd who saw him hanged. It was a gruesome scene. A hangman was brought from Sydney, and he allowed too much of a drop, the result being that Dundalli came down with both feet on his coffin, which was underneath, and the hangman put all his weight on his shoulders, so that instead of the neck being broken, he was actually strangled. A large mob of blacks was on the Flagstaff Hill, and they and Dundalli called loudly to each other.

His last request to them was to “kill Baker and Woomboonggoroo,” “Gneen nurwain billarr, baiginn Bakeram, Woomboonggoroo, wacca weereppie.” “You throw the spear, kill them both so they never come back.” He came out on the scaffold wearing dark tweed trousers, blue twill shirt, and a handkerchief round his neck. Click Here for Other Reference.

Mrs. Baker told me she was paid the £25 under the archway of the old barracks, then used as a courthouse, the money being paid by Brown, afterwards Usher of the Black Rod. The two constables got £3 each.

- Archibald Meston

Unfortunately many of the crimes committed by the blacks in the early days were acts of retribution for outrages previously perpetrated by white men. The natives strongly resented the libidinous attentions shown by the white men to their womenfolk, and the motive for some of the murders is suggested by the question put by Dundalli, the Bribie Islander, to the sawyers, Bowler and Waller, at the Pine River sawpit, “where are the gins?” asked Dundalli; and Bowler said “we know nothing of them.”

Before noon the next day the sawyers were attacked by a number of blacks and Bowler was speared in the shoulder and ribs. He was assisted towards Mr. Griffin’s station by a man named Smith, who had witnessed the tragedy.

Smith came on to Brisbane and reported the matter to the police who conveyed the injured man in to the Brisbane Hospital on the site of the present Supreme Court, where he died four days afterwards. The body of Waller was found in the scrub four days after the murder. Click Here for Other Reference.

- Nut Quad

Among the unknown graves are those of a number of aboriginals, who were hanged. These are said, by some early colonists, to have been buried outside the cemetery, and others say they were buried in a corner inside. It is certain they were all taken charge of by the Church of England.

On April 21, 1854, a notorious black called “Dundalli,” was hanged on the site of the present General Post Office. He had been accused of seven murders, but the one he was hanged for was that of William Gregor and Mary Shannon, at the Pine River.

On the day he was hanged – by a hangman purposely brought from Sydney – there was a mob of about 33 blacks on the “Windmill Hill,” where the Observatory is today. They called to Dundalli, as he stood on the gallows, and he called back, telling them to be sure and kill “Woom-boongoroo,” the black who had betrayed him. He was captured in the Valley, where he had incautiously ventured among a lot of other blacks, through the agency of a man named Baker, who in after years had a farm and hotel at Walloon, in the Rosewood.

Baker knew Dundalli, and enticed him into a room where three other men were concealed, and the four men sprang on him, and held him until the police came. Dundalli was badly knocked about in the struggle. Mrs. Baker told the writer in 1878, that there was a reward of £25 for his capture, and she went to the courthouse and drew the money for her husband. She is said to be still alive, in Ipswich, or was a few years ago.

Dundalli had too long a drop, and fell with his feet on the coffin underneath. The hangman doubled his legs us, and added his own weight, until the miserable black was strangled. It was a ghastly spectacle for a crowd of men, women, and children. Dundalli was buried at Paddington, either inside or outside the Church of England ground.