Mapping Frontier Conflict in South-East Queensland – OLD
Dr Ray Kerkhove, Harry Gentle Visiting Fellow 2016/2017

Corn field raids 1827-1828

Stradbroke and Moreton Islands 1832-1833

There are three rather conflicted written accounts of conflict between soldiers and Aboriginal groups, roughly between 1832 and 1833.  Oral traditions of the Aboriginal residents add further details.


Figure 1: Amity Point Pilot Station in the 1830s

The conflict seems to have erupted over killings and counter-killings involving the European staff of the Amity Point pilot station and a local headman, who was killed in a fishing trip. According to one account (of Thomas Welsby) the result was a day-long pitched battle against a group of soldiers at the flats of Cooroon Cooroonpah Creek (north of Myora).

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Corn Fields raids 1827-1828


Figure 1: Brisbane penal colony c.1831

The very first frontier conflict of Queensland consisted of Aboriginal attempts to starve out the fledgling colony. The penal colony was originally established at Redcliffe (near today’s Humpybong Park) in 1824. This was abandoned due to Aboriginal hostility, but no details survive of what exactly occurred.

Three years later (1827-1828), the same hostilities threatened the colony at its new location (today’s Brisbane CBD). This consisted of repeated plundering and destruction of the maize fields on which the colony depended for food, at South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point.

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The Battle of One Tree Hill (12-13 September 1843)

Tabletop Mountain

Figure 1: Mount Tabletop (One Tree Hill) near Toowoomba

One of the most dramatic incidents in the frontier wars of southern Queensland is presented in these reconstructions and images. Pitched battles between Aboriginals and Europeans were rare in any part of Australia, and battles in which Aboriginal groups won were extremely rare.

According to James Porter (an early observer) and also the Sydney Morning Herald at the time, the battle grew from Lockyer, Upper Brisbane and Downs squatters’ quandary over what to do after being evicted from their runs by Aboriginal warriors during weeks of sieges across the Lockyer, Downs and Upper Brisbane. Some 14 to 16 squatters met at Bonifant’s Inn (towards what is now Gatton) and sent a message to Dr Stephen Simpson in Brisbane, requesting police assistance. They additionally called up a “cavalcade” from Ipswich: 3 loaded bullock drays (30-40 bullocks) accompanied by 14 armed men (mostly the squatters’ employees), and another 4 ‘tag-alongs’ (station workers and men looking for work). This well-armed convoy was expected to push up the pass to the Downs, conveying much needed supplies. To the settlers’ surprise, Multuggerah with over 100 men ambushed this large and well-armed ‘train.’ The warriors hid down the slopes at the narrowest point on the route. Logs had been placed across the road to prevent the drays reversing, and additionally the sides of the road were fenced up with saplings tied to the trees. The drays were halted by all these obstacles. With a shout and a flurry of spears, the hidden warriors sent all 18 Europeans fleeing back to the inn. The dray was sacked of all useful goods and the warriors feasted on the bullocks.


Figure 2: Location of ambush site (Blanchview Road)

Embarrassed at the cowardice of their men, the squatters, dray party and other servants and visitors at the Inn formed a mounted punitive expedition – probably a total of 35 to 45 men. They arrived at the sacked dray at the night of the same day of the ambush. The next morning they sought out the warriors’ camp, where they had their first battle. Quite a number of Aboriginals were apparently killed, but some of the squatters were bogged in the mud, and one participant was wounded in the buttocks with a spear thrown by a woman.

The majority of remaining warriors conducted a mock retreat up the rocky, steep slopes of Mt Tabletop (One Tree Hill). From this vantage point they were able to hurl spears, stones and even roll boulders, so that many of the squatters’ muskets were shattered. Several of the squatter’s group were badly wounded by the stones, but no European was killed. However, as they were losing the fight, the group retreated, sacking the warriors’ empty camp on their way out. They camped out and waited for Dr Simpson’s border police, but when he arrived, he decided that his “small force” (six men) was insufficient for the task.


Figure 3: reconstruction of battle site

The legacy of this defeat was a continual embarrassment for the squatters, who were not accustomed to being beaten – especially when they acted in a group. According to both local and Aboriginal accounts, the hill continued to be used as a place from which to attack dray travellers.

The Great Chase (Sept-Oct 1843)

There was an unusually large response to the embarrassment of the One Tree Hill defeat. Returning to Ipswich and Brisbane, the Lands Commissioner gathered some 35-45 men including all available military and police, whilst the squatters enlisted some 40 to 60 overseers, staff and bush constables. Over the next month, these two forces drove Multuggerah’s warrior group out of the Pass area (below Toowoomba) but this resulted in various counter-attacks.  The Lands Commission also ordered a permanent soldiers’ barracks or ‘fort’ to be manned at the base of the range.

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 Rosewood Scrub 1843-1848


Waterhole at Minden, probable site of the main ‘secret camp’ from which raids were regularly organised

Rosewood Scrub is an interesting example of a ‘hideout’ as it covered a large area and is repeatedly mentioned as a refuge and rallying point for Aboriginal groups. As this map indicates, it held many camping grounds, ceremonial grounds and other sites.

The area had a tangled wall of brigalow so marked that it was often drawn on local maps. As access was so difficult and many Europeans became lost travelling through here, it remained a favoured bastion for resistance for the next five years (until 1848) and even saw use as a hideout many decades later, until German farmers began the arduous task of clearing it to raise dairy farms.

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 Brisbane Northside 1840s-1850s


York’s Hollow today

Northside Brisbane in the early decades of settlement was an area of contested ownership. As shown on the map, creeks were as perceived borders across which Aboriginal parties – when troublesome or considered threatening – were driven. Aboriginal oral traditions recall these as ‘borders’ that developed as settlement progressed, with the Aboriginal community viewing areas north of the borders as their areas. This of course made settlers trespassers, which explains some of the hostilities that developed.

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 Breakfast Creek Camp Raids 1840s-1860s

2 April 2016 228

Hamilton Portside: general area of the most frequently attacked Aboriginal camp

Aboriginal groups remember Breakfast Creek as a type of ‘front line’ in their battle against encroaching settlement.  The large and prosperous camps had been commented upon as early as 1824 by Oxley and Cunningham. Leaders such as Yilbung, Commandant, Dalaipi, Dundalli, Billy Barlow, Harry Pring and Tinkabed were all visitors here.

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 Pine Rivers/ Sandgate Area 1850s-1860s


Figure 1: Dundalli, the warrior leader and executioner who mostly lived and operated around the Pine and Caboolture district

The Pine Rivers/ Sandgate area is of interest as an arena or ‘front line’ of conflict especially during the 1850s.  On account of the rainforest and wetlands skirting the South Pine – which was used as a pathway by Aborigines – Pine Rivers was somewhat of a bastion or safe haven for Aborigines. Settlers purchased land at the Pine Rivers and Sandgate but were repeatedly ousted, and Cash’s property – which was boldly situated in the middle of this region – was often attacked. The first settlement of Bald Hills sat on a ridge overlooking these ‘dangerous’ flats– the huts reportedly being placed within close proximity for safety, and being regularly visited by police to monitor

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