In seeking to reinterpret history and give birth to a new narrative, sometimes historians and researchers go a little too far. Think of Australia’s glorification of the cop killing bushranger Ned Kelly. Another case of historical revisionism is that of Pemulwuy.
Pemulwuy is now a celebrated warrior for his efforts – in the words of the Reconciliation Australia website – in leading “the resistance against British invasion.” The National Museum of Australia calls him a remarkable man that “we can all admire.” In more accurate language Pemulwuy was a killer and a thief.
Pemulwuy first became known to British Settlers in 1790 when he killed Governor Phillip’s gamekeeper John McIntyre. At this point it should be noted that a large number of the settler population were convicts who had completed their sentences and had limited options in terms of returning to their homelands. The First Fleet voyage was an 8 month nightmare of debauchery, disease and death. The Second Fleet arriving in 1789 was even worse, with more than 282 convicts dying during the voyage, and a further 124 prisoners dying within days of arrival.
After the spearing death of John McIntyre, Pemulwuy and his Bidjigal tribe were driven further west of their original homelands. From there they made occasional raids on settlers’ farms – primarily for corn – and carried out attacks as retaliation for perceived crimes against any natives.
For the above reasons Pemulwuy was despised by the settlers. But Pemulwuy also had enemies amongst the Australian aboriginal community. The famed Bennelong of the Wangal clan around the lower Parramatta River, despised Pemulwuy. In fact, within ten days of being introduced to the British, Bennelong was trying to persuade the newcomers, “to go with him to kill the leader of the Bidjigal clan of Botany Bay and the Georges River . . . ” (Windschuttle, K. The Break Up of Australia).
In March of 1797 Pemulwuy was again wreaking havoc against the settlers. After a raid on a government farm in Toongabbie (western Sydney), the settlers chased him to the outskirts of Parramatta before wounding him with buckshot to the head and body. Despite the tales of colonial cruelty, Pemulwuy was mercifully taken to a hospital and given lifesaving medical treatment.
However, the bandit would escape within a month and was next sighted at a party hosted by the Governor of the colony with guests including members of the aboriginal community. In the following years Pemulwuy continued to make a hazard of himself, leading to the issuing of a government order for his capture or death.
In June 1802, seven months after the government order was announced, Pemulwuy was shot dead. Debate surrounds the actual killer of Pemulwuy with some accounts stating it was John ‘Black’ Caesar, the West Indian convict turned bushranger, with other accounts reporting it was Henry Hacking an officer from the First Fleet. Nonetheless there was no mercy this time, with the bandit’s head severed and sent to Britain in a container.
Enter the current day and Pemulwuy, the killer of numerous innocent settlers, is a celebrated warrior. At the time of Pemulwuy’s banditry, the colony was still on the brink of starvation and raids on government farms that were the lifeblood of the population, were rightfully regarded as reprehensible crimes. Add to that his reputation for random murder of settlers (as was the custom) in retaliation for crimes against any of the aboriginal community saw him despised.
Though the modern leftist academics control the educational narrative, sane researchers and historians see Pemulwuy as nothing more than a glorified terrorist.