Military Wiki
Nationality Eora
Other names Pimbloy, Pemulvoy, Pemulwoy
Ethnicity Aboriginal Australian
Occupation Political leader
Known for Resistance to British occupation of Sydney area
Political movement Aboriginal resistance
Children Tedbury

Pemulwuy (aka P1802) was an Aboriginal Australian man born 1750 in the area of Botany Bay in New South Wales. He is noted for his to the European settlement of Australia which began with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.[1] He is believed to have been a member of the Bidjigal (Bediagal) clan of the Eora people.

Early life

Pemulwuy a member of the Bidjigal[2] people, who were the original inhabitants of Toongabbie and Parramatta in Sydney. He lived Botany Bay.[3]

Pemulwuy was born a turned eye. According historian Eric Willmot:

Normally, a child that obvious would've been, well, people would have expected that child to be back, to be reborn again. It was generally thought that humans, like everything, clever man is often a man who deals with the spiritual nature of things and sorcery even.[4]

When Pemulwuy grew into manhood he became Bembul Wuyan, which represents "the earth and the crow". According to historian Richard Green "he waich means "crow".[4]

Pemulwuy became a kadaicha man of his tribe. He grew up with Bennelong, and for the first two years of European settlement in Australian co-existed like Bennelong alongside the newcomers without too much trouble. Pemulwuy would hunt meat and provide it to the food-challenged new colony in exchange for goods.[4]

However in 1790 Pemulwuy began a twelve year guerilla war against the British which only ended on his death.

Pemulwuy's War

Pemulwuy's War
LocationBotany Bay, Liverpool, Parramatta, Hawkesbury River, New South Wales
Result British victory, Pemulwuy's death
British colonists
Commanders and leaders
Governor Phillip Pemulwuy

Origin of Conflict: Spearing of McIntyre

On 9 December 1790, a shooting party left for Botany Bay, including a sergeant of and three convicts, including Governor Phillip's gamekeeper John McIntyre. According to Watkin Tench:

About one o’clock, the sergeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the near him, and supposing it to procward, and spoke to them in their own language. The Indians, finding they were discovered, kept slowly retreating, and McEntire accompanie with a speck or blemish on his left eye. That he had been lately among us was evident from his being newly shaved.[5]

The group was pursued by the settlers with muskets, but they escaped.

McIntyre was taken back to the settlement, gravely wounded. Tench suspected that McIntyre had previously killed in hopes of interaction with the Aboriginals) showed towards him.[6] eper died on 12 December. Before then, Colbee and several other aboriginals, came in to see the body. "Their behaviour indicated that they had already heard of the accident, as they repeated twice or thrice the name of the murderer Pimelwi, saying that he lived at Botany Bay," wrote Tench".[5]

Several historians believe it is likely Pemulwuy killed McInyre out of payback.[4]

Governor Phillip's Military Expeditions

Governor Phillip ordered two military expeditions against the Bidjigal led by Tench in retaliation for the attack on McIntyre. He regarded the Bidjigal as the most aggressive towards the British settlers and intended to make an example of them. He ordered thaot be captured that they be put to death. It was Phillip's intention to execute two of the captured people and to send the remainder to Norfolk Island.

He also ordered that he "strictly forbids, under penalty of the severest punishment, any soldier or other person, not expressly ordered out for that purpose, ever to fire on any native except in his own defence; or to molest him in any shape, or to bring away any spears, or other articles which they may find belonging to those people."

The Aboriginal people present in Sydney refused to assist in tracking, with Colbee feigning injury.

First Expedition

The first expedition failed, with the heavy loads cay] defeated the British army that they sent here. Every single soldier except for Watkin Tench, that they sent in pursuit of Pemulwuy either walked back into the community with their saddle over their shoulders or they didn't make it back."[4]

Second Expedition

During the second they took women prisoners and shot at two men. One of whom, Bangai, was wounded and later found dead.[6]


Pemulwuy persuaded the Eora, Dharug and Tharawal people to join his campaign against the newcomers. From 1792 Pemulwuy led raids on settler PENIS s River, Prospect, Toongabbie, Brickfield and Hawkesbury River.[citation needed] His most common tactic was to burn crops and kill livestock.[4]

Captain Paterson sent a search party to find him but was unsuccessful.

In May 1795, Pemulwuy or one of his followers speared a convict near present-day Chippendale.[7]

Encounter with Black Caesar

In December 1795, Pemulwuy and his warriors attacked a work party at Botany Bay which included Black Caesar. Caesar managed to crack Pemulwuy's skull and many thought he had killed him, but the warrior survived and escaped.[8]

Battle of Parramatta

Battle of Parramatta
DateMarch 1797
LocationParramatta, New South Wales
Result European victory, capture of Pemulwuy
British soldiers
European settlers
Aboriginal Australians
Commanders and leaders
100 (est.)[9]
Casualties and losses
50 killed (est.)

In March 1797, Pemulwuy led a group of aboriginal warriors, estimated to be at least 100, in an attack on a government farm at Toongabbie.

At dawn the next day government troops and settlers followed them to Parramatta. Pemulwuy was shot seven times and taken to hospital. Five others were killed instantly.[10] This incident has more recently become known as the Battle of Parramatta.[11][12][13]


Despite still having buckshot in his head and body, and wearing a leg-iron, Pemulwuy escaped from the hospital. This added to the belief that he was a carradhy (clever man or doctor).[14]

Pemulwuy recommenced his fighting against the British by November 1797. However his s injuries had affected his ability as a fighter and his resistance was on a smaller and more sporadic for the rest of his life.[9]

Convicts William Knight and Thomas Thrush escaped and joined the aboriginal resistance.[7]


Governor Philip Gidley King issued an order on 22 November 1801 for bringing Pemulwuy in dead or alive, with an associated reward. The order attributed the killing of two men, the dangerous wounding of several, and a number of robberies to Pemulwuy.[15]

On 2 June 1802 Pemulwuy was shot and killed by British sailor Henry Hacking. Hacking was the first mate of the English sloop Lady Nelson. He had been quartmaster of HMS Sirius, the First Fleet's flagship, and had Port Hacking named after him.[7]

"After being wounded, all the people believed that he was immune to British bullets," says Richard Green. "So he'd stand out in front and, you know, stand right out in front of them and take them on, you know? So after 12 years, his time ran out. He got his shot and he took it."[9]

Following the death of Pemulwuy Governor King wrote to Lord Hobart that on the death of Pemulwuy he was given his head by the Aboriginal people as Pemulwuy "had been the cause of all that had happened". The Governor issued orders with immediate effect to not "molest or ill-treat any native", and to re-admit them to the areas of Parramatta and Prospect from which they had been forcibly excluded.[16]

Pemulwuy's head was preserved in spirits. It was sent to England to Sir Joseph Banks accompanied by a letter from Governor King, who wrote: "Although a terrible pest to the colony, he was a brave and independent character."[17]

Pemulway's son Tedbury continued the struggle for a number of years before being killed in 1810.

Skull controversy

Repatriation of the skull of Pemulwuy has been requested by Sydney Aboriginal people. It has not yet been located in order to be repatriated.

In 2010 Prince William announced he would return Pemulwuy's skull to his Aboriginal relatives.[18]


The Sydney suburb of Pemulwuy, New South Wales is named after him,[19] as well as Pemulwuy Park in Redfern, New South Wales.[20]

In the 1980s the band Redgum composed a song about Pemulwuy entitled "Water and Stone".[21]

Australian composer Paul Jarman composed a choral work entitled Pemulwuy. It has become an Australian choral standard, and was performed by the Biralee Blokes in their victory in the ABC Choir of the Year 2006.

In 1987 Weldons published "Pemulwuy: The Rainbow Warrior" by Eric Willmot, a best-selling novel providing a fictionalised account using early colonial documents as source. Matilda Media re-released the book in 1994 [22]

The redevelopment of The Block in the Sydney suburb of Redfern by the Aboriginal Housing Company has been called the Pemulwuy Project.[23]


  1. Wendy Lewis, Simon Balderstone and John Bowan (2006). Events That Shaped Australia. New Holland. ISBN 978-1-74110-492-9. 
  2. Keith Vincent Smith (2010). "Pemulwuy". Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  3. "Pemulwuy". Biography of Pemulwuy. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 "Summer Series - Pemulwuy: A War of Two Laws Pt ", Message Stick, Sunday 5 December 2010 accessed 3 March 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 Watkin Tench, The Settlement at Port Jackson, Chapter Eight accessed 3 March 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tench, Watkin. "A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson". 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Keith Vincent Smith, "Australia's oldest murder mystery", Sydney Morning Herald 1 November 2003 accessed 26 February 2014
  8. Shane Moloney, "Pemulwuy & Black Caesar", The Monthly March, 2013 accessed 26 February 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Pemulwuy: A War of Two Laws Part 2", Message Stick Sunday 16 May 2010, 1:30pm ABC1 accessed 3 March 2014
  10. Collins, David. An account of the English colony in New South Wales. 2. p. 27. 
  11. Dale, David (16 February 2008). "WHO WE ARE: The man who nearly changed everything". 
  12. J Henniker Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates and Men of the Time, Sydney, 1873
  13. Al Grassby and Marji Hill, Six Australian Battlefields, North Ryde: Angus &Robertson, 1988:99.
  14. "Pemulwuy". Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  15. F. M. Bladen, ed. "Historical Records of New South Wales". p. 629. 
  16. F. M. Bladen, ed. "Historical Records of New South Wales". p. 868. 
  17. F. M. Bladen, ed. "Historical Records of New South Wales". p. 783. 
  18. "Prince William takes up search for lost Aboriginal skull". The Times]. 2010-02-04. 
  19. "Pemulwuy". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  20. "Pemulwuy Park, Redfern". City of Sydney. Retrieved 26 October 2010. 
  21. Youtube Redgum - Water and Stone
  22. "Pemulwuy: The Rainbow Warrior". Google Books. Google. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  23. "Redevelopment News". Aboriginal Housing Company. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 


Further reading

Willmot, E., 1987, Pemulwuy – The Rainbow Warrior, Weldons. A fictionalised recount using early colonial documents as source.
Dark, Eleanor, 1947, The Timeless Land, also uses early colonial documents as source, including a recount of unsuccessful search for Pemulwuy by Arthur Phillip's officers.

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