Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance Day



Pilbara Aboriginal people commemorate of one of Australia’s largest massacres
West Pilbara Aboriginal people are gathering this Sunday 23 February at King Bay, site of the world famous Burrup rock art, to commemorate one of Australia’s largest massacres – known as the Flying Foam Massacre.
The massacre, which which saw an estimated 60 Aboriginal children, women and old people murdered by Western Australian Police and colonists, commenced at dawn on Monday 17 February 1868.
Over the following three months, between 100 and 150 Yaburara men, women and children were murdered by gunshot.
The commemoration events are being led by senior Aboriginal traditional owner spokespersons Mr Wilfred Hicks and Miss Audrey Cosmos, who are available for comment:
Mr Wilfred Hicks, Elder, West Ngarluma Wong-Goo-tt-oo People, 0417 923 705

Miss Audrey Cosmos, Spokesperson, Yaburara-Mardudhenara People, 0437 445 692
Mr Hicks said today:
“The Flying Foam Massacre began after a policeman raped a Yaburara woman, and then arrested the woman’s husband. Yaburara men freed the arrested man, and killed the policeman.  A few days later, police and colonists began the massacre that we care commemorating today.
It is important that people remember this massacre, and learn the history of this country. It’s also important that we protect the the cared rock art here, that connects  us to our ancestors. “
Miss  Cosmos said today:
“On the 17th a horrific event took place out at King Bayon the Burrup. The Flying Foam Massacre will be remembered for decades as one of the biggest killing fields of men, women and children.
I think its very important that we the Aboriginal people never loose the memory. It’s a big part of our history and most importantly we need to remember in order to keep our culture alive.”
Port workers to observe minutes silence
Also at King Bay, Maritime Union of Australia members at the Mermaid Marine port will observe a minute’s silence.
Other contacts and events
Cultural heritage specialist Dr Ken Mulvaney will be at King Bay, and is available for interview, 0400 772 351

Melbourne-based rock art expert and historian Robert Bednarik, who is also Convenor of the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations is also available for interview: 03 9523 0549

  • Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance Day events will also be held in Perth, Melbourne, Canberra and on the  NSW Central Coast. At each location, black and white Australians will gather to mark the occasion with a minute’s silence.
  • This commemoration is supported by the Stand Up for the Burrup campaign which is seeking World Heritage Listing for the Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago rock art precinct:

Stand Up for the Burrup media contact: Mark Lawrence 0432 618 296;
For more information regarding the events leading up to the Flying Foam Massacre and for information about the World Heritage Listing for the Burrup please see the attached one-page Backgrounder.


On Monday 17 February 1868, at King Bay on the Burrup Peninsula on WA’s Pilbara Coast, as many as 60 Yaburara men women and children were killed by police and colonists in a massacre that followed the spearing of a police officer, Constable Griffis.
Constable Griffis is reported to have raped a Yaburara woman, and then to have arrested and chained up her husband, Coolyerberri.  When Yaburara warriors came to free Coolyerberri, Griffis, a police aid ‘Peter’ and a pearler named Bream were speared to death.
What followed has been desctribed as ‘textbook planned genocide’, and as aimed at instilling fear into all the tribes of Australia’s North West.  Police and colonists continued attacking the Yaburara, so that by May 1868 a total of 100 to 150 men women and children were killed. Only 6 people – all men – are known to have survived.
The Flying Foam Massacre is sadly typical of Australian frontier history.  While Aboriginal people initially assisted the Europeans, hostilities arose when the colonists enclosed lands, impacted on Aboriginal people’s food and water supplies, and behaved brutally towards Aboriginal women and workers.  When Aboriginal people resisted, a campaign of punative massacres followed.
In 2003, in the case of Daniels v Western Australia, the Federal Court of  Australia relied upon the Flying Foam Massacre and the genocide of the Yaburara people in deciding that no native title exists on the Burrup.

The Murujuga/Dampier Archipelago Rock Art Precinct, comprising 42 islands and islets 1550 km north of Perth on Pilbara Coast, contains the world’s largest concentration of rock art, an estimated 1-2 million engravings, stone arrangements and standing stones.
The spiritual and cultural legacy of the Yaburara and other Ngarda Ngarli (West Pilbara) Aboriginal peoples, the Burrup (‘Murujuga’ to local Aboriginal people) is often described as Australia’s greatest cultural monument.
Tens of thousands of the Dampier engravings are thought to be pre-Ice Age. They include depictions of the fat-tailed kangaroo, 3 metre macro fauna extinct for 40-45,000 years,  and of other extinct animals including the thylacine, extinct in the Pilbara for 3-3,500 years. Much of the art is sacred to Ngarda Ngarli peoples. It is described by Wong-goo-tt-oo elder Wilfred Hicks as ‘the Aboriginal Bible’.
Since 1965, an estimated 25% of the Burrup rock art has been destroyed for industrial development, including for the Port of Dampier, Hamersley Iron, Dampier Salt, and Woodside’s North West Shelf and Pluto LNG plants.
In July 2007, most of the Burrup Peninsula and all the 41 other islands and islets of the Dampier Archipelago were placed by former Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the National Heritage Register.  In January 2013, The Murujuga National Park was proclaimed, including only 44% of the Burrup and none of islands and islets.
Aboriginal elders and community leaders, archaeologists and organisations including the National Trust and Australian Conservation Foundation, and prominent Australians including WA Premier Colin Barnett and former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser have called for the Burrup to be nominated to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
In May 2012, the Australian Heritage Council’s Final Report on the Dampier Archipelago confirmed that the rock art precinct meets UNESCO Outstanding Universal Values criteria for World Heritage Listing.

140222 Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance Day media release.doc


2 thoughts on “Flying Foam Massacre Remembrance Day

  1. Ray Jackson says:

    the 148th anniversary of this tragic massacre is but one more example of the massacres perpetrated upon my peoples by police and the insultingly misnamed ‘settlers.’ since their coming 226 years ago we have been at war protecting our lands and our families. whatever the success or otherwise of that war detracts not one whit from the warriors who fought it. and those who continue to fight it.

    as was the norm during the early invasion times the massacres arose from the crimes of the invaders themselves. most massacres are lost to history or vehemently disputed in the history wars still raging today. however the flying foam massacre was used against the traditional owners in a land claim to prove the wa government view that all links to the traditional lands had been quashed due to the outcome of that massacre and therefore there was no legality to that land claim.

    these people know no shame! their insensitivity is both ignorant and boundless.

    whilst the press release does not state an actual time for the one minute silence to commemorate and honour the old men, women and children murdered during the time of the massacre, up to a 150, maybe more, we just don’t know, i will, and i am putting to you as a reader of this post, as a mark of memory and respect to also hold a minutes silence during your day. this is but another chapter in our black-and-white history.


    ray jackson
    indigenous social justice association

    2013 Laureate
    Prix de l’Homme de Francais
    (French Human Rights Medal 2013)
    (m) 0450 651 063
    (p) 02 9318 0947

    1303/200 pitt street waterloo 2017

    we live and work on the stolen lands of the gadigal people.
    sovereignty treaty social justice

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