Excerpts from Anthropophagitism in the Antipodes: Cannibalism in Australia, James Cooke, published by the author, 1997.

Detailed accounts of the atrocities and cannibalism of aboriginals on shipwrecked Europeans have been compiled by Rodney Liddell. His book Cape York – The Savage Frontier is essential reading for all concerned with correcting the fictionalised re-writing of Australian history. Available from Box 190, Redbank Plaza, Redbank, Queensland 4301.


Some portions of a skeleton were found on the banks of a river, which were supposed to belong to the lost explorer, and that river, and Mount Gellibrand on which he and Hesse parted company, were named after him.

There was a blackfellow living for many years afterwards in the Colac district who was said to have killed and eaten the lost white man; the first settlers therefore called him Gellibrand, as they considered he had made out a good claim to the name by devouring the flesh. This blackfellow’s face was made up of hollows and protuberances ugly beyond all aboriginal ugliness. I was present at an interview between him and senior-constable Hooley, who nearly rivalled the savage in lack of beauty. Hooley had been a soldier in the Fifth Fusiliers, and had been convicted of the crime of manslaughter, having killed a coloured man near Port Louis, in the Mauritius. He was sentenced to penal servitude for the offence, and had passed two years of his time in Tasmania. This incident had produced in his mind an interest in blackfellows generally, and on seeing Gellibrand outside the Colac courthouse, he walked up to him, and looked him steadily in the face, without saying a word or moving a muscle of his countenance. I never saw a more lovely pair. The black fellow returned the gaze unflinchingly, his deep-set eyes fixed fiercely on those of the Irishman, his nostrils dilated, and his frowning forehead wrinkled and hard, as if cast in iron. The two men looked like two wild beasts preparing for a deadly fight. At length, Hooley moved his face nearer to that of the savage, until their noses almost met, and between his teeth he slowly ejaculated: ‘You eat white man? You eat me? Eh?’ Then the deep frown on Gellibrand’s face began slowly to relax, his thick lips parted by degrees, and displayed, ready for business, his sharp and shining teeth, white as snow and hard as steel. A smile, which might be likened to that of a humorous tiger, spread over his spacious features, and so the interview ended without a fight. I was very much disappointed, as I hoped the two man-slayers were going to eat each other for the public good, and I was ready to back both of them without fear, favour, or affection.

There is no doubt that the blacks ate human flesh, not as an article of regular diet, but occasionally, when the fortune of war, or accident, favoured them with a supply. When Mr Hugh Murray set out from Geelong to look for country to the westward, he took with him several natives belonging to the Barrabool tribe. When they arrived near Lake Colac they found the banks of the Barongarook Creek covered with scrub, and on approaching the spot where the bridge now spans the watercourse, they saw a blackfellow with his lubra and a little boy, running towards the scrub. The Bairabool blacks gave chase, and the little boy was caught by one of them before he could find shelter, and was instantly killed with a club. That night the picaninny was roasted at the camp fire, and eaten.

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But the land on which I had spread the black loam was almost barren, and yet I had seen fragments of bones mixed with it, and amongst them a lower jaw with perfect teeth, most likely the jaw of a young lubra. On mentioning the circumstance to one of the early settlers, he said my loam had been taken from the spot on which the blacks used to burn their dead. Soon after he arrived at Colac he saw there a solitary blackfellow crouching before a fire in which bones were visible. So, pointing to them, he asked what was in the fire, and the blackfellow replied with one word ‘lubra.’ He was consuming the remains of his dead wife, and large tears were coursing down his cheeks. Day and night he sat there until the bones had been nearly all burned and covered with ashes.

Dunderdale, G., The Book of the Bush, London, Ward, Lock & Co., Ltd., 1870, Penguin 1973.


I have found small strips of human flesh in their bags, and persons lubricated with the fat of the human subject; but the most revolting case of cannibalism that came under my notice happened at the Assistant Protector’s camp during my absence, when the entire human subject (a female) including the viscera, was eaten with fiendish gesticulation. I regretted to learn that the Assistant Protector witnessed, of his own accord, the horrible proceeding.

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The Victorian natives, though not so casual in their bloodthirstiness as the Tasmanians, were not admirable in all respects. Mr Sievewright’s account of the cannibalistic episode referred to previously is appalling in its brutality. It runs as follows:

About 2 o’clock on the morning of the 24th instant (June, 1841), I was awoke by a shout and general alarm in the huts of the Bolagher tribe, who were encamped about 20 yards in front of my tent. On looking out, I saw them armed and rushing in the direction of the Targurt tribe, who were encamped about 50 yards to the right. A severe conflict immediately took place, and some of the Targurt tribe came violently into my tent begging for assistance and protection. On going out, I found the men of the different tribes (amounting to upwards of a hundred) engaged hand to hand in one general melee. On being directed by some of the women who had also sought shelter in my tent to the huts of the Bolagher, I there found a young woman supported in the arms of some of her tribe, quite insensible and bleeding from two wounds on the right side of her face. She expired about 11 o’clock. After fighting for nearly an hour, the men of the Bolagher tribe returned to their huts, and, giving vent to the most frantic expressions of grief and rage, were employed till daylight in preparing themselves and weapons to renew the combat.

Shortly before sunrise, they again rushed towards the Targurt and Elengermite tribes, who, with about a dozen of the Warnabool natives, were encamped together, when a most severe struggle took place between them. Very few escaped on either side without serious fractures and dangerous spear wounds. Although the Targurt tribe were much superior in number, they were, after two hours’ hard fighting, driven off the ground and pursued for about four miles, where their women and children had retired, whom one of the former, named Moontine Whannong, was selected and fell pierced by about 20 spears of the pursuers.

The body of this female was shortly after burned to ashes by her own people and the Bolagher natives returned to their encampment, apparently satisfied with the revenge they had taken, and remained sullenly and silently watching the inanimate body of the wounded female. When death took place, they again expressed the most violent and extravagant grief. They threw themselves upon the ground, weeping and screaming at the height of their voices, lacerating the body, and inflicting wounds upon the head from the blows they gave themselves with the leangil. About an hour after the death of the young woman, the body was removed a few hundred yards into the bush by the father and brother of the deceased, the remainder of the tribe following one at a time, till they had all joined what I imagined to be the usual funeral party. Having accompanied the body when it was removed, I was then requested to return to my tent, which request I took no notice of. In a few moments I was desired, rather sternly and by impatient signs, to go. I endeavoured to make them understand that I wished to remain, and I sat down upon a tree close to where the body lay. The father of the deceased then came close up to me, and pointed with his finger to his mouth and then to the dead body. I at once guessed his meaning, and signified my intention to remain, and, with as much indifference as I could assume, stretched myself upon a tree and narrowly watched their proceedings. With a flint they made a small incision upon the breast, when a simultaneous shriek was given by the party, and the same violent signs of grief were again evinced. After a short time, the operation was again commenced, and, in a few minutes, the body disembowelled. The scene which now took place was of the most revolting description. Horror-stricken and utterly disgusted, while obliged to preserve that equanimity of demeanour upon which I imagined the development of this tragedy to depend, I witnessed the most fearful scene of ferocious cannibalism.

The bowels and entire viscera having been disengaged from the body were at first portioned out; but, from the impatience of some of the women to get at the liver, a general scramble took place for it, and it was snatched in pieces, and, without the slightest process of cooking, was devoured with an eagerness and avidity – a keen fiendish expression of impatience for more, from which scene a memory too tenacious upon this subject will not allow me to escape. The kidneys and heart in a like manner were immediately consumed, and, as a climax to these revolting orgies, when the whole viscera were removed, a quantity of blood and serum which had collected in the cavity of the chest was eagerly collected in handfuls and drunk by the old man who had dissected the body. The flesh was entirely cut off the ribs and back, the arms and legs were wrenched and twisted from the shoulder and hip joints, and the teeth employed to dissever the reeking tendons when they would not immediately yield to their impatience. The limbs were now doubled up and put in their baskets, and, on putting a portion of the flesh upon a fire which had previously been lit, they seemed to remember that I was one of the party. Something was said to one of the women, who cut off a foot from a leg which she had in her possession and offered it to me. I thought it prudent to accept of it, and, wrapping it in my handkerchief and pointing to my tent, they nodded assent, and I joyfully availed myself of their permission to retire. They shortly afterwards retired to their huts with the debris of the feast, and, during the day, to the horror and annoyance of my two boys and those belonging to the establishment, they brought another part and some half-picked bones, and offered them to us. The head was struck off with a tomahawk and placed between hot stones in the hollow of a tree, where it has undergone a process of baking, and is still left there otherwise untouched.

A.S. Kenyon, ‘The Aboriginal Protectorate of Port Phillip. Report of an Expedition to the Aboriginal Tribes of the Western Interior by the Chief Protector, George Augustus Robinson,’ The Victorian Historical Magazine, Volume XII 1927-28.

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Half-caste children, the offspring of colonists by the aboriginal females, are generally the greatest sufferers; in the next degree come their own female infants; but frequently there seems to be no distinction.

There appears in general to be a strong dislike towards the mulatto offspring, increased perhaps by the natural feelings of a husband. In one case of a mother who had destroyed her child, the reason she assigned was that it was half white. An apprehension seems also to be generally entertained that this intermediate race may eventually prove dangerous to the tribe; and, accordingly, they are in most localities regularly destroyed, either at the moment of birth, or on some future and generally very early occasion. The female half-castes, who are considered as in this respect less dangerous than the males, are occasionally spared. In the Bronlee district, north of Twofold Bay, the half-castes, according to Mr Flanagan, generally disappear about the age of puberty.

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