The Wonnerup (Minninup) Massacre occurred in 1841. The killing of George Layman, a settler at Wonnerup, early in the morning on 22 February 1841 by Gayware (or Gaywal or Gawall), an elder of the Wadandi (Wardandi) people, gave the opportunity for decisive action to pacify the Wadandi. Layman had pulled Gayware's beard, an extremely provocative act, which led to Gayware spearing Layman who made it back to his house where he died. Settler stories say the initial cause of the trouble was the non-payment of flour by Layman and the theft of damper by Gayware, Wadandi stories say it was because Gayware wanted his wife back and Layman didn't want to let her go as she was working as a servant on the farm.
Two days after Layman's death a party of settlers and soldiers led by Captain John Molloy set off ostensibly in pursuit of Gayware. After an initial clash with the Wadandi, Gayware is later found and shot dead. Molloy is also the magistrate for Busselton and has to make a report of what happened. In his report he wrote that four Wadandi men and one woman were killed. The report was co-signed by a witness, John Garret Bussell, who was a justice of the peace.
There are statues of John Garret Bussell and Gayware in Busselton.
However, this report was a cover up as Molloy's party was a punitive expedition which even caused dissent among the Wadjela settler community. Gayware and his sons went North towards Minninup. Wadjela who were sympathetic to the Aboriginal people hid them in their barns from Molloy. The expedition came across a group of Wadandi on the sands of Lake Minninup, and because they would not say where Gayware was, Molloy's party killed them, including the elders and children. Their bones were left there and were sometimes later uncovered and then covered again by the shifting sands. Aboriginal people know that the Bussels were among the Wadjela who killed their people.
A report in the Western Mail on 26 June 1914 compares the massacre to the Pinjarra Massacre and says it was worse! Like the Wadjela reports of the Pinjarra Massacre, the report says no women or children were killed, but this is untrue and just trying to minimise the savagery of the attack by the settlers:
Small parties of natives fled in terror from the threatened invasion, but the majority sought security in the thick bush surrounding Lake Mininup. The isolated natives already slaughtered did not appease the vengeance of the whites. With steady determination the main body was tracked. Over hill and dale they followed the scent, until the congregated aboriginals were discovered in their hiding place at the lake. The natives broke from cover, but were quickly overtaken and surrounded by the infuriated whites. There was now no escape, and the report furnishes the details of a hideous massacre. Again and again the blacks charged the wall of fire in the hope of breaking through the cordon, only to be beaten back, broken and in despair. Their appeals for mercy and cries of terror were smothered by the continuous roll of musketry, but even amidst the strenuous fight not a woman or child suffered harm. The battle of Pinjarra pales into utter in-significance when compared with this deed of extermination.
The initial cover up of this massacre, and that later the killing of women and children continued to be denied, demonstrates that the perpetrators knew what did was very wrong and the wider Wadjela community was ashamed of what had happened.
For other massacres in Noongar lands see Frontier Wars timeline.
- Sam Carmody. "the ghosts are not silent", ABC News Background Briefing, 16 September 2021. Retrieved 17 September 2021
- "EARLY ABORIGINAL TROUBLES IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA: In 1841, a most bloodthirsty enterprise was reported to have been carried out by a party of settlers in the Vasse district", TROVE, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), Fri 26 Jun 1914, Page 52. Retrieved 18 September 2021