View across cultivated landscape with smoke and farm buildings in distance.
[The Plains, Bathurst], attributed to John W Lewin, c1815–16. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales: V*/Expl/2

Windradyne and the Bathurst Wars

Windradyne and the Bathurst Wars

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In 1815, Governor Macquarie founded the town of Bathurst in central New South Wales on Wiradjuri Country. As land grants increased in the 1820s, local Aboriginal food resources became strained and sacred sites were destroyed.

From 1822, the Wiradjuri began to resist these incursions, with strategic attacks on farms. In late 1823, Windradyne, a key Wiradjuri warrior and resistance leader, was arrested for the first time – after two convict stockmen were killed in an attack – and was strung up naked in Bathurst township, to be spat and shouted at by passers‑by. Noticing that settlers and convicts enjoyed a drink on Saturday afternoons after their week’s work, he planned future attacks for Saturdays, when there would be little resistance.

A massacre by settlers and convicts of Aboriginal women and children in early 1824, near the potato field of an ex-convict, sparked revenge attacks by warriors. On 14 August, Governor Brisbane declared martial law. Soldiers from the 40th Regiment joined an armed militia of settlers in a campaign of violence described in The Sydney Gazette as an ‘exterminating war’.

In December, with many Wiradjuri surrendering, martial law was repealed. Windradyne never surrendered but gathered a band of warriors and marched into Parramatta for the governor’s annual feast with the word ‘peace’ in English on his hat, in an attempt to stop the killings of his people. He continued to make sporadic raids on convicts and settlers until he was killed in a tribal fight in 1829. Windradyne was one of many resistance warriors, and Aboriginal people continue to follow in his footsteps, resisting the colonial process.