GREAT BLACK LEADERS: PEMULWUY (1750-1802) OF AUSTRALIA, By RUNOKO RASHIDI
The great Black leader that we celebrate today is Pemulwuy of Australia. Pemulwuy, born around 1750, was an Aboriginal Australian man born in the area around what is now Botany Bay in New South Wales. He is believed to have been a member of the Bidjigal clan of the Eora people (a coastal Aboriginal people). He was the fiercest resistance leader to the European invasion of Australia, which began with the arrival of what is called the First Fleet in 1788.
Reacting to the murders of Aboriginal people the Bidjigal clan, led by Pemulwuy, became the most aggressive opponents to the British invaders. In 1790 Pemulwuy speared a European to death.
Pemulwuy persuaded other Aboriginal people to join his campaign against the British and for ten years led a guerilla war against the British from the settlement of Parramatta.
In March 1797, Pemulwuy led a hundred armed Aboriginal men and confronted the British troops in Parramatta. In the fight Pemulwuy was shot seven times and taken seriously wounded to a hospital. This engagement is now as the Battle of Parramatta. In spite of the buckshot in his head and body, and wearing a leg-iron, Pemulwuy escaped from the hospital. This escape has added immeasurably to the legend of Pemulwuy.
Governor Philip Gidley King issued an order on November 22, 1801 for the capture of Pemulwuy, dead or alive. Pemulwuy was made an outlaw, and in 1802 was shot and killed by British sailor Henry Hacking. For the next eight years Pemulwuy’s son continued the Aboriginal resistance to the British until he too was killed.
Pemulwuy’s head was removed from his body, preserved in alcohol and sent to England, where it remains to this day.
Repatriation of the skull of has been requested by Sydney Aboriginal people but “has not yet been located in order to be repatriated.”
Today, the Sydney suburb of Pemulwuy, in New South Wales, is named after him, as well as Pemulwuy Park in Redfern, New South Wales. On my first visit to Australia in 1998 I concluded my journey with a visit to Redfern.
Pemulwuy is the epitome of the Black resistance in Australia to the British invasion. Without a doubt he was truly great Black leader!
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