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Media, Personal and Academic Reviews of Patrick Collins’ 'Goodbye Bussamarai: the Mandandanji Land War, Southern Queensland 1842-1952', UQP, Brisbane 2002.

Since 'Goodbye Bussamarai' was released by UQP in March 2002 it has been well received throughout Australia by both academic and media critics. The pages below include the most significant reviews for 2003. In some instances, Patrick Collins has commented on statements made in some of the reviews. Click here for Reviews for 2002. Patrick Collins has also added a five page paper that expands on his published conclusion that Bussamarai, a powerful Mandandanji military leader, was also known as Possum Murray, Eaglehawk, Old Billy, Billy and ComboClick here for this paper.

December, 2003

The Journal of Australian Colonial History (University of New England, editor Dr Norma Townsend) published the following review by Dr Shirleene Robinson (UQ). The review appeared in Vol 4, No 1 April 2002, pp. 104-08. However, as I did not learn of the review until 24.12.03, when UQP provided me with a copy, I have included it with reviews of Goodbye Bussamarai that were published in 2003.

Dr Robinson reviewed Prof John Ramland’s Custodians of the Soil in the same article. Paragraphs that relate to both texts are reproduced here. For comments that relate to only Prof Ramland’s text, see the reference data above.


Review by Dr Robinson: Patrick Collins, Goodbye Bussamarai: The Mandandanji Land War, Southern Queensland 1842-1852, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, Queensland, 2002, Pbk, ISBN 0 7022 3293 9, 305pp, $34.00.

John Ramsland's Custodians of the Soil and Patrick Collins' Goodbye Bussamarai are two highly significant and very interesting texts dealing with race relations between Aboriginals and Europeans in Australia's past. Both studies successfully reveal the nuances of interaction between Aboriginals and Europeans in particular regional settings and are based on considerable primary research. In Custodians of the Soil, Ramsland charts the broader pattern of contact between Aboriginals and Europeans in the Manning Valley of New South Wales from that defining moment in 1770, when Cook sailed the Endeavour in the vicinity of the Manning River, until the present day. In Goodbye Bussamarai, Collins conducts a fascinating and in-depth examination of the powerful Aboriginal resistance leader Bussammarai and the southern Queensland Mandanadanji Aboriginal group to which he belonged. Collins begins his analysis in 1842, when free settlement commenced in the Moreton Bay District and concludes in 1852, when the Native Police executed Bussamarai.


These two texts have been released at a particularly fortuitous time. Recently, a number of Australian newspapers and periodicals have featured articles questioning the extent of frontier violence between Aboriginals and Europeans in colonial Australia. While I am reasonably certain that neither Ramsland or Collins authored their texts with any intention of joining this debate, their prodigiously documented texts set out in great detail the brutal nature of European settlement and the heavy toll that this settlement took on Indigenous Australians. While both texts provide graphic information of the broad impact that European settlement had on Aboriginal populations, they also show the subtleties of interaction in different regional settings.


Ramsland and Collins have authored these texts from different backgrounds. Ramsland is a prolific Professor of History at the University of Newcastle who has written extensively on many aspects of Australian history. Collins is a former teacher and psychologist who, in later years, has become increasingly interested in various facets of Australian colonial history. Despite these differences, the two authors have a common interest in uncovering the personalities and aspects of human behaviour that shaped frontier history and both write with a sensitivity that is unfortunately rare.


(A large section on Prof Ramsland’s text was omitted by P Collins here).

Readers interested in race relations between Aboriginals and Europeans in Australia during the colonial period will also welcome the recent publication of Goodbye Bussamarai by Patrick Collins. In this major historical text, Collins studies the life of an Aboriginal man, Bussamarai, who led the Mandandanji Aboriginal group from southern Queensland in their fight against European settlers between 1842 and 1852. While historians such as Noel Loos and Henry Reynolds have adeptly documented Aboriginal resistance in the north of Queensland, Aboriginal resistance in the southern part of the colony has not received as much attention. Collins is the first historian to produce a book-length study of an individual Aboriginal resistance fighter from southern Queensland, and this alone makes the text worth reading.


Goodbye Bussamarai is based on voluminous primary research and Collins uses seventeen chapters and an array of maps and appendices to convey this information. Although Collins has collated an enormous amount of information in the text, the book is a highly readable account of the life of an extraordinary figure whom he describes as 'a multilingual elder, family man and father, composer, military leader, guide and marathon runner' and the resistance battle waged by a particular Aboriginal group. Collins points out that Bussamarai was the only person - European or Aboriginal - who was present in the Maranoa district for the entire period from 1842 to 1852, when Europeans were first establishing their hold on the area.


While Bussamarai is present in most of Collins' account, Goodbye Bussamarai is much more than a traditional biography. In authoring the text, Collins primarily set out to discover what really happened to the Mandandanji Aboriginal people, who lived in the Maranoa district of south-eastern Queensland. The Mandandanji people make a fascinating subject. They were amongst the first Aboriginal people to interact with Europeans in the Moreton Bay District after the commencement of free settlement in 1842.

Interestingly, Collins found that the initial contact between European explorers and Aboriginals in the East Maranoa district was peaceful, with no recorded deaths. This contrasts heavily with the violence that erupted between both groups after the establishment of permanent stations in the area. Collins believes that an outright war between the Mandandanji Aboriginal people and European settlers was under way by 1848, with Bussamarai and the Mandandanji Aboriginal people killing at least eight European station hands in that year.

After 1848, relations between Europeans and the Mandandanji Aboriginal group became increasingly aggressive. The Native Police Force, with their notorious Commandant, Frederick Walker, became an increasingly violent presence in the region and the Mandandanji, with Bussamarai commanding, responded to their violence in kind. In one particularly telling chapter, Collins describes a fascinating incident that occurred in 1850, when Bussamarai performed a corroboree to frighten local settlers.


Collins also provides evidence of an attempt by the Fitzroy New South Wales Government to cover up a Native Police Massacre that occurred in the East Maranoa area in 1852. In a particularly poignant chapter, Collins describes how the mounting violence and escalating tensions between Aboriginals and Europeans led to the murder of Bussamarai by the Native Police in 1852.


Collins deserves particular commendation for using many previously uncited primary sources in Goodbye Bussamarai and for successfully managing to capture 'the other side of the frontier'. He does not merely portray the Mandandanji as passive victims of European aggression but captures their initiative and creative reactions to European intrusion.

Both Ramsland and Collins are to be applauded for authoring such adeptly researched and perceptive texts. It is not often that such high standard historical texts dealing with the Australian colonial frontier are released. Both texts are highly recommended for undergraduate and postgraduate collections and for anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of race relations on Australia's frontier.

Shirleene Robinson

Response by Patrick Collins:
I regret not learning of this review until December 2003. I completed the text during 1999, the same year in which the first edition of the JACH was published and I did not know this journal existed when the above review appeared. It is also obvious that UQP did not learn of the review until very recently. Considering that it was the first published review of Goodbye Bussamarai, which went on sale in March 2002, a marketing opportunity went begging. So be it. Having said that, it goes without saying that I was delighted to read Dr Robinson’s positive assessment of my book, which, as she concluded, was completed prior to the current “history wars” debate. In other words, she realised that my book was not influenced by Keith Windschuttle or others who have attempted to cast doubt on texts that document frontier violence in Australia. Also, given the emphasis that has been placed on primary records during this debate, I am particularly pleased that Dr Robinson drew attention to such references in Goodbye Bussamarai.

October, 2003

Response by Patrick Collins to Prof. Bob Reece's review of Goodbye Bussamarai in Eureka Street (Jesuit Press), September 2003.

As the full text of the Eureka St review can be read on Eureka Street's web site (see above), most of my comments relate to changes made by Prof Reece to his review of Goodbye Bussamarai that appeared in the Australian Historical Association [AHA] Bulletin 96 (also above). However, I also address some issues that were not fully dealt with in my responses to the AHA review.

Re Keith Windschuttle: Prof Reece commenced the Eureka Street version with:

"Books on frontier conflict in Australia must now be written with an eye to the charges Keith Windschuttle has made about the deliberate 'fabrication',

or at least exaggeration, of Aboriginal deaths. There is no harm in this: unusual care must be taken in an area of such politicised sensibilities. At the same time, the paucity of hard evidence creates serious problems for historians genuinely convinced by a combination of circumstantial evidence and tutored instinct that large-scale killings of Aborigines took place. Patrick Collins' book is amongst other things a case study of these problems. It also tends to support the argument pursued by Henry Reynolds, Noel Loos and Raymond Evans that Queensland witnessed what was probably the most extensive and intensive racial violence in Australian history."

Goodbye Bussamarai is not a post-Windschuttle book, as UQP received my MS in 1999. During the editorial process in 2001, I was aware of Windschuttle's articles that appeared in Quadrantin late 2000, but nothing in those articles led to changes to the original MS. I had searched for years to locate every key document available and I drew most of my conclusions from the evidence in those documents. However, I did not avoid drawing at least tentative conclusions when there was a "paucity of hard evidence". Instead, I adopted an approach that was akin to a Coronial Inquest into suspicious deaths in East Maranoa. In Queensland, the Coroner's Regulation 1998 (34.1) includes:

"the coroner may admit any evidence that the coroner thinks fit, whether or not the  same is admissible in any other court, provided that no evidence shall be admitted by the coroner for the purposes of the inquest unless in the coroner's opinion the evidence is necessary for the purpose of establishing or assisting to establish any of the matters within the scope of such inquest.”

In practice the above allows the coroner to admit hearsay and circumstantial evidence along with "hard evidence". In relation to suspicious deaths, the coroner's over-riding objective is to establish the cause of death and the circumstances surrounding that death. Even without sufficient "hard evidence" to charge someone with murder, it is not unusual for a coroner to conclude that a specific person murdered another. Coroners are however very conscious of societal needs and wants, other than the conviction of a nominal killer. A coroner's verdict can provide partial closure for the family and friends of the person whose death was deemed to be suspicious. By analogy, I believe it is incumbent upon historians, and others such as myself, who delve into Australian frontier conflicts, to publish their conclusions even if some of the evidence would not be admissible during a Supreme Court murder trial. All Australians are entitled to hear any evidence re "suspicious" frontier deaths or re deaths when the causes and/or circumstances are not known. It is equally incumbent upon the writer to clarify which parts of his/her evidence are hearsay, circumstantial or "hard". It is then up to the reader to decide if he/she agrees with the author's conclusion(s). If there is disagreement, constructive feedback could influence the author to change his/her opinion or conclusion. This is potentially a long process but without it and associated honesty, I doubt that sufficient trust will ever develop to bring any sense of closure re frontier deaths. I also doubt that without such closure there will ever be genuine reconciliation between black and white Australians.

With regard to Henry Reynolds, Noel Loos and Raymond Evan's "argument ... that Queensland witnessed what was probably the most extensive and intensive racial violence in Australian history", I do tend to agree with this but I lack sufficient knowledge of the Australia-wide frontier scene to unequivocally support this conclusion.


Re W'm Telfer Jnr: I was more reserved than Prof Reece in dealing with Telfer's evidence from the Wallabadah Manuscript. I did refer to his Maranoa anecdotes as hearsay, and I did have doubts about some of the death tolls he cited for the district. In hindsight, I might not have been so reserved if I had read Prof Reece's opinion that Telfer's "narrative is impressive in its unadorned and dispassionate simplicity". This fits. Nowhere in Wallabadah do I recall Telfer weighting his evidence to suit a particular group. He was not an overly-competitive person with a particular barrow to push.  His only apparent motive for recording his anecdotes was to do just that: record them. This does not mean that I now accept as absolute truth, everything that he recorded. However, given his wide range of frontier contacts, and his credibility as a witness, I accept that his records reflect the reality of his era. In short, in the absence of any other records, there is no valid reason to reject Telfer's. If there was exaggeration, it was likely to have been by his source(s). But so what? I suspect that many often-quoted and accepted memoirs are wildly exaggerated, but they form part of our recorded history. 


Re “ruthless competition”:
Prof Reece stated, 
“It is difficult to balk at ‘warfare’ as the appropriate term for what was happening as the pastoral frontier moved rapidly from the Gwydir to the Balonne and the Maranoa in the late 1840’s. Despite the subtitle of his book, Collins settles somewhat cautiously in his introduction for ‘ruthless competition’.”

I must take the blame for some confusion here, for I regard “warfare” as a manifestation of “ruthless competition”. That is why I quoted Gerry Adams on this exact topic. To set the record straight, I totally agree: the East Maranoa frontier was characterized by warfare.

Re “An interesting conceit”: 
I was most disappointed with the following remark by Prof Reece: 
“An interesting conceit which Collins raises in his introduction is the congruence in experience of the Irish and the Aborigines and their consequent affinities in colonial Australia.”

Based on Webster’s Dictionary meaning, the term “conceit” was presumably used here in a literary sense to mean a “fanciful and rather trivial idea or notion”. If so, this is tantamount to stating that I did not provide evidence to support my claims re the Irish. In other words my claims are ‘fabrications’. If this is not what Prof Reece meant, I apologise to him unreservedly. But what else could his statement mean? The most disturbing aspect is, Prof Reece did not comment on my references, nor did he provide evidence to support his rejection of my claims. I will not pursue this further but I will provide a sample of the evidence that I cited. The following relates to endnote 27 from Chapter 6 and is available in most major Australian reference libraries.

On 19 June, 1847, when Allan MacPherson was preparing to take over Mount Abundance station in East Maranoa, the Sydney Morning Herald  published a two column letter titled Destitution in Ireland. It was written by a ship’s captain (Caffin) and illustrated the plight of millions of Irish during the famine, when one million died and another two million migrated, mostly to USA. The letter included.

"In the village of Schull [Co Cork] three fourths of the people ... are reduced to mere skeletons, the men in particular, all their physical power wasted away;  they have all become beggars.

" ... Dr Traill, the rector of Schull offered to drive me to see a portion of his parish. I found there was no need to go out of his village to see the horrors of starvation in its worst features.            "Fever has sprung up ... swellings of limbs and body, and diarrhoea, from want of nourishment, are everywhere to be found. Dr Traill's parish ... containing eighteen thousand souls, with not more than half a dozen gentlemen in the whole of it. In no house that I entered was there not ... the dead or dying ... we took them just as they came.

"The first ... was a cabin rather above the ordinary ones in appearance and comfort; in it were three young women, and one young man and three children, all crouched over a fire, and the pictures of misery. ...  the father the most wretched picture of starvation possible to conceive, a skeleton with life, his power of speech gone; the mother but a little better ... They had nothing to eat in the house and I could see no hope for any of them.


"In another cabin ... a mother and daughter were there: the daughter emaciated and lying against the wall; the mother naked, upon some straw on the ground, with a rug over her; ... she had wasted away to nothing ... she cannot have survived.

"Another that I entered ... was misery ... (the daughter said) "... Mother is dead!" ... the daughter, a skeleton herself ... the poor creature ... did not know what to do with the corpse, ... she was too exhausted to remove it herself...

"In another, the door of which was stopped with dung, ... a poor creature who was passing this miserable cabin and asked the old woman to allow her to rest herself for a few moments, she had laid down, but never rose up again. She died in an hour or so, from sheer exhaustion. The body had remained in this hobble of six feet square with the poor old woman for four days; ...

"I could ... take you through thirty or more cottages that we visited, but they were all alike - the dead and the dying in each. ...
"A board of health is now wanted ... pestilence will rage when the mass of bodies decompose. They have ceased to put them in coffins, or to have a funeral service performed, and they merely lay them a few inches under the soil ...
"All that I have stated ... I have seen ... I could tell you also of that which I could vouch for ... but which I did not see myself, such as bodies half eaten by rats; of two dogs ... being shot ... whilst tearing a body to pieces ... of a poor woman (when asked) what she had on her back, and being replied it was her son ... it was dead ... she was going to dig a hole in the churchyard for it.

"There have been two or three post mortem examinations of those who have died, and they find that the inner membrane of the stomach turns into a white mucous, as if nature had supported herself upon herself, until exhaustion of all the humours of the system had taken place."

 "... very faithfully yours, J. Crauford Caffin, (15 Feb, 1847)."

[Caffin was the Commander of Her Majesty's steam sloop, Scourge.]

My sources also show that during the famine there was no shortage of food in Ireland, and that a great deal of it was exported by landlords. Lord John Russell’s Whig government would not provide sufficient charity and the prevailing free trade policy prevented major donations of food from the USA. The outcome is illustrated above. It was a direct result of the same British frugality that failed to provide protection for the Aborigines. I regret having to say it Prof Reece, but on this topic you are wrong. If you disagree, please provide your evidence and I will include it below verbatim.

 To close on a positive note, I remain indebted to Prof Reece for taking the time to reviewGoodbye Bussamarai twice, and for submitting these reviews to such appropriate publications as the AHA Bulletin and Eureka Street.  I also value Prof Reece’s opinion that I am an optimistic psychologist rather than a sceptical historian (seriously), for I do believe that somewhere in the distant future, racial harmony will be achieved in this country, but I do not believe it will happen over night. For instance, the Republic of Ireland, in the year 2003, is a wealthy and prosperous country that bears little resemblance to the down and out appendage to Great Britain that it was, when controlled by ruthlessly competitive British politicians and landlords, pre-1921. Just how Australians will bring about racial harmony I cannot say with certainty, but some of the essential elements are clear; eg education, honesty and sound economic management. However, central to the process will inevitably be how we manage competition, or should I say, how we manage ruthless competitors. The flip side is, social harmony, including racial harmony, will never see the light of day until we empower existing losers and potential losers. Central to this empowerment must be, axiomatically, teaching these groups the skills associated with successful but ethical competitive behaviour, including how to identify and defeat those who prefer to cheat. Thankfully, the ground work for all of this is already in place but the process can be hastened, if those who interested in doing so know how to compete and are prepared to do so.

Patrick Collins 30.10.2003.

9 July, 2003

Quadrant magazine (editor Padraic P. McGuinness) published the following review by Robert Murray in Vol XLVII, No 7-8, July-August 2003, pp.34-38, in an article titled “On the Long Road to Truth”.  Robert Murray is “an occasional contributor to Quadrant.

The cover of this edition included the following line: “Robert Murray on post-Windschuttle frontier history”. The article included reviews of two other books, Frontier Conflict: the Australian Experience (Editors Bain Attwood and S.G.  Foster, National Museum of Australia, 2003, $39.95; and Mark McKenna’s Looking for Blackfella's Point: An Australian History of Place, University of New South Wales, 2, $39.95).

The following extracts are from a review of Goodbye Bussamarai (UQP, 2002), the second of the three reviews in Robert Murray’s article.

PATRICK COLLINS' Goodbye Bussamarai: The Mandandanji Land War, Southern Queensland, 1842-1852 (University of Queensland Press, $34), another good book, is a localised study of conflict in one district in one period-the East Maranoa pastoral district of south-central Queensland­ from 1842 to 1852. This approach, rewardingly, allows the author to get close to the action and to the dynam­ics on both sides. At the end he hazards an estimate, cautiously and with qualifications, that the Aboriginal population was perhaps 600 when the settlers arrived. Aboriginals killed in conflict with whites probably numbered between 150 and 300, though some of these would have been from other districts, perhaps refugees or working on the cattle runs. A Windschuttle might find this excessive, but there is no shortage of sources and footnotes and Collins names plenty of names.

Again the Native Police are the culprits, though Collins points the finger at squatters who wanted them to act as "private hit squads" … 

The economic imperatives carried the decisive weight.
Once a pastoral run was rendered "safe" the value of the lease shot up, 
A breed of frontier-hardened stockmen, familiar with Aborigines, and mostly ex-convicts, operated these early runs and often helped the squatters establish them. 
High­minded sentiments flowed out of London about the need to protect all British subjects in the colony, irre­spective of race, but they tended to get lost or over­looked on the long route to the Balonne and neighbouring river valleys.


The census count in 1851 showed a white population of only eighty-five, of whom eleven were women. Some seventeen whites were counted killed in fifteen months of 1848-49 alone.

Collins, suggests that the Mandandanji people of the Balonne-Maranoa were genuinely resist­ing the squatters and protecting their way of life, under an apparently charismatic elder, Bussamarai.

These were still musket days, and Collins is not as clear as a Windschuttle would like about how damage on the scale he suggests could be inflicted with these limited weapons, on blacks able to flee or sink into dense scrub in their own much-loved country.

A Windschuttle might also think it a but much to damn Fitz Roy and his London bosses so much for weakness, given the near impossibility of quickly rais­ing, equipping, training and motivating a police force.

Although Collins shows the greater sympathy to the Aborigines, they are mostly shadowy, almost disembodied. Perhaps inevitably, the book is mainly about the whites, who left the written records.

The author, a psychologist in his day job, offers some interesting points about the psychology on both sides.

The many pages of references in all these books show the industry that has gone into them, which would rarely be possible without the academic resources that have supported the first and last. Some of the records were not even available until thirty sears ago, a few of them probably deliberately mis­laid. (Other possibly incriminating ones seem to have disappeared altogether.) All three have required painstaking work from frequently obscure records.

None of this would have been practical without postwar prosperity and the money it has made avail­able for scholarship generally. Previous generations with access to these funds could hardly be blamed for Building careers on more readily accessible records. This partly explains why historians steered clear of his subject when easier work was to be had. It is a pity these fortunate later beneficiaries are so snooty about the failings of their predecessors and the dreaded "conservative commentators".

Robert Murray.

Response by Patrick Collins.

I am absolutely delighted that Quadrant published Robert Murray’s review. I am far from being a fence-sitter but, as stated in the “Introduction” to Goodbye Bussamarai, I avoided involvement with historical and anthropological groups. This was not because I do not admire many historians and anthropologists, for I do, including Henry Reynolds, Raymond Evans and W.E.H. Stanner. My aim was to avoid being influenced by the norms of such groups. This was in keeping with the experiences of many psychologists with so-called “T-groups” and similar. A problem with group involvement is that we can unconsciously (to find acceptance) conform to group norms, both stated and covert, that we might otherwise reject. Accordingly, I gathered my data and drew my own conclusions, especially from primary sources. In other words, I tried to produce a book that reflected the records, rather than either a left or right wing interpretation of those records. I do however acknowledge the influence of  a Native Police researcher, Simon Whiley, who regularly emphasized the value of primary records. It is also appropriate that I mention that UQP accepted Goodbye Bussamarai for publication in May 2000, some months prior to the start of the so-called Windschuttle debate. However, UQP had held the manuscript since mid-1999. Keith Windschuttle has some strengths and weaknesses, but he did not influence the writing of Goodbye Bussamarai.

So far as Robert Murray’s review is concerned, it is very perceptive and contains nothing with which I take umbrage. In spite of my tendency to incorporate more factual content than “imagination”, he obviously took the time to internalize what I was saying. That he did not concur with all of my conclusions is his right and it adds to the quest for truth. I will however comment on some of his comments.

Murray refers to the deaths of seventeen whites above. The context suggests these were all from the Maranoa. However, only ten of these deaths were from the Maranoa. The others were from the more populated Lower Condamine in the outer Darling Downs.

It is true that muskets were slow to reload and had a short lethal range. However, the Native Police troopers and many of the white people also had pistols. How the troopers used these or their cutlasses can only be guessed at.

I have no qualms with academics being financially enabled by salaries and grants to research and write texts. This has always, in my lifetime, been the situation. Today’s lecturers however, do not automatically qualify for sabbatical leave as did lecturers of yesterday. I therefore do not accept that any historians who taught me during the early 1960’s had any excuse for not discovering the many primary records that were then available. I have never had a writing grant, nor have I received paid research leave. I did teach and counsel (mainly on contracts) at the BCAE and the QIT prior to my early retirement in 1988. However, I retired on the profits of my wife and my investments, not superannuation. With time on my hands I indulged myself in doing the things I could not do as a younger person: Goodbye Bussamarai is therefore the product of a very costly seven year love affair.

Finally, I must emphasize that many of my apparent conclusions are little more than restatements of comments made by the historical figures mentioned in my book. For instance, it was the Native Police Commandant, Frederick Walker, not me, who stated that several Aboriginal tribes combined to rid their lands of white settlers. It was Gideon Lang and Hovenden Hely, not me, who stated that “Old Billy” (Bussamarai) led the majority of attacks on the settlers. The multiple mass killings I refer to are from primary documents. And so on. If I did make unwarranted conclusions than so be it: others will soon set the record straight.

Patrick J Collins.

February, 2003

The Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland (editor John Kerr), published the following review by Dr Ruth Kerr in Vol 18 No 5, pp.239-240, February 2003. Ruth Kerr is the author of "John Moffatt of Irvinebank"  in North Queensland. She has published seven other books on various aspects of Queensland history.


Book Review: 'Goodbye Bussamarai: the Mandandanji Land War, Southern Queensland 1842 -1852'
by Patrick Collins

(St Lucia, University of Queensland, 2002) (xv + 302 pages, maps, biblio, endnotes, appendices, index, Price: $34)

The following are extracts from Dr Kerr’s review. The full review is available in the above edition of the JRHSQ: E-mail:

“It is delightful when one encounters a serious book on a most significant subject critical to Australia's understanding of their culture, that is written from the best sources. Also of significance and value is that the author tests the motivation of the characters of this human story of the conflict of the Mandandanji with the initial white intruders, using these sources.”

“... the effort taken to read and assess the primary sources is the portent for a rich harvest of historiography of indigenous and colonial pastoral history on the rangelands of southern Queensland beyond the silver tails of the Darling Downs. “

“I hope influential Australians in indigenous politics and legal fields do respect the author for his selection and perseverance with the sources. Nevertheless, there are some shortcomings in the book. Pat's selection of some secondary sources and assessments of evidence disappoint as they are based on far lesser standards of evidence than Pat otherwise uses.”

Dr Kerr also listed the following shortcomings:

• “Footnote 47 on page 8 is not a sufficiently valid source for the statement that Aborigines did not have chiefs - viz. the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales publication, Poignant Regalia: 19th Century Breastplates & Images (1993).

• Page xxiii - What proof is there that no squatter / lessee lived on a Maranoa station until Paddy McEnroe did on Ukabulla in 1851? None is given.

• Page xxiv - What proof is there that Walker sought to protect the Aborigines' access to land, while also being very brutal?

• The print on the maps is too small.”

Dr Kerr’s summary comments included
“The result is a sense of historical honesty in reconciling people and sources to present a sobering picture as a model for future such analyses.”

Response by Patrick Collins:

Dr Ruth Kerr is an extremely active Queensland historian: currently President of the Federation of Australian Historical Societies (FACS); a key member of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland (RHSQ) and the Australian Mining History Association (AMHA); consultant to the Queensland Government; and involved with the preservation of Queensland’s heritage buildings. Her many publications include her recent book, 'John Moffat of Irvinebank: a biography of a regional entrepreneur', Cairns Post, December 2000.


For more details see

A “Google”search using “Ruth Kerr” will provide other information about her.

It must be obvious that I am delighted with the above review: especially with the comment, “The result is a sense of historical honesty in reconciling people and sources to present a sobering picture as a model for future such analyses.” Considering the current debate generated by Keith Windschuttle, I hope that Goodbye Bussamarai is influential in this regard.

I also appreciated Ruth’s list of perceived shortcomings, above and make the following responses to her comments.

Re no resident squatters in the Maranoa prior to Paddy McEnroe: I did not provide much evidence re this in the text but this is available on request.

Re Walker protecting Aboriginal access to land but also being very brutal: I provided detailed evidence of this in a private communication to Dr Kerr, who now accepts that it is in the text.

Re print size being too small: I totally agree and will gladly provide larger copies of any map upon request.

Were there Chiefs in Aboriginal Society? 
Dr Kerr objected to my citing a secondary source (Poignant Regalia) to support my statement (p.8) that, “Aboriginal groups did not have chiefs (or kings).” I must confess that I deferred to authority on this issue as I have no formal qualifications in anthropology and the above text was by Tania Cleary, formerly “The Aboriginal Collections Manager, Division of Anthropology, Australian Museum”.


The text, which was published soon after I began my research, doubled as a catalogue of Aboriginal breastplates. Accordingly, it directly addressed the issue of so-called chiefs and/or kings. Cleary stated (1993, p.19), “In Aboriginal society there were no kings, queens or chiefs – laws were made by a consensus reached by a council of tribal elders … … As in all societies there were often those of dominant character whose influence held sway, but in general elders shared equal status and were highly respected.”

I must continue to defer to authority. However, I did explore this issue in a number of texts without citing them: perhaps I should have. I will refer to a sample of these below, followed by references to Aboriginal “chiefs” in some early publications by writers who claimed to have a sound understanding of Aboriginal society. With one exception (Flanagan, 1888) I will quote only from texts listed in the “Bibliography” of Goodbye Bussamarai.

Prof A.P. Elkin (1964/1970, pp.76-77) stated re “The Local Group”, “This group is ideally an enlarged family, consisting of a man and his living descendants. … Such a group is a local patrilineal clan … “Each local group has its headman, usually the oldest man, provided that he be not too old to take full interest in its affairs. The headmen of the various groups of a tribe constitute a council-informal in nature-who talk over matters of common interest and make decisions, when several local groups are together…”

Richard Broome (1982, p.20) stated, “… Aboriginal society was one governed by those who had consistently proved themselves to be the most wise and dedicated to the continuance of the group and its traditions. There was no leader but a more egalitarian diffusion of power among perhaps a dozen men.” Earlier on the same page Broome stated, “… some women also came to have a say in camp affairs in their later years.”

Frederick G. G. Rose (1987, pp.129-168) wrote at length on “The Patrilineal Land-owning Local Group.” Rose stated (p.148), “… if the numbers of the local group increased too much it would become unwieldy, as the number of “elders” would become impracticable for them to come together and achieve a consensus on the “administration” of the local group’s territory. The local group, that is the “elders”, were not only decisive in the use of the land but also in such matters as marriage and initiation (in these cases in consultation with representatives of other local groups).

If I have not been overly selective in my choice of quotations, the only term from the above that could be interpreted to mean “chief “ or “king” is Elkin’s “head man” of a patrilineal clan. Some writers from the nineteenth century were no more definite. 

Finney Eldershaw, who included a chapter on the Aborigines in his text (1854, pp. 76-107) stated (p.95), “There are as far as I have been able to discover, no Chiefs, nor hereditary superiors, in any of the tribes; the only influence amongst them being exercised either by the old men-who not infrequently assume supernatural attributes; that is to say, an unusual power of inflicting evil; or by those whose superior activity of intellect, or probably physical power, entitles them by force of arms to this position.

Gideon Lang (1865, p.27) who wrote a great deal about Bussamarai under the name of “Eaglehawk”, referred to him as a “diplomatist and a general” but never as a “chief”. When discussing leadership he stated (p.7), “The system of [Aboriginal] government is administered, in each separate tribe, by a council of old and elderly men.” With reference to the Maranoa (p.9) he referred to “the old and chief men” but not to an individual “chief”. 

Roderick Flanagan, whose The Aborigines of Australia (1888) I did not include in the bibliography, stated (pp. 16-17), “The supposition that no system of chiefship prevails among the aborigines receives authority from many facts,” some of which he then listed.

Conclusion: The above small sample supports but does not prove my statement based on Poignant Regalia (1993, p.19) that “Aboriginal groups did not have chiefs (or kings).” However, I have no vested interest in maintaining this conclusion if it is wrong.


Accordingly I invite any interested (but informed) person to comment on this issue. To do so, please select “Email” from the menu at the top of this page and send your evidence to me. Alternatively, write to me C/- Queensland University Press, Box 6042, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia. Unless asked not to, I will add well informed comments to this web site.

October, 2003

A review of Goodbye Bussamarai by Professor RHW Reece was published by Eureka Street: A Magazine of Public Affairs, The Arts and Theology, in September 2003.

As this review was an upgrade of a review by Prof Reece in the Australian Historical Association [AHA] Bulletin No 96, June 2003, extracts etc from the Eureka Street version are included below, following the AHA review.
The full text of the Eureka Street review can be read on Eureka Street's web site @:

August, 2003

Australian Historical Association Bulletin No 96, June 2003, published the following review by Professor R. (“Bob”) H. W. Reece.

Professor Reece is now based at Murdoch University, Western Australia. His Aborigines and Colonists (Sydney University Press, 1974) remains one of the most authoritative texts on frontier conflicts in Australia. Accordingly, I feel honoured that he took the time to review Goodbye Bussamarai. My responses to some of his comments follow the review below. I gave particular attention to his perception that my writing was not directed by an “over-arching theory”, for I contend that it was. Secondly, I have spelled out the influence of Irish history and Catholicism on my conclusions.

Book Review: Goodbye Bussamarai: The Mandandanji Land War, Southern Queensland 1842-1852, by Patrick Collins. University of Queensland Press, 2002. 305pp. $34.00 Paperback. ISBN 0 7022 3293 9.

My personal link with Patrick Collins' subject goes back to 1964 when I was looking for an M.A. thesis topic in the old Brisbane Archives. The dusty files of the Queensland Native Police evoked the bitter frontier violence in central northern New South Wales and what is now central southern Queensland in the late 1840's and early 1850's. Behind the euphemistic official formalese of ‘insurgent blacks’, ‘serious depredations’, ‘collisions’, ‘dispersals’ and ‘punitive measures’ was the story of how a squatter­-dominated colonial government set up and supported a highly mobile and well-armed para-military force designed to ‘pacify’ the indigenous peoples of the area and ‘settle’ it for permanent pastoral occupancy. Never mind the explicit instructions from Earl Grey that pastoral leaseholds were ‘not intended to deprive the Natives of their former right to hunt over these districts, or to wander over them in search of subsistence’ : the rush of squatters and their servants from the Liverpool Plains and the Darling Downs after 1847 quickly dispossessed and depopulated the Bigambul, Mandandanji and other indigenous groups by sheer force of arms and with great bloodshed.

What was being played out here, it seemed to me, was a last-ditch Colonial Office attempt to enforce the policy of safeguarding native interests introduced by Lord Glenelg ten years earlier against settler interests for whom imminent self-government meant an end to the ‘canting hypocrisy’ of Exeter Hal (the influential Evangelical humanitarian lobby). My response was to go back in time little and see how things had reached this sorry state, to explain how the one remaining intervention on the part of the colonial government could take the form of squads of Aboriginal troopers, led by European officers, who waged an officially-sanctioned war against indigenous landholders on the pastoral frontier. Inevitably, I had to confront the events at Myall Creek and other stations on the River Gwydir in the late 1830's and their repercussions.

And resistance there was to white settlement. Whatever may have been the case in other parts of Australia, the Maranoa was one big battleground. Patrick Collins has provided plenty of evidence to show that Europeans were tolerated as travellers (as Major Mitchell had been in 1846) but not as a permanent and disruptive presence. Just how disruptive that presence was in economic terms can be gauged by the description of Alan MacPherson’s sheep and cattle occupying fifty kilometres of water frontage on Muckadilla Creek, a northern tributary of the Balonne River, to a distance back from the water of twelve kilometres. And it was the deaths of eight of MacPherson's workers which helped to trigger off what must have been one of Australia's bloodiest frontier wars. There were no official body-counts to satisfy today’s forensic empiricist. Nor is the official documentation very revealing. Native Police Commandant Frederick Walker had to tone down his official despatches to the Colonial Secretary in Sydney after an incautious remark about his force’s pitched battle with some hundreds of Bigambul at Carbucky station following the deaths of a number of white hands on the Wallan and the Lower Condamine in July 1849: ‘1 much regretted not having one hour more daylight and I would have annihilated the lot, among which were six murderers and all the rest living solely on cattle . . . ' According to William Telfer, a drover who later worked in the area, ‘nearly one hundred perished under the sword and bullet of the white man’.

Telfer's accounts of this and other battles and massacres of ‘station blacks’ in what is now known as the Wallabadah Manuscript might be dismissed as hearsay but there is a significant congruence (allowing for some slight chronological error) between his descriptions and events which are only briefly sketched in the official record. Incidents of this kind would have been campfire talk for many years afterwards and the numbers of Aborigines killed may well have been inflated. Nevertheless, the Wallabadah Manuscript was written by a disinterested party only ten years afterwards. The narrative is impressive (and all the more credible, in my view) in its unadorned and dispassionate simplicity. If the sceptic insists that Telfer's evidence fails the eye-witness test that is now being applied to events which few were prepared to record at the time, there is the graphic account by Margaret Young, a squatter's wife, of two visits to their Umbercollie station near Carbucky after the vengeance killing by Aborigines of two white boys by James Mark, an evident psychopath who had gratuitously killed an Aboriginal messenger. The first, by Mark himself and his men, involved ‘shooting every native in sight, even our station aboriginals. Even my house gins, one of which was my faithful Maime, my loyal friend’. The second was by the Native Police:

Some weeks later the police came back shooting still more natives whether guilty or not - we lost twelve more of our station blacks. Two young gins ran to me for protection. I hid them up ... in our roof... they were there to stay for two days and nights without food and water. The police were still in and out of our house ... after the police had gone from the last shooting, we faced the terrible sight of so many dead natives and this time wild dogs had joined the [wild] pigs tearing the bodies to pieces. Once again Jonathan had the job of burying them.

So unrestrained was Mark’s continued killing spree that Walker himself intervened to move him out of the district. Nevertheless, Crown Land Commissioner Richard Bligh, whose responsibility it was to hold an inquest into every killing of an Aborigine, found it impossible to prosecute Mark and others widely known as having committed similar crimes against ‘tame blacks’. Aborigines (even the Aboriginal troopers) could not give proper evidence in court and amongst the white settlers there was a conspiracy of silence. The lessons of Myall Creek in 1838 had been well learned. It is significant, as Collins points out, that so many of the squatters and white workers in the Maranoa were from the Liverpool Plains: ‘Old Hands’ or veterans of an earlier and no less bitter frontier war. Joseph Fleming, for example, was the brother of John Fleming, the principal ringleader of the Myall Creek and other massacres on the Gwydir.


Indeed, it is difficult to balk at ‘warfare’ as the appropriate term for what was happening, as the pastoral frontier moved rapidly from the Gwydir to the Balonne and the Maranoa in the late 1840's. Despite the sub-title of his book, Collins settles somewhat cautiously in his Introduction for ‘ruthless competition’. However, he has no doubts about the military leadership of a man variously referred to as ‘Possum Murray’, ‘Eaglehawk’, ‘Old Billy’ and (probably authentically) Bussamarai. In this redoubtable figure he has discovered one of the ‘missing’ Aboriginal leaders referred to by W.E.H. Stanner as ‘of outstanding, even of commanding, character and personality ... [who] having no office or title or rank, nevertheless had sway over large regions and numbers ...’. Some of Collins’ ‘sightings’ of Bussamarai in the written evidence seem to be guesswork and he may be attributing to him more generalship than he was ever capable of exerting. Indeed, Collins admits that another significant leader, Oorumunde, may sometimes have been  confused with him. To say that Bussamarai was an influential figure in an area the size of England - from the lower Condamine to the upper Warrego - may be straining credibility somewhat. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that he was able to unite the Bigambul and two or three other groups with the Mandandanji in concerted efforts to drive out the whites, sometimes involving pitched battles with the Native Police. ‘The Great Fear’ felt by the squatters and their servants was of just this demonstrated unity against them. To give him his due, Walker’s policy was to insist that once a group of Aborigines was ‘pacified’ they should be allowed on the stations to find their livelihood. However, there were many station hands who preferred to shoot them on sight.

The second half of Collins’ book is more difficult to follow than the first and one or two chapters might well have been omitted. The story of the Native Police and its complicated politics, together with long disquisitions on Gideon Scott Lang and Roderick Mitchell, serve to obscure the relatively clear narrative line maintained earlier. The focus on frontier warfare is sometimes almost lost in a wealth of documentation. The geographical area of study expands beyond easy grasp.

Patrick Collins is a psychologist, not an historian, by training, and his professional interest has been in group dynamics. He says that he avoided contact with historians and anthropologists and preferred to come to his subject via the writings of people like Eric Berne and Claude Steiner on the links between history and ‘effective psychology’. The significance of this is not clear, but he certainly immersed himself in the primary resources for what seems to have been a long labour of love. The empirical basis of his work is sound and it would be churlish to complain of the absence of any over-arching theory. However, he tells us nothing about the group dynamics which made Bussamarai's leadership possible and very little about the psychology of the squatters and their often n'er-do-well servants. It would have been useful to be told more about the original size of the indigenous population and what latter day anthropology can suggest about its economy and its social organisation. Instead, there is a wealth of narrative detail which sometimes leaves the reader reeling. This is a local history, but it is the history of a very large area, upon which is superimposed the history of the Native Police. And the maps provided are not clear enough to be very useful.

That there were massacres at Yuleba Creek in March 1950 and Yamboucal in May 1952 is fairly clear to this reader, but the evidence is largely circumstantial. On the other hand, there are indications of official cover-ups and careful ‘weeding’ of the Native Police archives to avoid higher scrutiny and to protect reputations. The context carefully developed by Collins strongly suggests that the massacres took place and that they were well known in the area. A determined sceptic (Keith Windschuttle inevitably comes to mind) is unlikely to be satisfied unless eye-witness accounts can be produced, but what was the likelihood of a white observer putting pen to paper about bloody events in which they were likely to have been complicit? Margaret Young's testimony is a rare window into a lost reality. Another is Gideon Scott Lang’s second-hand description of the corroboree near Surat in late 1849 that he called Eaglehawk’s ‘Opera’. Designed to intimidate the whites in its depiction of their defeat and expulsion (no doubt to some effect), it was fated to be no more than wishful thinking on Bussamarai's part. One of the worst massacres was to take place there just three years later.


An interesting conceit which Collins raises in his Introduction is the congruence in experience of the Irish and the Aborigines and their consequent affinities in colonial Australia. The story of Paddy McEnroe, the 1798 rebel, and his Aboriginal ménage at Mount Abundance is a fascinating one. He seems to have found a unique rapport with the Mandandanji at a time when the entire district was on the verge of desertion by the whites in the face of their hostility. However, there is no good reason for excepting him from the campaign of vengeance waged earlier by his employer, Alan MacPherson, and the policeman Jack Durbin after the killing of the former’s servants. At a broader level, Collins’ suggestion that inaction over the Cheat Famine in Ireland and failure to protect Aborigines from the squatters of New South Wales both exemplified British ‘frugality’ is not very convincing, either, but there can be little argument with his statement that ‘different British governments allowed British citizens to take over and to profiteer from Aboriginal and Irish land’.

In an interesting attempt to find a poetic reconciliation for his tragic narrative, Collins expresses the hope that ‘somewhere they [McEnroe and Bussamarai] may have living common descendants’. Writing as an optimistic group psychologist rather than as a sceptical historian, this is his notion of how it might all be viewed in the future:


From another perspective, sometime in the distant future, the regional conflicts will almost certainly form the core of consensually shared Australian legends. Heroes from both sides will be warmly remembered and their deeds will be as celebrated as those of Brian Boru and Robert Bruce. If this should be so, the regional struggles between Indigenous Australians and the settlers can validly be compared with events such as the Anglo-Norman invasions of the ancient Celtic kingdoms.

What would the descendants of the Mandandanji have to say about that? The absence of their voices is deafening.


Bob Reece Murdoch University

Response by Patrick Collins:

Re: Paddy McEnroe: Before responding to Prof Reece’s critique, I wish to acknowledge his solving a mystery re Paddy McEnroe who lived with the Mandandanji. In Chapter 6, I mentioned (p.80) that I could not verify a link between a supposed 1798 Irish rebel named Patrick McEnroe and “Paddy McEnroe” from the Maranoa. Prof Reece located Patrick McEnroe on a list of 172 so-called Irish “convicts” who arrived on the Friendship on 11.01.1800: (MSS 144, National Library of Australia). McEnroe received a life sentence for supposedly being a member of “The United Irishmen”. As there is evidence that this list did not arrive with the Friendship or in the years that followed, it seems likely that it resurfaced in 1988 or later.

Re: Aborigines and Colonists by R.H.W. Reece: In the “Introduction” (p. xix) to Goodbye Bussamarai, I credited Professor Reece with being one of “the most significant” “amongst influential historians [who, during the 1970’s] exposed the infamy of nineteenth-century Australian racial conflicts”. Another from this group was Prof Raymond Evans from UQ, whose assessment of Goodbye Bussamarai, led to its publication.

Returning to Prof Reece, his Aborigines and Colonists (1974) is a “must read” for serious students of conflict history in this country, particularly re Governor Gipps’ term, 1838-1845. Appropriately, in Waterloo Creek (p.733), Roger Milliss referred to Reece as the “author of the seminal Aborigines and Colonists”. Rightfully so, as Reece’s book dealt with many of the issues that Milliss developed some years later. It is therefore with due deference to Prof Reece that I risked copyright infringement and published the full text of his AHAB review. As the complete text of the AHAB review is above, the reader can form his/her own opinion about the strengths or otherwise that Prof Reece has mentioned. I will not comment on aspects that he viewed favourably, except to say that I am thankful for such recognition and to confirm that it was “a labour of love”.  I will, however, comment on some sections of the review that were not positive.

Maps: I agree that some of the maps are too hard to read. This was simply an artefact of the page size chosen by UQP. When I realised there was a problem during the editorial period, I brought this to UQP’s attention and they did increase the page size, but unfortunately not enough. Accordingly, larger copies of all maps in "Goodbye Bussamarai" have now been reproduced on this site: see Menu. Please feel free to download any of these maps, which will print as A4 copies. Copyright is however retained by the author.

Leadership Versus Influence: I stand by my claim that Bussamarai’s area of influence extended as far west as the Warrego River. The evidence I cited from Hovenden Hely is sufficient to verify this. In group dynamics (and everyday English) the term “influence” means to change another person’s beliefs, feelings or behaviours. If, in so doing, we assist that person (or a group) to achieve his, her or their goals, our influence is termed “leadership”. However, “leadership” is not synonymous with “the leader”. Bussamarai influenced Aborigines who lived west of the Mandandanji. He therefore exhibited leadership in that region, but he was not their leader. On the other hand, as he influenced the Mandandanji, the Barunggam and the Jiman, and to a lesser extent the Bigambul, to unite against the squatters, he was a leader of these people, especially the Mandandanji.

Native Police: I was unaware that Prof Reece had delved into Native Police archives as a “Masters” student. If the focus of his MA was this infamous corps, it is Australia’s loss that it was not published. This in turn makes it difficult for me to accept that Reece thought that I went into too much detail on Commandant Walker and his Native Police. I did so as, apart from Les Skinner’s Police of the Pastoral Frontier and some journal articles, there is a dearth of in-depth information about this force, which ultimately destroyed life for the Mandandanji. Skinner however did not explore many aspects covered in Goodbye Bussamarai. For similar reasons, I do not know how a history of the Maranoa frontier would be complete without studies of Gideon Lang and Commissioner Roderick Mitchell.

Psychology and “the absence of any over-arching theory” [of history]:  Although not obvious to Prof Reece (and some others), I did interpret what I learned via over-arching theory, but it was not theory that is typically drawn on by historians and/or anthropologists.


The essential elements of this comprised:

  1.  Eric Berne and Claude Steiner’s notions about “scripts”: 
    Scripts are essentially pre-written roles that others have taught us. History can help us to identify the origins of many: eg “racist”, “sexist”, “religious bigot” and so on. Some modern-day scripts might include, “Neo-conservative”, “extreme left-winger”, “politically correct” and others. To live a scripted life implies that we act out “parts” unconsciously. Once our scripts are identified, we can choose to accept their central notions and assert these, or we can choose to dump them as inappropriate for the lives we wish to lead. Eg there is a vast difference between being a “religious bigot” and being an enlightened Christian who tries to live a life based on identified Christian values. In Goodbye Bussamarai I drew particular attention to the script of the “immoral ruthless competitor”, as acted out by many frontier squatters and their henchmen. I also drew attention to Aborigines who responded as moral and also ruthless competitors, but I did not present this as scripted behaviour. Their resistance to white settlement was understandable and appropriate. It was in fact similar to the resistance that our soldiers exhibited in World War II.


  2. George Kelly’s notions about “personal constructs”, especially as written of by Bannister and Fransella:  
    To Kelly, a “personal construct” differs from a “concept” in so far as it includes that which is rejected as well as that which is accepted. Eg, a definition or concept of racism identifies racist behaviours etc. However, a personal construct of racism includes related behaviours etc that we reject. Eg, my personal construct of racism, does not include giving special treatment to those who have experienced racism. However there are some who regard this as racism or “reverse racism”. A second major aspect of Kelly’s thinking is that personal constructs function as unverified, often naive scientific hypotheses. If, for instance, a person concluded (as many did) that the Irish and/or the Aborigines were inferior to whites, she/he applied that conclusion as if it were fact. There are clear links between unverified constructs and scripts. Historical truth, if it is disseminated, can therefore play a major part in identifying destructive scripts and equally destructive unverified personal constructs.


  3. Group norms:   “Group norms” are the rules (not necessarily written down, or even identified) to which we must conform to maintain membership of a group. Such norms can be either constructive or destructive. In Goodbye Bussamarai I stressed that immoral ruthlessly competitive squatters conformed to some norms that were very different from the norms of their moral contemporaries. In other words, to reject the actions of the former does not imply the rejection of all nineteenth century white Australians. Eg the norms of some frontier squatters (and many of their station hands), allowed them to rationalise the rejection of Earl Grey’s and Governor Gipps’ protective policies. Other rationalisations applied in later eras. Aborigines were soon defined as the enemy. Murder, rape, land-theft and cultural destruction were all justified by the norms of this frontier group. These norms were far more destructive than those of many pastoralists who acquired stations in the post-frontier eras. This does not excuse any destructive actions by the later group, but they cannot validly be equated with the frontier die-hards. From a different perspective, other group norms now possibly prevent many Indigenous Australians from “owning” their European ancestors and vice versa.

  4.  Aboriginal nations: The notion of what constitutes “local history” is debatable. The important issue is, anthropologists (not to mention living Indigenous Australians) have verified that different large groups of traditional Australians identified with different regions. Understandably, this identification can at times be divisive: for instance, within ATSIC in recent times. Accordingly, there are sound reasons for historians to record the history of each region in detail. This is probably self-evident to most people, but many regions have yet to receive detailed coverage, which obviously extends beyond the limited period (1842-1852) covered in Goodbye Bussamarai.

I attempted to combine all of the above in Goodbye Bussamarai. However, I make no apology for my relative ignorance of anthropology and, therefore, a dearth of related content. My intention was to present the frontier facts of East Maranoa and adjacent regions in such a way that any interested person, regardless of race, could use those facts for self-understanding, and as part of reconciliation process.


Whether or not individuals will examine their scripts and the validity of their personal constructs is out of my control. As with any personal change, this will only come about when the need arises. Having said that, I will illustrate how this process operated in my own life. I hope the following is not intrusive but it is relevant to why I drew on Irish history in Goodbye Bussamarai.

Some readers have concluded that I pushed the Catholic barrow in Goodbye Bussamarai, especially in the “Introduction”. Perhaps I should have declared that I have been an atheist since I was a pre-teen. Also, I was automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church for marrying a Methodist in a Methodist church. From that day, the majority of my Catholic relations have not wanted to know me. My naïve reaction was, “bugger the bigots: who needs them?” However, my attitudes became more accepting from reading Eric Berne’s and Claude Steiner’s books on scripts.


These, and texts on Irish history, taught me the constructive part that the Catholic Church had played in uniting the Irish against the British. It is true that many priests took the English shilling, but there were others who were genuine leaders. Many Protestant Irish, such as the Tasmanian exile John Mitchell, also took leadership roles, but my problem was with Catholicism. My turning point came when I learned that my Irish forebears, including those who migrated to Australia in the 1850’s and later, were regarded as inferior beings by the British and by many Australians also. Learning that most devout Irish Catholics had previously been ordered to live beyond the Shannon added to my empathy, as did learning that many had been massacred by Cromwell and his followers.


Land theft, the banning of the Gaelic language and the withholding of education added to this. But all of this was capped by the starvation of a million Irish during the famine of the late 1840’s, when another two million migrated, mostly to the USA. As has been written by others, it is true that the potato crop failed, but it was the British who created the famine, by allowing life-saving food to be exported from Ireland. Also, under Lord John Russell, financial assistance was limited to token levels. So what am I saying?

I have never felt enmity towards living English persons nor towards living Protestant Australians: rivalry towards the “Poms”, yes, but not enmity. Also, I have never been molested by a Catholic. I simply rejected the constraints of Catholicism, perhaps with irrational passion. By taking the time to understand its place in history and in my family members’ scripts, including my own, I removed an albatross from my life. Accordingly, I believe other historical insights could remove a lot of unwanted Albatrosses that flew in on the winds of Australian frontier conflicts and later.  I do not believe that this alone will solve this country’s racial problems. However, I find it difficult to accept that Indigenous and European Australians will ever build all the necessary bridges to harmony, if ignorance of history is accepted.

Re legends of the future: I confess that my comments re “consensually shared Australian legends” is a desire without supporting evidence. However, in late 2002, I was pleasantly surprised during a talk that I gave to some Mandandanji at Roma. One of these, Russell Kelly, who believes he is a descendant of Bussamarai, expressed great interest in Paddy McEnroe also. I was left with no doubt that Russell would like to discover that Paddy was another of his ancestors.

Patrick Collins.

28 April, 2003

The following extracts are from a review published in Australian Aboriginal Studies 2002/2, pp.89-90.

Goodbye Bussamarai: The Mandananji land war, 
Southern Queensland 1842-1852, 
Patrick Collins. R

Reviewed by Neville Green, research historian and author of Forrest River Massacres, Cottesloe, Western Australia,

Patrick Collins' book makes a valuable contribution to the current debate over the extent of frontier violence. It is also a useful pastoral history of southern Queensland ...

It not just another history of violence. Collins has been meticulous in researching the early explorations and leasing of vast estates that were legalised by the Wasteland Acts of 1842 and 1846. But, as Collins observes with some sadness, the clause in these statutes that gave Aborigines legal access onto pastoral leases, insisted upon by the Colonial Secretary Earl Grey, was ignored from the outset by the colonial administration and the pastoralists.

The title, Goodbye Bussamarai, refers to a little known figure of history. For most of the book he is one of hundreds of nameless people who lived, fought and died for their land in southern Queensland. The choice of Bussamarai is explained in the introduction. He was the only named person, white or Indigenous present in the region throughout the ten years of what Collins described as the Mandandanji Land War. On the Australian frontier, European settlers had names, while the Aborigines beyond the station boundaries were nameless figures, and within the boundaries they were given names of the squatter's choosing. Nearly all the Aboriginal men and women who died or moved away in this tragic decade are symbolised in the one name: Bussamarai.

For the professional reader the book is thoroughly referenced, well indexed and has an excellent bibliography. Events are seen through the eyes and journals of different characters, some eyewitness, some hearsay, some reliable and some suspect. And all from the side that had much to hide. Even Collins had difficulty sorting fact from fiction and after a while the uncertainty becomes a distraction. Also, without a chronology of violent encounters or a table of some sort, it is difficult for the reader to follow these events when the same story is told from different sources.

Patrick Collins carries into his history his great­grand parents' Irish demons. He sees parallels in the persecution and dispossession of the Irish and the Aborigines. The concept is interesting except that the Irish were part of that violent frontier. They were also, as Collins shows with Paddy McEnroe, sexually active amongst the Mandandanji women. There was no ethnic division of good or bad Europeans. If they didn't actually commit crimes against Aborigines, they were part of the conspiracy to conceal them.

Books such as Goodbye Bussamarai bring to mind the view of a few historians who believe that war memorials across the nation could carry a simple inscription to acknowledge those who died in warfare in Australian as well as those who died on foreign soil. Until it is accepted that the Australian frontier was a war zone, reconciliation of the past with present will continue to be an elusive goal.


Response by Patrick Collins:
I am very thankful to Neville Green for his many positive comments, some of which are included above. I was particularly pleased with his discussion of the symbolic value of Bussamarai's name in the title. Nothing would please me more than to see it on a monument in the Maranoa. So far as Neville's reservations are concerned, they are all have validity. A chronology such as that in Milliss's Waterloo Creek, would have made reading easier. So far as his comments re my Irish demons are concerned, there was irony in his associated comment: Neville's ancestors were also Irish. That aside, nothing changes. Other than revealing the truth, as I discover it, I cannot undo the effects of what Paddy McEnroe or my ancestors did, which hopefully was far less damaging than the violence of the frontier squatters.



3 April, 2003

Overland No.170, March 2003, published Dr Bill Thorpe’s review of Goodbye Bussamarai, together with a small copy of the cover. Overland at is said to “have a tradition of publishing hard-hitting articles that shed new light on issues of public concern”. Dr Thorpe is “a visiting fellow and adjunct senior lecturer at Flinders University of South Australia”. He is author of Colonial Queensland: Perspectives on a frontier society, UQP, 1996.

Some extracts from Bill Thorpe’s review, together with responses by Patrick Collins follow.

Essential Reading for massacre denialists
By Bill Thorpe.


Goodbye Bussamarai: the Mandandanji Land War, Southern Queensland1842-1852, UQP [2002].

“If ever a book could convince those who forget or deny the facts about the often bloody and violent way in which Australia was ‘settled’ would have to be Patrick Collins’s account of the ‘Mandandanji homeland’ ...

“Collins’s regional study is the most detailed and scholarly reconstruction of the sites of conflict, violence and fatal encounters between Aborigines and settlers ever published about the Queensland frontier and, to the best of my knowledge, for Australia...”

“Goodbye Bussamarai is both a history and an exemplar of historical method....”

Dr Thorpe’s long review included other very positive comments together with his reasons for forming his conclusions. He also had “three reservations”. He was not convinced that the title was appropriate as Bussamarai “is a somewhat fleeting presence”.

Secondly, he thought the book was one in which “documentary positivism almost overwhelms narratives and events”: qualifying this with, “This latter judgement is probably more of comment about this reviewer than Collins.”

Thirdly, “Collins never fully develops in his analysis his counselling and psychological insights ...”

Dr Thorpe also commended “the publishers and those who recommended Goodbye Bussamarai’s publication”. The full review is of course available from Overland, who can be contacted on their web site above.

Author’s Response to Dr Bill Thorpe:

As Goodbye Bussamarai is my first book, I admit to having felt a little awe-struck when I read Bill Thorpe’s review. To have received it from a very successful historian was all the more pleasing. Having said that, I was a little surprised. Unknown to Bill Thorpe, I learned a great deal from his Colonial Queensland, eg. from his chapter titled “Postcolonialism, Australian S/studies and the “social-material”.


I also drew on his knowledge of a notorious Queensland premier, Arthur Palmer, and his white “kinship connections”. However, it is to Bill Thorpe’s credit that he did not ‘take umbrage’ over my reporting a minor error he made re Native Police. Errors of fact are inevitable when writing history. I have already learned of some in Goodbye Bussamarai (see “More Info” in the menu). The important issue is, it is sufficient to correct these ASAP without resorting to pejoratives such as “fabrication”. Bill Thorpe took the feedback and got on with the job at hand.

I was particularly pleased to have received such positive feedback about what Bill Thorpe referred to as “scrupulous empirical spadework”, as I tried to do this over a period of seven years. This was a luxury in which I was able to indulge as a direct result of taking early retirement. If I was successful in achieving this, it casts some doubt on the academic requirement to “publish or perish” that imposes restrictions on the vast majority of academics, who could produce more impressive major works if only they had the time without the pressure.

Dr Thorpe’s three reservations:

1. The title: Other reviewers have also queried my including Bussamarai’s name in the title, as the elder does not feature throughout the text. This is true but only because of a lack of records. In reality, Bussamarai would have been omnipresent on the East Maranoa frontier but I was not prepared to fill in the gaps by speculation.

2. Re “Occasionally documentary positivism almost overwhelms narratives and events”. I agree totally with this. Put it down to inexperience on my part. I could have, for instance, made more use of superscripts and associated endnotes.

3. Re a shortfall in my “analysis” using my “counselling and psychological insights”: How far to take this was a dilemma for me. I was, for instance, familiar with Michael Sturma’s article on Vietnam, which is mentioned by Dr Thorpe. This is acknowledged in my “Bibliography”.


Also, an early draft of Goodbye Bussamarai included a great deal more psychological content than the published version. However, and rightly or wrongly, I accepted feedback from a manuscript assessor who suggested that I cut back on this. I guess I played it safe and essentially confined the psychological input to group dynamics, especially the effects of group norms in producing conforming behaviour on the part of group members: primarily the frontier settlers and the absentee overly-competitive squatters. Perhaps, as suggested by Dr Thorpe, others will add to this. I hope they do.

April, 2003

A review of Goodbye Bussamarai by Ian Crawford, was published in Australian Historical Studies, April 2003, Vol 121, pp.189-190.

Australian Historical Studies {Email] is a refereed journal dealing with Australian, New Zealand and Pacific regional issues.


First published in 1940, it is now one of Australia's oldest and best known academic journals, receiving contributions from leading academics in the field. The journal welcomes contributions bearing upon any aspect of the Australian past, including the recent past. Australian Historical Studies is published biannually by the University of Melbourne in April and October each year and is supported by the Faculty of Arts. It is also supported by the Faculties of Arts of Monash University, La Trobe University, Victoria University of Technology and the Faculty of Art, Design and Communication, RMIT. 

Ian Crawford is a prominent West Australian historian. We Won the Victory, published 2001, is an account of contact between the indigenous inhabitants of the north-west Kimberley and various intruders—fishermen, European explorers, pearlers, pastoralists and missionaries. 


Response by Patrick Collins:

The greater part of Ian Crawford’s review is a perceptive and much appreciated annotated précis of the content of Goodbye Bussamarai. I appreciate his stating that “the book is a valuable contribution to the history of Aboriginal dispossession", but I feel I should comment as follows.

I did not state that Lieutenant Fulford was a psychopath but I can understand why Ian formed this conclusion. Fulford was a rather pathetic failed squatter, who turned to the Native Police and the grog to find some meaning to his life, which came to an end soon after Bussamarai died.

I do not understand why Ian commented on a lack of anthropological input, given that I stated in the introduction that I did not have the competency to do this. Of more importance to me however is, Ian quoted me as saying, “I do not feel guilt for the actions of past generations”, but omitted that I prefixed this with, “I support the notion of an apology.” My point was, and still is, I do not take the blame for what others did, including my own ancestors. However, I do believe reparations are in order. My personal contribution includes Goodbye Bussamarai, which took seven years to write. To me, such books are in some ways more constructive than the memorial to Bussamarai that I proposed.


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