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MEDIA ARTICLES: This section does not include reviews that have appeared in various media. See "Reviews" for these.


Words - Rodney Chester
Picture - Suzanna Clarke

This article was published in the Courier Mail, Saturday, 4 January, 2003,  BAM Supplement, Page 8

A history buff has ensured the story of an Aboriginal resistance leader will not stay buried....

Ask Patrick Collins a question and he instantly starts searching through his stack of ancient records, aged journals and history theses for the evidence to support his response.

Perhaps this obsession with sourcing his conversations is because he has come from outside into the world of historical research and writing.

Collins has indulged his passion for history to write 'Goodbye Bussamarai', the tale of a powerful Aboriginal resistance leader who led the fight against the squatters in the western Maranoa near the Balonne River.

Perhaps it's the debate sparked by Keith Windschuttle's 'The Fabrication of Aboriginal History' and preceding articles, which has focused attention on the use and interpretation of original sources.

Or maybe it is simply because Collins is now in the habit of uncovering and exposing details of our country's violent past.

Collins, a phycologist and student counsellor, retired at the age of 50 in 1988 and found he had time on his hands. But when son Mitch bought the pub at Muckadilla, he embarked on a project. It was suppose to be a small project.

Mitch was decorating the pub's restaurant with plaques of the area's history and there was very little information about events before squatters moved into the area in the 1850's.

"I couldn't find anyone who knew about Aboriginal history in the district" Collins says, "And how can you do this without a panel on the Aborigines in the district."

That was in 1990. By the next year he realised he had uncovered a story that needed a greater canvas than a plaque on a country pub wall. And it was about a decade later that the book was picked up by a publisher.

In between there was the slow tracking down of original source material and putting together of the pieces.

One of the key parts of the puzzle, Collins says, was determining the identity of the Mandandanji leader whose influence spread across an area in this country about the size of England.

In some accounts, he is old Billy. In others, he is Possum Murray, Eaglehawk, Combo and Bussamarai. And the truth is, Collins admits, none of them is right.

'Although this man was one of the most effective Aboriginal resistance leaders, it appears that no white person recorded his name accurately," he says.

Collins says his historical text is a narrative compiled entirely from original documents. It is his first book, with his writing background consisting mainly of freelance journalism for off-road car magazines.

Collins admits that before he began his research, his knowledge of indigenous history in the area was "like the rest of us - non existent."

'Goodbye Bussamarai' was published before Windschuttle's recent book attacked historians for taking the Aborigine's side in the national debate about whether there was indigenous genocide.

And Collins strongly rejects the accusation that he has taken anyone's side in his analysis and reportage of the events, ort that the tales of a land war between squatters and Aborigines is a fabrication.

"There is evidence that some frontier squatters did regards themselves as being at war with the Aborigines," Collins says.


DEDICATED to history ... Patrick Collins thumbs through his research material.

"Frederick Walker, the commandant of the native police in the north, believed that several Aboriginal tribes formed an alliance to attack the squatters on the Condamine and elsewhere.

"To deny that there was warfare in the frontiers is to deny the evidence."

'Goodbye Bussamarai'  focuses on a short period in a specific area, namely the decade from 1842 in the East Maranoa.

And, for the first five years, nothing happened. Specifically, there are no reports of people injured or killed in inter-racial fights in the area, despite more than 100 whites passing through the area.

But violence erupted within weeks of the first station being settled.

Collins says an "all-out war" in the area between the aborigines and white squatters had started by the end of 1847. He says Bussamarai and other local indigenous people attacked stations on the Macintyre, Condamine and Balonne rivers, and aggressive responses from native police resulted in several massacres.

Collins estimated the Aboriginal death toll in clashes with settlers and various forces in the East Maranoa was at least 150, and perhaps double or even more.

On the other side of the ledger, the Mandandanji killed nine white and at least two black station hands in East Maranoa and took part in the killing of up to seven white men in the Lower Condamine.

The figures do not account for indigenous deaths cause by other factors such as introduced diseases, alcohol and opium.

The native police killed Bussamarai in 1852, reporting that they had found the rebel leader while looking for those responsible for injuring cattle on a squatter's station. Collins says Bussamarai was not the first rebel leader to be  killed by police after being accused of injuring cattle and is suspicious of the reports.

"Based on the history of what was going on at the time, I would be very surprised if the object at the time wasn't to kill him," Collins says.

While Windschuttle is unlikely to welcome the dark tale of Queensland's history brought to life in Collins's well-researched book, descendants of the Mandandanji fighters are glad of his efforts.

After reading a review of the book Russell Kelly contacted Collins. Kelly is a Mandandanji  and possibly a descendant of Bussamarai, and is working towards having a Bussamarai festival in the area to mark the  struggles of the indigenous people. And it was only in reading Collins's book that Kelly discovered the story of Bussamarai.

While the rebel leader was apparently well known in his time, and was referred to in a public lecture 14 years after his death, Collins said his story of his heroic fight for his land was buried and almost forgotten in the years when it was deemed there could be no such thing as a heroic black.

'Goodbye Bussamarai - The Mandandanji Land War, Southern Queensland 1842-1852'by Patrick Collins (University of Queensland Press, $34)

PRESS RELEASE - 1/11/02:

by Amanda Campbell

This article was published in the Western Star, Friday, November 1, 2002, Page 8.


A book written about the land lying between the pre­sent day towns of Goondi­windi, Condamine, Miles Roma, Mitchell, Surat and St George is helping connect local Aboriginal people with their ancestry.

Author of 'Goodbye Bussamarai ', Patrick Collins, also a psychologist, was eager to learn the truth about white settlements in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales due to his family connections and recent developments in Australian history.

His maternal great-grandparents Richard and Mary Burke established stations on the Culgoa and Paroo Rivers in the late 19th century.

The interest led to Goodbye Bussamarai a narrative compiled entirely from original documents.

Helping local Aboriginal people learn more about their ancestors in the district recently was author Patrick Collins who wrote 'Goodbye Bussamarai'.

"My son Mitch Collins was the publican at the Muckadilla Pub from 1990 to 1996 and I started researching about the therapeu­tic bore that use to be located in that area," Mr Collins said.

"The interest just grew and I then began a research project that ended up lasting seven years."


The text concentrates on the late 1840's and early 1850's in an era known as the Mandandanji Land War of southern Queens­land. With local Aboriginal ancestry interest in the book, family names including Cubbis and Hippi were revealed.

"The more I delved into the research the more amazing the story became," he said. "Many of the aborigines knew nothing about their backgrounds, and the next thing to do was to make sure that they got to know."

The story concentrates on how a few overly competitive squatters dealt with equally competitive Aborigines, who did not want to lose their land. The tools of the squatters were a small number of ruthless station hands, who did whatever they had to do to survive.


Helping local Aboriginal people learn more about their ancestors in the district recently was author Patrick Collins who wrote 'Goodbye Bussamarai'.

This led to the arrival of Frederick Walker's "Native Police," Aboriginal troopers led by white officers.

This force was intended to bring peace to the frontiers but it soon became another, but more potent tool of the squatters and their henchmen.

The story continues to tell the story of Bussamarai, a dynamic Aboriginal leader from the Balonne, who unified aboriginal resistance.


He and his associates attacked stations on the Macintyre, Condamine and the Balonne Rivers. Stations on tributaries such as the Weir, Dulacca and Muckadilla were equally at risk.

"My wife and I walked all the stations whose land was involved in the land wars We spent weeks and weeks and drove thousands of kilometres going to the sites."


The book also tells of concerted responses by the Native Police, often with station-hands and squatters that resulted in massacres on the Macintyre, Yuleba and Balonne.


Bussamarai, because of his wide-ranging influence, soon became a target of the Native Police who killed him by Yalebone Creek. Surprisingly while few white people felt safe from the marauding Mandandanji, Bigambul and Barunggam people, a lone white settler Paddy McEnroe survived.

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