Memories of the Coniston Massacre

Accession Number AWM2020.771.1
Collection type Art
Measurement Unframed: 120.5 x 166.5 cm
Object type Painting
Physical description mixed media on board
Maker Tennant Creek Brio
Place made Australia: Northern Territory, Tennant Creek
Date made 2019

Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright


'Memories of Coniston' is collaborative work by Fabian Brown, Joseph Williams and Simon Wilson who are three members of the Tennant Creek Brio artist collective based in the Barkley regional town of Tennant Creek, located in Waramungu country in the Northern Territory.

It features a larger than life portrait (in profile) of Constable William George Murray (1884-1975). On either side is text in English and Warlpiri. Writ large in a bold, graffiti style it is a heartfelt testimony that commemorates the artist Fabian Brown’s Grandfather, Charlie Limbiari Jagamara’s family members who were killed by Constable Murray and his party during the Coniston Massacre of 1928.

Charlie Limbiari was one of two brothers who as small children managed to escape death by climbing a tree and hiding from Murray’s party. The brothers were so sacred that they ran away as far as Bargo mission.

The language inscribed on either side of the portrait is Warlpiri and translates as: ‘“In 1928, My Grandfather old Charlie Limbiari’s Families were taken away by this bastard who had a rifle. He massacred at the whole lot of poor aboriginal people. Poor buggers them mob. He was not even a man, little idiot – they were just minding their own business, not knowing what’s coming, but he just kept on hitting them, poor things.'

The Coniston Massacre on Warlpiri/Anmatyerr/Kaytetye lands west of Alice Springs (south of Warramungu country) was the last documented massacre in Australia. It occurred in October 1928 following the discovery of the murder of a white dingo trapper, Fred Brooks, on Coniston Station. The following reprisal killings carried out by civilians and police was led by a First World War veteran, Mounted Constable George Murray. It resulted in the deaths of more than 60 Aboriginal men, women and children over several locations in the Central Desert region. The 1928 Coniston massacre is recent history and commemorated throughout the region - the trauma and legacy of the event lives large in contemporary memory.