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Skeleton Creek

Skeleton Creek Cairns

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Skeleton Creek Cairns History

Skeleton Creek Cairns north of Edmonton is thought by many to have gained its name from being to scene of a notorious massacre. In fact, initially the name Skeleton Creek was chosen after a European on horseback discovered a human skeleton near the creek.

A Mr. Hill led the Cairns Prospecting Expedition through the area in 1878. Hill saw a skeleton in the area and consequently named the creek ‘Skeleton Creek’. Hill himself interacted cordially with the Traditional Owners, the Yidinji people.

However, in a tragically ironic twist of history, seven years later the creek was the location of a massacre of a number of Aboriginal men.

Skeleton Creek Cairns Massacre

The massacre of 1884 was recounted by Mr. Jack Kane, who had arrived in Cairns in 1882. He described it thus, “At Skull Pocket police officers and native trackers surrounded a camp of blacks before dawn, each man armed with a rifle and revolver. At dawn one man fired into their camp and the natives rushed away in three other directions. They were easy running shots, close up. The native police rushed in with their scrub knives and killed off the children.”

He added, “I didn’t mind the killing of the “bucks’ but I didn’t quite like them braining the kids.”

The heads of the dead were cut off and left on stakes for all to see, to send the message not to fight back. The victims of this massacre were some from the Traditional Owner tribe of this area, the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people. 

The events and details around the massacre (and the context in which it took place) are well covered by Historian Timothy Bottoms in The Frontier Series.

Skeleton Creek Massacre
Skeleton Creek Massacre Remembered

Skulls Taken

Some of the skulls of those murdered were eventually sent back to England to be ‘studied’ so Europeans could gather a better understanding of these beings from Australia. We would later see them returned to country and put to rest. There were no treaties made with the traditional owners at this time; in fact, they were barely seen as human.

The mistreatment, abuse and murder of many traditional owners remains a dark stain on Australia’s history and this was no different in the Far North. Indeed the ‘frontier mentality’ of the settlers remained long after other regions had established a more peaceful mindset.

What happened at Skeleton Creek?

A number of aboriginal people from the Traditional Owners of the area, the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people were murdered at Skeleton Creek.

Skeleton creek cairns map

Skeleton Creek Cairns Overpass

A new pedestrian overpass is proposed where the creek crosses under the highway. The Skeleton Creek Cairns Overpass will enhance safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

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