Exit of Tunnel Creek

Tunnel Creek is one of the most captivating things to do on your Gibb River adventure. The tunnel itself is amazing and has a fascinating history.

The water in the tunnel can vary in depth according to the previous wet season.  With small children, they will have to ride on their parent’s shoulders.  This trip we visited in August and the water was up to my waist in parts but mostly you are walking along high and dry.

Parts of the tunnel are so old and cathedral-like, it is truly an amazing experience.  The walk is only a 2-kilometre return walk.  At the end of the tunnel is a beautiful creek and even some ancient rock art.

Scroll down to see some photos.

Jandamarra and the Bunuba resistance

Excerpt from the Information Boards on-site

For ten years from 1185, the Bunuba prevented the colonisation by squatters occupying their hill country through “hit and run” attacks on sheep and stockman’s huts.

Police patrols shot Bunuba people if suspected of stealing, harbouring wanted men or threatening the police troopers.

Jandamarra was a young Bunuba man at the time of the first white colonisation of the Kimberley. He was banished by the Bunuba for sexual encounters with women denied to him by the cultural law of his people.

Jandamarra crossed over to station life, learning English, working with stock, horsemanship and shooting. However, he became greatly attracted to the secret life of the Bunuba male world of ritual, mythology, sacred sites and the law of the Bunuba country.

Under the influence of his Bunuba Elders and his initiation, Jandamarra left station life to pursue his Aboriginality. He took up stock-killing raids, was arrested and spent two years in Derby prison.

In 1891 Jandamarra returned to station life at Lillimooloora, temporarily turning his back on his Aboriginality, entering into a life of promiscuity.

With shepherd friend and a Police constable, Bill Richardson, he mixed stock work with tracking Aboriginal people and holding them at the Lillimooloora Police Outpost.

Over the next few years, the prisoners put intense pressure on Jandamarra to honour his Bunuba cultural responsibilities. He was caught between two worlds.

On the night of October 31, 1894, Jandamarra shot Richardson, released the prisoners and distributed the weapons. He had finally chosen to champion his Bunuba people.

The Bunuba armed resistance

Excerpt from the Information Boards on-site

Jandamarra took on the command of the armed resistance of the Bunuba people

At Windjana Gorge on November 7, 1894, Jandamarra appeared on top of a rock and shot drovers Burke and Gibbs.  Bunuba warriors seized the weapons and ammunition from their wagon.

In Derby, the population of 60 demanded retribution.  Special constables with “discretionary powers” declared war against the rebellious uprising.  Most Aboriginal people had seen family members slaughtered and chose to stay within the protective sanctuary of the pastoral homesteads.

An armed force of 28 entered the eastern entrance of Windjana Gorge.  Bunuba and police exchanged fire for over eight hours.

Jandamarra was shot 3 times.  Over one hundred Bunuba men, women and children retreated under cover of Jandamarra’s rifle fire.

Jandamarra hid in a cave at Windjana where he was nursed by his mother Jinny and “wife” Mayannie.  When strong enough they walked to the greater safety here at Tunnel Creek where the cave entrances are hidden by boulders and shaded by trees.

The police retaliated with massacres of Bunuba people at Geike Gorge, Margaret River, the foothills of the Leopold Range and within the Fitzroy Valley.  Officially 84 were shot.  Aboriginal descendants believe it is several hundred between 1894 and March 1895.

These killings triggered by the Windjana Gorge shoot outweighed heavily upon Jandamarra.  He changed tactics to non-violent resistance.

Image from the Information Boards on-site

Aboriginal people held in chains

Jandamarra’s Last Stand

Excerpt from the Information Boards on-site

Jandamarra was killed at Tunnel Creek after leading the Bunuba armed resistance to the invasion of Bunuba country.  Reconciliation continues today.

Jandamarra and the Bunuba turned to taunting the settlers and police for over 2 years of non-violent resistance to the invasion of their country.

The Bunuba saw Jandamarra now possessing magical powers.  Stockmen, to drive the cattle and Aboriginal guides could be found as they feared Jandamarra.  The pastoral occupation of Bunuba lands could only proceed with his death.

In 18896 black trooper, Micki was recruited from the Pilbara.  He was also believed to have secret spiritual powers.  Micki, unafraid of Jandamarra, was inspired to take him on.

Near Tunnel Creek Micki on a police patrol spied Jandamarra’s footprints.  When the patrol sighted Jandamarra he ran alone towards the cliffs exchanging rifle fire with Micki in pursuit.  Jandamarra fell wounded but escaped through the tall grass.  He returned to Tunnel Creek to heal his wounds.

Later Micki returned to follow his trail of blood and waited outside the tunnel.  On the morning of April 1, 1897, Jandamarra appeared on the top of a limestone pillar before the opening of Tunnel Creek and fired at Micki who was shielded by a large boab.  Micki returned fire.  Jandamarra staggered and fell 30m to his death.

Jandamarra’s death marked the end of the Bunuba resistance that had commenced many years prior to the armed uprising.

Today we are much nearer to reconciliation as the Bunuba people have acquired station properties, purchased and developed businesses in Fitzroy Crossing and through the Bunuba Park Council are jointly managing national parks and other conservation reserves with DeC.