The View From Mount Clarence

A look back at settlement along Western Australia's South Coast

Interlude Pursued – Part 2

Originally Published 19 August 2014;

And Yandawalla and Mulyall, who were they?


Unknown Noongar BrothersAbove: Unknown Noongar Brothers from an unknown origin. The photograph was taken from the Kaartdijin Noongar – Noongar Culture website. The men look to be brothers and look to be carrying the spoils of a recent hunt. There are so few photographs of the people these pages are concerned with and typically next to none of the old photographs featuring Aboriginal people carry the subject’s names anyway. I’ve decided to use this one because the men here would seem to be around the ages of Mulyall and Yandawalla at the time of Cocanarup while the image lends itself to the conversation at large on account of its apparent time period.

Yandawalla, also known as Yungala, was the man believed to have speared John Dunn.

Like, our grandfather had two wives. He had our grandmother first, and her name was Monkey. Her name was Ngoorir (Ngurer) someone reckoned, but everybody says Monkey. Terrible really, but we all say it Kim, we all use the name the white man gave her.


She was born in Ravensthorpe, and that was all her family what them fellas got. It was Monkey’s brother, Yandawalla, that killed Dunn, you know, for what he was doing to the women.


Apart from the above quote from Hazel Brown (Kayang and Me, Pg 82) there is very little to suggest who Yandawalla was and why Dartambaum brought him in to his plan to do away with John Dunn. If Dartambaum ever intended to attack John Dunn specifically, because that point will always be debatable.

There is nothing in any of the genealogies under the name Yungala or a name that sounds or might look like Yungala. There is an entry for Yandawalla however, but it was not recorded by the anthropologists Bates, Laves or Tindale. The Yandawalla entry appears in the Bob Howard Genealogies as a result of the above quotation, describing him as the only son of Mulyabang, or Watbarong as he was also known, a significant patriarch, some of whose daughters form the basis of  well-known South Coast Aboriginal families today.

What is curious is that Yandawalla, once discharged from trial in 1881, does not appear in any other records and where as his sisters are all recorded by Bates, his name comes only as a late anecdotal addition to the family list cited by the respected Wirloman (Wheelman) Noongar elder, Hazel Brown.  Mrs Brown should know as she is descended from Ngurer and Pirrup, both of whom were well known at Jarramungup Station during the period in question and about whom she speaks with Kim Scott in her family history book, Kyang and Mecited above.

I’m exploring this because of something Walter Dunn said under cross-examination during the trial.

Walter Dunn - I don't know the prisoner at all -Above: An excerpt from Walter Dunn’s examination  during the Regina Vrs Yungala trial where Walter says of Yungala; ‘I don’t know the prisoner at all. I am not acquainted with that name. I think he belongs further back by his appearance.’


Further back‘ is a direct reference to the inland ‘wild‘ or  ‘Bardock’ tribe I talked about in the previous post. Walter Dunn seems to be saying Yandawalla was not of the  people he was used to seeing around Cocanarup but someone from a different, inland tribe. It’s impossible to simply accept that as truth but it does lend support to my belief the desert people were in amongst the Wudjari at that time and even more so that Dartambaum was connected to them.

I should also add at this point that in the Herald report on Yungala’s trial, Yungala was described as being from Eucla.


Yungala, a native of Eucla, was charged with the murder of John Dunn, a settler at Esperance Bay.

The Herald, Saturday, 29 October, 1881


Eucla, in terms of policing districts, was anywhere east of Israelite Bay, just as Cocanarup and the Phillips River, though a hundred or more miles west of the actual police out-station, were categorised as belonging to Esperance Bay.

The identification and positioning of an individual is not as simple at that though. It never is. Yandawalla may have appeared to Walter Dunn as a wild Bardock, someone from ‘further back’, but what are looks alone? Genes carry. If Yandawalla was desert culture, was Ngadju, and Hazel Brown’s ancestor too, then his pedigree would show that. But it doesn’t. His pedigree, as son of Mulyabang and Kwerdap, places him firmly as Noongar, amongst the Wheelman, Koreng or Wudjari tribes, the same as his sisters.

You see what we’re dealing with? Looking for the absolute truth this far away in time is next to futile. There is no way of knowing everything, especially from the position of researcher. As researcher, all I can do is look for and explore the recorded evidence. All I can do is try and recreate a picture from what I can find in the literature and archives. From that it looks like Yungala was from east of Esperance. However, just one or two paragraphs from a book like Kayang and Me (as above) is indication enough of the conversations about Cocanarup which have been taking place within Aboriginal circles for over a hundred and thirty years now and there is a whole world of difference between them and the slow, alien block building process going on here.

Over those hundred and thirty years some of the Indigenous conversations will have rounded the absolute truth into something a little more general. Things, perhaps small but perhaps quite significant, will have been forgotten, but the larger truth, the one that has been carried down and persists is what’s important. So, does the absolute truth absolutely matter? What I’m trying to do here at times is identify individual strands of hay in what is clearly a hay bale. Is there any point? A hay bale is a hay bale and nothing’s going to change that. What’s important is not whose family, precisely, Yandawalla belongs to but that he either willingly participated or was coerced into the killing of one of the Dunn brothers and the lasting consequence of that was devastating.

Kyang book coverJust for a moment: Kyang and Me made a real impact when I first read it about five years ago. I had no idea the old Noongar families lived across such a spread as the South Coast offers. By that I mean I had no idea they were covering four-and-five-hundred-mile distances by foot maintaining family relations as if those relations lived just across town. It makes perfect sense now, but to the immigrant mind, to the mind of the everyday Albany white boy going about his business in the latter half of the 20th Century, where food was bought in the local shops and supermarkets, where schools were easily attended, where jobs could be got and whole lives could be lived pretty much within a twenty-mile by twenty-mile block, distances of even the smallest kind were covered by vehicle. The idea of walking anything like twenty miles just didn’t make sense.

When I read Kyang and Me I picked up a modern view of the academic descriptions of the old way of life. I began to understand how the Indigenous owned or held custody over their inherited land but moved across many of the individual kalas to visit their sisters and brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles and grand parents upwards of four-hundred miles away. I only then began to grasp how wildly, how fantastically rooted to the country Aboriginal people were.

Immigrant families are the opposite of that. Immigrant families leave their roots to strike out anew. When they arrive they are fundamentally alone. The elders within their group may have educated themselves to some degree about the place they had decided to make home but invariably the children grow up knowing very little about what made it, especially, as in Australia, when the original population forms such a minority. So the children grow up with a projected modern view of where they live but have no idea of what it is like to belong to an extended family, to have deep roots, to really belong to that place. They can’t understand it as a concept and know nothing of the feeling that goes with it. As a returned immigrant, someone who turned his back on the migrant experience because something he couldn’t identify was missing, I can make that assertion and stand by it.

Of course most immigrant children don’t turn their backs and walk off. Most stay, most claim the place as their own, attach themselves to it, by hook or by crook, because there is still much to love about it and because not everyone wants to wear defeat.

Defeat isn’t easy to take, is it?

The varying skin colours, the damaged housing estates, ill maintained cars, bare feet, wanderlust, drunkenness and destitution I saw as a kid threw me. But there was more going on than just that. I was ADHD, son of an aggressive masochistic old school catholic father and a mother struggling to cope with that very isolation I just described. We were middle class, out-and-out, but hardly the model happy family.

Getting back to the Noongar presence I witnessed as a kid in Albany, the varying skin colour, the damaged housing estates, ill maintained cars, bare feet, wanderlust, drunkenness and destitution bore no resemblance to the old Indigenous lifestyles I now understand as having existed, as having pre-existed all that. The world my immigrant family stepped into during the 1960’s and 1970’s at Albany may have been the very lowest point in the story arc of the new Noongar age. The nadir, absolute worst of it, when all was expended and nothing was left. Since then, I think, there’s been a reclamation and much of that is due to Government recognition and the slow process of attempting to reverse the wrong.

Anyway, back on subject. If Yandawalla was the son of  Mulyabang then he and Mulyall would have been around the same age. In the way that old Noongar families worked, men and women might have three of four partnerships during the course of their lives. Invariably, at least two of those relationships occurred during the woman’s child bearing years so there were often many children who shared step-relations.  An example of this can be seen through the connection between Dartambaum and Mulyabang, both prominent men of the central south coast. Remember, Dartambaum was father to Mulyall while Mulyabang was father to Yandawalla.

POSTSCRIPT 08/10/2014 Refer to the bottom of this page regarding the relationship between Mulyal and Dartambaum which since time of writing has been shown to be incorrect.


Noongar man and wife - HistoricAbove: This photograph, also without recognition of its subjects, comes from the Kaartdijin Noongar – Noongar Culture website as well.  It is of a traditional Noongar man and his wife. Back in the days of traditional practice Noongar men gained their first wife when they were about 30. The marriage would have been arranged for many years, perhaps even before the woman was born. The women were only girls, around thirteen or fourteen years old, when they were given as brides. This picture is a graphic illustration of that. Traditionally, marriage arrangemnets were made along very strict lines of physical compatibility. Australian Aborigines, as a consquence of their low numbers, knew the importance of  remote bloodlines and devised methods of  simple but effective identification. Crossing moiety laws was never a good thing.


Dartambaum’s wife after Anna Ryan/White was Yungurt or Yejan, with whom he had three boys and a girl. The youngest of those boys was Mulyall.  Mulyall was the man who arrested Yandawalla and brought him in to P.C. George Truslove at the Esperance Police out-station. There is a place on the far upper reaches of the Jerdacuttup River, north of the Ravensthorpe Range, called Moolyall Rocks. This place is named after Mulyall when he was eventually tracked down and shot there, apparently by an Aboriginal tracker named Johnny Wall,  in 1905. (Bradby – A Park In Perpsective; 1989).


Moolyall Rocks - BonzleAbove:  Mulyall was reportedly shot dead at a place now known as Moolyall Rocks on the upper Jerdacuttup River in 1905. Mulyall’s life looks to have been spent mostly on the run. He served several terms at Rottnest Island and also spent time in the North West. His death mirrors his father Dartamabaum’s who was also shot dead after lifting a spear with the intention of causing harm.


Mulyall’s younger sister was Notuman, or Kitty, Dartambaum’s daughter referred to in the trial notes.

Now, Yungurt’s older sister, Kardunyiuk, had a family of four girls and three boys with her husband, Duyaryiak. One of the girls was named Kargarning, who would have been about the same age as Kitty and Mulyall. Well, Kargarning, Kitty and Mulyall’s cousin, was married with Mulyabang for a period and together they had a daughter (consider the picture above, Mulyabang was Kargarning’s first husband). But this was after Mulyabang had been with two other women, after he had had six daughters and his only son, Yandawalla.

So you can see how interconnected the wider family structures were and how tied quite large groups of people became by virtue of marriage and offspring relationships.

The point I’m making here is that, according to the information we have, Dartamabaum, Mulyall and Yandawalla were all related. Dartambaum and Mulyall directly as father and son, Dartambaum and Yandawalla as in-laws removed, and Mulyall and Yandawalla as cousins twice removed. The three main Noongar players in the unfolding Cocanarup tragedy were from the same wider family.


Noongar children - playing - black and whiteAbove: Noongar families were extended, many children shared different mothers and fathers. Girls were married very young, usually to men aged around thirty. Like every group, everywhere, there were bonds and tensions between individuals, jealousies existed as much as untainted friendships. Yandawalla and Mulyall were probably of a similar age, their common elder being Dartambaum. Dartambaum brought Yandawalla into his plan to deliver ‘payback’ to the Dunn brothers and Yandawalla, by accounts, did spear John Dunn. But it was Mulyall, Dartamabuam’s own son and second cousin to Yandawalla who put the chains on Yandawalla and brought him in for white justice, such as it was, to take effect. Did Dartambaum and Mulyall have an axe to grind with Yandawalla and his father, Mulyabang?


POSTSCRIPT: 31/8/14:   Mulyall  is recorded as arresting Yandawalla somewhere in the bush on December 12th, 1880. He led him in to the Esperance Bay Police out-station, arriving eight days later on December 20th when P.C Truslove made the corresponding entry in the Occurrence Book. Truslove, in the company of a man named James Cody then extracted an interpreted statement from Yandawalla in which Yandawalla admitted killing John Dunn under the instruction of another native called Yangee. When Yangee was tracked down in February the following year it turned out he was not involved at all, but that Yandawalla had been told by Mulyall to say it was him. Yandawalla then said it was Mulyall’s father Dartambaum, aka Jumbo, who had told him to kill Dunn, and so the search for Dartambaum commenced.

Looking through the Howard Genealogies, it appears as if Yangee may have been Yanjiwart, another elder of the same family group whose kala was the Ravensthorpe Range. Yanjiwart, according to the Bates genealogies, was Yungurt’s brother. Yungurt being Dartambaum’s wife, therefore making Yangee Mulyall’s uncle.

Dartambaum, when he came back from the trial, was partnered with Batakan. Batakan was with Dartamabaum when he was shot dead by Peter in December 1882. The suggestion therefore is that  Dartamabaum’s relationship with Yungurt had ended.

From an investigative point of view the suggestion is that Mulyall may have arrested Yandawalla in order to prevent his own arrest for the theft from the Dempster shepherd hut at Carlingup at or around the time of John Dunn’s killing twenty-five miles away. Mulyall and George (Cranky George?) had been accused of the theft by another native (named in the Occurrence Book as Hairlip) and Andrew Dempster had insisted on their being arrested and charged. It may be that Mulyall tried to protect himself  from those charges by bringing in Yandawalla, finding then he had to protect his father Dartambaum by getting Yandalwalla to say it was Yangee who instructed him to carry out the killing.

Yandawalla, who only ever gave the single statement interpreted by James Cody (subsequently ruled inadmissable by the Crown Prosecutor at the trial), comes across as something of a sacrificial lamb, simply doing what he was told all along. Across the course of this research and writing project it seems to me there was a fate or acceptance attached to the men instructed to carry out ‘payback’ killings, almost as if they could not escape it and that once they had been drawn in it was inevitable their own death would follow.

Daisy Bates recorded meeting a man at Katanning around 1905 who was from Ravensthorpe and who ‘had a grievance against the world.‘ This was Mungil. According to the Howard Genealogies, Mungil/Mongal (aka Bulyir/Buljir/Tommy) was the brother of Yungirt, Dartambaum’s wife and mother of Mulyall. Yungirt and Mongal had the same father, Warbarn. Bates doesn’t say what Mongal’s grievance was but it points back to the acts of Dartambaum, Yandawalla and Mulyall at and around Cocanarup and of the horrific fall-out brought about by the brothers of John Dunn.

Certainly, it looks as if Dartambaum and Mulyall wove a tangled web when it came to relationships and standing within their family group. It doesn’t necessarily alter the motivation Dartmbaum may have had for deciding to kill John Dunn, rather it serves to highlight the social turmoil within the group resulting from the confluence of inland militancy, coastal acceptance and settler disruption. As I said earlier, the world’s of Dartambaum and his son Mulyall were turned upside down during this critical period in Colonial settlement along the South Coast. Dartambaum, in his mid fifties, paid with his life. Mulyall, after multiple terms at Rottnest Island, eventually suffered the same fate. Mongal lived on but with great sorrow and anger.
POSTSCRIPT 15/10/14:    Following further research and the receipt of original papers from the Bates files, it appears the relationship I described between Dartambaum and Mulyal is not correct. I have addressed this in a later post. The link to it is here. This inaccuracy further illustrates the difficulty of using published material only to make assertions. It is very difficult to navigate what is a maze of European recorded names based on phonetic spellings, each of which attempts to define genetic relationships between family members but which were often taken from dual or even multiple informants. Additionally, it was typical of individuals of the era to have more than one name.

2 responses to “Interlude Pursued – Part 2”

  1. Marie Barker Avatar
    Marie Barker

    Hi Ciaran. Something I have always wondered about is how did some of the aboriginal men become “aboriginal trackers” for the police? Were they coerced? Did they do it by choice? Do you have any information about this or stories of individuals who became trackers?

    1. Avatar

      Hi Marie, yes I do. There are a few actually. Wylie, Screechowl, Bobby Roberts, George and Johnny Knapp are all good examples. From the outset there were always Aborigines inclined to associate with the newcomers. I’m convinced they did this for economic and social benefit. They made friends because they thought it was a good idea but didn’t really understand the way that friendship would undermine their wider community. As time progressed the settler authorities ‘appointed’ Native Constables usually by coercion. Wylie and Screechowl are classic examples. In order to avail of the rations he was entitled to for helping E.J. Eyre safely cross the coastal plain from South Australia to Albany he was obliged to act as Native Constable. It was a fight he had to keep up until his death about 1854. Screechowl was later, he was arrested for absconding from service (an employment agreement he had) and was forced to work at Native Constable to avoid jail, which he did but still ended up behind bars. Johnny Knapp, later again, was the same. Arrested for absconding from service at Esperance he was jailed at Albany but then released on condition he acted as Native Constable. This was a pattern kept up over at least a hundred years. If someone was lost, children in particular, Aborigines generally volunteered to help the search. There are many examples of this right up to the 1960s or 70s. Also, if dangerous criminals/outlaws (usually white) escaped and were on the run Aborigines would often track them down. But there were also cases of Aborigines helping to track down other Aborigines and within the old people’s memories those people were not regarded well. Bobby Roberts, subject of Kim Scott and Hazel Brown’s family story Kayang and Me, is the best known example. Why some did this comes down to their own fears, desires and perhaps even confused motivations. Finally, some Noongars sent to Rottnest Island prison for committing ‘White’ crimes were released early subject to them serving time as police operatives in the Kimberly. I think (Bob) Bobby Roberts was on these too. Clint Bracknell, descendant of Bobby Roberts recently contributed an academic submission on him. You can find it here.

      Best wishes, Ciaran

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