Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda & Constable Albert McCollPrint Page Print this page

The memorial commemorates the case of Dhakiyarr and Constable Albert McColl, the policeman he was accused of spearing. The case highlights "tribal" law and customary law and the conviction which was overturned on appeal.

Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda was a man who, in the mid Thirties, briefly became well-known throughout Australia, and even internationally. A Yolngu tribal leader from the Northern Territory, his tribe was located in east Arnhem Land. In 1931, many parts of Arnhem Land were announced Aboriginal Reserve, and any white people had to get a permit to work on, live or visit the land. During 1932, five trepangers from Japan were killed after trespassing on Aboriginal Reserve land at Caledon Bay in Arnhem Land. This angered the Japanese government, and they complained to the Australian government, which prompted them to send a search party to find suspects. Among this party was Constable Albert McColl, who was investigating for clues on Dhakiyarr's land.

Although Constable McColl's party was searching for clues at Caledon Bay, they encountered Dhakiyarr's family about 60 kilometres south of that area. When Dhakiyarr arrived back at his home, he found Constable McColl and his search party had trespassed on his land and had tied up his wife, believing her to be a suspect. Naturally, Dhakiyarr did not take well to this and speared Constable McColl, killing him.

The trial to convict Dhakiyarr of murder was somewhat controversial, because there were no eyewitnesses to the murder, except for Dhakiyarr's wife, but there was a lot of confusion over whether she could testify against her husband, because at the time white women were not allowed to testify against their husbands.

Eventually, Dhakiyarr was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging withing 28 days.This sentence was strongly protested by many people, especially in the Northern Territory, and after a letter to the Governor-General, Dhakiyarr's execution sentence was postponed. After a 10-day appeal, in which Dhakiyarr's defence party protested 24 different grounds, the death sentence was reversed. This would not have been possible without the huge amounts of support for Dhakiyarr and the strength of character shown by both Dhakiyarr and his defence party. Dhakiyarr was moved from Fannie Bay jail, where he was being kept, to an Aboriginal compund in Darwin. The same night as he was moved he vanished completely and utterly, leaving no trace. No evidence of his disappearance has been found, nor his body.



Address:9 Smith Street, Foyer, Supreme Court, Darwin, 0800
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -12.466521
Long: 130.844237
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Culture
Source: MA, ADB
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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