Jandamarra's War

Last updated

Jandamarra's War
Written byMitch Torres
Directed byMitch Torres
Country of originAustralia
Original languageEnglish
ProducersAndrew Ogilvie
Andrea Quesnelle
Eileen Torres
CinematographyAllan Collins
Jim Frater
Rusty Geller
EditorLawrie Silvestrin
Running time55 minutes
Original release
  • 12 May 2011 (2011-05-12)

Jandamarra's War is a 2011 Australian drama style documentary that tells the story of Jandamarra, a famous Aboriginal Australian warrior of the Bunuba people from Western Australia.



Jandamarra's War begins by detailing Jandamarra's early years, starting with his birth in 1873 and he and his mother Jinny's relocation when he was around the age of seven where he looked after cattle at the station at Lennard River Flats, for safety at a time when European colonists were frequently killing Aboriginal Australians. As a teenager, he left the cattle station with his Uncle Ellemarra to be initiated in Bunuba Law, but when they are caught spearing sheep both are sent to prison. After he left prison, he was expelled from Bunuba society for sleeping with other men's women and soon after he became friends with a policeman named Richardson. Later he killed Richardson, marking the beginning of his three-year war against the Europeans.

In 1894, Jandamarra led a rebellion against invading European pastoralists in order to defend Bunuba land and culture.

Jandamarra spent the last few years of his life hiding in his spirit country, Djumbud. His incredible ability to outwit police officers lead many to believe he had magical powers and many pastoralists left the Kimberley area for fear of him. His life ended when he was shot dead by Mungo Micki, an Aboriginal tracker. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]




Director and scriptwriter Mitch Torres wanted the film to portray the story of Jandamarra as accurately as possible, noting that:

Outsiders often misrepresent Jandamarra as an outlaw. I learnt that the reasons he fought the settlers were more complicated. The Bunuba wanted the real story told and I wanted to make a film that was inspired by those who are very proud of this warrior. A legend was born with Jandamarra’s death that remains etched in the minds of those who make up today’s Bunuba community. For them, he wasn’t a criminal; he was a resistance fighter and a hero.
In writing the script, I discovered Jandamarra was a product of a very traumatic period in the settlement of North Western Australia. He was very young when he rebelled against the settlers who had raised him in the ways of the white man. He was also somebody who was before his time, a philosopher, a tough but very intelligent man, who saw his world falling down around him and who wanted to do something about it, even though it would lead to an early death. I wanted to make a film that depicted Jandamarra not only as a hero who fought the cruelties and injustices suffered by his people at the hands of the settlers, but also as somebody who was very human.


Principal filming took place over ten days in June 2010 and most of the film's scenes were shot on Bunuba land in locations close to where the historical events being reenacted actually occurred. [8]


Jim Schembri wrote in The Age that "historical documentaries are at their best when they illuminate a little known narrative rather than merely recite a famous one. Hopefully, it will only be a matter of time before some wily filmmakers seize on the potential to develop Jandamarra's story into a full-blown feature film". [1]


AACTA Awards Best Documentary Under One HourWon [9]
AACTA Awards Best Cinematography in a DocumentaryNominated [9]
AACTA Awards Best Sound in a DocumentaryNominated [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

Australian Aboriginal Flag Officially proclaimed flag representing Aboriginal Australians

The Australian Aboriginal Flag represents Aboriginal Australians. It is one of the officially proclaimed flags of Australia, and holds special legal and political status. It is often flown together with the national flag and with the Torres Strait Islander Flag, which is also an officially proclaimed flag.


Pemulwuy was an Aboriginal Australian of Eora descent, born around 1750 in the area of Botany Bay in New South Wales. He is noted for his resistance to the European colonization of Australia which began with the arrival of the First Fleet in January 1788. He is believed to have been a member of the Bidjigal (Bediagal) clan of the Eora people. The Bidjigal people are the original inhabitants of Toongabbie and Parramatta in Sydney.

Jandamarra or Tjandamurra, known to European settlers as Pigeon, was an Aboriginal Australian man of the Bunuba people who led one of many organised armed insurrections against the British colonisation of Australia. Initially utilised as a tracker for the police, he became a fugitive when he was forced to capture his own people. He led a three-year campaign against police and European settlers, achieving legendary status for his hit and run tactics and his abilities to hide and disappear. Jandamarra was eventually killed by another tracker at Tunnel Creek on 1 April 1897. His body was buried by his family at the Napier Range, where it was placed inside a boab tree. Jandamarra's life has been the subject of two novels, Ion Idriess's Outlaws of the Leopold (1952) and Mudrooroo's Long Live Sandawarra (1972), a non-fiction account based on oral tradition, Jandamurra and the Bunuba Resistance, and a stage play.

The Gippsland massacres were a series of mass murders of Gunai Kurnai people, an Aboriginal Australian people living in East Gippsland, Victoria, committed by European settlers and the Aboriginal Police during the Australian frontier wars.

History of Indigenous Australians

The history of Indigenous Australians began at least 65,000 years ago when humans first populated the Australian continental landmasses. This article covers the history of Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander peoples, two broadly defined groups which each include other sub-groups defined by language and culture.

Australians Citizens of Australia

Australians, colloquially referred to as "Aussies", are the citizens, nationals and individuals associated with the country of Australia. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Australians, several of these connections exist and are collectively the source of their being Australian. Australia is a multicultural society that is home to people of many ethnic origins and, as such, Australian culture and law does not equate nationality with race or ethnicity, but with bona fide citizenship.

Indigenous Australians are people with familial heritage to groups that lived in Australia before British colonisation. They include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia. The term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or the person's specific cultural group, is often preferred, though the terms First Nations of Australia, First Peoples of Australia and First Australians are also increasingly common.


The Thaua/Thawa, also spelt and also called Yuin-Djuin, were an Aboriginal Australian people living around the Twofold Bay area of the South Coast of New South Wales.

Tjandamurra (Jandamarra) "Janda" O'Shane is a Murri Aboriginal Australian who at age six was the victim of a fire attack whilst playing at a schoolyard in Cairns, Queensland on 10 October 1996. He is the nephew of New South Wales magistrate Pat O'Shane, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner Terry O'Shane. O'Shane's given name comes from the Aboriginal resistance fighter Tjandamurra, and is sometimes transliterated as 'Jandamurra'.

Lake Condah

Lake Condah, also known by its Gunditjmara name Tae Rak, is in the Australian state of Victoria, about 324 kilometres (201 mi) west of Melbourne and 20 kilometres (12 mi) north-east of Heywood by road. It is in the form of a shallow basin, about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) in length and 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) wide.

Steve Dodd Australian soldier, actor

Steve Dodd was an Indigenous Australian actor, notable for playing indigenous characters across seven decades of Australian film. After beginning his working life as a stockman and rodeo rider, Dodd was given his first film roles by prominent Australian actor Chips Rafferty. His career was interrupted by six years in the Australian Army during the Korean War, and limited by typecasting.

Australian frontier wars Series of conflicts

"Australian frontier wars" is a term applied by some historians to violent conflicts between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous settlers during the British colonisation of Australia. The first fighting took place several months after the landing of the First Fleet in January 1788 and the last clashes occurred in the early 20th century, as late as 1934. A minimum of 40,000 Indigenous Australians and between 2,000 and 2,500 settlers died in the wars. However, recent scholarship on the frontier wars in what is now the state of Queensland indicates that Indigenous fatalities may have been significantly higher. Indeed, while battles and massacres occurred in a number of locations across Australia, they were particularly bloody in Queensland, owing to its comparatively larger pre-contact Indigenous population.

Jack Charles (actor)

Jack Charles is an Australian actor, musician, potter, and Aboriginal elder. His screen credits include the landmark Australian film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), Bedevil (1993), Blackfellas (1993), Tom White (2004) and Pan (2015), among others.


The Bunuba are a group of Indigenous Australians and are one of the traditional owners of the southern West Kimberley, in Western Australia. Many now live in and around the town of Fitzroy Crossing.

Devonian Reef

The Balili Conservation Park or Devonian Reef Conservation Park is an Australian protected area and is located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, about 50km North-West of Fitzroy Crossing. It includes Geikie Gorge National Park, Tunnel Creek National Park and Windjana Gorge National Park.


Cleverman is an Australian television drama program based on an original concept by Ryan Griffen. The series premiered on 1 June 2016 on SundanceTV in the United States and 2 June on ABC in Australia.

June Oscar

June Oscar AO is an Australian Aboriginal woman of Bunuba descent, Indigenous rights activist, community health and welfare worker, film and theatre producer, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. Oscar is best known for her fight against Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and work in improving the lives of Aboriginal people in remote communities. In 2007, she led the successful campaign for alcohol restrictions in the Kimberley town of Fitzroy Valley.

The Mariu were an indigenous Australian people of the Northern Territory. Their language is unattested, but may have been Miriwung.


  1. 1 2 "Jandamarra's War". ABC . Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  2. "Movies - Jandamarra's War". www.CreativeSpirits.info. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  3. Atkinson, Frances (12 May 2011). "Rebel's untold tale". The Age . Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  4. "Jandamarra's War". Cultural Atlas of Australia. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  5. "Jandamarra's War (2011 TV Movie) - Plot Summary". IMDb . Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  6. "Jandamarra's War (2011 TV Movie) - Full Cast & Crew". IMDb . Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  7. "JANDAMARRA'S WAR - Director's Statement – Mitch Torres" (PDF). ABC . Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  8. "JANDAMARRA'S WAR - About the Production" (PDF). ABC . Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 "Jandamarra's War (2011 TV Movie) - Awards". IMDb . Retrieved 4 January 2015.