Nemarluk

 by ION IDRIESS

This book was first published in 1941. I read it in the 1960’s and still remember the story.

Nemarluk was one of the most successful Australian aboriginal warriors in resisting the incursion of the white man into his tribal lands. He led his people, the ‘Red Band’ as Idrioss describes them, on many sorties, spearing cattle and stealing whatever they needed. When the police gave chase they disappeared into rough, rugged and often waterless country. Idrioss writting style is very much of the ‘boys own adventure’ type, yet still enjoyable to read.

Nemarluk lived in the first third of the twentieth century in the country south and west of Darwin, near the Daly River in northern Australia. Idrioss, who travelled widely in outback Australia, met Nemarluk so had the advantage of first-hand knowledge. He also talked to the police who eventually caught their nemesis, locking him in Fanny Bay goal, where he died of a broken heart.

This is the story of a true ‘noble savage’ who in his own culture was no savage at all, but a revered leader. It is also the story of how the white men generally misunderstood the aborigine. Even though the style is a bit dated this is a story that derserves to be better known.