By Louise Gay
CAUTION: Image of a hanging in the main text below.
Also known as Tarenorerer or Walyer, Tarereenore was an Aboriginal leader from the nineteenth century that organised an armed resistance against white colonists in now-Tasmania, Australia.
She was originally from the north coast, of the Tommegine people, before her enslavement in the hands of sealers. Her childhood name remains a mystery, as Tarereenore and its variants mean “sealer’s woman”. During this period, she learned English and to master firearms.
After some time, she began to resist her captors and their fellow British compatriots. In unknown circumstances, she managed to return to her people in 1828. There, she discovered a changing society.
Indeed, the growing number of whites had increased violence and was now threatening to collapse the ancient Aboriginal social structures. Gathering a group of warriors, including her brothers and sisters, she taught them the use of modern weapons.
After initially operating as more or less common bandits, they began to specifically target colonial settlements and forces – using a guerrilla war approach, such as other resistance fighters, for the British were not trained to fight in such conditions.
George A. Robinson, whose journal is the main primary source on Tarereenore, tried to buy her friendship in exchange for gifts, a common tactic; but his offer was refused. Intimidated by her pugnacity, he described her as a ferocious and blood-thirsty Amazon. This was a powerful image meant to scare colonial authorities to whom he sold his services.
Eventually, she was betrayed by a sealer she had known for some time. Caught by the British, she was then sent to Gun Carriage Island. She died there in June 1831 from the invisible ally of colonists, the flu.
Her notoriety, however, still grows today as she is acknowledged by Aboriginal Tasmanians as a symbol of resistance during the years of warfare known as “The Black War”.
David Lowe, Forgotten Rebels: Black Australians Who Fought Back (New York: Permanent Press, 1994)
Robert Hodder, Radical Tasmania: Rebellion, Reaction and Resistance,vol. II: Selected stories (PhD thesis, University of Ballarat, 2009).