Skip to main content

The Hanging Trees (Aboriginal History)

By Tania Schafer, Librarian, State Library of Queensland | 19 June 2018

The following blog is in alignment with the Reconciliation 2018 theme, Don’t Keep History A Mystery:  Learn.  Share.  Grow.

I was viewing 3127 Anthropological Society of Queensland Records looking for Aboriginal images, when in Box 3604 photographic album I noticed a letter.  As I read onward I noticed that it concerns the three following images.

The below is a transcription of the letter written in 20/3/1971 which describes the event of a massacre of the local Aborigines.

Dear Stan,

I am enclosing snaps of the two hanging trees, a friend who I gave them to several years ago to hold had misplaced them but found them recently.  I had borrowed her camera to take them with, you keep them for your own use as I can get some later should I want them.

The tree a large Coolibah taken at a distance is the hanging tree at Hangman’s Bend on the Georgina Waukerbie waterhole on Carandotta Station about 18 miles downstream from the station.

There is a good account of this in the North Queensland Register written by the late Henry G Lamond and it corresponds from what I have heard from an old local identity Ma Bryon Nathan.

Stock bosses from the blacks raids were frequent and the station managers police and other decided to demonstrate to the blacks what would happen to all of them if these killings stock killing’s  continued.

A scaffold with ropes pulleys etc was set up in the Coolibah and the blacks women and all collected to see one or more of their lot hanged in the hope that it would end the stock killings.

One of the blacks was swing up and at first it was treated as a joke but they soon realised it was a serious matter and some attempted to escape in the excitement the blacks were all either shot or clubbed to death with the exception of one female who managed to crawl into the Leignium on the river and remain concealed.

The bodies of the slaughtered blacks were placed in heaps and burned.

The scaffold was removed from the tree by Lamond and sent to the Australian Museum (according to B. Nathan) and according to Lamond the pulley blocks and other gear was stolen from one of the stations many years ago.

The hanging tree on Waukenbie is much more generally known than the one on Moonah Creek.

I have been unable to collect anything official on the tree on Moonah but a grandson of Mossman told me there was a police outpost there and the tree was used to hang any troublesome blacks.  It was sometimes called Mossmans hanging tree, and a nearby soak is also named after Mossman who was a Police Officer.

The tree a Carbean is right on the right bank of Moonah Creek (locals pronounce it Mona) and only about 300 yards from the main Mount Isa – Urandangie road and about 30 miles distance from the latter and 70 from the former.

One of the snaps on Moonah Creek is a clone up of the hanging beam which is also of Carbean Timber and in far order with the saw cuts still plainly visible from the ground, the snaps are ken from a different angle I the one of the tree you can see how the wood and bark has covered the butt end of the Carbean beam.  There may be some record at the Archives on this tree it may have been on Waverley Station originally but the area is now part of Oban Station.

This week’end is the first since the big wet that we have had many visitors, the road were the hold up after the water subsided and in the main they still are in bad order

We have never known higher water levels here at Agnes Water, it was a high tide at the time of the heaviest rain and the water was not getting away as with a normal tide.

I have to catch a car going back for the post. So hope this finds you and Mrs Collivin well and wishing you both all the best

Yours sincerely Arthur.

Source:  3127 Anthropological Society of Queensland Records

Moonah Creek Queensland Hanging Tree

Moonah Creek Queensland Hanging Tree

Moonah Creek Qld Hanging Tree Scaffold

Moonah Creek Qld Hanging Tree Scaffold

Georgina River Hanging Tree

Georgina River Hanging Tree











Information on back of Hanging Tree, Georgina River photograph:  Taken looking across Georgina River at Hangmans Bend.

Carandotta Station is between Boulia and Mount Isa near the South Australian border.

Tania Schafer-Bostock - Librarian – Collection Engagement , State Library of Queensland.


Your email address will not be published.

We welcome relevant, respectful comments.

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.