Mr Frederick Walker in 1841

Go to: (Ex-) Commandant Frederick Walker, SC Report 1857, New South Wales Native Police

" ... Charles Sturt travelled most of the Murrumbidgee's course in 1829-30; pastoral settlement hail already begun even then as far downstream as Gundagai; and by 1840 the entire river frontage below Gundagai was occupied.

Rapid settlement, illegal until 1837 because the region was 'beyond the boundaries' proclaimed by Governor Darling in 1829, brought problems, and in 1841 squatters on the Lower Murrumbidgee petitioned the Governor to provide a police magistrate and three or lour constables to keep law and order. In their petition they pointed out that the district was 'the great thoroughfare to South Australia, Portland Bay and Port Phillip', along which thousands of sheep and cattle travelled, 'driven in many instances by some of the worst of characters, in the capacity of shepherds, stock keepers, and bullock drivers'. Moreover, 'these persons, from the facility afforded by the numerous public houses lately established on the road', were frequently intoxicated, so the highway presented 'the most appalling scenes of infamy and disorder, even on the Sabbath clay!

On 27 March 1841 Governor Gipps replied that he could not accede to the petition, but undertook to direct that the Border Police under the Commissioner for Crown Lands in the Murrumbidgee District 'be kept in as efficient a state as possible'.

Legislation in 184!) provided for the establishment of benches of magistrates beyond the boundaries, so on 22 February 1847 sixteen licensed pastoralisls of the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan Pastoral Districts presented a petition on similar lines to that of 1841. They pointed out that their stations were on 'the great lines of thoroughfare leading to Melbourne and Adelaide' ...

As the stations of these pastoralists were one to two hundred miles from the courts of petty sessions at 'the Tumut and Binnilong', they requested that a court be established more conveniently, 'begging leave however respectfully to suggest that a station called Wagga Wagga 70 miles lower down the river than the Tumut court' would in their opinion 'be peculiarly eligible'. These men proved how anxious they were for this court to be established by promising to contribute, 'should it be deemed necessary by the Government, the funds necessary for the erection of suitable buildings;

This request was almost immediately acceded to. On 30 April 1847 Wagga Wagga was announced in the New South Wales Government Gazelle as a place for holding petty sessions with Mr Frederick Walker as clerk and Mr Michael Norton as chief constable ...

Michael Norton, probably with the help of some magistrates, chose the site ... building was begun almost immediately and on 10 August 1847 the Bench ... sat for the first time.

The writer of an article 'Wagga Wagga Its Past and Present' in the Wagga Wagga Advertiser of 7 August 1875 said that the court room was 'a very primitive temple ol justice, constructed of props and saplings, walled in and covered with bark. The browns; continued the writer, 'were slightly astonished by I his imposing evidence of the inarch of civilisation, and looked on ... in silent awe, if not admiration, at the tableau, especially at the very grave and reverend signors who composed the bench, and . . delivered themselves of judicial truisms' with oracular solemnity.

So a court was established and, indeed, a village, because it is extremely doubtful if any oilier buildings preceded those of the police establishment ...

[Source: Law On the Frontier; The First Ten Years of the Wagga Wagga Bench, 1844-57; A Paper Read to the Society by the President, K. J. Swan, on 19 May 1969, in the Journal of the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society, More Men - and Women of Wagga Wagga, Number 2 (1969) (pp. 20-21)]

Frederick Walker and the Native Police

"For a time small units of Aboriginal mounted police were maintained in New South Wales. They were raised in 1848 when the Aborigines in the region of the present Queensland border were on the point of driving the encroaching whites from their territories. Not only were many shepherds and hut keepers being murdered and large numbers of cattle being killed but the tribesmen were camdng on psychological war by putting the heads of slaughtered cattle on poles in view of the whites' huts. The consequence of all this was that some squatters gave up while others incurred losses and stations became unsaleable.

To remedy this serious impediment to the tide of settlement the Sydney authorities turned to a man in the Deniliquin area who had acquired an unusual influence with the Aborigines of that region. Frederick Walker, from a well connected English family, had shown aptitude for exploring and for learning Aboriginal languages and customs.

In late 1848, Walker was asked to raise an official force of Aboriginal troopers for service in the disaffected north, some 1600 kilometres awav. Volunteers appeared from eight tribes. Though he could have taken over 100 men, Walker selected only fourteen men from four different tribes. On the 6 December 1848, the new force began its journey northwards.

The Mclntyre was reached on the 10 May 1849. A rest followed for men and horses and the force went into action on the 18th. This fierce action involved sweeps into country which is now in Queensland but which was then part of New South Wales. The troopers suffered casualties and they earned Walker's praise for their gallantry. The tvpe of action involved is best appreciated from Walker's own report:

"I found the Condamine country in a most disturbed state, several of the stations had been abandoned, twelve white men had been murdered, and the loss in cattle and sheep was immense. The greatest danger existed at the station of the late Mr John Dangar, where the store had been robbed and burnt, and damage done to the amount of 250; the hut-keeper was killed.

An attempt made by the combined Fitz Roy Downs, Dawson, and Condamine blacks, about 150 men in number, to repeat their attack on this station, brought on two collisions with the Native Police. On the first occasion, the Fitz Roy Downs blacks, the same who had killed seven men of Mr Macpherson's, and Mr Blyth s shepherd, besides spearing himself, and also murdering two of Mr Hughes' men, suffered so severely that they returned to their own country, a distance of 80 miles.'

After referring to the pursuit of some other murderers Walker's report goes on:

The Native Police tracked them for eight days; and at sundown, on the eighth day, I found we were within one mile of their camp, but the Condamine much flooded between us; at 12 o'clock at night we swam the river, each man carrying his carbine and ammunition; the water was so cold that two of the settlers who accompanied us were nearlv drowned; they were pulled out by my men. At day-break we approached the camp when we were perceived by the blacks; they seized their spears and an engagement ensued; but they were soon compelled to fly, leaving us the camp, spears, &.c, and a great deal of damaged property identified as belonging to Mr Dangar.'

Though of necessity bloody, Walker's pacification of the county of the Mclntyre and Condamine Rivers and the patrols of his force into the Northern Rivers District caused less loss of life than the squatter's mode of pacification would have However, after he was dismissed because of his drunkenness the force he had created became associated with a good deal of indiscriminate killing as it moved north into what became Queensland. As for Walker he succeeded in rehabilitating himself and gained a reputation as a skilful explorer.

For a time small detachments of Aboriginal police, as distinct from black trackers, were maintained in southern New South Wales. They were kept under tighter control than the Queensland troopers and were especially valuable in the gold rush days when higher rates of pay attracted many white police serving in the south to the Victorian police or gold fields."

[Source: O'Sullivan J, Mounted police in N.S.W., Rigby (1973) (pp. 145-146)]


Frederick Walker

Frederick Walker's grave is on Floraville Station, about 70km south of Burketown. The inscription reads

     "On August 17 1848 Frederick Walker, aged 28, was appointed to the position of Commandant of the Corps of Native Police having emigrated from Australia from England. The Corps  commenced with fourteen troopers recruited from four different New South Wales tribes. In 1850 Walker had three units and two lieutenants in the corps and by 1852 he increased the Corps with 48 additional Aboriginal troopers who were drilled and trained in the use of  carbines, swords, saddles and bridles. The Native Mounted Police Corps were responsible for maintaining law and order beyond the settled districts. On 12 October 1854 Walker was dismissed from the service for impropriety of conduct due to his heavy drinking. After his dismissal he continued to live on the frontier and briefly formed an illegal force of ten ex-troopers from the Native Police Corps to protect settlers in the Upper Dawson region. In August of 1861 fears had grown for the safety of the Burke and Wills expedition and Walker was sent at the insistence of the Royal Society of Victoria to search for the ill-fated expedition. 

    Frederick Walker was in many ways a remarkable man. His exploration of the Gulf assisted in opening up the region and his maps were considered accurate. Walker did not find Burke and Wills but he did find Camp 119, the last Burke and Wills camp before they turned south on their return journey. After lengthy explorations of the Gulf region Walker was then employed by the Superintendent of Electric Telegraph to survey a 500 mile route from Bowen to Burketown in a bid to compete against South Australia to have Burketown the end of the Trans-Oceanic link from Europe. Although Frederick Walker lost the race and Darwin became the terminus, he did survey the line. He arrived in Burketown with his party of four Europeans and four Aboriginal assistants at the height of the Gulf Fever - a typhoid which affected the Gulf after the arrival in Burketown of a vessel on which all the crew except the Captain died. Walker commenced his return journey but at Floraville he became ill and after several days he also died of the Gulf Fever on 19 September 1866. The entry in the expedition's logbook recorded the passing of a pioneer of the gulf: 'as soon as the horses were brought up and a couple saddled Perrier and Ewan were starting for the doctor of the Leichhardt search expedition which was camped about six miles off. But he (Walker) died before they mounted. He died at noon and was buried on the evening of the same day. So ended the life of a remarkable Australian." 

    Frederick Walker's grave was discovered by Mr. Walter Camp of Floraville Station after many years of searching. 

"During the race to secure the overseas telegraphic terminal for Queensland, Frederick Walker was employed to survey the line from the coast to Burketown. He was an excellent bushman, knew the country and moved quickly, qualifications which were essential for the job. 

Born in England about 1820, Walker came to Australia as a young man, worked as a station manager, then as Clerk of Petty Sessions at Tumut in NSW. 

Two members of the Legislative Council, William Charles Wentworth and Augustus Morris, recommended him for the position of first Commandant of the Native Police. This Corps was established in response to Governor Fitzroy's suggestion that it might be used to reduce the frequent conflicts between Aborigines and colonists beyond the settled districts. 

Walker's reputation as Commandant was one of rigid adherence to the book and carrying out the law with due process. This displeased those who felt the Corps should shoot first and ask questions later. His indiscretions as a heavy and indiscriminate drinker and his appearance at a Board of Inquiry into allegations against him in Brisbane, so drunk that he could not recognise his chief accuser, did not advance his career. 

The result was dismissal from the Corps. So he raised a troop of Aboriginal mercenaries who carried out the work of the N.M.P. in a private capacity. This illegal force was disbanded by the Government and Walker then took over the management of a property on the Comet River. From there he wrote frequent letters of complaint about what he regarded as the needless killing of Aborigines ..."

Source: A History of Burketown and Surrounding Districts, Frederick Walker, Official Memorial