Broken spear by Robert Cox

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Described as “one of the most tragic figures in all Australian history” Kikatapula, otherwise known as Black Tom Birch, was a heroic leader of the Aboriginal resistance to the colonial invasion of Tasmania. He fought long and hard, but when he finally came to see the diminishment of his people, he became an aid, if half-hearted, in gathering people together to follow George Augustus Robinson in the hope of a sanctuary offshore.

Robert Cox has gathered every bit of available evidence to piece together the life story of Kikatupula, an intelligent and highly skilled warrior, who with his mastery of English, was able to move in both worlds, the Aboriginal and the white oppressors. From an early age he won the care and protection of a significant society figure, Sarah Birch, whose intervention often ensured his rescue from the worst punishments. But that relationship was not enough to keep him from joining his people in the many fierce attacks on the settlers destroying his country.

Unfortunately it is a sad story, but one that should be remembered for Kikatupula’s leadership and heroism in a war that devastated the original inhabitants of Tasmania.

Themes: Aboriginal peoples - Tasmania, Frontier conflict, Kikatapula (Black Tom Birch).

Helen Eddy