Cranky Ladies of History guest post: Tarenorerer

Tarenorerer. Tasmania. Born 1800. Died 1831.

Guest post by Bess Lyre

Tarenorerer, called Walyer by the sealers who purchased her with flour and dogs, was born a Tomeginee / Plair-Leke-Liller-Plue woman of the north-east Tasmanian coast.

Painting of Walyer by Julie Dowling

“Sealers took Aboriginal women for labour and as sexual commodities. During her time with the sealers, Walyer learnt English and how to use firearms.

She escaped in 1828 and joined the Lairmairrener group of Emu Bay. In 1830, colonial authorities reported that Walyer was leading violent attacks against settlers and other Aboriginal groups.

She and her group used muskets in these assaults, which was previously unprecedented in Aboriginal attacks.” – Julie Dowling

“In her teens she was abducted by Aborigines of the Port Sorell region and sold to White sealers on the Bass Strait Islands.” (

Tarenorerer 1
Mutton birders, Chappell Island, 1893

Tarenorerer’s home was not colonised until after her escape and return to her own country; the port of Burnie was founded in 1827. By the time of her death a mere four years later, from influenza, at the young age of 31, Taranorerer had become infamous.

“Walyer’s attacks on Aboriginal people brought her to the attention of GA Robinson, the chief protector of Aborigines. In a letter to Colonel George Arthur, Robinson wrote,

“From several aborigines, I received information respecting an amazon named Tarerenore, alias, “Walyer”, who was at the head of an aboriginal banditti.

This woman speaks English, and issues her orders in a most determined manner. Several cattle belonging to the company have been speared, and several petty thefts have been committed, which I have traced to this woman. The Amazon is at war with several nations of aborigines, and many aborigines have been slain by her party.

The Amazon is an athletic woman, middle aged, and is a native of the East Coast. She has collected together the disaffected of several nations, and roams over a vastylent of country committing dire outrages.”” –

Tarenorerer 2
Burnie, 1881

Vicki maikutena Matson-Green writes:

“Tarenorerer fought with bravery and tenacity in ‘a war for which there are no [visible] memorials’. The Tasmanian Aboriginal community honours her memory and acknowledges her as a true warrior of the cause which has continued to today. Her memorial is the example she set for the future generations of her people who have survived, adjusted, and grown stronger in the example set by their forebears.” – (

I have been to Burnie quite a few times and never met anyone who has heard of Tarenorerer. The history of the pulp mill industry is celebrated; there is a town smothered in penguin-themed statuary. Some sort of recognition of Australia’s true first war seems important to me, not to mention some variation of a treaty with Tasmania’s original owners.

When World War One was over, and our side had won, our former enemies were treated with respect – German sovereignty was permitted by the Treaty of Versailles, even though they had to pay reparations for starting the war, and under the Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey had new sovereign borders drawn up, even if they were smaller than the borders of the old Ottoman Empire.

And even though some 8700 Australians had been slaughtered by Ottoman Turks during the Gallipoli Campaign, we recognised them as a worthy foe; we recognised that when all was said and done, about a quarter of a million Turks had been killed, and when we go on our Anzac Day pilgrimages to Turkey, not only do we attend the dawn service at the Lone Pine Memorial, we doff our caps in the direction of the Turkish cemeteries and war memorials spread along the shoreline.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could pay similar respects to Tarenorerer and her fellow fallen warriors?

Cranky Ladies logoThis post is written as part of the Women’s History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. If  you would like to read more about cranky ladies from the past, you might like to support our Pozible campaign, crowd-funding an anthology of short stories about Cranky Ladies of History from all over the world.