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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tarenorerer (1800–1831)

by Vicki maikutena Matson-Green

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Tarenorerer (c.1800-1831), Aboriginal leader, known as Walyer by the sealers of Bass Strait, was born near Emu Bay, Van Diemen's Land, a woman of the Tommeginne people. In her teens she was abducted by Aborigines of the Port Sorell region and sold to White sealers on the Bass Strait Islands. She became proficient in speaking English and took particular notice of the use and operation of firearms.

In 1828 Tarenorerer returned to her country in the north of Tasmania, where she gathered a group of men and women from many bands to initiate warfare against the invaders. Training her warriors in the use of firearms, she ordered them to strike the luta tawin (white men) when they were at their most vulnerable, between the time that their guns were discharged and before they were able to reload. She also instructed them to kill the Europeans' sheep and bullocks. Seeking to apprehend her, G. A. Robinson was told by sealers that Tarenorerer, whom he called an 'Amazon', would stand on a hill to organize the attack, abuse the settlers and dare them to come and be speared. She was reported to have said 'she liked a luta tawin as she did a black snake'. Robinson pursued her, but she eluded him and in September 1830 his party narrowly escaped being attacked by her warriors.

Challenged by Aboriginal rivals in battle, she escaped to Port Sorell with her brothers Linnetower and Line-ne-like-kayver and two sisters but was taken by sealers to the Hunter Islands and then placed on Bird Island to catch seals and mutton birds. Known as 'Mary Anne', she was given to John Williams ('Norfolk Island Jack') and lived with him and other men and Aboriginal women on Forsyth Island, in the Furneaux group. In December 1830 she plotted to kill one of the sealers but was foiled by Robinson's agents and taken to Swan Island, where her identity was revealed after she was given away by her dog Whiskey and by other Aboriginal women. Robinson was elated at a capture that he saw as 'a matter of considerable importance to the peace and tranquility of those districts where she and her formidable coadjutors had made themselves so conspicuous in their wanton and barbarous aggression'. It was, he thought, a 'most fortunate thing that this woman is apprehended and stopped in her murderous career . . . The dire atrocities she would have occasioned would be the most dreadful that can possibly be conceived'.

Tarenorerer was isolated because Robinson feared she would incite revolt. In February 1831 he noted in his diary that in his opinion, 'nearly all the mischief perpetrated upon the different settlements' had been traced to Tarenorerer's warriors. He believed that she was responsible for killing other Aborigines. Moved with the others to Gun Carriage (Vansittart) Island, Tarenorerer became ill and died of influenza on 5 June 1831. She had fought on behalf of her people with bravery and tenacity in a war for which there are no memorials.

Select Bibliography

  • N. J. B. Plomley, Friendly Mission (Hob, 1966)
  • D. Lowe, Forgotten Rebels (Melb, 1994)
  • H. Felton, Adapting & Resisting, book 6 of Living With the Land (Hob, 1991)
  • L. Ryan, The Aboriginal Tasmanians (Syd, 1996)
  • Papers and Proceedings (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), vol 5, no 4, 1957, p 73, and vol 23, no 2, June 1976, p 26.

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Vicki maikutena Matson-Green, 'Tarenorerer (1800–1831)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 30 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Walyer

Emu Bay, Tasmania, Australia


5 June 1831
Vansittart Island, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage