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Windradyne (1800–1829)

by David Andrew Roberts

This article was published:

Windradyne (c.1800-1829), Aboriginal resistance leader, also known as SATURDAY, was a northern Wiradjuri man of the upper Macquarie River region in central-western New South Wales. Emerging as a key protagonist in a period of Aboriginal-settler conflict later known as the 'Bathurst Wars', in December 1823 'Saturday' was named as an instigator of clashes between Aborigines and settlers that culminated in the death of two convict stockmen at Kings Plains. He was arrested and imprisoned at Bathurst for one month; it was reported that six men and a severe beating with a musket were needed to secure him.

After some of the most violent frontier incidents of the period, including the killing of seven stockmen in the Wyagdon Ranges north of Bathurst and the murder of Aboriginal women and children by settler-vigilantes near Raineville in May 1824, Governor Brisbane placed the western district under martial law on 14 August. The local military was increased to seventy-five troops, and magistrates were permitted to administer summary justice. Windradyne's apparent involvement in the murder of European stockmen resulted in a reward of 500 acres (202.3 ha) being offered for his capture. The crisis subsided quickly, although the failure to capture Windradyne delayed the repeal of martial law until 11 December. Two weeks later he and a large number of his people crossed the mountains to Parramatta to attend the annual feast there, where he was formally pardoned by Brisbane.

The Sydney Gazette described Saturday as 'without doubt, the most manly black native we have ever beheld . . . much stouter and more proportionable limbed' than most Aborigines, with 'a noble looking countenance, and piercing eye . . . calculated to impress the beholder'. Another observer thought him 'a very fine figure, very muscular . . . a good model for the figure of Apollo'. His sobriety and affection for his family and kinsmen were considered remarkable.

Apparently remaining camped in the domain at Parramatta for some time after the 1824 feast, Windradyne then returned to Bathurst. He declined to attend Governor Darling's feast the following year. In later years, he was intermittently reported as being involved in raids on maize crops or in clashes with settlers around Lake George. In 1828 an Aboriginal man being led to his execution for the murder of a stockman at Georges Plains attempted vainly to pin the crime on the 'notorious Saturday'. Mortally wounded in a tribal fight on the Macquarie River, Windradyne died a few hours later on 21 March 1829 at Bathurst hospital, and was buried at Bathurst.

Windradyne had been closely associated with George Suttor and his son William Henry, who were strong advocates on behalf of Aborigines during and after the period of martial law. Both lamented his passing in the Sydney press in April 1829. One of William Henry Suttor junior's Australian Stories Retold (1887) placed Windradyne at the scene of the Wyagdon attacks in May 1824 and described how his warriors had spared the life of the author's father.

Another Suttor tradition, aired shortly after World War II, disputed earlier accounts of Windradyne's death and burial, claiming that he had in fact departed from Bathurst hospital to join his people at nearby Brucedale, and that he died on the property. In 1954 the Bathurst District Historical Society erected a monument beside a Wiradjuri burial mound at Brucedale, attaching a bronze plaque commemorating 'The resting place of Windradene, alias ''Saturday”, last chief of the Aborigines: first a terror, but later a friend to the settlers . . . A true patriot'. His death date was erroneously given as 1835.

In the late twentieth century Windradyne was transformed from a local figure to a character of national importance as a resistance hero. A suburb at Bathurst and a student accommodation village at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, were named after him. In May 2000 his presumed resting place was put under a voluntary conservation order, the occasion celebrated by Wiradjuri descendants and the Suttor family, continuing a 180-year-old friendship and creating a potent symbol of reconciliation.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 11, p 410
  • W. H. Suttor, Australian Stories Retold and Sketches of Country Life (Bathurst, NSW, 1887)
  • T. Salisbury and P. J. Gresser, Windradyne of the Wiradjuri (Syd, 1971)
  • M. Coe, Windradyne: A Wiradjuri Koorie (Canb, 1989)
  • Sydney Gazette, 8 Jan 1824, p 2, 30 Dec 1824, p 2, 20 May 1826, p 3, 2 Jan 1828, p 3, 21 Apr 1829. p 3
  • Australian, 19 Jan 1826, p 3, 4 Oct 1826
  • Sydney Monitor, 18 Apr 1829, p 2
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 May 2000, p 9.

Citation details

David Andrew Roberts, 'Windradyne (1800–1829)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 26 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Saturday

New South Wales, Australia


21 March, 1829 (aged ~ 29)
Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia

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