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O'Leary of the Underworld - Kate Auty

O'Leary of the Underworld - Kate Auty

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 A powerful investigation that reveals the deep injustices inflicted on Aboriginal people in the Kimberley in the 1920s

In June 1926, a posse of police officers and white civilians murdered at least twenty Oombulgurri people at Forrest River in the Kimberley. After the massacre, a conspiracy of silence descended. Witnesses vanished. Charges against two of the officers were dropped for insufficient evidence.

One of the massacre's perpetrators was Bernard O'Leary, a former soldier whose land holding was known as 'the underworld'. At the 1927 Royal Commission into the killings, O'Leary was portrayed by his lawyer as a simple honest backwoodsman who was framed. In this powerful account, Kate Auty argues that O'Leary was in fact 'vicious, brazen and a bullshitter', with 'a propensity for brutality'. Although never charged, he played a leading role in the murders, and his duplicitous testimony thwarted the commission's work.

In electric prose, Auty depicts O'Leary as a merciless killer, while the apparatus that concealed his crimes is portrayed with great realism and clarity. Driven by both forensic and moral judgement, the book exposes the injustices embedded in Australian settlement history, and the culture of denial that has prevented truth-telling in this country.

'A major contribution to the study of frontier massacres in Australia' -Lyndall Ryan

'A forensically researched document of the persistence of frontier violence into the twentieth century.' -Kim Mahood

'Kate Auty's powerful and passionate work is a timely reminder that our colonial past should not be a foreign country- it's our place, and we all need to know the awfulness of what happened here.' -Patrick Dodson

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