Timeline

22 January 1931 - Sir Isaac Isaacs becomes the 9th Governor-General

6 January 1932 - Joseph Lyons is sworn in as Prime Minister, his United Australia Party government replacing the Labor government of James Scullin

17 September 1932 - Japanese trepang fishermen killed at Caledon Bay

June 1933 - Police party from Darwin arrive in Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda's country, looking for suspects

1 August 1933 - Constable Albert McColl killed on Woodah Island

11 August 1933 - News of McColl's death reaches Darwin

27 August 1933 - Judge TA Wells takes up his position as Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory

29 August 1933 - Administrator RH Weddell wants to send a large police party to arrest the killers of McColl

2 September 1933 - News reports that arms have been rushed north for the police party

4 September 1933 - Protests against the proposed police expedition peak on 4–6 September

6 September 1933 - Department of the Interior Minister JA Perkins denies intentions of a government 'punitive expedition'

7 October 1933 - Stanley Melbourne Bruce, a former Prime Minister, becomes Australia's High Commissioner in London

14 November 1933 - The trepanger Fred Gray reports that 'Mereela' and 'Barion' are the killers of William Fagan and Frank Traynor and Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda the killer of McColl

22 November 1933 - 'Peace' (missionary) expedition planned to visit Caledon Bay region to speak with the alleged murderers and eyewitnesses

22 November 1933 - High Commissioner in London told that no action will be taken by the federal government while the 'peace expedition' is in progress

18 December 1933 - Administrator RH Weddell claims that bloodshed is inevitable in Arnhem Land

18 January 1934 - Missionary Hubert Warren reports that Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda states he killed McColl because 'he had got my lubra'

20 January 1934 - Australian Society for the Protection of Native Races demands changes to Australia's Aboriginal administrations

17 February 1934 - Newspaper controversy over the value of Aboriginal missions

1 March 1934 - JA Carrodus becomes Acting Administrator of the Northern Territory, and Acting Police Commissioner

8 March 1934 - News received in Darwin that the killers of the white men are prepared to come to Darwin with the peace party

15 March 1934 - Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda and 16 other Yolngu travel to Darwin, escorted by missionaries

23 March 1934 - Minister for the Interior JA Perkins admits that he must decide whether to arrest Dhakiyarr when he arrives in Darwin, but whatever is the outcome of a trial, he will not allow him to be hanged

11 April 1934 - The famous Aboriginal outlaw Nemarluk sentenced to death by Judge Wells

17 April 1934 - Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda arrives in Darwin by boat and is imprisoned in Fannie Bay Gaol

23 April 1934 - Church Missionary Society claims the need for Native Courts in Arnhem Land

30 April 1934 - Discussion of Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda's case reveals the lack of eyewitnesses

3 May 1934 - Northern Territory Ordinance amended so that a death sentence would not be mandatory in Aboriginal murder convictions

11 May 1934 - Professor of Anthropology AP Elkin states the need for Native Courts

15 May 1934 - Lay missionary Fowler claims that the Japanese forced themselves on the Aboriginal women

22 May 1934 - Fred Gray states that he thinks a lecture should be sufficient for the Arnhem Land killers and is prepared to return them in his boat

22 June 1934 - Announcement in the London papers that Aborigines will have their own Native Courts

22 June 1934 - Department of the Interior officials, in a continuing discussion, admit to the problems of a lack of Crown evidence in a trial of Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda

3 July 1934 - Minister for the Interior JA Perkins concerned that Judge Wells may speak publicly about the perceived lack of willingness of the Crown to obtain witnesses

4 July 1934 - A second, two-man police party authorised to travel to Arnhem Land to obtain witnesses

14 July 1934 - Acting Administrator JA Carrodus claims that Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda will be convicted even without eyewitnesses

27 July 1934 - Coroner Norman C Bell commits Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda for trial

1 August 1934 - Killers of the Japanese sentenced to 20 years jail, although Judge Wells states controversially that it might be better to hang them

3 August 1934 - Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda tried and convicted in Northern Territory Supreme Court

6 August 1934 - Judge Wells passes sentence of death

6 August 1934 - Judge Wells criticises government for 'back door' abolition of the death penalty

7 August 1934 - JA Carrodus, Acting Northern Territory Administrator, and HC Brown, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, advise the Commonwealth to apply to the High Court for leave to appeal the Supreme Court decision.

7 August 1934 - Dhakiyarr's death sentence commuted; strong southern criticism of Well's court conduct and comments; Judge Wells, replying generally to criticism, states that the missionaries who brought the Aboriginal killers to Darwin may 'have to answer for it', that the proposed Native Courts are 'impractical'; and that in his Court, 'anthropological' evidence will be restricted to elders of the tribe

7 August 1934 - Northern Territory newspaper offers general support for Judge Wells

7 August 1934 - Editorial in Sydney newspaper questions fairness of Dhakiarr Wirrpanda's trial

8 August 1934 - London Daily Herald refers to Judge Wells as Australia's 'Judge Jeffreys'

8 August 1934 - Chief Protector of Aborigines, Dr Cecil Cook, contacted by International Labor Defence organisation to protest against the fairness of the trial

10 August 1934 - Aboriginal Chief Protector Dr Cecil Cook begins attempt to seek leave to appeal to the High Court against the Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda decision

21 August 1934 - Strong southern protests against Judge Wells and in favour of the appeal being granted

25 August 1934 - Judge Wells protests against political interference

25 August 1934 - Church Missionary Society urges humanitarian considerations, because Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda has already been imprisoned for four months

27 August 1934 - Department of Attorney-General considers that an appeal should be sought

29 August 1934 - Four days before Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda is to be executed by hanging, an Ordinance is gazetted giving the Attorney-General power to advise the Governor-General to postpone execution of a sentence of death and Governor-General Sir Isaac Isaacs orders the stay of execution

30 August 1934 - Justices Hayden Starke and Owen Dixon grant leave to appeal to High Court

3 September 1934 - Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda's now commuted execution date, as set by Judge Wells

12 September 1934 - High Court issues Notice of Appeal

15 September 1934 - House of Representatives and Senate elections – Lyons' United Australia Party loses seats to Labor

29 October 1934 - Day one of a two-day appeal heard by High Court in Melbourne

8 November 1934 - Judgment delivered overturning the verdict and sentence; Justice Heyden Starke orders Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda's safe return to his homeland

9 November 1934 - Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda is released from Fannie Bay Gaol after serving seven months. Minister for the Interior Thomas Paterson announces Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda will 'return to his tribe as an emissary of peace, and a friend of the Government'.

10 November 1934 - During a heavy thunderstorm Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda disappears from his hut in Kahlin Compound. No evidence of what happened to him is found.

26 January 1935 - Crown Law Officer in Darwin reports that Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda 'just ran away'

2 May 1935 - Discussions about establishment of a Methodist mission at Caledon Bay

10 February 1936 - A Board of Enquiry into Aboriginal justice recommends a patrol officer service in the Northern Territory

9 April 1936 - First report by Donald Thomson on conditions in Arnhem Land

26 January 1938 - First Aboriginal Day of Mourning

28 June 2003 - Wirrpanda family holds a Wukidi or burial ceremony in Darwin to liberate the spirit of Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda and to cleanse the spirit of those involved in his death

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017