Spencer & Gillen

A journey through Aboriginal Australia


"Rakuwurlma ("Vanderlin Jack"), a Yanyuwa man from the Rrumburriya semi-moiety, son of Murruwaru. He is well known among Yanyuwa people, partly because two of his four biological sons, 'Banjo'Dindhali and 'Tim'Rakuwurlma, lived to about ninety, and died at Borroloola on 28 January 1989 and 7 August 1991 respectively. They were born in about 1898 and 1900, or perhaps a little earlier. Rakuwurlma is mentioned several times in my book Frontier Justice: A History of the Gulf Country to 1900, and in my essay The Brutal Truth: What Happened in the Gulf Country, published in The Monthly magazine, November 2009. Rakuwurlma died of natural causes near Muluwa (Cape Vanderlin) on his traditional country, in about 1924.The town of Borroloola was in the south-east corner of Wilangarra country. By 1900 this language group was almost extinct: a decade or so later it was extinct, and its land was taken over by the Yanyuwa. In 2008 I asked Rakuwurlma's only surviving grandson, Whylo McKinnon who was born in 1934, whether the town of Borroloola was in fact on Wilangarra country. He said it was on the boundary and belonged to both language groups. I'm not certain that Whylo is correct on this point, but he may well be. In any event, these circumstances may have contributed to Spencer incorrectly identifying Rakuwurlma as Wilangarra." (Tony Roberts, 2010)

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Alternate Names
  • Vanderlin Jack