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Indigenous explorer who travelled with Kennedy on his fatal trip to Cape York in 1848.
Showing grit, resourcefulness and incredible devotion to his colleague Edmund Kennedy, this heroic Aboriginal man is not usually remembered by his own name, Galmarra, but by the name given to him by the European colonisers – Jackey Jackey.
Probably part of the Wonnarua nation, he was born somewhere near present-day Muswellbrook, 130 kilometres north-west of Newcastle, in the early 1830s. As a young man, he was asked to join explorer Edmund Kennedy’s ill-fated 1848 expedition to map the far north Queensland coast and travel to Cape York Peninsula. With a strong work ethic and superb bushcraft, he was the strongest member of the 12-man expedition.
As they struggled through the thick forests of the far north, as slowly as two kilometres a day, the party shrank. Groups of men were left behind at Weymouth Bay and then Shellburne Bay, until it was just Galmarra and Kennedy heading for the tip of the Cape. When Kennedy’s feet became too swollen to walk, Galmarra carried him on his back. He also caught fish to supplement their diet.
Just 20 kilometres from the tip, they were attacked by a group of Aboriginals. Kennedy was speared and Galmarra, though wounded, cut the spear out of Kennedy’s back and carried him to a creek. Kennedy died in his arms.
After burying his friend and despite the risk of further attack, Galmarra somehow finished the journey over the next two weeks, meeting the rescue ship waiting at Albany Bay. It is said that Galmarra, although completely exhausted, could not rest on that first night, because he was grieving so deeply for Kennedy.
All but two of the remaining expedition party also perished or went missing before they could be rescued. Galmarra returned to the area the following year as a guide on an expedition to find Kennedy’s body and search for any survivors. His skills and devotion to Kennedy’s memory were praised by the expedition leader, Captain T Beckford Simpson.
A street in Ngunnawal in the ACT is named after Galmarra, and a beautiful waterway in Jardine National Park, on Cape York Peninsula, is named Jacky Jacky Creek.