Australia has no war hero more impressive than Tongerlongeter. Leader of the Oyster Bay nation of south-east Tasmania in the 1820s and ’30s, he and his allies led the most effective frontier resistance ever mounted on Australian soil. They killed or wounded some 354 – or 4 per cent – of the invaders of their country. Tongerlongeter’s brilliant campaign inspired terror throughout the colony, forcing Governor George Arthur to launch a massive military operation in 1830 – the infamous Black Line. Tongerlongeter escaped but the cumulative losses had taken their toll. On New Year’s Eve 1831, having lost his arm, his country, and all but 25 of his people, the chief agreed to an armistice. In exile on Flinders Island, this revered warrior united most of the remnant tribes and became the settlement’s ‘King’ – a beacon of hope in a hopeless situation.
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