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Warrigal Anderson (1948–)

PUBLICATION: Warrigal Anderson, Warrigal’s Way, University of Queensland Press, 1996, Brisbane

SEX: Male

BIRTH DATE: 16 March 1948

BIRTH PLACE: Melbourne



  • Swan Hill: Warrigal lived in Swan Hill as a small child while his mother worked picking grapes. (p.2)
  • Melbourne: Warrigal moved to Melbourne with his mother when he was ten years old. (p.2) His mother sent him away, to avoid the Aboriginal Welfare Department. (p.7)
  • Warrigal returned to Melbourne after four years working as a drover in Queensland, and lived in St Kilda. (pp.105-115) He left Melbourne again for fear of being taken into custody, and travelled to Mildura in search of work. (p.114)
  • Sydney: Warrigal mistakenly caught the train to Sydney after fleeing Melbourne at the age of ten, and stayed there for a few weeks with Nancy and Sue. (p.7) He returned to Sydney after four years working as a drover in Queensland, and stayed with Sue and her husband Colin. (p.96)
  • Townsville: Warrigal caught the train from Sydney to Townsville alone when he was ten. (pp.16-20) He squatted in an abandoned house in South Townsville, hiding from the Department. (p.25)
  • Greenvale: Warrigal stopped in Greenvale on his first droving trip. (p.54)
  • Longreach: Warrigal camped outside Longreach when he worked as a drover. While visiting the town he borrowed and crashed a local boy’s bike, injuring himself badly. (p.76)
  • Charleville: Warrigal camped outside of Charleville while working as a drover. Warrigal got in a fight with local thugs, and left the town with a black eye and a swollen lip. (p.77)
  • Mildura: Warrigal travelled to Mildura in search of fruit picking work after fleeing Melbourne for a second time. (p.117-120) He and Barry stayed for one season before travelling onwards to Rockhampton. (p.120)
  • Brisbane: Warrigal and Barry stopped in Brisbane on their way from Mildura to Rockhampton to look for casual work. (p.121)
  • Barry got a job in the meatworks, and Warrigal in a brewery, and rented a house in New Farm with their partners Marge and June. (p.125)
  • Warrigal left New Farm when he broke up with June, and moved into an Aboriginal boarding house in South Brisbane. (p. 139)
  • Rockhampton: Warrigal and Barry drove to Rockhampton hoping to find work during the pineapple season. (p.120)
  • Bowen: Warrigal travelled from Rockhampton to Bowen with Mick and Stumpy, and found work cutting sugar cane. (p.147)
  • Darwin: Warrigal travelled from Bowen to Darwin to seek work in the meatworks. (p.151) He lived in a caravan park and made friends with people from a range of different backgrounds. (p.151)
  • Warrabri Settlement: Warrigal lived in the Warrabri Aboriginal settlement near Tennant Creek while working for a Darwin-based construction company. (pp.157-161)
  • Elcho Island: Warrigal visited Elcho Island while working on the barge that supplied remote Aboriginal settlements, and found it an enchanting place. (p.163)
  • Broome: Warrigal spent a week in Broome after leaving Darwin when he learned that there was a warrant for his arrest. (p.166)
  • Port Hedland: After leaving Broome, Warrigal and Dave spent a week looking for work in Port Hedland. (p.182)
  • Brighton: Warrigal and Jen moved to Brighton in Victoria when they returned from New Zealand. (p.214)
  • Katherine: Warrigal moved to Katherine after his wife left him in Brighton. (p.214)


  • New Zealand: Warrigal went on a working holiday to his wife’s home country, New Zealand. (p.188) He spent three weeks working in Auckland before buying a car and travelling with Jen and their daughter Sharon around the North Island, stopping in Whangarei, Rotorua and Taupo. (pp.193-196) The family then took a ferry to the South Island and visited Christchurch and Invercargill. (p.198)


  • Warrigal never went to school, because he was in hiding from the authorities. (p.2)
  • When Warrigal started droving at the age of eleven, his fellow stockman bought schoolbooks for him. (p.31) Ted and Mike made him read three pages a night, and Warrigal learned to love literature. (p.32)
  • Hugh was too busy to teach Warrigal, and Mike became bored easily with the task. (p.74) Ted, however, was persistent and appreciated the value of education. He shared his collection of classic novels with Warrigal, and also taught him grammar. (p.32)
  • Warrigal continued travelling, working and living with adults, and never returned to school. (p.126)


  • Warrigal started looking for work in Townsville when he was just ten years old. (p.24) He claimed to be sixteen and applied to the meatworks at Ross River, but his potential employers didn’t believe him or offer work. (p.24) Warrigal and another homeless boy, Dannie, subsisted largely on fishing and gathering fruit. (p.25)
  • Just before his eleventh birthday, Warrigal was offered a job as a drover by a stockman named Hugh. (p.30) He became instant friends with his other work mates, Ted and Mick, and they bought him new clothing, boots, a hat, and camping equipment. (p.37)
  • Ted, Mick and Hugh taught Warrigal the skills necessary to be a stockman. On his first attempt to put a shoe on a horse, he was kicked in the stomach. (p. 38) When he later learnt to ride on a horse called Shorty, Warrigal was unsaddled a number of times. (p.40)
  • Warrigal and the other stockman made the long, uncomfortable drive past Forsayth in Far North Queensland to collect the cattle. (p.58) The herd was Herefords, which Warrigal learnt were the calmest breed. (p.95)
  • Warrigal rode behind the cattle with his dog Pat. (p.66) He recalls the cramps caused by long hours of riding, and the strong smell of cow manure, the flies, and dust. (pp.66-67)
  • When they arrived back in Forsayth, Warrigal’s fellow drovers surprised him with a birthday cake and a stockwhip as a present. (p.69)
  • The stockmen took a day off to go shopping when they reached the town of Emerald. (p.70) Hugh purchased a sleeping bag, and tried to convince the other stockman of the merits of the modern device. (p.71) Warrigal was almost persuaded to buy one, when a brown snake crawled into Hugh’s sleeping bag at night and fell asleep on his chest. (p.72)
  • After delivering the herd of Hereford to Townsville, the droving team did a few short trips in the area. (p.74) Warrigal, Ted, Hugh and Mike then camped with cattle near Longreach and Charleville. (pp.74-79) Local thugs targeted them when they visited these towns. (p.79)
  • Over the next year Warrigal, Ted, Hugh and Mike worked on a series of one to two month droving jobs. (p.86) At this time, it became clear that their profession was in decline. (p.88)
  • The team’s last droving job was to move fifteen hundred cattle from the Northern Territory to Townsville. (p.88) During his four years as a drover, Hugh had banked Warrigal five pounds of pay every week. (p.94) By the time Warrigal parted ways with the team in Townsville he had earned 250 pounds. Jim warned him that the Aboriginal Welfare Department might confiscate these earnings if they found him. (p.94)
  • Warrigal was offered work in the grain stores when he returned to Melbourne. (p.99) He was paid two pounds a day to lift bags onto the railway wagon, which was back-breaking work. (pp.100-102)
  • Warrigal then got a job cleaning and packing trucks at the meatworks. (p.104) Initially the sight of sheep being slaughtered made him queasy, but Warrigal soon grew accustomed to his new working environment. (p.106) He was paid six and a half pounds a day as a casual worker, but on some days there was no work available. (pp.109-111)
  • After a run in with the police in a pub, Warrigal left Melbourne for fear he would be taken into custody. (p.116) He moved to Mildura with Barry to pick grapes for one pound a basket. (p.119)
  • Initially Warrigal and Barry found picking very strenuous, but they soon grew accustomed to the work. (p.120) By the time the season ended they had earned twenty-six pounds, which they used to buy a car to travel to Rockhampton. (p.120)
  • Warrigal and Barry stopped in Brisbane on their way north to look for work. Barry was employed for the season at the meat works, and Warrigal found casual work at the meatworks and on a conveyor belt at a brewery. (pp.122-123)
  • Warrigal was later offered four days loading freezer containers at the Cool Stores. (p.126) They offered him a permanent position, but he preferred to work on a casual basis. (p.126)
  • After breaking up with his girlfriend June, Warrigal headed north with his workmates from Melbourne, Mick and Stumpy. (p.139) They stopped in Gympie on route to Rockhampton and spent three days picking beans. (pp.139-141) Their stay was brief because the work was hard and poorly paid, and their German employers were abusive. (p.139)
  • In Rockhampton Warrigal, Mick and Stumpy found a few days a week casual work in local meatworks. (p.142) Warrigal got his driver’s licence and then they left for Bowen, to cut sugar cane for twenty-five pounds a ton. (p.146)
  • When the sugar cane was cut they worked the tomato-picking season in Rockhampton, and supplemented their income with fishing. (p.15) At the end of the season Mick and Stumpy returned to Victoria and Warrigal travelled to Darwin. (p.150)
  • In Darwin Warrigal once more worked as a casual in the meatworks. (p.152) His colleague from the meatworks, Kevin, helped him to find accommodation in a boarding house and a job with a construction company. (p.152) Soon after he started, Warrigal was informally trained to replace the companies’ crane driver. (p.154)
  • After a year working illegally as a crane operator, Warrigal was asked to sit the operator’s exams. (p.154) Warrigal was convinced that he would not pass the written exam, and so decided to resign from the role rather than take the test. (p.154)
  • Warrigal was then offered a labouring and construction job at the Warrabri settlement, near Tennant Creek. (p.157) He worked with a group of casual Aboriginal workers from six in the morning until one in the afternoon. (p.161) In the afternoon they went hunting, and the Warrabri men taught Warrigal how to throw a boomerang and use a woomera spear. (p.161)
  • When he returned to Darwin, Warrigal took over driving a road train while an employee was on leave for two months. (p.162) He then worked on a barge that supplied remote Aboriginal settlements for three months. (p.162)
  • Warrigal left Darwin after learning that there was a warrant for his arrest, and travelled to Western Australia with a fellow deck hand named Dave. (p.166) When they arrived in Broome they encountered an Aboriginal man Warrigal knew from Darwin, who offered casual work supervising a boat. (p. 170) Dave and Warrigal supplemented their income by fishing and crabbing. (pp.178-180)
  • From Broome, Warrigal and Dave travelled to Port Hedland and found work welding at an engineering shop. (p.183) Dave left after a few months but Warrigal stayed on because he enjoyed the work. (p.183) He learned to scuba dive in Port Hedland, so that he could mend the buffering for the ore carriers at Finucane Island. (p.183) Warrigal also worked on drawing and plans in the head office, and learned to install petrol tanks. (p.184)
  • Warrigal's employers sent him to the iron ore mine, Goldsworthy, for six months. (p.184) When he returned to Port Hedland he was promoted to outside headman. (p.184) In this role Warrigal worked constantly and travelled all over the Pilbara to meet engineers. (p.184)
  • When Warrigal married Jen he took a position in the Goldsworthy mine workshop in Port Hedland. (p.186) After the birth of their daughter Sharon, they decided to take a working holiday in Jen’s home country, New Zealand. (p.189) In Auckland, Warrigal was employed for three weeks as a casual in a meat works. (p.190)
  • Warrigal and Jen then purchased a car and toured the North Island, before catching a ferry to the South Island and renting a house in Invercargill. (p.198) Warrigal found work at the Alliance Meatworks for a fortnight. (p.199)
  • After leaving Invercargill Warrigal and Jenny travelled up the West Coast. During their trip they met an ex-university professor named Bruce, who had given up teaching to tend to his fifteen hundred acres of bushland. He offered Warrigal work cutting flax and accommodation in a humpy on his property. (pp.199) Jen was hesitant, but Warrigal fell in love with the location and they stayed for three months. (pp.200-204)
  • After leaving Bruce’s property Warrigal and Jen headed north to Motulka, and found work picking apples and tobacco. (pp.208-209) When the season was over Warrigal worked for a month planting and pruning trees. (p.209)
  • Warrigal and Jen moved to Brighton when they returned to Australia, and he started at the Angliss meatworks. (p.215) When his wife left him Warrigal moved to Katherine and found work at the meatworks. (p.217) At the caravan park where he lived he met a ringer from Mambooloo [Manbullo?] Station, who offered him a job as a general labourer. (p.217)
  • Warrigal later did repairs and cleaned Housing Commission flats, and then worked for the Katherine Council for six years. (pp.217-218)


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  • While Warrigal worked as a stockman, fellow drover Ted treated any of his injuries or illnesses. This included the bruises he obtained when he was kicked by a horse, (p.38) and when he suffered from stomach upsets after eating greasy breakfasts. (p.63)
  • When Warrigal was twelve years old he crashed while riding a bike for the first time in Longreach. (p.76) He lost two teeth and broke his wrist. (p.76)
  • Warrigal was also injured in a fight with a local thug in Charleville in his early teens. (p.77)


  • Mum: Warrigal’s mother’s first husband and their son both died from measles in 1930. (p.1) She had three more children with her second husband, before fleeing his violence. (p.1)
  • The authorities soon took two of her children, Gordon and Pauline. (p.2) Warrigal stayed with his mother only because she hid him. (p.2)
  • Warrigal’s father tracked his mother down while she was picking grapes in Swan Hill. (p.2) The residents defended her against his violence and she was able to escape. (p.2)
  • When Warrigal was ten his mother moved to Melbourne, and they lived in a shed outside a friend's house. (p.2)
  • The Aboriginal Welfare Department learned of their location later in the year, and Warrigal was forced to flee his mother’s home to escape them. (p.7)
  • When Warrigal returned to Melbourne after four years of working as a drover in Queensland, his mother had married and moved to New Zealand. (p.98)
  • Warrigal tried to track his mother down when he visited New Zealand with his wife Jen, but had no success. (p.193)
  • Dad:  Warrigal’s father was a white man. (p.23) According to his mother, he was a very violent man: who broke her bones if she wouldn’t have sex with his friends, or if his dinner was cold when he came home late from the pub (p.1) He also broke Warrigal’s brother Gordon’s nose by backhanding him, and tried to rape his sister Pauline.


  • Paula: Warrigal met Paula while waiting for Ted and Mike outside the bar in Dingo at the age of fourteen. (p.84) Although she was much older than Warrigal, she offered to keep him company and then kissed him. (p.84) Warrigal worried about impregnating Paula, but she explained to him that this was not possible from kissing alone. (p.85)
  • Teresa: Warrigal met Teresa while she was working in a bar known as ‘the snake pit’. (p.111) She fled the bar with him when an Italian man pulled a gun, and moved in with Warrigal at Mick and Stumpy’s flat in St Kilda. (p.112)
  • Teresa lived in St Kilda as Warrigal’s partner, and worked in a ladies shop in Footscray, until he left Melbourne. (p.114)
  • Warrigal tried to convince Teresa to move to Mildura with him, but she was not fond of rural life. (p.114)
  • June: Warrigal met June while working in a brewery in Brisbane when he was fifteen. (p.123) She was a tall, blonde nineteen year old with blue eyes. (p.124) He lied about his age and they went on a date after work. (p.124)
  • June moved in with Warrigal in New Farm, and taught him how to drive using her FX Holden. (p.126) Warrigal loved June, but felt guilty because he had no intention of marrying her. (p.132)
  • Warrigal and June’s relationship broke down when she admitted she was scared of his dark-skinned Aboriginal friend Stumpy. (p.136) Warrigal took issue with June’s racism, and moved into an Aboriginal boarding house in South Brisbane. (p.137)
  • Nola: an eighteen year old Aboriginal woman who Warrigal had a relationship with in Darwin. (p.155)
  • Nola wanted to marry and have children, but Warrigal was hesitant to commit. (p.158)
  • Jen: Warrigal met Jen when she was working as a waitress in Port Hedland. (p.184) She was a petite New Zealander with a dark complexion. (p.184)
  • After courting for ten months Warrigal and Jen decided to marry. (p.185) They were unable to register their union because Warrigal didn’t have a birth certificate, but they began to live as man and wife in a sixteen-foot caravan. (p.186) Jen found work at Poons canteen and on the weekends they fossicked for gemstones. (p.186)
  • After having their daughter Sharon, Warrigal and Jen went on a working holiday to New Zealand. When they returned to Australia, they moved into a flat in Brighton. Jen was not happy in their new home and she and Warrigal began to fight frequently. (p.215)
  • One night Warrigal returned home from work to find a note from Jen saying she was leaving him and taking their daughter with her. (p.215) He later learnt that she was had gone to New Zealand with a new partner. (p.215)


  • When Warrigal learnt that his wife Jen was pregnant he was eager to have a child, but also fearful that they might be taken by the Department. (p.187)
  • He was relieved to learn that child removal was no longer practiced in Australia. (p.188) Warrigal and Jen shared responsibilities when their daughter Sharon was born. (p.188)
  • Warrigal and Jen took Sharon travelling around New Zealand with them. Shortly after they returned to Australia, Jen left Warrigal for another man and took their daughter with them. (p.216)


  • Pauline: Warrigal’s older sister. (p.1) Warrigal’s mother left their father after he tried to rape Pauline, and soon after she was taken by the authorities. (p.3)
  • Gordon: Warrigal’s older brother. Gordon had his nose and cheekbone broken by their father. (p.2) One of Warrigal’s earliest memories is of his brother being taken away by the authorities. (p.2)
  • Nancy and Sue: a young woman Warrigal met on the train to Sydney, after fleeing Melbourne to escape the Department of Aboriginal Welfare. (p.4) Nancy gave Warrigal her phone number, and he called her after spending his first night in Sydney sleeping in a hedge. (p.7)
  • Warrigal stayed with Nancy and her housemate Sue for a week, and told them about his situation with the Department. (p.11)
  • Nancy was very kind to Warrigal, and she and Sue took him on trips to Lunar Park, Sydney wharf, the Rugby League, and Coogee beach. (pp.11-15) They also paid for his train ticket to Brisbane. (p.16)
  • When Warrigal returned to Sydney at the age of fifteen he stayed with Sue and her husband Colin. (p.96) By this time, Nancy had move to Adelaide with her boyfriend. (p.96)
  • Danny Kelly: Warrigal met Danny gazing at the stars on the bridge in Townsville. (p.23) Like Warrigal, he was a homeless boy of Aboriginal heritage, who was avoiding the Child Welfare Department. (p.23) Warrigal invited Danny to squat with him in an abandoned house in South Townsville. (p.23)
  • Danny left for Brisbane after he had earned enough at the meat works to afford a train ticket. (p.25)
  • Hugh: Warrigal met a tall stockman named Hugh in Townsville while he was looking for work at the meatworks. (p.28) He offered him a job as part of his team and Warrigal accepted. (p.30)
  • As head stockman, Hugh was an egalitarian leader, who won the respect of the other drovers. (p.87)
  • Warrigal tried to track Hugh down later in life, but learnt that his friend had died of pneumonia. (p. 217)
  • Ted: One of the drovers that Warrigal worked with as a child. (p.30) Ted was a tall and tough character, but he and Warrigal became close friends. (p.30)
  • Ted was well educated, and had a collection of classic novels. He and Mike taught Warrigal to read around the campfire at night. (p.32)
  • Ted was a good cook. He also tended to Warrigal’s injuries when a horse kicked him, and whenever he had an injury or illness from then on. (p.38)
  • Mike never let Ted treat him, after he accidentally latched onto his tongue while trying to remove an infected tooth with a pair of pliers. (p.63)
  • Ted taught Warrigal to box, after he was badly beaten by local thugs in Charleville. (p.77)
  • Mike: Another of the drovers that Warrigal worked with as a child. Mike was a good-looking and likeable person, and he and Warrigal became friends immediately. (p.30)
  • Mike helped Warrigal learn to read and write. (p.31) He also taught him to street fight.(p.79)
  • Jim: an Aboriginal drover who joined Hugh’s stock team in the Northern Territory, to help move fifteen hundred cattle to Townsville. (p.86) When Jim learned that Warrigal was of Aboriginal descent he started teaching him bush skills and dreamtime stories. (p.87)
  • Warrigal never saw Jim again after the droving team separated in Townsville. (p.92) He believes that his friend died in a car accident. (p.92)
  • Barry: Warrigal met Barry in a milk bar in Melbourne when he was fifteen. He helped him to find work in the grain stores and meat works. (p.103) Barry came with Warrigal when he left Melbourne to find work in Mildura. (p.103)
  • Mick: Barry introduced Warrigal to Mick when they worked together at the meatworks in Melbourne. When Mick learnt that Warrigal was living in a car crate he offered him a bed at his flat in St Kilda. (p.103)
  • Warrigal reconnected with Mick and their mutual friend Stumpy while working in Brisbane. They travelled north together looking for work. (p.138)
  • Stumpy: Barry met Stumpy while working in the meatworks in Melbourne. Like Barry, Mick and Warrigal, Stumpy was of Aboriginal descent, but his skin was much darker than his workmates. After Warrigal introduced Stumpy to his girlfriend June in Brisbane, the couple broke up because she told him she was scared for his Aboriginal friend. (p.136)
  • After leaving June, Warrigal travelled North with Stumpy and Mick in search of work. (p.138)
  • Kevin: Warrigal met Kevin at the meatworks in Darwin. (p.152) Kevin offered Warrigal accommodation in his boarding house in Stuart Park. (p.152)
  • Dave: Warrigal met Dave, who also worked on a supply barge, at a boarding house in Darwin. (p.164) They decided to move to Western Australia together, where they fished and found casual work on boats. (pp.165-171)
  • Bruce: a university professor from New Zealand who gave up teaching to tend to his fifteen hundred acres of bushland on the West Coast. Warrigal and his wife Jen stopped to help Bruce when his truck broke down, and he offered them work cutting flax and accommodation in a humpy on his property. (pp.199) They spent three months with Bruce before heading north. (pp.199-208)


  • Child Removal: One of Warrigal first memories is of his elder siblings being taken away from his mother by government authorities, who he refers to as “the Department.” (p.3) These officials also had a warrant to take Warrigal in as a Ward of the State, but his mother hid him. (p.3)
  • Warrigal fled Melbourne at the age of ten, when his mother got warning that the Department had traced them. (p.7) He travelled alone to Sydney, and was so panicked about being pursued by the Department that he slept in a hedge. (p.8)
  • In Townsville Warrigal squatted in an empty house with a boy named Danny Kelly, who was also on the run from the Department. Danny had fled from a welfare home, and told Warrigal his harrowing experiences there. (p.23)
  • When Warrigal returned to Melbourne after four years as a drover, he still worried about the Department. Jim, an Aboriginal stockman from the Northern Territory, warned Warrigal that the Department might confiscate his earnings. (p.96) To avoid detection, Warrigal used a pseudonym when applying for jobs or accommodation. (p.98)
  • Later in life, when Warrigal was working in the Northern Territory, a police officer friend informed him that they had a warrant for his arrest. (p. 165)
  • In Port Hedland Warrigal met a Justice of the Peace, who informed him that he was no longer a ward of the state as he was over the age of twenty-one. (p.183)
  • Warrigal’s fears returned when his wife Jen told him that she was pregnant. (p.186)
  • Warrigal was relieved to learn that child removal was no longer practiced in Australia by this time. (p.187) He believes that this policy did irreparable damage to Aboriginal communities.


  • Warrigal’s Way was written by Warrigal Anderson.

Additional Resources

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Citation details

'Anderson, Warrigal (1948–)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 May 2024.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


16 March, 1948
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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