Writer Paul Bryden shares the story of the moment the modern word ‘boomerang’ first appeared in writing. Photo: iStock
Writer Paul Bryden shares the story of the moment the modern word ‘boomerang’ first appeared in writing. Photo: iStock

How visit to Bowen played role in history of boomerang

Contributed by Paul Bryden.


The Australian word boomerang is celebrating a significant birthday today, on July 22, and Bowen features in the story of the first time the modern term 'boomerang' appeared in writing.

The boomerang is known across the world as a symbol of Australia and the oldest continuous culture on Earth.

Boomerangs found in South Australia have been dated to 10,000 years Before Present (BP) and painted rock art of them in Arnhem Land is dated back an amazing 25,000 years BP.

Throughout the continent more than 250 Aboriginal languages plus many dialects had their own words for boomerangs.


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Even so, the word is derived from a traditional language spoken near the first European settlement, which became the city of Sydney.

But when did the modern word first appear?

Let's go back in time and revisit a historic moment.

Lieutenant Phillip Parker King RN in command of the Mermaid departed Port Jackson (now Sydney), where he knew indigenous people and some words of their languages.

He was joined by Bungaree, Aboriginal guide for the voyage, and headed north to survey the coastline.

Lt King and the crew had been ashore near present-day Bowen where they explored the landscape, collected plants and met locals and Lt King recorded their observations.

On July 22, 1820, he wrote: " … one of the men carried a spear, another had a boomerang of a smaller size but otherwise similar to that which the Port Jackson natives use …"

That was the moment, the first time our world famous word boomerang was recorded with its current English spelling.

With a quill and ink, and probably without realising it, Lieutenant Phillip Parker King made an important contribution to Australian history.

Therefore, on July 22, 2020 the word "boomerang" is 200 years old.

Happy Birthday Boomerang!



- Wyrie Swamp, S.A. discovery by Dr Roger Leubbers 1973

- Personal contact in 2008 with George Chaloupka author of Journey in Time 1993

- The First Boomerang (p308) by Paul Bryden 2018