Cannibalism In Australia and New Zealand
Cannibalism was practiced by the original inhabitants of Australia and New Zealand. It was common practice among some Maoris to eat the flesh of enemies killed in battle, and while some anthropologists consider this was because the Maoris wanted to gain the strength of the defeated people, it is also probably that it was used as a means of remedying protein deficiency. One such case of Maoris cannibalism was seen in the Boyd Massacre of 1809.
A similar motive was attributed to some Aboriginals who ate parts of a dead person so that his power remained in his own tribe. This particular form of cannibalism was practiced throughout eastern Australia, on the Murray-Darling river systems, at Lake Eyre and in the West of Western Australia. The Aboriginals also practiced cannibalism in conjunction with infanticide. In these cases, the child was killed as a form of population control and it was believed that if the newly born child was eaten, its spirit would be born again when the group was better equipped to cope with additional members.
Although all the motivations for Aboriginals eating other people are not known, there is a mass of evidence from early reports to indicate that in many parts of Australia, and particularly in North Queensland, intruders who were killed were often eaten. Such examples included Chinese who were making their way to the Palmer River gold rush and some survivors of the wreck of the brig Maria who came ashore north of Cardwell in 1872.
There is also evidence of cannibalism among convicts during the early days of settlement in Australia. A convict group escaped while being transported to Sarah Island in 1822. With food scarce and having gone 15 days without nourishment, the group resorted to cannibalism. Killing off their comrades one by one, Alexander Pearce was the only one left to confess his crimes when he was recaptured in 1823. No one believed the story and he was sent back to prison. He escaped yet again and brought with him Thomas Cox as provisions. When he was picked up again, Pearce confessed his crimes for the second time and showed them a bit of Cox he had saved. He was transported back to Hobart where he was hanged.