Bruce ‘Muckadda’ Shillingsworth dresses as a ‘cop’ and patrols a 200km-square piece of land in western NSW his mob controls under ‘Tribal Lore Enforcement’ – and he’s got no problem blocking police who ‘trespass’
- Aboriginal man stops police in outback NSW
- Forbade them from entering Muruwarri land
- Bruce Shillingsworth used car to block road
An Indigenous man found guilty of helping start a fire that caused $5.3million in damage to Old Parliament House is a hardline activist who runs what he calls a ‘Tribal Lore Enforcement’ body.
Bruce ‘Muckadda’ Shillingsworth posts videos to social media advising First Nations people on how to deal with NSW police, who he calls ‘foreign private corporate agents’, and has been filmed blocking their path.
The 32-year-old established the unarmed Tribal Lore Enforcement in the NSW north-west with his father Bruce ‘Mundagutta’ Shillingsworth four years ago.
On Monday, Shillingsworth Jr was convicted of aiding and abetting arson and destroying Commonwealth property in relation to the fire at Old Parliament House in December 2021.
He appeared at the ACT Supreme Court wearing a traditional headdress and loincloth, and draped in a kangaroo pelt inscribed with a declaration of independence signed by ‘his people’.
A jury had watched CCTV footage of the Muruwarri and Budjiti man referring to ‘eviction papers’ posted at the entrance of the historic Canberra building before its doors were set ablaze.
‘We served that notice,’ Shillingsworth told his fellow protesters. ‘An immediate notice of eviction… We tell them they must move out immediately.’
Shillingsworth runs a popular Facebook page where he shares statements such as ‘First Nations hold supreme power, jurisdiction and authority over their lands’.
He has appeared wearing a black and grey uniform and driving a white Hyundai Accent with a police-like chequered pattern and the words ‘Lore Enforcement’ emblazoned on its side.
Tribal Lore Enforcement covers an area of about 200 square kilometres and a population between 2,000 and 3,000 – most of them Indigenous – from Bourke up to Enngonia near the Queensland border.
Shillingsworth told Daily Mail Australia that Tribal Lore Enforcement, which has recently acquired a Toyota Hilux four-wheel drive, was unlike a government-run police force.
‘First of all, there is a difference between law and lore,’ he said. ‘Lore is in reference to natural lore.
‘First Nations people have that close relationship with the land, the flora, fauna, all of it. So it’s very very different from man-made law.
‘This isn’t something that we just created. We’ve had this system in place since existence. We’ve been doing this for thousands upon thousands of years.
‘It’s a really good thing for us to be able to bring our systems and processes forward in order to manager our own affairs.’
Shillingsworth said much of Tribal Lore Enforcement’s work was helping young people understand their cultural roles and responsibilities, while ‘dealing with our affairs within our nations’.
‘It has currently been working to date but as you can see there is a bit of conflict there with the system in acknowledging our jurisdiction or our existence as well as our knowledge, skills and expertise,’ he said.
‘A lot of people look at that situation and they apply the racial narrative. In no way is race a part of that. It’s the construct of the police force that is the issue.
‘I couldn’t care whether they were black or white in that uniform. It is the construct of it that gives the illusion that they have more power, jurisdiction and authority than natural lore.
‘And what we’re saying is, no it doesn’t. It doesn’t override natural lore, regardless of where you are.’
Shillingsworth was filmed last year in a confrontation with police who responded to reports of illegal squatting on Ledknapper Nature Reserve at Enngonia.
‘We’ve got the police here,’ Shillingsworth says to the camera.
‘What’s happening is they’re going out onto Muruwarri country, they’re thinking that they’ve got authority. I’m going to ask them right here right now about whether they’ve got jurisdiction.
One of the officers interjects, telling Shillingsworth: ‘You’re blocking a public road’.
Another officer says, ‘You’re blocking a roadway, move your vehicle. This is a roadway in New South Wales.’
Shillingsworth tells the officers again, ‘This is Muruwarri land,’ before warning them they are not allowed to enter traditional Aboriginal land.
After being given a direction to move his car, Shillingsworth identifies himself as a ‘Lore Enforcement officer’.
‘You’re committing an offence because that land from here onwards is Muruwarri land and you should know that,’ Shillingsworth says.
Mr Shillingsworth was subsequently charged with obstructing traffic and disobeying directions over the incident, which occurred in March last year.
He was found guilty of both offences and fined $400 after a hearing in September 2022 at Bourke Local Court.
Shillingsworth was back before a magistrate in July when he pleaded guilty to using a recording device inside court premises and posting the results on social media. He was placed on a nine-month conditional release order without conviction.
In another confrontation, this time outside the Oasis Hotel in Enngonia in April 2022, Shillingsworth again objected to police being on Muruwarri land.
‘You guys are trespassing,’ Shillingsworth tells police in a video of that encounter. ‘We served you guys with an eviction notice and now you are overstepping that.
‘This is the second time we’ve given you a warning. Next time you come out on Muruwarri land you may be liable to prosecution under our law and you may be arrested. Do you understand that?’
Shillingsworth said there were about 30 people involved in Tribal Lore Enforcement, which was privately funded and working with other groups including local farmers.
‘We’re self-sufficient so that we’re less vulnerable to getting caught up with any other corporation’s narrative,’ he said. ‘And it’s not very hard we’re finding.
‘There is an alternative way of dealing with certain things as well as seeing things as a community. It’s working to date and it seems to be getting a lot of traction, which is really good.’
The father-of-four said he did not want conflict with the NSW Police Force.
‘As you’ve seen in some of the videos, it’s not very well received by the police for a number of reasons,’ Shillingsworth said.
‘There is the illusion that they’ve got more power, jurisdiction or authority than the First Nations people that have been here for thousands upon thousands of years.’
Shillingsworth would be voting No in the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum but said the issue was barely discussed on his homelands.
‘I’d say a majority of our people don’t know about it,’ he said. ‘You ask people on the ground back in our region about the Voice and they’ll know nothing about it.’
Muruwarri land stretches over 16,000 square kilometres from Barringun on the Queensland/NSW border to Mulga Downs and Weela in south Queensland.
It includes Enngonia on the Warrego River, Brenda and Weilmoringle on the Culgoa River, and as far south as Milroy and Collerina in NSW.
Bruce Shillingsworth’s advice for handling police officers
In a three-part instructional video posted on Facebook, Bruce Shillingsworth advises Indigenous people how to react when stopped by police.
‘Let me tell you mob how to respond to the foreign private corporate agents known as police,’ he says.
‘Firstly, never answer any questions. Answering questions is a form of verbal contracting.
‘Once you do answer questions you are then to the discretion of the foreign private corporate agents. Never be feared or coerced into answering questions.
‘Secondly, record. Get the details of the individual, as well as the entity on which they work for.
‘That evidence, information and data will be used by Tribal Lore Enforcement for prosecution.
‘Thirdly, reinforce the tribal lands upon which you are on.
‘Reinforcing the tribal lands on which you are relinquishes any power, jurisdiction or authority that is thought to be have been had by the Commonwealth, any government or any corporation.’