History 1

Aboriginal Victorians: A History since 1800 by Richard; with Jackomos, Alick Broome

By Richard; with Jackomos, Alick Broome

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Several carried between them, on their shoulders, a warrior wearing a reed necklace, a large septum bone and a massive coronet of swan’s feathers. The alarmed Europeans fired. A Wathawurrung warrior fell, probably victim of a 19-mm lead ball from a ‘Brown Bess’ English service musket, which tore his flesh and bone. The charge halted and the Wathawurrung fled in panic at the deadly lightning from the strangers’ eyes. After eight months, Lt Collins termed Sorrento an ‘unpromising and unproductive country’, and withdrew to establish a settlement in Tasmania at Hobart Town.

Batman first encouraged Aborigines’ expectations with his treaty, which promised annual payments. In May 1836—the treaty’s first anniversary—he duly issued rice, flour and sugar. 10 Melbourne became a place of plenty via gifts or exchanges. When Governor Bourke arrived in March 1837 to inspect the new town, he gave out blankets, clothing, and a few brass, crescent-shaped neck-plates to denote supposed Aboriginal authority. He received kangaroo meat and a corroboree in return. In late-March 1839 George Augustus Robinson arrived to become Chief Protector of the Aborigines, and the Government sponsored a feast on the north bank of the Yarra, to which all Melbourne was invited.

His tales of the Napoleonic Wars, of armies and horses, of England and London, must have awed them as the knowledge of a spirit traveller, but Buckley always remained a novice in terms of Aboriginal ways. 4 The Kulin peoples of central Victoria had few contacts with Europeans for a further generation, although they picked up rare European flotsam and jetsam that floated the world’s seas. Sealers and bark cutters occasionally watered in the Bay. The Geordy’s crew clashed with the Boonwurrung during one such visit in 1815, killing one man.

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