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White-Gum-Tree-Dwellers

Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 3 years, 7 months ago

Time Travellers in Essendon, Flemington and the Keilor Plains

 

White gum tree dwellers

 

John Cotton's watercolour, circa 1845, of an aboriginal encampment on the banks of the Yarra river, shows his fine observation of the construction of aboriginal shelters.  He has depicted cicatrices on the woman's upper chest, and the characteristic dress of skin cloaks.  (Latrobe Library Picture Collection.  State Library of Victoria, No H252, with permission.)

 

The aboriginal inhabitants of this area belonged to the Woi wurrung clan, who were part of the Kulin nation. Woi wurrung people were also known as the Yarra Tribe.

The subgroup of the Woi wurrung who inhabited the Moonee Valley area were the Wurundjeri willam, which means 'white gum tree dwellers'.  When white settlers arrived in 1835, Billibellary was the ngurungaeta, or headman, of a clan of the Wurundjeri willam.  Billibellary's people were associated with the area from the Maribyrnong River across to the Merri Creek, and north to Mount William near Lancefield.

 

Group of Aborigines, sitting and standing, whole-length, full face, wearing animal skins, some holding weapons, circa 1858.  This posed view was probably taken in an aboriginal reserve.  The men's hair is neatly brushed, and they wear western clothes under their cloaks and blankets. Photographers: Richard Daintree 1832-1878 and Antoine Fauchery 1823-1861.  (Latrobe Library Picture Collection.  State Library of Victoria, H92.101/102, with permission. )

 

In 1835 the Geelong and Dutigalla Association, a land syndicate formed in Hobart by John Batman, later known as the Port Phillip Association, arrived in the southern-most part of what was then the colony of New South Wales.   Batman's plans for occupation included a spurious 'treaty' with the aboriginal inhabitants.  The Association surveyor, John Helder Wedge, drew up a map of Port Phillip showing the allocation of lands to various syndicate members.  Section 11, which covered land which includes the present day City of Moonee Valley, was allocated to John Thomas Collicott, the Hobart Postmaster. 

 

Map of Port Phillip from the survey of Mr. Wedge and others, 1879.  Latrobe Library Cartographic Collection. 

State Library of Victoria.  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/114197

 

Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales, rejected the Port Phillip Association claims in 1836, but with the illegal settlement having advanced so far, he gave orders for the District to be surveyed and regulation of the settlement.

It was the aboriginal land management system of firing the bush to create open grassland to attract small game that made the area so attractive to sheep graziers arriving rapidly from Tasmania.

Woiwurrung people bore the greatest impact of the white incursion, and their numbers dwindled rapidly, severely affected by infections and the loss of their traditional hunting grounds.

An Aboriginal Protectorate, established by the government in 1839, was admitted to have failed by 1849, and thereafter government policy was to confine aboriginal people to mission stations.  Woiwurrung people were moved to the Acheron, and later "Corrandirk" at Healesville.  Despite this, groups of aboriginal people were still seen intermittently moving through the district until the late 1860s, gathering to meet kinsmen and perform ceremonial rites.  Several sites were mentioned as having been aboriginal camping grounds, including west of 'Ailsa' in Mount Alexander Road, Ascot Vale; near the Essendon Railway station (the latter two sites being mentioned as places where blankets were handed out); the Essendon Reserve (known these days as 'Windy Hill'); Buckley Park; and an area between Lincoln Road and Buckley Street.

George Bishop, born in Nicholson Street, Essendon in 1852, claimed to have witnessed between eight and fourteen corroborees in the district, the last one in 1868.

William Thomas Quinton, born in Flemington in 1855, and whose family home was in Princes Street, Flemington, recalled a family story:

          "Go to your own country!"         

"An incident which caused a mild rebuke happened to my good Mother.  In the early days the blacks, as I have hereto mentioned, were always roving from place to place, and as Flemington was their destination you can depend upon it their visits were pretty often. ...  I am told that Flemington was a quiet camping ground in the early days.  Untill recently a cooking camp was plainly seen on the rise near the Court house.  It was the custom when a tribe moved, their cooking ground was always covered, so that when the next tribe came along they simply turned over the embers, and as the low lying ground & creek gave abundance of wild fowl & fish, twas a favorite spot.

....... While my mother was at her duties she did not notice the sudden appearance of a big, burly blackfellow who was begging for food as was always the case with them when away from their natural hunting ground.

 

....Well, this fellow asked for Bojamma meaning beef, for let me tell you they became very dainty, mutton was too common.  The words he uttered were, “plenty Bojamma, give it me Sugar”, for they were very fond of sweets, and white money meaning silver.  .... Mother being annoyed, for she had already been visited by some that morning, she exclaimed quickly, “Go to your own country”.  She said he folded his arms into his blanket, he showed his teeth, his piercing eyes shot forth like fire, he exclaimed, “Youm go away, your own country. You steel um plenty land from blackfellow, kill him, birds, him get no food. Give it me missis, blackfellow & lubra go along plenty away in country”.

 

 

William Thomas Quinton, 1911.                                                                                               

 

                                                                                                                    ©  Lenore Frost

 

See also The Wurundjeri willam: the original inhabitants of Moonee Valley.

 

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