Barry Golding’s Men’s Shed books: Purchasing options

My Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement book, was published by Common Ground Research Networks (CGRN) in Chicago, USA in October 2021. The publisher is offering a 25% discount if purchased via CGRN on the same order with my 2015 book, The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book using the launch discount code SHOULDER2021: see Shoulder to Shoulder_flyer_final_correctedDOWNLOAD

The new 444 page book published in 2021 includes an Index for both books. You can use the QR code on the flyer (above) for ordering either the 2015 or 2021 book, that takes you straight to the book order form on the Common Ground Research Networks website. Alternatively you can order just the 2021 book via the CGRN website:

The US$50 price for one book ordered online via CGRN is equivalent to approximately $70 Australian (depending on the current exchange rate). Postage and international transfer fees are extra.

Alternative Purchase Option within Australia

Barry Golding is able to post copies of either book via Australia Post, for immediate delivery anywhere in Australia, for $65 (including $10 post). Payment is via bank transfer.

Email your order requests to Barry Golding:

About the 2021 Book: ‘Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement’

Shed-based community organisations are meeting many people’s acute, unmet needs and debilitating dilemmas. Participants are empowered ‘shoulder to shoulder’ in a shared endeavour, not as customers, clients, students or patients. This ‘bottom-up’ Shed model radically upends the traditional power dynamic, putting ‘shedders’ collectively back in charge of their lives, health and wellbeing. 

In the six years since my 2015 book, ‘The Men’s Sheds Movement: The Company of Men’ was published in 2015. The Movement has broadened to include other nations and Women’s Sheds. From the humblest of beginnings in rural Tongala, Australia in 1998, the movement had evolved to include almost 3,000 Sheds worldwide by 2021.

This new book gives voice to Movements across Australia, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, the United States and Africa. It shines a light on the transformational experiences and positive impact that Sheds have had on the lives of men, women, families and communities, nimbly and rapidly responding during the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

While every Shed in the world is unique and different, the book’s many powerful Men’s and Women’s Shed case studies highlight how the power of shared, hands-on social activity for ‘shedders’ can reduce the potentially destructive forces of loneliness and social isolation. 

It’s about the universal value of “having somewhere to go, something to do, and someone to talk with,” as envisaged by the late Dick McGowan in the very first Men’s Shed.

Informative, insightful, easy to read and carefully researched, Shoulder to Shoulder provides a well-documented tour de force of this globally expanding and broadening international movement. 

What’s in the new book?

The book includes separate Chapters about Men’s Sheds in: Australia, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, the US, Canada & Denmark as well as ‘Elsewhere in the World’. There are Chapters about ‘Women’s Sheds Worldwide’, ‘Research Evidence since 2014’ and a final synthesis Chapter called ‘Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement’. The Index provided on the 2021 book also indexes the 2015 book.

The 2021 book includes 67 revisited Men’s Shed Case Studies (from 2015) from seven countries and 56 new 2021 Men’s Shed Case studies from ten countries. In addition, there are eight Women’s Shed Case Studies from four countries.

International contributors

Barry Golding is author of seven Chapters and shares authorship with six international Shed experts in five other Chapters. Co-authors are:

  • Dr Joel Hedegaard, Assistant Professor, School of Education & Communication, Jönköping University, Jönköping,Sweden. [Danish Men’s Shed Chapter]
  • Mie Møller Nielsen, Head of Secretariat, Forum for Mænds Sundhed (Men’s Health), Copenhagen, Denmark. [Danish Men’s Shed Chapter]
  • Philip Johnson, Managing Director, US Men’s Sheds Association, Hopkins, Minnesota, USA. [US Men’s Sheds Chapter]
  • Professor Corey Mackenzie, Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. [Canadian Men’s Shed Chapter]
  • Dr Lucia Carragher, School of Health & Science, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. [Women’s Shed Chapter]
  • Associate Professor Annette Foley, Associate Dean, School of Education & Arts, Federation University, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia [Research Evidence Chapter]

Where on Earth?

Where on earth did these men come from?

The inherited legacy of British slavery in Dja Dja Wurrung Country

Barry Golding, 5 September 2021

Please contact me if you are able to correct me & fill in any of the gaps

This account focuses on the family origins of several of the earliest squatters who arrived in the Colony of Port Phillip and ‘took up stations’ north of the Great Dividing Range on Dja Dja Wurrung Country in central Victoria before 1842. In particular, it asks what brought many these British refugees to Australia, and where they might have gained the considerable capital necessary to quickly establish such vast pastoral enterprises.

John Hepburn’s cousin, Robert Hepburn, whose mother was a Jamaican slave

The men involved (mostly White, with some exceptions, including Robert Hepburn, above, and also the Birches at Seven Hills and Bullarook who have Indian ancestry) are now commemorated as heroes in the landscape they invaded by mountains, towns, monuments and streets. The women are seldom mentioned.

Some men later penned deliberately sanitized words in Letters from Victorian Pioneers in 1853 (published in 1898) which conveniently glossed over the aggression and considerable capital necessary to seize land and ‘set up stations’, and also their prior backgrounds. It is still more convenient in 2021 not to know. Local histories typically start with Mitchell, identify the heroic legacy of these first White squatters and briskly move on to gold.

This account looks specifically at the legacy of British slavery in the lives and families of Alexander Mollison, Charles Ebden, John Hepburn, the Simson Brothers and Lawrence Rostron, much elevated local squatters in the Kyneton, Carlsruhe, Smeaton, Maryborough and Glenlyon areas respectively.

Researching ‘Legacies of British Slavery’, has recently become much simpler via the ‘search the database’ tab on the University College London website by that name. In summary, when British slave owners released slaves with the legislated abolition of slavery, the slave owners were richly compensated. The website documents who had slaves in British colonies and what compensation they actually received.

Some of this new information comes from that site. Searching your own family backgrounds by surname might prove surprising and interesting …

Alexander Mollison & Charles Ebden

The official Kyneton website ‘History’ page proudly claims ‘Kyneton comes with good baggage’. It specifically celebrates the first two European squatters in the Kyneton district, Charles Hotson Ebden (1811-1867) and Alexander Fullerton Mollison (1805-1885) who established ‘… enormous grazing properties on the lush landscape sitting on the local mineral rich volcanic soils’. Zero mention of prior occupation. This account confirms both came with and left considerable baggage.

Ebden, after whom Ebden Street in Kyneton is named, ‘sent 9,000 sheep from his Goulburn station to arrive in May 1837 at nearby Carlsruhe to form the first sheep station’. Kyneton’s main street was also named after Alexander Mollison.

By 1839 squatter Alexander Mollison was writing to his sister, Jane noting that ‘there are now Stations all the way to Sydney’, vainly boasting that the settlers were calling the mountain Mt Alexander not after the King of Macedon [as renamed from Leanganook by Mitchell] but in ‘honor of [him, Alexander Mollison] having first occupied it’.

Both Mollison and Ebden inherited and brought with them huge family wealth from colonial enterprises involving large scale slavery in the Caribbean and southern Africa. This capital was essential to set help up their huge pastoral enterprises on the Coliban and Campaspe Rivers from 1837. In addition, Mollison was effectively the beneficiary of the state subsidized slave labor of 49 servants (including 22 ex-convicts) and Ebden 32. 

Alexander and his brother William Thomas Mollison (1816-1886) had both inherited considerable wealth from their parents, Elizabeth and Crawford Mollison, themselves big slave owners in St Ann, Jamaica. They were compensated with £2,135 by the British government in 1835 for their release. Elizabeth’s father, Alexander’s grandfather, George Fullerton was separately compensated for the loss of 415 enslaved people in Jamaica and a total of £9,325, a sum equivalent to approximately 2.2 million Australian dollars in 2021 value.

Mollison was involved in three well documented incidents locally involving violent conflict with Aboriginal people between 1838 and 1842, and Ebden with one in July 1839. And yet violently seizing land from the Dja Dja Wurrung people on unjust terms was not enough. 

In November 1839, Mollison wrote to his father complaining that all the advantages which [New South] Wales afforded to her woolgrowers are taken from us [in Port Philip]. Grants of land, cheap labor, unlimited pasturage and no taxation. So great is the change that many are turning their eyes to New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific.’ Writing to his sister, Jane, in his Christmas Day letter in 1840, Alexander confirmed he was looking for somewhere else to go on more ‘easy terms’.

Charles Ebden, the Carlsruhe squatter was the son of John Bardwell Ebden, a prominent merchant, banker and politician and slave owner in the British Cape Colony. In 1836 John and his wife Antoinette received £825 as British compensation for the release of 22 enslaved people at the Cape of Good Hope.

Charles overlanded to Melbourne a few days after John Gardner, Joseph Hawdon and John Hepburn in early 1837. By March 1837 had moved a substantial flock of sheep to Carlsruhe. Charles Ebden’s scale of operations confirmed he had considerable colonial capital behind him.

John Hepburn

Not all local squatters in late 1830s had huge prior wealth, but many including John Stuart Hepburn (1803-1860) of Smeaton Hill quickly amassed considerable fortunes. In fact, his father, Thomas Hepburn, was a fisherman and laborer. John’s mother, Alison Stewart died when he was four years old. John had a very limited education and went to sea as a cabin boy age only 13 years. His father remarried, and they had eight more children. The headstone commemorating John’s parents was actually paid for by John but does not mention his birth mother. 

Existing accounts of John inaccurately play up his links to inherited wealth and Scottish aristocracy, including to his Tasmanian squatter cousin, Robert Hepburn. There is evidence that several other Scottish Hepburn ancestors had large slave holdings, and some others like John rose up through the ranks, to become ship captains in the West Indian slave trade and the Royal Navy. In fact a photo of Robert early on in this article clearly confirms Robert’s Black ancestry. Robert Hepburn’s mother, Mary Ann Roy, was actually born in Jamaica in 1766, daughter of slave owner Gregor MacGregor and a Jamaican sugar plantation worker enslaved, from West Africa, Isabella Diabenti. 

The ‘Roy’ surname appears to have been taken from MacGregor’s forebear, Rob Roy MacGregor, a Scottish outlaw (1671-1734) in the ‘Robin Hood’ mould who became a Scottish folk hero. John’s cousin, Robert and his present day/2021 Aboriginal Tasmanian ancestor, Robert Hine, is the subject of one of Barry Golding’s extended blogs in collaboration with Roobert: see . Robert Hine’s ancestry, from my account, includes English, Scottish (slave owner Hepburn & MacGregor & outlaw), Black African, English convict and Palawa (Aboriginal Tasmanian) connections along with several adoptions.

The Simsons

John, Hector and Donald Simson were pastoralists involved in Charlotte Plains run near Carisbrook from the 1840s, celebrated on the 2021 ‘ Simson’s Pantry’ bread wrapper as ‘the first pioneering settlers’ in the Maryborough area. Contrary to existing histories, I suggest here for the first time that the name ‘Carisbook’ likely has Simson family slave colony origins going back to Jamaica.

Many members of the British Simson family (Ann, Charles, Christian, Colin, James & John) were beneficiaries of a significant slave owner payout mainly as a consequence of slaves originally held in British Guyana. How this family is associated with John Simson (1799-1848), Hector Norman Simson (1819-1880) and Donald Campbell Simson (1808-1851), regarded as the White founders of Maryborough is unclear and yet to be proved. Donald married Jane Charlotte, eldest daughter of John Coghill (John Hepburn’s business partner) on 15 March 1839. 

The ‘Victorian Places’ website in 2021 suggests that: Reputedly Carisbrook’s name came from ‘Carrie’s  Brook’, named after Caroline Bucknall, the daughter of E. G. Bucknall, an early local pastoralist. However, before the town was surveyed in 1851 there was a police camp and lock up named Camp Carisbrook, implying that the name could have had another origin. There were pre-existing Carisbrooks in New Zealand and the Isle of Wight.

E. G Bucknall, a native of Stroud, Gloucestershire did not come to the Port Phillip colony with his wife and family until 1843, in 1844 leasing a tract of land from the Crown at Rodborough, a property he subsequently purchased. It seems a big stretch to imagine Bucknall’s daughter’s nick-name would transfer to an area already well-established for at least five years as a pastoral run called ‘Charlotte Plains’. And the town in question is not ‘Carries Brook’. It is called and spelt ‘Carisbrook’.

There is no ‘Carries Brook’ evident in the UK. There is a ‘Carries Brook’, a seasonal river in northeastern Tasmania. The Isle of Wight village in England is spelt ‘Carisbrooke’. The New Zealand ‘Carisbrook’ is named after the estate of early colonial settler James Macandrew (itself named after Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight).

The Goldfields Guide website in 2021 notes that when Urquhart, the district surveyor came to survey Carisbrook in August 1851, there was already a police camp and lock up called “Camp Carisbrook”It seems possible, indeed likely, that the police contingent, camp and log jail at Carisbrook perhaps and instead got its name from ‘Carisbrook’ sometimes also (Carrisbrook), a former sugar and rum slave plantation in the region of St Elizabeth, 104km west of Kingston in Jamaica. Approximately 100 enslaved people were enclosed in the ‘Carisbrook / Carrisbrook’ ‘Pen / Penn’ growing sugar, rum, cattle, yams, plantain, sheep, corn and mules from 1780 until at least 1832.

Until 1821 the slaves at Carisbrook were registered to ‘Donald Cameron’. A ‘Donald Cameron’ was buried at Carisbrook, St Elizabeth, Jamaica on 13 September 1820 age 46 years. When he died, the Carisbrook slave ownership transferred to Alexander Campbell, Duncan Cameron and Allan Cameron.

An ‘Allan Cameron’ is described in the slave registers (on the Legacies of British Slavery website) as an absentee slave owner of the plantation #407 at Carisbrook, Jamaica (also spelt ‘Carrisbrook’). John Cameron was paid out £1,717 in 1833 as an heir to Donald’s slave estate when compensated by the British government for releasing their slaves. It is not clear what the relationship might have been, if any, between John and Donald Cameron, early White colonists in Clunes, Victoria.

It seems on balance, to be much more likely that Carisbrook in Victoria got its name as a downstream legacy of British slavery though the Simson family, which likely enabled them sufficient cash to come to Australia, hire men, buy stock and set up stations. 

Lawrence Rostron

The Hepburn Shire Riding of Holcombe is named after a squatting run by that name set up in 1840 in the Glenlyon area by Lawrence Rostron, today described in local histories as a ‘pioneer pastoralist’. He found the Holcombe run too small and passed it on the the Clowes Brothers in 1844 to take up 160,000 acres on ‘Tottington’ and ‘Ramsbottom’ near Stuart Mill.

Lawrence Rostron, originally from Lancashire England, disgraced the family by falling in love with a cotton mill worker, and spent approximately 20 years banished to Rio de Janeiro running the Brazilian end of the family cotton trade that involved company ships. As cotton farming in Brazil was linked to the Portuguese slavery trade, it is likely that the Rostron family was implicated in parts of the same trade.

However the Legacy of British Slavery tells us nothing about Rostron as Brazil was not a British Colony. Rostron’s diaries have recently been placed in the State Library Victoria. We will know more once they become accessible post the 2020/21 COVID lockdown.

Meantime there is evidence that Lawrence Rostron carried on the family tradition. In later life he imported guano on his ships for use as a fertiliser from Malden Island (now part of the nation of Kiribati) in the Pacific Ocean. The work there between 1860 and 1927 was overseen by a handful of European supervisors and undertaken by indentured ‘native labourers’, a form of bonded labour developed after outright slave ownership was abolished. Rostron later became an important figure in Melbourne with investments in fertiliser and property development.

Why bother about this?

The short answer is that is is important to be truthful about our past in oder to reconcile our present. The five examples above are not exceptions. Other local colonial heroes with direct and significant family links to and beneficiaries of slavery include the Scotts after whom Scottsburn is named, as well as the goldfields era British politician, colonial governor and patron of the sciences, Sir Henry Barkly.

It was not just the money they brought, but the born to rule racism that tended to accompany such backgrounds, that arguably extended to the shameful way Australian First Nations people were treated by most (but not all) squatters on the frontier.

It matters because we keep perpetuating these myths. The Simson brothers were not ‘pioneers’ as is claimed when marketing their (excellent) bread made in Maryborough in 2021, since they were not ‘the first to explore or settle a new country or area’. Nor were Rostron, Hepburn, Ebden, Mollison or my ancestors in the St Arnaud area ‘pioneers’. The Country was comprehensively settled, named and cultured for over a thousand generations before, and in one two generations most had made their fortunes and moved on.

And they were not ‘settlers’. ‘Unsettlers’ comes closer to the mark. That many of the earliest invaders such as Mollison came to Australia demanding, in his words, ‘unlimited pasturage’ on ‘easy terms’, some moving on later to do similarly in New Zealand, and in Rostron’s case to the Pacific, is deep unsettling.

For all of these reasons, the Frontier Wars Memorial Avenue officially opened in 2021 on Daylesford’s outskirts, below, and the local renaming process underway with Jim Crow Creek, are significant small local steps, but large steps in remembering, for Australia, First Nations peoples and humankind.

Penny Farthing racing

Penny Farthing Racing: Reflections & recollections

Barry Golding 19 August 2021

I first dipped by toe in the art of penny farthing bicycle racing in 1975. Whilst I had ridden a bike as a teenager in Donald, by my 20s in the 1970s I didn’t even own or ride a normal bike. By 1980 I had won the Australian Penny Farthing Racing Championship three times and retained the trophy.

This blog is my previously untold, back story of how all this happened. I took the bike for my likely last public ride at a commemorative event in Kingston, Victoria late in 2018 age 68. Having found it surprisingly difficult to get on and a tad scary to jump off, I realized I had lost the courage and dexterity to still ride the 150 year old bike safely into my 70s.

The back story starts with our former full time Australian folk music band dating back to the early 1970s, ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band’. We chose the Band’s name after Banjo Paterson’s poem of the same name, about an Australian ‘bushie’ who unwisely swapped his horse for a new-fangled penny farthing bicycle with disastrous consequences in ‘Dead Man’s Creek’. It was logical that we looked out for a real penny farthing to use as a backdrop for the band on stage. At that stage riding one was certainly not on my radar.

We came across and bought an original penny farthing in fairly sad condition from a secondhand shop in Clare, South Australia around six years before in the early 1970s. I recall we paid around $200 for it. First it needed some basic repairs to the huge, rusty front wheel particularly the rim and spokes. The back wheel was so rusted it had to be replaced with a similar sized solid rubber pram wheel.

We tracked down a Melbourne-based pram manufacturer who still stocked long lengths of solid pram rubber with a spring inserted, in order to replace the rotting solid rubber front tyre. The guys at the pram factory in Sunshine (suburban Melbourne) delighted in showing us how to cut the rubber to length exposing a few turns of its embedded spring by cutting back some of the rubber, then screwing the ends of the rubber back onto itself, and rolling and snapping the tyre back onto the rim. Chisel grips replaced the rotten wooden handlebar grips and we found a new old-style leather seat. Some antique style pedals were welded onto the rusty pedal cranks. She was an ugly ducking: safe enough to learn to ride but certainly not to race.

I learned to ride in the relative safely of the back lane behind 177 Park Drive in Parkville. In the lead up to the Mulga Bill band days I rented a dank, windowless half cellar behind the terrace house, earning the name ‘Bazza The Rat’ from the house residents who partied at all hours in the loungeroom above. I initially propped myself gingerly against the walls in the back lane to learn to start and stop. What I quickly learned was that the balance once you are moving is relatively simple, once you realize that thrusting on one pedal tends to force the big wheel in the opposite direction. Balance thus involves constantly using your arms to counter the push of each pedal stroke. Having dropped the huge 48 inch wheel sideways very heavily onto my knee and ending up in hospital, I also realized that the necessary art of getting on and off safely was critically important.

Learning to ride (mainly getting off)

After recovering from the knee injury, I resolved to find a way by trial and error to safely get off. Getting on at this early stage was still by propping against something high. At this stage I’d never seen anyone ride a penny farthing . If Google had been around then I would have found all the options for getting on and off safely on YouTube.

The jagged, rusted peg above the small back wheel I later discovered was designed to help gentlemen in the 1870s, when my bike was made, slow down, step back and elegantly ease off backwards. Initially I found it could instead get off by slowing right down, letting the bike drop sideways, putting my leg out straight as the wheel fell and grabbing the opposite handlebar to support the considerable weight of the bike as it fell. This sort of worked at slow speeds, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone try it. Another way was necessary for the inevitable unplanned higher speed emergency stops, including to avoid people and traffic.

My bike still had the remnants of a rusty front brake levered off the right handlebar. Aside from its dodgy condition, the problem was that putting it on at speed meant the front wheel tended to lock and my momentum lurched the frame and handlebars forward, and me onto the road. I later found that some of the early riders got off by putting both legs over the handlebars, using the brake to stop and landing on their feet. I’ve since seen others safely do this, but I’ve never tried it, it was not easy to grab the bike in the process and it was impossibly dangerous at speed.

By trial and error, I found another way of leaping off at reasonable speed. I still can’t explain how to do it, but it worked for me. Somehow, I waited until one pedal was in the down position, leaping off on that same side and running beside the bike to bring it and me to a halt. I found it worked OK at any speed I could run, as long as I didn’t lean on the handlebars on the process, or else the whole bike frame lurched forward, and my face would end up on the road.

I also found that the best way to slow the bike at speed was to ignore the brake and use reverse thrust on the fixed wheel pedals. On hills, the trick was to hold the bike back until the gradient flattened out and it was safe to ‘let it go’. Once your feet were off the pedals, without a brake, you were effectively out of control. For all of these reasons, what we now call a ‘bicycle’ when it was invented was called the ‘safety bicycle’, and its precursor, the penny farthing. was called the ‘ordinary’.

Using the bike with the Band in the 1970s

I was the only member of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band who learned to safely ride the bike. We also bought a unicycle which we all tried but failed to master. We used the penny farthing on stage as part of an acted out a slapstick version of the ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle’ poem on stage in almost every concert. Tony Britz sat on the bike as Mulga Bill, while Chris Bettle recited, myself and another band member I held the bike and Jo Beams and Liz Eager hammed it up under a blanket as Mulga Bill’s trusty horse.

Once we started touring interstate including school concerts, we found ways of using the penny farthing before or after the concert on the road. I would ride and the kids in particular loved it. I developed reasonably safe ways of getting people from the audience to haul themselves up on the seat and try riding it with me running alongside to support and catch them on a big stage or on the road outside the venue. It likely wouldn’t pass a modern safety audit but it was good fun and memorable for those game enough to try it.

As I gained more confidence riding on roads, we would get the bike out of the Band bus or Kombi as we came into town where we were playing that night. I would sometimes hop on and ride into and through town. It was a good way of publicizing concerts and local papers got great pictures. When we played at the Adelaide Festival the Adelaide Advertiser reporter was luke-warm about taking pictures of me to promote the concert, asking, “Doesn’t the lady [in the Band] ride the bike, and would she sit on it instead?” The promoters slyly got around our firm “No” by organizing for a local model to sit on the bike, of course taking the snap from below featuring her long leg.

As an example of how the papers more commonly treated the story, the Sydney Morning Herald used the photo below (from 6 June 1976) taken in traffic on the edge of the Sydney CBD. The newspaper caption read ‘Barry Goanna Golding, a guitarist and vocalist in ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band’ found a way to beat Sydney’s train stoppages and the traffic problem yesterday on his way to rehearsals. He simply stepped onto his 1877 Penny Farthing bicycle’.

This 1976 photo confirms that by this stage the rusted front brake had been removed for safety, and the rusted mounting peg above the back wheel had been replaced by a more solid mounting bracket. The wide flair on my jeans firmly dates the photo to the ‘70s. Soon after I had a close shave when my flairs got caught between the main frame and the big front wheel, leading me to routinely tuck my pants into my socks for safety.

In 1975, the half hour episode of ‘Big Country’ featuring our band on ABC TV used images of me riding through the countryside and into Charleville whilst we were on tour in western Queensland to bookend the program.

Inheriting the Band’s penny farthing

After Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band stopped touring in 1976, we divided up the gear we had accumulated, and my portion included the bike. The hills around Daylesford where I moved to were too hilly for much road riding, but most years over the next few decades I got the bike out and participated in the annual Daylesford New Year’s Eve street procession, weaving in and out of the floats and the fire trucks in the dark on a typically hot summer evening.

In the late 1970s I became an activist with the ‘Save Our Bushland Action Group Daylesford’, agitating to prevent pine plantations replacing native forest at Basalt and Eganstown. I rode from Daylesford to Geelong via Ballarat over two days as part of an event we called ‘Push for the Bush’ as an effective way of promoting and gaining newspaper and TV coverage for our cause.

The South Australian Championships

Long distances like the ‘Push for the Bush’ called for some serious repairs to the front wheel. I heard about a farmer in Booleroo Centre, South Australia, Brian Knauerhouse whose blacksmithing skills also included rolling penny farthing wheel rims on an original rim rolling machine. Brian undertook to roll and respoke the front wheel. This involved putting a thread on each spoke and screwing it into both the brass hub and the metal rim: a huge and painstaking job that he did almost for nothing as a labour of love.

Getting the bike from Daylesford in Victoria for repairs was something of an adventure. Twice I took the bike on The Overland train from Ballarat to Adelaide, then took a regional a train 220km north from Adelaide to Port Germein, a tiny, isolated settlement of only 200 people on the eastern coast of South Australia’s Spencer Gulf. It was a further 43km to Booleroo Centre. It was starting to get dark as I pedaled northeast towards the southern Flinders Ranges on my first trip. Fortunately, a local farmer with a ute took pity and offered me a lift with the bike to Booleroo.

Given the state of the rusted rim, Brian did a splendid repair job. However, when I was giving it a decent try out at speed on the road back in Daylesford, the front wheel totally collapsed. Imagine straddling a hub with hundreds of spokes detached from the rim. I took the wrecked wheel to Ken Rodda, who then ran a mower and chain saw repair service in Daylesford. Ken also dabbled in motor bikes and had experience of re-spoking antique motor bike wheels. Ken came up with a new and creative way to repair the wheel. He painstakingly attached a short motor bike spoke with a nipple on one end through the rim, as on a conventional bicycle, and spliced and brazed the other end of the spoke onto fencing wire, permanently bronzing each wire onto the brass hub. He repeated this hundreds of times and then tensioned the wheel. It worked and he charged me nothing.

It was around that time that I discovered that Booleroo Centre then hosted the South Australian Penny Farthing Championships. I decided to go across in 1975 to try my luck. I found a simple way of transporting the huge bike in two pieces. The front wheel complete with front forks and handlebars fitted neatly into an old car tyre strapped onto the top of car roof racks. The stem that included the seat with the small ‘farthing’ wheel fitted neatly inside. Disassembling the bike into the two pieces is actually quite simple without tools, simply by unscrewing two nuts.

What I hadn’t thought about before my first race was that I was actually pretty unfit. While I road fast and confidently over short distances on bitumen, I had certainly not trained. And it turned out the South Australian Championship event was held over three laps on the very bumpy and only partly grassed Booleroo Centre Football ground. On the first of three laps, I flew. On the second lap, I ‘hit a wall’. On the third lap, most other riders rolled past me as I gasped exhausted.

It was good fun participating, but an important lesson in fitness training. Next time I raced in 1976 I was more prepared, and soundly won both the South Australian Championship and the Handicap that followed at Booleroo Centre. By the early 1980s the South Australian Championships were hosted instead at Strathalbyn (which I also participated in once) and in very recent years, in Tailem Bend.

The Australian Championships (at Tunbridge, 1970s)

During 1976 I heard about the Australian Penny Farthing Racing Championships, then held at Tunbridge in the Tasmanian midlands during the 1970s, before relocating to Evandale in 1983, where they have since been held in February for the past four decades.

Around that time, I started secondary teaching in Ballarat. At first, I tried training after school and sometimes in the dark on the quiet bitumen roads around Kooroocheang where I was then renting and living in the rented ‘Thornbarrow’ homestead. But the bitumen was hard on the tyres and not ideal for building up aerobic fitness. I came up with a solution: train on a grassed surface with similar resistance to the race itself, by riding laps at high speed around the edge of the Creswick Football Oval at Hammon Park.

However, putting the bike on and off the car and training on the oval after school on the way home was time consuming. So, I resolved, with Creswick hardware storekeeper, John Quinlan’s permission, to leave the bike at the store, do a quick change out the back and train at the oval nearby each night after school. Doing 50 laps at high speed worked wonders. John proudly referred to himself as my ‘trainer’.

My battered, patched up and unpainted bike, despite being original, was regarded as something of an ‘ugly duckling’ by some of the penny farthing racing enthusiasts, many of whom had antique bicycle collections. Its seat when I first competed was tied on with twine. Most people who raced at Tunbridge were seriously into antiques and reproductions and their bikes looked as new. The Championships at Tunbridge involved a ‘Monte Carlo’ type event over three laps of roughly triangular course, which I suspect from a Google search included Main Road, and either Lowes Street and Scott Street, or Thomas and Sutton Street.

Charles Smythe, a local antique dealer in Tunbridge was then the key organizer and I was billeted each of the three years I competed with a local property owner. The start and finish line were on Main Street and hay bales were placed on the acute street corners (as is now done in Evandale) to provide some safety from high speed spills. Having won the Championship Cup for three years running from 1978-80, I was deemed, as was the tradition in those days, to have won it outright and still own the cup.

The front of the engraved cup, below ,confirms that the ‘Australian Penny Farthing Championship, Tunbridge 1976’ was won in 1976 by a C. E. Clemons (and donated by Mrs Clemons).

Around that time, I did several memorable penny farthing road rides, including riding up Pewley Hill north of Kooroocheang, by far the steepest hill I ever successfully rode up or down. I now call it ‘Penny Farthing Hill’ when I regularly ride my road bike up and down it on the way down and back from Kingston to Guildford and Newstead via Sandon and Yandoit.

Over the years I have had a few scary accidents. The worst one was when training at high speed on a hot back road one summer evening when visiting friends north of the Grampians. The front tyre had stretched and flew off the rim, locking the front wheel and dumping me on the ground. I ended up in Donald Hospital.

During one of the long distance road races, the main stem of the bike snapped off just above the back wheel, likely due to rust and fatigue, leaving me riding the big front wheel down a hill at speed, forcing me into the (fortunately soft) ditch at the bottom. On one other occasion when climbing a steep hill up to the School of Forestry in Creswick, the rusted main stem snapped off just under the seat, as a consequence on me pulling hard on the handlebars and pushing hard on the pedals to struggle up the hill. Fortunately, it was at low speed. As a consequence, I got a then penny farthing enthusiast, Norm Lemin (died 2012) to totally repair the rusted stem by inserting a sleeve but retaining both the original stem ends.

Australian Championships (at Evandale, 1980s)

The Australian Penny Farthing Championships in Tunbridge lapsed after 1980 but resumed in the picturesque village of Evandale 77km to the north (and 18km south of Launceston) in February 1983. In March that same year our son Karri was born. In 1984 we were living a long way north in Humpty Doo south of Darwin in the Northern Territory. In 1985 we were a tad closer back in Kingston, but Tanja was born soon after in May. Between 1983 and 1985 the Australian Championship was won by a South Australian: by John Wigsell (in 1983) and Alan Kloester (in 1984 & 1984).

We all went across as a family to the Australian Championships in 1986. From the late 1980s the competition had become international. It was still really good fun and our young sons Dajarra and Karri (then five and three) totally soaked up the vibe. But by 1986, my original bike was heavier than most reproductions and I was less competitive and unplaced. Doug Pinkerton (from England) won the Australian Championship that year (1986) and again in 1988, 1990 and 1992. Nick Bromage (also from England) won in 1987. In 1995/6 a Czech rider won and a New Zealander was runner up in 1995. Since its inception only two Tasmanian riders have taken out the Evandale-based Championship, with winners from all other states and also the ACT. By 1986 the events had diversified to include women’s and juniors races, a sprint (on the Launceston airport tarmac), a slow race, a slalom, a road race and a state relay.

I was teaching at Daylesford High School from 1985-88. With fellow teacher, Jo Beasley, for several years we made the nine day Great Victorian Bike ride a school bicycle excursion for students in late November early December. On the 1986 ‘Great Vic’ from Albury to Melbourne that included an overnight in Daylesford, I chose to ride the penny farthing, only having to dismount twice, once to ride down a steep hill near Lockwood South near Bendigo, and another on the last day to ride up a steep hill near Sunbury. By 1987 on a route that started in Stawell and included parts of the Great Ocean Road, I opted to do it easier on the ‘safety bicycle’.

I went back to compete in one of the South Australian Penny Farthing Championship events in the early 1980s in Strathalbyn, but by then the reproduction bikes were getting lighter than my 100 year old penny farthing and the competitors were getting younger. I recall one big bike wheel disintegrating while cornering in the championship and I figured it was time to give up racing.

I also participated in a 50-mile penny farthing road race from Albury Railway Station to ‘Drage’s Air World’ near Wangaratta. I recall I came in third. I also remember it was a very hot, summer day and without water biddens I ran out of water.

Riding it for fun since

The bike has been pulled out several times a year since, including for the Daylesford New Years Eve street procession, but also for many community fetes and events where I would ride and give kids (and not so heavy or not too tall adults) rides by running alongside. Our three children and their friends all enjoyed rides over the years. Since Karri (an experienced bike mechanic) is the only one who has mastered it reasonably independently and safely, he will most likely inherit it down the track.

Whilst working at Federation University in Ballarat around a decade ago I brought the bike in a couple of time to give the Physical Education students a demonstration of how it is ridden and to give several interested students a carefully supervised try out. One year I was asked to do a brief dramatic cameo, doing a quick zip across the stage of Founders Hall. One year I ride right along the inside corridor of T Building, Level 3 at Mount Helen, just to show how it was done, high enough to almost clip the overhead fluorescent lights. I recall did a similar mad dash inside the corridors of the Cloncurry Hospital in Western Queensland which I visited as a community contribution when Mulga Bill played an evening concert there in 1974.

As alluded to at the start, the last time I rode in public was for the Centenary of the Kingston Avenue of Honour in November 2018 (age 68). I felt unsteady and unsafe for the first time since I learned to ride in the 1970s. I was OK once I managed to get on but leaping off as I had done so effortlessly for four decades did not come easily. I’ve since had a diagnosis of osteoporosis and figure a hard fall on the road into my 70s may not end well.

Men’s Shed Research

The DOWNLOAD link below, ‘CG Research Tables to 2021’, provides access to a list of all research directly related to or inclusive of Men’s Sheds organisations in community setting which had been published internationally to June 2021.

This research list complements my forthcoming 2021 book, Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement: see New Shed Book, Oct 2021 as well as my 2015 book, The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men‘ (available for order via Common Ground Publishing in the US).

The list will be updated every six months commencing January & July 2022. If there are errors and omissions please email Barry Golding:

‘The Shed’, Goolwa’ South Australia, opened 1993. Photo taken 2015

Neereman protectorate, 1840/1

History of the Aboriginal Protectorate on the Loddon at Neereman: 

Review and transcription of original documentary evidence

Protectorate established November 1840, abandoned June 1841

Barry Golding, 22 July 2021:

What is new in this account?

This account provides:

  • new information as to where the Neereman Protectorate was located
  • comprehensive transcription of original 1840/41 Protectorate documents
  • new insights as to how and why the site was selected and why it was abandoned
  • a new explanation as to why it was called ‘Neereman’ by the Dja Dja Wurrung and the ‘fishponds on the plains’ by squatter, John Hepburn
  • a case for closer attention from authorities concerned about acknowledging, protecting and accurately interpreting the site.

Remarkably, very little of this story has been told before. If the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic has one upside for me, it has provided the opportunity to write and publish off the back of much of what I’ve collected. As with all histories, this is just some of the story based on partial evidence. I look forward to being told what I might have missed and got wrong.

I have deliberately left in most of the detail in the transcripts so the information is available for summary and analysis by others in the future. I am 71 year old as I write this and am concerned that what I have learnt is not forgotten again and is passed on to future generations. In future I hope that this remarkable and important site will become better recognised, interpreted and protected with the involvement and support of the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owners and the local landholders.

Context for this historical account

In June 1841, just one hundred and eighty years ago, an attempt by the Colonial government to create a concentration camp for several hundred First Nations people in the ‘northwest’ of the then Colony of Port Philip on the Loddon River at present day Neereman was abandoned. 

Established in November 1840 in the heart of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation downstream of present day Cairn Curran Reservoir, only a handful of people know where this former, pre-Franklinford, 1840-41 ‘Aboriginal Protectorate’ site is or what actually happened here. In brief, several hundred Aboriginal people were forced by the Colonial government to seek refuge on and beyond their own Country in the face of a brutal and deadly squatter invasion, organised resistance from the colonial newspapers, raging pandemics, a protracted El Nino and hunger. 

The huge penalty for the relative safety briefly provided to Dja Dja Wurrung and people from other First Nations by the Protectorate was the loss of Country, language and culture. Promised permanent solace and safely at Neereman, the families who reluctantly took the bait were moved six months later to a new site at Franklinford (north of Daylesford) and by 1864 to the Coranderrk Mission near Healesville until it too was closed. In the process the people were deliberately exposed to a warped form of missionary Christianity, that as historian Robert Kenny wrote in The lamb enters the dreaming, placed suffering at its core, and sought to console people living amongst sickness and death.

Almost every part of this tragic story about Neereman, one of the oldest Aboriginal Protectorate sites in south eastern Australia had been lost. Using original documents and maps, this blog, for the first time in 180 years, confidently identifies the original 1840-41 ‘Neereman’ site. It sits on a high sandy bank above a stunningly beautiful but rarely visited, wide and deep section of the Loddon River 6 km north of Baringhup. 

This account reveals why this section of the Loddon River was tantalisingly described to Chief Protector George Robinson by John Hepburn in February 1840 as the ‘fishponds on the plains’. It also provides a new and alternative explanation as to why it might have been called ‘Nirriman’ ‘by the Dja Dja Wurrung, other than Edward Parker’s son, Joseph’s, 1916 translation of ‘Neura Mong’ as a ‘place to hide’.

It was here on a flat and sandy area north of the river still known as ‘Parkers Plains’ by some local old timers, that Aboriginal people were being encouraged by Edward Parker to plant English seeds in the middle of the scorching El Nino summer of February 1841. The river banks show no sign of the many wood and bark huts that were constructed for over one hundred Aboriginal people, Protectorate staff and families during the eight months of 1840/41 that the Protectorate operated nor of the former 1840 Protectorate or its nearby ‘cultivation paddock’ was located.

The banks close to the waterline on this wide and deep section of the Loddon River today are lined with huge and ancient river red gums. On the elevated sandy banks are a few remnant buloke trees and there is an old peppercorn tree where a Protectorate homestead might have been. 

Readers should note that the site is in 2021 on private land south of the Baringhup-Eddington Road. The public road that crosses the Loddon River downstream of the site are at Hamilton’s Crossing, today an attractive streamside reserve on the Baringhup–West Eastville Road. Until steps are taken to protect the site, visitation to the area is discouraged other than on public roads, river bank easements or Hamilton’s Crossing Crown Reserve.

Identifying the site

Identifying exactly where the site is took some effort, as Yandoit local historian ,Edgar Morrison found in the 1960s. Morrison left some useful clues after locating the approximate site in Early days in the Loddon Valley (1966).

Morrison noted in 1966 that the site was ‘a mile or so upstream’ of the current ‘Hamilton’s Crossing Crown Reserve’ on the Baringhup-West Eastville Road. In 1966 it was then on a property owned by the ‘Jennings Brothers’ (Morrison, 1966, page 23). Morrison was guided to the site by Claude Jennings’ oral history about ‘Parker’s Plains’ as well as descriptions of the locality and the width and length of the deep pools in the Loddon River written by Edward Parker’s son, Joseph Parker, in 1916. These notes were recalled from Joseph’s early childhood over 70 years before whilst living at the original Protectorate site for over six months in 1840/1.

My initial search for the site focussed on the relatively wide section of the Loddon River, within the northern border of the Parish of Baringhup and the southern part of the Neereman Parish. It was assisted by the excellent aerial view available of the huge pools, below along the Loddon River provided by Google Map.

The Loddon River at the Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate site

The aerial images confirmed that the land north of a distinctive, long and wide east west section of the Loddon was today being irrigated by three huge ‘centre pivots’ on land that turned out to be still owned and farmed by the Jennings family. Paul Jennings and family still live nearby in 2021. Given Paul’s father only bought the nearby ‘Red Banks’ property in 1943, all Paul knew about the Protectorate site was contained in Geoff Morrison’s A successful failure, a trilogy: The Aborigines and early settlersconsolidating Edgar Morrison’s previously (1966) published works in 2002. 

I met the landowner and have since made several trips to the site during 2019-21 with the land owners advance permission. I have subsequently located new documents and maps to confidently locate the site and better inform this story.C

Background to creation of Aboriginal Protectorates in the Port Phillip Colony

The contact history of Indigenous people in Australia was from the earliest times of colonisation until relatively recently, strongly shaped by missions and reserves, the breaking up of families and removal of children from their parents. Christian missionaries played a prominent role in modelling and managing such regimes. Unsurprisingly, the history of Aboriginal Missions and the Aboriginal Protectorates that preceded them in the footprint of present day Victoria is conveniently forgotten.

While the Aboriginal Protectorates in the Colony of Port Phillip during the 1840s provided some government sponsored protection and shelter from the worst settler violence, they were totally missionary in terms of their intent, staffing and operation. It was about Christian preaching and teaching, with the aim of civilizing and Christianising First Nations peoples.

Two Aboriginal Protectorate Stations were established in the Port Phillip Colony north of the Great Dividing Range. The ‘north east’ one on the Goulburn River near present day Mitchelton (later relocated to near present day Murchison) was established by James Dredge and overseen by him in incredibly difficult circumstances between May 1839 and June 1840. The other, ‘north west’ Protectorate was at what has sometimes been called ‘Neura Mong’ on the present day Neereman site.

The brief story is that the site, with Assistant Protector Edward Parker in charge, was quickly deemed as unsatisfactory for the agricultural purposes originally intended as an important part of the perceived ‘civilizing’ process. It was relocated within to what was deemed a more suitable site adjacent to Mount Franklin close to present day Franklinford, operating from June 1841 for the rest of the decade until 1849.

Some aspects of the foundation and operation of the site at Neereman and the reasons for its relocation by Parker were first examined by Edgar Morrison in Early days in the Loddon Valley (1966, pp.16-32), and again quite (recently 50 years later) in Bain Attwood’s (2017) book, The Good Country (2017, pp.110-114). 

Where did the Protectorate idea come from?

The Protectorate system in the Port Philip Colony of New South Wales was a poorly planned, hopelessly managed and dreadfully executed experiment. The rules and plans were created by the Colonial government ‘on the run’ and were amended in response to rapidly changing circumstances and feedback on the ground from the Aboriginal Protectors. The original ideas came top-down from afar in London (the UK) and its Colonies in Sydney (NSW) and Port Phillip (now Melbourne). It was in part informed by experience of a then recent experience of missionary failure dating back to the 1820s in the Wellington Valley (east of present day Dubbo) 350km inland from Newcastle. 

The four Assistant Protectors arrived in Australia from the UK in late 1838. It was an almost impossible task trying to select a site and implement the Colonial government’s poorly-defined plans in practice, interpreted through their own largely missionary lenses, in a landscape in which the best land and water had already been seized by squatters.

On 4 June 1840 Chief Protector Robinson communicated the Governor’s directions in relation to the Protectorates to his four Assistant Protectors. They were required to select a suitable site for:

‘… a reserve of one square mile of land for a homestead, for each of the Assistant Protectors. [There will be] no stations within five miles of the Assistant Protector’s residences. … The square mile or 640 acres forming the inner reserve is intended for cultivation, and the outer reserve of five miles radius (or a circle of ten miles in diameter) for the hunting grounds of the natives, but as every effort is to be made to induce them to engage in Agriculture or regular industry, the extent of their hunting grounds is to be gradually curtailed instead of increased, and it is for this reason that his Excellency intends to make the inner reserve Permanent and the outer only a Temporary one’.

It is of some interest 180 years later that the word ‘permanent’ was underlined given the very temporary nature of what transpired.

The Governor’s plan in the Port Phillip Colonies, while based ‘… on the same principle for those provided for the Wesleyan Missionaries in the County of Grant’ (in the Wellington Valley, NSW, near present day Dubbo), stressed prophetically that:

‘Great care however is to be observed in selecting the site; which especially is to be remote from the settled Districts, otherwise similar difficulties to which the Missionaries as Wellington Valley have had to contend with may again recur.’

Here Robinson was referring to the Wellington Valley Mission, initiated by Wesleyan missionaries in 1824, and later taken over by the Anglican Church Missionary Society in 1832 with the financial support of the NSW Colonial Government, to later become the first of many missions in Australia to employ ordained Germans. 

The rush to take up country in New South Wales in the early 1800s had previously resulted in deadly clashes with the local people. In the Bathurst area, after seven shepherds were killed, Governor Brisbane declared martial law in 1824 for all land west of Mount York (in the Katoomba area 150km west of Sydney). The subsequent ‘dispersal’ (often brutal murders and massacres) of Indigenous people by soldiers and settlers became standard practice and resulted in many deaths.

Meanwhile calls were mounting for renewed efforts to ‘civilise and Christianise’ those whose lands were being rapidly expropriated. Since early ventures such as Governor Macquarie’s Native Institution at Parramatta and Blacktown had had very limited success, it was felt that new missions should be founded as far as possible from settled areas.

Two Wesleyan missionaries, William Walker and John Harper had suggested the Wellington Valley as a possible site, because of its then relative isolation at the limits of legal settlement. Harper travelled to Wellington Valley in 1824 and stayed there for almost two years while he waited for the government to make the Wesleyans a land grant of 10,000 acres (40 square kilometres) for a mission.

The information cited about the Wellington Valley experience (1832-43) that follows is quoted from research on German missionaries in Australia undertaken between 2011 and 2015 by Professor Regina Ganter of Griffith University.

In summary the Wellington Valley Mission’s success was zero, based on the targeted number of Christian conversions, as below:

… history was marred by internal strife, first between the Englishman William Watson and his co-labourer Johann Handt, and then between Watson and Handt’s successor, Jakob (James) Günther. After Watson was dismissed from Wellington Valley in 1840, he and his wife began a new, rival mission nearby, known as Apsley. The original mission closed in 1843 and is generally considered to have been a complete failure, since it made no lasting conversions.’

Fast forward to September 1840, by which time the Colonial Office in Port Phillip had agreed to appoint ‘Agricultural overseers’ as part of the Protectorate plan, again with the caveat that the perceived mistakes in the Wellington Valley would not be repeated.

‘Assistant Protectors of the Goulburn and Mount Macedon districts [including Parker will] be allowed to make a choice of Agricultural or Government Overseers to Superintend the Agricultural Establishment to set on foot for the benefit of the aborigines, with Governor’s concurrence … with salary at the rate of one hundred pounds a year cash, with an allowance of one shilling a day in lieu of rations. …

I am however to remark that in sanctioning these appointments the Governor cannot but feel apprehensive that results may follow similar to those which at Wellington Valley have rendered the Missionary Institution nearly, if not altogether useless. His Excellency also desires me to request that you will earnestly caution the Chief Protector, and also his Assistants, that the Establishment of a Homestead for each of Assistant is not intended to exempt him from the duty of itinerating amongst the Tribes under his protection: and also that the whole of the produce raised at each Homestead or Establishment is to be for the exclusive use of the aborigines, and that any appropriation of the same to the use or for the advantage of the Protectors, or any white persons, will be considered an abuse, calling for the Governor’s instant and most effective interference.’

The missionaries in the Wellington Valley had experienced many difficulties in their work with the local Wiradjuri people. At the end of his first official report for the years 1832 and 1833, former schoolmaster Watson who was dedicated to the teaching part of the Mission’s ‘preaching and teaching’ function, made an enumerated list of these difficulties as follows. Most if not all of these difficulties, summarised below, would later be experienced by Edward Parker and the Dja Dja Wurrung people on the Loddon River Neereman site in 1840-1.

  1. The prevalence of Wiradjuri women living with European men. Watson commented that women in this situation were kept away from the influence of the mission, and their minds were ‘poisoned and prejudiced against the motives, persons and labours of Christian missionaries’. He also believed that their unwanted children were often murdered, although proof was hard to obtain.
  2. The Wiradjuri’s ‘avoidance rules’ such as the refusal of young Indigenous men to be in the same room as an Indigenous woman. This added to the difficulties of conducting church services and a school.
  3. The Wiradjuri’s unwillingness to settle down in one place.
  4. The Wiradjuri’s ‘remarkable aversion to labour’.
  5. The cost of purchasing provisions, and the difficulty of growing crops.
  6. The Wiradjuri’s ongoing prejudice against missionaries, for which Watson blamed the settlers’ tales mentioned previously.

How Edward Parker selected the Neereman site

Edward Parker arrived in Australia in September 1838 with his young family from England to take up the task of Assistant Protector of Aborigines, never having been outside of England and never having seen an Aborigine. He was subordinate to a much more experienced (and arguably duplicitous) Chief Protector Robinson who had done such a ‘good job’ rounding up Aboriginal Tasmanians and having them all removed to be concentrated on Flinders Island during the 1830s. 

On this basis, the Colonial government gave Robinson the task of managing the four Assistant Protectors and concentrating people from more than 20 Aboriginal Nations across the present state of Victoria into just four relatively small Protectorate stations roughly on the four compass Directions, NW, NE, SW and SE.

The map reproduced, below, from ‘Victorian squatters’ compiled by Robert Spreadborough and Hugh Anderson. in 1983 indicates in black shading the position of three of the four 1840s Protectorates: the SW one at Mount Rouse, Mount Franklin towards the ‘NW’ and the Michelton Protectorate towards the NE. The map usefully shows ‘Mitchell’s Line’, in his journey from the north to Portland, and back towards Sydney. The key confirms that these three Protectorates and the land taken up earliest (by 1840) approximately coincided. The Protectorate not shown is the one in the SW at Narre Warren.

If they were created today, Protectorates might be properly be called refugee or concentration camps. Aborigines were to be coerced and encouraged to leave their traditional lands, to be herded together regardless of language and culture to be protected from the violence and removal associated with squatting, to settle down, convert to Christianity and practice agriculture. On top of all other indignities, there was a belief that removing people from Country, preventing people from practising their traditional cultures, speaking their own languages and removing their children would make this transition (and their eventual demise) quicker and more efficient. This process would today be called genocide.

Parker was given responsibility for the ‘north west’ area, then called the Mount Macedon District, as this prominent landmark was close to the limits of colonial inland settlement north west of early Melbourne at the time of his arrival in Australia. Nearby Jackson’s Creek near present day Sunbury became the Parker family temporary base while he tried to work out where his Protectorate might be most effectively based. 

Parker’s protracted excursion with Robinson in early 1840 north of the Great Dividing Range into Dja Dja Wurrung country in present day north central Victoria was intended to help identify where that site might be. The trip included a four-night stay by Parker and Robinson with Captain John Hepburn on his Smeaton Hill run from 13-17 February 1840 and an exploratory trip with Hepburn’s cart north to the Loddon River in the vicinity of present day Newstead from 18-22 February and as far north as present day Gough’s Range, today north of Cairn Curran Reservoir. Where they actually went on this five day trip is documented here for the first time.

On 14 February 1840 Robinson had accompanied Hepburn and Parker to the summit of what Robinson wrote as Korertanger (Kooroocheang). He noted in his private daily journal, that from the peak ‘Mr Hepburn pointed out the place for Parker’s Station, distant 9 miles NE and by N on the Major’s [Mitchell’s] Line where he encamped’. This description corresponds approximately to the Loddon River close to the site of present day Newstead. The detailed description of the site alluding to its attractiveness as a Protectorate site that follows was presumably suggested by Hepburn, since neither Robinson nor Parker had previously visited it when it was written in Robinson’s diary. 

‘There are large water holes there and plenty of fish, and kangaroos in abundance. And it’s on the border. Nor will it be required. Hence, a better site for an establishment could not be selected for the district. It is accessible from Melbourne, 90 miles by road through the ranges and would be easily found, being on the Major’s [Mitchell’s] Line.’

Robinson’s description of it being ‘on the border’ and not being ‘required ‘presumably refers to it being close to the then northern edge of the extent of pastoral stations in the Port Phillip District and not being required for existing stations. The next day Robinson learned from Hepburn that the ‘90 mile road through the ranges’ to Melbourne [from Smeaton via Mollison’s run near present day Kyneton] could be considerably shortened to 80 miles by going via Stieglitz’s [near present day Ballan] ‘instead of 120 [miles] by Geelong’. 

Robinson also recorded that Mr Hepburn had pointed to a hill he ‘calls Jem Crow [Mount Franklin], because of the numerous small hollows about it’. Each of these sites feature prominently in the landscape and subsequent Aboriginal Protectorate history. Fortuitously, while later camping on the Loddon River near present day Newstead, Robinson met two Dja Dja Wurrung men who identified Jem Crow as, Mitchell’s ‘Salus’ as Tarengower and the Loddon River near present day Newstead as Pul.ler.gil yal.oke.

On 18 February 1840 Robinson diarised that while he was ‘undecided whether to go to Jem Crow Hill [Mt Franklin] or the fish ponds [on the Loddon River] on the plains’, they nevertheless took the latter option and headed north across the plains towards the Loddon River. My careful examination of Robinson’s diary shows they went over the Stoney Rises near the present Tuki Trout Farm, close to present day Campbelltown and north along Joyce’s Creek to the series of large ponds in the Loddon River immediately downstream of present day Newstead. 

On 21 February Robinson’s detailed description of climbing up onto on ‘an eminence SW and by S of Tarengower’, including his description of the rocks and other peaks visible in the landscape, placed them on the metamorphosed stony ridge on the edge of the western edge of present day Gough’s Range, owned by Duncan and Julie McGinty in 2021. This was as far north as they ventured on this trip. At this point they were still approximately 15km from the soon to be selected Neereman Protectorate site, but the site would have been visible from Gough’s Range.

By mid-1840 Parker, having returned to his temporary base near Mount Macedon, had seen and heard enough evidence of what was happening to Aborigines in Melbourne and on the relatively lawless frontier into which he was required to somehow embed himself, to come to some firm, strong and evidence-based conclusions. 

Parker’s Periodical (six monthly) Report for 1 March to 31 August 1840 was informed by his time consuming and impossible work within and beyond the current site of Melbourne unsuccessfully seeking justice for the many Aboriginal deaths and indignities regularly being reported to his office. What follows is verbatim, in full, taken from his written report. The words replaced by ‘XXX’ in this and the other transcripts in this account were unclear to me or uncertain in the handwritten original.

‘During the months of October, December, January and February [1840] I was in contact communication with various parties of aborigines of the Jajowrong, Taoungurong and Witowrong and XXX tribes. These tribes either partially or entirely range the District under my charge. From them I have obtained much information illustrative of the aboriginal statistics of the district. This information, when properly matured and confirmed will be remitted in a district communication.

Several important facts materially affecting the condition and prospects of the aboriginal population, as well as the security of the persons and property of the colonists have been forcibly brought under my notice. I beg most respectfully to submit them to the consideration if Her Majesty’s Colonial government.

  1. The first is the rapid occupation of the entire country by settlers and the consequent attempts made to deprive the aborigines of the natural products of the country and to exclude them from their native soil. The entire country of the Waverong and Witowrong tribes, with scarcely any exceptions is now sold or occupied by squatters. A considerable portion of the country XXX by the Jajowong and Taoungurong tribes is also taken up by sheep or cattle runs. The very spots most valuable to the aborigines for their productiveness – the creeks, water courses and rivers – are the first to be occupied. It is a common opinion among the settlers that with the possession of a squatting licence entitles them to the exclusion of the aborigines from their runs. Lately Mr Monro, having pushed his stations on both sides of the Coloband [Coliban River] and up the tributary creeks to Mount Alexander [Leanganook] complained in a public journal that “the blacks are still lurking around the creeks – that they seem determined to act as lords of the soil”, etc. etc. The plain fact is their ordinary place of resort, as furnishing them with the most abundant supplies of food. Precisely similar is the relative situation of the native and colonial population in other parts of the district – both parties mutually regarding each other as intruders. Are the territorial rights of to aborigines to be set aside by violence? Appointed as I have been by Her Majesty’s Government specially to “watch over the rights and interests of the natives” and to “protect their property and from acts of cruelty, oppression and injustice”, (vide Letter of Instructions from Sir G. Grey, Feb 12th 1838) I deem it my duty respectfully but firmly to assert the right of the aborigines to the soil and its indigenous productions, until suitable compensation be made for its occupation by reserving and cultivating a sufficient portion for their maintenance.
  • Another fact consequential upon the foregoing is the diminution of the natural food of the aborigines. Having in a formal communication asserted to this (vide Letter dated June 20th 1839), I need only now state that the facts then asserted have been fully corroborated by subsequent observation and enquiry, and that I am prepared with ample evidence to substantiate these assertions. The common result of this is that the natives resort to the outstations to procure bread, and too frequently under the excitement of hunger or cupidity, to take by force denied to their importunity. They have acquired universally a taste for the whiteman’s food – they tell me invariably they prefer it to their own wild productions. This acquired taste might and ought to be employed as a secondary means of their civilization.
  • I have seen in my recent intercourse with the aborigines considerable numbers of children and I invariably find among them a great quickness of apprehension and evident XXX for instruction. It is my duty therefore respectfully to urge the necessity and importance of having the children as much as possible concentrated and at once brought under Christian instruction. Every moment lost in this matter is a postponement of the hope of their ultimate civilization. Then old may be restrained, but the young will certainly be reclaimed if suitable means be at once employed.
  • It is my duty also to assert to the fact that I find it impossible to attach myself to entire tribes, from the circumstances that the tribes are most usually broken into small parties often ranging widely from each other in search of food. The only occasion when they assemble in any considerable numbers is when they resort to particular spots where some kinds of food may be abundant for a season, as to places abounding in fish or the mernon [Myrniong] root; and when different tribes meet to settle disputes by conflict or otherwise; this appears to be almost invariably in the vicinity of Melbourne. As these occasions are not of frequent recurrence, it is becoming daily more necessary that the Protector should possess some point of concentration – some fixed station to which he may invite and bring the aborigines.
  • Although indolence and dislike of constrained labour are, in common with all savages, characteristic vices of the aborigines I am connected with, I am happy to state that many instances have come to my knowledge where they have employed themselves to the satisfaction of the settlers and to their own advantage. I have found a man and boy, natives of an adjoining District, employed by Mr Piper as shepherds; they are both described as faithful and efficient servants. Several others have been named to me as occasionally employed in shepherding, washing sheep, packing wool etc. I have not found among those who have visited my station any insurmountable repugnance to cook, when properly encouraged and rewarded, and not barely commanded, but having no permanent station, no means of cultivation, and indeed up to the present time no direct authority to issue provisions as a reward for labour, I am not in a situation to employ this method of promoting their civilization.

In conclusion, I beg respectfully to express my solemn ands deliberate conviction that the present relative position of the aboriginal and colonial population must undergo a decided and speedy change, to prevent the increase of predatory attacks on colonial property on the one hand, and the continuance of a system of illegal punishment and indiscriminate slaughter on the other. While I find it next to impossible, from the desultory [meaning: lack of plan, purpose or enthusiasm] nature of my present official duties to employ the only official means of permanent civilization, i.e. Christian instruction, I am painfully conscious that the wandering aborigines are sinking to a lower degree of moral degradation by the promiscuous intercourse which they have with the vitiated portion of the lower classes in the colony. I cannot persuade the younger females to resist the importunities of the white man while I am unable to offer a counter-inducement in the shape of food, clothing or shelter. I cannot draw away the men from the stations when they can obtain more liberal supplies than I can furnish, by pandering to the lusts of those who occupy them. The results of this vicious intercourse, disease, jealousy, brutal quarrels both with whites and blacks, are rendering the condition of the natives more deplorable, and the property of the colonists more insecure. Unless prompt and efficient measures are taken to concentrate and provide for the aborigines, I look forward to the approaching winter as a period of aggravated outrage on both sides. It is universally acknowledged to be a time of privation to the natives – that privation must increase with every successive season. Concentrated and their wants provided for, they might soon be brought under such restraints as would guard them against injury, and secure the property of the colonists from deprivation. But left in their present state to be beaten back by “the white men’s foot”, to be excluded, perforce, from lands which they unquestionably regard as their own property, and from scenes as dear to them as our own native homes to us – despoiled, denied the rights of humanity classified with and treated as wild dogs, I can entertain no other expectation but that they will be driven to more frequent depredation, and exposed to more rapid and certain destruction.

Despite the understandable frustration evident in Parker’s above report, after his return to his Jackson’s Creek home base after his tour with Robinson, Parker had written to Robinson on 18 March 1840 confirming that he wished ‘to station myself and my family immediately in a central situation I have indicated’. It is unclear as to which if any map or more detailed description was appended.

Until September 1840, Parker’s attempt to set up his Protectorate was further delayed by his need to respond to even more ‘outrages’ against Aboriginal people, this time on the Upper Werribee in Watharung country. 

Insights from Parker’s Quarterly Journals, late 1840 to mid 1841

Much of what follows is detailed verbatim transcription of online records housed in the Public Records Office in North Melbourne. It relies very heavily on extracts from Parker’s Quarterly official Journal. While I have provided some other evidence to help establish context and place, I have attempted to leave most of the rich detail in with minimal commentary. My purpose is to allow Parker to give a firsthand account of what he was thinking and doing: first by identifying a likely Protectorate site during mid-1840, then moving onto the Neereman site by November 1840, attempting to ‘make it work’ over a scorching El Nino summer, and finally moving the Protectorate back to near Mount Franklin in mid-1841 when the original site proved to be totally unsuitable.

In his Quarterly Journal (September 1-November 30, 1840), Parker wrote that he was, on 1 September 1840:

‘… at the station, Yeerip Hills near Mount Macedon preparing to proceed to the Loddon to select a site for a homestead and aboriginal reserve. A small party of aborigines are camped close to my hut.

Received this evening from Melbourne the Port Phillip Herald of the previous day in which I found a report of no less than six outrages said to have been perpetrated by the aborigines at different stations on the Upper Weirabee [Werribee River] in the course of three days last week. I have lately received intimations from some of the aborigines who have been staying with me that the tribes were greatly irritated by the violent measures taken to exclude them from Melbourne as well as the treatment they receive from many of the settlers. I have been plainly told that the natives would “by and bye” take to the mountains and try to drive the “white fellows” from their country. I have done all in my power to appease this feeling and show them the danger and folly of such a step; and at the same time convince them that their exclusion from Melbourne was for their good. With those I have had access to, I believe I have succeeded. But fearing that these reported outrages on the Weirabee might be the first outbreaking of this general hostility. I deem it my first duty then before proceeding to the Loddon. 

On September 4, 5 & 6th Parker proceeded on to:

‘Bacchus’s, Clarkes’, Campbell XXX’s, Steiglitz’s and Grays’ stations [squatters in the vicinity of present day Bacchus Marsh and Ballan] and took further depositions from squatters and their employees. All of this activity investigating outrages, though urgent and necessary, encouraged and sanctioned by Robinson, took Parker away from his primary role of establishing his Protectorate station somewhere ‘in the northwest’.

Robinson was nevertheless losing patience with what he perceived as Parker’s delaying tactics. Robinson wrote to Parker on 21 September 1840 requesting that Parker:

‘… transmit to this office with the least possible delay a clear description of the locality selected for the homestead and Agricultural Establishment for the exclusive benefit of the Aboriginal natives of your district in order that instructions may be immediately furnished to the Crown Commissioner to carry into effect His Excellency’s commands in prohibiting all Squatters within the prescribed limits.’

Parker’s Quarterly Journal (September 1- November 30, 1840) confirms that as a result he returned to Dja Dja Wurrung country on 22 September, proceeding:

‘… to Mollison’s outstation near Lalgambook or “Jim Crow Hill” [Mount Franklin] to examine the country with reference to its fitness for the proposed aboriginal homestead and reserve, also to investigate alleged robbery of some articles from a watchbox by the aborigines of which I had received information at the head station.

[On 23 Sept Parker] Continued the examination of the country up the creek and around the hills Lalgambook [Mount Franklin] and Moorootah [present day Mount Stewart, 3km NW of Mount Franklin]. I obtained also much valuable information from my native attendant Yerrebulluk.

On 24 Sept I proceeded this day down the Loddon to [Lauchlan] Mackinnon’s station [south of Mount Tarrengower] having heard that one of their outstations had been attacked and robbed by the aborigines. In the evening I took the depositions of two men in reference to this transaction.

25th & 26 Sept I continued the examination of the banks of the Loddon from Mackinnon’s [downstream] to a spot some miles below the Tarrengower mountain where I found a site which seemed to be peculiarly eligible for the aboriginal establishment, but finding that the whole vicinity to have been recently occupied by Messrs Dutton & Darlot I deemed it advisable to postpone taking possession till I had received the sanction of his Honour the Superintendent. Returned therefore to Mackinnons.’

For context, James Monckton Darlot had arrived in Sydney in 1834 from Portsmouth in England. By September 1840 he was in partnership with William Hampden Dutton and Donald Campbell Simson, later called ‘Dutton, Darlot & Simson Bros.’ Darlot and Dutton had set off from Sydney in early 1840 with sheep and cattle, originally intending to take up country at Portland Bay. The overlanders had problems with sheep dying of ‘catarrh’, so they drove them around the north end of Mount Alexander to ‘avoid stations’, setting up ‘boughyards’ for their sheep on the Loddon and Deep Creek north of Simson’s Charlotte Plains run.

Lauchlan Mackinnon (1817-88) was the first owner of the Tarrangower pastoral run from 1839-42. In 1840 the run of 61,209 acres extended from Mount Tarrengower to Mount Franklin including a southern outstation at present day Yandoit Creek. A stone shepherd’s hut still inhabited in 2021 by Duncan McKinnon on Cockatoo Gully in Yandoit Creek is one of the few outstation buildings still standing from this era.

The Tarrangower run was sold in 1842 to another Scotsman, William Hunter. Mackinnon had migrated to Tasmania in 1838 from the Isle of Skye, Scotland, later moving to Sydney, before overlanding stock to Adelaide for Campbell & Co, and then with more stock from Sydney to Port Phillip. Mackinnon later became co-editor of the Argus newspaper. 

Yerrebulluk, who Parker mentions above, was described as his ‘native attendant’, was then approximately 15 years old. He was a Dja Dja Wurring  man from the Wurn Balug Clan centred on present day Talbot, according to Parker orphaned age eight in 1833. He recalled hiding in the bushes in 1836 as Major Mitchell passed through, likely in the vicinity of Mount Greenock (see monument, below). He adopted the European name ‘Dicky’ and later became a bullock driver ferrying supplies from Melbourne to Parker’s Protectorates at the Neereman and Franklinford sites. When the Franklinford Protectorate closed in 1850, Yerrebulluk obtained land and became a farmer. He died on 16 October 1862. The pace of change in Victoria in the 26 years of his life between sighting Major Mitchell and his death was massive. Six months before Yerrebulluk died, the Geelong-Ballarat railway was officially opened.

Monument commemorating Major Mitchel’s traverse, summit of Mount Greenock near Talbot

Parker had stumbled into a veritable newspaper ‘hornet’s nest’ by attempting to set up an Aboriginal establishment on the Loddon. Aside from being a squatter, Dutton was a co-owner of the Port Phillip Herald newspaper, one of the principal organs of the critics of the Aboriginal Protectorate, along with the Sydney Herald. Part of Bain Attwood’s account of the founding of the Neereman Protectorate in his The Good Country book draws on correspondence and editorials critical of Parker published in the Port Phillip Herald during December 1840 and January 1841. In its pages, fellow squatter Darlot threatened to sue Parker for serious loss as a consequence of what Darlot ironically saw as illegal occupation by the Protector and the Aborigines.

Returning to Parker’s late 1840’s Quarterly Journal, he recorded that on:

‘29th & 30th (Sept) Leaving the articles I had brought up at Messrs Mackinnon’s, who had kindly engaged to store them till my return, I proceeded this day with the drays to Major Mitchell’s Line to “Expedition Pass” [close to present day Chewton]’

The articles Parker actually left at Mackinnon’s station (on the southern slopes of Tarrengower) were likely to have included most of the agricultural materials detailed in the Protectorate 1840 schedule. The hand written list of what was procured by Parker on 16 July 1840, with cost in Pounds (£) shillings (s) and pence (p), is fully transcribed in Table 1 below. It is reproduced to confirm the intention was inclusive of working with wood and gardening, including the ‘seed potatoes’ and the ‘English seeds’.

The supplementary articles procured for ‘sewing’ at the base of the table were obtained just before finally Parker set off for the Neereman site in late October 1840. The medical equipment obtained in late December 1840 when Parker returned to Melbourne for Christmas would have been required for the medical officer on the site.

Table 1 Goods procured in Melbourne for the Neereman Protectorate, 1840

Date in 1840ArticlesAmount (£.s.d)
July 16Blankets, Red Shirts, Woollen Shirts 
 6 Bullocks @ 20 Pound and Commission126.00
 1 Plough10.00
 2 Harrows @ 70 shillings7.00
 24 Spades @ 5 shillings6.00
 6 garden Rakes @ 2/66.15
 12 Garden Hoes @ 4/32.11
 12 Grubbing hoes @ 6 shillings3.12
 1 Dray and Tarpaulin 35 Pounds, (commission 5 per cent 1.15)36.15
 3 grind stones, handles and spindles @ 20 shillings3.00
 2 mortice (= mortise] axes @ 4 shillings0.8
 12 falling axes @ 5/63.6
 2 American Augurs @ 7/60.15
 1 pair maul rings 7 ½ pounds @ 8 pence0.5
 1 set wedges 15lbs@ 8 pence0.10
 2 Cross cut saws, 12 ½ foot @ 5/33.5.7
 2 Hand Saws @7/60.15
 2 Wheel Barrows @ 45 shillings4.10
 1 Steel Mill5.15
 1 Ton seed potatoes17.00
 1 Paling knife0.7
 3 spoke shaves assorted @ 3/90.11.3
 6 pair files assorted @ 8 pence0.4
 2 saw setts @ 2/90.5.6
 12 XXX assorted @ 9 pence9 shillings
 28 pounds bottom nails @ 9 pence1.1.0
 3 pounds shingle nails @ ¼0.4
 14 pounds two shilling nails @ 8d 
 14 pounds twenty shilling nails @ 1 shillings0.14
 1 Vice2.0
 3 iron tripods 99 pounds @ 6 pence2.9.6
 1 claw hammer0.5
 2 pick axes @ 5/60.11
 3 Morticing Chisels @ 2/90.8.3
 2 Pails @ 7/70.15
 3 assorted Augurs @ 10 shillings1.10
 A Lot English seeds3.10
 6 Sets Bows & Yokes5.8
 Government duty on 6 bullocks 1½%1.16
 1 Dray Chain 15 pound0.10
 1 Bullock chain 30 pounds1.00
October 29 100 needles 
 2 pair scissors  
 4 combs  
 6 razors 
 1¼ pound of thread 
December 242 oz Alum 
 4 oz Tincture of Camphor [for skin rashes] 
 3 pounds Epsom salts 
 2 pounds Senna leaves [= a laxative] 
 1 oz Comp Extracts of Colycynth [a herb for diabetes] 
 4 oz Mercurial ointments 
 1 oz Sulphate zinc 
 4 oz Emplasture Cantharides [burn agent] 
 2 Sponges 
 1 Old linen sheet 
 1 Pestle & Mortar 
 1 Graduate glass measure 
 1 Syringe 

On 1 October 1840 Parker ‘sent the [presumably empty] dray homeward … directing the men to proceed with the cart across the country to the Campaspe near Monros’. He then returned home to his temporary family base at Yeerip Hills.

The list of food supplies provided to Parker for the calendar year 1840, also reproduced in the Table 2 below, includes a large quantity obtained a few days later on 5 October, presumably for the planned Neereman station, as well as for the large number of Aborigines then camped at his temporary home and station at Yeerip Hills. The even bigger extra quantity of food (in pounds: lbs) was obtained to bring back to the Neereman station on 21 December 1840, since the crops planted in the sand of the ‘cultivation paddock’ in mid-summer during the severe El Nino had understandably not produced the food Parker had anticipated, and starvation had set in.

Table 2: List of supplies provided to Parker for the calendar year 1840

Date 1840Flour lbsMeatlbsTea lbsSoap lbsSugar lbsTobacco lbsRicelbsSaltlbs
April 10400300147    
Oct 52,0001,4002814400  100
Dec 214,0002,000  5628500 

As an important aside, for much of October 1840, Parker had been stymied from getting out of Melbourne to Neereman, this time by his desperate need to intervene when several hundred Aborigines were locked up in a stockade in Melbourne in an incident generally referred to as the ‘Lettsom Raid’. At dawn on Sunday 11 October 1840, Major Samuel Lettsom, accompanied by 58 soldiers and police, rounded up 400 Aboriginal people who were camped near Melbourne and marched them to town, ‘pricking them with their bayonets and beating them with the butt end of their muskets’. Two Aboriginal men were killed in the process and others were wounded.

Major Lettsom had been dispatched from Sydney to apprehend Aboriginal leaders alleged to be responsible for attacks against settlers on the Goulburn River, but followed them to Melbourne after learning that they had gone there for a ceremonial gathering. Lettsom demanded that Assistant Protector William Thomas hand over the Goulburn ‘troublemakers’ ,but he refused, arguing that there were no warrants for their arrest. Lettsom then gained permission from Superintendent La Trobe to make the raid.

Edward Parker finally managed to free all but 30 of the Goulburn men, ten of whom were put on trial on 6 December 1840. They were tried without the benefit of a defence lawyer or interpreter and nine were sentenced to ten years transportation for theft. 

On 15 October 1840, amongst all of the above chaos, Parker found time to write to Robinson in response to his request for a report on possible Protectorate sites in the Mount Macedon (north west) district, confirming that during September 1840 he had:

‘… carefully examined the country on both sides of the River Loddon for above 25 miles along its course and am of the opinion that the most eligible locality for the aboriginal reserve is that indicated in my letter of July, viz. in the vicinity of the hill Tarrengower. The neighbourhood contains at present much game – is abundantly watered by the lagoons of the river in which there are plenty of fish – and is evidently a favourite place of resort with the natives with the almost innumerable indications of their occasional presence which I have observed. It is in the Learkabulluk [Clan of the Dja Dja Wurrung]. The land has been recently occupied by Messrs Dutton …[XXX last words not readable in original].

The most eligible situation for the homestead appears to me to be an alluvial tract about 3½ [5.6 km] miles WNW of the peak of Tarrengower, and about 12 miles [19 km] down the Loddon from Major Mitchell’s crossing place. The country to the westward is mostly an arid plain. To the eastward it is open forest. It would much enhance the value of the location as an aboriginal reserve if its westernmost limit were made three miles and its eastern seven miles from the central station or homestead. The distance from Melbourne by the present line of road is 105 to 110 miles.’

The description of the preferred homestead station described by Parker to Robinson would place it on the Loddon River close to the present day 2021 township of Baringhup. While the final site actually chosen at Neereman later in 1840 is around 6km further north and downstream of Baringhup, Parker’s distances are necessarily estimates in a then formally unmapped landscape.

Moving to the Neereman site

Parker records his activities in moving to the Loddon River site in detail in his Quarterly reports. In this section, most of the detailed history of the approximately eight months in total spent on the Neereman site is retained in Parker’s own words.

Between 1 to 14 November 1840 Parker was:

‘Travelling with my family and the aboriginal establishment under my charge to the locality on the Loddon approved by His Honour the Superintendent. Five orphan children and seven other aborigines accompanied me. We were detained on the 5th by one of the drays getting bogged and breaking the pole [on the dray]. On the 8th the pole of another dray … snapped in two, and it became necessary to cut and fit a pole. This, as there was no timber at hand caused the loss of the whole of the next day. On the 14th I camped on the Loddon one mile above Dutton and Darlot’s station.’

On 15th November 1840 Parker:

‘Proceeded with [Agricultural] Overseer Bazeley to the spot for a homestead four miles lower down the river. Found the aspect of the country entirely XXX since the end of Sept. The ground was parched – the grass mostly dried up. Bazeley looked over the whole of the ground in the vicinity and pronounced it an unfavourable spot of for agricultural purposes.’

The photo below taken in mid summer 2019 confirms how dry the country and sandy soli might have been in the extreme El Nino summer of 1840. The Loddon River course is where the trees protrude over the mid horizon. This is approximately where the Neereman Protectorate briefly and unsuccessfully attempted to establish a garden and produce food for as many as 200 people.

Approximate site of the 1840/41 Protectorate cultivation paddock. Mount Tarrengower & Goughs Range on the horizon, pivot irrigator in mid-ground. Photo taken in mid summer, 2019.

On 17 November Parker ‘removed to [selected] the site for the homestead’. The next day, 18 November, Parker:

‘Sent Overseer Bazeley to look at the ground between McKinnon’s and Lalgambook – as I felt some uncertainty as to the course I should pursue in the faithful discharge of my duty to the government. On his return he reported that the soil above Mackinnon’s was much superior to that conveyed yesterday. Still, as I had obtained the sanction of His Honour the Superintendent expressly for the lower station, as it was desirable that the station should be as low down the river as possible, as in every respect the lower station was more eligible, and the overseer thought that crops might be raised if there were sufficient falls of rain – I determined on placing the establishment on that [Neereman] site and fairly testing its capabilities.

Having learned, somewhat to my surprise that Dutton & Darlot had received no notice from the Crown Commissioner as to the occupation of the establishment of the aboriginal station, I sent this day a forma, notice of my arrival to the head station.’

On 19 November, Parker ‘Commenced the erection of a bark store for the goods under my charge’. Between 19-30November 1840, Parker:

‘… was occupied in building temporary huts for my family and the establishment, and the various labours usually connected with the formation of a new station in the bush. On the 23rd a party of aborigines of the Jajawrong tribe, numbering 41 men, women and children came to my station. Two other men came in on the 27th making with those who have travelled up with me a total of 55. They appear to welcome my arrival in their country with great warmth. The men immediately proceed to strip bark for the store and huts we were then building. Most of them were previously known to me.’

Parker’s separate, detailed list of Aborigines at the Protectorate on the Loddon during November 1840 confirms five ‘orphans’ and seven other children had travelled with him to the Neereman site, to be joined on 22 November by 43 Dja Dja Wurrung people in family Clan groups. One of the ‘orphaned male’ youths listed was previously mentioned Yeerebulluk. Parker’s census shows that most of the Dja Dja Wurrung people were either from the local Liarga bullukClan (including Dja Dja Wurrung ‘leader’ Manangabum and his family), or from Clans to the east of the Protectorate site. 

On 2 December (1840):

‘A party of 3 men and two boys came to the station this morning from the northwestward. As they appeared to march in with some degree of ceremony I received them in a similar manner. They spontaneously separated themselves into their respective sections [Clans] and were formally introduced by some of their number who reminded me that I had met them in different places on former occasions.’

From 3 to 12 December Parker reports that he:

‘… was employed among the aborigines congregated at my station in the collection of statistical information, the direction of their labour and the various arrangements XXX to the formation of a new station. The number of aborigines assembled continued to increase till XXX the 14th. They numbered about 170 men, women and children. There are many circumstances connected with this tribe worthy of special note. They have no firearms, nor can I learn that they ever possessed any. They are miserably destitute of clothing, a few very old, ragged garments being all they possessed of European attire. They appear to be generally peaceable and willing to work and I learn from neighbouring settlers that in many instances made themselves very useful. Nor can I learn that any charge of robbery against any of those now concentrated at my station. It is universally acknowledged that they have never attempted life. They have not been, however, without provocation. One man was shot by some of Dutton’s people four months time – if the aborigines are to be believed – almost wantonly. The perpetrator is not now to be found. Other lives have been sacrificed within the last two years by white people. A very large portion of their country was simultaneously occupied with stock last winter [i.e. mid-1840] and they are now ordered away from places where they have been accustomed most frequently to XXX for food. On the whole, the character and condition of this tribe present more hopeful circumstances than most others I have met in this colony, They are by no means inveterate [= ingrained] beggars as some of their neighbours. Nearly 80 children are now at the station.

For the week of 14-21 December, Parker:

‘… was variously occupied among the aborigines. It is the subject of great regret with me that I have not a school master on the station as an excellent opportunity is now furnished for the communication of the benefits of Christian Education to these people. My multifarious occupations connected with my office give me no XXX for the work and there is no person on the establishment who can be employed in this way. Another subject of regret is that I cannot fully employ the people for their own advantage, as it is now evident that the site is unfavourable for an agricultural establishment and permission must be obtained to occupy another situation.’

Between 22-24 December, Parker travelled back to Melbourne for Christmas and New. On 20 January 1841, Parker left Melbourne to return to his station. The 1841 list of extra stores, in Table 3 below, includes a large amount of clothing and other provisions collected on 12 January ‘required for barter, not intended to be given way unless in cases of sickness or old age’, as well as extra hardware procured for the Neereman station the day before his departure, on 19 January 1841.

Table 3 Stores procured in Melbourne by Parker for the Protectorate, January 1841

Dates 1841Articles
January 1230 tin plates
 30 tin pannikins
 50 blankets
 50 blue shirts
 36 tomahawks
 24 pocket knives
 25 combs
January 191 steel mill [for grinding flour]
 2 adzes
 2 dressing sieves
 2 sickles
 Ration scales & weights, 7 oz and upwards
 1 Box lock for store
 3 pair XXX hinges
 6 pair butt hinges
 2 butcher knives
 1 butcher steel
 2 Branding Irons C.P. XXX

On 22 January 1841, Parker diarised that:

‘I found this morning at Mr Mollison’s station a party of the Jajowrong tribe numbering about 30 who had left my station about a XXX. I endeavoured to induce them to return. I regret to observe that disease is spreading amongst them.’

On 23 January Parker notes that he returned to his station at Neereman: 

‘I find still a large body of aborigines assembled. They have generally conducted themselves well during my absence, A few individual quarrels have occurred but they have been appeased by the overseer without any serious result. One of these quarrels was occasioned by an individual named Mokilte (Wertunarramin) who was accused by the other blacks of having attempted to carry off sheep from a station of Darlot’s. Most of the tribe evinced great indignation and threatened to XXX him.’

On 25 January:

‘The Crown Commissioner visited the station this day to consult with me respecting the most suitable [alternative] site for the aboriginal reserve. He suggested the vicinity of Lalgambook [Mt Franklin]- to which on behalf of the aborigines I concurred. I took the opportunity of complaining to Mr Darlot who accompanied him of the conduct of his men in decoying the native women and girls for the basest of purposes. The remainder of the week [26-30 January] was occupied with official correspondence and returns, and the ordinary duties of the establishment. The overseer proceeded with the drays to Melbourne on the 27th.

Many of the men attended Divine service in the morning [of Sunday 31 January]. Feeling deeply anxious for the communication of some kind of instruction for the aboriginal youth now about the station, I commenced this day a kind of Sunday School attended by 20 boys who seem ready and willing enough to learn. Being without any school paraphernalia I have had recourse to the moveable letters of a child’s toy, known under the name of “Wallis’s Spelling Games” [NOTE: E. Wallis produced a number of popular board games, published in London in the early 1800s, including ‘The Wonders of Nature’].

Parker continues on February 2 as things were getting increasingly desperate:

‘A number of the aborigines left the station this day – stating that as my flour was nearly gone and there was too many of them there, they would go away and return in 10 days. The means of conveyance at my disposal have not been sufficient to enable me to bring up supplies fast enough to meet even the limited XXX I make. I had only two or three days supply on hand and could not expect the drays up in less than 10 days. I did not therefore oppose their temporary absence particularly as some serious personal quarrels had occurred during the last two days, in one of which a man and in another woman were badly speared. I warned them as earnestly as possible against hanging about the sheep station. As, however great numbers of sheep are dying at one of Darlot’s stations, I fear they will be induced to remain about there till my supplies come up. Between 40 and 50 remain at the station. Among those who have left are four men from the Goulburn who arrived on the 30th [January].’

On 3-6 February 1841 Parker:

‘… was chiefly occupied in completing a census of the Jajowrong tribe, which has engaged my attention for some time past. A number of youth who have been at the station have within the last few days built themselves permanent habitation of saplings and reeds. They commenced them of their own accord in imitation of one of them built by the government men.

In the latter part of this [6 February] one of the men who left the station on Tuesday returned and informed me with great concern that one of the Goulburn blacks had speared a sheep. I immediately rode over to Mr Darlot’s head station of the overseer [to see] if a thing of this kind had occurred at any of his outstations. He said he did not think any depredations had been committed – that it was possible or likely sheep might have strayed the flocks and had been picked up by the aborigines. He wished to keep the natives [away] from the stations, but the men (and one in particular) encouraged them to come, and constantly had the women about them. At the lower station 200 sheep had died from XXX XXX since the 1stof January, and had given the men ample means as of alluring the aborigines around them. I subsequently ascertained that the sheep was speared at a new station belonging to a Mr Cato lower down the river by a Tanne-bullar black named Maitegurra. The shepherd being asleep, did not observe the theft, but was immediately apprised of it by Moorin-weila, a remarkable well-conducted Borum-bulluk black who took charge of the sheep while the shepherd got his gun, and afterwards assisted in endeavouring to trace the thief, and recover the sheep.

[On the morning of Sunday 7 February] I sent a black on whom I could rely on to bring all the blacks back to the station. In the evening he returned with a few of them and brought information that Darlot’s people at the same outstation to which they had so frequently been decoyed had fired on them, that one (Gou-du-wurmin) was dying and another (Mu-nang-abum) very badly wounded.’

For context, Manangabum (also called ‘Abraham’) was then regarded as the most important Elder of the Dja Dja Wurrung and a man possessing great spiritual power. Parker later gave him the title of ‘Abraham ‘in recognition of him being a father of the nation’. George Robinson first met him in January 1840. Manangabum had been attacked by squatter Munro, after seven of his men and three mounted troopers had accused several Aboriginal men of sheep stealing. Munro brutally murdered several of them on the Campaspe River and arrested Manangabum, who was arrested on a sheep stealing charge and locked up in the Melbourne Gaol from late January 1840. He was eventually released in March 1840 after strong petitions from many Aboriginal people via the Aboriginal Protectors. Manangabum accompanied by other Dja Dja Wurrung people returned to Country via Parker’s Jackson’s Creek Station on 11 April 1840. 

Manangabum and 42 other Dja Dja Wurrung had arrived at the Neereman Protectorate station soon after it was established and stayed there until November 1840. They had moved away to Bet Bet Creek (near present day Wareek) as the Protectorate rations ran out. By February 1840, Donald Simson at Charlotte Plains had placed James Darlot as his manager on his nearby Fourteen Mile Creek run, whose heavy handedness with Aboriginal people was then well known. Manangabum’s wounding took place in an altercation between Darlot’s convict shepherds.

Parker continued in his 1841 diary:

‘[On the morning of 8 Feb] … more of the aborigines returned. Their version of the affair of yesterday was that a number of armed men came to the station – that they enquired for the Goulburn blacks – that they accused the two blacks who were shot of sending them away, that Mu-nang-abum fearing from their threats that they intended to shoot him, clasped the shepherd round the body, and cried out to the foremost of the white men “Borack shoot Nenne-nenne” (Neddy Neddy) – that they then fired at him and Gou-du-wurmin was then dead. They gave me the names of nine blacks from the Goulburn who were at the station. Four of them had been at my station on the 31st of January. I went over to the station expecting in my way to find the dead body which had been placed in a tree; the boys who accompanied me, however, could not find it. On arriving at the station the convict hutkeepers were at first disposed to be very indolent. I took their depositions and afterwards in search of the shepherd whose deposition I also succeeded in obtaining before he could have any communication with the others.

Returning to my station in the evening I found Munangabum had been brought in with a large wound in his shoulder evidently inflicted by a gun or pistol fired close to his body.’

Edward Parker’s son, Joseph Parker, writing in later life in the Mount Alexander Mail (22-24 June 1916) vividly and independently recollected during his childhood that an Aboriginal person with a gunshot wound was brought in to the Protectorate. He tells the story of an intimidating, heavily armed posse of mounted men challenging his father about protecting them. This account very likely relates to this incident documented above involving Darlot in February 1841.

0n 9 February 1841, Parker:

‘Went over to another station of Mr Darlot’s 8 miles distant with the overseer and took the depositions of four men.’

On 10 February, Parker: 

‘Sent a policeman and one of my men with two aborigines to search for and try and identify the body of Gou-du-wurmin. They returned in the afternoon having found the body, but in such a state from the heat of the weather as to preclude further identification.’

On 12th & 13th Parker wrote that 

‘… having carefully collated the evidence I had obtained I signed warrants for the apprehension of Edwin Collins & Robert Morrison who were brought up on the 12th, and the evidence being repeated I committed them for trial in Melbourne. At the same time I went for further police aid to apprehend three other men implicated in the affair.

[Feb 14th-28th] During this period I was occupied principally in preparing Returns – copies of the aboriginal Census – copies of the depositions and proceedings in the late affair with Darlot’s people. … On the 19th two policemen arrived, and on the 20th the XXX  Martin and Jenkins were apprehended, examined and committed for trial.

During this month several of the natives, seeing the improved dwellings erected by the boys, constructed good seed tents for tomatoes under the direction of one of my men, so that the station now [Feb 28th] XXX 12 permanent aboriginal dwellings affording comparatively comfortable accommodation for about 50 people.

On the two last Sabbaths of the month nearly all the natives on the station attended Divine Service. Their deportment was serious and orderly; they spontaneously followed the example of the whites in standing up, kneeling, etc. They appear ready to acknowledge the existence of a Great and Good Being, but say that black fellows know nothing about him.

On March 1 to 6,

‘[Parker] remained on the station. The number of aboriginal assembled was about eighty. Since the fatal encounter at Darlot’s on the 7th Feb they have remained generally quiet. A very strong impression has been made upon them by the prompt apprehension and committal of the men who first decoyed them to their huts, and then, when they became XXX,  fired on them.

On the 8th I proceed to the Pyrenees to investigate the circumstances connected with the slaughter of several aborigines by a Mr Francis. On the 9th and 10th I fell in with different parties of natives. From the last of them I obtained some distressing statements as to the slaughter of the blacks. They have me the names of several individuals shot by Mr Francis within the last six months. I found, however, no legal evidence attainable. The only persons present in the last and most serious affair with the aborigines, which took place in December last year, were Francis, a person named Downes and a stockkeeper, all of whom were concerned in the slaughter. Downes is in another part of the colony, Francis absent at Portland and the stockkeeper in Melbourne. No other admissible evidence  of the death of these poor people can be obtained than what Francis’s written statement conveys. In that he reports that he and the persons before named in consequence of seeing the bush on fire, and fell in suddenly with some natives, on whom they fired and killed four. The natives say six were slain and the information as to that it is more to be depended on. Owing to the legal disabilities of the aborigines cannot be added to the many others which have passed without judicial notice. I cannot, however, but wish that squatting licences were withheld from persons who manifest such utter disregard of human life as Mr Francis, even on his own thievings have done.

March 12th I returned to my station.

March 15th One of the Jajowrong natives came in this day from Melbourne. He proved to be a messenger from the Port Phillip aborigines sent to bring the natives now at this station to Melbourne. Several attempts had previously been made to get them there, but hitherto I had successfully opposed their going: a few only had strayed away about three weeks time. They now, however, appeared determined to go. For the persons have imposed on a story that another governor had arrived, and wished to see all black fellows in Melbourne to give them blankets and other things. Nothing I could say would convince them of the contrary. “White gentlemen” in Melbourne had had told the blacks and therefore they had sent a letter to their Jajowrong friends to come and see them. The “letter” which was treated with great respect and shown to all was merely a dirty piece of an old copy book. This was accompanied with two or three knives and handkerchiefs and other items of good will.

March 16th This morning all the men with the exception of three left the station to proceed to Melbourne. I succeeded in inducing them to leave their women and children. I warned them that I should follow them and watch their conduct.

On the 19th I left my station to proceed to Melbourne and next day came up with the aborigines at Messrs Cumming and Smyth’s station. They were joined here by another party. They stated it to be their intention to proceed to Karkanamoom (late Howie’s cattle station) and there await the arrival of their Port Phillip friends to have a great Yepene (corrobory) and then return to Nirriman.

On the 29th I received information that Mr Oliphant’s station in the Pyrenees had been attacked on the 19th instant, the hut keeper killed, and the hut nearly stripped. From what I had previously heard of the character of some of the natives on the Western side of the Pyrenees, belonging to the Nilangboum tribe I concluded that the trouble had been committed by them.

On the 1st April the Jajowrong natives came to Melbourne and a very formal kind of meeting took place between them and the Port Phillip aborigines. On this and the following days they danced their corrobory. Only two or three of my people who had been in Melbourne went into the town, the remaining on the south side of the river. They had provided me before leaving the station they would only remain two days with the Melbourne blacks. In fulfilment of this promise, on the morning of the 3rd they expressed their willingness to return, at the same time their wish to see “the Governor”. His Honour the Superintendent was pleased to gratify this wish and had an interview with them near the signal station. After receiving a supply of flour they proceeded on their journey.

On the 6th I came up with the aborigines at the Police Station. They had been retarded, like myself, by the heavy rains. I found that a few of them had strayed back with Tolloorabulluk and Marpeanbulluk people to Melbourne.

On the 8th [April] I returned to my station. I found that a number of natives from the lower parts of the river Loddon had come in making the number at the homestead upwards of 100. Between this date and the 12th the men who had visited Melbourne returned in small parties.

On the 21st visiting Mr Mackinnon’s station I received information of a dreadful outrage by the aborigines on the person and property of Mr Grice of Mount Alexander on the 15th instant. Mr G was reported to be so badly speared, as to be near death, and 500 of his sheep were said to be missing.

On the 22nd I proceeded to Mr Grice’s station about 12 miles North-West of Mount Alexander. Found Mr Grice received three spear wounds and two of his men had been severely wounded. A large body of natives suddenly rushed upon Mr Grice and one of his men while they were getting a flock into the fold. Their intention was evidently to kill them, but Mr Grice succeeded in forcing his way through them and getting to the hut he took out a gun on which they ran away. In the meanwhile another party intercepted one of his shepherds returning with his flock, speared him in the arm and took away the sheep: the next day a horse was found dead with many spears sticking in him. The sheep were recovered two days after, with the exception of about 50. Most of them were in possession of the blacks at a spot about 20 miles east of the station. This outrage appears to have been of a more determined and hostile character than any that has come within my observation. As I can account for most of the people belonging to the Jajowrong tribe on the day this was committed, I can readily acquit them of any participation in it. It has doubtless been perpetrated by some of the “Goulburn” blacks as they are usually termed – the people occupying the country between the lower parts of that river and the Yerrin or Campaspe. Their periodical visits to the neighbourhood of Mount Alexander are frequently attended by depredation and outrage.

On the 24th [April 1841] I returned to the station. I found there two blacks belonging to the Taongerongs named Jille jille and Neraboop. An earnest request was made by the other aborigines that they might be allowed to remain. These men spontaneously stated that the Moonoom goodeet, Netterackbulluk, Nerabulluk and other Taoungurong blacks had been “spearing white fellows and stealing sheep”: and that in consequence they had left them.

On the 26th [April] I proceeded to Melbourne in expectation that the trial of Darlot’s men would come on. While in Melbourne I received information of another dreadful outrage, doubtless by the same people at Mr Bennett’s on the Campaspe. A shepherd had been killed and his flock had been taken away, but subsequently the sheep had been recovered.

I was detained in Melbourne some days to attend the examination of two mounted policemen charged with having caused the death of “Harlequin”, a native black who was apprehended in December last on the Murray. He had been made to travel on foot about 220 miles in seven consecutive days. When brought into Melbourne he had a chain around his neck, and in this manner had been compelled to walk or run by the side of the trooper’s horses – and this in the hottest season of the year. He died on the second day after arrival of a violent fever. The men were committed to trial.

On the 5th May [1841] I returned to Nirriman where I remained till the 13th. During this interval I found among the natives some blankets from the marks I inspected came from Mr Oliphant’s. This led to further enquiry and at length I obtained the following statement from some of the aborigines who had been with me in Melbourne and were much concerned by the attack on Mr Oliphant’s. After the slaughter of Gondu-urmin by Darlot’s people, his immediate relatives the Galgalgoondeet roved around the country in a state of great irritation, Coming unexpectedly upon Mr Oliphant’s station, which had been recently formed, and finding the hut open and the hutkeeper at a little distance shifting the hurdles, they determined on revenging the death of their companion and attached the poor man as he was coming up to the hut, after killing him they took all the provisions, clothing and guns. The murder was committed by Wowingnap and Beristgoodeet, brother of the deceased Gondu-urmin and Maitejurra, a Larnebullar black. These men are now at the station. I find they are in great alarm for the consequences of their wild revenge, my two native policemen having threatened that they would fetch the “white fellow policeman” to take them away. The blankets bearing Mr Oliphant’s marks had passed through many hands before I had discovered them and were in possession of people who I knew to be in Melbourne at the time of the outrage was committed. No legal evidence of their having been in the possession of the murderers could be obtained. Two of the three guns taken from the hut were left in the bush (these men not knowing how to use them) and two men at my request went out and brought them to me. They were absent on the journey three days.

On the 13th May I proceeded to Melbourne to attend the sitting of the Supreme Court.

On the 18th five men were put on their trial for shooting at Munangabum with intent to kill. The Crown Prosecutor deemed the evidence insufficient to put them on their trial for killing Gondoo-urmin, The first witness, one of their companions, swore that there were 150 blacks throwing spears at them and the men were immediately acquitted. The witness had stated in his disposition of the first investigation of the case that no spears had been thrown. Thus there is no chance of justice being obtained for these unfortunate people, while their evidence is rejected. The witnesses are sure to be hostile and have only to swear hard enough, as in the present case, and the cause of the aborigines is put out of court,

On the 22nd [May] Tarrick-munnin one of the nine aborigines convicted of the robbery at the last January XXX, and the only one of the number who was recaptured when they made their escape from a lighter in the river, was discharged from prison, and by the judges order given over to my charge, the whole of the convictions having been illegal, and the prisoners therefore pardoned. The remaining three days with the Rev McXXX and then joined his tribe.

On the 27th [May] I returned to my station at Nirriman where I found still about 130 aborigines. Three infants have died within the last six weeks. One apparently from carelessness on the part of the mother, combined with the severity of the weather. The second was a half caste belonging to Yeepburneen, one of Manangabum’s women and reported by all the blacks to be the offspring of Clarke, one of Darlot’s assigned servants. Fearing this child might have been killed, I made very minute inquiries into the circumstances of its death, but found no reason to conclude that it died form other than natural causes. The third was the child of Boongarrapurneen and according to the concurrent testimony of all the women was killed by the mother the morning after its birth. It is said to be the third child she had murdered. The reason assigned is that by suckling their children they become old looking and wrinkled and therefore disagreeable to their men. The event took place in my absence. I spoke to the people strongly of the wickedness of the action and as the woman became dangerously ill I took occasion from that circumstance to warn them of the certainty that the “Great Father” would be angry with them and punish them. I do not think the crime of infanticide is common amongst them. One other woman only was spoken of as having done the like. But it is deeply painful to observe the callousness with which this atrocious deed is regarded.

[On Sunday 30th] The Aborigines continue to attend Divine service with scarcely any exception. Having however no place large enough to contain even half of them, considerable difficulty occurs in bringing them together. This is greatly advanced by the singular custom designated the “Knalloin”. By this the mother of the female child is interdicted from even looking upon the person to whom the child was betrothed; and this betrothing frequently takes place as soon as the child is born, the women who have children are almost always under the influence of this custom.’

Moving to the new Station

Unfortunately the first part of Parker’s detailed next Quarterly Journal, June 1, 1841, to August 31, 1841, is missing. It resumes with the final pages in mid-July 1841. A ‘Precis of Journal, March 1, 1841- August 31st, 1841’ confirms that during the missing interval, in June 1841, Parker spent ‘Five days travelling between the new and old stations, removing the to the permanent situation [at Franklinford]. The rest of the month [he was] occupied in the laborious duties of my station’. 

Under the heading ‘General results’, Parker summarises the six months ending 31 August 1841 as below. From March to May 1841 just the Neereman site was operating. During July and August 1841, the new station at Mount Franklin was in operation. Parker reported: 

‘I have been in contact communication with the aborigines. The average number daily at the homestead was 100. Of those several have remained for the whole period. Many others have continued at the station from three to five months.

With the single exception of the revengeful attack on Oliphant’s station by a small party, no charge has been made against the Jajowrong people who are not less than 300 in number. Two other outrages which have occurred have been distinctly traced to another tribe.

During the last three months of the half year a new station has been formed at Willam-e-barramul [place of the emu]on the river Loddon [in fact this was on a major Loddon tributary, to 2021 called ‘Jim Crow Creek’]. About 35 acres of land have been enclosed and 13 acres prepared for cultivation, and five acres sown with wheat. A dwelling house, store and two cultivation huts have been put up. In these operations the aborigines have fully participated. Amongst other work done by them they have furnished the establishment within the last 2 months with 300 sheets of bark & 350 trees and saplings for building materials, have broken up [cultivated] 250 perches [= 1.56 acres] of ground, felled 100 trees and completed 150 rods [approx. 750 metres] of fencing.

Partial instruction has been afforded on the average to about 20 boys. The unsettled state of the establishment has unavoidably interfered with this department of the work but the clear continuance of a number of aboriginal youths at the homestead and their increasing alienation from the habits of the tribe authorize a hope permanent good will result from future efforts of this kind.

Eight orphan children have been maintained during the half year, and the average number of XXX daily attended to during the same period has been about twelve.’

Post script from the Protectors

In leaving this detailed account from Parker on the upper Loddon in August 1841, it is useful to briefly consider Chief Protector Robinson’s understanding of what was happening in 1841, when he observed that the squatters were not allowing Aborigines to stop at their home or outstation. Robinson posed the valid question in his personal journal, ‘Where are the natives to go?’ His response is as follows.

‘As many squatters claim from 2, 3 or 400 square miles of country, the home station and out stations, in many instances in a bad water country, secure all the water and the sheep and cattle graze the intermediate space. Then where are the natives to go?  … are they to throw themselves in the mercy of other tribes because no British humanity exists in the hearts of British Australian squatters towards the original occupants of the soil?’

It is of some interest as a postscript to note that the Chief Protector George Robinson apparently never visited the Neereman Protectorate site during its operation. His daily Journal confirms he was in Melbourne from November 1840 when the Protectorate was established until early February 1841, aside from a two day visit to Narre Warren from 19-20 December 1840. Robinson was in the Ovens River district for much of February and was in the Western District for almost five months between March 21 and August 14 1841, by which time Parker’s Protectorate had been relocated back to near Mount Franklin.

Robinson makes only several brief mentions of Parker in his Journal during late October 1841 as Parker was readying to move to the Neereman site. On 29 October 1840, he writes that Le Seuf (sic.) ‘is to send his cart for the invalid Aboriginal natives at Parker’s station’, and agrees that Parker can have a loan of Le Souef’s cart for two weeks. Robinson also notes that he had bought some articles ‘for the blacks of Parker’ including shirts and flour. On 11 December 1840 Robinson wrote: ‘Noland gone to Parker’s Loddon. Papers complain of Parker at Loddon’. [Note: Noland was an ex-employee of overlander and pastoralist Peter Snodgrass: the depression of the 1840s had led Snodgrass into insolvency. It is not clear what Nolan’s role was]. The next time Parker is mentioned by Robinson is when Parker returned to Melbourne on 24 December 1840, providing Robinson with his requested Dja Dja Wurrung census. On 15 January 1841, Robinson wrote about La Trobe’s annoyance at Parker for writing to the newspapers in defence of his Protectorate. 

Several brief mentions are made of in the official records of Parker’s agricultural overseer, Robert Bazeley. On 30 October 1840 he writes that ‘Parker’s overseer Bazeley started on Sievwrights’s cart’, presumably referring to his overseer borrowing Protector Seivwright’s cart to set begin the journey up to Neereman. Another mention is when Bazeley returns to Melbourne from ‘the Loddon’ (Neereman) on 2 Feb 1841. As a relevant aside, Bazeley would later employed by squatter Rostron, initially at Holcomb near Daylesford (inclusive of the recently opened ‘Manna Gums Frontier Wars ‘site) and later at Tottington homestead near Stuart Mill. A Bazeley descendant, Richard Bazeley, lives in St Arnaud in 2021.

How did Parker reflect on this era?

It is illuminating to reflect on what Edward Parker said four years later about this tumultuous time on the Loddon River frontier. His written perception was that ‘a very considerable expenditure of the public money’ had led to ‘but little real improvement in the condition of the condition of the aborigines’. This led to a Select Committee of the Legislative Council being appointed in 1845 ‘to consider the condition of the aborigines, and the best means of promoting their welfare’. 

The Maitland Mercury (27 December 1845) reported the following testimony of Edward Parker to the inquiry, as he reflected on ‘the results of his five years’ labour among the aborigines’.

‘When I took charge of the first district assigned to my care, I found everything in a state of the greatest confusion; aboriginal outrages, involving extensive loss of property, and in some instances, of life, were of frequent occurrence; the most deadly feelings of hostility existing on the part of the Europeans, which in all probability would have led to a war of extermination on both sides. A respectable settler (now a magistrate of the colony), told me in the latter end of 1840 that he considered the existence of two races in the same country incompatible. Another (also a magistrate), about the same time, avowed it as his opinion that one-half of the aboriginal population must be shot, before we could subdue and keep in order the other half. On the other hand, after the measures adopted by the police authorities under Major Lettsom, in October 1840, some of the most influential men among the aboriginal tribes frequenting Melbourne declared to me their intention of retiring to the mountain and forest ranges, and killing every white man they could find unprotected; and it is my firm belief that this threat would have been executed, so far as lay in their power, but for the efforts and officers of this department. ‘

It is pertinent to note that Parker, by 1845, was battling to save the Protectorate system including his own relocated Protectorate station, at Larnebarramul below Lalgambook (Mount Franklin), from being wound up. For this reason, he concluded with the most optimistic Christian gloss in the face of evidence of a fairly comprehensive failure, concluding that any shortcomings were for the want of adequate religious instruction.

‘Yet now, without any such exterminating measures, the whole of the eastern and central parts of this district are at peace, life and property are considered to be secure, remedial measures are applied for the improvement of their condition; and if more marked results have not been obtained in the improvement of their condition, it has been from the want of additional agency in carrying on the work of religious instruction.’

Why does all this matter?

What happened on now comprehensively ‘settled’ land in Dja Dja Wurrung country on the frontier in conflict with our colonial ancestors in 1840-41 remains both unsettling to me and also unsettled over 180 years on. Though I’ve added some brief commentary to the shocking official record, I sense that Edward Parker has perhaps, amongst the inevitable government self-censorship, said it all, though I acknowledge that there are almost no Aboriginal voices here.

The question I ask as an Australian citizen in 2021 as to what British humanity could have done differently is not only an historical question, but a current moral one. As Inga Clendinnen wrote the following in her Quarterly Essay in 2006, ‘Who owns the past?

‘Daily we enjoy the fruits of what those hard men did. Our present comforts drive from their past actions.  … [S]urely it is a crucial part of the historian’s duty to uncover how it was that some settlers were killers and some were not? It is only by establishing the span of choices open to these men that we can hope to understand why individuals made the choices they did.’

I am motivated to research and write about these things as a person who has lived within and enjoyed the fruits of Dja Dja Wurrung country, from my home town of Donald in the north west to Daylesford to Kingston in the south east for over 40 years, in total spanning much of my seven decades to 2020. As Clendinnen so eloquently put it:

‘I do feel a connection to the country and what has happened here, which manifests as an intensifying impulse to acknowledge and redress past injustices, and to attempt restitution.’

But I have to ask, how will history judge our own generation for locking up innocent refugees, including children, for many years on Pacific islands, to deter others from arriving on boats? But I forget, as John Howard recently confirmed in a television interview, Australia and Australians are not racist.

The Neereman Protectorate site today

Edward Parker came to what was to become the Neereman Protectorate site with his family of seven in November 1840. In the next eight months, around 200 Dja Dja wurrung and other First Nations people came to the Protectorate Station there to seek his protection. The records I have transcribed in detail above give just a small flavour of a highly contested, deadly and dangerous frontier, particularly for Aboriginal people on their own Country.

There are few signs of what happened ‘on the ground’ after 1840. Some of the scarred and strap grafted trees remain, but there is no contemporary signage, memorial, buildings or post contact artefacts to mark the site of this first failed attempt at a Protectorate on the Loddon River. Neereman’s existence and history has been erased almost as completely as that of the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owners. 

An ancient Aboriginal fire hearth on the northern Neereman river bank. The original carbon has been leached, out leaving only the fireclay

What does remain is its presence and natural beauty. Its still massive river pools on the Loddon River run much of summer from environmental and irrigation flows from Cairn Curran Reservoir above Baringhup. Its elevated aspect, and the huge remnant river red gums and straggly remnant buloke trees remain on its high northern bank. One ancient peppercorn tree and the possible fragment of a granite fireplace are all that might have been there since the 1840s. Seasonal floods and fires, the sludge and sand from mining and dredging, shifting sands of drought and erosion combined with intensive agriculture and grazing down to the river’s edge leave the privately owned site in a degraded and vulnerable state. Some of the deep erosion scars on the sandy northern bank are filled with domestic and farm rubbish. The site warrants acknowledgement and care.

I have recently found two early maps that together accurately and definitively confirm where the Protectorate site actually was. The first map I found was an early (1856) Parish Plan map (Country lands, Parish of Baringhup on the river Loddon [cartographic material] / Thomas Couchman, Assist. Surveyor; lithographed at the Surveyor General’s Office, Melbourne, Oct 9, 1856, (by James B. Philp)).The 1856 subdivision plan is superimposed over the dotted outline of some of the pre-1856 survey (likely 1848) features, including an original track along the north bank of the Loddon River, and tantalisingly, an ‘Old Cultivation Paddock’ is marked with a ‘hut’ to the west of the paddock on a ‘sandy bluff’. It seemed possible, indeed likely, that this former cultivated paddock area, and perhaps the former hut dated back to the 1840s. 

I later found the ‘smoking gun’ above on an obscure microform map in the State Library, Victoria, simply titled ‘Loddon 66’. In microform it was very small and white on black and the north point had been placed unconventionally towards the north east. The version above has been reoriented, greatly enlarged and converted to black on white.

The map was almost certainly made by Surveyor Urquhart in 1848. On the same, distinctive bend high north bank of the Loddon River, are the words ‘Parker’s original site for the Protect. Estab. NEREMAN’. The surveyor describes the northern bank as ‘light grassy land, lightly timbered’. Just downstream on the opposite bank, ‘D. C. Simpson’s Hut’ is marked.

Loddon River immediately downstream of Newstead, near where Robinson & Parker camped in Feb 1840 on the way to the

In 2021 the area north of the Loddon River is on Paul Jennings’ family property, seasonally watered by large pivot irrigators north of the Loddon River. An area under the westernmost pivot irrigator seems very likely to have been included with the ‘one square mile’ within the ‘permanent core’ of the briefly cultivated ‘Cultivation Paddock’ area of the then Protectorate in 1840-1. This area formally known as Neereman came to be referred to as ‘Parker’s Plains’ in oral history within the Jennings family, but to 2021 is still not marked on any map.

The1848 survey of the Loddon River confirms that by that time, the northern part of the original Neereman Protectorate site had become part of Donald Campbell Simson’s Charlotte Plains run. The extended Protectorate south and east of the Loddon River had become part of E. Bryant’s Cairn Curran run. By 1848 the land to south of the site had become part of smaller runs operated by Hunter (Tarrengower), Joyce (Plaistow), Bucknall (Rodborough), McCallum (Dunach) as well as McNeil and Hall (Glenmona).

The area east of the Loddon near present day Baringhup was in 1848 ‘timbered with box eucalypts’. To the west of Baringhup towards Carisbrook were ‘open grassy plains’. To the south on the Loddon near present day Baringhup ‘E. Bryant’s Homestead’ is marked. Edmund Bryant had previously farmed and operated businesses in Hobart and the Tasmanian Midlands from 1824 but arrived in Melbourne on 31 October 1845. He was first at ‘Charlotte Plains’ station with H. N. Simson (who later married Bryant’s daughter, Janet) before acquiring ‘Cairn Curran’ in 1848. It was there that he died on 21 April 1849. 

The Cairn Curran Reservoir has since inundated the original Bryant homestead. Two closely adjacent pointed hills are named to the south and just east of the river as ‘Baringup’ and ‘Goomit’, with E. Bryant’s [Cairn Curran] Hut and D. C. Simpson’s [Charlotte Plains] Hut located nearby.  The Loddon River upstream marks W. M Hunter’s ‘Tarrengowar’ homestead near where Joyce’s Creek then flowed into the Loddon, now also inundated.

As an aside to be explored by me elsewhere, it seems very likely that the present day township of ‘Carisbook’ within the Charlotte Plains station footprint is named after the ‘Carisbrook Pen’ Simson family slave colony by that same name and spelling in Jamaica, which had produced sugar and rum. In the 1830s the Simson family, like several other squatter families (such as Mollison, Ebden, Barkly and Scott) had been handsomely paid out by the British government for releasing their slaves.

On site where the former cultivation paddock was marked on the 1856 map is an exceptionally high northern bank. An online search for ‘Neereman’ revealed very little, but I found an entry to the word, spelt the same way, in an Aboriginal dictionary list from Coranderrk. Coranderrk was a government Aboriginal mission that operated in the post Aboriginal Protectorate era from 1863 and 1924, and to which several Dja Dja Wurrung people were forcibly taken from the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station in the 1860s. The entry read: 

‘Neereman (high bank; bend in river), Coranderrk, Vic.’

 [Science of man and Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society of Australasia, 1909, p.140].

This and Edwards Parker’s spelling of ‘Nirriman’ in April 1841 suggests to me that Neura Mong almost certainly refers to the site with the distinctive high bank.

Joseph Parker, Edward Parker’s son, writing in the Mount Alexander Mail (22-24 June 1916) left some other clues confirming this site as the Protectorate station’s location, picked up on by Edgar Morrison in the 1960s. Joseph Parker recollected that in January 1840, his family had moved to ‘the large waterhole’ on the Loddon at ‘Neura Mong’, that he understood to be ‘the Aboriginal word for ‘hide here’, which also ‘proved to be the home of codfish’. Joseph noted in 1916 that ‘The locality is called Parker’s Plains to this day and is north of Baringhup about four miles’.

The ‘codfish’ refers to the huge Murray Cod and Macquarie Perch that were once plentiful in the deep pools along this stretch of the Loddon River that John Hepburn had described to Robinson as ‘the fishponds on the plains’.

Some possible insights into the Aboriginal context for siting the Protectorate

Aborigines of Central Victoria (2015) by John Tully provides some possibly insightful data into the likely Dja Dja Wurrung context in which the 1840 Aboriginal Protectorate was sited and established at Neereman.

The map of Dja Dja Wurrung Clan areas in Tully’s book suggest that the Loddon River at the Neereman site was the Clan boundary between the Liarga balug Clan (to the north of the river) and the Bane bane balug Clan (south of the river). The river in the vicinity of the early Protectorate station later also formed the boundary between the Charlotte Plains run and the Cairn Curran run. To the south of the river, the rich flat, open country comprising the Bane bane balug Clan home range had by November 1840 been invaded and totally overrun by a least four squatter runs: Hepburn on Smeaton Hill, McLachlan on Glengower, McKinnon on Tarrengower and Campbell on Clunes.

Whilst the Neereman Protectorate Station was operating, Parker made careful notes of who visited and when, as well as their age, gender and Clan associations. Tully has separately prepared a list of Aborigines at Neura Mong Protectorate, Loddon River, November 1840 to June 1840. In total, the list includes 193 named Dja Dja Wurrung individuals. It is striking that whilst 31 Liarga balug men, women and children as well as diverse groups of people from five other Clan groups visited the station, no Bane Bane bulluk people are recorded as visiting the Station in the 1840-1 Census. In Tully’s opinion, the rich plains that comprised Bane ban balug Clan country:

‘… were their downfall, not having hills or thick undergrowth to hide in they suffered appallingly on the arrival of the Europeans. By 1840 there were only two members left of this clan, a young man and a girl [who] could not survive on their own and so crossed the Loddon and joined with their neighbours, the Liarga balug clan.’


I acknowledge the Dja Dja Wurrung peoples as the traditional owners of the lands on which I live, write and research. I sincerely thank Gib Wettenhall for his advice and assistance with this research. I am astounded and ashamed that what happened on the Neereman Protectorate site is so poorly known or understood 180 years later.

I acknowledge that while the Neereman site and its epic failures have been conveniently forgotten by the victors, they have not been forgotten by the vanquished.

I acknowledge the ‘hard yards’ done by countless previous historians and archivists in helping make this material accessible and visible. In relation to the Neereman site, these particularly include the late Edgar Morrison from Yandoit, the late Wendy French from Maldon and the late Felicity Say from Castlemaine, as well as to present day historians Bain Attwood and John Tully. I am indebted to Vic Say of Castlemaine for the generous loan of materials from his document and book collection with his late wife Felicity. I acknowledge and thank the late and charismatic Uncle Brien Nelson and his son Uncle Ricky Nelson for their generosity of time, insight and spirit in sharing what they know and have inherited. 

Countless landholders across Dja Dja Wurrung country have in recent years, almost without exception, showed an increasing willingness to share what they know and open their hearts and properties for closer examination. Paul Jennings whose family owns the former Neereman Protectorate site has been very generous and trusting. 

However I urge others to respect that the core of the original Neereman site is privately owned. Until the site is properly surveyed and secure for its heritage value, it is best to acknowledge where it is and anticipate that in the future an appropriate plan of management and signage will be developed with the traditional Dja Dja Wurrung owners.

The best way meantime to get a taste of the area is on public land, by visiting the Hamilton Crossing Crown Reserve approximately 2km downstream of the original Neereman site on the Loddon River. It is possible to walk upstream along the northern river bank to visit the huge, sprawling strap grafted river red gum tree several hundred metres upstream of the river crossing on the Loddon’s northern banks.

I acknowledge it is time in this country for these stories to be told. The Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), its Community Reference Group members and staff, particularly Reconciliation Officer, Donna Spiller have provided invaluable advice and support. All of these people have combined to provide an incentive and opportunity to finally synthesise and make sense of material and insights that I have been collecting in my mind and in filing cabinets for several decades. I admit to feeling sort of like a bowerbird, making visible a nest to share from all I have collected, seen in the landscape, gleaned from oral histories and sought out in public records across a lifetime. 

I acknowledge that as with all histories, if I was not writing this as an old ‘pale, stale male’, if I’d picked up other documents, arranged it in a different way or viewed it though a different theoretical, historical or moral lens, it would be a different story to the one I tell here.

The Bloodhole Massacre, Glengower

Dugald McLachlan and the Massacre at the ‘Bloodhole’

Barry Golding July 2021

‘For many settlers and their families, Australia was a country which broke them on the wheel. Nature was regarded as dangerous and capricious. Men could be ruined in a season by drought, fire or flood. The British had dispossessed the Aborigines, but they had yet to learn how to master the land.’

(Pounds and pedigrees: The upper class in Victoria: 1850-80, Paul de Serville, 1943, p.222)

Dispossession and Violence

Dispossession and the violence typically associated with it occurred in every place across Australia, from the first time the British flag was raised and terra nullius was declared in 1770. Contact and the dispossession that ensued happened in different places and at different times for the following 150 years. Indeed the last known, officially sanctioned massacre of Aboriginal Australians on the contested frontier occurred on the Coniston cattle station in Central Australia in 1926, only 24 years before I (Barry Golding) was born in 1950.

Appropriately, Hepburn Shire recently supported the creation of a ‘Frontier Wars’ memorial to such conflicts locally in the form of a Manna Gum Avenue, officially opened in July 2021 as part of its commitment to Reconcilation.

I have chosen to write in some detail about the Glengower run and its owner Dugald McLachlan, because the property and its owner features prominently in a local Aboriginal massacre that occurred on Middle Creek just 15 minutes north of where I live in Kingston in central Victoria. The Bloodhole Massacre (Massola, 1968 ‘Journey to Aboriginal Victoria’ & Ian Clark, 1995, p.97) suggest that the massacre most likely took place sometime between 1 December 1839 and 31 January 1840. 

This was immediately prior to Chief Aboriginal Protector, George Robinson’s February 1840 visit to John Hepburn with Assistant Protector Edward Parker in the process of choosing a suitable site for an Aboriginal Protectorate in north western Victoria. As with many such massacres, whilst a lot was deliberately not written down or shared, several primary as well as local oral histories shed considerable light on this event. 

The main firsthand oral account of the massacre at a location locally referred to as the ‘Slaughterhole’ or ‘Bloodhole’ goes back to a shepherd at Glengower station in 1840, Donald McDonald, known familiarly as ‘Donald Ruadh’ or ‘Red Donald’, passed down to and reported by local Daylesford historian, Edgar Morrison in Frontier life in the Loddon Protectorate (pp.12-13) published in 1967.

The process, nature and perpetrators of dispossession are rarely acknowledged, talked or written about. It is far easier and less confronting to call the process by the more benign term, ‘settlement’. In the process, the men involved are usually regarded as ‘pioneers opening up the country’ rather than closing down a First Nation whose roots go back one thousand generations. No matter what they were involved in, they and the places they come from are still memorialised in our local towns, streets and geographical features. 

Bain Attwood lists 26 ‘incidents of conflicts between settlers and Aboriginal people in Dja Dja Wurrung country’, some of which were massacres, in just four years between March 1838 and March 1842. The Bloodhole massacre that is the subject of this blog is not included in Attwood’s list, but referred to in just one paragraph as ‘an oral tradition recounted by local historian’ (p.49), described in part as follows, based entirely on Edgar Morrison’s account.

A group of Jardwadjali [from the Grampians area] murdered a former convict who was the cook on the Glengower station. … The leaseholder, Lachlan [sic.] McLachlan is remembered as a hard and ruthless exploiter of men and it believed he led an armed party who overtook the murderers on the banks of a creek several miles to the west and killed them as they sought shelter in a large waterhole there. The place consequently came to be known as the ‘Blood-hole’.

In the present account I seek to unpack this one massacre on one pastoral run, Glengower, not because it is unusual, but because its disturbing circumstances are illustrative, and because the events, timing, location and setting are local and reasonably easy to reconstruct and locate.

The local, rapid and violent dispossession, removal and exclusion of Aboriginal people from their traditional lands by huge interlocking squatting runs from 1838 left traditional Dja Dja Wurring owners with few safe places to turn to. It was certainly not safe on Dugald McLachlan’s Glengower run in the vicinity of present day Campbelltown in the four year window between 1838 and 1842.

Where did the events that led to the massacre take place?

For those unfamiliar with the area, much of what took place occurred in central Victoria within 10km of present day Campbelltown, in 2021 a tiny rural locality on the Midland Highway between Newstead and Creswick, now with only a delicenced ‘Black Duck Hotel’, a fire station and public hall.

A Google search for Glengower suggests that

… the pastoral run of 44,000 acres was originally owned by W. Kirk who briefly occupied it before abandoning it in 1838. It was then taken up and named (after a location in Argyllshire) by Dugald McLachlan (1801-1855) in early 1839. … The run was gazetted on 4 October 1848 at 41,280 acres with 10,000 sheep.

The huge, former Glengower home station and rambling outbuildings sits decaying in 2021 under some ancient Washington palms in the paddock opposite the hotel. Joyce’s Creek running seasonally alongside flows north though Campbelltown, a ‘lateral stream’ following the boundary between the ancient folded sediments and the recent basalt flow. The Campbelltown forest still clothes the rocky ridges to the east, and the expansive and still fertile Moolort Plains and wetlands stretch west to Clunes and Carisbrook, and north to the Loddon River.

Confusingly, ‘Glengower’ is also the name of the ruins of a former township on the road 7km south west on the Campbelltown to Clunes road, approximately 2km upstream of the now privately owned massacre site on Middle Creek. The local Glengower / Campbelltown cemetery, the final resting place of many of the local Scottish ‘pioneers’, is located several kilometres south west of Campbelltown. It sits on a picturesque knoll overlooking the volcanic plains that made fortunes for many including William Campbell after whom the town was named and who is buried there. Campbell was one of three executors to Dugald McLachlan’s will.

Middle Creek, that as its name suggests, runs north along the middle of the Moolort Plains through the ruins of the former township settlement of. It flows intermittently to the north across the centre of the wide volcanic plain bounded to the east by both McLachlan’s Creek (still named after Dugald McLachlan) and Joyce’s Creek, named after Alfred Joyce who held the Plaistow run north of the Glengower run from 1843.

Middle Creek’s headwaters seasonally drain the steep slopes around (Mount) Kooroocheang and the Kangaroo Hills, eventually to join Joyce’s Creek just upstream of where it flows into Cairn Curran Reservoir. At times Middle Creek gets lost in bogs and spiny rush: in other places it runs over mainly basaltic bedrock. In only a small number of places north of the former Glengower township does it form deep pools (below) that closely match the oral history description of ‘The Bloodhole’.

The likely Bloodhole site on Middle Creek, downstream of the former Glengower settlement (not the former Glengower station site)

The Moolort Plains, Joyce’s Creek and the Major’s Line

Before 1836 the Dja Dja Wurrung people were living along a major Aboriginal highway in the rich ecotone of present day Joyce’s Creek (between the present day localities of Campbelltown, Strathlea and Joyce’s Creek). To the west were the extensive Moolort Plains grasslands and wetlands. To the east was the Campbelltown Forest. 

Until September 1836 the thousands of generations of people living on and passing along Joyce’s Creek between the Loddon River and the northern foothills of the Great Dividing Range had experienced no local squatter or explorer incursions, though the people had no doubt heard from neighbouring Aboriginal nations about people and boats arriving in Melbourne the previous year and Sturt’s ‘exploration’ a decade beforehand of the already comprehensively settled, named and cultured Murray Darling River system. 

The first known visitation by Europeans to southern Dja Dja Wurrung country was in late September 1836. Thomas Mitchell crossed the Tullaroop Creek at Mount Cameron Gorge, and Joyce’s Creek near present day Strathlea before camping on the Major’s Line at present day Newstead on the Loddon River. Mitchell was then two weeks ahead of the slower wagon party led by Granville Stapylton as they also rolled back towards Sydney. Whilst they were both on the homeward run between Mount Greenock and present day Newstead, Mitchell was keen to be the first to break the good news of his discovery of an inviting ‘Australia Felix’ ripe for ‘settling’, or more accurately, unsettling.

Staplyton wrote in his diary on 8 October 1836 of the view from ‘a high Forest Hill’, most likely Mount Greenock ‘… beholding a country beyond measure superb, a mixture of every terrestrial qualification desirable for a settler’. Two days later on 10 October from the Moolort Plains, Stapylton gushed that ‘… such a splendid spectacle of fine country never open to the view of explorers before, it is far beyond my power to describe it.’ By the time he reached the admittedly wide and deep pools in the Loddon River immediately downstream of Newstead he became particularly hyperbolic, describing the ‘cavity for the river the size of the Murray’.

Both Mitchell and Stapylton noted many emus on the Moolort Plains, and killed some, but both Mitchell and Stapylton were strangely silent in their diaries about the people who were then living on Joyce’s Creek. What was left behind, visible for decades, were the wheel ruts on the plains caused by their heavy wagons, that came to be referred to as ‘Mitchell’s Line’.

It was their maps, notes and particularly the wheel ruts and river crossing points that were critically important when overlanders with sheep and cattle began streaming south west, hot in the heels of Mitchell’s fresh tracks and his glowing descriptions of Australia Felix.

By the time George Robinson first came to the area and crossed Mitchell’s Line as they journeyed north along Joyce’s Creek on 20 February 1840, even Robinson was ‘at a loss to account for the wheel [tracks] and immense number of cattle tracks’ that he and Edward Parker encountered. 

In just over three years, Mitchell’s Line had become a veritable highway, not only to get between Portland (where the Henty brothers had settled illegally since 1834) and Sydney. Parts of the Line had also been used by overlanders taking sheep and cattle from Sydney, swinging west to Adelaide and south to Melbourne, as well as to set up runs and move stock through the southern Loddon Valley between 1837 and 1840.

By 1837 at least two parties of current and intending pastoralists from both the Geelong area and Melbourne had gone ‘exploring’ beyond the edge of country already ‘taken up’. One party went clockwise from Corio to Buninyong via the Loddon past present day Newstead and back via Mount Aitken. The other party approximated the same route anticlockwise. It is very likely that both parties passed through or close by this area of interest. We have no record of the people they encountered. They were looking for land to settle, and any people in the landscape were an incumbrance to settlement.

What was the environment like along Joyce’s Creek before 1840?

By 1840, George Robinson had become an incredibly experienced and astute observer and recorder of places, landscapes, vegetation and people, including Aboriginal people, wherever he went. He described people and features Mitchell and most of his explorer contemporaries either dismissed or ignored. It is possible to use Robinson’s diary observations and reconstruct precisely where he went. His return trip with Parker from John Hepburn’s homestead beyond the Loddon River and back has not previously been described. It is described here to give a hitherto hidden window into ‘being on country’ in February 1840, likely just weeks after the Bloodhole massacre.

In a landscape where only the major rivers and mountains had then had names able to be recognized or reconstructed in 2021, and where to most other colonial observers, all Aboriginal people were wrongly regarded as one people and denied their traditional names, national or clan affiliations, Robinson’s diary is invaluable.

In brief, it is evident from Robinson’s February 1840 diary records that Robinson and Parker ventured past Mount Kooroocheang, across the Smeaton Plain, past the Stony Rises, north past Glengower and Campbelltown, along Joyce’s Creek to the Loddon River and finally up onto Goughs Range before heading back to Kooroocheang via Boundary Gully, Yandoit Hill and Pewley Hill. 

We now know that the Glengower run straddled much the southern part of the traditional lands of the Bane bane bulluk Clan of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. Their Clan area covered the rich Banksia-rich Kangaroo grasslands and open Casuarina woodlands south of the Loddon River, including the well-watered north flowing catchments between Middle Creek in the west, and Jim Crow Creek (soon to be renamed larnebarramul yaluk) in the east, including much of the Joyce’s Creek and the Green Cully catchments.

In the vicinity of present day Campbelltown, Robinson described the ‘timber’ vegetation in the tongues of forest on the verge of the plain. The plain was ‘as usual: the oak [Buloke: Allocasuarina luehmannii], gums [Eucalypts], cherry [Native cherry: Exocarpus cupressiformis], honey suckle [Silver banksia: Banksia marginata], with herbs amongst the grass [Kangaroo grass: Themeda triandra’.]

Travelling north on Joyce’s Creek, a valley still retaining huge and ancient river red gums, Robinson noted several recent Aboriginal campsites (with ‘bark screens’) and many oven mounds. He observed how high the creek had been in a relatively recent flood, that he estimated might have been 20-30 feet [approximately 8 metres] above its then summer level. He described ‘… numerous deep waterholes and good water. Natives had been there; saw the places where they had roasted and eaten the [Freshwater] mussel’. Like the ‘blackfish’ [River blackfish: Gadopsis marmoratus], the local freshwater mussel disappeared from Joyce’s Creek within living memory but is still present in other streams including the Loddon.

Robinson saw ducks and ‘what resembled a large white cloud … a large flight of white cockatoos’, a flock he estimated in the ‘tens of thousands’. Somewhat similar in appearance to the Sulphur-crested (‘Major Mitchell’) cockatoo and the Little corella, these were most likely flocks of Long-billed corella: Cacatua tenuirostris, whose staple food once included the then plentiful Yam daisy/ Myrniong Microseris lanceolata. Long-billed corella habitat depended on now rare, older, hollow trees for nesting. Populations of tens of thousands is indicative of copious old growth trees and extensive Myrniong grasslands. Like Staplyton, Robinson noted numerous emus, with ‘several camping places of the natives where they had been eating emu eggs’. 

The ‘… grass and herbs were so thick in some of the marshes as to be almost difficult to walk through and up to the saddle girth’. This, in summary, was a remarkable, occupied food Eden without and before sheep and pastoralists.

Between where Joyce’s Creek joined the Loddon River downstream of present day Newstead, Robinson noted two huge ponds which he estimated averaged 400 (365m) yards long and 100 feet (30 metres) across. ‘It is said they abound in fish: perch [likely Golden perch: Macquaria ambigua] and cod [Murray cod: Maccullochella peelii]’.

Who was Dugald McLachlan?

Having established what the country was like, it is important to also establish some facts about Dugald McLachlan, the man who blundered into this landscape and First Nations community with sheep in 1839, and was almost certainly involved in the Bloodhole massacre soon after. 

Dugald (also spelled ‘Dougald’) McLachlan (also spelled McLaughlan & McLauchlan) also self-identified as ‘Captain of the Rifle Brigade’, denoted as ‘RB’ after his surname. ‘Dugald McLaughlan’ was listed in the Colonistnewspaper as a ‘cabin passenger’ on the Strathfieldsaye that arrived in Sydney on 25 July 1839, which ‘McLaughten’ as he was also called in one of the shipping records, had boarded in Plymouth, England on 8 April 1839. Unlike the dozens of single women on board the same voyage as assisted or ‘bounty’ immigrants, McLaughlin was one of the few ‘respectable passengers’ mentioned in the account below, who had paid his own way. A ‘J . McLaughlin’, likely Dugald’s nephew (through his sister Catherine) was on the same cabin passenger list. 

A contemporary record from the Sydney Herald notes that:

The Strathfieldsaye arrived on Thursday 25 July 1839 from London and Plymouth bringing 295 bounty emigrants and a great number of highly respectable cabin passengers, all of whom have arrived in a healthy state. The emigrants chiefly consist of labouring men and house servants, male and female. This vessel made a very fair passage, being about three months on the voyage … Only Two infants died and three were born during the voyage. This vessel brought out some pure blood hounds which will be a great acquisition to the colony.

While McLachlan will become better known as the story progresses, the Bloodhounds on the same voyage and the reason why they might be ‘a great acquisition to the colony’ are worthy of note here. From the earliest times the Bloodhound was used to track and kill people. There are stories written in Medieval Scotland of Robert the Bruce (in 1307) and William Wallace (1270–1305) being followed by ‘sleuth hounds’. Whether true or not, these stories show that the sleuth hound was already known as a man-trailer, and it later becomes clear that the sleuth hound and the Bloodhound were the same animal.

With the rise of fox-hunting, the decline of deer-hunting, and the extinction of the wild boar, as well as a more settled state of society, the use of the Bloodhound diminished in the UK. It was kept by the aristocratic owners of a few deer parks and by a few hunting enthusiasts until its popularity began to increase again with the rise of dog-showing in the 19th CenturyThe important point to make here is that while we don’t know whether the Bloodhounds that arrived on the same boat as McLachlan were actually his, we do know he was an ardent hunter and Bloodhound enthusiast.

His tombstone in the Presbyterian section of the Melbourne General Cemetery records ‘Dugald McLachlan, late Captain of the Rifle Brigade’, died on 21 January 1855 age 55 or 56. His actual birthdate and place is not certain. While a Rifle Brigade military record, below, suggests in was 12 August 1898, it was not uncommon for young underaged men desperate to enlist to put their birth date down.

The Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own) was an infantry rifle regiment of the British Army, originally formed in January 1800 as the “Experimental Corps of Riflemen” to provide sharpshooters, scouts and skirmishers. Renamed the “Rifle Corps”, from January 1803 they became an established regular regiment and were titled the 95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles). In 1816, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars which McLachlan likely saw active service in, including the Battle of Waterloo, they were again renamed, this time as the “Rifle Brigade”. This is presumably the Brigade McLachlan belonged to and where he likely developed his love of guns and proclivity for violence and killing.

A ‘Dougall McLachlan’ born in Invernesshire, Scotland with a 12 August 1798 date of birth enlisted (as a 16 year old) in the 96 Foot-Rifle Brigade as a 2nd Lieutenant on 19 May 1814. His last listed rank a decade later on 5 August 1824 was as 1st Lieutenant (The National Archives, Kew, UK: Reference WO 25/804/178, Folio 357).

What do we know about Dugald McLachlan at the time of his death?

Remarkably little is known about McLachlan in life, though we know he spent the last months before his death in January 1855 holed up in a room the Port Philip Club Hotel in (232) Flinders Street, built in the 1840s. His will (first written on 1 May 1852), particularly his listed beneficiaries mentioning his seven sisters, are very helpful in identifying his family and closer connections during the 1850s. In 1852:

  • Captain Dugald Mc Lachlan was then living at Glengower.
  • His sister, Hughina McLachlan was then residing at Clunes (but had died by 27 December 1854 when his will was amended).
  • His nephew, John McLachlan of Glengower, son of his sister Catherine, was by then the widow of the late Alexander McLachlan.

His three executors were: 

  1. ‘Donald Cameron of Clunes’. Donald Cameron after which the Clunes township is named was the son of Alan Cameron of ‘Clunes House, Inverness, Scotland’. Clunes is a small hamlet, located on the west shore of Loch Lochy, just northeast of Bunarkaig in Inverness-shire in the Scottish Highlands. Donald had arrived as a cabin passenger on the William Metcalfe, leaving Cromarty (north of Inverness, in Scotland) in early May 1838, arriving in Sydney on 1 September 1838, seven months before McLachlan in 1838. Donald later held the Clunes pastoral run from 1839 to1855, as well as part interest in ‘Tourello’ (with McLachlan) and ‘Strathlodden’ (with William Campbell, see below) from 1848.
  2. ‘William Campbell of ‘St Kilda near Melbourne’ (also with interests in ‘Tourello’ from 1848 and ‘Strathloddon’), and
  3. ‘James MacGregor, Fort William, Scotland’. 
  • Dugald’s late sister, Margaret [McLachlan], was the former wife of late Captain Robert Stewart late of Kilmalin (Kilmartin?) in Scotland.
  • His late sister Margery [McLachlan], was late wife of the late Donald MacLean, Salochan, Scotland.
  • His late sister, Ann [McLachlan], was the late wife of Duncan Cameron, formerly of Pollock but then living in Rosshire in Scotland.
  • His late sister, Jane, was the wife of the late Alan Cameron of Clunes in Scotland.
  • His late sister, Margaret, was the late wife of John McMillan, Bucktoosh, New Brunswick in North America.
  • His sister Catherine’s late husband, Alexander McLachlan, is listed as being late of Inversanda, Scotland, perhaps the ‘Inversanda’ near Fort William in Scotland. A separate, later death notice for a ‘Mr Alexander McLachlin of Inversanda, New Brunswick, United States’ records that he ‘… arrived in NSW as far back as the year 1839. He subsequently went to Victoria, where during the early days in the goldfields he assisted his uncle, the late Captain Dugald McLachlin RB [Rifle Brigade] in the management of Glengower Station. Alexander McLachlan Esq of NB’s [New Brunswick’s] third daughter Eliza married in 1872.

All this family detail aside, it appears that Dugald McLachlan had his family origins in north eastern Scotland around Inverness where most of his sisters remained, though some relatives also came to Australia and America. What happened to Dugald in the 15 years between his last military record in the Rifle Brigade 1824, presumably attaining the ranks as ‘Captain’ and his voyage to Australia in 1839 is not known. It is known that when he died on 31 January 1855, he was a very rich man including cash, Melbourne properties and guns. His estate and its distribution were as below.

  • £7,803 was in the Bank of Victoria,
  • £4,277 was in London Chartered Bank, Melbourne,
  • He owned property: (a ten-roomed brick house) in Brighton (sold for £850) and also Swanston Street, Melbourne (sold for £1,100)
  • proceeds of his guns sold for £14.03.00
  • He had owed £52.04.00 to Alexander McCallum, Mount Greenock since May 1846 with interest payable of 10 per cent.
  • equal amounts of £440 pounds were paid to:
    • John Cameron and Donald Cameron, late of Clunes.
    • John, Alexander, Flora and Joan Cameron, Stoneyfield (likely Stonyfield, just east of Inverness).
    • Marjory McVean, Wardy Yalloak (Woady Yaloak, McVean being an early squatter family in the area)
    • Jessie Smith, Scotland
    • Jane Stewart and Mary Bell Stewart, Edinburgh
    • Allan McLean, Jamaica
    • Margaret McLean, Melbourne
    • Isabella McLachlan, Catherine Horniman, and Eliza McLachlan, Sydney
    • David McLachlan, late of Glengower
    • Christina McMillan, Melbourne.

What do we know about McLachlan’s arrival?

It is clear from other accounts that Donald Cameron and Dugald McLachlan must have met up in Sydney sometime after he arrived in Sydney, perhaps with his Bloodhounds, in July 1839. They both overlanded with sheep in September 1839 following the Major’s Line, reportedly having ‘a brush with aboriginals approaching Mount Alexander’.

In the absence of accounts from McLachlan, we have firsthand accounts painted by George Robinson when passing along Joyce’s Creek in February 1840, just prior the massacre, of the landscape which McLachlan claimed from arrival as his own. It is now evident part of the cause lay in the fact that the very recently established Clunes, Glengower, Charlotte Plains and Smeaton Hill runs (of Cameron, McLachlan, Simson and Hepburn respectively) not only evicted and terrorised the traditional owners and virtually wiped out almost all members of the local clan by1840. It also cut right through a series of much travelled north-south and east-west Aboriginal highways. 

Another likely cause was the known violent temperament of the brooding, gun toting, former military Scotsman, confirmed bachelor, Dugald McLachlan, who kept a pack of Bloodhounds as hunting dogs. 

It is now evident that the site of secure, permanent water on Middle Creek in huge ponds the middle of a plain was regularly traversed by traditional owners as a campsite. Middle Creek was known to the Dja Dja Wurrung as Minere minne, likely in reference to its camp ovens (minne = camp oven). The oven mound still on the creek bank near to the massacre site indicates that the creek would have been fringed by sizeable native trees necessary to fuel the oven. The men in the trading party passing through from the Grampians who were brutally murdered were likely on the regularly-used, east-west trading route that included the local section between Mount Greenock and Mount Franklin.

How did the story get out?

Given the contemporary cone of silence in relation to massacres at that time, it is relevant to examine how and why the story about the massacre got out and through which sources. As recently as June 2021, I was contacted by Roy McPherson, whose Dja Dja Wurrung great-great grandmother was Martha Arnold. As Roy pointed out,

… however, much like many others at that time, as she was born in or about 1837, there is no birth certificate. She married an actor named Arthur Wellesley Arnold who performed in Mrs Hamners tent theatre at the diggings in Ballarat and was present when the Eureka Stockade happened. … Family lore says that as a baby she was on her mother’s hip as an infant at the time of the Blood Hole Massacre, and her mother along with a number of other women and children fled to Avoca, where they came in contact with white society. It’s likely here that she was given the name Brown. She then acquired the last name “Marshall”, and then married Arthur Arnold. 

It is also pertinent to ask who and what is commemorated and who and what is forgotten in this story. It took a lot of research to locate the likely Aboriginal massacre site, but minimal effort to locate the commemorative gravesite on the roadside north of Campbelltown honouring the white station cook whose actions and death allegedly provoked the massacre. It was easy to access the follow-on narrative about the later (1841) death of a white traveller in the night by McLachlan’s station dogs, buried in the same commemorative grave. If this had been an Aboriginal death by mauling on the same dark night, we might never know.

Glengower and McLachlan

In 1839 or 1840 the Glengower pastoral run (2020 [photo of the later main homestead, below) was taken up and named by Dugald McLachlan, as we now know, a Scottish highlander from Argyllshire and retired army captain. The run apparently had only one prior owner, a ‘W. Kirk’, who briefly occupied it in 1838 before abandoning. 

The original Glengower run was centred on present day Campbelltown. Joyce’s Creek runs south to north through the centre of the original run. McKinnon’s Tarrengower run was to the east. McLachlan’s nephew to the west beyond Middle Creek was Donald Cameron, who in 1840 held the adjacent Clunes run: his homestead was just downstream of present day Clunes’ main street on the Creswick Creek. The Plaistow and Rodborough Valeruns of Joyce and Bucknall were not established to the north until 1843 and 1844 respectively.

McLachlan and his nephew were one of many parties of ‘overlanders’ who followed Major Mitchell’s 1836 track with sheep or cattle to central Victoria and beyond. Arriving with his young nephew, Donald Cameron (born 1819) early in 1839, McLachlan reputedly named his run Glengower after a place of the same name in his native Argyllshire. The dates McLachlan actually held the run are uncertain but are likely 1839-40 to 1854. In support of a later start date than 1839, Robinson made no mention of McLachlan or his homestead being in the landscape in February 1840, despite passing through part of what became the Glengower run on the way north along Joyce’s Creek.

Donald Cameron aged only 21 had elected the northern portion of Alexander Irvine’s Seven Hills run and named it Clunes after his birthplace. Donald later became Glengower’s owner between 1856 and 1867 after Dugald died.

Glengower pastoral run’s southern boundary adjoined John Hepburn’s Smeaton Hill run, and its northern boundary later abutted the Plaistow run managed by Alfred Joyce. Joyce arrived in Port Phillip in 1843 and being self-described as ’of English nationality’ (p.65, in Joyce, 1942) became good friends with the Parker family at the ‘Jim Crow’ Aboriginal Station that they and McLachlan passed through on the way to Melbourne during the 1840s. 

Dugald McLachlan, a bachelor and retired army captain, was by all accounts an uncompromising and strong personality. Known as ‘the fiery Scot’, Edgar Morrison (1967, Frontier life, p. 12) summarised historical information relating to his temperament as ‘a hard grasping and ruthless exploiter of land, stock – and men, who would go to any lengths to obtain his ends. Any respect extended to him during his life seems to have been tinged with fear’.

Alfred Joyce (pp.55-6), who actually knew McLachlan described him somewhat more diplomatically as ‘a little austere’, but typically ‘accompanied by four or five strong and lithe kangaroo hounds’ ostensibly for killing dingo. Joyce noted that McLachlan was an ardent sporting hunter and displayed all manner of trophies of his kills including dingo ‘brush’ (tails), eagle’s heads and talons, emu’s legs and feet etc.’ According to Edgar Morrison (1967, p. 12), McLachlan had a reputation ‘… for announcing his arrival at the Homestead gates by firing almost simultaneously bullets into each post as he galloped through’.

All of these attributes, to use the Scottish double negative, are not inconsistent with evidence in what follows of deadly hostility and aggression towards Aborigines on their own country but also transgressing on McLachlan’s run in 1840.

The circumstances leading up to the massacre

The only physical sign in the landscape today that all was not well at Glengower between the squatters and the Aborigines on Joyce’s Creek in 1840 is the ‘Glengower Pioneers Memorial Grave’ on the roadside approximately one kilometre north of the Black Duck Hotel on east side the Campbelltown to Strathlea Road. The graves are only a few hundred metres north of Glengower’s original front entrance on the Strathlea Road..

The memorial grave is approximately ten metres beyond the fence on private property but can be viewed and appreciated from the roadside. On the opposite (west) side of the road verge opposite the graves is a stand of unusual, distinctive and inedible Osage oranges (Maclura pomifera). Aside from being used in colonial times as a live hedge, the wood from the tree had a very high value to Native Americans for the making of bows. Perhaps this latter use had some fascination for the sporting hunter, McLachlan?

The grave features a concrete base surrounded by a low pipe and wire fence. A brass plaque displays the following text in capitals as below:








Erected by T. Anderson & A. Cumming in 1949

The graves were originally enclosed with a post-and-rail and brush fence that in time rotted away. The present (2021) enclosure was created in 1949 on the initiative of Colonel Tom Anderson, of Ballarat, and Alec Cumming, of Campbelltown. The plaque was donated by a ‘Captain Baldwin’. These men took on the task of identifying the location of the graves, which were apparently easily located, as the ground had never been ploughed. One local historian held that ‘for more than a century the graves were marked only by three tiny mounds disturbing the smooth grasslands’. 

The veracity of the information and informants

Information about the graves and the subsequent massacre linked to the first death has been handed down through several former and current local residents. Some of these residents have been identified by new research in this paper, in order to ascertain whether the people and reported events are real and credible. There are several versions of the oral history explanation for the graves, and particularly for the alleged massacre of several Jardwadjarli Aboriginal men from the Grampians that allegedly followed the first burial. By all accounts, these men were perhaps in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One account was published in Morrison’s Frontier Life (1967, pp.12-14). Another account appeared in the Shire of Mount Alexander’s Heritage Study of the Shire of Newstead in 2004 (revised in 2012). The version that follows is adapted from both, augmented by some new information from other sources including from local historian Glenn Braybrook, that appears on the ‘Goldfields Guide’ website (See

Some of the very persistent and disturbing massacre story dating back at least 180 years was passed down to Edgar Morrison second hand by a ‘Peter Smith’. Peter Smith’s original informant is named as a shepherd named ‘Donald McDonnell’, (or McDonald, known locally as ‘Donald Ruadh’, ‘Donald Rhu’ or ‘Red Donald’), an employee on the Glengower run in the 1840s. What follows suggests that Peter Smith would have likely been in his teens at the turn of the century when he heard the story 60 years after the 1840s events elaborated below, and that the McDonnell informant might then have been in his 80s.

Australian War archives confirm Private Peter Oliver Smith of 44th Battalion (1886-1967) returned to Australia, 2 January 1919 then age approximately 33. Peter’s father, William Smith, formerly of Wirrate via Nagambie was listed as his next of kin, then living at nearby Sandon (between Campbelltown and Newstead) in 1918. It is of relevance here to add that Edgar Morrison himself served overseas for Australia in the same war with the 4th Battalion from 1915.

The same archives tell a tragic backstory relating to Peter Smith’s own family from the First World War. Peter’s brother, William Oliver Smith was killed in action age 27 in 1918 at Villers-Bretonneux, France, following the death in action of another brother, James Smith in 1917. As the only brother of three to return to Australia alive, Peter was not only the key to the passing on of the story about the local 1840s massacre to Edgar Morrison of Yandoit, but also a witness to the deadly carnage that killed both his brothers on overseas battlefields. 

What and who do the graves commemorate?

The three European people buried in the Pioneer Memorial Graves were all associated with the Glengower run. It appears that this spot was first used as a burial ground following an initial disturbing incident and burial by Dugald McLachlan in winter or spring of 1840, and for a second time in 1841. 

The third burial, unrelated to the violence associated with the first and second burials, is the grave of the son of the likely possible original informant, Donald (‘Rhu’) McDonnell. A ‘Donald McDonald’ then of nearby Kangaroo Hill, was the holder of a miner’s right according to the List of Electors of the electoral District of Castlemaine for 1855.

The general account associated with the first burial is that a cook at the Glengower station was killed by a band of Aborigines returning to the Grampians after obtaining stone axes from Mt William, near Lancefield. The Aborigines are said to have called at the station for food when McLachlan and the stockmen were away mustering sheep for shearing, and only the cook was present in the cookhouse. One version of the oral history is that the cook had added Plaster of Paris to a damper he had cooked for the Aborigines, which once ingested would have caused a horrible and painful death.

Whatever the truth of what happened at the homestead, an altercation allegedly occurred and the Aborigines murdered the cook, hanging his body in the cook house on a meat hook. When McLachlan returned, it is alleged that he immediately organised a punitive expedition comprised of Glengower and neighbouring Smeaton Hill stockmen. The Aborigines were tracked down with dogs and they hid in the waterholes on Middle Creek, a small Creek about 8km west of Glengower station, the same Creek that flows past Hepburn’s 1840 homestead site.

On seeing the approaching men on horseback with guns, the Aboriginal men jumped into the creek to swim to the other side or hide under water. The mounted men from the station including McLachlan fired on the Aborigines in the water. Some had hollow reeds to breathe through while submerged, which still grow at the site today. By the time the firing stopped, at least 12 Aboriginal men were dead and floating in the bloody water. The place is still known locally by some residents as ‘The Blood Hole’. This massacre is understood to have taken place sometime between 1 Dec 1839 and 31 Jan 1840.

McLachlan buried the cook, whose name is not known, about 800 yards north-east of the homestead at the present grave site. In expectation of a reprisal raid, McLachlan released his savage hunting dogs into the station grounds after nightfall. About a year after the cook’s murder in 1841, the dogs savaged to death a visiting itinerant White traveller, who was buried beside the murdered cook. The third grave is of George McDonnell, the son of the shepherd (and the original informant) Donald McDonnell, who died of natural causes in 1841. 

The Bloodhole on Middle Creek today

The ‘Bloodhole Massacre’ on Middle Creek is one of several hundred Australian sites in which conflicts are known to have place between Aboriginal people and Europeans but remains unmarked and unknown. Whilst these sites are being documented by Jane Morrison as part of her recent ‘Australian Frontier Conflicts’ research through the University of Newcastle, the site is only approximately located on the project’s Victorian Maps. 

‘The Blood-Hole’ incident on Middle Creek is briefly mentioned by Bain Attwood’s A good country (2017, p.49) but not listed in his table, ‘Documented incidence of conflict between settlers and Aboriginal people in Djadjawurrung country 1838-42’ (Attwood, 2017, p.69).

Middle Creek today flows broadly to the north across the ‘middle’ of the wide sheet of basalt bounded to the east by Deep Creek and to the west by Tullaroop Creek. Its headwaters drain the steep slopes north of Rutherford Park Country Retreat and Kangaroo Hills. Middle Creek joins Joyce’s Creek just upstream of Cairn Curran Reservoir. Middle Creek in its upper reaches is sometimes called ‘Captains Creek’ in 2021 as it flows broadly west in the vicinity of Hepburn’s original homestead, before swinging around to the north as it flows past the former Glengower township ruins.

This ‘middle’ section of Middle Creek between Glengower Road and Saligaris Road includes several deep pools (below) with fringing reeds that approximate the description and location in the various versions of the massacre narrative.  A site still identified through oral history as the actual ‘slaughter hole’ by the 2021 landholder is on private land on a section of Middle Creek north of the ‘kink’ in a gravel road signed ‘Half Chain Lane’, that runs between Cotswold Road and Glengower Road. Middle Creek at that point emerges from a boggy area with spiny rush and flows for around 100 metres across exposed basalt before opening out for approximately 500 metres to form an almost continuous, deep and wide series of pools interspersed by fringing reeds upstream of a farm road crossing and concrete culvert.

This wide and deep section of Middle Creek is almost certainly the Blood-Hole massacre site from 1840. Tantalisingly, Gib Wettenhall and I located an Aboriginal oven mound on the west bank of the creek approximately 50 metres from a partially destroyed bluestone house site and foundations. The oven mound is in fair condition despite being cultivated and grazed for almost 180 years. This story is told, lest we forget.

New Shed Book, Oct 2021

Deep dive into Men’s Sheds internationally in ten nations. Includes Women’s Shed Chapter. Due for Publication October 2021

Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement, Barry Golding (Editor), Common Ground Publishing, Chicago, USA. Publication late October 2021.

This new book, ‘Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement‘ is now complete,  see link provided above, published in October 2021 in the US by Common Ground Publishing.

The book (418 pages plus an Index for both books) is now available for preorder on line, either via the QR code on the  link to the flyer, or via the Common Ground Publishing website.

You can use the QR code on the flyer for either the 2015 or 2021 book that takes you straight to the book order form on the Common Ground Publishing website. Alternatively you can order via the website:

You’ll see the paperback version of the 2021 book is not yet available for preorder, as it is usual to release the hard copy version first.

You’ll also see on the flyer there is a 25% discount off the total price offered by the publisher for anyone who would like to buy the 2015 book on the same order (using the discount code provided).

What follows is a summary of what’s in the book in English, followed by brief accounts translated into French, Dutch & German.


Shed-based community organisations are meeting many people’s acute, unmet needs and debilitating dilemmas. Participants are empowered ‘shoulder to shoulder’ in a shared endeavour, not as customers, clients, students or patients. This ‘bottom-up’ Shed model radically upends the traditional power dynamic, putting ‘shedders’ collectively back in charge of their lives, health and wellbeing. 

In the six years since my 2015 book, ‘The Men’s Sheds Movement: The Company of Men’ was published in 2015. The Movement has broadened to include other nations and Women’s Sheds. From the humblest of beginnings in rural Tongala, Australia in 1998, the movement had evolved to include almost 3,000 Sheds worldwide by 2021.

This new book gives voice to Movements across Australia, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, the United States and Africa. It shines a light on the transformational experiences and positive impact that Sheds have had on the lives of men, women, families and communities, nimbly and rapidly responding during the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

While every Shed in the world is unique and different, the book’s many powerful Men’s and Women’s Shed case studies highlight how the power of shared, hands-on social activity for ‘shedders’ can reduce the potentially destructive forces of loneliness and social isolation. 

It’s about the universal value of “having somewhere to go, something to do, and someone to talk with,” as envisaged by the late Dick McGowan in the very first Men’s Shed.

Informative, insightful, easy to read and carefully researched, Shoulder to Shoulder provides a well-documented tour de force of this globally expanding and broadening international movement. 

What’s in the book?

The book includes separate Chapters about Men’s Sheds in: Australia, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, the US, Canada & Denmark as well as ‘Elsewhere in the World’. There are Chapters about ‘Women’s Sheds Worldwide’, ‘ Research Evidence’ and a final synthesis Chapter called ‘Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement’.

The book includes 67 revisited Men’s Shed Case Studies (from 2015) from seven countries and 56 new 2021 Men’s Shed Case studies from ten countries. In addition, there are eight Women’s Shed Case Studies from four countries.

International contributors

Barry Golding is author of seven Chapters and shares authorship with six international Shed experts in five other Chapters. Co-authors are:

  • Dr Joel Hedegaard, Assistant Professor, School of Education & Communication, Jönköping University, Jönköping,Sweden. [Danish Men’s Shed Chapter]
  • Mie Møller Nielsen, Head of Secretariat, Forum for Mænds Sundhed (Men’s Health), Copenhagen, Denmark. [Danish Men’s Shed Chapter]
  • Philip Johnson, Managing Director, US Men’s Sheds Association, Hopkins, Minnesota, USA. [US Men’s Sheds Chapter]
  • Professor Corey Mackenzie, Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. [Canadian Men’s Shed Chapter]
  • Dr Lucia Carragher, School of Health & Science, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. [Women’s Shed Chapter]
  • Associate Professor Annette Foley, Associate Dean, School of Education & Arts, Federation University, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia [Research Evidence Chapter]

What follows are accounts of what is in the 2021 book translated into French and Dutch (thanks to Andy Wood & the SBS Sheds in France & The Netherlands) and also into German (thanks to Bernhard Schmidt-Hertha).


À venir : Nouvel ouvrage sur les Sheds pour hommes

Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement, suite de l’ouvrage de Barry Golding intitulé The Men’s Shed Movement: the Company of Men (publié en 2015), sera publié à la fin du mois d’octobre 2021. Ce tout nouvel ouvrage retrace de manière exhaustive le quotidien, six ans plus tard, de 2800 Sheds pour hommes dans le monde y compris au Danemark et dans d’autres pays d’Europe.

Totalisant près de 400 pages et incluant 12 cartes, cet ouvrage comprend différents chapitres portant sur les nouveaux Sheds pour hommes et leurs expansions à travers l’Australie, l’Irlande, le Royaume-Uni, le Canada, la Nouvelle-Zélande, les États-Unis et le Danemark. De plus, sont également inclus des chapitres sur les Sheds pour femmes ainsi que sur les recherches effectuées dans le monde entier sur les Sheds.

Dr Joel Hedegaard a coécrit le chapitre danois avec Mie Moeller Nielsen. Les auteurs y décrivent notamment les organisations associatives de Sheds pour hommes dont le Forum « Mænds Sundhed » et son réseau « Mænds Modesteder ». Cet ouvrage de 2021 comprend un index utile pour les deux publications.

Shoulder to Shoulder propose quatre études de cas de Sheds pour hommes au Danemark. Les études de cas du monde entier donnent un aperçu précieux et opportun de la manière dont les Sheds et les mouvements nationaux adaptent le modèle australien d’origine.

L’ouvrage documente les nombreux bénéfices apportés par les Sheds concernant le développement de liens sociaux et communautaires ainsi que les bénéfices sur la santé et le bien-être. Il propose également un examen de l’impact dévastateur qu’a eu la COVID-19 sur les Sheds et les shedders à travers le monde.

L’ouvrage propose de puissants arguments basés sur des cas concrets pour élargir encore davantage la portée des Sheds pour hommes et pour femmes sur le plan mondial et au sein de chaque pays malgré la pandémie.

Plus d’informations sur l’achat de cet ouvrage à venir via
Contact de Barry Golding en Australie :


Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement zal eind oktober 2021 verschijnen, een vervolg op Barry Golding’s The Men’s Shed Movement: the Company of Men (gepubliceerd in 2015). Het nieuwe boek volgt uitgebreid wat er gebeurt met de 2.800 Men’s Sheds over de hele wereld, ook in Denemarken en andere landen in Europa, slechts zes jaar later.

In totaal zo’n 400 pagina’s waaronder 12 kaarten, bevat het afzonderlijke hoofdstukken over nieuwe en groeiende Men’s Shed-bewegingen in Australië, Ierland, het VK, Canada, Nieuw-Zeeland, de VS en Denemarken, plus hoofdstukken over ‘Women’s Sheds’ en Shed-onderzoek wereldwijd .

Dr. Joel Hedegaard is co-auteur van het Deense hoofdstuk met Mie Moeller Nielsen. Accounts van alle Men’s Shed ‘peak body’-organisaties wereldwijd, waaronder Forum for Mænds Sundhed en zijn Mænds Modesteder-netwerk zijn inbegrepen. Het nieuwe boek bevat een handige index waarin beide boeken zijn opgenomen.

Shoulder to Shoulder biedt vier casestudies van Men’s Sheds in Denemarken. De casestudy’s van over de hele wereld bieden een waardevol en actueel inzicht in hoe Sheds en nationale bewegingen het oorspronkelijke Australische model aanpassen en veranderen.

Het boek documenteert de vele voordelen van het deelnemen aan Sheds voor sociale en gemeenschapsverbinding, evenals voor gezondheid en welzijn. Het kijkt ook naar de vernietigende impact van COVID-19 op Sheds en hun deelnemers over de hele wereld.

Het is een krachtige, op feiten gebaseerde pleidooi voor het verder verbreden van het bereik en de reikwijdte van Men’s Shed en Women’s Shed, wereldwijd en binnen landen buiten de pandemie.

Meer informatie over hoe u het nieuwe boek kunt aanschaffen kunt u vinden op Barry Golding’s contactgegevens in Australie zijn:


Demnächst erscheinendes neues Buch über Men’s Sheds

Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement wird Ende Oktober 2021 veröffentlicht und ist eine Fortsetzung von Barry Goldings The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men (erschienen 2015). Das neue Buch dokumentiert umfassend, wie sich die 2.800 Men’s Sheds auf der ganzen Welt, darunter auch 40 in Dänemark und in anderen europäischen Ländern, wie Frankreich, Belgien und die Niederlande, sechs Jahre nach Erscheinen des ersten Bandes entwickelt haben.
Das Buch umfasst rund 400 Seiten mit 12 Karten und enthält separate Kapitel über neue und expandierende Men’s Sheds-Bewegungen in Australien, Irland, Großbritannien, Kanada, Neuseeland, den USA und Dänemark sowie Kapitel über ” Women’s Sheds ” und die weltweite Men’s Sheds-Forschung.
Das Buch umfasst Berichte über alle Männerhäuser weltweit, einschließlich des Forum for Mænds Sundhed und dessen Netzwerk Mænds Modesteder in Dänemark. Dr. Joel Hedegaard ist zusammen mit Mie Moeller Nielsen Autor des dänischen Kapitels. Das Buch 2021 enthält außerdem einen nützlichen Index, der beide Bücher umfasst.
Shoulder to Shoulder bietet 130 verschiedene Men’s Shed-Fallstudien aus der ganzen Welt, die einen wertvollen und zeitgemäßen Einblick geben, wie nationale Bewegungen das ursprüngliche australische Modell der Men’s Sheds anpassen und verändern.
Das Buch dokumentiert die vielen Vorteile von Men’s Sheds für den sozialen Zusammenhalt sowie für Gesundheit und Wohlbefinden der Beteiligten. Es befasst sich auch mit den verheerenden Auswirkungen von COVID-19 auf Sheds und Shedder in aller Welt.
Die Studie liefert überzeugende, evidenzbasierte Argumente für eine weitere Ausdehnung der Reichweite und des Umfangs von Men‘s Sheds und Women’s Sheds jenseits der Pandemie, national und weltweit.
Weitere Informationen zum Kauf des neuen Buches erhalten Sie demnächst unter Rückfragen an Barry Golding in Australien:

Mount Buninyong Walk


Prepared for: Great Dividing Trail Association, Mount Buninyong Walk, 25th October, 2020

Author: Stephen Carey, Federation University, Ballarat; Additional Notes: Barry Golding


These notes were prepared for an 11km Great Dividing Trail Walk from Buninyong Botanical Gardens to the Mount Buninyong summit and return. They are being shared more widely for anyone interested in undertaking a similar walk independently. We strongly recommend you obtain a copy of ‘Goldfields Track: Walk or Ride Guide’ published by GDTA. Please note that the alternative route to the summit via the ‘South Walk’ is not marked on the GDTA Guide but is reasonably well signposted.

Mt Buninyong is one of the largest volcanic edifices in the Newer Volcanic Province of western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. Occurring in the Central Highlands, it is a landmark that is visible from the Grampians to the west and from a substantial portion of the Victorian Volcanic Plains (VVP) in the Otway Basin. The Peak Finder app identifies more than 250 (theoretically) visible peaks from the Mount Buninyong, 745 metre summit including Mount Baw Baw in Gippsland.

The shape of Mt Buninyong in the landscape is referred to as its geomorphology. The discipline of geomorphology encompasses the landscape processes that modify Mt Buninyong’s shape, such as soil development and slope failure. The formation of Mt Buninyong was by a variety of volcanic processes, whose study is a branch of geology called volcanology. To understand Mt Buninyong as a feature of the landscape, we need to consider its volcanology and geomorphology.


Mt Buninyong is known as a composite lava and scoria cone. This is because it consists of both lava and scoria. The scoriaceous component is built up into a volcanic cone which is breached on the north-western side. The cone rises to a height of 745 m above sea level and has local relief of over 200 m. The flanks of the cone slope at angles up to about 35°. This is the angle of repose of loose scoria at which the latter could be supported without collapse at the time of eruption.

Covering a much larger area than the scoria cone are lava flows that emanated from the same site. One flow that is older than the cone extends to the south-east to Clarendon while another is younger than the cone and reaches westward to Buninyong township. It was the eruption of this younger flow that was responsible for the breaching of the scoria cone and opening of the cone to the north-west.

The Clarendon flow, meanwhile, had a profound effect on the geomorphology of the area it covers. The lave flowed down the valley of a forerunner of Williamsons Creek and blocked the drainage. The newly formed basalt (bluestone) was much more resistant to erosion by water than the older rocks and sediments on either side. Accordingly, new drainage lines, called lateral streams, were eroded into the older material to right and left of the basalt flow, with the modern Williamsons Creek and Back Creek being the result. Lateral streams are associated with many lava flows in the Central Highlands.


The scoria cone of Mt Buninyong was produced by an explosive eruption, whereas its associated lava flows are the result of much quieter, effusive eruptions. The difference between an explosive eruption and an effusive one is commonly the proportion of gas in the erupting magma (molten rock). The Clarendon and Buninyong flows had little gas – except for the initial stage of the Buninyong flow’s eruption which breached the scoria cone – and cooled to form coherent bluestone. Similar bluestone is a common material in early colonial buildings and gutters.

A large component of gas in magma increases the pressure that drives eruptions. A modest amount of gas may result in the formation of vesicular basalt (bluestone with numerous gas bubbles), but more commonly causes the magma to “fragment”, that is, the magma separates into blebs that are supported by the gas. When fragmented magma is erupted, the gas pressure sends it skyward in an eruption plume. As the plume mixes with cool air, the magma blebs may cool rapidly to form products called tephra. Tephra can be classified according to the size of the volcanic fragments, as follows: ash, <2 mm; lapilli, 2-64 mm; blocks and bombs, >64 mm. Mt Buninyong’s tephra is dominated by lapilli, as is evident from exposures in road cuttings below the fire tower.

Rapid cooling of the tephra means that most particles are themselves made of very fine crystals. In fact, in some cases, cooling may have been so fast as to preclude formation of a crystal structure, and natural glass is the result. A small proportion of the tephra is derived from the fracturing of rocks far below the surface of the earth, including from the mantle, below the Earth’s crust. At Mt Buninyong, mantle-rock fragments dominated by the green mineral, olivine, are sometimes found. Such fragments, especially from tephras of the VVP, have been critical in deducing the nature of the upper mantle.

Geology is an historical science, and it is important to determine the relative age of geological materials and events. Geochronology is the branch of geology that seeks to assign numerical ages to materials and, by inference, events. The variety of techniques that may serve to date particular materials is now immense, with very sophisticated methods and equally sophisticated instrumentation now enabling dating of materials that could not be dated before. In the case of Mt Buninyong, recent work proposes an age of about 200,000 years (200 ka). This most likely makes Mt Buninyong the youngest volcano in the Central Highlands other than Mt Franklin (Larnebarramul), near Daylesford (≤130 ka). It also means that Mt Buninyong is one of a number of cones and craters in the Central Highlands and the VVP that testify to an increase in volcanic activity in the Newer Volcanic Province between about 200 ka and 100 ka.


MATCHAN E., L., PHILLIPS, D., TRAINE, E., & ZHU, D. (2018) 40Ar/39Ar ages of alkali feldspar xenocrysts constrain the timing of intraplate basaltic volcanism. Quaternary Geochronology 47, 14-28.

OOSTINGH, K. F., JOURDAN, F., MATCHAN, E. L., & PHILLIPS, D. (2017) 40Ar/39Ar geochronology reveals rapid change from plume-assisted to stress-dependent volcanism in the Newer Volcanic Province, SE Australia. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 18, 1065-1089, doi: 10.1002/2016GC006610.

ROSENGREN, N. (1994) Eruption points of the Newer Volcanics Province of Victoria: An inventory and evaluation of scientific significance. National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and Geological Society of Australia (Victorian Division).

Track Notes

Most of our 11km walk route is up and back to the summit on the southern end of the ‘Eureka Track’ section of Goldfields Track. Map 2 in the Goldfields Track: Walk or Ride Guide published by GDTA, (pages 34-35) covers and interprets our walk route starting from the Buninyong Botanical Gardens, within the eastern Buninyong township area past Gong Reservoir (created in 1850) and over Hastie’s Hill. Map 1 (pages 32-33) covers and interprets our walk route from the edge of Buninyong township to the summit, but does not include the ‘South Walk’, which we take to walk south of the peak before climbing up to the fire tower from the east. Our descent and return is mostly back via the walk route shown in the Goldfields Track Guide along many dry stone wall lanes, aside from part of the ‘Crater Walk’ including Blackberry Lane (which is marked in the Guide). 

Vegetation & Land Status

The Mount Buninyong Scenic Area (90 hectare) retains excellent examples of tall, relatively mature, messmate stringybark forest and tussock ground cover with a very limited understorey. The Wathawurrung traditional owners called it ‘Buninyong’, alluding to its shape from a distance similar to a ‘bent knee’. The area was set aside as a Public Park in 1866, the same year the Buninyong Botanical Gardens were gazetted. The road to the top was completed in 1926. The current four level, steel fire observation tower, with public viewing platform on Level 3 was built in 1979.

Franklinford’s Aboriginal Protectorate

Franklinford’s 1840s Aboriginal Protectorate: failed and forgotten

Barry Golding & Gib Wettenhall

 It comes as some surprise to most tourists, as well as to some Daylesford locals, that an historic early ‘Aboriginal Protectorate’ operated for a decade before gold was discovered just a few kilometres north of Hepburn Springs around present-day Franklinford.

This post provides a very brief summary of what the Protectorate was about. The Great Dividing Trail Association has designed a self-guided walk around the streets of Franklinford that will be published  later in 2020 as Walk 14 in a set of other interpretative local walks.

With the establishment of the Port Phillip colony in the late 1830s, the British colonial government sought to avoid the prolonged bloodshed that had already occurred in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) between the Palawa people and the colonists.

The idea was to divide the Colony of Victoria into four, appointing ‘Aboriginal Protectors’ in each division, who would make contact with Aboriginal people and encourage them to leave their land and seek refuge for their own safety. They were to be coerced and concentrated to live in four small areas (near present day Mount Rouse, Narre Warren, Murchison and Franklinford) where they could be managed, civilised, settled, Christianised and encouraged to work the land for agriculture. Today we might call them refugee or concentration camps.

Overseen by Assistant Protector Edward Parker, the ‘civilising mission’ of the northwest Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate was set up within a five mile radius of present day Franklinford to the west of present day Mt Franklin (Larnebarramul, then called ‘Jim Crow’ by the squatters) in 1841. At its peak, the Protectorate had a population of 300 Dja Dja Wurrung and Aboriginal people from elsewhere. It consisted of a school, church, administrative centre, workshops, farm, medical outpost, flour mill and lime kiln. What is signposted as the Aboriginal School today was the site of most of the 1840s Protectorate-era buildings. The sign  erected by Edgar Morrison higher up the slope below the Powell Connection Road overlooks (but does no coincide with) the station site/school site.


By 1849 this first experiment in the taming of other people who the settlers regarded as ‘heathens’ and ‘savages’ had failed and was abandoned. Dja Dja Wurrung people from diverse clans over a huge area from the Loddon to Avoca rivers were brought together in close proximity off Country. They were not only broken and dispirited, but also prone to disease, conflict and starvation. The Protectorate’s five miles radius was minuscule in terms of the expectation that hundreds of people could somehow eke subsistence from farming, hunting and fishing. Pressure to close down the Protectorate was relentless from politicians and white squatters, who owned the newspapers.

The only present-day memorials to the Protectorate are to be found in rustic wrought iron roadside signs and a symbolic stone cairn erected by local historian Edgar Morrison in the 1960s and 1970. While the current Franklinford cemetery encloses the older Protectorate era cemetery dating back to 1842, no-one knows where the Dja Dja Wurrung bodies are buried. There is an upstanding obelisk and fenced grave site for the Parker family.

As a sobering postscript, after forced removal to government reserves and missions elsewhere, only 14 apical ancestors of the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation could be traced by 1870. In a token gesture of reparation in 2013, the government handed back to traditional owners just one hectare containing a few foundation stones from the former Aboriginal School Site at Franklinford.

Two Dja Dja Wurrung sites of significance stand nearby, one a large swamp on private land with huge remnant red gums, now trampled by livestock; the other being Mt Franklin, a Crown Reserve fully planted out with exotic pine trees. While the cycle of acknowledgement of past wrongs, renewed respect for Indigenous heritage and meaningful reconciliation with First Nation descendants has begun, it is still a long way from closing.

This sign frames the main station site in the mid ground right of the gravel road. Kooroocheang is just visible towards the left horizon.

Not a Saint-Arnaud

Not such a Saint-Arnaud

9 August 2020 (An earlier version of this blog was published in the ‘North Central News’, in St Arnaud, 29 August 2020)

This article is about a genocidal French Crimean War hero, after whom the Victorian township of St Arnaud was named. Jaques Leroy De Saint-Arnaud, the man, is a something of a large ‘elephant’ in the bigger ‘Black Lives Matter’ reconciliation ‘room’.

None of what follows diminishes my fondness for and deep family associations with the town of St Arnaud. The suggested renaming and reconciliation options I tease out, would if implemented, only serve to enhance to the national status of this proud and vibrant town and community.

Until recently I knew very little about the origin of the St Arnaud township name. Most people might also have thought it was something to do with a French Saint. Those who stop in St Arnaud and read the present inscription on the statue erected in the Botanical Gardens in 2005 will learn that Jaques Leroy De Saint-Arnaud (b.1796, d.1854), Marshal of France:

… although ill, commanded the French Army, combined with the British forces and a Turkish contingent against Russia in the Crimean War. In 1854, seven days after leading the victorious Battle of Alma, he was stricken by fever and died three days later on a vessel taking him home to France. This was around the time of the New Bendigo gold rush when the national spirit was running high.

 This heroic narrative that lionizes the ailing Marshall and the less than decisive Battle of Alma. It goes on to claim that by 1856, ‘the residents of the goldfield had already decided on both the site and the name for a village along the St Arnaud Creek’. The inscription is at best a half or partial truth. The Battle of Alma occurred in Crimea late September 1854. Dispatches about the Battle arrived in Australia at the time of Eureka Rebellion in Ballarat two months later in December 1854. The miners at that time were actually revolting against the colonial authority and reach of the United Kingdom, including in Australia.

Saint-Arnaud, as the North Central News Editor, Sue Hynes recently revealed in the paper’s brave and timely Editorial, was no Saint. Indeed, he was a genocidal, multiple mass murderer who had absolutely nothing to do with Australia or the town. The French General Saint-Arnaud ordered the massacre of approximately 800 Moslem women, children and older people in Algeria in 1845. He boasted about herding them into a cave and asphyxiating them. He was also involved in several other later, dreadful genocidal and ethnic cleansing atrocities including burning entire villages. In the face of this evidence, the State member for Ripon, Louse Staley recently suggested that we retain the name Saint Arnaud and “learn from history, not erase it”.

My view is quite different. It is impossible to erase the past, but it is possible to learn from and acknowledge the past in order to reconcile the future. I ask whether our descendants have to live with scars like this irrelevant mass murderer (and a monument to him) in our town and landscape?

We have many options. At the very least, we need to better learn and understand who this man was and decide via enlightened and informed debate as a community what we might do about it. Closing our eyes and hoping it will go away is not an option. Might we first add the honest truth to a new inscription on the colonial-inspired brass monument in the Botanical Gardens?

Might we also approach the descendants of those massacred by Saint-Arnaud in Algeria, for example via the Northern Grampians Shire through the Algerian consulate, and apologise to the Algerian nation that we had no idea who this man was? Might we commission an appropriate memorial to those who were his victims in both Algeria and St Arnaud?

In my view, this dreadful man played no part in founding Australia or the town. His name is an obvious, unnecessary, accidental blight on our community and landscape. Changing a name does not change history, but it does change the prospects for the future.

As essential historical background, the French invaded Algeria (in north Africa) in 1830. Its brutal colonial conquest and occupation lasted over 160 years until the Algerian War of Independence in 1962. During the initial conquest, the French troops, including those led by Saint-Arnaud, were known to have looted, raped and massacred entire villages, desecrated mosques and destroyed cemeteries. In recent years this systematic organised French violence, chiefly in the form of massacres known as ‘razzias’ have come to be acknowledged not as warfare but as genocide.

My previous travels have taken me to many countries including Vietnam where Australian troops were deployed alongside US troops less than 50 years ago. Most recently in 2019 I spent one month in Iran, a proud Islamic nation demonized for its many decades of Islamic resistance to US covert military and political violence. When being unconditionally welcomed into a mosque in Shiraz in Iran, I was asked, “Why does America and Trump hate us?” All I could do was weep with shame and wonder whether Iranian Moslems would be similarly welcomed into an Australian Christian church.

In both Vietnam and Iran, I have been incredibly warmly welcomed as an Australian. Both countries respectively have had a long and deep history of enlightened Buddhist and Islamic learning and scholarship that goes back hundreds of years, well before the European enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Because these colonized nations and their and associated religious cultures are respectively primarily Buddhist and Islamic, and their people are largely non-white and non-Christian, they have, like Algeria, both been subject to centuries of colonial (including French) invasion, occupation, brutalization and subjugation. It is into these and other Asian and Middle Eastern wars seeking liberation and independence from colonial occupation that Australia has sometimes blundered and become hopelessly enmeshed within my lifetime.

The very recent ‘Black Lives Matter Movement’ is a moment in history where a global realization of the brutalization of non-white people has finally come to the surface. I was heartened on 11 June 2020 see the AFL football players respectfully take a knee and acknowledge that ‘Black Lives also Matter’ in Australia, particularly in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. I could never have imagined any of this would have been possible even a decade ago. We can learn and reconcile from history.

Way beyond the brutal police murder of George Floyd in the US, Australians have also come to realise that all is still not right in Australia in terms of equity and justice. St Arnaud the township may be a long way from Algeria, but it is increasingly uncomfortable to deny the Marshall’s genocide and to retain such an odious name for the town. Closing our hearts and minds and hoping it will all go away denies that black (including Moslem) lives also matter.

Might we instead find an acceptable, alternative local name for the township used by the traditional owners going back one thousand generations? For example, Kara Kara, whose local and town associations are more appropriately with gold and quartz, and whose name subsumed the local government area including the St Arnaud township from 1861 to 1994. If an acceptable name change was negotiated with the traditional Dja Dja Wurrung owners, this would also be one appropriate and very generous act towards local and national Aboriginal reconciliation. It would be an incredible win-win.

In changing the name, we would acknowledge that some genocidal deeds against humanity, and the naming of places commemorating the people responsible, whether it be Hitler in Germany, Pol Pot in Cambodia or Saint Arnaud in Algeria, are unnecessary scars on the community and the Australian landscape. Saint-Arnaud’s now well-documented act of genocide is so abominable that at the very least, there needs to be a public reexamination and reconsideration of the name, and ideally a process leading to a suitable renaming.

It is not possible to erase history. But it is possible to learn about, reconcile and change the many things that clearly need changing. Future generations will thank us for our wisdom and bravery by acknowledging that black lives do matter, including here and in Algeria. In thinking globally and acting locally, our sustainability and lives in this violently inherited Australian Dja Dja Wurrung landscape will be further reconciled and greatly enhanced.

Women’s Sheds

Women’s Sheds Internationally

Updated 12 October 2021

 Professor (Adjunct) Barry Golding & Associate Professor Annette Foley (Federation University Australia, Ballarat)

Dr Lucia Carragher (Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dundalk, Ireland)

Please send Australian and NZ information, updates and also Women’s Sheds missing from our list on the end of this blog to:  

Those Australian Women’s Sheds not yet able to contacted by email are listed below:

NSW: Two Sheds Workshop; Hunter Valley Women’s Shed; Mullumbimby Women’s Shed; Lithgow Area Women’s Shed; Ulladulla Women’s Shed. Queensland: Sheila’s Shack, Nerang; Women’s Shed Townsville; Harrisville Women’s Shed. WA: Perth Women’s Shed; Merriwa & Ellenbrook Women’s Shed; Victoria: The Frankston Centre Women’s Shed; Hills She Shed (Emerald); Shepparton Women’s Shed Association; Kookaburra Girls Shed; Castlemaine Women’s Shed.

Please send Irish & UK information, updates and Women’s Sheds missing from our list  to Lucia Carragher: 


The history and development of the now international Men’s Sheds movement is reasonably well known (The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men, 2015).

Around the same time that Barry Golding was researching this book, a small number of Shed-based community organisations had begun to spring up in Australia and elsewhere that were created instead mainly for and by women. In the five years since there has been a significant growth in the number of Women’s Sheds (some called by other names including  ‘She Sheds’), some as offshoots of existing Men’s Sheds, planned or opened, particularly in Australia, Ireland and the UK.

We aim to progressively map the field internationally and share whatever information individual Women’s Sheds are happy to contribute. If there is information missing or wrong, please let us know.

What follows outlines the international situation in relation to the emerging ‘Women’s Sheds’ movement to October 2021. It was evident from the rapidly expanding table at the foot of this blog that there was a sufficient number of such ‘Women’s ‘Sheds’ open or active before the COVID shutdown, to justify our initial 2021 international scoping study.

Is is also evident from the number of times this blog has been visited that there is considerable interest in Women’s Sheds internationally.

We are aware of how incredibly isolated some Women’s shedders feel. As Ger Scully told us from Beara Women’s Shed in  a remote area of Cork, “I have no idea if the interest will be there [for our Shed]  after restrictions are lifted. A few of us stay in touch on Whats App, but it’s hard to say if we will be continuing . Insurance costs are €500, so that money is hard to raise with so few members. I would love to hear a bit more about what you have discovered about Women’s Sheds in Ireland. It seems to me that they start up and then disappear after a year or two. I only found another one in Donegal. Is that one still functioning ? It would be a real help to us to get some encouragement . Please do stay in touch if you have or can give us any information.”

Given that many Shed-based community organizations including Women’s Sheds were in partial or total lockdown during much of 2020-21, we have relied on publicly available information from the web, augmented by information provided by informants via email and published in this data base with their permission.

At least one half of Women’s Sheds open or developing (before the early 2020 COVID shutdown)  had a publicly available email address on the internet and most have a Facebook site. Around one quarter of the rest have a publicly accessible contact name, phone number or physical location.

Our first aim as researchers is, with the assistance of Women’s Shed practitioners to fill in the missing gaps in the Table on the bottom of this blog and make this Women’s Shed database publicly accessible. We  plan to regularly update the blog as new information comes in. We anticipate this will enable individuals and organisations developing Women’s Sheds to network, contact, learn from and support each other.

Barry Golding used a similar process to create and circulate a Men’s Shed data base to inform and productively support early Australian Men’s Sheds between 2005 and 2007. At that time blog-based public platforms were less common  and the information was circulated mainly by email. Since 2007 the Australian database has been maintained by the Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA). Since the creation of IMSA in Ireland, UKMSA in the UK and MENZSHED  New Zealand during the past decade, searchable ‘Find a Men’s Shed’ sites have been available online in Australia, Ireland, the UK and New Zealand.

Our second aim is to more closely identify the genesis, scale, scope, spread, nature and impact of the Women’s Shed sector. We are aware from our previous research into the impact of Men’s Sheds on communities and individuals, that governments and not-for-profit organisations make funding decisions that rely on rigorously collected evidence and research. To this point, no such reliable evidence is available for Women’s Sheds.

Barry & Lucia with Associate Professor Annette Foley have written a journal article called ‘The Women’s Shed Movement: Scoping the field internationally’. It will be published in the July 2021  Australian Journal of Adult Learning. They are also working up a proposal for a field-based, international Women’s Shed research study.

Barry and Lucia have written a Chapter about ‘Women’s Sheds Worldwide’ (Chapter 10, pages 319-353) in Barry Golding’s new book, Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement, published in October 2021  in the US through Common Ground Publishing, as a sequel to Barry’s 2015 book, The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men. 

Barry Golding, Lucia Carragher and Annette Foley recently collaborated to publish a peer reviewed journal article published in July 2021 in the Australian Journal of Adult Learning 61(2), 150-174, called ‘The Women’s Shed Movement: Scoping the field internationally’.

Separately, Barry, Lucia and Annette have written up a number of other papers based on field  interviews we have conducted in Australian and Irish Men’s Sheds. This research is examining the impact of Men’s Sheds on significant others, particularly wives and partners of male shedders. In the process we have come across a number of rural Men’s Sheds where women participate and are involved in the Shed, sometimes on equal terms with men but more often on different days to the men.

It is clear that many women also and separately enjoy somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk with, sometimes in the sole company of other women. Our research should produce some useful, new and timely evidence about the nature and impact of Women’s Sheds.

Women’s Sheds

Women’s Sheds are essentially community places and spaces where women can come together at any life stage, engage in a variety of activities and connect with other women in an all (or mostly) female environment. While most adopt an organisational title which puts the name of the place first, e.g. ‘Port Macquarie Women’s Shed’, around one third put ‘Women’s Shed’ up front, e.g. ‘Women’s Shed Seymour’.

Many Women’s Sheds have been created as grassroots community organisations, typically led by one or a small number of passionate and well-networked women. Most make extensive use of social media, particularly Facebook, and many have dedicated websites.

Some Women’s Sheds have emerged as separate entities or been operating out of or through an existing Men’s Shed organisation or building. Some began or are now operated in an auspice arrangement through an existing community organisation such as a community centre. Others have been set up independently as stand alone Women’s Shed organisations, though relatively few appear to own their purpose built premises.

The rationale for particular Women’s Sheds appears similarly diverse. What is different from Men’s Sheds, at least superficially, is that very few Women’s Sheds appear to be focused specifically on older women. Most have been driven by a perceived community need to connect, empower and involve women of all ages.

Patrick Abrahams,  UK Men’s Sheds Association Ambassador has recently concluded, on the basis of observations of quite a few Women’s Sheds start-ups across the UK, that ‘ ... they typically follow a different development path than the Men’s Sheds in the UK. Women’s Sheds often gather a large number of members early on, and this quite rapidly dwindles. This was happening even before the shutdowns forced by the COVID 19 pandemic. By contrast Men’s Sheds typically start slowly and then grow. The overall failure rate of Women’s Sheds in the UK tends to be much higher than Men’s or Community-based Sheds. I think this caused by the greater need in Women’s Sheds of training/support on DIY/woodwork and other skills (or specific planned group activities). By contrast, Men’s Sheds seem to be more self-sufficient, in terms of individuals undertaking projects without the need for support, training or group activities’.

It is clear from the information generously provided by Women’s Sheds in the tables below that many are struggling with recognition, finding it hard to attract funding and create a permanent meeting place. From 1 October 2020 the ability for Women’s Sheds to attract funds within Australia was boosted by the declaration by the Australian  Taxation Office (ATO) of DGR (Deductible Gift Recipient Status of community sheds, defined as ‘Men’s Sheds and Women’s Sheds’.

The ATO condition is that the Women’s Shed  organisation’s dominant purposes ‘must be advancing mental health and preventing or relieving social isolation’, are ‘seeking to achieve those purposes principally by providing a physical location where it supports individuals to undertake activities, or work projects, in the company of others‘. Further, either: ‘ there is no particular criteria for membership for your organisation; or the criteria for membership relate only to an individual’s gender or Indigenous status (in that membership is, for cultural reasons, open only to Indigenous persons), or both. Further information see:

The Irish Times (11 Jan 2020)  reported the opening up of funding to Irish Women’s Sheds as well as Men’s Sheds. The Irish Minister of Rural Affairs (Michael Ring) said that ‘Since its establishment less than 10 years ago, the impact of the men’s sheds movement has been phenomenal,” Mr Ring said. “I’ve no doubt that the emergence of women’s sheds can only be a good thing for community life in Ireland. ”

These funding  issues associated with Sheds setting up were common to many early Men’s Sheds before the movement gained traction after the mid 2000s in Australia and in Ireland and the UK from 2010. Once Men’s Sheds started to actively network and research became available to buttress their claims about impact the. Movement took off in leaps and bounds.

To March 2021 approximately 200  research articles, many peer reviewed and including several Masters and PhD theses, had been published internationally about Men’s Sheds. Until Women’s Sheds are able to get wider recognition including from academics it will be difficult to produce evidence of impact other than by extrapolation from  Men’s Sheds research.

Despite their positive ideals and early successes, some early Women’s Sheds were closed or in recess as a consequence of feeling isolated and lacking community support, even before the COVID1 pandemic. As researchers committed to being of assistance, we hope that our blog helps identify some of the common difficulties as well as providing some common solutions and future possibilities.

Context for the development of Women’s Sheds to 2021

Barry Golding’s (2015) The Men’s Shed Movement book includes four pages (pp.364-367) summarizing data on the critically important role of women in creating and supporting individual Men’s Sheds as well as the now international Movement. In Australia, where the first Men’s Sheds opened over two decades ago, decisions about women’s involvement in the shed as participants has typically been made at a local level. Whilst in most Australian Men’s Sheds it is solely or mainly men who participate in the shed activity, a small number of Men’s Sheds include women as equal members and participants.

Quite a number of Men’s Sheds have separate programs and days for women. Some ‘Women’s Sheds’ operate out of preexisting Men’s Sheds. A small number of sheds are badged as ‘Community Sheds’ or Community Men’s Sheds in order to be more inclusive of women. Some Shed-based organisations also involve children as participants.

She Sheds

A small number of community-run Shed-based organizations for and by women  call themselves ‘She Sheds’.

Evidence online suggests that the term ‘She Shed’ otherwise refers mainly to personal and private shed-type places and spaces in the house or back yard. A Google search on the term suggests that a ‘Shed Shed’ is:

… a female man cave. It is a dedicated space in the home set aside just for the woman of the house. It can a place for recreation, rejuvenation and enjoying personal activities. Most of all it is a female sanctum dedicated entirely to the woman.

Consistent with the above, a 179 full-colour book by Erika Kotite, She Sheds: A room of your own published in January 2017 encourages women to:

… Create your very own hideaway for relaxing, crafting, reading, or just to have a private place just for you. She Sheds provides the instruction and inspiration in this lovely gift-able edition. They’ve got their man caves, and it’s time for you to have a space of your own.

It is evident that many commercial businesses are riding the personal She Shed wave, particularly in the US, offering products to help construct  or enhance backyard She Sheds.

Other Women’s Shed name variants

A small number of what are effectively Women’s Shed-based organisations use other names, typically also including the name of the locality,  including ‘Shelia’s Shack’, ‘Shelia’s Shed’, ‘Ladies Shed’, ‘Fix it Sisters Shed’ and ‘Her Cave’.

Whilst we have not included Shed-based community organisations on our data base which call themselves ‘Community Sheds’,  ‘Community Men’s Sheds’ or ‘Men’s Shed’s, we acknowledge that such Sheds sometimes include some or many women as members.

A brief history of community-based Sheds for and by women

Whilst it is far too early to write a definitive history of the Women’s Sheds Movement, there is evidence that the idea and practice has evolved within the past decade and accelerated in the past five years to 2020.  In many ways it appears to be a female response to and mirroring of the development of Men’s Sheds, but tailored to women’s sometimes different needs and interests. A Women’s Shed Facebook site was founded in July 2010 as  ‘A place to exchange and share in the building of a Women’s Shed Network across Australia and beyond!’

National Men’s Shed peak bodies in Australia and Ireland (AMSA & IMSA) have recently begun to acknowledge and provide logistical support for some Women’s Sheds.

Governments in Ireland and Australia have also begun to acknowledge or include Women’s Sheds in their funding rounds. In January 2020, 22 Women’s Sheds across Ireland as well as 339 Irish Men’s Sheds were acknowledged for the first time as being eligible for a total pool of funding of a half million Euro to help purchase equipment and carry out works. Men’s Sheds in Ireland are eligible if they are registered with the Irish Men’s Sheds Association.

There is no equivalent national affiliation for Women’s Sheds, which causes difficulty in defining them. The following criteria are considered when deciding whether a group that applies is a ‘Women’s Shed’ and is eligible for funding (from the Community Enhancement Programme 2019 guidelines for ‘small scale capital costs’.)

  • If they are affiliated with another parent association (which means they are not really a Shed), then they should not be eligible for this fund.
  • There must be an appropriate organisational structure to the Shed.
  • The number of number of members of the group should be considered. If there are very few members then this should be considered along with their level of activity when deciding on eligibility.
  • The group should demonstrate that their ethos consistent with the ethos of the Men’s Shed movement.

Women’s Sheds international data base to March 2021

Our data base below, augmented by the Facebook Women’s Sheds Contact List (3rd Draft Nov 2018), summarised in dot point below, confirms that of the approximately 110  Women’s Sheds (or similarly named equivalent community organisations) internationally, at least one half were likely to have previously been operating internationally, being planned or under development before the COVID lockdown to early 2020.

International summary to March  2021


62 listed on the data base; evidence that 56 were open as Women’s Sheds or similar  at some time since 2010 (some are now closed in 2021).

Of those 56 Women’s Sheds recorded from Australia that are or were open to March 2021:

      • 32 (57%) are in New South Wales
      • 8 (14%) are in Victoria
      • 8 (14%) are in Queensland
      • 5 (9%) are in Western Australia
      • 4 (5%) are in South Australia
      • 1 (2%) are in Tasmania

Ireland of Ireland: 

  • 26 recorded on data base,  24 In the Republic of Ireland, 2 in Northern Ireland
  • In 18 different Irish Counties (2 each in Cork, Clare, Mayo & Galway)
  • 23 evidence of being active active or open at some time.
  • Of the 16 Irish Women’s Sheds with evidence of year of commencement, all but one commenced in the past five years (2015-2020). Dublin opened in 2014 but closed in 2015.


  • 30 recorded on data base
  •  25 confirmed active or open at some time.
  • 4 in Wales, one in Scotland, 25 in England
  • Of the 18 with evidence of year of commencement , aside from Penge & Woolwich (both in London, opened in 2014 and 2015; and Frome 2020) the balance were opened in the three years between 2017 & 2019).


  • 3 on data base,
  • 2 contacted,
  • 2 confirmed active or open at some time.

International TOTALS

Open at some stage as a Women’s Shed: 56 in Australia, 23 in Ireland, 25 in the UK; 2 in New Zealand

  •  123 on data base,
  • 106 confirmed active or open at some stage

More than one half (53%)  of all Women’s Sheds  open at some stage on the international data base were in Australia, with 22% on the Island of Ireland, around one quarter (24%) in the UK (England, Scotland or Wales), with 2% in New Zealand.

We have sent an email to each Women’s Shed organization requesting additional information to be included in this publicly available data base.

If you see a Women’s Shed in the Table that is missing, have updated information or have a better contact email address for a Shed that has ‘awaiting more information’, ‘awaiting email contact’, or ‘awaiting email response’,  please let us know.

Specifically, Women’s Sheds informants have been invited to provide information about the location, status, type of Shed, the origin, intention and targeted women, opening days and times  (if open before the 2020 COVID lockdown), stage of development and basic contact details (website, email, key contact person).

We will progressively update Tables 1-4 , below (for Australia,  Ireland, the UK and New Zealand), including the new information as responses come in.

Meantime, please  watch this space. Sheds for which information was derived online including from Facebook are shown in bold italics.  Where additional information has been confirmed (provided and shared) by the Shed organisation the Shed name is shown in bold, We have added a star * to Sheds that appeared to be have active open  at some stage.

Women’s Sheds internationally

Table 1: Australia 

(63 listed: 30 contacted, 51 Women’s Sheds with evidence of being active, April 2021)

Name of Shed (place, State) #  shared premises with a  Men’s Shed  Established

( *Open at some time)

Publicly available information

New South Wales (33 Sheds)

Orange Women’s Shed (NSW)

updated 11 Oct 2021

2018*; Closed March 2020, returned July 2020 in small numbers. Open 2021 , Contact Michelle Einsaar, ‘Shed intention to develop skills & confidence in women to be able to do small maintenance jobs. Open to any women age 16+ who would like to learn how to use basic tools safely. Friendly with neighbouring Lucknow & Borenore Men’s Sheds. Shed at rear of 1635 Forest Road, Orange. Approx 45 members. Open Wed to Fri 9.30am-1pm. Main activities small woodworking projects on different home maintenance tasks.’ Facebook page active 2021.
Parramatta Women’s Shed (NSW) 9 Dec 2018* : ‘Partnership between Supporting and linking Tradeswomen (SALT), The Bower & City of Parramatta’. Pre COVID met every third Wed 6-8pm at The Bower, Parramatta. ‘A creative social group pf women of all ages who share their individual skills.’  Grace Turbott, Operations Manager, Bower Reuse & Repair Centres 02 80042666 reports (Oct 2020) that ‘Our women’s shed has been in a transition phase due to change of management and structure in our location – and COVID on top. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to provide precise meeting dates/times , but will do so when we have them finalised’. Facebook page active 2021.
Albury Women’s Shed (NSW) 2016 first meeting;  in premises since 2017 * FACEBOOK Albury Women’s Shed Facebook: : 0476166577: www.alburywomen’ . Open Mon & Fri 10-1, Wed 4.30-7.30pm. 195 Corrys Rd, Thurgoona 2640; ‘Aimed at empowering women that are learning together about renovation, repair and using tools. What do women do at the Shed: We learn! We encourage. We help each other to renovate furniture, build garden benches and we contemplate our next project. And there is laughter as we work on our projects and chat (as long as no-one is drilling or sawing!). Women are also welcome to come in and enjoy the company of other members over a cuppa or a quiet time in the library.’ Facebook page active 2021.
Ulladulla Woman’s Shed (NSW)* formed 2014/15* Premises in Aug 2015, Awaiting email response @, 2014 President Jan McKay 0476956459
Her Cave Inc.  (Kanwal, NSW)*

Updated 11 Oct 2021


Closed during COVID July-Oct 2021: then reopened : 0415281920,  Contact Regina Doyle (President). Aim ‘To share handcraft skills for very low cost and help create friendships, on the Central Coast [NSW] area. … No age limits!!! ‘Any women needing friendships to learn new skills and combat loneliness’. Open Wed & Fri 9.30am-2.30pm 41 Pearce Road, Kanwal;  Group ranges in age from 20 through to  80s. ‘We don’t discriminate on age or sex as to men learning to sew’. ‘We would dearly love to have our own place like the Men’s Sheds, but as we are not associated with other Women’s Sheds it makes it very hard to get somewhere we can use solely at a low rent. Many of our members are medically unfit to move furniture back and forth to a storage space. Facebook page active 2021.‘Since July 2021 we had to close due to the new COVID outbreak & we are happy to see we will be opening back up  20 October, 2021. As we operate only on fees that our members pay each week & not received any financial help over the entire lockdown we are now scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to rent. We thought we were going to be lucky enough to get a hall through our local council but that has been put on hold for another six months which takes that saga to 18 months of not knowing where we stand. The “Men’s Sheds” tended to get plenty of funding when they wanted a shed built but for us women it doesn’t seem that simple it seems….. or we aren’t as lucky as they have been in the past. One other part of the building “purpose built sheds” for the men is that some of them are or were builders so they could do alot of the work we don’t usually do. Apart from all the problems we face when we want to create something worthwhile for others, we can at least smile under our masks & get a bit of normality back in our lives after next week [mid Oct 2021] & hope we can stay open for a longer time from now on.
Moree Women’s Shed (NSW)

Updated 11 Oct 2021

March 2021 * Contact: Julia Mitchell (Founder) 0438222060. Operating from an old gentlemen’s club which was donated to the Lifehouse Church. Took out AMSA (Australian Men’s Shed Association) membership to make insurance cheaper.  Vision: ‘A place to create, but more importantly, somewhere to connect. A central place where women could come together, share stories, have a cuppa, work on a project, share with others, help the community and grow old together’. Open Tuesday 9.30am-11.30pm. Moree Women’s Shed Facebook Group.
The Hills Women’s Shed (Baulkham Hills, Sydney, NSW) 2018* An initiative of Positive Vibes Foundation, a charity organisation, see:,  Active Facebook Page, The Hills Womens Shed. (THWS) Contact , Mercedes or Jeanette 0408549530.  ‘A progressive organisation pulsating with a community heart: Women focussed, man & family friendy’. ‘We have a calendar of events including mental health events, gardening, sewing classes, cooking classes, succulents activities, beauty and wellbeing etc for our community group. We welcome the community in general, including women from different cultural backgrounds and also some male members. Everyone is welcome to our sessions, events and classes. We are working hard with the community to break the stigma of mental health.’
Women’s Shed on the Lake (Lake Macquarie, NSW)


2017* FACEBOOK: , 0458407749  ‘inclusive group for women of all ages’, Fri 9am-12, Warner’s Bay Baptist Church Hall.  ‘Our group was formed in October 2016 and is an activity of a Community Centre (Our Community Place) situated in Boolaroo, Lake Macquarie NSW. We are open to women of all ages. In the beginning we met fortnightly and were supported by a worker from the community centre. Over time our members have formed a committee and have become responsible for the management of the group. We are also financially independent, raising funds to support the group. Our group meets weekly now and we have  at least 25-30 women attending weekly. The Committee manages a program which includes craft experiences, outings, speakers from a variety of organisations of interest to the women as well as community projects which support local organisations. Our biggest challenge so far has been to find a permanent home which suits the needs of the group..’ Margaret Standen, Sub-committee, Women’s Shed on the Lake.
Community Women’s Shed Kurri Kurri  (NSW)* 2015* Contact made via Dee Phelps Threlfo FACEBOOK: ; Thurs & Fri, 9.30-1. ‘Bringing women together. For women of all ages & backgrounds’.
Women’s Shed, Forster (NSW) opened July 2010*, (one of the first in Australia),  closed 2014 Affiliated  with  Forster Neighbourhood Centre (FNC) Original intention ‘to support women of all ages and backgrounds. A meeting place – a giving and receiving place’. ‘Representatives from various Great Lakes district organisations and services visited the FNC’s Women’s Shed to share information about the services that they provide to the community. Some of the group activities included:Free health checks – Blood Pressure & Blood Sugar Check, Catering for community events and the soup kitchen, Fundraising for women, children and families in crisis, Self-defence classes, Local History Walks, Singing and Poetry.
Port Macquarie Women’s Shed (NSW)

last updated 11 Oct 2021

Oct 2015* ‘Building confidence, capability and connection’. FACEBOOK: contact Bev McKinlay, Secretary 0405153491; . Approx. 40 members, with meeting room in Port Macquarie & limited access to woodwork facilities in Port Macquarie. Update Oct 2021, below from Jennifer Tighe, President PMWS, 0429184093: ‘Our Port Macquarie Women’s Shed has successfully gained land which we will be able to build our own purpose built shed. A wonderful achievement for our community. We have submitted plans to the local council, which have been approved and we are in the process of applying for grants and raising funds to get it started. We have women from 18 to 91 in our group, we do anything and everything, from making dreamcatchers, earrings, mosaics, as well as sewing, crocheting, knitting and using our woodworking tools to create a variety of items. To raise funds to continue, we charge membership, we have workshops, we have stalls occasionally and also have events, such as ‘girls night out’ which includes a movie night, gift bag, drinks and nibbles. We expect an increase in membership once our shed is built. We have also applied for charity status, which will allow members or the community to donate to us. Our main focus remains mental health for our regional and isolated women, we also believe in empowering women to gain new skills and knowledge, while building meaningful relationships. We have found that so many of our ladies are lonely, suffer from anxiety or depression, have lost their partners or children, are in the early stages of dementia and this gives them a safe place to get together and help each other. We are certainly looking forward to the 12 months, which should see us have the shed completed and up and running.
Two Sheds Workshop: (Bega, NSW 2014 (Bega) * ‘Addressing the entrenched gender gap in the building industry’: Woodwork for Women and Kids; 0419286507 LM,  Awaiting email address@  Website
Two Sheds Workshop, (Canberra, ACT) 2017 (Canberra) *  As above
Inner West Women’s Shed (Dulwich Hill) (NSW) April 2013. Closed during COVID19, now reopen* ‘Working to Honor and Empower Women’; met Wed pm in Seaview Hall before shutdown. Membership $10 per annum since 2013. No contact or other details available. ‘There are no plans to meet again due to concerns about health and wellbeing of members, many of whom are in the high risk category.’
Wagga Wagga Women’s Shed  Inc. (NSW) July 2017* FACEBOOK Kerlane, Email: waggawaggawomensshed@hotmail.comHelen, Secretary 0403875590. Opened by Kerry Luff. Meet 3 days a week Mon, Wed  & Fri 10am-2 pm. ‘We have meditation, yoga, tai chi , Knitting/ crocheting, line dancing & raft classes. Meet at the Tennis Courts on Beckwith Street. Our main aim is to create a safe place for women of all ages to meet and talk. Participants range from 30 to 90 years; single, married, divorced  or widowed’.
Hunter Valley Women’s Shed (Maitland, NSW) floated 2017* FACEBOOK: ‘women coming together, empowering each other to learn and gain skills.’ awaiting email address & other detail. Meet Thursday at Branxton Uniting Church, Open Nov 2020
Narromine Community Women’s Shed (NSW) April 2013 * FACEBOOK: 0487200987, Leina, Public Officer
Lithgow Area Women’s Shed (NSW) 2019* Private FACEBOOK, ‘A place where all women in Lithgow area are welcome to come and join us’, with a strong emphasis on’ building women; seeking a permanent home. Awaiting email response & other detail.
Hornsby & Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shed  (NSW) 15 May 2019* FACEBOOK :Via PCYP Hornsby: . ‘providing a safe, inclusive & supportive space for women to learn & connect through sharing stories, experiences & knowledge.’ Awaiting email response & other detail.
Griffith Women’s Shed (Yoogali, NSW) Open 6 Nov 2018* , Carol Johnson, President, awaiting response & other detail.
Robertson Men’s  Shed (near Bowral (NSW) # Temporary Men’s Shed with women involved since 2017, new Men’s Shed including women 2020 * John Kennis, President, Robinson Men’s Shed:

‘In a temporary Shed, a 6m x 7m garage. for both men and women, Men on Tuesdays, Women on Fridays. The number of women participating  vary  but the ones that do come are very keen.  When the women attend, the Men’s Shed provide two members to assist in training on equipment, safety and other assistance. Our new Shed should be completed by December 2020. Once completed we will still run two separate days for men and women and on occasion have mixed days. The feedback from the women  attending is very positive and I am sure that we will have a great shed for both men and women. We need to ensure we do not stray from the main ethos of what Men’s Sheds are for, the health and wellbeing of men, now also the health and wellbeing of women. Our vision is to provide for the community of Robertson a Shed that can be a place for both men and women to meet, socialise and become engaged with community. Also run youth workshops, community workshops, people with a disability workshops’.

Arncliffe: Fix  it Sisters Shed (NSW) 2018* FACEBOOK, , ’empowering women of all ages with practical and creative skills’. Awaiting email response & other detail.
Cessnock Community Women’s Shed (NSW) Sept 2015* FACEBOOK,  0456213604, ‘inclusive group for all women’, awaiting email response & other detail.
Coonamble Women’s Shed (NSW) Active from 23 July 2018 * FACEBOOK, . awaiting email response & other detail: ‘about helping women escape the everyday pressures that life throws up. So come along and have some fun’.
Corowa and District SHE Shed Inc. (NSW) Formed Feb 2017* FACEBOOK, meet Corowa CWA Rooms, Wed 10-2, Basia (shed supervisor) 0419630101. Awaiting email address & other detail. ‘SHE:  S stands for ‘soul sanctuary, shine, strive, social, smart, sparkle, spirit, super-solidarity, star’; H harmony, health, happy, heart, handy heal  & E esteem, enhancement, energy, enthusiasm, essence, excellence’
Gundagai Women’s Shed (NSW)

updated 12 Oct 2021

Active 2021 * Run through Gundagai Men’s Shed: Contact: Wendy Chomley ‘Gundagai Women’s Shed currently has 6 active members. We meet every Wednesday from 8:30am till noon. We are supervised by one of the men who have instructed us in the proper use of the machines. We have a lot of fun and laughs whilst doing upcycling and repair projects ranging from tables and outdoor furniture to bread boards and bird houses. New members are very welcome.’
Mullumbimby Women’s Shed (NSW) Convened March 2018 * FACEBOOK, ‘a welcoming sacred space for women and girls to connect, grow & learn in an atmosphere of generosity and goodwill’, Community Gardens Rotunda, Thurs 2-4. awaiting email address & other detail.
Women’s Shed  (Marian House) (Karuah, Hunter Region, NSW) first proposed May 2010, first meeting 16 June 2010* Karuah, Myall Coast Catholic Parish, Contact:;  Rose Smith: 0414834922  ‘Provides an opportunity for women to get together in our hall for a chat, a cuppa and to share in some simple craft ideas’. The suggestion arose because I had for several years belonged to a craft group that met regularly, and the enjoyment I experienced was something I was keen to share. We meet monthly on the second Tuesday of each month and I organise and prepare the craft activity The ladies keep an eye out for ideas and happily share these. We really knew nothing much about Men’s Sheds when we started except that they existed and so one of our number thought if it was good enough for men to have a shed then it was good enough for us to have a Women’s Shed ! Not a very professional approach I feel but it was and still is, intended to be a no fuss, pleasant gathering for the ladies of our town.’
The Ladies’ Shed, Kempsey (NSW) #one day for ladies in Men’s Shed * ,  Tuesday’s 10-2 in the Kempsey Men’s Shed, awaiting email response & other detail.
Sheila’s Shed, Tuncurry (NSW) 2017 * FACEBOOK: 0481148029 LM, creative art & craft group, awaiting email address & other detail. 22/60 Manning Street, Tuncurry
Clarence River U3A Women’s Shed (NSW) #

Meet in Men’s Shed

2016 *  Doreen Plyman, Group Leader and one of the founding members. 0423632404, ‘We began in mid 2012 with 6 women and now operate with a membership of approx. 60 women. We meet at the Men’s Shed in Townsend NSW every Friday from 0900 to 1500 and apart from 3 months closure from April till 24th June we have operated continuously. During covid 19 we have implemented the necessary restrictions placed upon us. When someone new joins us they are taught how to operate both wood and metalwork machinery and hand tools to enable them to safely exist in a workshop environment. On their first day they make their own toolbox. We have a male mentor to assist if necessary, currentcontact:  email local U3A website ‘Our main aim is to provide a safe and friendly environment for women to learn new skills and socialise with their peers.   To join our Women’s Shed you need to be over 50 and not working full time as we come under U3A and must meet their membership criteria.’
Wyong Women’s Shed (NSW) Opened Feb 2019 * FACEBOOK, , 0491769935, 48 Nerambi Rd, Buff Point, Shed President: Kim 0425259867 , awaiting email response.
Yeoval Women’s Shed (NSW)INCLUDED AS A CASE STUDY IN ‘WOMEN’S SHED WORLDWIDE’ BOOK CHAPTER,  (Golding & Carragher, 2021, pp. 338-9) 2015 FACEBOOK, in association with ‘Yeoval and District Men’s Shed’ Frances Parish, President and Founder : NOTE ‘Yeoval and District Men’s Shed and Women’s Shed’ is the sign on street frontage; both Sheds  share the same building.
Inverell Women’s Cottage (Shed) (NSW) July 2020 * FACEBOOK, Lorraine Brown, 0447683134, awaiting email response. Inverell Times July 9 2020 article ‘ Through working at the BEST Community Shed [3 ladies] found there was a desperate need for a place women of all ages could go to build skills, learn how to be independent and empower one another. After voicing the idea on social media, a meeting was held to form a committee and look for a place to call the cottage home. Publicity Officer Heather Whitby said since then, Northern Inland Community College in Inverell has donated their old premises in Campbell Street for the purpose of Inverell Women’s Cottage.’
SALT SkillWomen Shed, Quakers Hil, (NSW) SALT begun 2009, SALT Shed Launched Nov 2017 * :  Facebook Website Marti Fletcher runs the Shed in consultation with Fi Shewring and other volunteers  plus the SALT office. ‘Supporting And Linking Tradeswomen (SALT) began in 2009 and since 20012 has run a very unique mobile workshop which has travelled across Australia teaching mostly women and girls but boys and men as well. SALT
has taught thousands of people basic tool skills via the mobile SALT workshops which have been a huge success, but many people kept saying to us “But I want to learn more!”. When we began the mobile workshops in 2012, we contacted some Men’s Sheds to see if
we could use some space to provide a workshop on a regular basis. The response was not positive so we stayed completely mobile but the idea grew that we could easily run our own shed. Initially,
the biggest issue was finding a space which was ours for little cost. We followed a number of leads in Wollongong but nothing eventuated until I met Marti, an electrician from Blacktown. She ‘took the bit between her teeth’ and not only found a space but contacted Blacktown Council who were completely supportive. When we first gained access to what became the ‘SALT Shed’, it was in a sad condition. We cleaned, installed and built benches and Blacktown Council helped with some necessary repairs to the structure. The SALT Shed was launched in November 2017. One of the unique things about the SALT Shed is that it is run by tradeswomen from many different trades. Wehave since run many courses s such as the Basic Tool Skills course (which is the crux of the Mobile workshop)s but we have also run workshops on paving, using jigsaws and scroll saws as well as security in the home and many others. There is also ;Tinker Time; which is space and time each week for Shed members to bring in their own projects; the tradespeople support them with tool knowledge and safety. It has been quite extraordinary what has been achieved during these times from cutting down bar stools to match existing ones to creating very personal memorials to lost loved ones. Blacktown Council have been amazingly supportive of the Shed with SALT tradies giving their time voluntarily to staff and run it. Courses are run on a material cost and offer a great deal of support to people, whether it is just to learn basics to help themselves in their own home or to increase their skills in a range of tools. We have also connected with a number of other Sheds and provided the Basic Tool Skills Workshop to many of them on a regular basis. Membership of the SALT Shed is for a year and to join you need to book into a Basic Tool Skills Workshop and complete this first course. For a very small fee this gives you not only membership of the Shed for a year but also inducts you on how the Shed works, safety and how to use the basic tools. The Shed’s aims are SALTs aims, plus providing a space where people can learn and gain skills in a safe environment.


‘Adelong has a day dedicated to women in their Men’s Shed’: awaiting further information, June 2021.


Queensland (8 Sheds)

The Sheila’s Shack Inc., Nerang (Qld) 2013* 0490815790, awaiting more detail.’Shelias Shack is a not-for-profit friendship group for women to share knowledge, skills, socialise and build friendships. We meet on Thursday and Saturday mornings from 9am till 12 noon for a cuppa and chat.We hold workshops, art, craft, we have a walking group and book club we also fund-raise to help those in need in our local community’.  meets Nerang Country Paradise Parklands, Nerang.
Women’s Shed Townsville (Qld) 2019* Awaiting email contact, ‘to provide women with a similar experience as men’. ‘female version of the Men’s Shed’.
Charters Towers Women of the Outback Shed (Qld [first in Qld] 2015/ 2016* Drought stricken, outback community: Response:  ‘Part of, and represented in and by The Australian Men’s Shed Association and adhere to Covid 19 guidelines produced by the Queensland State Government and the Australian Federal Government.’
Toowoomba Women’s Shed (Qld) 2019*  Contact Jean Turner: 0488126282, . ‘Toowoomba Women’s Shed became a reality when the women who are part of it decided that we needed to work for helping our own community . We had been associated with Sewing For Charity Australia and all our handmade goods were being sent round Brisbane and down thru the eastern states. The core group have been meeting and sewing items for 4-5 years. but we became the Women’s Shed about a year ago (2019) .We now meet in a shed belonging to a church here in Toowoomba and meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays but looking at that being extended to more days. We sew, talk, laugh and have a nurturing effect on our joint lives. Facebook is Toowoomba Women’s Shed . We aim to produce usable worthwhile items for needy people i.e. Aged care homes, school groups in lower socioeconomic areas hospitals, child care and wild life carers to name a few . We are basically in the age range 60-90. Some ladies come every week. Sometimes we deliver work to them and give their lives purpose that they are helping others. It was my dream and it is fulfilling for all of us and it is a joy to watch the new ones blossom and change in confidence and abilities as the time goes on.’
Harrisville Women’s Shed (Scenic Rim near Beaudesert) (Qld) 2016 * Anglican Parish, awaiting email contact & other information.
The Gap She Shed, (The Gap) (Qld) Nov 2019 * Private FACEBOOK (739 members created 6 Nov 2019), ‘ Supportive and caring; Helping to create community; enjoy learning, ideas & creativity; skill sharing across generations; have a laugh in a relaxed and safe environment; engage and make new friendships, diverse and exclusive. A FUN social group to bring together the Gap community of young women, retirees, new mum’s and everyone in between. To provide a platform for FRIENDSHIP, SKILL SHARING, COMPANY, LEARNING & CREATIVITY. Offering workshops, out-tings, informal social nights, special interest groups, talks and activities for women to share and enjoy; Sustainable Living, Health & Well-being, Pottery, Arts & Crafts, Basic Mechanics, Woodworking, First Aid, Financial Advising’ Awaiting contact details including email.Karen Bessell, Founder of The Gap She Shed. Started in 2019 as a networking group to bring connectivity amongst the community. By April 2021 with over 1,200 Facebook community members, looking at incorporating in 2021. Website  all enquiries email
Coolum Women’s Shed (Qld) #

Noosa Women’s Shed (Queensland)

2017* Building community amongst women of the Sunshine Coast. Open Tues & Thurs to all adult women: some evenings and weekend activities: currently approx. 300 members. Facebook: Main Shed activities pilates, yoga & meditation, arts & crafts, vocal  & guitar groups, walking , gardening DIY. Shed Contact Nell Harvey or Monita Griffiths: , Web . Currently hiring space from a Men’s Shed (26 Research Street, Coolum Beach Queensland 4573), looking for own space.

[Updated 18 July 2021]  Held an information session and AGM 27 Oct 2019 &  AGM 15 Nov 2020, Tewantin CWA Hall, Website  ‘ Incorporated in September 2018, the Noosa Women’s Shed is all about what local women want to achieve, whether it is how to use a drill, how to fix a tap or upholster a chair! We encourage all members to have a say in what is shared at the shed.’ Best email contact is Update in July 2021 from Fiona McComb: ‘We have not yet found a shed home and seem to be largely like the stats you mention on your website! Lots of initial interest that has dropped off due to no shed. We are in caretaker mode at the moment, not running many events, great committee and publicly seeking support for a shed of some kind in Noosa, temporary or permanent’.


South Australia (2 Sheds)

Playford Women’s Shed (Davoren Park, SA)


Nov 2019* FACEBOOK,  Old Para West Adult Campus, Founder & Contact Raelene Wlochowicz 0409576003, .  ‘I began trying to find where women could meet and share experiences and skills, make new friendships and remain active. Originally open only 3 days a week, now open Mon- Fri, 10am to 4pm. Committee meets once a month but to begin with we met once a fortnight as we began to set up all the underlying processes and procedures. We provide classes in a wide range of activities from cooking, crafts, art, gardening and woodwork. We have an OP [Opportunity] Shop for members and we provide emergency provisions (clothes, bedding and food) for domestic violence victims and homeless women and those that are struggling to make ends meet. Each day different women prepare a meal that has a small cost attached. We connected to a food distribution program and distribute to a number of other community programs and a local Primary school. We have just begun working with a local film maker who is helping us create a 15 minute film of our Shed and those who make up its members. This will be released next year at the annual SAGA Adelaide International Women’s Film Festival here in Adelaide.’ This Shed is included as a case study in Barry Golding’s forthcoming 2021 book.
Ladies Shed (Elizabeth House, Christie Downs) 30 June 2014 * The ‘Woodwork Shed’ at Elizabeth House Positive Ageing Centre, 112 Elizabeth Road, Christie Downs, SA. was begun in 2002, now run by the City of Onkaparinga, including programs for people with acquired brain injury (Mon & Wed) and for frail older men, some of whom have memory loss (Tues & Thurs). On 30 June 2014 it began a Ladies Shed program. In 2020, Fridays is the Ladies Shed program day, when the ladies wear pink high vis vests. Contact person: Lui Di Venuto, Team Leader, Active Ageing and Disability Programs, Community Capacity (08) 8384 0090; 0414 600 752. ‘ It began with a group of women who had completed a furniture construction foundation course at the Christies Beach High School and then had nowhere to practice their skills and approached Elizabeth House for some support’.

Western Australia (5 Sheds) see ‘Women’s Shed WA Network’ site on FACEBOOK

North Coastal Women’s Shed (Yanchep & The Rocks, WA)  * Women of all ages, fostering health and wellbeing: FACEBOOK  Contact Lyn Haast  awaiting email response & other information.  0430647071,  Mon & Thurs 9-2, Jenolan Way Community Centre.
Rockingham Women’s Shed (WA) Being developed Feb 2020 * Kelly Clear, key proponent. , awaiting email response & other information.
Perth Women’s Shed (Stirling, WA) # 2019* The ‘Women Working with Wood Association’ currently operates from the Stirling Community Men’s Shed; 12 month pilot: Awaiting email contact.  ABC Perth article 6 Feb 2020: [For] young boys, it was a rite of passage, to go to the shed with your dad or uncle or grandfather and they would teach you the tools — girls didn’t get that opportunity.”
More than 2,500 women have shown interest in attending new classes on car maintenance, basic plumbing and furniture restoration at one of the first women’s sheds in WA at Innaloo Bowling Club in Perth’s north.
“Not all of us can rely on the fellow down the road or our brother in law or an uncle, so we want to be able to do these things ourselves,” organiser Carol Huish said. Operates from Innaloo Bowling Club.
Merriwa & Ellenbrook Women’s Shed (20 km NE of Perth. (WA) Inaugural meeting June 2019, Under construction 2020 * ‘Mission to Empower Women’: Awaiting email contact.

Victoria (8 Sheds)

Women’s Shed Seymour (Vic) Open 1 June 2016* ‘Somewhere safe and warm for women to go, have a cuppa, chat and share skills’: Amanda 0431193204 or Dale 0408035741 open every Wed, Seymour Presbyterian Church Hall.
Women’s Shed of Victoria (Vic): Organisation, not a Shed? Incorporated Association (13 May 2016) via Broadford Community Centre: Awaiting email contact , Twitter @womensshedvic
The Frankston Centre Women’s Shed  (Vic) December 2016 * Orwil Street Community House: Georgina Portelli Coordinator, Awaiting email contact
Women’s Sharing Shed (Torquay, Vic) 2016* Active but closed during COVID Reopened  2021 ‘An inclusive, safe and welcoming environment where knowledge and ideas are respectfully shared’ au
Facebook @womenssharingshedtorquay. Phone  0421995684,  Kath Kidd (Founder & Coordinator). ‘The Womens Sharing Shed Torquay offers a place to meet other like minded women to share wisdom, experience and a cuppa. Women of all ages can come along to learn traditional and non traditional skills, perhaps work on their own project of their choosing, contribute to a shared project or maybe sit around the table and share stories, anecdotes and support each other. There is no pressure or expectations. Be who you want to be, just be. Workshops are regularly held off and on site as well as Shed members meeting every week at the Shed’.
Rupanyup and District Women’s Shed (Vic) NAME ONLY:  NOT OPEN administratively relocated to Eagle Point, Gippsland. Not operating as a Women’s Shed in Rupanyup.
Hills She Shed, Emerald (Vic) 2016 * FACEBOOK, awaiting more info & email contact.
Healesville Women’s Shed (Vic)

Course not Shed

An ‘introduction to carpentry’, one term course of approx. 8-9 weeks offered in two big sheds with a trainer, through Healesville Living and Learning Centre,
Lilydale Women’s Shed (Vic)

Event only

‘NOT a Women’s Shed’

FACEBOOK, Mt Evelyn Community House , Nicky Condell, Manager: , 03 97361177. ‘We ran the Lilydale Women’s Shed event as part of the Mt Evelyn Community House, a day to engage with women in our local community in partnership with Yarra Ranges Council. We don’t currently have an active Women’s Shed. However we do run many workshops and classes that women who had engaged on the day attend. We run a variety of classes including, art, craft, social group, women’s health workshops, colouring social group, Girls night in, International Women’s Day event, cooking workshops , Yoga and Tai Chi social groups on social media. We are still looking at ways to run a Women’s Shed in our community’.
The Women’s Shed, Mount Martha (Vic) approx 2010* Merrilyn Wiley, Coordinator, , 03 59744072, ‘Time out for women of all ages’, ‘We started approximately 20 years ago in Mornington Victoria Australia. It was originally called ‘Kit Kat’, as the aim was to provide a time out for mums with pre-schoolers. This caused a problem as the name was already patented   We ran a competition among the women to come up with a name, that still represented our image, Hence The Woman’s Shed. Our image underwent a big change 10 years ago when we found mums of pre-schoolers had a lot of other options and we found more and more couple retiring down our way and the need changed to older women.  We are still going today. We meet every Wed from 9.30-1130am  in school term. Our program is planned for the whole term and includes speakers on relevant topics, crafts etc. We average about 20 woman each week, ages ranging from 50 – 90. One of our main aims is to offer friendship and a support system for our women that some. Also we try to get our speaker and workshops to deal with issues our women are facing.‘
The She Shed ( Ocean Grove, Vic) NOT ESTABLISHED FACEBOOK, Aim 2019  ‘Connect, learn, grow, share, heal, cry, laugh, be’. Not proceeded with or established.
Shepparton Women’s Shed Association (Vic) * FACEBOOK, 03 58215770, social club in Shepparton North;  address 10-14 Parkside Drive, awaiting email address & other detail
 “Kookaburra Girls” Shed (Werribee) (Vic) 2017 * Hosted by Wyndham Park Community Centre, Werribee Community Shed FACEBOOK 03 87426448 LM, awaiting email address & other detail, held Open Shed Day with Werribee Men’s Shed Sept 2017
Castlemaine Women’s Shed (Vic) FACEBOOK, an idea, late 2019, awaiting email address & other detail.
Beechworth Women’s Shed (Vic) Incorporated Association since 2017* . Facebook . Contact Margy Barwood, President: ‘We have struggled for recognition since our incorporation in Feb 2017. Our main problem is acquiring a public space to meet & work. For over 2 years I have given the members free space in my private garage. If our council for the Indigo Shire, Victoria was more supportive our Shed would grow 10 fold without doubt. Our local  Men’s Shed has their own space and receives ongoing support. Not so with our Women’s Shed. The men also refuse to allow us access to their space. We have our equipment, tools etc but no community space to invite new members. I find it difficult to receive complete strangers on my property for security reasons. The response for Council assistance to date has been ignored other than a very small shared space we tried for about 5 months. It did not work as we could not leave our equipment out. All of our furniture, tool boxes, fold up tables & consumables had to locked away after every workshop into a very tiny toilet & wash area that was not even big enough to get a wheel chair in. Our members are mainly seniors some with disabilities and this was beyond us. Rather than create conflict in our small town we moved everything out of the 1950’s building and carted it all to my private garage. My driveway is very steep so it is not age friendly. This has worked as a temporary solution but we are on the look out for a more suitable space.Whilst it is our desire to grow our Association we now have to be realistic to each other and ask if it is worth continuing.’ Original aim ‘Up cycle, DIY & creative projects designed to foster kinship with local women for social fulfilment. BWS promotes self-dependence, confidence and resilience within our rapidly changing environment’.

Tasmania (1)

Central Coast Community Shed: Ladies Group (Ulverstone) (Tasmania)Ladies only group in Community Shed

CCCS INCLUDED AS A Tasmanian Men’s Shed CASE STUDY IN ‘AUSTRALIAN MEN’S SHED’, Book Chapter,  Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men’s Shed Movement‘ Book, 2021

* FACEBOOK, Tues 1-3, Melissa Budgeon 03 94298959,  ‘An afternoon for ladies of any age, improve skills and knowledge in woodworking, learn to use tools and machinery correctly/safely, try a small project – work up something bigger; fun. friendly and informative program just for Ladies’.

What year did Women’s Sheds start in Australia?

  • The first three Australian Women’s Sheds opened around the same time in 2010.
  • For those 51  Sheds with evidence of a start or opening date, 36 (71%) were opened in the four year period between 2016 and 2019.
  • 3 were opened in 2010 (June, Karuah, NSW; July: Forster, NSW; Mount Martha, Victoria,  ‘approx 2010’
  • none were opened in 2011 or 2012
  • 3 were opened in 2013
  • 3 were opened in 2014
  • 4 were opened in 2015
  • 7 were opened in 2016
  • 12 were opened in 2017
  • 8 were opened in 2018
  • 9 were opened in 2019
  • 2 were opened in 2020
  • Only one appears to have since permanently closed (Forster in 2014).

Table 2: Ireland of Ireland 

(28 Women’s Sheds on the list; 22 contacted; 23 with evidence of being open at some time: 6 were permanently closed in March 2021)

Name of Shed (County) Established Publicly available information
Beara Women’s Shed (Allihies, West Cork) 2018  Information from Ger Scully, Shed Secretary, Currently (March 2021) we are closed due to Covid. We were established in the winter of 2018; invited by Allihies Men’s Shed to share their facilities and premises. The community here is rural, and with a very low population widely distributed. So a small group of local women set up weekly Meetings of Beara Womens Shed to try to bring folk together. A mixed group of people are involved . Around 14 was the maximum attendance and all age groups and walks of life have been involved. After meeting at the shed over a period of a few months it was clear to see that everyone wished to participate in all kinds of workshops & so the ETB (Educational Training Board) were contacted and workshop dates were confirmed. To date the group have participated in workshops such as woodturning, basket making, and many other activities. Last year the group made up a selection of hanging baskets and window boxes and sold them locally to raise funds for their insurance. Beara Womens Shed ethos is quite simple: ‘It is a place for women on the Beara Peninsula to socialise together, chat & share their skills in a supportive environment. It’s a space where women will feel welcome, encouraged by each other & inspired to develop, learn and share new skills in a range of arts & crafts. The Womens Shed also strives to be environmentally conscious & sustainable with a focus on utilising recycled materials’ .
We hope to reconvene after restrictions are lifted and continue with some projects , Gardening, walking and some more craftworks . For further details see our  facebook page ‘Beara Womens Shed’.
Midleton Women’s Shed (Cork) July 2019* Midleton Women’s Shed was established in 2019 in the summer, in the local community garden and we had our first meet ups in the big potting Shed. Initially we had 13 members and then up to 40 in the peak but regularily about 15 to 20 active members on weekly and sometimes twice a week meet ups. The aims of the group was to create safe and friendly space for women to meet up, exchange knowledge and skills and learn new ones throughout organized workshops that we had many over the time (tai chi, horticulture, confidence coaching, mindfulness, NIA dance, fermentation workshops, nature and art therapy and others). We still operate but due to the current situation our numbers are low – 9 members active on the whattsapp group, and only about 4 or 5 members coming to the meetings when the restrictions allow us to, and usually we have them outdoors. Our recent activities were forest school course, labyrinth building, mandala making, sound baths, NIA dance, callanetics. We are active on social media nearly every day, supporting each other and exchanging our knowledge and skills only if we can. I’m the coordinator of our group at the moment and my details are: Magda Swierczek: 0892350238
Our FACEBOOK page no longer operates.
‘I’d like to say that it’s been a life saver to be part of this group to myself and some other group members over the time since we operate and especially since the difficult times occured due to covid. The support is really amazing among our group. We also helped other groups to get their Shed started  in their communities.’
Mná na nDéise / Ennis Women’s Shed (Clare)

Mna Ag Gaire Ennis Women’s Shed (Clare)



FACEBOOK ‘Fifth in the world, 1st in Europe’, closed in 2017, ‘ask not want you can do for your shed, but what your shed can do for you’. Mná na nDéise was only open for about 9 months and operated out of the Men’s Shed. Closed permanently when the men had to move to another premises.

Mná Ag Gaire Ennis Women’s Shed was established in June 2020. At they beginning of the pandemic when it became obvious that nursing homes were having great difficulty in access PPE a call was put out to women of Clare to help producing scrubs and face masks. 50 women responded to the call and 13 care facilities in the area were subsequently supplied with PPE. During this time the social isolation that women were experiencing became apparent and the general consensus from the women was that they enjoyed being part of a big group and wanted to continue. To early 2021 are still operating online only, due to Covid. Mná Ag Gaire currently has 205 members. They have a physical location in Tracklands Business Park in Ennis that is currently used for storage and HQ activities only, they are hoping to have a big opening when covid restrictions allow are lifted. The main aims of Mná Ag Gaire are to provide a place to meet, share skills and combat loneliness for all women in Ennis, Co. Clare. Their mission is to ‘actively address social issues that affect women including poverty, inequality, discrimination, social exclusion by increasing their knowledge, skills, consciousness and confidence through our unique concept of combining a digital learning hub with a creative community space.’ Contact: Katharina Kruger and Hilary Tonge 0857563834 / 0872835769
private member group:
Instagram & Twitter @mnaaggaire

Castlebar Women’s Shed (Mayo) 2016* FACEBOOK: At Le Cheile Family Resource Centre; active to 2020, meets Mon & Wed: , +353 85 7296458. FACEBOOK: Opened in 2016. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 1pm – 5pm St Vincent De Paul premises, Pavillion Road, Castlebar.  Active until Covid. Temporarily closed early 2021 but plan to restart when Covid restrictions lift. The aim of shed is to promote social interaction and increase the quality of life and improve the overall wellbeing of all involved in the shed. Women are encouraged to learn new skills or if they have a skill, to share it, have fun while doing so and make good friends in the process. Castlebar Women’s Shed was set up for women of all ages to re-connect with the community. It is a safe place where women can interact with each other and participate in various learning projects. We offer arts and crafts, flower arranging, crochet and needle skills, and most importantly companionship’.  10 members.
T: +353 85 729 6458
Oasis Breffni Women’s Shed (Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim) June 2017* FACEBOOK: OASIS  open to ladies of all ages and meets every Friday, from 10am to 1pm, at Breffni Family Resource Centre in Carrick-on-Shannon. Activities are varied and include woodwork, pyrography, crafts, basic car maintenance, gardening, DIY, therapies, flower arranging and much more. A light lunch is provided each week. Oasis has 119 members. Tel: Suzanne at 071-9622566 Mobile: 086-0737454 Email: Awaiting response early 2021 to check current status
New Ross Women’s Shed (Wexford) 2016* FACEBOOK: closed in 2017 because they were not getting enough support to keep the Shed running.
Greencastle Community Women’s Shed (Donegal) 2020* Opened in 2020 and they were just starting to gather interest to see what content people wanted, day or evening etc., when Covid happened. They are temporarily closed because of Covid. When Covid restrictions lift, the group will meet at the Community Centre in Greencastle. The activities pursued in the Shed be defined by what the people want, but it is anticipate that this will involve courses and social activities. Contact Susan McAleer,  Manager. Greencastle Community Centre. T: 00353749381054
Rosses Women’s Shed / Sciobol Ban na Rosann (Donegal) Funded 2019* Active to 2020. Awaiting further information on aims of Shed, number of members etc  .Contact: Ann Marie O’Donnell: Cois Locha Community Centre, Gweedore Road, Dungloe Contact details: m: 0861583147 E:
Cró na bhFear Maighcuilinn  Women’s Shed (Galway) ?*


*This shed used to operate from the same building as the Men’s Shed (Cró na bhFear Maighcuilinn), but the Men’s Shed did think it would be possible to share a space with the women. They were concerned that sharing the workspace might cause tensions. They also thought if was not a good idea for insurance purposes. It was decided that it was better for the women to open up their own shed in the same building and not to share equipment. When the Men’s Shed (Cró na bhFear Maighcuilinn) had to move. premises , the Women’s Shed stayed but they never thrived after that and closed shortly thereafter.
Tomhaggard Women’s Shed (Wexford)


2015* Tomhaggard Women’s Shed TWS opened in June 2015. They have a membership of 48 ladies. The main body of women meet on Monday mornings from 10am -1pm. Women with specific interests meet at other times during the week and on a Monday (creative writing group, sewing group, art class, yoga, clay moulding). All these activities were ongoing until March 2020 when the country went into lockdown. Temporarily closed due to Covid, but since then members have been in constant contact through Zoom and Whats App. The main aims of the group are to provide a space for women in a very rural area to meet and socialise with each other, many of whom are neighbours and have been all their lives but have never had an opportunity to sit and chat and get to know each other properly. The committee try to provide a wide variety of activities, including having guest speakers pertaining to but not always about women’s issues, Amnesty International, Women’s Refuge, Pieta House to mention but a few. We also like to entertain other groups to learn from each other and share our interests. They have classes in everything from clay moulding ,art, sewing, quilling, yoga, tai chi, gardening, mosaics stained glass. The Women decide what they would like to try and the committee endeavour to find a tutor to facilitate their interests. Contact: Angela Byrn, Chairperson,  E: This Shed is included as a case study in Barry Golding’s forthcoming 2021 book.
Women’s Shed Cooley (Louth) 2015* CLOSED in 2017 FACEBOOK On the Cooley Peninsua, Cooley Sports Complex, Coffeys Tuesdays 7.30pm, no longer operating
Third Space Galway Women’s Shed (Galway) 2019 Received €1,542 in 2019 under the CEP fund to ‘Purchase of ICT equipment for use by the women’s shed in the delivery of a range of services’.  No other information available.
Strokestown Women’s Shed (Roscommon)


Aug 2018* Created Aug 2018 to bring women together, share skills and combat isolation. In November 2019, they had plans to connect with other Women’s Sheds in 2020. They had 88 members. Highly active to 2020, Tuesdays 2pm. Contact Ruth Jacob, Chairperson T: 089972 5741 E:
Edenderry Women’s Shed (Offaly)


2016* FACEBOOK: to be part of a group to share and learn crafts, art. DIY, personal development, Meets Fridays, active to 2020, awaiting email address & more information. On a weekly basis, different community groups use the Edenderry Community Cabin, including Edenderry Women’s Shed.  Contact Niamh McKernan, Offaly Local Development Company E: This Shed is included as a case study in Barry Golding’s forthcoming 2021 book.
Dunboyne Women’s Shed (Meath) ?* FACEBOOK, Awaiting email contact & more information. ‘to rekindle friendships, spark up new ones and there might be a cup of tea thrown in for good measure’. The group meet in Dunboyne Community Centre. Temporarily closed due to Covid-19. Contact Margaret 00353852126277
Deise Women’s Shed (Dungarven, Waterford) 2019* FACEBOOK: Our mission is to provide a forum where women can come together regularly to share skills, have a chat and socialise with other members. We also engage with community programmes and activities
‘180 women, the biggest such group in the country’, ‘set up to combat rural and social isolation’: Temporarily closed due to Covid early 2021Contact: Denise Flynn E: E:
T: +353 87 985 3716
Ballina Women’s Heritage Shed (Mayo) ?* FACEBOOK: Provide a welcoming positive environment for the women of Ballina & surrounding areas to meet and connect with each other, to share ideas and learn new skills, foster new friendships, participate in a range of activities and promote positive health and wellbeing. The group meets every Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm in the Ballina Training Centre, Mercy Road, Ballina. TE: T:+353 85 2732551 Awaiting response to query about current status.
Women’s Shed Belleek (Fermanagh) ?* FACEBOOK: Ladies 18+ in the Belleek area meet on a Monday night 7.30-9pm at Belleek Community Centre (playgroup building) to participate in various activities, drink tea, eat cake, learn new skills & have a laugh.
T: 0044 28 68659799 .  Requested further information.
Drumlish Balinamuck Women’s Shed (Longford). ? FACEBOOK, Awaiting email address and more information.
Dublin’s First Women’s Shed Open 2014* CLOSED 2015 Awaiting email address and more information.
Rosslare Women’s Shed (Wexford) Commenced mid 2010s*, CLOSED Awaiting email address and more information. Met on Wednesday 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. Contact: Jackie 087 6468677 or Paula 086 7870696
The Hen’s Shed, Kircubben (County Down, NI) ?* ‘Forget Men’s Shed we have Hen’s Shed. Meeting up weekly to meet new people, socialise and have fun. You will build confidence and improve your mental health and wellbeing. Meet weekly at Kircubbin Community Centre, spin room every Tuesday. Activities include: arts and crafts, gardening, flower arranging, boccia and bingo’. T: 004428 427 39021.
Requested information on current status.
 Kilcommon Women’s Shed (Tipperary) ?*
Meets every Thursday at Teach Greannai at 7pm.
Activities include gardening, woodwork, crafts, computer skills and DIY. The Women’s Shed would run on the same principles as the Men’s Shed as non-profit organisations, to advise and improve the overall wellbeing of all women. Request for further information sent to Teach Greannai
The Hen’s Shed, (Richill, Armagh NI) ?* The Hens’ Shed is located on Main Street Richhill Co Armagh. As a nod to the Men’s Shed organisation, where men meet and socialise, the Hens are also involved in craft work – plate decorating, crochet, sewing, glass decoration and paper art to name but a few skills being practised; eventually they want to establish an enterprise to sell the products they make.
Although open all week, they meet together every Wednesday afternoon to take advantage of the wellbeing room for massage, reflexology, salt therapy and nail art. There’s a healthy connection between the two Sheds: the women paint and decorate for the men, the men create wooden pieces such as tables and benches for the ladies. The Hen’s Shed is designed to help women experiencing mental health issues, a lack of confidence or low self-esteem Contact: Shirley Agnew
07885513497  Requested further information
Sallins Women’s Shed, Kildare 2019 Kildare’s very first women’s shed. Sallins Women’s Shed was formed in 2019 to bring local women together for personal development and mutual support. Before COVID-19, meetings took place twice a week and a real buzz was building around the first women’s shed in County Kildare. During COVID-19, workshops have been provided free and delivered via Zoom. The members continue to stay in touch and hope to get back to face-to-face meetings soon. Total members: 263. For more information  e-mail
Drumlish Ballinamuck Women’s Shed, Longford 2019 There is limited evidence available for this shed, but it is likely that it operates from Drumlish Men’s Shed. Their Facebook page notes, it is a “community group which welcomes women of all ages and nationalities. We offer a safe and inviting atmosphere for all women to get together where they can share and improve skills.” Awaiting further information .

Table 3: UK

(30 UK Women’s Sheds on list: 22 contacted; 25 evidence of  being open at some stage)

Name of Shed (Location) Established (*Open) Publicly available information
Bellshill Women’s Shed (Uddingston, Glasgow, Scotland) 2018* Women’s DIY Workshop, Co-hosted by Bellshill Men’s Shed. FACEBOOK  , +44 7851 932293, Awaiting email response & more information, Wed & Fri 11.30-2.30pm.
Whitby Women’s Shed (The She Shed) (North Yorkshire, England) Dec 2017* Whitby Women’s Shed is one of five sheds set up by Whitby District Sheds, a registered charity.  All the sheds welcome women but two are specifically for women: Whitby Women’s Shed and Staithes Women’s Shed. Whitby Women’s Shed started about 5 months after Sleights Area Men’s Shed (SAMS) in 2016 when SAMS arranged a trial women’s workshop using the lathe. ‘Nicknamed the “She Shed”, it was planned and organised over a 6 month period and has been operational since Dec. 2017. It has already had an impact on the outlook of individual She Shedders in a way very similar to that of SAMS with men. Reduced isolation, raised confidence, motivation and hope. Whitby Women’s Shed has been under the wing of SAMS, funded through Asda/RVS Shed Programme and Two Ridings Community Foundation. The plan is to transition to Shed Coordinators to oversee the She Shed day to day before a separate constitution and trustee body is set up. Expansion to two shed days a week is on the cards.’ Within the Shed, women take part in a range of activities including crafts such as knitting, as well as using the lathe, table saw, chop saw and joining in with whatever is going on. There are approximately seven women in Whitby Women’s Shed. They are aged 60+. They do not have any paid staff, only volunteers. Everyone pays £4 per session. The covers rental cost of the shed. The shed in March 2021 was closed due to Covid but members keep in tough via zoom three times a week – twice for conversation and once for doing something things like cookery and quizzes. Contact: E: T: 07763656627
Sheffield She Shed (South Yorkshire, England) *
Sheffield She Shed: Open Friday’s – 10am – 1pm – William Sutton Community Hall, 14 Dunella Road, Sheffield S6 4EG
She Shed Association:



Barnsley She Shed (South Yorkshire)

Launched 8 March 2017. (International Women’s Day) Open before COVID19*; Targeting older women. Used as a  women’s ‘maker place case study’ by Dr Busayawan Lam of Brunel University. Post about opening: . Contact: Sandra . The She Shed is a larger communal version of the typical shed in a garden. A place where women feel at home and pursue practical interests in company, with a high degree of autonomy. Hobbies shape women’s personalities, energise, inspire and connect them with other like-minded women. Expressing one’s creativity often ends up giving life its meaning. For women, there also seems to be a universal desire to express creativity. Women have an insatiable desire to shape order from chaos & to create things that never existed before. They want to produce magic with paints, wool & glass or create beauty with words and music.The She Shed Association is a communal place of skill-sharing & informal learning, of individual pursuits and community projects, of purpose, achievement & social interaction. It is a place of leisure, where women come together to engage in enjoyable activities. This avoids the challenges created by the sense of loneliness that affects especially older people who have been active all their lives & find it difficult to create new relationships in a world which is changing so quickly. Very strong association with the Barnsley Men’s Shed and Sheffield Men’s Shed, sharing the woodwork workshop facilities in Barnsley. The Sheds have  funding from the National Lottery Covid19 fund to pilot remote livestreaming of workshops. Also to purchase Facebook Portals to give out to Shedders, so they can participate remotely. The pilot started July 2020 and is due to be completed by Dec 2020. A SHED LIVESTREAMING DIARY will be available on the   website as well as on the  linked to the main  website. Barnsley She Shed meets on Tuesday and Wednesday 11am – 4pm in the Pavillion, Worsbrough Community Park, Worsbrough, Barnsley, Contact Sandra Tel: 07989 384 528. The She Shed Association is included as a case study in Barry Golding’s forthcoming 2021 book.
Horndean Ladies Shed (Waterlooville, Hampshire, England) * Horndean Ladies Shed  meets on Monday evenings and Friday afternoons in Waterlooville Hampshire PO8 9LJ.  It is open to anyone in the Portsmouth area. Carol Smith, Contact person, 02392597114. ) Awaiting a response to telephone message requesting more information & email address.
Moss Side Women’s Shed (Manchester) Open, suspended due to COVID19* The Boiler House, funded by ‘Ambition for Ageing’,  15 members, Woodwork & furniture restoration, Open Thurs 12.30-2.30pm: Shed Contact: Emily Corner ‘Brings women together to learn & share new practical skills, empower & build confidence. Sessions focus mainly on woodwork & furniture restoration, but participants are free to bring their own interests & ideas to the group. Open to all – based in diverse Moss Side area. As only women attending, this encourages participation of women from many cultural and BAME [Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic] backgrounds.A Men’s Shed began on the site first: calls for a women’s equivalent encouraged  women to open a  Women’s Shed. ‘Our Women’s and Men’s Sheds are run by an experienced trainer, teaching practical skills, tool use and tool safety. We are able to support the continuation of the group through various grant funding.’ Awaiting response to email for further information.
Colwyn Bay She-Shed (Conwy, Wales) 9 Jan 2018*
Colwyn Bay She-Shed  started on back of a Men’s Shed cancer morning in 2018, with a group of women developing am interest in attending the Shed.   There was some opposition from some men in the Men’s Shed to the idea of women attending.  As a compromise, to enable the women to use the Men’s Shed rooms and lathes etc., they offered the women a separate slot on a Monday evening.  On Thursday morning 2-3 Men’s Shed members teach how to use the equipment and make items safely. They have between 6-12 women, aged  50+.   They started Thursday evenings as a new venture of joint usage, with about 15 regular members, varying because of holidays, illness & work commitments. Although Colwyn Bay She-Shed  operates within the Men’s Shed, they are independent.  They set up their own bank account, developed their own constitution, and they make all decisions about what to do and make.   They are temporarily closed due to Covid-19 , but keeping in contact via technology.  Ann Williams, Chairperson: NO EMAIL YET  Awaiting response to request for further information for Simon Poole, Development Officer, North Wales.
MissPlaces – Women’s Shed(Wigan, Manchester, England) * We are a Women’s Sheds project, supporting women across the Wigan Borough, to be entrepreneurial and develop new skills. Projects include Art, Crafts, Homemaking skills (Knitting and Sewing), Gardening, DIY skills, amongst many. A place for Women to socialise and learn new skills, and reduce Women in Isolation. A chance to share skills and make products as part of the Made in Wigan project. It doesn’t matter what skill level you are at, we welcome any Women over 16 who would like to learn new skills Funded via Wigan Councils The Deal for Communities Investment Fund. Location: Platt Bridge Community Zone, 81 Ribble Road, Platt Bridge, Wigan WN2 5EGAmanda Robinson, Director, 07738114389: Awaiting email response & more information.
The Sheds (Paisley, Scotland)*


Feb 2019* Janice MacNamara,  reported in July 2020 that ‘the Women’s Shed is run out of Foxbar Youth Centre, Findhorn Avenue Paisley. The Men’s Shed had been running since Oct 2015, the Women’s Shed started as result of how well the Men’s Shed was doing & an identified need in the community. On 6 Feb 2020 the men’s & women’s sheds became “The Sheds”, still meeting on separate days, Mondays for men and Thursday for women although they will be involved together at times, e.g. for community events, skill sharing and learning, running of children’s summer camp and yearly Christmas parties. They have a constitution, a bank account and formed their own board of trustees and committee. As of February 2021 they will be applying for funding under The Sheds and will be self sufficient. During Covid19 The Sheds stopped meeting but have a weekly zoom meeting; also formed a Facebook page (The Sheds Foxbar) holding interesting conversations, sharing knowledge, learn and supporting each other. All men and women from Renfrewshire over 16 years can attend The Sheds, it is free to attend, tea, coffee &  lunch provided along with a welcoming smile. Men Shed Monday 11-3.30;  Women Shed Thursday 11- 3.’ Walking group, every first Saturday of the month. Allotment members can attend anytime’. The women’s shed in 2021  is run by Deborah Hamilton, a volunteer with Foundations First, a housing support service run by Shelter Scotland with funding from the STV Children’s Appeal.  Ages from 16 up are welcome. For more information, contact: Janice MacNamara on 07471812774 or email her on
Aspire Ryde (Isle of Wight, England) * Come and learn new skills, use our tools and workshop to make items of your choice. Woodwork items you make, can be taken home or sold in the art gallery. Men only: Tuesdays, 10.30-3.30pm, Weds 10.30-1pm; People with additional needs: Wednesdays, 1-3pm; Women only: Fridays, 1pm-4pm; Woodwork, Women only Fri 1-4. Heath Monaghan (now CEO of Aspire Ryde), together with a local community group, took ownership of the Holy Trinity Church in Paisley in February 2014 and developed Aspire Ryde; a social hub for the local community, gain a feeling of belonging, regardless of gender, age, mental health or employment status. Aspire Ryde achieve this through delivering numerous music and creative arts groups, with a number of sessions dedicated to improving wellbeing a ‘Men in Sheds’ and ‘Women in Sheds’ group which encourage men and women to be useful with their hands. For example, through the refurbishment of donated bicycles, they build up friendships and provide peer support, which helps to reduce social isolation. Aspire Ryde also hires out areas within the hub for client meetings, parties and events, in addition to running a café and pop up restaurant; selling paint donated by manufacturers to other community groups or local members of the community; and selling donated furniture and bicycles refurbished by the Men in Sheds group. The business now sees around 2500 people utilising its services every week and turnover increased from around £20,000 in the first year to over £100,000 in 2016. For further information, contact: Awaiting email contact & more information.
Gerald’s Room Duiss Shed (Duiss, South Norfolk) Open 2018* Gerald’s Room Diss, Norfolk IP22 4HG. ‘Men’s groups operating, both daytime and evening. A women’s group is also operating and focusing on furniture upcycling. For further information, phone: +07938 005999.Adrian Roy reported in July 2020 that the Diss Shed ‘had a group of women who were very keen to upcycle furniture and work on mainly wood related projects. They asked to use our facilities. The group ran for around two years on a Thursday morning. They enjoyed upcycling the furniture running alongside our sister project – a furniture bank, and worked on projects such as wooden toys, jigsaw puzzles, Christmas tree decorations etc. The main leader of the group had to step down due to ill health and the group stopped meeting around two years ago’. The women’s group appears to have stopped meeting in 2021.
Women’s Shed / Group (Swansea, South Wales) ? Awaiting email contact & more information.
Bolton Women in Sheds Project (Manchester, England) 2018  attempts to raise funds to start a women’s shed In May 2018, Jean Urmston, a support worker from Bolton wrote, ‘Men in Sheds projects are a proven model in helping to bring about confidence, well being and the learning of new and useful skills for men who are socially isolated. We have been asked by many women during the last year if there are going to be any Women in Sheds projects running in the local area, such has been the response from women that I have decided to meet this need by organising and running two weekly sessions in Bolton covering basic construction, food growing, make do and mend and furniture and clothing upcycling. Funds raised will be spent on construction tools,, sowing machines, horticultural resources, session tutors. If successful we will run two weekly sessions over a one year period and will provide regular blogs and videos so people can watch the project develop.’
No other information available on this shed –it is presumed to be inactive.
Cockermouth Women in Sheds (Cumbria, England) * Women in Sheds 93 Main Street Cockermouth, Weekly Tuesdays 1.00pm-4.00pm. For more information contact Age UK: 01900 844680 Age UK: 01900 844680 Project Cumbria, England, FACEBOOK,
Awaiting email contact & more information.
Winsford Women’s Shed  (Norwich, England) 2019* A WOMEN in Sheds project has held its last session in Hartford (June 2019) ahead of a move to Winsford, where it will run for two sessions a week rather than one. The Age UK programme began as a six-month pilot in 2017 and went from strength to strength. It aimed to offer women opportunities of learning new skills and forming new friendships. The final official session was held in Hartford on Friday, although its members are now reaching out to the community to try and source funding to carry on independently.’ One member said: “We were only told three weeks ago with five weeks’ notice, so it was a complete shock to us “It’s a real shame. It’s such a good community spirit we have here “A lot of women have the same issues as men but a lot have additional carer responsibilities as well. They are isolated and the group really does make the difference. “If there is no alternative here in Hartford we really want to set up an independent community group for the Friday sessions – we don’t want to stop. “We would need some funding, and some help with running the sessions.” Another member added: “We are all very sad because some of us can’t get to Winsford – not all of us have the transport of the time to get there. It’s such a shame because it’s a little lifeline for a lot of members. “The Men in Sheds sessions at Hartford, held four days a week from Monday to Thursday, will continue unaffected. Lucy Welsh, from Age UK, said: “We set up Women in Sheds as a pilot in 2017 – we had a small avenue of funding to deliver sessions for the women on Fridays. “We have since opened a completely separate shed in Winsford, and the idea was always going to be that it would be two days a week in Winsford. “The provision is not disappearing, but rather moving from Northwich to Winsford and opening two days a week rather than one. “If the women want to come to Winsford then that’s great, but we would be really keen to support them to set up in their own right in Northwich in the future.” Anyone who can offer support or advice with funding for the existing Women in Sheds Hartford members can email: Requested further information from , NO EMAIL YET
Leeds Women in Sheds Project, (West Yorkshire, England) ? , information available on this Shed.  Awaiting email contact & more information.
Penge Women in Sheds Project, (Bromley, London, England) 2014* Penge Shed Kingsdale House Kingsdale Road Penge SE20 7PR. Open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 till 15:30 (Thursday is Women in Sheds) Men In Sheds Penge was set up in 2014 initially as one day a week; its popularity became immediately obvious. Now opened three days a week it’s a busy and vibrant environment, recognised by many as a valuable community resource. Mainly a wood workshop, commissions have ranged from a full size Tardis, elephants, reindeer, and a whole range of planters and benches. Members can work together on the various commissions, work on their own projects or just drink a cuppa and put the world to rights. For further information call: 020 8294 3017.
Tunbridge Wells Women’s Shed, (Kent, England) ? FACEBOOK,, Awaiting email contact & more information.
Whaplode She Shed (Lincolnshire, England) ?  Pam 07376060440, Awaiting email contact & more information.
Bromley & Greenwich Women’s Shed (London, England) 2018* Women in Sheds is a pilot initiative which started in 2018. Women over 50 are welcome to attend and learn woodworking. Planned activities include recycling second-hand materials into gardening containers, trugs, bird tables and boxes. Volunteers with an interest or experience in any of the following are welcome: sourcing recyclable items, woodwork, design, marketing or IT skills.  Any men or women aged over 50 and interested in joining Age UK Bromley and Greenwich’s Men in Sheds or pilot Women in Sheds groups can contact them at 020 8294 3013 Telephone: 020 8315 1878 Email:
Woolwich Women’s Shed (London, England) 2015* Woolwich Women’s Shed, YMCA Thames Gateway,
Antelope Road, The Dockyard (off Woolwich Church Street), Woolwich, SE18 5QG. Open Tuesday (Women in Sheds) and Wednesday 10:00 till 15:30 The Woolwich Men’s Shed opened in 2015 in the Woolwich Dockyard YMCA. Small but well equipped it is less industrial than the other sheds with the emphasis on craft based projects. Our many activities include picture framing, toy making, guitar making and repairs alongside standard items such as bird boxes, bug hotels, planters and other garden products In 2018, they started the Women’s Shed. Sue, 60, an ex-design and technology teacher was one of the first to sign up. “There’s a lot of job satisfaction in making things, but the social side is a big part of it too,” she says. “A lot of the ladies meet up outside too and during lockdown we all kept in touch and supported each other.” Project Co-ordinators on 020 8294 3017. Awaiting email contact & more information.
Women’s Shed Porth (Wales) 2016* Women’s Shed Porth is supported by SHEDNET, a local charity set up in 2016 to help valley people establish Men and Women Shed facilities and activities. ‘One of the projects they run is THE SHED which is a relaxing and friendly place to enjoy quality food and drink, support community activity and create work related learning opportunities for local people. The first Men Shed we supported was the Porth Men Shed which was a woodworking facility. This was very successful and surprisingly women asked if it was possible to open a WOMEN SHED! We hadn’t thought of that at the time but why not and we did with the opening of the Porth Women Shed . who are separate SHEDS but still work closely together.’ As with all people SHEDS are suffering from the effects of COVID-19 and it is clear that in years to come many more people will suffer from social isolation. This DIGITAL SHED has been created to support our existing SHEDS; support the opening of new SHEDS and more importantly to support our individual members – our SHEDDERS  Women’s Shed Porth meets on a Monday and Friday 9:30-12 noon 12:30-2:00pm. They are based at TABS. Penhiwgwynt Road, Porth.Tel: 01443 682312.
Contact: Paul Nagle, E: T: 07895791461
Awaiting email repose to request for further information.
Biggin Hill Independent Shed, Women in Sheds (London, England) Feb 2019* In February 2019, it was reported that Biggin Hill-based DIY group Men in Sheds is throwing open its doors to women in a bid to build on its membership now that Lottery funding has dried up. The go-getting group of over-fifties, who meet on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10am to 3pm at the Youth Centre in Church Road, are so determined to keep their weekday workshop going, they have now agreed to offer their sacred space to females with a flair for making things on Fridays from March 1. Men In Sheds chairman Peter Martin, 67, says the idea was initially met with resistance but members realise it is for the greater good of the project, saying: “We had a choice, either to close down or continue. Many of us have invested a lot of time in it, so we don’t want it to close.” Biggin Hill Councillor Melanie Stephens, who was instrumental in initially setting up the “shed”, is confident women with a creative side will enjoy learning how to use hand tools and machines, under the careful guidance of the volunteers. She said: “It’s something a bit different and learning how to use the machinery. It’s also about companionship not just about DIY.” The group, which produces all manner of recycled goods made from wood, and offers a repair service on site, is open to anyone over 50 and is just a £2 per session. For more information visit their Facebook page: in Sheds is available on a Friday. Tel: 07763215037 E:
Frome Women’s Shed (Somerset, England) Public meeting April 2018, open 2020* The Frome Women’s Shed (is an offshoot of the Frome Men’s Shed). Frome Women’s Shed meet ‘to make and mend things together, learn new skills, make friends, work on their own projects and on projects that benefit the community. Men are not excluded, and we have valuable help from some of our Men Shedders. The over-riding purpose of the Shed is social contact, and for forming friendships.’ Some of the projects we undertake are traditionally ‘female’ ones, but this is no bar to one or two men who have joined us, and who have been seen using sewing machines! There are always some of us busy in the machine room with woodwork projects , and some of the men’s shedders generously assist us on occasions with those. Most of the time the members’ own projects are carried out, sometimes these are in a group, and sometimes individuals just work side by side – and there is always chatter and laughter in the room. The most important thing is that people have met each other and made friends, for many there has been relief from stress, and sometimes from isolation, imposed by changing circumstances.
The equipment we have includes sewing machines and some art supplies as well as the workshop tools and benches, and here are some of our activities, many of which are illustrated on our Facebook pages: Machine sewing / Beautiful hardwood bread and cheese boards / Making quilts for poorly babies / Fiddle mitts for dementia patients / A full size wooden rocking horse / Linocutting and printing / Macrame wall hangings and pot holders / Christmas wreaths with natural materials / Drawing, painting / Whittling / Use of hand tools in woodwork / Use of portable machine tools / Rag Doll making / Bird boxes, bat boxes / Wooden games kits for children to build / Upcycling furniture / Chair caning and Upholstery. Frome Women’s Shed is open from 9am to 1pm every Monday at the Welsh Mill, Park Hill Drive, Frome, BA11 2LE. For further information, contact Ros on 07500-061624 or by email to
Rhyl Women’s Shed (Rhyl, Wales) Jan 2019* Simon Poole, Development Officer for North Wales reported in July 2020 that it is ‘an offshoot from Rhyl Men’s Shed, who early in 2020 took on the lease of a derelict pub in the middle of the town not a functioning pub) and converted it into a community Hub, hosting the Men’s Shed two days a week, the Women’s Shed one day and a youth group (much needed) two evenings.’ The age group is mixed, started from 20 years plus. Rhyl Women’s Shed is a joint venture run by the staff of Brighter Futures Rhyl and Co-options. Brighter Futures is a Charitable Incorporated Association support local children, young people, families and the older generation to actively participate in community activities, address local issues and influence decisions that affect our lives. Co-options is a social enterprise for ‘Connecting people with Learning Disabilities to opportunities’. ‘Brighter Futures in Rhyl have been successfully managing Rhyl Men’s Shed for a few years and a few of the staff felt that it was time they introduced a Women’s Shed to Rhyl. It is an informal Ladies Group, Which is run from Brighter futures house 29-33 Abbey Street Rhyl. It provides a place where women can meet and do as much or as little as you want, take part in various activities and courses if you wish or just drop in for a cuppa and a chat! So why not pop in on Wednesday and see what you think. We are open from 10am till 2 pm and the kettle is always on.’ Awaiting a response for request for further information from Simon Poole.
Redcar [Men’s & Women’s] Shed (North Yorkshire, England) 2018* Redcar Women’s Shed is part of Redcar Men’s Shed. Redcar Women’s Shed started in 2018, with one session a week for women. The activities included things like how to fit a socket, how to change a fuse, how to restart Wi-Fi. Then they got into how to use to use the tools, e.g. bandsaw, hand tools etc. Now all new members go through this training on use of tools, male and female. The manager John Lambert, employed to run the shed by Footprints in the Community, a charitable organisation in Redcar, asked the women if they wanted to mix with the men. This would have meant that the women could come into the shed 4 days a week instead of one. The women said no – they said they were involved in different activities from the men and felt it was better to keep it separate. John said Covid changed all this – they have now amalgamated the sheds. Prior to lockdown, they ran mixed sessions from Monday to Thursday 9am-2pm. To ensure social distancing, the number of members in the Shed was limited and all sessions were pre-booked in advance. Since lockdown, everyone has been working remotely, running the shed through zoom calls, with everyone working together sharing videos and advising each other. One woman has built her own workshop based on help and advice from all the members. There are approximately 30 women members, aged from late 20s up to 76 years. Membership is £15 per year (pro rata). Each session (of up to five hours) costs £2.50, including tea/coffee. John Lambert reported that the lesson from shutdown is working together is the way forward. Going forward the shed will be known as Redcar Shed going forward. There will be no mention of men or women in the name. Contact John Lambert. T: 07526 994468
Staiths Women’s Shed (The She Shed)(North Yorkshire, England) 2018* Staithes Women’s Shed is one of five sheds set up by Whitby District Sheds, a registered charity. Two of these sheds are for women; Whitby Women’s Shed and Staithes Women’s Shed.  The Staithes Women’s Shed is open on Thursdays (10am – 1.30pm) in the outbuilding to the rear of the Staithes Sports and Social Club. This Shed opened in 2018.
Within the shed, women take part in a range of activities including crafts such as knitting, as well as using the lathe, table saw, chop saw and joining in with whatever is going on. They are aged 60+.
They do not have any paid staff, only volunteers. Everyone pays £4 per session. The membership cover rental cost of the shed. The shed is currently closed due to Covid but member keep in tough via zoom three times a week – twice for conversation and once for doing something things like cookery and quizzes. Contact: E: T: 07763656627
Women in Sheds, Charnwood (Leicestershire, England) * Women in Sheds, Charnwood. Building on the success of the Men’s Shed and in response to local demand, Age UK also offer a ‘Women in Sheds project in Charnwood to open up this creative space to women who would like to share tools and resources in working on projects of their own choosing, at their own pace and in a safe, friendly and inclusive venue. Our Shed is a place for skill sharing and informal learning, of individual pursuits and community projects, of purpose, achievement and social interaction. It’s a venue for women to get stuck into hobbies old and new, get creative and make new friendship.’ Suggested projects include activities as varied as: • Woodworking (e.g. carpentry, joinery, turning, carving, whittling, marquetry, furniture renovation, picture frames, garden furniture, bird boxes, Xmas/Easter ornaments) • Electronics • Bike repair • Arts/crafts (painting, calligraphy, pottery) • Gardening • Upholstery • Music (singing/playing instruments) • Sports/leisure – pool, skittles, carpet bowls, darts, dominoes, cards • Model trains, boats, planes, cars etc. • IT/communication – computers, languages.
There will be a small contribution towards refreshments and other day-to-day expenses, but apart from that all facilities are free of charge. Martin Gladders—Men in Sheds Co-ordinator 01509 211 603 or 07738 820 988 E:
Awaiting response to email request for further information.
Women in Sheds, Winsford (Cheshire, England)

Whaplode She Shed (Lincolnshire, England)


June 2018*

‘There has always been a demand for women in sheds and following a successful pilot at Hartford Shed, our project is now based at Winsford where the project enables ladies to learn new skills, share skills with each other and to come together and create things to raise revenue for the shed.’ Women in Sheds are keen to start attending craft fairs and have a wealth of ideas which are so far proving to be popular. Women in Sheds are supported by our team of volunteers at our Winsford Shed and have been learning pen making, making trugs and planters and learning to use a range of equipment since Winsford Shed opened its doors in April 2019. Please note that Women in Sheds is based at our Winsford shed on a Monday and Tuesday. The shed address is, Lorien House, Darnhall School Lane, Winsford, CW7 1J
If you are interested in joining Women in Sheds please contact our coordinator Neil Corbin Tel: 01606 860728

On 21 June 2018, it was reported that Pamela Medwren was holding a garden party for women in Whaplode to launch a new group she’s called She Shed. Pamela said she ‘wants to open a ladies version of the Men in Sheds groups set up as an attempt to avoid loneliness where people can come together to learn skills and take part in activities together. To raise awareness and funds she’s organising the garden party at her home on Saturday (June 23) where she hopes potential members will join her to discuss how the She Shed might evolve and the activities its members take part.’ Pamela has some men’s groups to get ideas and says she will look to get the group doing a host of different activities at each session. She said: “I’ve spoken to a few people already who are interested in the She Shed.“We’d eventually like a place where we can meet every week and keep a lot of equipment at for those activities. That’s something the likes of the Women’s Institute don’t have and we’d like to work with groups like that as it progresses. “To launch it now in the year of the 100th anniversary would be fitting, It would be a place where mum’s and their daughters could come together and learn crafts and techniques together.”For further information on the She Shed, contact Pamela on: 07376060440 NO EMAIL YET

Table 4: New Zealand (3 Women’s Sheds:  all open at some time; 2 contacted)

Name of Shed (Location) Established Publicly available information
The Sheila’s Shed, Kawerau (Bay of Plenty) NZ 2017* FACEBOOK, 10 Aug 2017, Founders Tracey & Anne ‘believe the disposable economy we live in can’t sustain itself and want the Sheilas’ Shed to be not only a creative hub, but also a place where people can learn to make life easier for themselves by learning new skills. Was operating from the founders’ homes, a funding application had been submitted and, if successful, would allow the Sheila’s Shed to set up shop in Kawerau’s old Post Office building’. Had open day March 2018 at  2  Ranfurly Court (old PO), Awaiting email contact.
DIY Shed Rotorua 7-11 Dinsdale Street, Mangakakahi, Rotorua 3015, NZ [Originally established as ‘Women’s Shed Rotorua’], 2017*; Proposed start of ‘DIY Shed Rotorua,’ 23 Jan 2021
Formerly known as ‘Women’s Shed Rotorua’, but moved away from using ‘Women’ in the name because of unhelpful comparisons that can be made between ‘Women’s Sheds’ and ‘Men’s Sheds. Set up by DIY Shed Aotearoa Charitable Trust: a national body whose primary role is to support building sheds to serve their communities well.” Contact – Jocelyn Jacobs (Founder & Chairperson)
Website details are coming.
DIY Shed, Tauranga NZ Proposed Start, 13 February 2021* Proposed second Shed established by DIY Shed Aotearoa Charitable Trust, see above: details to be confirmed. Contact -Jocelyn Jacobs (Founder & Chairperson),
Website details are coming.
Castlebar Women’s Shed (Mayo) 2016* FACEBOOK: At Le Cheile Family Resource Centre; active to 2020, meets Mon & Wed:, +353 85 7296458.
Oasis Breffni Women’s Shed Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim) * Meets once a month based out of the Breffni Family Resource Centre
New Ross Women’s Shed (Wexford) 2016 FACEBOOK:closed in 2017
Greencastle Community Women’s Shed (Donegal) Funded 2019 Awaiting email contact
Rosses Women’s Shed / Sciobol Ban na Rosann (Donegal) Funded 2019 Active to 2020, Awaiting email address
Inver Women’s Shed Project (Mayo) Awaiting email contact, Ann Conway contact person,
Tomhaggard Women’s Shed (Wexford) 2016, Funded Jan 2020* FACEBOOK, Meet Monday 10am-1pm in the old schoolhouse: Awaiting email contact
Women’s Shed Cooley (Louth) 2015 FACEBOOK On the Cooley Peninsua, Cooley Sports Complex, Coffeys Tuesdays 7.30pm, no longer operating
Third Space Galway Women’s Shed (Galway) 2019 likely in staggered occupancy with Cró na bhFear Maighcuilinn  {Men’s Shed], received funding 2019
Strokestown Women’s Shed (Roscommon); started 2018, highly active to 2020, Tuesdays 2pm. Awaiting contact and email address.
Edenderry Women’s Shed (Offaly) 2016* FACEBOOK, to be part of a group to share and learn crafts, art. DIY, personal development, Meets Fridays, active to 2020, awaiting contact and email address
Dunboyne Women’s Shed (Meath) FACEBOOK, Awaiting email contact. ‘to rekindled friendships, spark up new ones and there might be a cup of tea thrown in for good measure’.
Deise Women’s Shed (Dungarven, Waterford) 2019* ‘180 women, the biggest such group in the country’, ‘set up to combat rural and social isolaton’: Awaiting email contact.

Mount Franklin Spring

The real story behind Mount Franklin mineral water!

View north along the elevated area that includes some overgrown Lime Kiln foundations. Limestone Creek is to the right. The shed in the right background is part of the abandoned ‘Mount Franklin’ mineral water pumping infrastructure.

View west across the largely mined out lime tufa quarry (where the spiny rush is growing). The elevated area beyond includes overgrown stone foundations of the Lime Kilns. Limestone Creek runs south along the near side of the background eucalypts.

Early Lime Kilns and Spring on Limestone Creek:

The forgotten story behind ‘Mount Franklin’ Mineral Water

Barry Golding*, Andrew Shugg & Stephen Carey*

*Federation University, Australia

A tantalising line in squatter, John Hepburn’s diary on 5 March 1848, cited in a biography of Hepburn (Quinlan 1968, p. 145) provoked Barry Golding’s interest several decades ago. It read simply, ‘Sent Harry to Jim Crow for a load of lime’. Jim Crow in the 1840s was the name of the district around present-day Mount Franklin in central Victoria north of Daylesford. The mountain was likely Lalgambook to Dja Dja Wurrung people, but before 1843 was widely referred to as ‘Jim Crow Hill’. Given there were likely only very limited limestone bands within the Lower Ordovician bedrock, it led to questions about whether, where and how the lime used to help build Hepburn’s mansion in 1848 was manufactured locally during the 1840s, and from which local limestone deposits.

Our article seeks to bring together all that is known to answer these questions and draw some conclusions about ‘what next’ for the site. We tease out the fascinating history of the mineral spring that quite recently lends its name to the best-known bottled water in Australia, now branded ‘Mount Franklin’ and owned by Coca Cola Amatil. It also chronicles the history of the adjacent former Lime Kilns located within the footprint of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate (1841-49). We also identify how the associated deposits of limestone were likely formed, mined and turned into lime for building until the 1870s.

Given Mount Franklin’s stated commitment to ‘do the right thing’, we identify an opportunity for  the site’s unique history and heritage to be acknowledged and for a publicly accessible mineral spring to be restored on the site.


We are grateful for the advice and assistance of local historians, Eric Sartori, Gary Lawrence, David Bannear and David Endacott. We thank the current owners of the spring and Lime Kiln site, Frank and Linda Carroll, for giving us permission to access the privately owned site. This is a work in progress and we welcome new information and advice about any of the many gaps in our account.

Location and land status

The Limestone Creek Spring, also called ‘Gilmores/ Gilmour’s’ and more recently ‘Mount Franklin’, is one of many previously recorded mineral springs, most of which occur within 50 km of the Daylesford and Hepburn Springs region, that is promoted as the ‘Spa capital of Australia’.

The Limestone Spring and what we now confirm as the adjacent Lime Kiln site and limestone tufa deposit are in 2020 located immediately south-west of the present junction between the Midland Highway and Limestone Track in the Parish of Yandoit, within the northern part of the Hepburn Shire. The privately owned site fronts onto the west side of the Midland Highway and the east bank of Limestone Creek, 17 km north of Daylesford and 10 km south of Guildford.

Limestone Track to the east historically continued to the north west of the site, approximately paralleling Limestone Creek for several kilometres until it merged with Whitlock’s Road. The former northerly continuation of the Limestone Track is clearly visible in contemporary aerial photos. The current bitumen ‘Limestone Road’ connects Yandoit and the Midland Highway south of Guildford.

In the 1970s the mineral spring was in a privately owned paddock just west of the Midland Highway .The mineral water flowed out of a large pipe close to ground level with occasional large and audible gas bubbles, therefore also called ‘The Bullfrog’ by some locals. Locals then suggested that some of the rubble amongst the blackberries on the site was derived from the former Lime Kilns.

The Lime Kilns appear on several survey and geological maps produced between the late 1840s and the 1860s. The Lime Kilns were marked on Crown Allotment 3, Section 6A (previously section 6) of an 1862 survey map, but the mineral spring was not located. Thomas Fleming was the Crown Grantee in 1862 via purchase at a Crown Land Sale. The site was purchased by the current owners on 20 October 1987. In 2020, the site includes a  shallow, hummocky depression, where the original lime tufa deposits have been mined, and the stone foundations of several former Lime Kilns. An adjacent area to the south enclosed by a high wire fence includes former mineral water tanks and associated shedding from the 1980s. This was the former site of the mineral spring.

The historical evidence base from the 1840s

John Hepburn’s 1848 diary entry about lime being obtained from Jim Crow suggested that the Lime Kilns were operating during the late 1840s. The Jim Crow district of the 1840s referred to the area around Mount Franklin, including the 50 square mile Aboriginal Protectorate that operated from 1841-49 within an approximate 5 mile (8km) radius centred on present day Franklinford.

Detailed mapping of The boundaries of the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Reserve by Claude Culvenor in 1992 confirmed that the Mineral Spring and adjacent Lime Kilns were well within the Aboriginal Protectorate when its boundaries were surveyed in 1849. This being the case, it seemed likely there would be some mention of the Lime Kilns in the voluminous correspondence of the Aboriginal Protectorate.

The ‘smoking gun’ as to how, why, when and by whom the Lime Kiln was commenced and operated during the 1840s has not yet been located in the official Protectorate records. However, when Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson visited Assistant Protector Edward Parker at his Mount Franklin Protectorate Station between 21-24 Sept 1847, he expressed a frank and negative opinion of what he saw on the Station in his personal diary. In the process, Robinson alluded to Parker personally profiting from lime produced on the Protectorate.

Robinson’s diary extract, below, provides a broader context for Robinson’s general irritation, and his specific suspicion that Parker was selling but not properly accounting for the sale of stone and/or lime produced. Robinson reported in September 1847 that there were:

… 30 natives on [Protectorate] station. … Wheat sown, Footrot in sheep … [flour] mill out of order and wheat sent to Hepburn’s [flour mill near Kingston on Birches Creek] to grind. Miserable place … orphan children. Parker [has] plenty pig, geese and cattle … Parker sells stone instead of lime. Parker to account for money for lime …. The first Presbyterian [actually Church of England] church at the Lodden (sic.) is a barn and shearing shed.

A full account of the Loddon Protectorate Era Flour mill alluded to in this quotation has been separately and recently posted as a blog by Barry Golding at It would seem that Parker was operating several ‘small businesses’ aside from the flour mill and lime kiln and was in receipt of the profits of the wool and meat produced on the expansive Protectorate and Aboriginal Station.

By 1853, not only were there were perceptions that Parker was benefiting financially in this way, but there also existed concerns that the Aboriginal Station of the 1850s was too large, given the diminishing number of Aboriginal people at the station. The pressure for land from gold-mining families in the district led by 1853 to a flurry of government surveys that divided part of the Aboriginal station area, including the Lime Kiln site, into small Crown Allotments.

An 1853 ‘Plan of Allotments Laid out at the Lime Kilns at the Aboriginal Station Mount Franklin’ (CPO E74, 1853) is reproduced in David Rhodes’ 1995 study, An historical and Archaeological investigation of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station and Aboriginal Reserve (p. 101). The plan shows two, long rectangular ‘Lime Kilns’ at the western edge of one small allotment on the eastern edge of Limestone Creek. It also confirms that the Lime Kilns, at least to 1853, were still regarded as being within the bounds of the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station, which operated in the same area for some years after the Aboriginal Protectorate system was disestablished in late 1849.

Rhodes (1995, p. 65) reported that he had made an attempt to locate the site of the Lime Kilns by comparing the positions of the structures, the creek and road alignments on historic plans with the [1995] course of Limestone Creek and existing road alignments. Rhodes concluded that:

Although the alignments of the adjacent roads have been altered, the course of Limestone Creek has not changed significantly, making it possible to pinpoint the kiln site in relation to the creek. Limestone can be seen outcropping in the creek banks at this point, but the surrounding area has been ploughed over, obliterating any trace of the kilns. (p. 65)

Rhodes (1995) also noted that the Lime Kilns were not listed in the official Protectorate building returns. In contradiction to Rhodes, our observations show that the surrounding area has not ‘been ploughed over’, evidence of foundations of the Lime Kilns remains, and that the lime tufa crops out in the adjacent paddock and also in the base of the shallow quarry. The creek was so overgrown with blackberries in 2020 it was not possible for us to see the limestone outcropping in the creek banks though Andy Shugg recalls it in outcrop there several decades ago.

Madden’s (1976) La Trobe University Honours Thesis, The Loddon District Aboriginal Protectorate (p. 33) suggests that the Lime Kilns in question were operating as early as 1842 but were not necessarily being operated directly by the Station. Rhodes (1995, p. 33) cites correspondence from Parker to Governor La Trobe (7 February 1851: VPRS 1851/341) who stated that the Lime Kilns were, by 1851, being operated by a contractor, who was at that time applying to build another two kilns.

If the Lime Kilns were operated as a semi-private business by Parker or a contractor, they would probably not have been established earlier than 1842 and were certainly operating by 1847.

The historical evidence base from the 1850s

A ‘Plan of Country between Guildford and Mount Franklin’ dated 15 October1856 appears to show two lime kilns. A ‘Map Allotments of Land on the Jim Crow Creek near the Lime-Kiln and North of the Proposed Township, Parish of Yandoit’, dated 5 May 1855, shows an oval-shaped body of limestone then outcropping on the junction between Limestone Creek and a tributary coming in from the south-east.

A very detailed ‘Plan of Allotments Laid out at the Lime Kilns North of Section XII of Lands Laid out at the Aboriginal Station Mount Franklin’, dated 20 June 1855, shows five allotments each of about one acre, all of which extended west to Limestone Creek. Four of these allotments are rectangular and extend east onto the main north-south road. There is a hut marked on allotment 1. Two adjacent lime kilns are close to Limestone Creek on Allotment 2. No structures are marked on allotments 3, 4 or 5. Allotment 5 is roughly triangular with its north-eastern boundary forming the edge of the original Limestone Road.

An 1856 survey, ‘Country lots on the Limestone Creek, Parish of Yandoit County of Talbot’ (MAP NK 2456/258, Surveyor General’s Office, 25 April 1856, on line through Trove), clearly shows four rectangular blocks each of approximately one acre in an area marked ‘Lime Kilns’. Each allotment fronted onto Limestone Creek as well as the main Castlemaine – Daylesford Road (now the Midland Highway). These blocks are very similar to those shown in the 1853 survey, though the position of the Lime Kilns was not marked on the 1856 map.

What is known about the adjacent mineral spring?

Unlike the limestone deposit and the Lime Kilns, what became known as ‘Gilmore’s Mineral Spring’ at Limestone Creek was rarely mentioned or mapped. It is mentioned as an aside as a ‘spring’ associated with the limestone in Ulrich’s (1866) geological report. The name ‘Gilmore’ comes from a farmer who lived near the Lime Kilns before selling up and moving from the area in 1877. Exactly where the spring was located before or after 1877 in relation to the lime tufa deposit is not known.

Most of the over 100 mineral springs now recorded in Victoria were discovered and later systematically documented during an era of extensive mining activity within 50 km of the best-known cluster around Hepburn Springs beginning in the mid-1850s. Many springs were renovated from the 1920s when bores were put down and pumps were added to some springs that did not issue to the surface naturally. Beginning during the early 1900s, a list of registered mineral springs in Victoria was created, all mapped and ascribed a unique MS (Mineral Spring) number to avoid confusion about names. Gilmore’s / Limestone Creek / Mount Franklin Mineral Spring is numbered MS 009.


Until the late 1860s, what is now widely known as ‘Mineral Water’ in Australia had not been popularised or bottled in Victoria. Maund’s paper on ‘The Mineral Waters of Victoria’ (5 April 1855) noted that he had received two specimens of ‘acidulous water’, ‘one from Hepburn near Castlemaine and another from the banks of the Merri Creek’ [in 2020 the Donnybrook Mineral Spring, 1 km north of the Donnybrook railway station in the Shire of Whittlesea]. A third spring, Maund had been told, existed at Ballan.

Contrary to popular folklore, what are in 2020 collectively known as ‘Hepburn Mineral Springs’ were not the first mineral springs to be discovered, popularised and commercialised. Many, including those which bubbled naturally into creeks, such as still occurs at Deep Creek near Eganstown, would have been known and used by Aboriginal traditional owners. The first pastoralists arriving on the Bellarine Peninsula in 1837 reported the existence of mineral springs at Clifton Springs. In 1864 the ‘Clifton Mineral Springs Company, Drysdale Limited’ was set up to collect mineral water and erect baths.

A chemical analysis of water that was later bottled and marketed in Melbourne as ‘Ballan Seltzer’ is reported in The Argus (14 Sept 1867, p. 5), as taken ‘from a spring near Ballan’. The Bacchus March Express (21 Sept 1867, p. 4) noted that the spring was situated ‘… in a somewhat wild and inaccessible locality a little off the track of the old Daylesford road … 100 yards from the Moorabool River’. This ‘Ballan spring’ water was probably taken from a third spring mentioned by Maund, now called Gunsser’s Mineral Spring MS 070.

The 1867 Bacchus March Express article records that while the ‘Ballan spring’ had only very recently been ‘introduced to the public’, its existence had been known for several years. The article noted that ‘The proprietor of an adjoining station has been in the habit of bottling it in large quantities for his own use and that of his friends, and that occasional parties have visited the spring‘.

… to drink its waters, with more or less admixtures of stronger potations. Like a good many other local treasures, it has been ignored, simply because it is local. … Messrs Joske and Morton have already commenced the erection of premises suitable for bottling the water, and in the course of a week or two it will have become a recognised beverage in Melbourne.

Several of the early Geological Survey of Victoria reports including those by Taylor and Newbery refer to the existence of mounds associated in central Victoria with several mineral springs. In 1930 Foster mapped some of these mounds and undertook analyses of the tufa. Mounds associated with mineral springs were mapped on some of the Geological Map Sheets including Korweinguboora. Baragwanath’s (1947) ‘Special Report, Gold & Minerals’ (G83) also mentions ‘mounds’, called ‘lime tufa mounds’ in Shugg’s (2004) PhD thesis, which analysed and discussed these mounds in considerable detail.

Baragwanath noted in his 1947 report that:

In the neighbourhoods of Glenluce, Lyonville, Glenlyon and Spargo Creek the remains of former springs can be seen. These comprise mounds sometimes a few feet above the general level of the surrounding country. The mounds are composed of travertine [a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, sometimes hot springs], deposited over countless ages while springs discharged normally. Eventually the springs became sealed off. In a number of cases bores were put down, and at comparatively shallow depths travertine was passed through and supplies of mineral water were available for pumping.

Baragwanath’s explanation would appear to apply also to Gilmore’s (Limestone Creek) Spring. The relatively large (approximately 100 metre) but thin (perhaps 3 metre thick) lens of lime tufa which was mined on the site was undoubtedly deposited in situ from calcium-rich waters over a considerable interval. The spring that caused the deposit may have still been seeping through the deposit or into nearby Limestone Creek before the 1840s. It is possible that locals may have used the mineral water, if a spring discharged at the Limestone Creek site during Gilmore’s time in the district (i.e. before 1877), as the Spargo Creek Spring was used prior to 1867.

Evidence of the mineral spring from the past four decades

Gilmore’s (Limestone Creek) Mineral Spring is comprehensively described by Andrew Shugg (2004) in a report to the Victorian Mineral Water Committee, along with a description of what he calls its associated ‘calc-tufa mound’. Tufa is a variety of limestone formed when carbonate minerals precipitate from discharging groundwater. Tufa can contain fossils including shells, wood, leaves and their imprints. Though no such fossils were visible in hand specimens collected from the Limestone Creek site from the limited accessible outcrop in 2020, leaf and grass impressions have been noted by Shugg (2004) from other, similar mounds. Many of the hand specimens collected from the base and margins of the quarry comprise alluvial gravel cemented with carbonate. Keppel, Clarke, Halihan et al. (2011) studied tufa-mound springs in the Lake Eyre area. They noted that despite similar formations being found worldwide, few intensive studies of the formation and ongoing evolution of these structures exist.

Andy Shugg (1996) had undertaken a comprehensive study of Mineral Spring Water in Victoria. Table 2 in Shugg’s report lists ‘Victorian commercial mineral water, the sources, location, owner, licensed and authorised extraction rates (1993)’. Spring MS 009 located within the Hepburn Shire at ‘Limestone’ then had ‘Coca Cola APD’ listed as the owner and extractor. APD, Australian Property Developments, appears to be an Adelaide-based development and construction organization.

The year of last extraction of water was 1985/6 despite 35Ml/day being the authorised extraction volume from bores on the site. For laypeople, 35 megalitres is a lot of water: equivalent to 14 Olympic-sized (50-metre) pools.

Appendix D in Shugg (1996) listing all registered Mineral Springs in Victoria confirms that seven registered groundwater bores, six of them Mineral Water (MW) bores, had then been sunk at the Limestone Creek Spring (MS 009) site to extract the water. The seventh was the number of the previous mineral spring on the site in the groundwater database.

Shugg (2004, p. 4) provides detailed hydrogeological information about the mineral water from the Limestone Creek mineral spring. He observes that:

The mineral water is a sodium bicarbonate type … although the cations calcium and magnesium also occur in significant quantities. The water has around 3000 mg/L bicarbonate, 300-600 mg/l chloride, and with a total dissolved salts concentration of 4,000-4,500 mg/l, it is one of the more saline of the mineral waters from the Daylesford area.

The gas in the mineral water was, unsurprisingly, 98 per cent carbon dioxide.

Eric Sartori contends that ‘A unique mineral water spring flowed up through the limestone to the surface, near the present Midland Highway. In the late 1980s a water bottling company purchased the land, put down a bore into a saline aquifer and ruined the spring. This was environmental vandalism’.

Sartori’s contention is supported by the evidence. It appears that during the 1970s a casing was placed in the hole of the previous mineral spring, which would have previously been flowing out naturally into a hollow or ditch. An unsuccessful later attempt was made to clear the bore and enlarge the hole. In the process, it appears that all that was achieved was enabling drainage of reflux from the evapotranspiration of the area on the mound. The deep drilling subsequently undertaken by Scalex and later by Coca Cola sealed the fate of the previous mineral spring.

Precisely what happened to destroy the spring aquifer and/or lead to its abandonment as a pumping source is beyond the scope of the present paper. However, it might be a story worth investigating and telling in the future. One possible brief explanation is that as consumer tastes changed, the relatively high salinity as well as calcium and magnesium in the Limestone Creek mineral water was less desirable, less palatable or less commercial than that of other mineral water, and particularly freshwater bores that were being developed by Coca Cola as well as Pepsi after the 1980s. It likely became more profitable to bottle tankered still water, which involved less treatment and less inconsistency in comparison to natural mineral water.

The geology of the spring


Alluvium and travertine occur at the surface overlying Ordovician bedrock at the Limestone Creek site. The travertine was formerly burnt for lime, and remains of the kilns may be seen on the alluvial flats. The existence of the spring and its accompanying limestone sinter mound was noted by Newbery (1867), while Ulrich (1866) included the lime kilns on the Geological] Quarter Sheet. The spring is located around 22 km from recharge areas at the crest of the Dividing Range.

 A portion of Ulrich’s (1866) geological map shows that the general area around the Lime Kilns consists of approximately north (340 degree) trending Ordovician bedrock, with north trending quartz reefs exposed on the ridges. The Lime Kilns in 1866 are shown as a sizeable rectangle located on the alluvium on a consolidated allotment, though no mineral spring is marked. The deposits that were quarried to produce the lime are not marked on Ulrich’s map. However, a note on the map reads, ‘Small patch of freshwater limestone, its margin consists of a breccia of slate and quartz cemented by lime.’

‘Breccia’ is a rock containing angular fragments. The lime tufa at Limestone Creek incorporates  variable proportions of mostly water-worn sandstone pebbles in the limestone and would not be called a breccia.

Eric Sartori notes in an unpublished report (pers. comm.) that Brough Smyth briefly mentions a limestone deposit north-east of Franklinford in his The goldmines of in 1882-3 Victoria report. It is possible that this might instead refer to ‘Murph’s Spring’ also NE of Franklinford and reportedly with a tufa mound. A geological plan of Ferguson (1911) had three kiln sites marked between the creek and the mound.

 Andy Shugg (2004) summarised the known geology, hydrogeology and recent use of the Limestone Spring as follows (lightly edited).

Ulrich (1864) drew attention to the lime kilns at the mineral springs on the Geological Quarter sheet 15 SE with the note that about 70 metres around the spring there was about 3 metres of travertine consisting of fragments of slate, sandstone and quartz in a calcareous matrix with some iron oxide.

Newbery (1867) also drew attention to the spring and noted the carbonate mound deposited from the alkaline earths, and its similarity with several other spring mounds exist such as at Spargo Creek, then referred to as one of the Ballan springs. Later, Ferguson (April 1911) noted that there was a white scum on the water suggesting active deposition of travertine. Near the small alluvial flat were the remnants of old lime kilns. The tuffaceous limestone originating from the spring covered an area of 0.5 hectare and had an average a thickness of 3 metres. Ferguson (1911) considered that the spring had been flowing for about 5,000 years based on the thickness of travertine deposits.

At some stage the spring was improved, and a bore was established from which the mineral water flowed. Local people used to fill bottles from the spring.

In 1976, Scanex Minerals cleaned out the existing bore, drilled 6 further bores and conducted a testing program. [Bores] Yandoit 10003 and 10004 were sampled in between June and December 1979. Further bores Yandoit 10005, 10006, 10007 and 10008 were drilled at the site of the spring for Associated Products and Distributors P/L. Analysis of pumping tests carried out on the test bores indicated transmissivities between 10 – 110 m2/d and storativity values from 0.002 – 0.011 (Szabo, for Scanex Minerals Pty Ltd, 1979). Later AGC (Australian Groundwater Consultants) conducted further testing at the site for the Coca Cola bottling company.

The private bores … drilled at the spring … penetrated around 35 – 50 m of deeply weathered rock, before entering a sequence of hard Ordovician sandstones and graphitic shales. Later deep bores to 150 m were proposed to develop the mineral water in 1980. In May 1980, consultants to the Coca Cola Company requested a permit to extract mineral water at a rate of 100 m3/d (36.5 ML/annum). In response, the Victorian Geological Survey recommended that extraction be subject to the following conditions;

  • The licence should be reviewed after two years,
  • Three observation bores should be constructed and monitored and,
  • That the interference with flow in Limestone Creek be ascertained.

Landowners downstream of the spring development complained to the Department that there was a possibility of diminished creek base flow resulting from pumping from mineral water extraction from the bedrock and this would impact on their stock and domestic entitlements and environmental flow in the stream.

Mineral water from Gilmore’s (Limestone Creek) Mineral Spring was at one stage extracted and bottled by Coca Cola. The name of the spring was changed to ‘Mount Franklin’ as part of a re-branding exercise. The last water extraction occurred in the fiscal year 1985/1986. The label “Mount Franklin” has the best-known bottled water brand in Australia.

Despite the name, the product ‘Mount Franklin’ water or mineral water has no current relation to nor contains and water from the Gilmores / Limestone Creek / Mount Franklin mineral spring. Sadly, the mineral spring that used to be used by locals on the roadside until 40 years ago has been destroyed. The area where the mineral spring was and where the holding tanks and associated shedding were constructed has been fenced off.

 Shugg (2004) summarised the then ‘Status’ of the Limestone Creek Spring, as below.

The spring was improved, and mineral water flows from a 150 mm bore casing. The bore was deepened and improved by Scanex Minerals (Szabo) in 1978. The bore was used for commercial purposes for only a short period till 1986. The site is no longer used for the commercial extraction of mineral water and is not developed for other purposes. In June 2004, the site [had] not been used as a mineral water source for nearly two decades. Two water storage tanks still exist, and the bores and several sheds are still maintained on site. Large amounts of spring tufa still exist at the site. It is comprised of hard dense light yellow – grey earthy or clayey calc-sinter and white porous calc-sinter with remnant structures after vegetable material.

Local knowledge suggests that during the process of ‘improving’ and deepening the spring for commercial extraction of mineral water, improper use of casing and/or pumping led the water to become contaminated by salt.

How was the ‘lime’ actually produced?

 All of the above does not explain to a layperson what calcium-rich rocks were actually used to manufacture the lime on the Limestone Creek site, how the lime might have been made and how and where it might have been used.

What follows uses a number of online and published sources from other lime kilns in Victoria and elsewhere to try to address these topics. A deeper understanding may follow more detailed field work, including a proposed subsequent survey for the Victorian Heritage Register.

Much of the general information below has been gleaned from two reports.

  • A hand-edited, unpublished document from a talk given by Joanna McClellan in 1986 to the Royal Historical Society titled Lime burning: An Early industry in Victoria.
  • A 50+ page report published by Heritage Victoria in 2000 titled An archaeological and historical overview of limeburning in Victoria, by Jane Harrington.

Insights from McClellan (1986)

McClellan identifies four main sites of ‘early’ lime-burning installations in Victoria: Limeburner’s Point, Geelong; Walkerville; Coimadai and Fossil Beach near Mornington. Most of the earliest sites were on the coast where shells or shell-rich sediments provided the calcium carbonate-rich raw materials.

Coimadai north-east of Bacchus Marsh (along with the Limestone Creek Lime Kiln) being inland sites developed on deposits from freshwater springs, are exceptions. Both had lime kilns operating by the 1850s. A post with original words by Anders Hjorth, available on line via the Federation University Industrial Heritage site, suggests a possible connection between the Coimadai site and the Lime Kilns near Mount Franklin, as Coimadia’s early (1850s) lime kilns were operated by a ‘Mr Brown’ while the Lime Kilns near Mount Franklin were known as ‘Brown’s lime kilns’ in 1858. Additional interest in the Coimadai deposit derives from its associated mineral spring and reported presence of large megafauna bones within the limestone. Some of what Hjorth is included below since it identifies the context for lime making on similar, though larger, deposits during the same era the Limestone Creek deposits were being worked.

“In 1861 I had occasion to call at Coimadai, for a couple of bags of lime. Shortly after leaving Toolern I entered on a very devious track, through primeval but not dense forest; found the kilns, in the front of which there was a small cleared space, but looking west, towards Coimadai flats, the vision was interrupted by a forest of gum and box trees, undergrowth, and reeds. I have often tried to form a theory accounting for the presence of fossilised bones embedded in the rocks of the limestone quarries at Coimadai.

Through the kindness of my son-in-law (Mr. A. Allen) who has been working in the limestone quarries at Coimadai, I have obtained several fossilised bones of various dimensions, some of them being very large—big enough to have belonged to some gigantic dinosaur of the past.

From what can learn, the first white man to make Coimadai his domicile was a Mr. John Hopgood, who lived in a hut on the left bank of the creek, opposite to what is now known as the sodawater spring. That was somewhere in the [18]fifties. Mr. Hopgood was also the discoverer of the lime deposits which were at first worked in a small way by him and his sons. After a while, the Messrs. Browne, Gamble and Munroe got possession of the deposits, and worked them on a larger scale, supplying the Messrs. Cornish and Bruce, contractors for the construction of Mt. Alexander railway, which was then building, with a large quantity of lime; that would be about 1860.

Between 1860 and 1863, about 50 men were employed, in the various vocations connected with the burning of and carting away of the lime. A local squatter, (Mr. Brown) [dissolved the partnership] and Gamble sold out to his partners for £1000. Immediately after he opened up a lime deposit on a hill opposite, which is now known as Mr. Burnip’s. Mr. Gamble did not seem to have stayed long here, but meeting Mr. Burnip at Bendigo he informed him of the existence of the deposit, which, with the block it was on, was secured by Mr. Burnip. It seems that, about the middle [18]sixties, Brown and Munroe, abandoned their interest in the lime kilns, which were afterwards for some time worked spasmodically by F. Gulliver, sen., and his sons, as well as by Mr. T. Hopgood’s sons.

The output mostly went to supply local demands. In the [18]seventies, a Mr. Blair, owner of limekilns near the Heads, on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay, got possession of Coimadai lime deposits, but from what I can learn, he did not display much activity by increasing the output. In the [18]eighties, Mr. P. Alkemade, a native of Holland, who had a good deal of experience as a builder and contractor, as well as of opening up lime deposits in other parts of the State, obtained possession of part of the quarries.

At that time things were commencing to boom in Melbourne, through the influx of borrowed money; a number of ramshackle buildings were demolished, to be replaced by palatial structures. Mr. Alkemade, being an active, energetic, man with insight to the future, managed to get capital by floating a company, increasing the number of kilns, and fronting them by what was, for the locality, an imposing structure of rubble masonry. The company was floated under the name of The Alkemade Hydraulic Lime Company and inaugurated in bumpers of champagne and other joy conducers.

As Mr. Alkemade had only got possession of part of the deposits, a Mr. Debly took up the other part about the same time, and also fronted his kilns with rubble masonry, and porches where the burned lime could be drawn in all weathers. Those porches, in after years, when Mr. Debly had abandoned his portion of the quarries, often became the abode of non-residential employees of the Alkemade’s, who were, by “Rambler,” in one of the local papers, designated as “cave-dwellers.” During the building boom in Melbourne, things were correspondingly booming at Coimadai, and a considerable number of men found employment in the various vocations required for the production of and getting away the lime, which, after being carted to Bacchus Marsh, was railed to Melbourne.

In 1892, the boom collapsed, and the output at the kilns gradually declined, and ceased altogether as far as the Melbourne supply was concerned, a few bags went weekly to Bacchus Marsh, mostly carted by Mr. P. Alkemade, sen.. … [After his accidental death] the output having now almost become nil, with no immediate prospect of mending, Mr. Alkemade’s four sons (Cornelius, Robert, Peter and John) bought all the company’s interests, price I do not know. They managed gradually to increase the output, by supplying other parts of the State, as well as Melbourne with lime, which had by this time got a good reputation. Year by year the business kept extending; production having also been cheapened by the introduction of various labor saving appliances, and the turning out of a first-class article suitable to builders.

I understand that the weekly output now averages from 600 to 700 bags. Mr. Debly abandoned his part of the quarry when the boom burst. In the quarry today, consisting of a great pit, I am informed there is yet any quantity of stone to be obtained. The first settlers to obtain land on Coimadai flats … were attracted by the opening up of the lime deposits, as, in 1861, Mr. Bennett, before he got his block, had a small store, with a wine licence, a little below where the hotel now stands. … Mr. Bower was of an energetic, if somewhat sanguine, disposition, and assisted in furthering and developing the resources of Coimadai. He opened up a mineral spring on his property, erected machinery, for the treatment and bottling of its water, and forwarded the product to Melbourne, but did not seem to have taken too well with the public, and the attempt to establish a trade in that direction was abandoned.”

Returning to the coast, before 1840, McClellan suggests most of the lime around the shores of Port Phillip was manufactured in ‘bush type’ kilns. They employed a shallow pit filled with fuel on which the broken stone (typically coastal deposits of shells or dune limestone) was placed. The whole thing was covered with sod or bricks to retain the heat, and the fuel was fired perhaps through a channel. Though the process was inefficient and the product was contaminated with ash and unburned material, it was ‘good enough’ for early use in the building industry.

According to McClellan, ‘properly constructed’ kilns, exemplified by one built at Geelong around 1847, consisted of a vertical brick -lined shaft, a vaulted tunnel and long retaining wall. The stone and fuel were laid in alternate layers and fired from below as the lime was calcined. effectively being roasted by strong heat. The lime was raked out the bottom through the draw hole at the back of the vaulted tunnel. Theoretically such a kiln could be operated continuously by adding more layers of fuel and stone, thus creating a ‘running kiln’. By the mid-1840s sufficient lime was being produced in the Geelong area for a shipping trade to develop that took lime to Launceston.

By 1841 there were ten lime kilns on the Mornington Peninsula, at least some of which were likely to have been ‘properly constructed’. By 1849 there was a special wharf for the approximately 25 lime boats on the Yarra. Despite all this activity the output of the Victorian lime burners was not sufficient to meet the huge boom in the construction industry of the 1840s and particularly the 1850s. Overseas lime however was three times as expensive as the local product.

By 1858, McClellan (p.30) notes, half of the 47 state-registered lime kilns in Victoria were around Geelong and Mornington, with ‘the rest at Mt Franklin, Coimadai, Port Fairy, Portland, Sale and Hamilton’.

In 1860 a report on the lime resources of Victoria (Victorian History Pamphlets, Vol. 16, p. 18, cited by McClellan, p. 11) ‘a team of experts’ stated that ‘new sources of lime have recently opened up inland one at Mt Franklin and the other at Coimadai’.

Insights from Harrington (2000)

Harrington systematically lists the main lime production methods and kiln types. They are summarised, below, from the simplest to the most advanced. Particular attention is given to the method we might anticipate was used at the Limestone Creek site. Given the era, the position of the lime tufa deposit ‘on the flat’ and the possible stretched rectangular form of the kilns, as suggested on one of the early survey maps, the ‘pit burning’ method seems the most likely means of manufacture at the Limestone Creek kilns.

  1. Heap burning: burnt in a heap or pile of alternating layers of stone and wood on the ground
  2. Pit burning: as above but in a ground pit. Typical pits are around 2.75m X 2.5m, sometimes with a trench to provide a draft for the fire. Sometimes the edge of the pit is reinforced by flanking stone. Extended versions of the simple pit excavation, called ‘pye’ or ‘clamp’ kilns in Britain, were longitudinal pits (up to 20m long) with channels in the bottom. They had the advantage of being easier than shaft kilns to construct, and more expedient if the need was temporary and more efficient in terms of fuel consumption per load of lime. Kilns of this type from the 1840s in Scotland were referred to as ‘clamp or horseshoe’ kilns, in an online article, ‘Lime burning in clamp kilns in Scotland’s Western Central Belt: Primitive industry or simple but perfectly adequate technology.
  3. Intermittent kilns: either Flare kilns which involve burning lime over a grate or mixed-feed kilns.
  4. Continuous kilns.

The location map and list of lime kilns in Victoria in Harrington does not include the Mount Franklin site, thought it does show the Coimadai site and another at the 1870s Ebenezer Aboriginal Mission site near Dimboola. Maps from other sources as well as oral histories suggest that possible other lime kilns may have existed north of Limestone Creek in the Carisbrook, Talbot and Joyce’s Creek areas.

Who operated the lime kilns and lived in the Limestone vicinity from the 1850s?

Several early references in newspapers dating from the 1850s make mention of the locality ‘Limestone’, the Limestone Creek kiln site and the sale of lime from the Lime Kilns, on what is sometimes referred to as the Mount Franklin (Jim Crow or Mount Franklyn) site. Several of these articles during the 1850s make reference to ‘Brown’s lime kiln’ and to ‘C. Brown’ as the lime kiln owner or operator, but later (until 1877) the kilns was apparently owned by Mr Gilmour / Gilmore.

Christopher Brown was referred to in 1864 (Farmer’s Journal and Garden Chronicle, 1 July 1864, p. 8) as ‘… an old and respected inhabitant of the [Loddon District, Mount Franklin]’. Brown was at that time leaving the district, having ‘lived on the summit of the hill above the township reserve’ in ‘Kildare Lodge’.

This following information from primary sources is placed in chronological order.

  • Advertisement: 28 Dec 1855: ‘Lime: Fresh from the Mount Franklyn Lime Kilns, Jim Crow, and free from either sand, loam or other deleterious matter. The undersigned will have a constant supply of the above from this date. Price nine shillings per bag of three bushels for quantities over ten bushels’ [NOTE: 1 bushel approx. 25kg] (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 1).
  • 10 May 1858: ‘The telegraph party are at work to connect Jim Crow to the main lines, they have got as far as Brown’s lime kiln, near the Mount Franklyn’. (Mount Alexander Mail, 15 May, p. 3).
  • Advertisement 12 July 1858: ‘Roche Lime 8s per bag of three bushels or 6 pound per ton, Slaked [ditto]. 5 shillings [ditto]. Or 4 pounds per ton at the Mount Franklin Lime Kilns’ (more costs listed in delivered in Castlemaine)’. (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 4).
  • 9 May 1859: ‘Transfer licence of No. 3 and No. 4 allotments of the Mount Franklin Lime Stone Quarry’. Also ‘for sale’ advertisement: ‘The Quarry, known as the Upper Lime Stone, together with four substantial kilns, stone built shed, tools and tramway for conveyance of wood and stone and every other convenience for carrying on the extensive trade already established, apply to Newcombe and Laver Timber Merchants , Castlemaine or to C. Browne Esq. , Mount Franklin 599c’ (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 1).
  • 19 Aug 1859: ‘Mr Honey obtained a publican’s licence for the Lime Kiln Hotel on the Ballarat Road from Castlemaine. This house will, if well conducted, prove a boon to travellers between Castlemaine and Daylesford’. (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 4).
  • 9 Sept 1859: ‘John Honey, landlord of the Mount Franklin Lime Kiln Hotel.’ (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 2)
  • 27 June 1863: at a meeting of ratepayers of the parishes of Yandoit and Mount Franklin chaired by E. S. Parker Esq., J. P. ‘Mr Christopher Brown read the first resolution’. (Mount Alexander Mail)
  • 7 Dec 1874: A ‘terrible accident … on the road between Franklinford and The Lime Kilns’. Death of a boy aged 11, son of My James Gilmore ‘ … a famer residing near the Lime kiln’. (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 2).
  • 8 Dec 1877: Sale of the ‘property of Mr Gilmour of Limestone near Franklinford which consists of freehold lands with crops of wheat and oats, the limestone quarry, house, livestock farming implements, etc.’ (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 2).

In summary, the 1850s appear to have been a time of considerable activity in the Limestone area, including output from the lime kilns and the building of a hotel.

A separate ‘Clearing out sale notice’ (found on Trove) records that the sale was scheduled for 10 Dec 1877 as ‘Mr Gilmore of Limestone is leaving the district in consequence of ill health’. It included the whole farm, including ‘4 blocks of 1 acre each, known as the ‘Lime Kiln Lot’’. The improvements listed include ‘The Lime Kilns, Quarry etc’, noting that ‘its value [as a farm] is enhanced by the lime deposits and its never failing stream of water’.

 What is on the site in 2020?


An of the site in May 2020 confirms that whilst much of the higher-quality limestone has been mined, there are significant, scattered outcrops of poorer-quality lime tufa within the area mostly covered by spiny rush and blackberries. There are also broken and overgrown foundations of rock walls toward the north western edge of the site which were probably part of the original lime kilns. A boundary fence separates the depressed, quarried out area from the elevated grazing land to the north. Several small outcrops of solid grey limestone crop out in the paddock. The spiny rush (Juncus acutus) on the quarry site is indicative of waterlogged and saline ground conditions.

Stephen Carey made the following geological notes after a May 2020 site inspection.

The modern expression of the limestone deposit consists of the quarry, now overgrown with spiny rush and briars, and scattered outcrops in the adjacent paddock to the north. No exposures were observed in the paddock to the south. The quarry is very shallow, being  ̴1 m deep. In the quarry, limestone crops out in the walls on the northern and eastern sides, while elsewhere limestone is present as low mounds of spoil. In the northern paddock, small, low outcrops, generally <1 m across, occur across a broadly horizontal surface with numerous metre-scale depressions which stretches from the fence at the northern edge of the quarry about 60 m further north to a shallow grassy gully. At the head of the gully are the ruins of a small stone building.

The limestone is highly variable. The following descriptions are based on field examination only. The purest occurrence observed is an essentially two-dimensional exposure in the northern paddock halfway along the fence and 1.5 m into the paddock. It appears to be massive, except for common centimetre-scale pits on the surface, though the lack of vertical exposure makes this uncertain. It is a grey lime mudstone, according to the classification of Dunham (1962). Where vertical exposure is available, that is, in the quarry walls, as well as in some discarded blocks, a distinct to diffuse, centimetre-scale, horizontal stratification is present. Many of the quarry occurrences, including spoil, have a component of rounded terrigenous gravel, mostly small-pebble-sized. At the extreme, the rock is a terrigenous conglomerate cemented by lime micrite.


All of the above points to a poorly known geological deposit that is unusual for Central Victoria. It occurs together with the overgrown remains of several historic, very early Lime Kilns dating from the Aboriginal Protectorate era of the 1840s. The Lime Kilns were most likely established between 1842 and 1848, and initially operated to the likely benefit of Edward Parker. The Lime Kiln business operated by Brown and later Gilmour appears to have boomed during the early Gold Rush years. The site to the south in 2020 includes an abandoned mineral spring, associated bores and pumping infrastructure.

The lime kilns operated on a busy intersection under several owners or operators at least until the 1860s that at one stage included a small settlement and hotel. The formerly reasonably large but shallow, lenticular, lime tufa deposit on the Limestone Creek site was developed in situ from the surface expression of a calcium-rich mineral spring. Though the deposit has largely been mined out and the former quarry area is in 2020 overgrown with spiny rush, briars and blackberry, the remains of the several original lime kilns on the site are important historically and worthy of closer survey and formal recording.

The associated, formerly delightful mineral spring may have been destroyed by apparently botched boring and pumping associated with 1980s commercial groundwater extraction by commercial operators including the Coca Cola Company. The historic mineral spring previously called ‘Gilmours’ on the site, was renamed ‘Mount Franklin’ by the company just prior to its destruction, when pumping and water extraction ceased.

While the water associated with ‘Mount Franklin’ brand lives on under the ownership of Coca Cola Amatil and has become nationally iconic and incredibly profitable to the Coca Cola company, no water has been extracted from the original site for approximately 35 years. The ‘Mount Franklin’  mineral spring is no more and the area has  become an overgrown and forgotten eyesore on the side of the Midland Highway. There is no signage on the site.

No one would know that the registered, arguably vandalised and now abandoned natural mineral spring on the site is the one today originally associated with the ‘Mount Franklin’ water brand. There is some irony that the Mount Franklin water web site in 2020 stresses it wants to do ‘… the right thing for the Australian environment now and for future generations … While we celebrate our great land, we do our part to protect it to. … We’ll stay determined to keep finding ways to lighten our touch on the environment, to protect the land dearest to our hearts.’

In our opinion, there is a case here beyond our historical narrative and anticipated heritage survey of this unique and important historic site, for a long-term recovery and site management plan. The recovery plan might involve removal of weeds and replanting of the Limestone Creek-side precinct, removal of unused or unnecessary modern infrastructure, some sensitive on-site historical and geological interpretation of the spring, the lime tufa deposit and the Lime Kilns, and reinstatement of a publicly accessible, roadside mineral spring.

Given the ‘Mount Franklin’ commitment to do the right thing, such a plan might be developed with support from Coca Cola Amatil as the most recent commercial operator on the site, in consultation with the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owners, current land owners, the Hepburn Shire, other local landholders and community stakeholders.

Loddon Protectorate Era Flour Mill

CB7CE30E-32ED-4468-9DB4-CBF7675F7620Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate-Era (1840s) flour mill on The Mill Stream south of Franklinford


One of the earliest water-powered flour mills in Victoria operated within the bounds of the Aboriginal Protectorate site south of Franklinford during the 1840s. This account seeks to consider previous and new evidence to establish where it was built, when and in what context. In doing so it seeks to distinguish between the Protectorate-era mill and a later, nearby flour mill from the Swiss Italian settler era of the 1860s. There is a case for this 1840s water-driven mill, perhaps one of the oldest in Victoria, subsequently being documented and recorded in the Victorian Heritage Register. I encourage anyone who reads this and has new evidence to support or refute my conclusions, to email me.

Other research underway on Victorian water powered flour mills

I note that Gary Vines has been actively researching all early water-powered flour mills in Victoria for a PhD at La Trobe University. Vines has been undertaking brief mill histories, mainly to try and track down where the millers came from. The main purpose of his research is looking at technology transfer in the mid 19th century. His hypothesis is that the nature of the technology introduced into Victoria was dependent in a large part to the particular background and knowledge of the individuals who came here.

It appears from Gary Vines’ research that a preponderance of Scottish settlers with experience of Lowland Manorial milling technology in Scotland influenced the form of early water mills in Victoria. In this context, the mills built by in the early 1840s by Hepburn and Joyce as well as the one on the Protectorate are a very important  but poorly known part of Victoria’s white pastoral heritage.

The Protectorate era mill elaborated below was not on Gary Vines’ data base before August 2020, but Hepburn and Joyce’s 1840s mills were. Some of Vines’ preliminary findings are accessible via Google Docs  Gary has posted brief paper of early mills on the River Plenty:

Previous  evidence

Edgar Morrison, in The Loddon Aborigines (1971, p.48) recollected that:

In the horse and buggy day … each Boxing Day a group of neighbours of all ages from Franklinford and Yandoit would congregate at the old Mill Spring about half way between Franklinford and Shepherd’s Flat [under] … the spreading willow trees that grew nearby. Near by a strong flow of crystal clear water issued from the hillside, forming a pool fringed with watercress. From thence, the water gurgled down the grassy slope before plunging into the Jim Crow Creek about 20 chains to the westward. … Since the earliest colonial days it has borne the name Mill Spring.

A generation ago the older citizens could remember carting wheat to an old Flour Mill, the wheel of which was operated by water from a race branching northward from the Mills Spring stream. … Fragments of the water-wheel are still discernible as well as a few crumbling walls of the mill itself. Yet before that structure was built, the spring had long borne its present name. … Gabriel Henderson (1854-1944) … attributed the name to the fact that ‘a small flour mill, operated by a water wheel was erected there by Mr Parker when he first came to the district’. An early survey map corroborates Mr Henderson’s statement. A position southward of the natural watercourse is defined as “Ruins of an old Mill”. At this time (1843-44) they used to grow wheat in what they called the Swamp Paddock – and ground it somewhere nearby. … One wonders what became of the two steel hand mills [Parker] had brought up from Melbourne in 1840. It is tempting to wonder whether the small flour mill erected on the Mill Spring race was in fact a combination of the old hand mills. …

New evidence

The new evidence, below, confirms much of what Morrison wrote. However, it appears that the ruins of a stone ground flour mill powered by water from the water race branching northward from the Mill Stream that Morrison refers to is different from and two decades later than what was likely a water driven, steel flour mill operated by Parker from a shorter race to the south of the Mill Stream.

On 28 November 1842 the Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson visited the Aboriginal Protectorate on the slopes of Mount Franklin. Robinson wrote that he:

… visited the crater at the mount called Willum-parramul [‘place of the emu’], otherwise Jem Crow [Mount Franklin]. It is an ancient crater of large dimension. … Had a fine view. This morning visited the spring at the establishment a mile and a half distant. In the evening attended corrobery (sic.) of Malle condeets [literally ‘men of the mallee country’]. … At the conclusion both men and women singing together … After viewing … I went to the house. The Jajowrong had remained to a late hour.

This mention of Robinson’s visit to ‘the spring’ at the Protectorate and its approximate location approximately 1.5 miles from Parker’s 1842 house site suggests he had perhaps visited the spring on the Mill Stream rather than what is now known as ‘Thomas’ Spring’ on the flat near the current Franklinford Cemetery. On a visit five years later, Robinson mentions (in September 1847) that ‘the mill’ at the Protectorate station was out of order and that wheat being grown on the Protectorate was being sent instead to Hepburn’s mill (that operated from the 1840s on Birch’s Creek near Kingston).

In a December 1848 ‘Return of the number and condition of the buildings at the Loddon Aboriginal Station’ [Appendix 4 to Parker’s 1848 Annual Report: VPRS 4410(2)64, reproduced in Rhodes (1995)], the ‘Mill house, water wheel &c’ then comprised ”Partly sawn timber, partly slabs and bark’ and had been ‘Built last year [1847] – requires about 20 slabs to complete’,

John Hepburn’s mill is reasonably well documented. He had established his flour mill around 15 km to the west below present day Hepburn’s Lagoon near Kingston in 1841.

Gary Vines’ research reveals that the Smeaton district in East Lothian, Scotland, ‘ was an important centre during the Scottish Agricultural Revolution of the mid-eighteenth century, with numerous mills on the river Tyne, although these were associated with the cloth industry rather than corn milling. The Preston Mill was on the Smeaton estate, immediately opposite the famous engineer Robert Meikle’s Houston Mill. It is believed that Meikle maintained the Preston Mill at times. Meikle is also associated with John Smeaton. another famous mill engineer, so it is plausible that Hepburn named the station and subsequent town either for his Smeaton Estate in Scotland, or in connection with John Smeaton’.

Hepburn’s flour mill was still operating on 1 March 1860 when Captain Hepburn donated most of the prizes for the local Agricultural Society Show and allowed the use of the then three storey brick and stone mill for the occasion. Hepburn died five months later, on 7 Aug 1860. The mill declined and was abandoned during the 1860s and a new, much bigger mill (the current historic ‘Anderson’s Mill’) was built on Birches Creek at Smeaton by the Anderson brothers, using the same water source from Hepburn’s Lagoon via Birch’s Creek.

The new evidence available on the Protectorate suggests that by 1850 Assistant Protector Edward Parker or a contractor was operating the flour mill as a private business. Parker appears to have been doing similarly with a Lime Kiln, also established during the 1840s next to present day Limestone Creek, again within the footprint of the Aboriginal Protectorate.

Parker was questioned in 1853 about the financial and other arrangements in place on his Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station, established after the Aboriginal Protectorate was abolished in December 1849. There was concern by 1853 that an Aboriginal Reserve of 50 square miles was ‘disproportionately large’ given that the area had become ‘very rich gold country’. There were suggestions that some portions ‘which, with the greatest advantage to the public and the least injury to the aborigines might be surveyed for sale’. Parker’s responses (reported in Council Papers, The Argus, 14 June 1854, p.6) include mention that he had:

‘… also supplied the [Aboriginal] establishment with flour and occasionally meat at prices fixed by the Commissioner of Crown Lands, being at his request, calculated merely to cover the cost of production. In 1852 the price of flour and meat was 2d [2 pence] per lb [pound] for the whole year’.

These responses suggest that flour was still being produced by Parker from a flour mill on the Protectorate in 1852, and that it was being sold back to the government. Separately, the government arrangement with Parker was that he was responsible for all of the costs associated with the sheep on his large pastoral property, but was entitled to profit from the wool he produced.

‘Mill Ruins’ downstream of the ‘Old Mill Spring’ are marked downstream of a water course and ‘Spring’ on an undated early survey map published by Morrison in 1971, approximately halfway between Franklinford and Shepherd’s Flat. The map reproduced in Morrison (p.49) clearly shows the location of the mill ruins and what appears to be a short water race leading south off the creek (marked on 2020 maps as ‘Bendigo Creek’) approximately 150 metres before it enters Jim Crow Creek. All of these features are marked within Allotment 4 of Section 6.

The site is today located west of the Daylesford to Newstead Road approximately half way between Franklinford and Shepherds Flat. In 2020 the surrounding agricultural land along the former Mill Stream (today marked on Google map as ‘Bendigo Creek’) is reportedly owned by a land developer. Bendigo Creek runs west under the road before it enters Jim Crow Creek, passing through a series of pools and a watercourse overgrown by blackberries. There is an unoccupied farm house and farm buildings on a rise south of where the water begins to pool.

A former water race to the north of the creek that originally led to a separate water driven, stone ground flour mill operated from the 1860s by Minotti and others is still visible on satellite images and on the ground. The longer northern water race appears to commence somewhat higher up the creek than a previously short water race south leading to a former 1840s Protectorate era mill.

On the ground, there is nothing exposed on the former 1840s mill site to indicate exactly where the mill might have been, though much of the area near the stream including several stone walls is overgrown with blackberries. However, some early survey maps show a sizeable pond dammed upstream of the likely early flour mill site that may have later supplied water to a north flowing water race. In 2020 the sound of water running over a rock barrier hidden amongst the blackberries is suggestive that part of the dam wall that may have fed the 1840s mill may still be in place.

Several large eucalypts are the only obvious remnants of original native vegetation. Most of the wet areas along the creek and former stone fencing are overgrown with willow trees and particularly blackberries. Watercress and other waterweeds cover part of the pool surface. The watercourse and associated pools reportedly lie within a public water reserve that extends along most of the creek west of the road. The water reserve boundaries appear to be delineated by broken down stone and wire fences. As a consequence, grazing stock (in 2020 including several horses) have ready access to the spring, pools and the creek banks. If this is a public reserve it appears that the adjacent landholder may possess or informally exert grazing rights over the area.

Eric Sartori (pers. comm., 31 May 2020) suggests that ‘Parker’s Mill was 10 chain down the flow, long before Pozzi  and Minotti  in 1865’. Sartori suggests, as evidence, the mention a former water powered flour mill in a letter penned by William Bumstead in the Mount Alexander Mail (8 April, 1859, p.5), which refers to a ‘Sale of Land at Franklinford’. William Bumstead then operated the store, post office and bakery in Franklinford in 1859 and was married to Charlotte Woolmer, a sister to Edward Parker’s first wife.

Bumstead’s 1859 letter expressed concern about the way gold mining, particularly the construction of water races, was adversely affecting the public interest. Bumstead was particularly concerned about the way miners had ‘… cut a race to bring them water from Allotment 4 of Sect. 6, through Allotment 3 of Sect. 6 to their claims a distance of near 2 miles, a great part of which is through solid rock.’

Bumstead proceeded to protest that:

Allotment 4 of Sect. 6 is one of the finest springs in the colony and ought not to be sold but to be preserved in perpetuity, for ever, for the public good. Think, Sir, for yourself, of a spring rising to the surface, running ten chains only, and then to drive a mill as this one has done, from whence it is named Mill Ruins Spring on Fraser’s survey, Parish of Franklin, County of Talbot.

The water-driven, stone ground flour mill known locally as Minotti’s Mill is approximately 400 metres NNW of the earlier Protectorate era mill site, powered from the same water source but coming north off the Old Mill Stream. David Bannear recorded and mapped ‘Minotti’s Flour Mill’ as a significant site associated with Swiss-Italian immigration for Heritage Victoria. The water wheel pit with remnants of the stone wheel and water race and associated buildings were recorded in some detail on allotments ‘PT21, 21A and PT58’ in 1998.

Bannear (1998) noted that this later mill was operated by Battista Monotti. The water was conveyed along a race to drive a 16 foot diameter waterwheel. Minotti operated the mill and perhaps the adjoining farm and gold mine with Guiseppi Pozzi. Bannear cites as historical information sources L. & P. Jones’ Flour Mills of Victoria: 1840-1890 and the  Ballarat Courier (10 Oct 1868, p.21).

What flour milling technology might have been employed here during the 1840s?

One of the items of agricultural equipment procured by Edward Parker for use at the original Aboriginal Protectorate site located on the Loddon River at Neereman (6km north of Baringhup_ in late 1840 was a ‘Steel Mill’. Presumably this would have been a hand operated, steel flour mill. The History of Agriculture in South Australia website notes that the earliest wheat grown in South Australia was hand ground with such steel mills.

The first flour stone ground flour mill in South Australia was opened in 1840.

These early mills used stone rollers (mill-stones), imported mainly from France, with a barrel type sieving which only sieved off the bran. Steam power was mainly used, but there were some wind powered and water powered mills constructed with an isolated horse powered or bullock powered plant.

The upper and lower millstones were typically made of a siliceous rock called ‘burrstone’, an open textured porous but tough, fine grained sandstone, or a silicified fossiliferous limestone

Those used in Britain during the second half of the 1800s were usually either:

  • Derbyshire Peak Stones of grey Millstone grit, used for grinding barley, or more often,
  • French buhrstones [or burr stones], used for finer grinding, not cut from one piece, but built up from sections of rock cemented together, backed with plaster and bound with shrink-fit iron bands.

Several Millstones are mentioned amongst ship cargo coming into Australian ports during the 1840s. On 14 June 1841 (p.2) the Port Philip Patriot reported the arrival from Leith of ‘29 burr stones and one mill stone.’ On 1 Sept 1842, 28 burr stones were exported from Melbourne to Hobart amongst  a cargo of sheep and flour on the schooner Truganini.

On 26 April 1841 the Port Philip Patriot reported that a very fine specimen of burr stone had been procured from Port Phillip, but that hitherto most burr stones had been procured from France. By 1844 the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (4 May 1844, p.4)  again reported that rock had been found near Melbourne that might suffice as a millstone:

BHURR STONE. This stone so valuable in the construction of millstone has been found in the neighbourhood of Melbourne. In texture and geological relations it is said to resemble the costly bhurr stone of France, for which, within the island of Great Britain, a magnificent reward was once offered by parliament.

During the late 1830s it appears that flour imported into Port Phillip came from mills in Tasmania or Sydney which were water or steam driven. On 29 Dec 1841 the Port Phillip Gazette noted that  ‘a flour mill worked by water is in the course of construction at Coulstock’s station on the Plenty [River]’.

The best known early flour mill site in Melbourne was originally operated by John Dight of Campbell Town. He acquired portion 88, Parish of Jika Jika, County of Bourke, on 7 November 1838 on the Yarra River near Dight’s Falls. Over the next few years, he constructed a brick mill on the site and began the production of flour. In November 1843, ownership of the land passed to John Dight and his brother Charles Hilton Dight. In 1864, flour milling was abandoned and the mill was leased to Thomas Kenny. In the mid 1870s, the site was used by the Patent Safety Blasting Powder Co. The Dight family sold the mill site to Edwin Trennery in 1878 and he subsequently subdivided the land. The original mill on the river bank remained unoccupied until 1888, when flour millers Gillespie, Aitken and Scott, operating under the name of ‘Yarra Falls Roller Flour Mills’ constructed a new flour mill and associated buildings on the site.

There is a detailed account in A homestead history (pp.60-62) based on the letters of ‘Alfred Joyce of Plaistow and Norwood, 1843-64’ of  a flour mill constructed by Alfred Joyce, a self-declared expert in ‘millwrighting and engineering’. Indeed Joyce completed a four year apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer and millwright. His apprenticeship indenture papers are dated 25 March 1837 (Joyce’s 16th birthday).

Alfred Joyce, whose homestead was on present day Joyces Creek, claimed in his letters that John Hepburn’s Smeaton Hill station was named ‘after the celebrated hydraulic engineer whom he greatly admired’, and that John Hepburn’s water-powered mill was powered with a ‘pair of real burr stones’ (p.60). John Smeaton (1824-92) was an English civil engineer responsible for the design of bridges, canal, harbours and lighthouses, who also pioneered the use of hydraulic lime in concrete. He also credited by some for inventing the cast-iron axle shaft for water wheels. However Hepburn’s reference to Smeaton is more likely about his birthplace by that name in Scotland.

Alfred Joyce moved to Plaistow in May 1844, setting up his run on Joyces Creek. Joyce  noted that ‘turning the mill by hand was by no means a pleasant contemplation, but we had to go through it for a while until some mechanical contrivance was constructed’ (p.60). Joyce first attempted a wind-driven mill at Plaistow using ‘sails about nine feet across and fixed on the spindle of a small steel mill, fastened to a post that could be turned to the wind as required’. This contrivance worked well early on but ‘the uncertainty of the wind and its occasional violence’ led him to set up an undershot waterwheel on account of ‘little fall’. It was attached to two steel mills.

Given the likely short fall via a short southerly water race off the Mill Stream to the Protectorate mill site, the set up as described in detail by Joyce (summarised below) of a steel mill attached to an undershot waterwheel is the most likely one to have operated on the Mill Stream during the 1840s.

  • Two very strong posts sunk in the ground four to five feet on either side of the water races, firmly rammed round with stones
  • The shaft of the wheel made from dressed log 8 or 9 inches [approx. 20cm] through.
  • The journals of the shaft comprising the well-rounded edges of the log reduced to about six inches [15cm] and running in corresponding dry wood bearings, these moving up or down in a long slot as the water rose or fell and supported on iron bolts passed through the posts.
  • The lubricating material a mixture of tar or grease.
  • A stout chain and grooved pulleys used to connect the power with the work as no other material would have stood the splash of the wheel.

Joyce’s neighbour Mr Bucknall (on Rodborough Vale run) first copied the wind mill and later set up an overshot water wheel in a copious spring coming out of the banks of the elevated plains’, also attached to two steel mills.

Given that Hepburn (from 1841), Joyce  and Bucknall (from 1844) regularly passed through the Aboriginal Protectorate at Mount Franklin and sometimes stopped there on the way to and from Melbourne, and were on good terms with Edward Parker and family, it is likely that their expertise, experience and advice in flour milling might have been useful to those operating the Protectorate era mill. In the 31 Aug 1841 Protectorate report Parker noted that ‘about 35 acres of land have been enclosed and 13 acres prepared for cultivation, and five acres sown with wheat’.

As a postscript, once gold was discovered the need for flour milling increased exponentially. The foundation stone for a steam driven flour mill (Victoria Steam Mill) in Castlemaine was laid in December 1856. Many water-driven flour mills were also established across the goldfields towards the Great Dividing Range from the 1850s, wherever water was available to drive then.

Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers: 2020 Tour Notes

‘Peaks, Wetlands & Rivers’

Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Week

Tour Notes, 2020

Barry Golding,

Detail of the massive and ancient strap grafted river red gum tree on Merin Merin Swamp

The tour is a Reconciliation Week initiative of Hepburn Shire Council. 

  • Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Action Plan Advisory Committee (RAP AC)
  • Donna Spiller, Arts Culture & Reconciliation Officer Hepburn Shire
  • Uncle Ricky Nelson – Dja Dja Wurrung Elder
  • Barry Golding – RAP AC
  • Inga Hamilton, Community Development Officer, Hepburn Shire
  • Peter O’Mara – RAP AC

Why a virtual tour in 2020?

We originally planned to run ‘Peaks, Rivers & Wetlands’ as another ‘on Country’ bus tour during National Reconciliation Week 2002, 27 May to 3 June.

We conducted several days of planning in the field to make the experience of being on Country special. We deliberately chose three sites that participants and other members of the public would be able to later, independently access, enjoy and explore:

  • Mount Greenock Geological Reserve, at Dunach
  • Merin Merin Swamp, at Eglinton north of Clunes
  • Hamilton’s Crossing at Neereman, north of Baringhup

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we were forced to come up with a Plan B at very short notice. Our filming and recording had to be undertaken with great care for the safety of those involved, with low technology, low cost and limited time frames.

Sincere thanks

Our sincere thanks to the RAP AC members and others listed above. A note of gratitude to Inga Hamilton, our filmmaker/editor for skilfully and generously collating  what we were able to film on-site and overlay with studio recordings.  We are grateful to Donna Spiller and Inga for the huge amount of work ‘behind the scenes’ to film, edit and get the three You Tube programs and ‘Welcome to Country’ to completion.

Barry Golding penned these notes to share with anyone who views the programs and is interested in knowing more or physically visiting the sites.

These notes have been made accessible for download as a blog on Barry Golding’s website via shortlink

Reconciliation Week Virtual Tour Overview

Presented by Hepburn Shire Council in partnership with Jaara Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson and Professor Barry Golding AM. Truth telling and reconciling our shared history at contact in the three-part series ‘Peaks, Rivers and Wetlands’.

Time travel back 180 years to three seldom visited environments and events from the early contact period that marked the beginning of unimaginable loss and trauma for Dja Dja Wurrung people. Join Jaara Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson and Professor Barry Golding as they stand together on the top of the iconic volcanic slopes of Mount Greenock. Explore the tranquil Merin Merin Wetland where kangaroos still graze and visit the deep pools on the Loddon River at Neereman, where traditional owners once camped and fished for Murray Cod.

Welcome to Country – Feel the spirit of Country as Uncle Rick Nelson welcomes you on to Dja Dja Wurrung lands, to commence your Tour of ‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’.

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’ = PART ONE Mount Greenock  –

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’  – PART TWO Merin Merin  –

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’ PART THREE – Loddon River at Neereman –

About National Reconciliation Week – 2020

Theme (appropriately) ‘In This Together’

Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations and importantly as a nation. At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We strive towards a more just, equitable nation by championing unity and mutual respect as we come together and connect with one another.

On this journey, Australians are all ‘In This Together’.  Every one of us has an essential role to play when it comes to reconciliation as we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures.

When we come together to build mutual respect and understanding, we shape a better future for all Australians.

This year Reconciliation Australia marks 20 years of operations in shaping Australia’s journey towards a more just, equitable and reconciled nation. Much has happened since the early days of the people’s movement for reconciliation, including greater acknowledgement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights to land and sea; understanding of the impact of government policies and frontier conflicts; and an embracing of stories of Indigenous resilience, success and contribution.

2020 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the reconciliation walks of 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation and show their support for a more reconciled Australia. As always, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, and Australians now benefit from the efforts and contributions of people committed to reconciliation in the past. Today we work together to further that national journey towards a fully reconciled country.

Throughout this time, we have also learnt how to reset relationships based on respect. While much has been achieved, there is still more work to be done and this year is the ideal anniversary to reflect on how far we have come while setting new directions for the future.

What is National Reconciliation Week?

  • National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
  • The dates for NRW remain the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.
  • Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The three sites in brief

The three sites featured in the virtual tour programs include public land that enables you to safely and sensitively access them, as below. All sites are reasonably distant from towns and none have services such as water or toilets.

Please note our safety cautions. Some notes are added, below, to help you find the sites, plan and enjoy your visit. All sites would be ideal on any mild, sunny day (not Total Fire Ban). If you visit Neereman or Merin Merin, note that both are water ecosystems and are therefore more likely to be home to snakes in season.

We include detailed access information for each site, as Google Map-type applications won’t necessarily recognise the sites and might lead you down some  rough ‘goat tracks’.

The Mount Greenock and Merin Merin sites are around 50km from Daylesford (via Clunes) but only around ten minutes driving distance apart. If you have the time and interest, visiting both these sites while in the same area would make sense.

Hamilton’s Crossing at Neereman is around 40km north-east of the other sites (via Carisbrook) on the Loddon River (and approximately 60km north of Daylesford via Baringhup), but is well worth visiting separately for its beauty, giant river red gums and riverine habitat quite apart from its Aboriginal Protectorate association.

  • Mount Greenock summit involves a steep and rocky walk up an exposed, windswept, treeless mountain flank, but with superb views.
  • Merin Merin is an expansive shallow swamp ringed by regenerating tree and shrub vegetation and some ancient remnant trees.
  • The former Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate is located on a very beautiful section of the Loddon River. It is a great place to appreciate nature and to swim in summer.

Mount Greenock

Monument to Major Mitchell on the summit of Mount Greenock, erected in 1936.

Mount Greenock is (today) an almost bald and reasonably steep, rocky former volcanic cone. The views from the flanks of the mountain and from the top and on a good day, are superb. Anticipate a windy (sometime cold) site and a steep, strenuous, rocky walk up to the memorial cairn towards the summit without well-defined tracks. Dress accordingly and wear strong shoes with a good grip. A grazing licence currently allows cows to graze on what is classified as a ‘Geological Reserve’.


Mount Greenock Geological Reserve is actually on a large, approximately rectangular block of public land that includes the mountain and its crater partly bounded by several roads: see outline in red, below.

Red outline map of theMount Greenock Reserve: the recommended access road is to the south west. The former road easement to the summit from the west is not obvious on the ground today.

However, the only recommended safe access to the mountain is via the Union Mine site just off the Ballarat to Maryborough Road.

  • If coming from the south, you will travel via Clunes. If coming from the north you will travel via Talbot.
  • There is a Parks Victoria sign on the east (right) side of the road approximately 12 km north of Clunes (or around 6km south of Talbot) that says, ‘Union Mine & Mount Greenock Geological Reserve’.
  • A short track off the road near the sign leads to a gate. Open the gate and drive in (close the gate behind you).
  • Drive approx. 200 metres along a gravel track and park under the young gum trees near where there is a Major Mitchell display (with quartz gravel heaps from the former Deep Lead mine site alongside) and Mount Greenock right in front of you.

When you arrive, you will likely ask yourself, “Am I actually allowed in? The short answer is, “Yes. It is a public reserve.” However please avoid the grazing stock (and cow pats), leave nothing behind and take only your memories of the incredible vistas away.

The walk to the summit and the Major Mitchell cairn

If the access gate is locked you will see a wooden stile up the slope to help you cross a barbed wire fence onto the huge paddock that includes the mountain (and usually the grazing cows). Keep to the right around the rocky ridge immediately in front of you, and then pick a cow track (or any route that best suits you) to head up the steep, rocky slope towards the summit. To avoid the steepest climb, we suggest you keep to the slightly gentler slope towards the left. Once onto the broad crater rim, head for the big stone Major Mitchell cairn (a smaller rocky cairn is on the furthest edge of the crater). Wander and enjoy the 360-degree views!

Take care walking back down the slope to avoid slipping. Pick your way down the gentler slopes back to your car. Take care driving out onto the busy main road and shut the gate behind you.

Like us, you will probably ask yourself whether cattle grazing is an appropriate use of a publicly owned, iconic mountain in 2020. Maybe if more people knew about Mount Greenock something might be done in the future to remove grazing, sensitively revegetate the landscape, make its steep slopes less prone to erosion and make it more accessible for people to visit and enjoy. This might include interpretation other than about Major Mitchell that includes its important Dja Dja Wurrung connections.

For those that are interested in nature

From the broad summit on a good day you can see a vast swathe of country. The areas that are volcanic grassland now were largely grassland or open woodland in 1836. The main grass on the slopes would have been kangaroo grass and there were lots of silver banksia and buloke in the slopes of the mountain and volcanic grasslands. The areas of native forest now were largely forest in 1836. There are virtually no trees and only a few hardy native species on Mount Greenock, including the thorny Tree Violet bush (Melicytus dentatus) which clings on in rocky clefts despite the grazing.

You will see a broad volcanic crater breached towards the north east. The rocks are mostly scoria and vesicular lava (with gas bubbles). Some rocks are so full off gas bubbles they will float on water. The original ‘ropy lava’ flow structures are still evident in many of the rocks at the surface.

For those who are interested in post-contact history

 The deep lead (Union) gold mine where your car is parked tapped into the gold bearing volcanic gravels that run right under the mountain (the Mount Greenock Deep Lead). The water worn quartz gravels were piled up as refuse as the finer gold bearing material was processed. From the summit you will see white spoil heaps of former mines on the same deep lead heading south towards the Great Dividing Range.

The following is a brief post contact history summarised from the file on the mountain still in the Epsom (Bendigo} Crown files office.

  • The mountain and surrounding area would have been part of the Dunach Forest pastoral run during the 1840s.
  • On 9 Nov 1863 the Lands and Survey Office decreed that the area to be added to the Talbot’s United Town and Goldfield Common.
  • Gold mining during the late 1800s followed the Mount Greenock Deep Lead right under the mountain, extending several kilometres north and south. The white peaks on the south side of the Mount Greenock (below)are where shafts pierced the flanks of the mountain.

Signs of former gold mining on the south flank of Mount Greenock

  • By July 1894 it had been decreed that 360 acres be withheld from leasing and licensing.
  • The Major Mitchell monument was erected with huge fanfare and re-enactment in 1936 to celebrate the ‘Centenary of Discovery’.
  • On 17 March 1992 the mountain and 138 ha around it was declared as reserve, specifically for conservation of an area of scientific (geological) interest, consistent with the Land Conservation Council 1981 decision to zone it N1 ‘Geological Reserve’.
  • By 1997, the main use pf the reserve was for grazing, at which time it was described as ‘very rocky, steep country’.
  • A 2004 map shows Mount Greenock’s old geodetic trig (survey) point and rock cairn to north, and the Major Mitchell Monument to the south.
  • A 2006 Survey Report wrongly concluded that ‘There is no evidence of previous Aboriginal occupation’ on the Reserve.
  • There is an easement for an unused and unmade road from nearby Mitchell Road to the monument. Mitchell’s Road was not named after Major Mitchell, but after William Mitchell whose name is on a 40-acre original title to the NW of the reserve.

Merin Merin Swamp


Merin Merin Swamp is a hidden wetland gem now in public ownership around 10km north of Clunes ‘as the crow flies’, but we strongly suggest you follow the all-weather access directions, as below. Being a Game Reserve, you will definitely not take your dog.


The recommended all weather access (including some gravel) into and out of the site is as follows (NOTE: other tracks in, including via the Mount Cameron Road are prone to be boggy or rocky and require high vehicle clearance). Drive slowly and safely on the gravel roads. Again, respect all protected wildlife on the site, leave nothing behind and take only your memories away. Take clothing appropriate to the forecast weather, necessary water and food. Don’t walk on a day of Total Fire Ban.

  • From Clunes, take the Ballarat-Maryborough Road, C287 north towards Talbot.
  • At the locality of Dunach, take the right fork along C288 (the Dunach-Eddington Road) towards Carisbrook.
  • After around 500 metres, turn right onto Fells Gully Road.
  • After around 500 metres, turn left along Wattle Gully Road. This gravel road takes you up to the elevated wetland along the remarkable margin between the rich volcanic plains of nearby Mount Glasgow, and the adjacent native forest growing on the much poorer soils developed on much older shales and slates.
  • Follow Wattle Gully Road for 4.4km until the intersection where you see the ‘Merin Merin Swamp’ sign (where Weathersons Road turns right).
  • Park safely off the road near this intersection and walk onto the reserve via an opening in the fence at the corner near the sign. Where you enter is on the NW corner of the Reserve [NOTE: Return the same way you came in].

The Reserve is an approximate rectangle bounded on most sides by minor roads [Please note that two blocks of land (fenced in) to the south west of the swamp are on private land]. The Reserve is bounded by Wattle Gully Rd to the north, part of Weathersons Road to the west and Middle Swamp Road to the south.

The strap grafted tree in the program might take some finding, but it’s within easy walking distance in from where we suggest you park your car: around 200 metres east of Weathersons Road and 100 metres south of Wattle Gully Road.

The wetland area is prone to be inundated in winter and spring, so wear shoes that anticipate water and mud, and long pants that anticipate snakes. It’s reasonably firm and very enjoyable walking around the shore of the swamp lined by regenerating red gums. Total distance is approximately 5km right around the edge.

For those who are interested in nature

Merin Merin Swamp together with Middle Swamp nearby, receive water via localised runoff from surrounding volcanic scoria cones and plains. Both swamps are locally important due to their high wildlife value. Previous land use had been timber harvesting during the gold rush era and beyond and grazing until the grazing licence was removed in the early 1990s and the area was properly fenced. The area is now a State Game Reserve managed by Parks Victoria. Recent extensive planting of local native species on the margins of the reserve has begun to enhance natural regeneration.

This shallow freshwater marsh contains a combination of Woodland dominated by Eucalyptus camaldulensis (Red Gum) and Open-Sedgeland dominated by Juncus (rushes), Carex (sedges), and Eleocharis (spike rushes). The swamp contains high habitat values due to the mixed age classes of Red Gums present and connection to the west with State forest. There is a very high proportion of introduced species, particularly Phalaris (Canary Grass). This is due to the swamp’s long grazing history.

For those who are interested in post-contact history

There was extensive mining in the region from the 1860s (though not close to the Merin Merin Reserve) and most original red gums were cut to supply the huge amount of firewood and timber the mines and miners consumed. The red gums were more recently used as fence posts and firewood until the area was made a reserve in 1977. Sheep grazing was phased out and ended in 1980. The area was severely burnt in the 1885 bushfires.

A 1987 Ballarat College of Advanced Education Draft Management Plan noted that an Aboriginal ‘canoe tree’ remained in the middle of the swamp, and a midden (oven mound) site and shield tree were also present on the reserve. There are other oven mounds on private land west of the reserve.

In 1989, 20 allotments totalling 202 ha were bought back by the state government at total cost of $110,800, a process that commenced in the 1976 on the basis that the area was of considerable value to wildlife, both for local and resident birds and also for migratory and nomadic species. The map below shows which blocks were bought back in 1989.

Merin Merin map. The purple shaded allotments were bought back by the government in 1989. The green area has not been alienated and is mostly wetland. Your car will be parked on the intersection just off the NW corner of this map. You will see the two privately owned blocks to the south west of the swamp.

Whilst in 2020 there are still two parcels of private land allotments towards the south west of the reserve, the original Parish Plan had 21 other parcels of private and of up to 50 acres that are now part of the 2020 reserve as well as three now closed roads.

In 2008 the area secured a Permanent Reservation of 324 ha for management of wildlife and preservation of wildlife habitat.

The current Game Reserve area was Zoned C5 as part of the Land Conservation Council zoning process along with Middle Swamp as a ‘a valuable part of a chain of swamps used by waterfowl’. Planting of native tree and shrub species in recent years has greatly improved the prospect of this being reinstated as an important wetland habitat on the elevated volcanic plains.

Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate

The images of the Loddon River at Neereman in the film show very old river red gums and long, deep pools at two sites. The site along the Loddon just upstream of the Hamilton’s Crossing streamside reserve, where the Uncle Ricky does the Welcome to Country under the huge strap grafted red gum (detail below) is beautiful. It is highly accessible and the one we provide access details for, below.

Detail of the massive strap grafted river red gum tree in the ‘Welcome to Country’. It’s on the north side of Loddon River about 250 metres upstream (east) from Hamilton’s Crossing.

Hamilton’s Crossing is well within the original Protectorate site, and regularly used by locals and visitors. The site is also an excellent and very amenable  place to swim, fish or bush camp.

Please NOTE: The centre of original 1840-1 Aboriginal Protectorate site that briefly included a ‘cultivation paddock’ is a few kilometers upstream of Hamiltons Crossing. It is only accessible through private property which we obtained for some of the Neereman filming. It should not be accessed for a range of good reasons: to do with its cultural and ecological importance, the currently fragile and erodible state of its steep cliffs and remnant vegetation, as well as its private status and the need to ensure the safety of its stock and crops.


 In summary, you are looking for ‘Hamiltons Crossing’, (not marked on many maps), right where the Baringhup West – Eastville Road (which you will find) crosses the Loddon River around 8km NW of Baringhup.

Make you way to Baringhup via either Newstead or Maldon. It’s a very spread out small town. From the Baringhup general store at ‘Loddon House’ (the only place for local supplies), head west along Baringhup Road towards Carisbrook, but turn hard right onto Baringhup West Road. There is a right turn after a few kilometers onto Baringhup West – Eastville Road which leads you to the (signposted) Hamiltons Crossing Crown Reserve where you will cross the ford over the Loddon River.

Park on the far (north) side of the Loddon River, and east (to the right) of the road. The river up or downstream is delightful and OK to explore as long as you don’t go through fences. The Loddon runs much of summer here and the gravel banks and pools make great places to picnic or swim.

The huge multi-stemmed, strap grafted river red gum tree featured in Uncle Ricky’s ‘Welcome to Country’ is upstream just a few hundred metres on the same side that your car is parked.

For those who are interested in post contact history

The centre of the former 1840-1 Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate (nominally 5 miles in diameter) is a few kilometres upstream of Hamilton’s Crossing on private land on long, deep pools in the Loddon River. The banks close to the waterline south of this wide and deep section of the river are lined with huge red gums. On the upper banks are a few remnant buloke trees. The flat and sandy area north of the river, where the ‘former cultivation paddock’ was marked in an 1856 survey, is still known as ‘Parkers Plains’ by some local old timers and has recently been irrigated by several huge centre pivot irrigators.

The river banks show no sign of the many wood and bark huts that were constructed for up to 200 Aboriginal people, Protectorate staff and families during the eight months that the Protectorate operated. Edward Parker’s son, Joseph Parker, writing in the Mount Alexander Mail in June 1916, recollected that in January 1840 his family had moved to  ‘the large waterhole’ on the Loddon at Neura Mong,  that he understood to be ‘the Aboriginal word for ‘hide here’ which also ‘proved to be the home of codfish’ (the Murray Cod).

Barry Golding recently found an entry to the word Neereman, spelt the same way, in an Aboriginal dictionary list from Coranderrk from 1909. Coranderrk was a government Aboriginal mission that operated in the post Aboriginal Protectorate era from 1863 and 1924, and to which several Dja Dja Wurrung people were forcibly taken from the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station in the 1860s.  The entry read: ‘Neereman (high bank; bend in river), Coranderrk, Vic.’

Historical Post script to Neereman

Barry Golding has recently transcribed much of the original hand written Aboriginal Protectorate correspondence relating to the selection, management and abandonment of the Neereman site. Some of it was graphically written by Assistant Protector Edward Parker on site. What follows is a summary based on original records. It seeks to explain why the Neereman site failed, and why it was moved to the better known site near Mount Franklin. As a warning, it’s not a pretty story.

1840 was an unusually (El Nino) dry year. The English seeds and potatoes planted in the cultivation paddock on the Neereman site wilted and failed in the sandy soil and harsh summer of 1840. The Protectorate Overseer, Richard Bazeley quickly determined that  the Neereman site was totally unsuitable for cultivation. The food that had been brought up from Melbourne by cart was running out and Aboriginal people were starving and leaving.

The  Dja Dja Wurrung people from many Clans to the north had been encouraged  or forced to come to the site for their relative safety, but were  forced back onto Country to find food.  However they were also violently forced off the squatting runs, that by the  late 1840 had total encircled the Neereman site. Grazing stock were eating out their staple grassland food, the Myrniong or Yam Daisy. Aboriginal people were also hunted down, arrested or killed if they interfered with the squatter’s sheep and cattle.

The Protectorate was only five miles in radius and unfenced from stock. There was much conflict over access to land, traditional food and water. Many Aboriginal people (and some squatters and their ex-convict shepherds) died in the surrounding area in the violence and murder that followed.

It was difficult or impossible for people from neighbouring Aboriginal Nations, some of whom were at enmity with the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation, to live peaceably and  in such close contact on the Neereman site in the  Christian harmony envisaged by Parker.

Many deadly introduced diseases were rife amongst the Aboriginal people of all ages living on or visiting the site by early 1841. A medical officer sent from Melbourne to inspect the Neereman site found syphilis was widespread and deadly amongst the women, spread mainly through regular contact between Aboriginal women and the squatter’s employees.

Meantime Overseer Bazeley scouted around for a suitable alternative Protectorate site where the soil and rainfall were better,  and where there was  less deadly interaction with the surrounding squatters.

Meantime the deep pools in the Loddon River at Neereman were fished for their huge  Murray Cod and Maquarie Perch, which were dried and loaded onto a waggon. Carts were dispatched to Melbourne to try and obtain desperately needed flour, rice and sugar for the people who were starving.

The Aboriginal Protectorate at Neereman was finally moved from the Neereman site (despite further vehement opposition from the squatters) to a new site deemed more suitable on the flanks the of the Larnebarramul (Mount Franklin) volcanic crater in mid 1841.  The Aboriginal Protectorate with Edward Parker in charge struggled on the new site  for many of the same reasons.

The perceived  advantages of the Mount Franklin cite (centred on present day Franklinford) included  better soil and rainfall than at Neereman. It was also closer to Melbourne and had more thick forest on many of its margins, insulating it to some extent from the surrounding squatters, whose preference was for the former Aboriginal grasslands on the rich volcanic plains.

The Protectorate System was in tatters and politically unpopular with the squatters in the Port Phillip Colony by the late 1840s, and was abandoned in late 1849.

Edward Parker gave evidence to an official inquiry about the condition of Aborigines held some decades later. it also investigated why the Protectorate system failed. In Parker’s, opinion, the system failed mainly because he was not given enough support from the government  to properly implement the Christian side of his civilising mission.

Brief personal reflection by Barry Golding

Anyone who has just read the disturbing post script, above, and who is concerned about First Nations reconciliation in Australia in 2020, will likely have many unanswered questions in their heads. We all need  to keep asking and answering these questions,  in collaboration with the local traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung people and their descendants, for many years to come.

As a non-Aboriginal person living on Dja Dja Wurrung Country for most on my 70 years, I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land, past and present, and pay my respects to their Elders and ancestors, past, present and emerging.

I acknowledge the generosity, knowledge and wisdom of Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson. Working with Uncle Ricky on Reconciliation initiatives with the Hepburn Shire over the past few years has been a great joy and inspiration. I am delighted that two of the film clips are dedicated to Uncle Ricky’s  late and great father.

In writing and reflecting on all this, I (Barry Golding) pose just one  unanswered question,.

Why has the Neereman site and what happened here effectively been lost or forgotten in the ensuing 180 years?






Abduction and child stealing: Re-examination of Mitchell in Dja Dja Wurrung Country, 1836


Preamble to a discussion about invasion  in 2020

Major Thomas Mitchell is widely acknowledged for his journeys of exploration and discovery of ‘new lands’ in inland Australia, albeit ones that had already been named, mapped and cultured by First Nations peoples for tens of thousands of years.

Critically interrogating Major Sir Thomas Mitchell’s achievement as inland Victoria’s preeminent colonial explorer including calling it and what followed an invasion is sort of like putting your favourite dog down or burning the family photos. Denying and destroying something inherited and passed down through generations is simply not done.

This account deliberately restricts itself to Mitchell’s 1836 expedition across Dja Dja Wurrung country. The Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation was one of around 250 separate and different Nations at contact. In outline it is located in central Victoria encompassing the southern catchments of the Loddon and Avoca Rivers.

For those unfamiliar with the area referred to in this narrative, Dja Dja Wurrung country is bounded in the south by the Great Dividing Range and extends all the way to the southern Mallee. It roughly encloses an expansive oval area bounded (clockwise) by present day Creswick, Lexton, Navarre, Donald, Charlton, Boort, Marong, Malmsbury and Bullarto. Larger former gold towns included within its footprint include Maryborough, Daylesford, Castlemaine, St Arnaud and Wedderburn.

So why is it important and why does it matter? 

Truth telling is an important part of any process of reconciliation. During the era of colonial exploration there was huge public interest and uncritical admiration for explorers and their deeds. One only has to see the huge monument erected on the top of the hill above Castlemaine to the ill conceived and clumsily executed Burke and Wills expedition, to understand how much the public cared for explorers, even after abject failure and death.

It is salient to recall that all of the dozens of those who followed Mitchell’s expedition’s wagon wheel tracks into and across Dja Dja Wurrung country to Mitchell’s promised land, Australia Felix, had a copy of Mitchell’s itinerary with them. Indeed Hepburn, Gardner and Hawdon’s overlanding party were fully briefed on their route south towards Melbourne by Stapylton on the Murrumbidgee near Gundagai as Stapylton was heading home and north with the expedition’s wagons.

A century after Mitchell and those that followed in his footsteps there was a rush to erect new monuments and re enact their achievements and heroism. The monuments on the top of Mount Greenock above Talbot in 1936 and to Hepburn in Smeaton in 1938 are good examples. Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons spoke to the three thousand assembled in Smeaton for the centenary celebrations in 1838. He used words that made the invasion of Dja Dja Wurrung lands and Australia more generally sound like a benign, bloodless coup.

Captain Hepburn, who, with his flock of sheep, his cattle, and his horses, crossed from New South Wales to the fertile land round Smeaton, where no white man had been before. … Compared with most other countries, Australia was young in actual years, it was old in experience. It was something to be thankful for that our history had been written not in blood but in the pioneering achievements of our forefathers.

A song was composed about the Dreaming Hills of Smeaton to acknowledge those pioneers who transformed ‘the pristine wilderness’ where ‘joy and peace together reign’.

The uneasy part for me, as an older white male who lives in an inherited invaded landscape of southern Dja Dja Wurrung country just five kilometres down the road from Smeaton (recently adorned by a suitably wooden statue of John Hepburn that the birds have roosted above), is to go beyond the now standard and important recognition of First Nations ancestors and Elders past and present.

My point is that we need to interrogate and recognise what actually happened here, what is officially and inappropriately acknowledged and commemorated, and also what is not. The next steps aside, from evidence-based truth telling, public education and some strategic renaming in the landscape, include one or more belated Treaties and restitution with Australia’s First Nations people.

Monuments are almost always erected to and by the victors and directed to the universally male expedition leaders, and also those first men to come behind them and seize Aboriginal land, including John Hepburn. There are almost no monuments to Aboriginal people who played often unrecognised but heroic roles leading, guiding, supporting and mediating such expeditions, and certainly none to those who were killed bravely resisting and defending their lands, families and clans.

There are few monuments to those who were typically forcefully and brutally moved off Country, killed and vanquished. Thus the use of the gentler term ‘settlement’ and the convenient fiction that people did not live on the lands we inherited or simply faded away. In fact some miraculously and heroically survived. The recent move by Hepburn Shire to support Erica Higgin’s idea of a memorial avenue of trees honouring  the tens of thousands of Aboriginal people who died in this way on Country is a welcome move in the right direction.

The gravesite of Yuranigh, another of Mitchell’s Aboriginal assistants in the countryside of his ancestors northwest of Orange I visited a few years ago is a notable exception to these generalities. It the only known site in Australia where Aboriginal and European burial practices coexist and one of the few where acknowledgement is respectfully commemorated. Yuranigh joined Mitchell’s fourth expedition in inland Queensland in 1845. The tombstone, placed with Mitchell’s support after the great man’s  death in 1850 acknowledges Yuranigh’s ‘courage, honesty and fidelity’.

There are virtually no monuments to the Aboriginal peoples and identities whose lives and Country were taken in the typically violent and brutal process of exploration, conquest and seizure of their lands. My hope is that the few people who read this account will share my view that even after 184 years, it is important as part of Indigenous reconciliation to honestly document what happened and to acknowledge that descendants of the losers and wounded in the battle for Country in our community are still suffering, hurting and grieving and owed dignity, respect and understanding.

My account was penned on 29 April 2020, exactly 250 years since Captain James Cook planted the British flag on the shores of Botany Bay. The celebrations planned and funded by the Australian government in 2020 to commemorate Cook’s arrival and mapping of Eastern Australia have fortunately been dealt a serious blow by the COVID19 epidemic.

Unbeknown then to the people of the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation in central Victoria, 66 years before Major Mitchell’s 1836 triumphant tramps across their country, Captain James Cook had already declared the continent legally empty and had claimed it for the British.

These expensive and jingoistic national celebrations ignore the fact that Cook actually landed in Australia several years earlier in 1777, first on Bruny Island off Tasmania’s south east coast. By 1780 when the British flag was finally hoisted near present day Sydney to ward of the French colonial intentions there had been around 60 other European landings all around the Australian coastline.

As a precursor to the first physical invasion of their lands locally, the Dja Dja Wurrung people in central Victoria had experienced several waves of a deadly smallpox pandemic that the invaders had somehow introduced to the continent.

It was far deadlier than the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, and perhaps also arrived in one of their less well appointed overseas convict ‘cruise ships’. Smallpox was the first of many introduced deadly pandemics that decimated Australian First nations peoples. Smallpox alone is likely to have killed as many as one half of the Aboriginal people living on the Murray-Darling River system of southeastern Australia between 1789 and 1820.

Mitchell’s two transits through Dja Dja Wurrung Country in 1836

This account is based mainly around insights from original transcripts from Thomas Mitchell’s 1836 diary as well as those of Granville Stapylton, Mitchell’s second in command, published in 1986 in Stapylton with Major Mitchell’s Australia Felix Expedition 1836  edited by Alan Andrews. Mitchell’s huge exploring party plus wagons loaded with two huge boats destined for an elusive (and non-existent) inland sea lumbered twice through their country.

If one imagines Dja Dja Wurrung country to be a rough oval, Mitchell’s expedition made two roughly parallel transits of approximately 80km across the oval around 80km apart. These transits crossed the upper and middle parts of river catchments now known as the Avoca and Loddon.

Mitchell’s total entourage of 23 European men became the first of dozens of troupes of invading explorers, then ‘overstraiters’  (from Van Diemen’s Land via Corio and Melbourne) and ‘overlanders’ (from Sydney) to set foot on,  transit and  ‘take up’ (seize) Dja Dja Wurrung country during the next five years.

Mitchell’s first transit, essentially southwest across the Wimmera, began after they crossed the Loddon River south west of Pyramid Hill in early July 1836. They exited west of present day Paradise on their way to the southern coast via the Glenelg River to Portland. Their second transit in October 1836 went approximately northeast from Lexton  to Sutton Grange in the central east.

During both transits a poorly known and tragic drama was playing out within Mitchell’s 1836 expedition. The drama does not make for easy or comfortable reading. Even though my narrative is restricted to sanitised evidence in the diaries of Mitchell and Stapylton as the two lead invaders, their own words paint a disturbing and self-incriminating picture.

Their second transit was on their journey back to Sydney. By then the expedition had actually split into two, with Mitchell’s lighter party heading home as fast as possible to break the news about the potential pastoral wealth of Australia Felix.

The rest of the party led by the second in charge, Granton Stapylton followed up with the wagons with an increasing distance between the parties, and also with his growing resentment and distrust of Mitchell and his motives. He actually called himself ‘Man Friday’ and rightly anticipated that all the credit would go to Tarzan, Mitchell.

The current narrative provides only brief contextual information from original expedition records about the country they travelled through. Instead ,it particularly focuses on the way two Aboriginal women (referred to in the original diaries as ‘gins’) and particularly one of their daughters, Balandella, were treated. Kitty was mainly referred to as ‘Pipers gin’, Piper being Mitchell’s invaluable Aboriginal guide.

came to the expedition as Piper’s wife. She joined the expedition at Lake Cargelligo after the lead Aboriginal man, Piper, temporarily left to ‘marry’  her. Kitty and Turandurey’s contribution to the expedition was huge, a fact finally acknowledged during the celebration of NAIDOC week in 2019, as below.

Kitty proved a wonderful guide, both on her own and also with Piper. She knew where to locate water and negotiated with the People they met on their way. It was she who she was tall and strong, but had a blind eye (opaque and white), likely from surviving smallpox.  … Kitty and Turandurey showed Mitchell where Oxley’s earlier survey and exploration party reached the Lachlan River and pointed out that they rescued one of Oxley’s men who nearly drowned there. They also mentioned three early white men on horseback and their boats on the Murrumbidgee. This advice by Kitty and Turandurey reminded the white explorers how keenly ‘strangers’ were observed on country. It also asserted their knowledge and ownership of place. Both Kitty and Turandurey frequently went ahead to negotiate. They answered Mitchell’s questions, providing cultural explanations: for example, as to graves and birthplaces. Kitty became an important scout for gossip and intelligence, faithfully reporting back to Mitchell.

Turandurey was a Wiradjuri woman with a totally blind young daughter, Balandella, mainly referred to as the ‘Picaninny’. The records and this narrative confirm that both women were being shamefully treated before, during and after both transits.

The term ‘gin’, ‘Jin’ (or djin) retained in the original documents as it refers to Aboriginal women is now acknowledged as an offensive term pertaining to ‘having sex’.

‘Pickaninny’ is a word applied originally by people of the West Indies to their babies and more widely referring to small children. It is a pidgin word form, derived from the Portuguese pequenino and subsequently used in Canada and the US as a racial slur referring to a dark-skinned child of African descent. In Australia it tended to be used in colonial texts to refer to Aboriginal children.

A fuller account of the abduction and later separation and kidnapping of The widow and the child was published by Jack Brook in 1988. It helped me tease out some of the missing contextual detail. It is important to note that Brook was more forgiving of Mitchell’s explanation of what I regard as a shameful abduction and unconscionable child stealing in my own narrative.

The first transit, May 1836

‘Kitty’ had, by the time this narrative begins, as the expedition crossed the Loddon River north east of present day Wedderburn, become a wife to John Piper, the unpaid Aboriginal guide and mentor to Mitchell. Both women and Piper played invaluable roles safely guiding the party out and back.

All three are conspicuously missing from the officially listed party of white male expeditioners. Turandurey and her daughter, Balandella had been ‘picked up’ on the Lachlan River north east of Booligal around two months beforehand on 2 May as teased out in more detail below.

We have no record of what actually transpired from a Wiradjuri perspective. Only Mitchell and Stapylton record the circumstances in which Turandurey and her daughter had originally been abducted.

Stapylton records that while travelling down the then deep, wide but dry Lachlan River in present day western New South Wales they arrived at water, where they : … much alarmed and put to flight a small family of wild Blacks. A remarkable instance of courage and true affection was displayed on this occasion by a little girl, who while the others fled, hesitated to stay behind by the side of her sister who was totally blind’.

Mitchell’s diary on 2 May 1836 neatly flick-passes the responsibility for the abduction to an ‘old Aboriginal man: ’ … having found two ponds of water we encamped beside them. … A fire was burning near the water, and at it sat a black child about seven or eight years old, quite blind. All the other natives had fled save one poor little girl still younger, who, notwithstanding the appearance of such strange beings, as we must have seemed to her, and the terror of those who fled, nevertheless lingered about the bushes, and at length took her seat beside the blind boy … a dog so lean as scarcely to be able to stand, drew his feeble body close up beside the two children, as if desirous to defend them. They formed indeed a miserable group, exhibiting, nevertheless, instances of affection and fidelity, creditable both to the human and canine species. An old man came up to the fire afterwards, with other children. He told us the name of the water-holes between that place and the Murrumbidgee, but he could not be prevailed on to be our guide. Subsequently, however, a gin who was a widow, with the little girl above-mentioned, whose age might be about four years, was persuaded by him to accompany us’.

Three weeks later the mother and child (who Mitchell also referred to as ‘the widow’  were still accompanying the expedition. When Mitchell departed for the Darling River on 23 May he directed Stapylton, who was to stay at the depot camp, to ensure ‘the widow had rations and that every care should be taken of the child’. Furthermore, Turandurey was to be prevented from ‘going back’, for in Mitchell’s words, to move the child could prove ‘injurious’ to her.

Stapylton records that the child was soon after seriously injured when she became ‘entangled in the bullock team and was thrown down the draywheel passing over and fracturing the creature’s thigh in two places.’ Stapylton saw a ‘providential’ upside of the accident, writing that he sensed it would prevent:

… collusion between the mother and some wild tribes of which there was evident signs of commencement, with what views it would be difficult to say except to our disadvantage. The mother is now at all events now a feature and it shall be my province to keep off the Black Gentry.

The ‘Black Gentry’ perhaps refers to two young Aboriginal (Wiradjuri) men who also joined Mitchell’s party. Because both were called ‘Tommy’, to distinguish between them, Mitchell gave them chronometrical surnames: ‘Tommy Came- First’ and ‘Tommy Came-Last’.

Arrival on the Loddon River

There are only occasional brief mentions of what Stapylton calls ‘the two black gins and the picaninny’ until they absconded on the night they camped on the stream they called the ‘Yarrayne’, now known as the Loddon River.

Stapylton was actually pleased they had ‘boulted (sic) so much the better’, but noted that Mitchell ‘… seems vexed about it. Why I am utterly at a loss to conceive. They were utterly useless to us and moreover a severe tax upon the flour bag [their food reserves]’.

In the same diary entry, Stapylton waxes lyrical of the then unnamed Australia Felix. He writes that: ‘The country promises well. Distant Hills to the southward [towards Dunolly] and westward [towards Charlton] … and fine rising level land up to the base of them’.

Anticipating that a future survey of the southern Australian coast would provide ‘fine outlets to the ocean’, Stapylton prophetically sensed they had:

… discovered a paradise unequalled in New Holland, and for as much as I know superiar (sic) in point of extent and fertility of any in the world. Pyramid Hill will perpetuate the discovery it is a land mark on a vast plain that can never be mistaken and must always convey and association of ideas which will improve on the memory, the circumstance of this expedition and the name of its leader. His Man Friday will not share the same good luck.

Mitchell records that the party ‘… crossed a deep but narrow stream flowing between high grassy banks … the plains beyond it were five miles in breadth, and of the best description’. Later to be known as the Loddon River, then dubbed the Yarrayne by Mitchell, it was a name he somehow understood that the Aborigines associated with the river.

As he approached the Loddon Mitchell wrote about the ‘Black-butted gum and Casuarinae [that] extended back to the mountains and forests’. He also noted the reappearance of Xanthonia (= Danthonia: a Wallaby grass) and was particularly impressed by the appearance of Anthisteria (= Themeda, Kangaroo grass). As in much of his diary, he was more interested in the plants in the landscape than the people.

While the deliberately fire-managed native grasses were dancing alongside the Loddon, Mitchell and Stapylton’s minds were turning to Greek literature and legend to put their mark on what they saw and sought to name through Greek classical and colonial lenses.

The  names he chose locally, most that are still used, commemorate a mix of Greek classical  heroes (such as Macedon, Alexander, & Campaspe), Scottish places ( e.g. Grampians) and military heroes from his time serving in the war on the Iberian Peninsula  in Europe (e.g. Beckwith & Greenock).

Mitchell hinted to Stapylton that he might appropriately call  ‘… this beautiful little [Loddon] river Ilyssus‘. His choice  was in reference to an ancient Greek narrative about Queen Dedo’s [=Dido’s]  forming a new colony in Africa. Michell was well aware that as he was the first European to venture into these ‘new lands’ shortly to be colonised that had re-naming rights over the already named mountains and rivers.

Ilissos  was Dido’s other name and also the name of a former stream in Athens. A fourth Century BC text refers to  the Illisos as a ‘little stream delightfully clear and bright; I can fancy that there might be maidens playing near’.

Mitchell’s allusion to the Greek story of Dido refers to her flight from her father, King Pygmalion in Phoenician Tyre (today in Lebanon). Dido founded a new colony which became the city of Carthage in North Africa (today’s Tunis) around 825 BC. The back story goes that Dido’s party of exiles travelled via Cyprus and seized about eighty young women who were prostituting themselves on the shore in order to provide wives for the men in the party.

I’ve added this detail to try and illustrate how Mitchell justified the violence that was being perpetrated. Winners in war and colonisation tended to take it all, including the women . He  knew the Dja Dja Wurrung  people and their rich grassland would soon colonised for king and country. It was for him and his party to do what he perceived as necessary to create and mark a path for others to follow. Picking up and discarding Aboriginal guides along the way was seen as essential and de rigeur for many Australian explorers.

Back in the real world the exploring party continued their journey southward, moving well south of Turandurey’s home Country and camping on  the Loddon Rivers north east of present day Wedderburn. The planned the next day to cross the river and move west into Dja Dja Wurrung country. Unsurprisingly, the mother and child figured it was time to made a break for home. Assisted by Kitty, they stealthily left camp in the middle of the night.

Mitchell and his party’s attempt to easily cross the Loddon River via a log bridge the next day  were thwarted by a remarkable overnight rise in the Loddon River. Meantime Piper had been missing for a day and ‘brought back one of the Jins and the Picaninny having tracked them to our last encampment’.

Mitchell was relieved, as according to Stapylton, Mitchell sensed ‘they might have made the wild blacks acquainted with our camp arrangement and that at night an attack might be made of the most serious consequences to us’. Stapylton noted that:

These Jins took their measure [of escape] very cunningly having left in the middle of the night during a very severe frost aware … that it would prove almost impossible to track them. They are shockingly frost bitten however in the feet and the mother [Balandella] would not come up tonight. There she is alone without a fire in the bush, and her feet described as being in a most dreadful state I think she will die the poor devil. What then shall we do with the Picaninny? It would have been much wiser to let them go when they desired it and damn their collusion with the tribes. The other Jin (Kitty] returned this morning with her feet in a deplorable state. Thus we are saddled with two useless devils who must be carried on the drays.

The next day on 6 July Stapylton noted that at ‘9PM Jin and the child again joined us this is a fixture now. I suppose she must have crawled about 15 miles on her hands and knees’. Putting aside the offensive language, the lack of compassion evident in their actions leaves me gobsmacked.

By 8 July they were camped on the Avoca River just west of Logan. Mitchell was impressed by the fitness of the land (for’ taking up’) and foresaw that it would ‘eventually become part of a great empire’. The country he was crossing would by Spring 1836 on his way home, be named for its perceived fertility, a land he considered was blessed by fortune, Australia Felix.

The ‘gin’ (Turandurey) is next mentioned briefly, again in very derogatory terms by Stapylton on 17 July having passed west out of Dja Dja Wurrung country. Stapylton writes while crossing broken country near present day Callawadda, the ‘Jin capsized from the top of the dray not hurt but she truly is an unfortunate bitch. Picanniny held on well.’

During the following month the expedition headed south west including down the Glenelg River and along the  coast to Portland. To Mitchell’s complete surprise the Hentys had arrived there as overstraiting pastoralists two years before and had already built houses. William Dutton had been living nearby, sealing with his Aboriginal wife for eight years since 1828.

Having resupplied, they started to head back towards Sydney, jettisoning the big boat near Mount Napier, increasing the mobility of the boat carriage and smaller boat across the swampy Western District volcanic plains.

The second homeward transit, October 1836

By 12 September 1836 whilst camping on the Wannon River towards the southern end of the Grampians, Stapylton writes that Mitchell as expedition leader had ‘resolved upon making a start home [towards Sydney] with pack horses and leaving me behind to bring up the expedition to the settlement’. By this stage the bullocks hauling the heavy wagons were starting to show the strain.

The revised plan was for Stapylton and the rest of the party to remain there ‘for one fortnight in order to give time for the bullocks to refresh then to proceed on his track’. Stapylton angrily noted he found Mitchell impenetrable in terms of his communication and guessed he might have been ‘meditating [him] mischief’.

Indeed Mitchell had decided to cruelly separate the mother and child and set off ahead with Turandurey’s daughter. Stapylton records Mitchell’s advice that ‘The Mother Jin stays with me [Stapylton] until I receive further directions respecting her’.

Mitchell writes of his arguably dubious rationalisation of the child’s abduction and separation a week later on 19 September.

When about to set out I observed that the widow ‘Turandurey’, who was to remain with Mr Stapylton’s party and the carts, was marked with white round the eyes (the natives’ fashion of mourning), and that the face of her child Ballandella was whitened also. This poor woman, who had cheerfully carried the child on her back, when we offered to carry both on the carts, and who was as careful and affectionate as any mother could be, had at length determined to entrust to me the care of this infant. I was gratified with such a proof of the mother’s confidence in us, but I should have been less willing to take charge of her child, had I not been aware of the wretched state of slavery to which native females are doomed. I felt additional interest in this poor child, from the circumstance of her having suffered so much by the accident, that befell her while with our party, and which had not prevented her from now preferring our mode of living so much, that I believe the mother at length despaired of being ever able to initiate her thoroughly in the mysteries of killing and eating snakes, lizards, rats and similar food. The widow had been long enough with us to be sensible, how much more her sex was respected by civilized men than savages, and, as I conceived, it was with such sentiments that she committed her child to my charge, under the immediate care, however, of Piper’s gin.

By the time Stapylton’s party including Turandurey re-entered Dja Dja Wurrung country near present day Lexton on 8 October, Mitchell’s advance party with her daughter Balandella in tow were approaching the Goulburn River north of Seymour. One can only guess at the likely heartbreak involved in this tragic separation as both mother and daughter mourned their separation. The brave explorer diaries are curiously both silent during the rest of the trip towards home.

The route home for both parties was something of a route march on a bearing of approximately 60 degrees magnetic. Their journey through the already densely populated, well watered and fertile volcanic country of the Dja Dja Wurrung in the upper Avoca and Loddon River catchments took them past Mount Greenock (near Talbot) into the Mammeloid Hills beyond Mount Beckworth and on to recross the Loddon River near present day Newstead.

Stapylton wrongly understood the Loddon to be a tributary of the Wimmera, but accurately described, then as now in the vicinity and downstream of Newstead, as:

A considerable stream … running between high rocky (grass) banks bare of timber forming a cavity for a river the size of the Murray. … The river frontage and the luxuriant flats on its banks and the splendid Downs to the South and Eastwards with the forest ground immediately adjoining would render in a most desirable spot for a grant [presumably for himself after the success of the expedition, which neither he nor Mitchell received].

Beyond Newstead the traverse towards present day Castlemaine took both parties over ‘a stoney barren range’ before crossing ‘a good stream running south [Campbells Creek] good forest hills and valleys’. Mitchell’s advance party found a way over the range through Expedition Pass past the southern end of Mount Alexander. They had time to take a southern detour beyond Dja Dja Wurrung country to climb and rename Mount Macedon, the ‘Mount Wentworth’ of Hume, though not marked as such on Hume’s map.

From Macedon’s summit Mitchell was again very surprised to see that the southern coast of the Port Phillip Colony was already being settled: there were white sails of ships at harbour on the north end of Port Phillip Bay. The embryonic settlement of ‘Batmania / Bearbrass’ that was renamed Melbourne a year later had again got under Mitchell’s radar.

Mitchell realised then that it was likely that  overstraiters would advance north into his fertile icon, Australia Felix from the southern coast even without news of his discovery. It was therefore timely for him to head straight home on a track largely identified by Hume and Hovell in 1824.

The back end to this tragic abduction

The next time the mother or daughter are mentioned in Stapylton’s diary is on 12 November when back in (squatter) settled country beyond the Murrumbidgee. He notes that ‘Turandurey has grown enormously fat which should speak well of the care we have taken of her & to the best on my recollection no improprieties with her as a female have ever taken place. She was married the night before to King Joey and she proceeds … to the Lachlan. The picaninny is kidnapped away to a station ten miles distant’.

Though he actually uses the term ‘kidnapping’ Stapylton seeks to distance himself from any responsibility for Turandurey’s evident pregnancy, adding, ‘With this I have nothing to do or much to say nor will I let those who projected this measure and carried it into execution be responsible to themselves and members of the public’.

In Mitchell’s later memoirs he obscures the reality of the abduction and his later action of separation, child stealing and dealing. Mitchell does not actually state that Turandurey ran away. Instead he wrote that ‘the widow was inclined to go back’ for she was ‘far beyond her own country’. He continues with an explanation that confirms that the mother, Turandurey knew all along of Mitchell’s wicked  intention to abduct her child.

I intended to put her on a more direct and safe way home after we should pass the heads of the Murrumbidgee on our return, I could not detain her longer than she wished …[She] seemed uneasy under an apprehension, that I wanted to deprive her of this child. I certainly had always been willing to take back with me to Sydney an aboriginal (sic) child, with the intention of ascertaining, what might be the effect of education upon one of that race. This little savage, who at first would prefer a snake or lizard to a piece of bread, had become so far civilised at length, as to prefer bread; and it began to cry bitterly on leaving us.

For Mitchell, this abominable act that was played out over six months was capped off by this dreadful, cruel and primitive social experiment. Mitchell records that he ‘took the little picaninny’ to Sydney and ‘introduced her to his home’.

Mitchell gushed that Balandella ‘was a welcome stranger to my children, among whom she remained, and seemed to adopt the habits of domestic life … con amore’, an Italian expression meaning ‘with love, tender enthusiasm or zeal’.

Nevertheless Mitchell soon tired of the experiment and palmed Balandella off to a ‘Dr Charles Nicholson’ when he and his family returned to England on 9 May 1837. There, Thomas Mitchell waited for the accolades to flow in and wrote and published his heroic opus about finding a new and happy land Australia Felix, ripe for the taking. There is no mention of her again by Mitchell.

Major Mitchell is seldom remembered for any of the above. Instead he is comprehensively lionised and commemorated by means of countless monuments in the Australian landscape along with several peaks and a high Plateau in the Grampians. A well known Australia cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) and a lesser known rodent, Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse (Notomys mitchellii, the latter currently ironically thteatened by habitat destruction associated with European settlement in Australia, also takes his name.

Angus McMillan also named the Mitchell River in Victoria in Mitchell’s honour in 1839. McMillan went on to lead many well-documented massacres of Kurnai people in Gippsland between 1840-1845. The former electorate of McMillan named in McMillan’s honour was therefore renamed ‘Monash’ in 2018. It is never too late to remove inappropriate names. The community consultation process seeking to remove the racist Creek name ‘Jim Crow’  is underway in 2020.

Balandella later ‘fell into service’ (= became a domestic slave) as a nurse to Nicholson family members, had a daughter to a labourer in 1846, and afterwards married an Aboriginal (Darkinjung, South Coast NSW) man, John Barber in the late 1840s. Some of her descendants are still living in the Hawkesbury area.

Ballendella is a tiny rural locality near Rochester in Victoria that likely takes its name from Ballandella. Her mother Turandurey is acknowledged by one street name in Balranald, NSW and a remote surveyed locality in the County of Lowan in the western Wimmera. John Piper was rewarded for his contribution with ‘certain material possessions’. Mitchell later got a Knighthood, while Piper got a brass plate inscribed ‘John Piper, Conqueror of the Interior’.

Stapylton is acknowledged in the landscape he surveyed with a Gold Coast suburb and several mountains (one near Brisbane and another in the Grampians). He was was fatally speared by Aborigines almost five years later on 31 May 1840 while surveying in the vicinity of the Border Loop on the present New South Wales Queensland border. Two of the perpetrators, who were effectively resisting the survey and acquisition of their lands, were hung in Brisbane in July 1841.

When anyone drives around northern and western Victoria in Dja Dja Wurrung country and sees the prominent stone Major Mitchell monuments with their brass arrows pointing to the way the Major went, it would be well to remember that Mitchell was also a self confessed Aboriginal child stealer. Mitchell was also officially sanctioned for his unnecessary dispersion (massacre) of Aborigines during this same expedition on the Murray.

State-sanctioned Aboriginal child stealing and domestic slavery continued in Australia for another 150 years until the 2008 National Apology to the many Stolen Generations. Few people in 2020 know that Kitty or John Piper, along with Turanduray and Balandella  also passed through this country.

The long tail of dispossession in Australia: Captains John and Robert Hepburn

 The long tail of colonialism in Australia: 

An interrogation of the family histories of two former Scottish sea Captains: Robert & John Hepburn

Barry Golding & Robert Hine

5 April 2020: minor edit 16 Sept 2020


What follows is our collaborative attempt to connect some complex family histories leading to Robert Hine (born in 1971) who lives in present day Tasmania. Our account illustrates how family histories become entwined with broader, often complex international and social trends, in this case with the long-term impact of slavery, colonialism and First Nations dispossession on two Hepburn family members who migrated from Scotland to become squatters on Aboriginal lands in Australia by the mid 1800s.

Our intention is to illustrate that Australian people have complex histories and multicultural heritages, in this case involving a West African slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation, Aboriginal Tasmanians, Van Diemen’s Land convicts, a Scottish folk hero and outlaw, as well as Scottish and English free settlers.

Some of the key individuals in our story include Captain John Hepburn (1803-1860), after whom the Hepburn Shire in Victoria, Australia (where Barry Golding lives) is named, and a cousin and also former sea Captain, Robert Hepburn born in 1782, around two decades before John and almost two centuries before Robert Hine. Our story and the family connections go back to Scotland, Africa and Jamaica in the 1700s, and unfold in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL, now Tasmania) during the 1800s.

This is our work in progress. We have drawn on a wide range of primary and secondary sources as well as oral histories, all of which are prone to error and inaccuracy. In Robert Hine’s words:

It is difficult to discover the true line of descent from family records and oral histories available today. Online ancestry sites can be inaccurate. There is also the possibility of some inbreeding in the original Jackson/ Pearce/ Hepburn line, and it is possible that some original documentation has been changed or substituted for close or fabricated records. We look forward to advice on what we’ve got wrong and what is missing.

 How this blog came about

Barry Golding has previously written about John Hepburn in his ‘Beyond Contact’ page on He was prompted to research and write about Captain Robert William Hepburn by an unsolicited but welcome email on 8 February 2020 from Robert Hine. Robert’s email to Barry read:

Hi mate, haven’t read your [Beyond Contact blog] story yet, I will, but I just wanted to let you know I am a direct descendant of Captain Robert William Hepburn and his Daughter / granddaughter Jacobene or Jacobina. ‘Bene’ is what she went by. Married name Pearce. … I am Aboriginal through Jacobene’s daughter. I live in Hobart and while I can’t give you all the answers, as much history has been destroyed, I might be able to help you with stories passed down.

A follow up email from Robert Hine included a photograph of himself as a child, above, and a striking photograph, below, of Captain Robert Hepburn, that does not correspond to Lucille Quinlan’s claim of an unmistakable and persistent Hepburn family stereotype, ‘fair of complexion and blue-eyed, with hair that tends to wave crisply about the temples’, that appears in the opening paragraph of her 1967 book, Here my Home: The life and times of John Stuart Hepburn 1803-1860, master mariner, overlander, founder of Smeaton Hill, Victoria’about Robert’s cousin.

Background to John & Robert Hepburn’s Scottish ancestors

Lucille Quinlan’s book starts by painting a picture of ‘The Hepburn’s of Smeaton, Australia’ as descending from a long line of Hepburn’s of exalted calibres, including Scottish military heroes and lairds on huge estates. In fact the Australian Captain John Hepburn was the son of a Thomas Hepburn (1778-1857) a poor fisherman. John Hepburn’s reflected on his life age at 50, describing himself as ‘a mere adventurer cast upon the world since I was thirteen years old. For want of education, my progress was slow’.

John’s mother, Alison Stewart died when John was age four. It was John Hepburn who paid for his father’s tombstone in the Whitekirk, Scotland burial ground, curiously without his mother’s name but with the name of Agnes Whitecross, Thomas’ second wife. One of John’s much younger stepbrothers, Benjamin Hepburn (1826-88) emigrated from Scotland as a 23 year old to join John on the Smeaton Hill run in Australia.

When one puts ‘Smeaton Hepburn’ into a Google search in 2020, the’ Smeaton Nursery Gardens & Tearoom’ is one of the first listings.  The gardens, on the site of the likely former ‘Smyrton’ castle and later Smeaton Manor and Estate in East Lothian in Scotland, remains a working farm of 450 acres set in the Scottish countryside.

Prominent amongst the other ‘Smeaton Hepburn’ Google listings is the ‘Castles of Scotland’ website. It records that on the Hepburn Smeaton lands in the 1500s:

Adam Hepburn of Smeaton [was] supported [by] Mary Queen of Scots, and fought at the Battle of Langside in 1568, and is mentioned in a Summons of treason in 1567. Master Patrick Hepburn of Smeaton was a magistrate for the burgh of Haddington, and on a commission. … John Hepburn of Smeaton [in the 1640s] … was appointed as commissioner of the committee for purging the army within East Lothian. In 1661 Patrick Hepburn of Smeaton, Francis Hepburn of Beanston, and others, were on a commission for judging of Janet Hogg, spouse to George Harlaw in Linton, ‘guilty of the abominable crime of witchcraft’.

The original expansive Hepburn property in Smeaton, East Lothian passed by marriage to the Buchan’s when Elizabeth Hepburn, heiress of Patrick Hepburn of Smeaton, married George Buchan of Letham and the family took the name ‘Buchan-Hepburn’ from 1764. Their son, Sir George Buchan Hepburn, built the mansion in the 1790s. He was a lawyer and baron of the exchequer, and was made a baronet in 1815, four years before he died. Sir Thomas Hepburn-Buchan, 3rd baronet, was Conservative MP for Haddingtonshire from 1838-1847. The family held the property until 1934 when it was sold to the present owners, the Grays.

The very extended and dispersed family that Robert and John Hepburn were born into in the late 1700’s and the early 19th Century respectively had fallen on much harder times than this landed, privileged and knighted offshoot of the Hepburn family. In Lucille Quinlan’s words:

With the conquest of Scotland and England, the Hepburn fortunes declined. Then followed the agrarian and industrial revolutions and the long wars against Napoleon, with all their far reaching social consequences. The clan increased in spite of diminishing fortunes, so that more of the Hepburn’s were driven into renting small farms from richer cousins, or working at humble occupations in the villages around.

Both Robert and John Hepburn found a way out of the likely very limited local employment opportunities and went to sea for a living, both becoming sea captains, and adopting the title ‘Captain’. Near where Barry Golding lives in 2020 John Hepburn’s nautical legacy lives in the Captains Creek winery, Captains Gully Road.

As we will learn later in our account, it was the lure of the sea that had led several of Robert’s (MacGregor and Hepburn) forebears into rising through the ranks to become ship captains, including in the West Indian slave trave and the Royal Navy. By the time Robert and John rose to the rank of ship captains, slavery and the slave trade in North America was beginning wane, the military conflicts on the Iberian (Spanish) Peninsula had cooled off, and the new colonies in Van Diemen’s Land and Port Phillip on the other side of the world required ships to service them. They also provided the opportunity for many former ship captains with adequate capital to give up a lonely life at sea, spend more time with their wives and children and ‘take up’ huge acreages never dreamed of in Scotland.

In both cases, the land in present day Tasmania and Victoria was ‘taken up’ directly, sometimes with force and violence, from Aboriginal people. These acts of dispossession, which are still known euphemistically as ‘settlement’, were sanctioned by the colonial government. For very good reasons, neither John nor Robert documented what role they or their ex-convict employees actually played in this dispossession.

Some of this background helps explain how John and Robert Hepburn’s separate trajectories led them both go to sea and to later emigrate from Scotland and ‘take up land’. However it did not account for Robert’s complexion that was far from Anglo.

Robert Hepburn’s family background

Barry Golding looked at Quinlan’s one paragraph mention of Robert (p.17), describing him as a cousin of John Hepburn’s from Fife. As yet we are unable to identify their actual relationship, but it is clear that the areas in which they spent their childhoods was a reasonable distance apart. Fife is a Scottish county north of the Firth of Forth: East Lothian is the county to the South of the Firth. By road the distance between where Robert was brought up and John’s birthplace is around 60 miles (100 km).

Robert had settled in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) for one year before John Hepburn sailed the Diadem up the east coast of Tasmania in January 1829. Quinlan described Robert as:

… a man of some substance, with sufficient capital to work the land, he had obtained the maximum government grant of 2,000 acres, situated on St Pauls Plains. Later he obtained 500 acres more to open a whale fishery at Oyster Bay … [Robert Hepburn was] very much a Hepburn in temperament and attitudes … and a reputation for having quarrelled with his neighbours and estranged members of his own family.

An online search confirmed that the St Pauls Plains area that Robert Hepburn farmed after he arrived from Edinburgh with his wife and eight children in 1828 is in the eastern Tasmanian Midlands close to the present day small town of Avoca. Hepburn set up a whaling station in 1829 at the foot of ‘The Hazards’, a mountain range now located within the Freycinet National Park on Tasmania’s east coast.

The Oyster Bay whaling station grant to Hepburn in 1829 included nearby Picnic Island that he used as a breakwater for his boat. The Oyster Bay Aboriginal tribe before this dispossession had frequented the island for many thousands of years, travelling across from the mainland in barks canoes or swimming. Their shell middens on the Western end of the island still contain the remnants of countless shared meals of seal, birds, crayfish, abalone, oysters, and other shellfish. When the whales weren’t running, Robert Hepburn would set his convict labour to work mining sandstone from the island.

 Barry Golding was prompted to look back into Robert Hepburn’s ancestry. The first surprising detail was his birthplace in ‘Wilkins Estate, St Dorothy, Jamaica’ on 28 January 1782. When he searched further he discovered that Robert was the ‘illegitimate son of Mary Ann Roy’ and son of Captain William Hepburn, born in 1738 in Scotland and who died in Fifeshire, Scotland ‘without surviving legitimate sons’ from his marriage to Penelope Willikin Newell. However there is a record of a daughter of William and Penelope, Penelope Newell Hepburn, born 13 years before Robert on 28 October 1769, who lived to adulthood and was Robert Hepburn’s half sister.

It transpires that the ‘illegitimate Robert by Mary Ann Roy (who perhaps died shortly after his birth) was given the Hepburn surname and sent to Scotland to be raised by his grandmother [Mary Olipher Hepburn, 1705-92] the widow of the Reverend Patrick Hepburn [1701-72] and after her death in 1792, by an aunt.’ Given that Robert’s father’s family were from East Lothian, it seems likely that being brought up some distance away in Fife might have been a deliberate strategy, given the then shame of illegitimacy, heightened by the fact that his mother was a young black slave.

Further searching revealed that Robert Hepburn’s mother, Mary Ann Roy, was born in Jamaica in 1766, daughter of Gregor MacGregor and a Jamaican sugar plantation slave, Isabella Diabenti. The Roy surname appears to have been taken from MacGregor’s forebear, Rob Roy MacGregor, a Scottish outlaw (1671-1734) in the ‘Robin Hood’ mould who became a Scottish folk hero. Gregor MacGregor (c.1742-1799) was a ship’s captain in the West Indian slave trade and son of Ranald McGregor (1706-1786). Rob Roy MacGregor was in turn Ranald’s father and therefore a great grandfather of Robert Hepburn.

Isabella Diabenti, whose African origin appears to have been ‘Koromanti’ in present day Ghana, was thus Robert Hepburn’s grandmother. Mary Roy would have been age no more than sixteen years when she gave birth to Robert. Koromanti (derived from the name of the Ghanaian slave fort Fort Koramantine in Ghana) was the English name for enslaved people from the Akan ethnicity from the Gold Coast in modern Ghana. Jamaican sugar planters used the term ‘Koramanti’ to refer to slaves purchased from the Akan region of West Africa.

The preamble in Robert Hepburn’s will, below, refers mostly accurately but somewhat hyperbolically to his proud outlaw and slave lineage.

This is the last will and testament of me Robert Hepburn of Roys Hill in the district of Fingal, Tasmania, Esquire, lineal descendant of my Father, Captain [William] Hepburn, of the family of Hepburn of Keith, East Lothian, Scotland, and my Mother, Mary Ann Roy, Great Grandson of Rob Roy McGregor, and by my grandmother Isabella, Princess of Diabenti, lineal descendant of the King of that nation of the Gold Coast of Africa. I am prince of Diabenti, King of that nation of Africa.

Robert Hepburn’s descendants

Robert Hepburn married Jacobina Hosie (born in Scotland 3 July 1884) on 18 May 1805 in South Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland. Jacobina and Robert had nine children between 1806 and 1824, eight of whom survived to accompany their parents to VDL / Tasmania following Robert’s retirement from the Royal Navy on 13 March 1827. Robert had been the Captain of a ‘revenue cutter’. The US Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS) was set up by George Washington to collect customs and taxes and to prevent smuggling.

Robert Hine suggests he was related to Robert Hepburn through Robert’s daughter, Lillias Hepburn, born in Scotland on 7 May 1817 and who died in Brighton, Tasmania in 1913 at the age of 96. Lillias married convict Matthew Frederick Pearce and had a daughter Jacobina Elizabeth Pearce.  Convict records show that Pearce had been transported from Liverpool, England, arriving in VDL on 14 January 1842.

Jacobena Elizabeth Pearce married William Isaac. Jacobena had a daughter, Mary Thelma Eliza Jackson born 23 Dec 1865. It seems that Mary’s biological father was not Isaac, but Captain George William Jackson who then worked then the prison orphanage. Not a lot is known about Jackson’s early life aside from being the son of Major J. S. Jackson, barrack master in Sydney who came to NSW in February 1823 in the Cumberland. In April 1831 George Jackson was appointed master of the cutter Charlotte, in which he made many voyages to the Aboriginal settlement at Wybalenna on Flinders Island. In September 1835 Jackson was appointed master of the Eliza, resigning to become a pilot in Sydney. There is evidence Jackson returned to Hobart from England in March 1846 in his wife and children. In 1846 Jackson was registered to the master and owner of the schooner Flinders.

Mary Jackson married William Joseph Bedford, son of Joseph Bedford and Sarah Briggs in 1886 in Pontville, Tasmania (As an aside, one of their six children was given the Christian names ‘Robert Hepburn’). Sarah Briggs (born with twin sister Fanny in 5 June 1833, died 28 January 1903 in Brighton, Tasmania, buried at St Marks Pontville) appears to be the Aboriginal connection to present day (2020) Robert Hine.

Sarah Briggs’ mother, Woretermotetey (given the English name ‘Margaret’) was born during the 1790s and died in 1841,  Margaret was the daughter of Mannalargenna of Plangermaireener Nation Pakana from Cape Portland, Tasmania.

Sarah’s husband was Joseph Leonard Briggs, born approximately 1808. Many Victorian (Koorie) and Tasmanian Aboriginal (Palawa) people have Briggs ancestry.

The University of Tasmania website entry for Mannalargenna suggests he:

… was about 55 years old when he met [George] Robinson on 1 November 1830 on the Anson’s Plain, inland from the southern end of the Bay of Fires. His country was Tebrikunna, now known as Cape Portland, in the far northeast of Trouwunna and he was the leader of the Pairrebeenne clan. Mannalargenna had four daughters and two sons and he is a direct ancestor of the majority of Aboriginal people in Tasmania today. Robinson considered Mannalargenna as being of ‘superior intelligence’, and there is no doubt that he was revered as a formidable warrior and seer amongst his people. He was extremely fond of smearing himself all over with grease and red ochre and he maintained his long locks of hair and beard with this material.

After losing his first wife he married Tanleboneyer who was one of Robinson’s early guides. Mannalargenna and his wife accompanied Robinson on his journey around the island from 1831 to 1835. He did not conform to Robinson’s wish to wear clothes and remained in his preferred ochred and naked state until he died.

Born about 1775 Mannalargenna had lived half of his life in a world of uncontaminated cultural traditions and the other half he experienced the full impacts of the British invasion. On the arrival of Robinson’s vessel to Big Green Island in October 1835 Mannalargenna cut the physical symbol of his role and status – his long ochred hair and beard. This seems to have been a final act in the face of his loss of connections to country and traditional practice. In the face of a life of exile in what his people believed were the islands of the dead. Mannalargenna died at Wybalenna [Flinders Island] on 4 December 1835 … Robinson attributed Mannalargenna’s death to him cutting off his long ochred and greased hair and claimed that this sudden change had led to catching cold and catarrh. As a final act of insensitivity Robinson buried Mannalargenna’s body on the burial ground in a coffin and allowed his enemies to participate in the service.

Robert supplied the following information on his complex ancestry during the most recent century.

I was born 7 April 1971 in Townsville Hospital according to my Birth Certificate. I have been DNA tested with my father, due to adoptions in the Bedford family, and if I wore a wig I would be a dead spit for my mother when she was a child. My mother was known by the name Maree Susannah Atkins (born 28th November 1939 at the Hobart Fire Station). But her real name was Maurie Susannah and her twin sister was Nancy, both were born on the 28 October 1939. Mum was secretly adopted by her aunt, Vildred Phyllis May Bedford. Her twin sister was secretly adopted by her uncle, Claude Hepburn Bedford.

Their real mother, my genetic grandmother, was Nancy Bedford, born in 1922 to William Robert Hepburn Bedford. William Robert Hepburn Bedford’s World War 1 enlistment papers describe him as of dark complexion and he was discharged as ‘not likely to become an efficient soldier’. This discharge reason was common with many Aboriginal or part Aboriginal soldiers in WW1. I share the same Grandmother as Tasmania’s most eminent Aboriginal photographic artist (Professor) Wayne Quilliam and his brother, contemporary Aboriginal artist Mick Quilliam.

Robert has spent much of five decades painstakingly uncovering and exploring his genealogy and cultural heritage. Some of the Aboriginal detail remained under the government ‘radar’ for very good reasons during two hundred years of Stolen Generations. Loss of identity for many Aboriginal children was a deliberate government strategy which started in Tasmania with white settlement and dispossession in 1803, became endemic everywhere in white Australia, and was only formally acknowledged with the National Apology in 2008. Robert Hine regards this process of reclaiming identity for himself and family as being a critical plank in national reconciliation. Mick Quilliam wrote in the Indigenous Law Bulletin in 2011 that:

Just as I was influenced by my grandparents and parents, I encourage everyone to explore their cultural heritage regardless of race. Ultimately, it is us who shape and influence our children in future generations so their identity is not lost. Encourage your children to explore, understand and appreciate their cultural background – be proud of who you are.

Robert Hine writes that:

I ran into Aboriginal Professors Marcia Langton (University of Melbourne) and Maggie Walters (University of Tasmania) at an Aboriginal shell necklace exhibition. I showed them a photo of my mother, standing with a group of other children. Both professors looked at each other and said, “That’s Cootamundra, your mother is a Stolen Gen child”.  Every time there was a family function, my adoptive grandmother, who I still regard as my grandmother, would say over and over again, “If anyone asks you why you have darker skin than them, tell them you are part Indian”. This was drilled into us. Perhaps it was due to my mum being taken, or due to the fact they were still taking children up until 1975 in Tasmania. The photo on the left, below, is my mother’s aunt to whom she was adopted, Vildred Phyllis May Bedford. The photo on the right below is my real (genetic) grandmother, Nancy Bedford.

In summary

Robert Hine’s ancestry, from our account, includes English, Scottish (Hepburn & Macgregor), African, English convict and Palawa (Aboriginal Tasmanian) connections and several adoptions.

Our account illustrates how revealing the truth about sometimes hidden or denied parts of our ancestry can help explain to our families and children who we are, where we come from, and what shaped the difficult decisions our very diverse forebears made. It is also, for Aboriginal and other Australians, an important and essential prerequisite to mutual understanding and national reconciliation. This is our intention for sharing this blog more widely with others.


How will the COVID-19 pandemic play out?

I was recently asked by Mark Winston, CEO of US Men’s Sheds Association to give my opinion as to ‘How will it [the COVID19 Pandemic] play out?’ it was a good question to focus my mind on this cold and wet autumn Australian morning. What follows is an elaboration on my brief personal response to Mark. It was published on 5 April 2020 but updated on 13 April as the situation across the US rapidly worsened.

But first, for essential balance amongst the challenging  ‘horseman of the apocalypse’  times  globally there is some  good news and positive observations from here in rural northern Victoria. Australia appears by 13 April to have flattened the curve.

The early April 2020 rain had led to a serious autumn soaking of the bush, paddocks and also our garden. We are still picking the last of the summer crop, have abundant and diverse tomatoes, quinces, Jerusalem artichokes (below) and carrots. We are still picking  zucchini, french beans, sweet corn, silver beet, beetroot, parsnips, onion, basil and grapes.

What is in excess we share. Foraging in the bush and on local roadsides has turned up blackberries, pine mushrooms, apples, pears and pyrethrum daisies (below).

Yesterday I planted some of the over winter garden vegetables: garlic, broad beans, kale and cabbage, and a few vegetables that will thrive well into autumn: lettuce, radish and coriander.

Having our daughter home whilst grounded internationally by the current crisis is a beautiful, unplanned  bonus. Daily food becomes something we can all enjoy and celebrate, albeit in restricted social isolation.  Riding  my bicycle in splendid isolation on deserted rural roads and walking in the bush and deserted rural countryside remains a safe, celebratory and therapeutic possibility.

Car outings are restricted to essential shopping and medical appointments and social distancing and hand washing become important. Meetings have been replaced by on line forums, email and phone.

I took a photograph in earl April,  below) of the Daylesford main street (20km from home) in mid week of the school holidays.

It has not looked as bare as this since I arrived in Daylesford in the mid 1970s. Most shops are closed aside for food and essential services, and for the first time in many decades there are absolutely no tourists in sight.

At home in Kingston there has been lots of bread making, baking, preserving and heaps of dehydrating (all varieties of fruit leather, plus apples, figs, mango, banana, paw paw, pineapple and tomatoes). A home made quince liquor will be ready a few months down the track and a roadside blackberry liquor made with some of my otherwise barely drinkable homemade 2009 pinot wine with added vodka is already a great nightcap.

In summary. as retirees beyond paid work who own our own home, have a shed full of wood for the winter and food in the garden and preserved, we are OK. Yes, our superannuation will have taken a very big hit ( I have deliberately  decided not to look and check), but at least we have some.m

Many people in Australia and around the world have no cash reserves, are living in close proximity to others, have no home, fiscal buffer or income, often combined with underlying chronic physical and mental health problems and sometimes huge debts. In theory as a 70 plus year old I am theoretically in a high risk category, In practice, my real concerns are with and for others.

In the big scheme of things we are infinitely more privileged as individuals, as a family and as Australians generally than the vast majority of people in  the world. We debated over dinner last week as to how we should feel about this privilege and whether it should include guilt and shame. In this rural area we have very good nearby medical facilities, excellent mobility, communications, government services, energy, a reliable supply of food and a relatively caring and sharing community, family and friends. The last three are what matters most in adversity.

My response to Mark’s big question at the top of this blog was that I guess everywhere in the world will be affected and transformed differently, but everywhere its effect and our response to it  will necessarily be from the bottom up. How fast the virus spreads is up to us, dependent also on the commitment of resources and expertise available for testing and tracing those infected, and on government policies about movement and lockdown.  Those regions, families, peoples, nations and communities already wracked by inequality, poverty and conflict will suffer most. There will be many deaths perhaps in the tens of millions, much misery and suffering, and a very long tail of recovery involving people, community and economies. All of this is a tragedy.
We will need to learn heaps of important lessons about our interconnectedness and the need to act more in the common and community good. The recent bushfire crisis in Australia brought some of this home to Australians and the world, that we are already in a climate crisis together.
As an adult educator, I sense we will learn heaps of hard lessons from this dreadful and challenging experience.
Each nation is tackling the response to the crisis differently, and the shape of the curve that tracks infections and deaths mirrors these different responses. We would do well to look carefully at these trends and learn from them.
I sense there was a longer period of denial and hesitation to act in a timely and appropriate way in some countries at the top, most particularly in the US,. This pandemic can only be solved in the long term by evidence and science. The anti-science stance of the US  President, combined with  his shambolic national response to the evidence of its spread and it’s deadly nature for older and health compromised groups had by 13 April led to the virus to become rampant and deadly right across the  US.

The Guardian article on 13 April 2020  by journalist, Ariel Dorfman notes his earlier warnings about the dangers of Donald Trump’s attack on science in 2017. Now Dorfman says that ‘even those dire predictions did not go far enough as the president’s response to Covid-19 begins to play out’ in the US:

Today’s chaotic and bumbling response to this emergency [in the US] is no accident, but deeply rooted and systemic, the direct result of a pattern of callow benightedness that verges on the criminal and that goes back to the very start of Trump’s regime, embedded in the very recalcitrant anti-intellectual DNA of this president and his followers.

If, back in October of 2017, Trump seemed a remote, albeit inadvertent, disciple of the fascist general who shouted “Long live death!” all those decades ago as democracy was being destroyed in Spain, today I see him as someone far more terrifying: the personification of one of the horsemen of the apocalypse, the one riding the white horse of pestilence.

I can only hope  that the wisdom and expertise of health experts and other levels of government in the US and other nations will hold us in reasonable stead over the long haul. In some other countries including the US and Brazil, health experts are publicly contradicting their Presidents to try and minimise the infection rates and flatten the deadly curve.  Without a vaccine this global pandemic will exercise its deadly will on its own timeline, with the peak reduced and the curve flattened  if people and governments are responsible and rational and learn from the early mistakes.
Given my particular interest and expertise in older men’s well being. many older, isolated men in the Men’s Shed demographic will be impacted very severely. Men’s Sheds everywhere are now totally locked down
These are incredibly difficult times. I sense that worst is yet to come, including for peoples across Africa, Asia and South America as well as many countries and states in Europe, the Pacific and North America where poverty is endemic and some governments are in denial.
Business, economics  and work as usual are neither morally or economically rational, in my view. Our economy is built on trust and our environment on sustainability, which have both turned out to be more fragile than many of us had imagined. We live in a web of life, and in a global pandemic, can still get seriously entangled in the web of disease and death caused by a tiny, infectious, rampant virus.
I should stress in conclusion that none of us including me are experts in any of this. We are in relatively uncharted waters.
I do note that  this is not the first pandemic that has decimated people on the Australian continent aside from the Spanish flu. Smallpox was introduced  here by the colonial invaders and caused great suffering and huge loss of life in two pandemics from 1789  and the early decades of 1800s, particularly along the Murray-Darling river systems of inland Australia. By 1840 syphilis in the area I now live in was endemic and deadly amongst Dja Dja Wurrung women, introduced first by sealers and whalers and later by convicts, labourers and squatters. Other introduced diseases hitherto unknown in Australia including pneumonia, tuberculosis, whooping cough and diphtheria  have since caused huge mortality amongst First Nations people in Australia and many other areas of the ‘New World’ aside from the widespread murders, rape and violence associated with colonial conquest and dispossession.
I mention this because the descendants of those same First Nations peoples in Australia are in 2020 much more likely also to be prone to the current pandemic and on average have more limited resources or medical facilities to cope with its deadly onslaught.
Importantly all the best meantime to people and their families who chance to read this or choose to forward it on to others.
Thank goodness we have a democracy in Australia  where we are free to speak our minds and share it publicly in this way without the fear of persecution. Unlike in the US, we have national and state governments that have mounted a relatively swift, united, evidence based, humane and timely approach. Having a relatively well resourced, accessible, affordable  and equitable public health system in Australia is a huge bonus.

Reflections on one month holidaying in Iran

This is a reflection  on a recent one-month, self-organised holiday in Iran. When I decided to visit, the first question people asked is ‘Why on earth would you go there?’ Thus account was first written for (and published in) the PIMA Bulletin 26, September 2019.

In brief, it was a huge privilege to be so warmly welcomed as a visitor to such an interesting and important part of the world. It was mid summer and there were very few other Western tourists, but locals were universally keen to open their hearts, their minds and their country. While the official Australia government advice is ‘reconsider your need to travel’ it was for us totally safe on the ground as independent travellers.

I cried when I was so warmly and unconditionally welcomed as an outsider to go into a Friday Mosque within the ancient Tabriz Bazaar. Most of the fears about being Moslem in the world are totally irrational. We were welcomed more warmly and unconditionally than any outsider, particularly any Moslem, would be welcomed be Australia.

It was necessary to find ‘Plan Bs’ to get around the crippling US sanctions, re-imposed when the US government unilaterally walked away from the existing international agreement limiting nuclear activity. This involved making bookings through third party companies and countries, getting a local debit card, and accepting that several commonly used vectors of international communication and funds transfer would not be possible.

The negative press and irrational fear about Iran was at its height while we were there, with the US reportedly coming within ten minutes of launching a military attack in the Straits of Hormuz. Not wearing shorts, the need for women to wear a scarf in public, and the gender segregation of swimming in pools, are the main obvious necessary compromises for travellers. Iranian women can now do most things aside from being the President, a judge or ride a motorbike and attend a men’s football (soccer) match.

Iran as an Islamic Republic very dependent on fossil fuels is not without its problems, but in most respects it is a very safe, clean, modern, highly educated and literate society. Previous civilisations have removed most of the tree cover and many modern Iranian cities are severely drawing down the water table by pumping. The landscape has a stark beauty, from the extensive snow-covered mountains over 4,000 metres above sea level, to the extensive deserts and the small amount of forests along the Caspian Sea margin in the north.

The public transport systems (metro systems, airports, rail services) are very good despite the sanctions. In western terms everything is incredibly cheap, but the sanctions are biting harshly into its people and economy.

Bounded to the west by protracted military conflicts in Iraq, also to the east in Afghanistan, and to the south at enmity with some of the pro-American Gulf States, Iran sits in a geopolitically difficult context in 2019. It is still living the dreadful legacy of a horrific and pointless conflict with Iraq (1980-88) that ended with millions of deaths and stalemate. While it has little appetite for more military conflict, it has intervened to support several nations and peoples (rightly or wrongly) fighting other liberation struggles in North Africa and the Middle East. It is understandably concerned about being dragged unwittingly into other conflicts by the major powers.

The literary, technological, political and present day legacy of the achievements of the ancient and highly developed Zoroastrian civilizations and the Persian Empire are evident everywhere. This is a very proud country, whose main crime in the past century has been to stand up against provocation and attempts at regime change engineered largely outsiders, most recently including the US.

Of the many countries I have been to in the world, this is the country I have learnt the most from. I came away humbled by the warm welcome and the ongoing indignities its proud and patient people have been forced to endure, and are currently reliving. Iranians find themselves in 2019 in a very conflicted and contested geopolitical context, being forced to develop a national ‘learning and coping culture’ necessary to preserve and also transform their ancient traditions and modern civil society.

If you do go to Iran, and I encourage you to do so to see and learn for yourself, you will learn as much about the relative poverty and backwardness of many aspects of our own culture, lives and nations as you will about Iran. You will also learn to better accept, understand and appreciate religious and cultural difference, at home and abroad, rather than fear and dislike based around irrational fear and misinformation.

Reflecting back & looking forward: AONTAS (Ireland) & ALA (Australia)

Reflecting back & looking forward’:

Research completed in Ireland & in progress in Australia, October 2019

Barry Golding,

This post summarises research I recently undertook for the peak national Irish adult education body, AONTAS on the occasion of their 50th birthday celebrations. It also summarises  somewhat similar research in progress during 2019 for Adult Learning Australia (ALA), as part of ALA’s 60th birthday celebrations during 2020. A similar summary was published in the PIMA Bulletin 26, September 2019.

The completed AONTAS research in Ireland

Two years ago the peak adult education body in Ireland, AONTAS, as part of its 50 year celebration, put out a tender for someone to comb through their journal, The Adult Learner journal and antecedent Journals and write a history based on the evidence in the journal. I was attracted by the challenge of what I would learn as a consequence, not by the very modest amount they had allocated to undertake this huge task. To my surprise they liked the bid that I crafted with statistical wizard and old friend and colleague, Dr Jack Harvey. Our bid was leveraged off the partly quantitative methodology employed by Roger Harris and Sandra Morrison in their 50-year thematic study published in the Australian Journal of Adult Learning (Vol 50, Special Edition, pp.17-52) in 2011. Part of the method we used in crafting the narrative for our AONTAS research product was to consult key players to reflect back on their experience and cast forward.

Systematic analyses of past publications including journals combined with critical reflective narratives from key players are excellent opportunities for organisations to take a breath and critically look back as well as cast forward. Too often we look for solutions for recurring problems that our past actions have actually created (or worsened), without critically reflecting on what caused the problem in the first place.

A year later and my article was published as a peer reviewed article in the Adult Learner 2019  journal, see link. Its full reference is Golding, B. & Harvey, J. (2019). ’50 Years of AONTAS: Developments in the field of adult education in Ireland as reflected in the contents of The Adult Learner and its antecedent journals’, The Adult Learner, 2019, pp.21-56. The complete 2019 edition including our article is at:

The in progress research for ALA in Australia

I approached Adult Learning Australia (ALA) early in 2019 with the idea of doing something similar to the above research for their 60th ‘Birthday Celebrations’ in 2020. Again it would be a very big job with 168 journals and 1,031 articles from 1,450 authors over 60 years. Again, it was leveraged in part on the Harris and Morrison (2011) 50-year study, but oriented more towards a history of how and why the national adult learning vision of the 1940s has to 2020 not been realised. While some Australian States took up the challenge and the national government wrote policies and published reports, there was no real commitment to implement a national system. The rest was plain hard work, with a long trail of policy and exhortation without funding or follow through. My aim is to produce an evidence-based research article for peer review and publication in the 2020 Australian Journal of Adult Learning (AJAL).

As part of the same 2020 ‘ALA turns 60: Looking back and casting forward’ project commissioned by ALA, I am also assembling a set of around 35  ‘Cameos’, edited by myself but constructed from contributions provided from a number of key players in adult learning in Australia and overseas, in response to 10 questions. These key players have been asked to provide critical, honest and succinct responses to the following questions.

1. Please add (below) your name and current title (to be included at the top of the Cameo):
2. Please summarise (below) your current affiliations or achievements associated with ACE and/or ALA:
3. Please summarise (below) your main past affiliations or achievements that are associated with ACE or ALA:
4. What do you regard as ALA’s most important achievements?
3. What do you regard as the main issues facing adult learners in diverse community settings in 2019?
4. Have you any suggested solutions to these adult learner issues?
5. What do you regard as the biggest current or future ‘hurdles’ facing ALA (or other peak national ACE organisations) in promoting ACE?
6. Have you any suggested solutions to these national peak body hurdles?
7. What do you regard as the main current or future ‘hurdles’ facing academic journals (such as AJAL) in the field of ACE?
8. Do you have any suggested solutions (below) to the hurdles facing ACE journals?
9. Please feel free to add (below) anything else you think is pertinent to ALA’s history or its 60th anniversary:
10. Please feel free to add anything else (below} you think is relevant that you’d like to see included in, or added to your Cameo.

The intention is for the Cameos, once in a form contributors agree with as ‘Final’, to be circulated (in part or in full) by ALA, such as by posting to the ALA website, and adding to ALA Quest newsletter or AJAL during 2020 as part of the ALA 60th Birthday Celebrations.

The Research Link to the Adult Learner  journal article:

Golding, B. & Harvey, J. (2019) ’50 Years of AONTAS: Developments in the field of adult education in Ireland as reflected in the contents of The Adult Learner and its antecedent journals’, The Adult Learner, 2019, pp.21-56, complete edition available at:

Muriel’s Wedding

Muriel’s Wedding

Barry Golding

 Posted 21 Sept 2019


As a young child born in 1970 and brought up in rural Donald, Victoria, Australia I was fascinated by my mother’s sister, my urban Auntie Muriel. I was particularly puzzled, given Muriel was single (at least as I long could recall as a young child), by her wedding photo. This why I have called this narrative ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, after the iconic Australian film of that name released in 1994, but more of that later.

I sent an earlier version of this document out to family members to ensure this was accurate and appropriate for wider circulation and my sister Judith Hastings generously added a few missing ‘pearl’s. I am posting this 99 years after Muriel’s was born (in 2020).

A century on, very few of Muriel’s former close friends or relatives are still alive, and I sense her story is worth telling for others to hear and learn from. There is much in here which will inform our children and grandchildren about the very different world in which I  grew up.

If there is anything in this narrative that is factually wrong, that requires correction or amendment, or that inappropriately violates confidentiality, I am responsible, so please let me know. While Muriel was a private person in life, I sense it is perhaps time to ‘come out’.


Muriel ticked lots of fascinating and different boxes that took me a long time to understand and connect just some of the many threads. This narrative is my attempt to celebrate and do justice to just a little of Muriel’s life seven years after her death in Donald, Victoria on 22 September 2012 age 92. If Muriel were born today she would likely have had many more opportunities to publicly express and explore her many differences across her lifetime.

My account consists of my personal recollections augmented from recollections from my elder sister, Judy Hastings, buttressed by documentary evidence. Only a small amount of Muriel’s records survived her last tumultuous decade, including those that were recovered in a flood-damaged and smelly state by my sister, Judy Hastings. Muriel and my mother Joan were forced out of the Goodwin Village aged care home by the unprecedented Richardson River flood in Donald during January 2011. Some other family and war records that inform this account were found via online searches as well as via

What Muriel squeezed into the first 80 years of her life, as this narrative seeks to document, is truly remarkable. Between 1970 and 2000, aged between 50 and 80, Muriel and her dear, lifelong friend, Beryl Braddock, undertook at least fifteen extended international trips and many more interstate trips.

In her final decade Muriel separated from Beryl, sold up their shared double storey home at 11 Lucerne Crescent in Karingal, Frankston, lived on her own in successive rental properties in Ballarat, In her ‘Fourth Age’ of dependence reluctantly went into the Goodwin Homes, a comprehensive aged care complex in Donald. When Mue and Mum got flooded out of there in January 2011, they experienced a difficult and prolonged relocation to the ‘Dunmunkle Lodge’ aged care home in Minyip until the flood damaged Donald facility was repaired.

In her final days Muriel sat quietly in the Goodwin Homes, silently fuming as carers read her the international news in the papers, including about Paris, assuming that this old lady had no idea where it was. In fact Mue had been to Paris at least five times.

Daughter of Mary and Ralph Lane

Muriel was born in Marrickville, New South Wales on 16 July 1920, the eldest of three children, including my late mother (Joan, born 12 Feb 1922, died 5 April 2011) and my late uncle, Ralph Lane (junior). There is a wonderful photo of Mue and Joan as children, both with snowy white hair with their mother Mary Lane, my Nana. Much of Mue’s early childhood was spent in Sydney, where her father’s ships returned to dock including at Garden Island Naval Dockyard in Sydney Harbour.

Mue and Joan were to spend much of their childhood and adolescence on the move between multiple schools in Sydney and on the Mornington Peninsula, and also with an absent naval father. Pa (Ralph) Lane, also called ‘Snowy’ as on account of his blond hair as a child, spent his entire working life of 50 years in the Royal Australian Navy, much of it away at sea including a dozen years at war.

Born in East Ham, England, part of Greater London, on 21 August 1897, Ralph signed up as a ‘Boy 2ndClass’ on 1 June 1912, initially serving on HMAS Tingara, a three-masted clipper ship propelled solely by ‘two acres of canvas’. Launched and operated as the Sobraonafter plying the Australia – UK cargo and passenger route for many years, it was purchased by the Commonwealth Government and fitted out as a boy’s training ship, to become permanently moored in Rose Bay until decommissioned in 1927.

Ralph served on ships in and beyond both World Wars, for 30 years between 1915 and 1945 as a ‘telegraphist’, manually sending and decoding messages sent in Morse Code. During World War 1 he served on the battle cruisers Australia, New Zealandand Indomitable. He was also present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.

In World War 2 he served on the HMASCanberra, Australia, Hobartand Shropshire. He took part in the ‘Battle of the Coral Sea’, 4-8 May 1942 as well as ten other major naval battles in the Pacific. I recall him being farewelled on discharge from the Royal Australian Navy as a Lieutenant Commander on 3 April 1956, six months before the Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne. Of the first 500 boys enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy (formally created only one year before in July 1911), Ralph (called ‘Jerry’ by his fellow seamen) was the last serving member. His long and valuable military service was acknowledged in 1951 by an M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire).

Some of Ralph’s post war years were based at the HMAS Cerberusnaval base in Crib Point on Westernport Bay, training many other communications sailors. The Frankston area was therefore the logical Lane family base and became Mue’s home for most of her life, aside from her early years in Sydney and her later years in Ballarat and Donald. The first house Judy and I remember was ‘4 Cranbourne Road, Frankston’ backing onto the train line to Crib Point. Later it was at ‘23 Kelso Street, Frankston.’

In his spare time ‘Jerry’ was active in the Frankston Yacht Club, a passion taken up strongly for a time also by his son Ralph and also Muriel. At one stage Mary and Mrs Glowery (the wife of a naval colleague of Pa Lane’s) ran a part time tea and sandwiches shop in the then ‘Log Cabin’ near the Frankston Pier.  In later life both Nana and Pa Lane became passionate croquet and lawn bowls players respectively.

My childhood recollections

My older sister, Judy and I used to go down to our grandparents in Frankston during summer school holidays to give our parents a break. Muriel then lived with her parents, Mary and Ralph Lane, and we slept in the same room as Muriel in the red brick house at 23 Kelso Street. Curiously for us as young kids, Mue had a different surname. ‘Sherwood’ was the surname Muriel retained until she died in 2012. While her death certificate states ‘divorced’, if Muriel was here she would dispute this.

As young kids we innocently asked lots of inappropriate questions including ‘Who is that man was in your wedding photo?’ and ‘Why aren’t you still together?’ The standard, defensive answer from both her and her mother, Mary, was that he was a no good drunk and the subject was quickly changed.

Muriel was incredibly generous to Judy and I as kids. She took us to the snow for my first time at Mount Donna Buang. She took us into the Sherbrooke Forest around Mount Dandenong to search for lyre bids. She tapped into my interest in rocks and fossils, generously taking me to Fossil Beach at Balcombe Bay near Mornington and also to scour the 5-6 million year old Loveniaand shark tooth-rich shoreline and cliff deposits in the Miocene Beaumaris Sandstone. We went panning for rubies and zircons in the table drains at ‘Foxey’s’ Hangout (on the corner of Balnarring and Tubbarubba roads on the Mornington Peninsula). We collected zeolite crystals from amygdaloidal cavities in the basalt on the cliffs at Cape Schanck.

Mue walked with us, talked with us and tapped deeply into our childhood interests. She played endless games of cricket with us in the back yard and on the beach. We stuck thousands of used matches on trays of various shapes and sizes in geometric patterns. She bought us bamboo ‘hula hoops’ when they were the craze from the late 1950s and ‘did the hula’ better than we did.  She organised bottle-collecting forays for Judy and I amongst the ti-tree on the Frankston foreshore. We got to keep the money from the sale of the bottles from the ‘bottle-o’ to buy sweets and ice creams.

At Frankston we first saw black and white TV (that only began in Melbourne 1956) and regularly watched GTV-9 ‘In Melbourne Tonight’, hosted by Graham Kennedy between 1957, with Bert Newton from 1959. We excitedly went to the Skye Road Drive-In Theatre and sat through one memorable, humungous thunderstorm. Judy and I both recall Mue calming our childhood fears by telling us that each thunderclap was God moving another piece of furniture. Mue was nominally Church of England but was definitely not a churchgoer.

It was all stodgy English food in the Lane household at Cranbourne Road and Kelso Street, all prepared by Nana. Given Pa spent much of his life at war with ‘the Japanese’, it never included anything remotely Asian. Mue could sort of cook for herself and make coffee but food preparation and entertaining for others was not up there as her main priorities. When they were together Beryl was the cook. They both enjoyed getting out (in Beryl’s case, ‘dressing up’ with full makeup) and also eating out.

We spent endless summers at the former Lane family owned ‘Bathing Box’ on the Frankston beach, swimming and hiring the plywood paddleboards, exploring the inky and grossly polluted Kananook Creek where it enters the bay. We watched people catch fish and dive off the Frankston pier. We walked the rocky shores to collect shells and worn coloured glass around Canadian Bay. We looked for Lyre Birds in Sherbrooke Forest, visited Stan and Anne Lucas’ apple orchard at Tyabb, visited her taxidermist friend Eileen at the Melbourne Museum, and sat and watched Muriel talk and smoke with her close Frankston friend, Marj Whykes in her rambling timber house on Skye Road, while us kids played under the cypress trees.

There were lots of things about Muriel that set her apart from other women I knew from my sheltered Rechabite Methodist upbringing in rural Donald. Mue was a chain smoker of cigarettes. She enjoyed a beer or shandy on a hot day with her father and sometimes a sherry before dinner. Before she turned grey she always had short-cropped, fair hair and almost always wore slacks. She was fiercely independent and there were no men in her life aside from her brother and father, both called Ralph. Like her young brother Ralph, she shared a passion for playingfootball.

This was around 75 years before Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs played their first women’s match (in June 2011) that kicked off the AFLW (Women’s) football league in 2016. There is a wonderful photo of Mue as a young woman age 26 in 1946 alongside the passionfruit vine at the then family home, ‘4 Cranbourne Road, Frankston’, wearing a Melbourne football jumper, long football socks and lace up football boots about to kick a football. She was excellent at kick-to-kick  well into her 40s. If only Mue had been around to play today for Melbourne in AFLW.

Ralph junior, born ten years after Muriel on 16 March 1930, died on 29 May 2014 was also a keen and talented footballer. He played 71 games as a ‘wingman’ for Melbourne in the VFL between 1951 and 1956, including in the winning 1956 Grand Final team, and later with suburban McKinnon in the Federal Football League, including three premierships between 1957-9. Muriel took me to several of these McKinnon matches, always loudly barracking with great passion for her brother and his team and abusing the other team and particularly the umpire. Mue kept following the football, barracking for Melbourne … and enjoying the ground passes that came her way … once Ralph become Ground Manager at the former VFL ground in suburban Waverley.

Mue was a bright, independent, engaged and worldly young woman in a world where women usually took second or no place. Her hobbies, appearance and dress would have marked her out in that era as what was then called a ‘tom boy’. She matriculated and was Dux of Frankston High School. She began training as a primary school teacher but quickly found she had little patience with what she called ‘snotty-nosed kids’.

Mue enjoyed sailing, mainly with the men, on Port Philip Bay. Judy and I recall she also enjoyed gardening, mowing the lawns at Kelso Street and tending the garden, particularly the camellias and hydrangea. Her serious hobby, which we as kids participated in, was collecting stamps. ‘First Day Covers’ were shared with other collectors from all over the world. I became aware through the ‘Gibbons World Stamp Catalogue’ and Mue’s many stamp albums of the world of valuable, old rare and misprinted stamps, stamps with watermarks, overprinting, perforations and curious postmarks.

This was my first window also into the many different countries around the world. Stamps were material evidence of how the national names had changed over time with the demise of the British and other colonial empires. In later life Mue gave it all up and disposed of her extensive album collections, but continued to collect stamps for many years including for my nephew, Lachlan Hastings.

During my childhood years Mue worked in the accounts branch of ‘Tas Pickett’, a former tobacco manufacturing and distribution company then located at 95 Lennox Street in Richmond. Nearby was the four-storey, red brick ‘Pelaco’ shirt factory, with its distinctive neon sign above. Mue would usually commute via train from Frankston to Richmond, packing a lunch that often consisted of baked bean sandwiches, leaving her car at the Frankston railway station car park. In the earliest of times I recall, the car was a green Morris Minor. Part of her remuneration package comprised the company cigarettes (for her) and tobacco (for Pa Lane’s ‘rollies’). When Muriel left the company she was thanked with an inscribed silver tray.

Later Mue worked in the back office of the ‘Safeway’ supermarket, still located in Balcombe Road, Mentone. Her job as a ‘comptometrist’ operator is now an obsolete profession. In the days (during the 1960s) prior to calculators, large companies employed people to run adding machines all day, checking the figures that would be entered in the General Ledger. The now extinct mechanical adding machines she used were called ‘comptometers’.

Mue loved reading. Books that my sister Judy recalls her reading were mainly the leather-bound English classics: Jane Austen, Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, as well as books about military battles from World War 2. Like her father, she enjoyed doing crosswords and always kept a Dictionary, World Atlas and Thesaurus handy.

Muriel almost never wore a dress aside from the one in her wedding photo. There was always a battle between her and her sister (my mother) Joan when it came to her dressing ‘appropriately’ for formal family occasions like weddings. ‘Mue’ as we called her, was more at home in a boiler suit fixing the car. She treated her car like a child, lovingly changing the oil, servicing the engine and polishing the chrome and duco.

I recall at one stage she drove what I think was a ‘Nissan Bluebird’ and also a Nissan ‘Cedric’. Her choice of Nissan cars was in part dictated by family connections via Beryl. Beryl worked ‘pulling petrol’ and doing front of garage work at Jackie Proctor’s Motor Garage in Playne Street, Frankston. Jackie, a totally bald, safety obsessed, self promoting motoring enthusiast was the brother of her very good friend, Joy Proctor and was also the Frankston Nissan dealer.

During my early teens Beryl moved into ‘the sleepout’, a separate flat renovated by Pa Lane at the back of the family house at 23 Kelso Street in Frankston, joining the family for some meals. Ralph spent his retirement days sitting in his chair smoking and doing cryptic crosswords. He did not cope well with retired life out of the armed services in a house shared with two strong and independent women and a relatively flighty Beryl. Mary had run of the house, budget, children, family and kitchen for all of their married life and Pa was literally a duck out of naval water. Nana would growl and scowl, ‘Get out of my kichen!’ whenever anyone, including the husband she called ‘Jer’, ventured in.

If Muriel and Beryl had been around to be part of the same sex marriage debate and subsequent legislation their lives and life opportunities might have been very different. When I asked my mother about their relationship in my early 20s she asked me never to utter the ‘L word’ and insisted they were just close friends. The beautiful truth is that they loved and cared for each other deeply for decades and became inseparable lifelong friends in an era where nothing could be spoken about love outside of heterosexual marriage.

Pa escaped to and loved the solace of his backyard shed and vegetable garden, making and fixing stuff. He built us some wonderful wooden boats. Once the navy and recreational sailing were over he developed a strong loathing of the sea. He would spit in it every time we walked along the seashore, guaranteeing he might one day be encouraged to swim in it if it got over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), but only on 30 February, a day that for some reason never came around.

Pa Lane gradually developed signs of dementia. The symptom I remember best was his habit of saying ‘Yesssss’ and smiling, regardless of the question that was posed. Muriel actively supported and acted as a staunch carer and advocate of both her parents through the final difficult decades of their shared later lives and the health issues they both faced with increasing dependency.

Pa’s lonely life in a dementia ward at Mont Park Military Rehabilitation Hospital came to an end when Mue got him moved to Seaford Nursing home so Mary and Ralph could be together. They died within three months of each other after celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary together.

When I went away to boarding school at Wesley College in the mid 1960s Muriel and Beryl would drive down from Frankston to meet me while I took day leave to visit Albert Park Lake. In 1966 I recall a memorable meeting at the then iconic ‘Rob’s Carousel Restaurant’ on the Lake next to the golf links. They were decked out in headscarves in Beryl’s low convertible sports car, perhaps a Datsun 1600 Roadster, an indelible image I now associate with the Thelma and Louise film. They took the then very revolutionary ‘drive up’ option, ordering their food from their convertible with a telephone similar to the typical speaker set up in the then very popular ‘drive-in theatres’.

Some Rob’s Restaurant patrons from the same era recall it as ‘the grooviest, funkiest thing in the 60’s when everyone else was being deadly serious … with swizzle sticks, fancy match books, saucy waitresses in leotards offset by patrons in grey cardigans and patent shoes.’ Rob’s (that opened in 1963) was the Hard Rock Café of the 1960s. It was reputedly revolting food in the revolving restaurant part, but we mainly drank thick shakes in the car. Muriel and Beryl, then in their 40s, were right up there amongst it all as I joined them as a self-conscious, clumsy, acned adolescent in my Wesley College school uniform.

Mue also kept contact with her nearby brother Ralph and his wife June (nee Kennedy), but particularly her nephew Chris (born 1957) and her nieces Elizabeth (known as ‘Libby’, born 1960) and Catherine (known as ‘Cathy’, born 1962), regularly visiting their family home in Bayview Road, Beaumaris. Similarly with Judy and Wayne’s children, Sean and Lachlan Hastings but it was less often that Mue came up to Donald. In part this was because Mue was often not on the same ‘wavelength’ as my father Jack and she was not afraid of vocally standing up for her sister, my mother, Joan. When Mum married and moved to Donald with Jack in the middle of a prolonged drought, Mue felt like it was like moving to the end of the flat, dry earth.

In the years I was at university, travelling interstate with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band and moving to Daylesford in the mid 1980s, my trips down to Frankston and regular contact with Muriel dropped right away. In the same era my younger brother Peter (born 1955) spent much more time with my grandparents and also with Mue and Beryl.

Peter developed a close lifelong friendship with them both. In the decades that followed between 1970 and 2000 Muriel and Beryl winged away as often as they could, often swinging home via the Golding family home in Columbus, Ohio and later in El Paso, Texas. Mue maintained regular contact over many decades also with Peter’s first three Golding children (with first wife Martina: Sarah, Simon and Hannah, particularly when they were based in the US) as and well as with Aaron, Joan and Walter (with Diane).

It was much later in Muriel’s life that I go to know Muriel more comprehensively as an adult. Mue and Beryl purchased adjacent apartments at Seaford before moving to their shared house in Karingal after her parents died. Muriel nominally lived downstairs and Beryl lived upstairs.

My understanding is that Muriel was increasingly pressured, including by my mother, not to be in a position where she was responsible for Beryl beyond her 80s. What eventuated was that after around 50 years together they agreed to part ways and sell up their jointly owned home in Karingal.

Beryl moved back to Bundaberg in Queensland to ‘return to roots’ and be nearer to her family, particularly her niece Heather Smith and her extended family. Muriel moved into a rental property off Wendouree Parade in Ballarat. Despite this late, painful (and I consider an unnecessary and tragic) separation, Muriel and Beryl either fondly corresponded by post or rang each other almost every day. The letters from Beryl were always lovingly addressed to Muriel as ‘Dearest Madame’.

Mue’s choice of Ballarat was a compromise. It was around half way (in travel time) between Melbourne and Donald. At that stage Mue was still mobile and driving her own car, though many scratches and scrapes began to miraculously and spontaneously appear. Ballarat had a very good range of services including comprehensive health care. Mue accurately surmised that moving straight to Donald would be imposing on my mother’s ‘home patch’, and Joan was adamant she did not want to take on the full responsibility of looking after Muriel.

During her late 80s Muriel would poor scorn on what was then called ‘Wendouree Village’ (now Stockland) Shopping Centre where she spent lots of time wandering and window shopping with the support of her walking frame, saying there were ‘too many old people’ there. Mue gave up smoking in her 80s soon after she moved to Ballarat, but she was increasingly limited by a painful hip and shortness of breath. Mue enjoyed telling the story about her Ballarat doctor who asked, “How much exercise do you do?” replying, “I walk to the car, park outside the shop, go in, go out and walk back to car.”

Jan and I live at Kingston only 25 minutes drive out or Ballarat, and when Muriel moved to ‘8/464 Wendouree Parade, Lake Wendouree’ I was still working at the local university the other side of Ballarat at Mount Helen. It was relatively simple to swing by on the way home as need be, usually once a week, or for Muriel to drive out and pay us a visit. Jan also dropped in regularly when shopping in Ballarat and did important essential tasks for Mue. We developed something of a routine where I would have a beer and chat and do anything that needed doing around her house on the way home from work.  Sometimes Joan would drive down to stay with Muriel and we’d often have dinner at the Golden City Hotel.

Mue missed Beryl desperately. While she was still mobile I was able to organise several visits by Muriel to Bundaberg. It involved two flights to Bundaberg via Brisbane. I would pick her up and make sure she got safely to the airport gate. At the other end her niece, Heather, met her. The aged care home in Bundaberg cooperated by providing a fold up bed for Muriel.

Increasingly Mue had become limited in her mobility and by her late 80s her walking and driving range shrank. The crunch came when Muriel was approaching 90. Muriel had a fall in early 2010 that fractured her hip, forcing her to cancel her last visit to see Beryl. The doctor who operated on her hip advised that she would ‘not be able to live independently after her rehabilitation’.

The family checked out several aged care options before Mue decided, with some trepidation, to join her sister Joan already at the Goodwin Village in Donald. While the sisters were close in some ways they were both used to getting their own way and not always good at being social together in community settings. Muriel usually tended to bite her tongue, but Joan could be very and inappropriate and insensitive.

The move wasn’t easy or simple psychologically for either of them. Joan was showing several early signs of dementia and was becoming very ‘prickly’. Mum sometimes became jealous when her lifelong friends also became Muriel’s friends, but overall it worked out better than Mue going into an unknown home with strangers elsewhere. The disbursement of Mue’s furniture, car and other belongings in Ballarat was by contrast relatively simple. She sat on the seat of her walking frame and dispassionately pointed out with her stick where things should go: ‘bin, keep, recycle, donate to the Salvos’.

Muriel’s 90thBirthday was a celebratory purple patch in her later years. By that time on 16 July 2010 she was well settled into her own room in the Goodwin Homes, in a room well away from Joan, and it was time to party with friends. Muriel got dozens of cards wishing her well from extended family as well as lifelong and recent friends.

Joan’s card said, ‘Yes, 90’ and wished her a Happy Birthday and happy celebrations’. Beryl’s card from her niece, Heather and ‘Beebe’ was to ‘Our dearest and fondest Madame, on the very special occasion on this year’s special Birthday. One card for Muriel was signed by 18 of Joan’s Donald friends, many who were also in the Goodwin Homes.

Mue’s sister, my mother Joan, died the following year in April 2011. Joan had not been coping with the forced relocation to Minyip and was struggling with worsening symptoms of dementia. Mum became seriously ill around the time of the move back to Donald. She accurately vowed she was not returning again from the Donald Hospital to Minyip. Joan’s husband, my father Jack (John William Golding) had died unexpectedly in Ballarat nine years before (26 April 2002) from the poorly managed side effects of surgery after an operation for bowel cancer.

The evidence from Mue’s papers

Muriel had many lifelong friends whom she and her sister Joan socialised with on the beach at Frankston during and immediately after the Second World War (1939-45). There is a photo of Muriel and Joan Lane (later Golding) sitting on the boat ramp outside the family Bathing Box in Frankston with Joy Proctor (later Joy Osmond who later lived in Warracknabeal) and Marjorie Whykes. The unpowered former bathing box with its canvas changing room and cold shower was the first one on the left where the extension of Wells Street hit the coast, in 2019 close to the site of the ‘Waves on the Beach’ Restaurant.

There is another photo of my maternal grandfather, ‘Pa’ (Ralph) Lane beside the family ‘Dodge’ car with Thurza Barclay (who later lived at Mitiamo), whom Muriel still visited in Bendigo in her late 80s. ‘Thurza Jane Barclay’ was on the electoral roll in Frankston between 1949 and 1952.

One photo Muriel kept amongst the small number of personal mementos a photo of a ‘Major James, Kaitaichi, Japan’, in shorts, hat, rugby jumper and the then ubiquitous cigarette dated ‘October 1946’. The 34thAustralian Infantry Brigade was briefly stationed at Kaitaichi in Japan and was responsible for the Hiroshima Prefecture from early 1946. On 13 February 1946, Australian troops, the vanguard of a 37,000-strong British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), disembarked at the war-devastated Japanese port city of Kure. Finding who Major James was remains a mystery.

In a small notes diary amongst Muriel’s papers was a tiny newspaper cutting that read:

LANE, on July 27th, 1978, at Carrum Private Hospital, Lt Comd Ralph Lane MBE, Royal Australian Navy (retired), devoted husband of the late Mary Lane, devoted father of Muriel, Joan and Ralph, loved father in law of June and Jack, dear pa of Judi and Wayne, Barry Peter and Tina, Christopher and Libby.

Muriel and Beryl’s first ‘round the world trip’ flying BOAC in 1970 lasted 14 weeks. Their trips overseas, mainly to the UK and Europe were generally made in the cooler winter months between March and September. Sometimes they booked organised tours but most of it was done the ‘old way’ before the internet by letter and phone. They travelled incredibly lightly with tiny backpacks. In Europe they often travelled on a Eurail Pass, frequently saving on accommodation by overnight journeys.

In 1973 they went via Dubai flying QANTAS and included a visit to then West Berlin. 1983 they flew Singapore Airlines and included visits to Greece (which they loved and returned to several memorable times), Turkey and Sri Lanka. Their 1987 trip flying ‘Thai International’ included Canada. In 1995 their overseas trip included Ireland and Switzerland.

Undaunted at the age of 80 (and in Beryl’s case. 82), their six week overseas trip in 2000 included an ‘Exotic’ European Tour which took in East Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and London, travelling via the ‘Chunnel ‘to France and coming back via the US including Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and El Paso.

In between they travelled to many destinations within Australia mainly during winter up the Australian east coast, where they sometimes visited Beryl’s parents and other relatives in Bundaberg. Sometimes they holidayed with Mue’s parents who typically spent a few months each winter escaping the winter on the Queensland south coast at Tewantin.

With the passing of her one surviving parent in 1978 ,Muriel and Beryl were freed up to travel further and more often. In 1979 they spent seven months in Europe (including Greece again) and the UK. With her nephew Peter and family based permanently in the US  their travels increasingly included extended visits to them at in the US, at Columbus, Ohio and later at El Paso in Texas.

Amongst Mue’s papers were the many postcards Jan and I had sent to her when travelling, many with the overseas stamps removed for sending on to Lachlan Hastings. Several survived that we sent during 2011 to ‘Dunmunkle Lodge’ in Minyip from Dubai, Helsinki, Tallinn, Ireland, Glasgow, Nottingham, Samoa, Nottingham, Thessalonica and Athens as well as from Kakadu. Mue would look out and give Jan and I postcards decades old that they had kept as a memento of their extensive travels. Mue loved travel.

Mue kept regular and close contact with Tony and Margaret Mattin, Lane relatives from Wooten, Beds in England whom they visited the UK and who also visited Mue whenever they were in Australia.

Other strands in the story

 Beryl Braddock

 Beryl, often called ‘Beebe’ was Muriel’s lifelong close friend. ‘Beryl Alice May Braddock’ was around two years older than Muriel, born 6 February 1918. Her father was Joseph Braddock, in 1914 working with the Queensland Railways Department. Her mother’s maiden name was ‘Kate Helen Matilda Whittaker’. Beryl’s parents were married on 11 March 1914 at the Bundaberg Methodist Church. Beryl was a regular churchgoer and a supporter of church ‘fetes’ for much of her life.

Beryl’s maternal grandparents were ‘Mr and Mrs F. E. Whittaker’ of Dundowran near Hervey Bay. Joseph Braddock’s parents were also from Bundaberg. A photo of the Braddock’s double storey weatherboard family home, usually described as Queenslander’, was amongst Muriel’s files, located at 32 Maryborough Street, Bundaberg.

Jim Sherwood

Us kids never met Jim Sherwood, and no one talked about him. This account is all from records publicly available on line, in an attempt to belatedly paint a picture of his life including post ‘Muriel’s wedding’.

Muriel and Mum when pressed, referred to her former husband as ‘Jim’. James Vern Alf Sherwood was roughly the same age as Muriel, born 6 October 1920. His father was Ted Sherwood and his mother was Margaret Peterson. Margaret was listed as his next of kin during his time in the army, then living at 2 Julian Flats, Bronte. Muriel and Jim were married the same year I was born, 1950.

Jim’s Australian War Service Records confirm he enlisted age 21 on 17 December 1941 and attained the rank of Sergeant in the AIF before he was discharged on 13 March 1947. Half of his military service (580 days) was to postings overseas including to Bougainville between 1945-7.

I was surprised to find how relatively recently Jim actually died, on 21 June 1992 then age 72. The Electoral Roll gives some idea of where he lived and what he did for a living. In 1958 he was a ‘railwayman’ in North Sydney. In 1962 his address was ‘C/ Mrs V. Newman, ‘Surfside’, 2 Dundas St, Coogee’. By 1963 he was a ‘farm worker’ in Biloela in Queensland. By 1977 Jim was a ‘storeman’ in Eastlakes New South Wales.

Jim’s death notice in June 1992 revealed that his final address was ‘Bundanoon’ in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. The notice reveals he was, at the time of his death, the ‘brother of Veri, Margaret and Ted, loved uncle of Robert, Jim, Robyn James (deceased) and Anne’.