Category Archives: Contact History

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: b.golding@federation.edu.au

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 Lul.gam.book, 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.’

Acknowledgements

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:

HERE LIE THREE UNKNOWN PIONEERS OF THIS DISTRICT.

A COOK ON GLENGOWER STATION

KILLED BY THE ABORIGINES IN 1840.

A TRAVELLER KILLED BY MIS-ADVENTURE BY THE STATION DOGS IN 1841.

AND A YOUNG EMPLOYEE,

DIED FROM NATURAL CAUSES IN 1841.

MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.

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 https://www.goldfieldsguide.com.au/explore-location/215/glengower-pioneers-memorial-grave/)

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.

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.

Mount Franklin Spring

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.

Acknowledgments

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 https://wp.me/p3nVDL-tw. 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

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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?

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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.

Conclusion

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

Preamble

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 https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B9cLyWT58-K8Zm1EX1EzZHprLXc.  Gary has posted brief paper of early mills on the River Plenty: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322737311_Mills_of_the_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, b.golding@federation.edu.au

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 www.barrygoanna.com website via shortlink https://wp.me/p3nVDL-t1

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’. https://youtu.be/ERIkKIORQ98

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’ = PART ONE Mount Greenock  – https://youtu.be/5aav2w6gNyk

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’  – PART TWO Merin Merin  – https://youtu.be/qmfhOxb2pAM

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’ PART THREE – Loddon River at Neereman – https://youtu.be/vaL4YnMmfcU

About National Reconciliation Week – 2020

Theme (appropriately) ‘In This Together’

https://www.reconciliation.org.au/national-reconciliation-week/

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’.

Access

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.

Access

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.

 Access

 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 b.golding@federation.edu.au & Robert Hine

5 April 2020: minor edit 16 Sept 2020

Introduction 

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 www.barrygoannna.com. 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.

 

‘Jim Crow Creek’ Information

Brief overview of evidence about the name ‘Jim Crow’ Creek

Professor Barry Golding AM

 b.golding@federation.edu.au

This is a very brief summary of what we know from the historical record about the origins and racist connotations associated with the naming of ‘Jim Crow Creek’ in the Central Goldfields of Victoria during the early 1840s.

A longer version with sources is also available by following this link, JemCrowAugustBG2019

I have added these documents to help inform the public about how our ‘Jim Crow Creek’ got its name, and to provide evidence that I believe argues for a process leading to a future name restoration.

Our local traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation, have requested that the offensive and racist name be changed for this significant, life-giving feature of their generously shared traditional lands.

‘Jim Crow Creek’ is a 26km long ephemeral creek, draining 123 square km of country, formed by the confluence of Sailors Creek and Spring Creek at Breakneck Gorge in Hepburn Regional Park, two kilometers north-west of Hepburn. A Streamside Reserve near Franklinford also shares the same name.

The creek flows in a northerly direction from steep, forested gullies to undulating grazing land and alluvial flats where it enters the Loddon River below the Guildford Plateau at Strangways, 8 km downstream of Guildford. As with other significant features in the local landscape, it had a previous Dja Dja Wurrung name.

The name ‘Jim Crow’ was likely first given to the mountain (previously known as Lalgambook,now called Mount Franklin) by squatter John Hepburn (or less likely Alexander Mollison) after April 1838. Its crater and the areas around it was also called Larnebarramul(literally ‘nest of the Emu’).

Later the creek, district, goldfield and, at times, the Aboriginal Protectorate, ‘Tribe’ and individual Aboriginal people were also called ‘Jim Crow’.

Part of Mollison’s run was called ‘Jumcra’ from 1840, on land that later become the Loddon (Mount Franklin) Aboriginal Protectorate from 1841.

Edward Parker, local ‘Protector of Aborigines’ used the term ‘Jim Crow’ Hill when referring to the mountain in his 22 September 1839 report.

‘Jim Crow’ was a widely used and racist, derogatory term used to describe black, mostly enslaved people in America in the 1830s.

A popular and catchy song ‘Jump Jim Crow’, sung in the 1830s by a black-faced US white minstrel negatively caricatured a clumsy, dim-witted slave. It became a huge hit with audiences worldwide.

An English poem similarly adopted and disseminated the US ‘Jim Crow’ theme to the British and colonial public from 1837. Called ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’, it created a modern fable about how the crow (jackdaw) got its name ‘Jem Crow’. Again, the main character is a persecuted and dishevelled black crow.

The second last line of poem, above, makes clear, that empires, invaders and conquerors routinely bestowed new names on old geographical features.

George Robinson, ‘Chief Protector of Aborigines’ diary (14 Feb, 1840) noted ‘… a hill Mr Hepburn calls Jem Crow … on account of the small hollows about it’.

John Hepburn was previously a widely travelled international sea captain, including to the US. Like Mollison, by 1840 he would have been well aware of its racist connotations and familiar with both the popular song and poem.

The Jim Crow character in the song transferred to the now repealed ‘Jim Crow Laws’ that became part of several US state constitutions. The Jim Crow Lawsmandated the segregation of public schools, public places, public transportation, the segregation of toilets, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and blacks, in place from 1877 to the 1950s in the US. Understandably, in 2019 use of the term ‘Jim Crow’ is very offensive in the US.

The name of a former ‘Jim Crow Mountain’ and National Park near Rockhampton in Queensland was legally restored to Bagain Queensland in 2018 in collaboration with the Darumbal Aboriginal people and the local community.

There are other instances in Australia where similarly racist and offensive place names, such as ‘Nigger Creek’ have been officially expunged in consultation with the community and traditional owners as part of Indigenous reconciliation.

The Hepburn Shire and Mount Alexander Shire are actively engaged and supportive, with the traditional owners, in initiating a Reconciliation process to lead towards restoration of a more appropriate Dja Dja Wurrung name for the Jim Crow Creek.

‘Reading the Country at Contact’, Basic NAIDOC Tour Notes, 26 May 2019

Grounded in Truth: ‘Reading the Country at Contact’ Tour

Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Action Plan  (RAP) Tour Notes

A National Reconciliation Week 2019 Activity

Sunday 26 May 2019, 8.45am-4pm

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. At the heart of reconciliation is the relationship between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To foster positive race relations, our relationship must be grounded in a foundation of truth.

Join Adjunct Professor Barry Golding, and Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson for this one-day bus tour.

This tour invites you to experience a range of important sites in the Dja Dja Wurrung landscape where there is evidence of contact from the late 1830s between the peoples of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation and the invading pastoralists, including John Hepburn, after whom the Shire is named.

There are seven stops, some as short as 20 minutes total time off the bus, so please follow instructions on the day to unsure we get to see all we planned. Most of our stops are on roadsides. To remain safe, please stay on the LEFT side of the road off the bitumen at each of these stops

ARRANGEMENTS: Registered participants will meet outside Daylesford Secondary College, Smith Street, Daylesford at 8.45am for departure no later than 9.00am. There is safe car parking outside the school. These tour notes with a route map (superimposed on an 1840s sketch map as well as an 1847 survey  map) will be provided on the bus. The tour notes prepared by Barry Golding that form the basis of the narrative during the tour will be posted after the tour in a ‘Reading the Country at Contact’ blog at www.barrygoanna.com

The two buses will return back to the starting point by 4.00 pm. We will visit, pass through or hear about a wide range of immediate post-contact sites that were significant between 1836 and 1841 in the Franklinford, Guildford, Strangways, Newstead, Neereman, Joyce’ Creek, Glengower, Campbelltown, Smeaton Plain, Smeaton, Kooroocheang and Kingston areas.

NOTE: All of what we see is on roadsides, ‘seen through the fence’, or in some cases with generous, one-off permission from landholders. Gaining permission for private entry on tours like this is a rare privilege.On no account should participants later trespass with others on private property or later contact private landholders to seek out what we look at from a distance.

PLANNED ITINERARY  (Please help us to keep to time …)

  • Board buses from 8.45am, Daylesford Secondary College, Smith Street.
  • Sharing of reasons for coming on the tour and expectations: on the bus.
  • 00am: Depart, travel towards Castlemaine, pass Mt Franklin (Lalgambook, withLarnebarramul volcaniccrater) to right; PASS second Protectorate site, June 1841-Dec 1849 to left).
  • PASS the Lime Kiln (on left), operating in the 1840s, supplied lime for John Hepburn’s House via the ‘Limestone Road’
  • Stop 1:30am: arrive at The ‘Big Tree’, Guildford, John Hepburn and family passed through here, April 1838.
  • 30 to 10.15am: Welcome to Country & Smoking Ceremony, Dja Dja Wurrung Elder Uncle Ricky Nelson; Welcome by Hepburn Shire Mayor, Don Henderson. Toilet available opposite the Big Tree.
  • Stop 2:45am-11.05am:The Loddon Valley at Strangways (considered but rejected as a Protectorate site, early 1841).
  • 15am brief Toilet Stopin Newstead & ‘Morning Tea’.
  • Stop 3:35am-12.00pm: The ‘Major’s Line’ October 1836 crossing on the Loddon at Newstead (later the Gold Escort route to Adelaide): Roadside stop opposite Mount Tarrengower, view towards Gough’s Range (Robinson & Parker reconnaissance trip, Feb 1840) and Neereman (Nov 1840-June 1841 Protectorate Site: 6km beyond Baringhup.
  • Stop 4:15am-12.35pm: Roadside stop above Joyce’s Creek opposite Moolort Plains, near remnant Buloke (Casuarina) trees to discuss the nature and importance of places where different ecosystems intersect.
  • Stop 5:55pm-1.25pm White Graves, the first burial associated with the 1840 Middle Creek Massacre, 1 km south of Campbelltown on Strathlea Road; narrative about Middle Creek, The Bloodhole’ 1840 massacre site..
  • 35pm brief Toilet Stop, Campbelltown Hall.
  • 45pm: PASS Aboriginal oven mounds (right) in private property woodland beyond Campbelltown fire station.
  • Stop 655pm-2.30pm: Roadside Lunch, Red Gums, Smeaton Plains, Williams Road, ‘A favourite place for the Aborigines’, described by G. A. Robinson in Feb 1840.
  • 40pm: PASSformerKooroocheang Swamp [private] (on right).
  • Stop 7:50pm-3.20pm: Hepburn Family Private Gravesite, off Estate Lane, below Mount Kooroocheang, [NB: Smeaton House is a private residence].
  • 3:30pm-3:40pm:Toilet Stop Smeaton Reserve
  • 40pm depart for Daylesford Secondary College, arrive by 4.00pm.

Map 1: March 1840 Edward Parker Rough Sketch Map, from E. Morrison, Frontier Life in the Loddon Protectorate, 1967, p.19. Most are pre 1840 sheep runs established mainly on the Coliban and Campaspe on Dja Dja Wurrung. When Parker drew the map he was likely unaware of the main branch of the Loddon. The ‘Polodyul or Loddon River’ shown is likely the stream called ‘Jim Crow Creek’ in 2019. Our tour route is marked in pink.

Parker Sketch Map 1840

MAP 2:  Main 1847 Base Map: copied from inside cover of ‘A Homestead History’(Reminiscences of Alfred Joyce 1843-64, Ed. G. James, 1942), redrawn from an 1847 Upper Loddon survey Map,

Upper Loddon Map 1847 (annotated 2019)

  • Our tour route is marked in pink; present day ‘towns’ in green; 2019 creek, river and mountain names added.
  • RUNS: Smeaton Hill(John Hepburn, from 1838); Glengower(Dugald McLachlan, from 1839); Plaistow (Alfred Joyce from 1843); Tarringower (Lauchlan McKinnon, 1839-41); Rodborough Vale (Thomas Chirnside 1839, Donald McKinnon then E. G. Bucknall from 1844); Boughyards (Alexander Mollison from 1837, Alexander Kennedy from 1840).
  • Note how quickly things had changed in the footprint of the current (2019) Hepburn Shire between 1840 and 1847.

‘Reading the Country at Contact’, May 2019, Extra Notes

 

Narrative for ‘Reading the Country at Contact Tour’

Hepburn Shire, NAIDOC Week Activity, 26 May 2019

Feedback and suggestions are welcome via b.golding@federation.edu.au

What these notes contain

These notes have been prepared by Barry Golding for tour participants to access later as a post at www.barrygoanna.com.  Further insights are provided on the site’s ‘Beyond Contact’ page and other posts.

These notes tease out Barry Golding’s tour narrative at the seven stops on the tour. There is also some narrative about places and sites we passed by between stops on the tour. Uncle Ricky’s important and complementary verbal narrative is not included in these notes.

Tour Rationale

  ‘to learn about our shared histories … [as an approach towards] reconciliation … grounded in truth’.

Tour invitation

…. to experience a range of important sites in the Dja Dja Wurrung landscape where there is evidence of contact from the late 1830s between the peoples of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation and the invading pastoralists, including John Hepburn.

Tour Maps

The two base maps mentioned below, included separately in the tour notes, illustrate how quickly white invader knowledge of the ‘lay of the land’ in the footprint of the current (2019) Hepburn and Mount Alexander Shires improved between 1840 and 1847, as well as how quickly stations were created and new boundaries were established.

Map 1 (p.3 of participant notes): Parker’s March 1840 Sketch Map taken from E. Morrison, Frontier Life in the Loddon Protectorate, 1967, p.19, includes Hepburn’s (1838) run as well as earlier runs on the Campaspe and Coliban: including Mollison (1837), Orr, M[u]nro (1838-43), Thorn[e]loe & Ebden.

Parker Sketch Map 1840

MAP 2 (p.4 of participant notes) Main 1847 Base Map: copied from inside cover of ‘A Homestead History’(Reminiscences of Alfred Joyce 1843-64, Ed. G. James, 1942), redrawn from an 1847 Upper Loddon survey Map,

Upper Loddon Map 1847 (annotated 2019)

  • Our tour route is marked in pink; present day ‘towns’ in green; 2019 creek, river and mountain names have been added.
  • RUNS: Smeaton Hill (John Hepburn, from 1838); Glengower (Dugald McLachlan, from 1839); Plaistow (Alfred Joyce from 1843); Tarringower (Lauchlan McKinnon, 1839-41); Rodborough Vale (Thomas Chirnside 1839, Donald McKinnon then E. G. Bucknall from 1844); Boughyards (Alexander Mollison from 1837, Alexander Kennedy from 1840); Holcombe.

Travel towards Castlemaine

PASS Mt Franklin (Lalgambook) & Larnebarramul  (Mt Franklin crater) to right; PASS later Protectorate site, to left).

The main ‘Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate’ site was centred to the left of the road around present day Franklinford from June 1841-Dec 1848. Edward Parker was the Assistant Protector for the NW part of then Colony of Port Phillip. Hundreds of Aboriginal people (max 200 at any one time) lived or came here for safety, food and shelter whilst the Protectorate operated.

The central Aboriginal Protectorate area, radius ‘1 mile’, was for cultivation. A ‘larger 5 mile ‘radius (that went NS from approx. Hepburn Springs to Strangways, EW approx. to Glenlyon to Werona) was anticipated to be for traditional food gathering including hunting and fishing.

At the time the Loddon Protectorate closed only 30-40 Aboriginal people were living there. From April 1850 Parker was permitted to operate the Loddon station as a pastoral lease on the one square mile of land between Franklinford and the foot of Mount Franklin.  [often called the ‘Loddon’ protectorate (a) because the earlier (1840-1 Protectorate) was on the Loddon River (Polodyul or Pul-er-gil yal-loke) 30km to the NW, at Neereman 6km North of Baringhup, and (b) because the current ‘Jim Crow Creek’ catchments was sometimes called the ‘Loddon’, being part of the Loddon catchment).

The last of the Aboriginal people living at the ‘Loddon Aboriginal Station’ in 1863 were forcibly removed to Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve near Healesville, which operated until 1924. In 2019 there are approx. 2,000 Dja Dja Wurrung descendants from around 20 apical ancestors who survived to the 1860s. Henry Harmony Nelson is Uncle Ricky Nelson’s apical ancestor.

To the right is Mount Franklin. Its peak was likely called Lalgambook. Its crater was usually referred to as Lar–ne-barramul, literally ‘place of the emu’, likely on account of the shape of its nest shaped crater. The original names are far from certain.

George Robinson first visited Edward Parker’s new Protectorate station site here (in June 1841) on 19 Nov 1841. He described it as being:

… on one of the sources of the Lodden (sic.), at a place called Willam.be.par.re.mal, a short distance from Lal.gam.book. The appearance of the place on approaching is rather pleasing; it is however surrounded by broken forest ranges containing abundance of game.

Robinson provides several variations of the Aboriginal name in his diary that same week. On 21 Nov 1841 he wrote that: ‘The hill at Loddon station is called Wil.lam.be.par.ra.mal(emu house). The creek or branch of the Lodden (sic) is called Lulgambook’.Robinson wrote on 28 November 1841 that he had:

… visited the crater at the mount called Willum-parramul, otherwise Jem Crow. It is an ancient crater of large dimension. … Had a fine view.

Hepburn climbed its peak soon after his arrival in April 1838 to get a better sense of the local topography. Called (and likely dubbed) ‘Jem Crow Hill’ by Hepburn, most likely because of a popular 1830s Poem, and 1830s minstrel song that referred to it as ‘Jem Crown’ and ‘Jim Crow’ respectively. It became Mount Franklin following a visit by former Van Diemen’s Land Governor, John Franklin in December 1843. The very negative, racist historic connotations of the term ‘Jim Crow’ arguably call for the original name of the Creek and the later name of the mountain (once clarified) to be restored.

PASS the Lime Kiln (on left),operating on the northern edge Aboriginal Protectorate of during the 1840s. It supplied lime via the ‘Limestone Road’ for John Hepburn’s mansion built in 1848-9. Likely the deposit was accumulated from as carbonate rich water from a mineral spring, colloquially referred to as ‘Limestone Spring’ or ‘The Bullfrog’ until it was tapped for spa water tanks built on the site in the 1980s.

STOP 1: The ‘Big Tree’, Guildford

 John Hepburn and family passed through here on the way to Kooroocheang, April 1838.

‘The Big Tree’: one of the largest Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) in Victoria (height 32 metres; basal diameter 3m: age at least 500 years). It has a large branch graft on its northern side. The brass plaque records Burke and Wills camping here on their ill-fated northern expedition.

It is listed as a tree of State significance on the National Trust’s Register of Significant Trees of Victoria for its “outstanding size, curious fusion of branches, as an outstanding example of the species and as an important landmark“. The National Trust regards its conservation as vital to the local community and the State as a whole.

Due to its great age, numerous hollows have formed within the tree, providing habitat for many creatures. This tree is an eco-system which sustains a vast range of bird and animal life including magpies, rosellas, lorikeets, parrots, kookaburras, wood ducks, boobook owls, honey eaters, numerous species of insects, native bees and possums.

Already an ancient giant when the first white invaders arrived in the late 1830s, the Big Tree has played an important part in the cultural and social life of the Guildford community. This tree survives as an important symbol and a link between our community and its traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal people.

John Hepburn likely camped nearby on his way to ‘take up his run’ around Kooroocheang in April 1838.

Welcome to Country & Smoking Ceremony, Dja Dja Wurrung Elder Uncle Ricky Nelson; Welcome by Hepburn Shire Mayor, Don Henderson.

STOP 2: The Loddon Valley at Strangways

This site was considered but rejected as a second Protectorate site in early 1841.

At this point we are on the fertile Loddon River flats. This was a former, important Aboriginal highway. To the south up the ‘Jim Crow Creek’ is a small amount of reasonably good volcanic soil that later became the centre of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate. Opposite is the Guildford plateau, an elevated volcanic plain, which was grassland at the time of contact.

The current road between Newstead and Franklinford followed a narrow tongue of volcanic grassland that would also have been an Aboriginal highway between patches of forest on the older shales and slates.  These river flats are on the same highway that Thomas Mitchell crossed and camped at near present day Newstead in October 1836, later be referred to as ‘Mitchell’s Line’.

During 1837 several pastoralists used this river highway in to explore for new country to invade beyond already ‘taken up areas’. One group including Aitken (at Mount Aitken) swung up past Mount Macedon (Terawait) and Mount Alexander (Leanganook), along the Loddon and back to Corio via Ercildoune. Another group including Thomas Learmonth explored north from Buninyong, via Dowling Forest along the Loddon and back to Melbourne via Kyneton.

The huge quartz pebble to the right of the road came out of the gold bearing gravels on the edge of the Guildford plateau, an indication of how much bigger the stream buried by the basalt was several million years ago.

This area near the former Strangways railway yards (behind Don Hepburn’s house, perhaps a distant relation) became important in the early 1841 as Edward Parker looked for a Plan B right here as the original site at Neereman proved unsuitable. Lyon Campbell and other local squatters strongly objected. The objection was mainly because this area was already taken up by stations and was too close to what had become the main ‘overlanding’ highway on Mitchell’s Line between Sydney and Portland.

Uncle Ricky talks about the big picture of Dja Dja Wurrung people, the Clans, Moieties. Language and Kulin Confederations.

STOP 3: The ‘Major’s Line’

Thomas Mitchell’s October 1836 crossing on the Loddon at Newstead (later the Gold Escort route to Adelaide): Roadside stop opposite Mount Tarrengower.

View north towards Gough’s Range (Robinson & Parker reconnaissance trip, Feb 1840 and Neereman (Nov 1840-June 1841 Protectorate Site) 6km beyond Cairn Curran Reservoir & Baringhup.

We are now pretty much on the ‘Major’s Line’, one marked by the wheel ruts of the huge wagons as they headed back from Portland to Sydney in October 1936. A few days before he had climbed and named Mount Greenock near Talbot. Once of the volcanic plains he took a compass bearing to bring him out south of Mount Alexander, which took him north of Mount Cameron, through Strathlea to Newstead then through Expedition Pass near Chewton.

We know a lot about this area in 1840 because of the incredibly detailed (and accurate) diary records of George Robinson, Chief Protector of Aborigines (1839-1850) who came here through with Edward Parker in Feb 1840. They were loaned a cart by John Hepburn and ventured down from Hepburn’s Station via the Smeaton Plain, the Stony Rises (near ‘Tuki Trout Farm’), Campbelltown, and Joyce’s Creek to where it joins the Loddon (now beneath Cairn Curran Reservoir) and to Newstead. Below Newstead they described the still massive pools downstream that John Hepburn referred to in February 1840 as ‘the fishponds on the plains’ on account of the huge Murray cod and Macquarie perch in the big water holes downstream of Newstead.

They climbed to the western edge of a rocky range (now Gough’s Range) between Mount Tarrengower and the Loddon, ’20 miles north of Koretanger’ giving them a vantage point, Robinson describes the scene in detail on 21 Feb 1840:

Near to where we stood was the last of the Mameloid [breast-like] hills … red gums, sho oak [Allocasuarina], white gum, honey suckle (Banksia) trees. The low plains were mottled or carpeted with flowers in full blossom, patches from 1 to 2 acres of white everlasting flowers and then patches of an acre or more of yellow … or the beautiful blue flower with clumps of honey suckle and gums, and the pea green reeds of the Lodden (sic), like a broad green ribbon running in a tortuous line among the varigold and beautiful landscape, the glassy surface of the water shining between the branches of the trees.

To the north is Mount Tarrengower, (called ‘Salus’ by Mitchell), thankfully retaining its original name. Where there were no trees there was lots of Kangaroo grass. (Themeda). In many places on this Feb 1840 journey, typically on the edge between the woodland and the plain, Robinson noted many ‘bark huts of the natives’ and ‘ovens’. Just to the north of Cairn Curran Reservoir is Lauchlan McKinnon’s ‘Tarrengower’ Homestead.

Uncle Ricky talks about the relations between the Dja Dja Wurrung peoples, the explorers and the pastoralists.

STOP 4: Roadside stop above Joyce’s Creek (Knee-rarp) opposite Moolort Plains.

This stop is near remnant Buloke (Casuarina) trees, where we discuss the nature and importance of humans living in places where many different ecosystems intersect.

For the next 10 km we drive south along the eastern edge of Joyce’s Creek, a ‘lateral stream between the edge of the Moolort (volcanic) Plains and the Campbelltown Forest (on the old, rocky and relatively infertile Ordovician bedrock). Joyce’s Creek like the Loddon River, was then a well-travelled and settled Aboriginal highway. Robinson reported many camp, huts and ovens ‘where the natives had been’, with many freshwater mussel and emu shells. Robinson was ‘at a loss to account for the [immense number of] wheel and cattle tracks we now met with’ near Strathlea until he realised he was actually on the Major’s Line.

Uncle Ricky talks more about the food resources here.

This area was an ecotone: teeming with food resources in every direction: Emu, Kangaroo and Yam Daisy on the Moolort Plains; Murray cod and Macquarie perch in the massive pools in the Loddon downstream of Newstead to the north; possums and small mammals in the river red gums along Joyce’s Creek and forests to the east; rich fauna and flora in the Banksia and Buloke woodlands Blackfish and freshwater mussels in the creek; 30 large wetlands on the Moolort plains with a whole range of aquatic plants, birds, yabbies.

ON the way south the bald volcanic hills gradually come into view, Powlett Hill to right, then Moorooklye, Stony Rises and Kooroocheang to far left.

STOP 5: Graves associated with the 1840 Middle Creek Massacre

This stop is 1 km north of Campbelltown on the Strathlea Road.

The memorial grave is to the left of the road on private property. On the opposite (west) side of the road verge opposite the graves is a stand of unusual and inedible Osage oranges (Maclura pomifera)

A brass plaque on the grave displays the following text:

HERE LIE THREE UNKNOWN PIONEERS OF THIS DISTRICT.

A COOK ON GLENGOWER STATIONKILLED BY THE ABORIGINES IN 1840.

A TRAVELLER KILLED BY MIS-ADVENTURE BY THE STATION DOGS IN 1841.

AND A YOUNG EMPLOYEE,

DIED FROM NATURAL CAUSES IN 1841.

MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.

The three European people buried in the Pioneer Memorial Graves were all associated with the Glengower run. 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 again in 1841.

The third burial, unrelated to the violence associated with the first and second burials, is the grave of the young son of the original informant about the massacre story, Donald (‘Rhu’) McDonnell.

The first burial is that of a cook at the Glengower station who was killed by a band of Jadwajali Aborigines returning to the Grampians after obtaining greenstone axe blanks 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. The cook is alleged to have added Plaster of Paris to a damper he had cooked for the Aborigines, which once ingested would have caused a horrible and painful death. An altercation allegedly followed and the Aborigines are alleged to have murdered the cook, hanging his body in the cookhouse on a meat hook. When McLachlan returned he immediately organised a punitive expedition comprised of Glengower and neighbouring Smeaton Hill stockmen.

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

McLachlan was well known amongst his contemporaries as very hard and ‘austere’ man. He was very fond of using guns and hunting dogs. He was described as ‘austere’, grasping, ruthless and uncompromising of men and beast even by his contemporaries.

On Middle Creek, Glengower (on private land) is ‘The Bloodhole’, the site of an 1840s Aboriginal massacre that took place approx. 8km to the west.

The Aborigines thought to be those associated with the death of the cook were tracked down with McLachlan’s dogs and they hid in the waterholes on Middle Creek. 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 (on private property) is still known locally by some residents as ‘The Blood Hole’ or ‘Slaughter Hole’.

STOP 6: Smeaton Plains, Williams Road (do NOT leave the road reserve and enter private land)

  ‘A favourite place for the Aborigines’, described by G. A. Robinson in Feb 1840.

Robinson writes on 14 February 1840 that being a fine and pleasant day, John Hepburn took him to the top of Kooroocheang. Hepburn then:

Showed me a plain with some open forest on it, 3 miles [5km] from his house in N [northerly] direction. Said it was a favourite place for the natives. He has seen 30 women on the plains at a time digging murrnong while the men went into the forest to hunt kangaroos, opossums, &c. which are abundant.’

After dinner that same day, being summer the evening would have been light. Robinson:

‘… rode out with Mr Hepburn to the place of the native camp aforementioned. Rode over some beautiful country. The Mameloid [‘breast like’] Hills has a natural appearance when seen from the plains. And so the hills in the distance than when viewed from the top of Koratanger. The trees from Kor.ra.tanger looked diminutive but when we came to them found them large, 2 and 3 feet diameter at the butt, with large umbrageous branches . Well covered with foliage, they stood at a distance of from 20 to 50 to 50 yards and the whole which was about half a mile square, had a park-like appearance.’

Robinson’s use of term ‘park’ to describe what was an Aboriginal Australian woodland was common amongst many British squatters and explorers familiar with parks created in the ‘old country ‘around country houses and estates.

The creators of this deliberately managed Australian park were still living and cooking underneath the trees in this 1840s landscape. Robinson continued:

‘We saw the remains of from 30-40 screens or shelters of boughs where the natives had been. Also several of the native ovens or fireplaces where they baked their murrnong. Some 10 feet in diameter. … Returned through another part of the native camp. Saw some more native huts or screens. Rode round the S end of Koretanger. The dogs killed a native cat, dark color and white spots’.

PASS former Kooroocheang Swamp [private] (on right).

Several oven mounds described by Robinson have been recorded in the vicinity the former Kooroocheang swamp. Jack Sewell recalls plentiful freshwater crayfish in the swamp before it was drained in the 1960s.

There are historic records of the Brolga (Grus rubicunda) nesting around the swamp, indeed the word Kooroocheang is thought to reference the brolga. ‘Turkey Hill Road’ north of Powlett Hill references the former Bustard (Ardeotis australis) common on the local grasslands before the introduction of sheep and cattle as well as  hunting. 

STOP 7: Hepburn Family Private Gravesite

This site must be accessed from a gravel car park on the south side of Estate Lane, below Mount Kooroocheang, Please note that Smeaton House nearby is strictly a private residence.

John Hepburn’s decision to replace his first timber house and commission a huge new, 20 room, double storey mansion was announced in his journal on 2 April 1849. That day his family had shared ‘a pleasure party’ with neighbours on the nearby Kangaroo Hills.

The Smeaton House mansion has for the past 130 years been the private home to the Righetti family. The mansion complete with verandahs on three sides of the lower storey, stables and a coach house was finished by the end of 1850, just before the first discovery of gold at nearby Clunes. Unsurprisingly, the mansion is highly classified by the National Trust but remains private.

The Hepburn family graveyard on a nearby picturesque knoll is now owned and maintained by the National Trust. There is public walking access across privately owned paddocks to the Hepburn Graves via a car park recently constructed south of the cemetery on Estate Lane. John Hepburn was buried here in 1860. The pallbearers at his funeral comprised the men of the Creswick and District Roads Board.

At the time of Hepburn’s death in 1860, just 20 years after Mitchell’s wagons rolled through this Dja Dja Wurrung landscape, the telegraph had arrived and the railway was advancing from Geelong towards Ballarat. The first 1851 gold rush in nearby Clunes was then only nine years old, but by the 1880s had spread for 100km in every direction and totally transformed the landscape and society.

Only three of John Hepburn’s ten children plus his wife Eliza (died 1869) are buried in the family graveyard: including the two children who came overland in 1838, Alice (died 1865) and Thomas (died 1859) as well as George (who was born at the property in 1838 and died 1903). Other Hepburns buried there include the family of John Hepburn’s brother, Benjamin who died in 1888.

Aside from the Hepburn family graves and inscriptions, the exotic trees within the fenced off cemetery as well as the views are sublime (on a fine, sunny day).

One view is towards Mount Moorookyle, another is towards Mount Kooroocheang. A third vista south overlooks the valley of Middle Creek, locally called ‘Captains Creek’, through scattered, remnant, ancient woodland eucalypts.

 

Mitchell ‘discovers’ Dja Dja Wurrung’s Australia Felix

 

Mitchell passed twice through Dja Dja Wurrung country in Winter and Spring of 1836. This account focuses on the implications of Mitchell ‘discovering’ the highly productive, carefully created, and responsibly managed Dja Dja Wurrung grasslands, that he otherwise took to be empty and ripe for subsequent picking by European invaders.

NOTE: Much of my account was added on 24 September 2018 to my much longer and wider historical and autoethnographic narrative on the ‘Beyond Contact’ page.

Major Thomas Mitchell’s 1836 traverse across what is now inland Victoria is important as part of the wider historical narrative by virtue of being the first European to describe and give (mostly new European) names to most of the inland rivers and mountains of northern and Western Victoria, including those rivers already mapped, named and cultured by Dja Dja Wurrung peoples for around one thousand generations.

Mitchell’s diary, published in Three expeditions into the interior of Eastern Australia; with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix and the present Colony of New South Wales, records his 1836 overland expedition of ‘exploration’ from Sydney via the Murray River then south to Portland, returning via Western Victoria and present day north eastern Victoria.

While Mitchell made some notes about the local traditional owners he encountered, his main interest was in describing, naming and ‘opening up’ a country’ he regarded as essentially uninhabited. That said, his 25 man official party including his second in command, G. C. Staplyton carried a total of 36 firearms. The men were dressed in red woollen shirts and grey trousers crossed by white braces, ‘giving the men somewhat of a military appearance’ (p.2) as they set off, in Mitchell’s words, ‘to traverse unexplored regions, peopled, as far as we know, by hostile tribes’ (p.3).

The expedition anticipated using boats along and in order to cross some larger inland streams including the Murray and Darling Rivers, which they carried in a boat carriage. The several heavy wagons left their wheel ruts discernable for several decades after their expedition. The track the wagons followed was often already an Aboriginal highway, and the expedition’s track across Victorian’s northern plains quickly followed by squatters, sheep and cattle later became known as the ‘Major’s Line’.

Twice during this 1836 expedition Mitchell passed through Dja Dja Wurrung country, twice crossing the Loddon River. The first traverse and river crossing was in mid winter (late June and early July, 1836) whilst heading southwest between Pyramid Hill and the headwaters of the Richardson River. The second time the expedition crossed the Loddon River near present day Newstead in late September 1836, on router between Mount Cole and Mt Alexander as the expedition was heading back towards Sydney. Mitchell named what is now known as Mount Alexander (to the Dja Dja Wurrung, Leanganook) ‘Mount Byng’, though the name did not stick. Admiral John Byng, an English Royal Navy officer was court-martialed and shot dead by a firing squad in 1757.

Unlike Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson, Mitchell not only took the country to be uninhabited but also prepared and predestined for European intrusion by a then unknown cause. Mitchell came close to identifying the then unknown explanation for such extensive areas of open grassland on what later became the heavily grazed and cultivated plains of northern and western Victoria when he wrote that:

On highest mountains and in places the most remote and desolate, I have always found every dead trunk and the ground and any living tree of any magnitude also, the marks of fire; and thus it appeared that these annual conflagrations extend to every place. (p.328)

What Mitchell described were grassland, woodland and forest ecosystems carefully and deliberately created and managed by thousands of years of regular and systematic Aboriginal burning to encourage and sustain their desired food plants and animals.

On 30 June 1836 Mitchell was towards the north end of Dja Dja Wurrung country when he climbed to the top of Pyramid Hill and described:… a land so inviting, and still without inhabitants! As I stood, the first European intruder on the sublime solitude of these verdant plains, as yet untouched by flocks or herds; I felt conscious of being the harbinger of mighty changes; and that our steps would soon be followed by the men and the animal for which it seemed to be prepared’ (p.159).

The ‘fine plain’ Mitchell and his wagons passed across the next day was covered with what both he and Robinson called anthisteria, now known as Themeda triandra, ‘Kangaroo’ or ‘Oat’ grass, also covered in places by what Mitchell recognised as banksia and casuarina, and what Robinson respectively called ‘honeysuckle’ and ‘oak’. By July 5 they passed a lofty hill Mitchell recorded as Barrabungale (likely present day Buckrabanyule, unbeknown to Mitchell the sacred home of the feared ancestral giant serpent, Mindi). By July 6 the party were on a river Mitchell named the Loddon, because ‘… of its resemblance in some respects to the little stream in England.’ On July 10 they crossed and named the Avoca River, and on 13 July crossed and named the Richardson River after his botanical collector, John Richardson, who had an unplanned swim when his horse slipped during the river crossing. By July 19 they has encountered another river they ascertained from the locals to be the Wimmera.

By late August 1836 the expedition had passed north of (and renamed) Gariwerd the Grampians, and travelled along the Glenelg River, launching their whaleboat to explore the wide and navigable lower parts of the river. They came onto the southern Australian coast downstream of present day Nelson close to the present day South Australian-Victorian border. On 29 August Mitchell’s party was ‘astonished’ when one of the expedition’s Aboriginal members (not listed but invaluable amongst the ‘official’ expeditioners) whom Mitchell called ‘Tommy Came-last’ came to him with the unexpected news of fresh cattle tracks, the ‘shoe marks of a white man’, ‘portions of tobacco pipes and a glass bottle without a neck’. Mitchell understood that whalers and sealers had for several decades made camp along the same stretch of coast on Portland Bay, but the presence of cattle tracks astounded him. In Mitchell’s words, ‘How cattle could have been brought here I did not understand’. At anchor in the bay they found the answer: ‘The Elizabeth of Launceston’ and on shore ‘a considerable farming establishment belonging to Messrs. Henty’ that had been in place for at least two years. Mitchell wrote that Henty ‘was ‘importing sheep and cattle as fast as vessels could be found to bring them over’ (p.241).

The return journey towards Sydney took the party south of the Grampians, and apart from Mitchell’s personal side trip to climb and name Mount Macedon, on a steady north-east bearing across the ‘open downs’ of the Western District volcanic plains. The expedition re entered Dja Dja Wurrung country as they crossed the Great Dividing Range between Mount Cole and Mount Greenock (close to present day Talbot), both of which Mitchell renamed. Mitchell’s wagons skirted the base of Mount Greenock and headed northeast towards the open volcanic plains north of present day Clunes towards present day Newstead on a compass bearing of 60.5 degrees. The intention was to head for ‘Mount Byng Pass’, effectively at the south end of Mount Alexander that had been in the expedition’s sights on the horizon for several days. The dozens of smooth, grassed, breast-like volcanic hills visible to the east of the summit of Mount Greenock Mitchell called the Mammeloid Hills. On 25 September 1836 as the party lumbered across this vast Aboriginal grassland, Mitchell wrote: ‘In travelling through this Eden, no road was necessary, not any ingenuity in conducting wheel carriages wherever we chose’ (pp.276-7).

As the party headed north-east onto the open grassy plains, Mitchell climbed a nearby ‘smooth round hill’, likely what later became known as Mount Cameron, to get the lay of the land and try and map the course of the many small northward flowing streams. Mitchell’s party:

… entered on a very level and extensive flat, exceedingly green and resembling an English park, bounded on the east by a small river flowing to the north-west (probably the Loddon) and abrupt but grassy slopes beyond its right bank.

 Mitchell’s was correct in assuming it was the Loddon, the same river he had crossed around 100km north approximately three months earlier. Mitchell’s description on 28 September puts the party close to present day Newstead and heading through belts of forest and grassland towards present day Castlemaine. On 29 September the party found a route through the steep wooded ranges for their wagons, down onto the ‘more open granitic country at the foot of Mount Byng [Mount Alexander]’ near present day Chewton, naming it ‘Expedition-pass’. Mitchell was confident ‘that such a line of communication between the southern coast and Sydney, must, in the course of time, become a very considerable thoroughfare’.

At this point, at the foot of Mount Alexander, whilst waiting for repairs to the wagon carrying their boats, Mitchell resolved to take a side trip from his wagon train ‘to the lofty mountain mass which appeared about thirty miles to the southward’ (p.281). From this mountain, that Mitchell called Mount Macedon after Philip of Macedon in honour of the fact that he was able to view Port Philip from the summit, he could see signs of European activity at the Port Phillip settlement in the form of ‘white objects which might have been either tents or vessels’. Port Phillip had been briefly settled near Sorrento on 1803-4, then left mostly undisturbed by Europeans until the previous year, 1835, when settlers from Tasmania led by John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner (who incidentally had been at the Sorrento settlement as a child) established what became Melbourne on the lower reaches of the Yarra River.

On the return journey towards Sydney across what are now the northern plains, Mitchell went ahead to ensure he was first with the news of his discovery of Australia Felix, ‘the better to distinguish it from the parched deserts’ that Mitchell ‘had wandered so unprofitably, and for so long’ in Western New South Wales. Mitchell wrongly took this Eden wrongly to be ‘still for the most part to be in a state of nature providing a fairly blank sheet’ for subsequently being carved up by European towns and lines of communication. The expedition’s return route approximated the current Hume Highway, fording the Goulburn River near present day Mitchelton and the Murray River near present day Albury. Mitchell buried letters of instruction to Staplyton who followed behind him with the wagons. As Hawdon along with Gardiner and Hepburn were heading south on the first ever overland journey with herds of sheep and cattle towards Port Phillip in late 1836, they encountered Stapleton who was also crossing the Murrumbidgee River near present day Gundagai on his way back to Sydney.

Reflections on a Lifetime in Dja Dja Wurrung Country

Reflections on a Lifetime in Dja Dja Wurrung Country

This is a reworking, updating  and expansion of a paper I originally created for a 2004 ‘Black Gold’ Conference in Castlemaine that included an inspirational corroboree on Leanganook, Mount Alexander. The original paper was dated 23 October 2004 and called ‘The Great Dividing Trail and its associations with Djadjawurrung country’ .

Barry Golding, Federation University Australia,

May 2018

Abstract

I have lived in Djadjawurrung country virtually all my life. I have become increasingly and acutely aware – from a range of experiences, people, sources and interactions over a lifetime of 68 years – of the many ways Aboriginal people have shaped, and continue to reshape, white understandings (an ignorance) of Australia generally, and understandings of the Indigenous and cultural heritage of the Central Highlands of Victoria in particular. Given my lifetime living, working and re-creating in this Dja Dja Wurrung landscape, my paper traces the origins of my own, ongoing personal awakening to Dja Dja Wurrung associations and presence in the local landscape and community with an emphasis on what transpired here after contact in 1836. It starts from the uneasy silences behind the meaning of stone axes and cooking ovens found and experienced in wheat paddocks during my childhood in the Wimmera during the 1950s. My paper identifies some possible ways to continue to heal the ongoing, contested appropriation of Aboriginal land in Australia. It identifies the potential for local and collaborative exploration, understanding and interpretation of the many layers of shared heritage with the Dja Dja Wurrung people and local communities.

Introduction

I firstly acknowledge the traditional owners of the land I have lived in for most of my life, in Donald, Daylesford, Kooroocheang and Kingston, the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation Elders and and peoples, past and present.

My aim in this presentation is to touch on how I have become aware, as a non-Indigenous Australian, of the need for all Australians to have access to better information about history and heritage in all its forms. In particular I acknowledge the pressing need for all Australians to acknowledge, read and constantly reinterpret the many and ongoing Aboriginal connections between this land, our partly shared (but often poorly acknowledged) past and our shared and (sometimes contested) present. This is in addition to the need to provide present day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians with better opportunities to recover and replenish land, people, community and culture.

I will start with a brief explanation as to how my thinking has been shaped by my experiences of being born, living and working in what I now recognise as Dja Dja Wurrung country for most of my life. I will then turn to some aspects of the local contact period that we have most information of through written records – particularly relating to the setting up of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate at present day Franklinford prior to the white re-discovery of gold. I will conclude by looking specifically at some Aboriginal connections and narratives that might be enhanced by other people following in the footsteps of many others that have walked this country for millennia and undertaking their own journeys of reconciliation.

Early experiences that shape my narrative

 

Like most Australians, I have fortuitously discovered Aboriginal connections in spite of the difficulties rather than because they were there for all to read. Most of my connections come through narrative – and are therefore best expressed in these words in the same way. I was born into a white community in the 1950s prone to silences about many things. The closest one could safely get to acknowledge the Aboriginal past during my teenage years was to collect and display ‘objects’ in museums. Tom Griffiths neatly teases out the ‘History and Natural History’ world I was born into on his Hunters and Collectors book from 1996.

Like all Australians, I do have a history and a culture, but like most Australians there was a time when I wasn’t sure what it was. I remember in my early 20s being stuck for words, in Germany ironically, while performing with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band as part of Australia’s folklore presentation at the World Cup Soccer finals in 1974, when someone first asked me “Tell me about your culture”. Like the majority of Australians, my maternal and paternal families were basically Anglo – but some did get their hands dirty locally within Dja Dja Wurrung country. My great grandfather, William Golding, was a gold miner at the Lord Nelson mine in St Arnaud: the last major goldfields township in northwest of Victoria. The road beyond St Arnaud leaves the rocky, often dry, and mined out hills and passes the Woolpack Hotel past the optimistically named, now ‘ghost town’ of New Bendigo, before dropping onto the apparently endless, flat plains towards the Murray River and beyond into the vast Australian inland. About 40 km north of St Arnaud is a flat little town on the sluggish, rarely flowing and now highly saline Richardson River. This is Donald, my original hometown. It is now wheat and sheep country, but it has not always been so.

All of that country between where I now live in Kingston on the rolling, well-watered, high altitude, volcanic plains, and the flat and dry plains around Donald form part of the traditional country of Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal nation. The Donald Bush Nursing Hospital where I was born is on a billabong of the Richardson River, which forms the boundary between the adjacent Jardwadjali country, one of around 25 distinct Aboriginal nations in Victoria and several hundred in Australia at the time of contact. Dja Dja Wurrung country stretched east west from near Bendigo to Avoca, from the Great Dividing Range to near Pyramid Hill.

 

My paternal grandmother was a Pearse whose family had fled rural poverty and religious oppression in England and made a new start – first on the goldfields in Ballarat and later as ‘selectors’ in the Aboriginal lands appropriated in the Wimmera between the 1840s and 1860s. My family was therefore implicated in part of the original and convenient exterminating act that invoked terra nullius. They were certainly involved in sheep grazing of former Aboriginal grasslands as well as clearing the country of the Buloke (Casuarina) and Black Box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) woodlands for broad scale wheat cropping – at the same time as John Hepburn was helping build the back part of the former Creswick Shire Hall I now live in – as Chair of the previous Creswick and District Roads Board in 1859. Indeed the Board members were Hepburn’s pallbearers in the funeral procession through nearby Smeaton when he died in 1860. All of this happened just over 20 years after John Hepburn came overland from Moruya in New South Wales to ‘take up country’ in April 1838 near present day Kooroocheang with his family and several thousand sheep. Again, ironically, Hepburn built his house alongside several large Aboriginal ovens in a land (an Australian Felix and Eden of Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836) that had been declared legally empty and was regarded as theirs for the taking.

I have started with this brief but wide ranging reflection on family to illustrate the point that many white Australians, including myself, have lived all of our lives in landscapes and environments shaped by thousands of years of Aboriginal history but greatly changed by relatively recent dispossession. We generally have few narrative ‘hooks’ that date back to the time or nature of contact on the frontier. Though my ancestors lived relatively recently on the frontier, and my own house was built only 22 years after first local contact, understandings and interpretations of these environments and what happened here are neither easy to find in accessible or accurate histories, nor easy to accept or embrace. And yet non-Aboriginal people such as myself born in the 1950s were only two life spans away from the times and events of Aboriginal contact. Ivy Sampson, daughter of Thomas Dunolly, a Dja Dja Wurrung man taken as a child from the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station to Coranderrk near current day Healesville in 1864, died less than 20 years ago in 1987.

The tragedy is that many Australians, black and white, often take much of a lifetime to make sense of the poorly documented but shared connections with this relatively recent Aboriginal history. My awakenings began early from the ground up and were at first fragmentary. As a young child I was fascinated by the many Aboriginal stone axes and grindstones made from Mt William greenstone and Grampians quartzite respectively – turned up by ploughing, and typically stored on farm tank stands in the Donald area. There were a few photos in the local museum of ‘King Johnny’ with a brass plate and patronising captions. But for me as a teenager in Donald in the 1960, my only first hand contact with Aboriginal Australia was one Aboriginal railway worker originally from remote Warburton in Western Australia and one Aboriginal family in St Arnaud. Only 100 years after the original dispossession, Donald in the Wimmera, was, like many towns in the area, an almost totally white, Anglo community, in a landscape comprehensively shaped, named and cultured by whites.

 

The first inkling for me of the scale of prior Aboriginal settlement came from my efforts as a teenager to map the distribution of Aboriginal ovens across the countryside – so obvious in red soil paddocks with their fertile, black soil and fragments of baked clay. While many farmers had known of their existence for decades, no one had bothered to map them. By the time I was sixteen I had mapped 160 ovens across the Donald Shire in a distinct pattern that hugged the Richardson River valley and the former shorelines of Lake Buloke. Though the pattern was there and the stone artefacts were everywhere, very few people acknowledged that people or culture had been here, let alone survived. In part it was because the later narratives of pastoralism (and in the Central Highlands area, gold) tend to become hegemonic rather than recent historical veneers.

Wider experiences and horizons leading to an interest in the Franklinford story

 

In between leaving Donald and moving to the Daylesford area in the 1970s I had other transformative experiences in my travels elsewhere in Australia – that forever changed my childhood impression that Australia’s Aboriginal connections and diverse communities were only history. As a touring musician with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band, in the 1970s in the hundreds of towns and cities we did concerts in across Australia I was constantly confronted: by the reality and diversity of contemporary Aboriginal Australia. Naively in retrospect, I was surprised to encounter large Walpiri speaking communities in Yuendumu 300 km north west of Alice Springs on the edge of the Tanami Desert, barely 20 years since pastoral contact. There were ‘fringe dwellers’ living in poverty in many inland Australian and outback towns in all Australian states and the Northern Territory, Torres Strait Islanders on Thursday Island, Aboriginal communities on Cape York and on the Queensland railways, Aboriginal stockmen in western Queensland as well as in parts of all Australian capital cities. Closer to home, Yorta Yorta people who had walked off Cummeragunja Reserve in 1939 were living in humpies on the Murray River near Echuca in Victoria just an hour’s drive from Donald.

I was stunned by a disproportionate number of Kooris then denied from the national census, work and education – but over-represented in the prison population. The deeper one dug and the more one travelled, the more Indigenous connections were visible – in the people, the communities, the names of places, and the vegetation. But most of all at that time I was confronted by the hard truth that the ‘traditional’ Australian ‘folk’ music our band played was at best only traditional in a very narrow and incredibly superficial sense, and at worst a blatant contemporary lie.

In my early days post-band in Daylesford in the 1970s I started searching for links that I knew from experience elsewhere, would likely be found everywhere – if I knew where to look and looked hard enough. I found the physical connections in many places. On the old geology maps of the Ballan and Werona areas geologists had found, recorded and marked several native ovens. When I went to these sites I found stone scatters including axe head fragments. When teaching at (now) Daylesford Secondary College I was alerted by students to what turned out to be over 20 Aboriginal ovens on private property in the Smeaton, Campbelltown, Kooroocheang and Werona areas. In the Daylesford museum I came across huge collections of photos and artefacts as well and busts of named Aboriginal people. Through them I became aware of the great research and thinking done by Edgar Morrison from the 1960s[1] in teasing out the history of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate from the original records. Morrison left monuments and other commemorative clues in the landscape that I now realise were there to guide later others in their attempts to make some sense of a history that was otherwise either denied, or apparently lacking sense.

I also realise now -from re-reading his work, that Morrison was in some small sense politicised by his experiences and faith in the late 1960s, as the then Methodist church sided with the Wik people – in unsuccessfully resisting one of the last of many ‘successful’ major grabs for Aboriginal land by mining companies. I recall with shame playing what we then called ‘traditional Australian music’ in the company town of Weipa in the early 1970s to a company-assembled, white-only audience of miners and their families for the Queensland Arts Council. The company had deliberately rigged up a hessian screen to, as they said, to keep ‘the darkies out’. As we started playing, the hessian dropped and countless young black faces encircled the paying audience through the wire mesh fence. At this point what little was left of my south eastern Australian, ‘hunters and collectors’ view of Australian Aboriginal history as stone artefacts – that I had been brought up with, was getting pretty shaky indeed.

In my reading of Edgar Morrison, he was also making links between what had occurred on the frontier in his own community of Franklinford in the name of Empire, God and progress just over 100 years before, and what was occurring in the same year, 1968 to another Aboriginal nation on a northern frontier to the Wik people – this time with serious concerns from parts of the church about justice and equity. It was, in part, these efforts to recognise Aboriginal land that led within a decade to limited recognition, in some States and Territories, including the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act (1976) –and later in both the High Court Mabo (1992) and Wik (1996) decisions.

For those who don’t know, and apologies for those that do, the story of how the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate came to be set up at Franklinford in 1841 is worth briefly recounting, particularly given its relevance to the gold rush period that followed almost immediately after the Protectorate’s demise by 1849. The Aboriginal Protectorate System[2] was set up as a result of a British Parliament Select Committee Inquiry into the Condition of Aboriginal Peoples during 1837. Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State was one of the chief initiators of schemes to protect the inhabitants of British colonies. He ordered that the Protectorate be confined to the Port Phillip District, then, like this part of present day Victoria, a part of the former colony New South Wales.

The underlying basis of the Protectorate lay in the refusal of the British Government to recognise prior ownership of Australia by Aboriginal people. In effect Aboriginal people were regarded as being under British sovereignty from the outset, though with almost no legal or constitutional rights. The Protectorate system was a gratuitous offer of ‘protection to which they derive the highest possible claim from the sovereignty which has been assumed over their Ancient Possessions’ [Glenelg to Bourke, 1837]. The idea was hatched at a time of increased hostility and conflict between invading European settlers and the Aboriginal landowners. Its instigation was widely and sometimes savagely criticised by the popular press and the many overlanders turned squatters on the rich, Aboriginal managed, volcanic grasslands in the then Port Phillip colony.

Four Assistant Protectors were appointed in Britain in December 1837 including Edward Parker, previously a Wesleyan minister and teacher. None had any prior experience of Aboriginal people and all were recruited directly from the United Kingdom. The Chief Protector, George Augustus Robinson most recently from the floundering Flinders Island Aboriginal Station, was appointed Chief Protector. He had played a pivotal role in the previous decade in ‘successfully’ coercing and forcibly removing Indigenous Tasmanians to Flinders Island.

The stated aim of the Protectors in the Port Phillip colony was to:

watch over the rights and interest of the natives and endeavour to gain their respect and confidence … protect them from any encroachments on their property and from acts of cruelty, oppression and injustice.

The Assistant Protectors’ specific brief was to attach themselves to the tribes of the District (in Parker’s case, the area about Mount Macedon ‘and the country to the northward’) until they could be persuaded to settle in one location. Once ‘settled’ they were to be taught European agricultural, technological, social and religious practices. It was assumed that the Assistant Protectors would learn Aboriginal language and customs but achieve their aims by moral and religious (Christian) instruction.

All Assistant Protectors arrived in Sydney in August 1838 and arrived in Melbourne in January 1839. Parker left Melbourne in August 1839 but proceeded only as far as Jackson’s Creek near Sunbury where he built a hut for his young family. Parker briefly occupied a site at Neereman (on the Loddon River downstream of Baringhup and upstream of O’Brien’s Crossing) from November 1840 to June 1841. Parker had firmly noted in 1840 that …

I deem it my duty respectfully but firmly to assert the right of Aborigines to the soil and its indigenous productions, until suitable compensation be made for occupation by reserving and cultivating a sufficient portion for their maintenance.

Each Assistant Protector was, at least in theory, to create an inner reserve of one square mile for cultivation purposes, as well as a station and an outer reserve of five miles in radius for ‘the hunting ground of the natives’, with no nearby squatter’s stations and as far as possible from the major lines of communication. In June 1840 Parker was asked to set up a proposed reserve on the Loddon River ‘near a hill called by the natives Tarrengower’. Though the site was already occupied and the reserve was disputed by the squatters Dutton and Darlot, by February 1840 twelve permanent Aboriginal dwellings had been built at Neereman. For a range of reasons, including Neereman’s perceived unsuitability for agriculture, a new site for the North West Protectorate Station was decided on at ‘an old sheep station of Mr Mollison’s called Jim Crow Hill[3]. Located at Larnebarramul (‘House of the Emu’), at the time of the Station’s establishment, the land was owned by the Gunangara gunditj clan of the Dja Dja Wurrrung Aboriginal Nation, though occupied by Mollison, one of the invading squatters. The boundary of the inner square mile reserve around the Protectorate Station was nevertheless proclaimed by Governor Gipps in 1840.

The full history of the Mount Franklin Protectorate could and should fill several books. Suffice to say in his brief paper, the history of the original Aboriginal Protectorate and later Aboriginal Station at Franklinford spans 23 years between 1841 and 1864. Parker’s census of 1841 listed 282 Aboriginal people. This number was far from ‘pre-contact’ as a consequence of well documented conflict with Europeans – including deliberate killing, post-contact European diseases and particularly evidence of one or more major smallpox epidemics which originated and were spread from the vicinity of Sydney soon after the arrival of the First Fleet: (see Noel, Butlin, Our original aggression). There were two Aboriginal institutional interventions in the now Franklinford area, both with strong Christian missionary underpinnings: the first, the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate at Franklinford (1841-1849), and a later one, the Mount Franklin Station from 1853 to 1864 at the base of Mt Franklin. These institutional policies and practices were administered by three government organisations: the Aboriginal Protectorate (1839-49); the Office of the Guardian of Aborigines (1850-59) and the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines (1860-1870).

By 1843 the Protectorate system was in disarray: hampered by colonial bureaucracy, a legal system that gave Indigenous people minimal rights and hostility from both squatters and Aborigines. It was, in part, Parker’s favourable reports on the Loddon River Protectorate Station in 1843 and also in 1845 which saved the Protectorate system, at least until a NSW Parliamentary Select Committee recommended its abolishment in late 1849. By 1854 the Aboriginal Protectorate had been dissolved and all that remained were an enclosed paddock which continued to be used as an Aboriginal School, but was closed by the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines in 1864. The Township of Franklinford was subdivided on the same site as the Protectorate in 1858-59. The remaining Aboriginal children were forcibly moved in 1864 to Coranderrk near present day Healesville. Most of the voluminous records from these events are still preserved in State and National archives.

On a visit to the Commonwealth archives in suburban Brighton with Koori students in 1989 I was particularly taken by the incredible irony in an original copy of handwriting exercise – penned by an Aboriginal woman, Ellen, at Franklinford on March 3,1864, just before the closure of the Aboriginal School at Franklinford. The lines she repeated down the pages were ‘Duties demand attention and method’, ‘Valour can do little without prudence’ and the acutely ironic words, ‘Compare past woes with present felicity’. On January 28 of the same year Edward Parker ‘most earnestly deprecate[d]’ the Central Aboriginal Board ‘any attempt to remove the young people now attached to the Aboriginal school’. Parker stressed that such removal could only be effected by coercive means’. In a separate document the Guardian of Aborigines, William Thomas separately argued against ‘the breaking up of the Franklinford Station altogether after 25 years’, noting that ‘… there is scarce a year but 2 or 3 afflicted blacks are brought here to die from the surrounding country – we may justly say in the interim, other refuge have they none.’

Making Indigenous connections to the contemporary local landscape

Knowing what had happened in the Daylesford area, including to the Dja Dja Wurrung nation in a contemporary Australian nation that was intent of having a party to ‘celebrate’ 1988, the Bicentenary of the arrival of the first permanent white settlement at Sydney Cove seemed to me like a huge contradiction. That year at our adopted home, as a form of public protest the Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston, we got a sign writer to write ‘Australia was settled, mapped and cultured before 1788: Don’t celebrate’ on a sign facing the street.

In 1988 I left a secure secondary teaching position in Daylesford to take up a contract at the School of Mines and Industries in Ballarat (SMB), helping to set up the first TAFE Aboriginal programs in Ballarat with guidance from the recently established Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative then in nearby Eyre Street. I was an experienced teacher and a recently Accredited Amateur Archaeologist with Victorian Archaeological Survey (VAS). I had a good knowledge of Aboriginal sites and stone artefacts, but still had a lot to learn about Aboriginal nations, people and culture. The SMB experience taught me much and brought me to another realisation: that around 300 Aboriginal people, many with Stolen Generations backgrounds, then lived in Ballarat and District. The late Alec Jacomos worked carefully and sensitively with many of our students with institutions involved in previous the Ballarat Children’s Homes, Many knew little or nothing about their parents, families, culture or land and were seeking to identify their lost or fragmentary Aboriginal connections. Molly Dyer from Horsham taught in our Aboriginal Welfare Study programs and one day brought her mother Marg Tucker, featured in the Lousy little sixpence documentary from 1983 about the Stolen Generations, to the SMB TAFE auditorium. Several Ballarat Aboriginal people had multiple connections to several Stolen Generations. Some others had links – some clear and others less clear – to families from the ‘Mission and Central Station’ era that followed around 20 years after the demise of the Protectorates. Some Victorian Aboriginal people could trace their roots back to the late 1800s at Lake Condah and Framlingham, Ebenezer and Cummeragunja. Some also were Dja Dja Wurrung descendants via Coranderrk. One day in the mid-1990s I recall looked in the Bendigo phonebook and found a ‘T. Dunolly’ – which clearly indicated to me how close it all was to home. And then there were the oral histories.

My ‘scratching around in the landscape’ as I call it, took in several new local sites in the Kooroocheang, Franklinford and Campbelltown areas. I fondly recall wagging school teaching one sunny afternoon in 1987 with the late Rex Morgan – wading in our underpants – to closely explore the Larnebarramul (nest of the emu) lagoon at Franklinford. David Rhodes’ invaluable study of the archaeological history of the Protectorate was aptly dedicated to Rex. I found that combining public tours with narrative and documents from the 1980s to the present made aspects of the Aboriginal history literally leap out of the local landscape in ways that many people had not heard or experienced.

In one sense the Great Dividing Trail (GDT) and Association that I championed and became President of for many years came out of those experiences of reading the country in the early 1990s. It also came out of parallel and debilitating experiences from fifteen frustrating years of losing countless environmental battles about forest values other than for cellulose, but in retrospect winning a lesser number of wars with governments over the same issues. It was timely for me to work with communities to help create something positive to hand on. And in just 25 years we the GDTA, have achieved much. The GDT concept also came out of my reading of the national Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD) debates, that around that time suggested a potential for sustainable tourism and a small number of other profitable enterprises predicated on the overlap between what is economically and environmentally sustainable.

So how might local government and non-government organisations improve the still woeful knowledge of what happened in ‘settled’ Australia and improve contemporary understandings and narratives of land, culture and community? As part of the valuable RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan) process currently in train in many organisations, I argue that it is essential to to expose Australians to the ongoing and contested appropriation of Aboriginal land in Australia, by telling what happened here, and importantly telling it wherever possible with and by Aboriginal traditional owners, on country and on site. There are many opportunities for local and collaborative exploration, understanding, narrative and interpretation of the many layers of shared heritage in the Hepburn and other Shires, with the Dja Dja Wurrung people and local communities.

As one illustration only, there the Murnong (Microseris scapigera) also known as the Yam Daisy’ that still grows in places in the bush and on some protected roadsides. [4] Much of the information in this account comes from one of the great early research works of ethnobotanist, Beth Gott, now in her 90s. A preferred traditional food of Aborigines in central and western Victoria, the Murnong is the Wurundjeri/ Wathaurung name. Once recorded in its millions in the carefully fired and managed Aboriginal grasslands and open woodlands in all States including Tasmania and Western Australia and tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, it is now impossible to find on grazed land. For those not familiar with the Murnong, it is a perennial herb, springing up from a swollen tuber resembling in shape a small round radish or tapering carrot. The Murnong lies dormant in high summer, but in autumn a rosette of upright, smooth leaves develops and the tuber begins to shrivel to produce flowers, on long stalks, first characteristically bent downwards.

By mid-summer, all that is left is the dried flower stalks and the buried tuber. The old tuber was bitter and less edible in early winter, though the food source was so valuable it could in effect be used year round. Gathered by Aboriginal women using a digging stick: in some areas 8kg (enough to feed a family for a day) could be collected in an hour. They were washed and usually cooked by heating stones in the fire and covering them with grass with earth over the top. When roasted they are sweet, very delicious and nutritious. Indeed, 100 gm of murnong contains 264kj of nutritional energy (compared with 285 kj for a Jerusalem Artichoke and 335 kj for a potato). Oven mounds were called mirrn’yong mounds, which seems to indicate that murnong was the most cooked food in them.

Aboriginal burning practices during the dry season did not harm the tubers. The deliberate burning kept the volcanic grasslands open for herbivores, cleared dead vegetation, leaving open ground, fertilised by ash, suitable for new growth. Introduction of sheep: 700,000 in Victoria by 1840, led directly to the loss of this major Djadjawurrung food resource, since the plains and open forests where it preferentially grew were also areas where murnong was most abundant. As an interesting aside, John Hepburn already had Murnong cultivated in his garden when Aboriginal Protectors Robinson and Parker stayed with him at Smeaton Hill in February 1841. The loss of the Murnong in the Aboriginal grasslands with the introduction of sheep led directly to a need for many Aboriginal people to accept the dole of flour and sugar from Europeans. The cessation of Aboriginal digging and burning limited the Murnong spread. By 1860 the Yam Daisy was sufficiently scarce for younger Aborigines around Melbourne to be uncertain of its identity.

But that is not the end of the narrative. Enter the Long-billed Corella (Cacatua tenuirostris), described by the Robinson as Chief Protector of Aborigines in an area between present day Smeaton and Campbelltown on 18 February 1840 in such numbers as resembling a large white cloud in their tens of thousands. In the same diary entry – to set the scene – Robinson observed a familiar geological scene but a less familiar, present day botanical and ecological covering. ‘These hills are thinly grassed and very stony … occasional fragments of quartz strewed on the ground on the E verge of the plain … timber as usual sheoak [Casuarina], Cherry [Exocarpus], honeysuckle [Callistemon] and wattle [Acacia]’. The next italicised e diary entry is particularly telling. ‘Some places where the natives have been … saw places where they had roasted and eaten the [Freshwater] mussel … There is one thing certain. This Eden is not occupied.’ (italics added).

Studies of the Long-billed Corella in 1986[5] confirmed that ‘… a precipitous decline in both range and numbers …. occurred at the time of European colonisation.’ (p.7). By the 1950s the Long-billed Corella was in such low numbers it was considered endangered. After much research it was found that ‘the food item on which the corella originally thrived was the same underground vegetable extensively utilised by the aborigines (sic) of south-eastern Australia’ (p.8). Importantly,

its disappearance from the plains and rivers was one of the factors contributing to the rapid demise of aboriginal populations in south eastern Australia. This abundant plant disappeared within one or two growing seasons after sheep and cattle began grazing where it grew. Once the yam disappeared from an area, we believe [that] the corella populations very quickly declined through starvation and in many places the corellas were exterminated because of this.                                                     ( Best, Sinclair & Alexander, p.8)

This one complex but insightful story attempts to illustrate how one plant and its complex ecological associations with a bird continue to be disrupted over hundreds of years later. Stories like this might be able to be used to alert people as to the way our natural environment, like our human community, retains and presents evidence of present and past changes – if only we are sensitised to read and understand them. Similar complex stories lie in many other parts of our material and cultural artefacts with Aboriginal connections, including through native plants and animals, in named features in the Australian landscape, in historical documents, in paintings, poetry and literature. But most of all, the stories, along with the lies and silences I was born into in the 1950s, remain embedded mostly in people’s life experiences. Contributing actively and positively to everyone’s Indigenous and environmental narrative is (and should be) a critically important task as part of Indigenous Australian reconciliation.

In so many senses the history of this great land lies in a reading and understanding of the present. It resides in using and valuing the place names and their meanings. Some well known features have worn several other names in 150 years that each tells their own story. There mas be as many as three Dja Dja Wurrung names, including Larnebarramul (nest of the emu), Willamebarramul, ‘place of the emu’ or Lalgambook. ‘Jim Crow’ as John Hepburn called the same mountain sounds superficially quaint but is historically racist, and was called Mt Franklin following Sir John Franklin’s fleeting colonial visit. It is ironic that the best-known Australian spring water in 2018 comes from the same mountain that has no spring or natural water source within the Mount Franklin Reserve other than off the roof of the public toilet,

 

I also contend that our ways of better understanding the local and regional nations. languages, peoples and environments, such as through a renewed interest in Indigenous foods and plants, as well as through improved land management through Catchment Management Authorities, Aboriginal organisations, Landcare and Bushcare help us not only better understand what knowledge was lost, but enhance what there is to protect and regain. Not surprisingly, the longer we live in one place or district and the more sensitised we get to reading and managing the land, the more indigenous (with a small ‘i’) we become. It is interesting that over recent decades the configuration and size of many amalgamated and restructured local government areas across Victoria has begun to resemble some pre-contact Aboriginal national boundaries, divided as now by natural catchment and river boundaries.

In some cases we can only imagine what was lost including in the open (now potato) country towards the top of the Great Dividing Range. This area’s deep and well-watered volcanic soils – until the start of the gold rushes in the 1850s around Dean and Mollongghip – supported some of the grandest stands of trees in Victoria. By the end of the same century they were virtually gone: for building, fuel and pit props for the mines and associated industries

To give some idea of the nature of such missing forests, and particularly the irony associated with their loss, the small patch of tall timber on basaltic substrate topping Wombat Hill above Daylesford was cleared for the present day Botanical Gardens – on the 60 acre ‘police paddock’ reserved for that purpose in 1860. The Daylesford Council minutes on 21 May 1863 record that the initial beginnings of the present day botanical gardens in Wombat Hill were observed: when two young oaks’ were planted ‘… to commemorate the Wedding of King Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandria. A bonfire consisting [of] 20 of the largest trees that grew on the hill amounting to 1000 tons of wood was lit.’ Prior to the clearing of the hill, huge gum trees reputedly up to 20ft [6m] in diameter grew on the hill and wombat burrows were numerous amongst their roots. Today the trees regarded of national heritage significance on the hill include Californian redwoods and Bhutanese pine trees.

Conclusions

My main conclusion is that local heritage has many layers, and that understanding the first Aboriginal layer is essential to understanding the many other heritage layers. Pastoralism, timber and gold in the footprint of the current Hepburn Shire have impacted hugely on Dja Dja Wurrung people and environment. What we classify and value today as heritage will continue to change as community knowledge about what happened here in the contact period changes. Large and significant collections of Aboriginal artefacts at SMB in Ballarat were discarded during the 1950s when local authorities lost interest in them. It is only recently that the many layers of mining, forestry, built and natural heritage in our region have come to be mapped, valued, restored and interpreted. It heartening that in 2018 there is finally an appetite for swapping stories about Dja Dja Wurrung associations and people, both past and present, that have for too long ignored or denied.

There are thousands of pre-contact Aboriginal sites across the region – most of which are found on the more fertile plains and volcanic remnants outside of the forested areas where, as now, living off the land was most productive. Based on the demographic evidence outlined in Noel Butlin’s book, Our original aggression, the volcanic grasslands in the north of the Hepburn Shire supported one of the highest pre-contact Aboriginal population densities in inland Australia, at least until several waves of smallpox (that preceded Mitchell’s contact in 1789 and 1830) apparently reduced them to the relatively low densities observed at the time of pastoralist invasion.

Whilst it in important for our past to be interpreted, the desire publicise heritage in all its forms needs to tempered by the need also to respect the rights and privacy of the traditional owners as well as the current title and land-holders. There are many instances in Australia where exposing sites to tourism – without proper consultation and safeguards – has resulted in loss and damage to the very thing people came to see and experience. It is important that we respect other people’s special places as we expect others to respect ours. It is important always to recall that most non-Indigenous Australians came here as refugees of one sort or another. We owe it to the first Australians – in 2018 and beyond – to work collaboratively to put right whatever we can – and particularly to create new, more inclusive and more sustainable communities and cultures. Working together with communities on a Reconciliation Action Plan is but one way.

[1] These include Early days in the Loddon Valley (1996) and Frontier life in the Loddon Protectorate (1967).

[2] Summarised from Rhodes, D (1995) An historical and archaeological investigation of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station and Mount Franklin Aboriginal Reserve, Occasional Report No. 6, Aboriginal Affairs, Victoria.

[3]Lalgambook to the Djadjawurrung, later named Mount Franklin after the visit to the area of the former Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin and Lady Franklin in December 1843.

[4] Gott, B, 1983, Murnong- Microseris scapigera: a study of a staple food of Victorian Aborigines, Australian Aboriginal Studies, 1983-2, pp.2-18.

[5] Best, L, Sinclair, R and Alexander, P (Eds.) (1986) Proceedings of public meeting to discuss ‘Long-billed corella management and crop damage’, Narracoorte, SA.

‘Ellen’s Walk for Reconciliation’, July 2018 Notes

Ellen’s Walk For Reconciliation

The following notes were provided via the EventBrite site to all pre-registered Walk participants on 15 July 2018. They are being made available more widely post the event to those interested who were not able to participate, or who registered on the day.

NAIDOC Week Public Walk: Mount Franklin to Clarke’s Pool, Franklinford

Presented by the Shire of Hepburn, the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation & Great Dividing Trail Association, Sun 15 July 2018, 9am-2.30pm

Acknowledgement

We acknowledge the people of the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation whose traditional lands we walk on, including their elders past and present.

Welcome!

Thank you for joining this 2018 NAIDOC Week event, Ellen’s Walk for Reconciliation. The NAIDOC theme for 2018 is “Because of her we can’, celebrating the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women (including Ellen) have made – and continue to make – to our communities, our families, our rich history and to our nation. In 2018 we are focusing on reconciliation in the Hepburn Shire, including the role of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate originally based in the area around present day Franklinford.

Rationale

This and other Hepburn Shire RAP (Reconciliation Action Program) activities aim to lead to a better understanding of, and reconciliation between the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who now live in and beyond the footprint of the current Hepburn Shire.

While this walk concentrates on many confronting things that happened locally in the three tumultuous decades following first contact with Major Mitchell in 1836, it acknowledges and celebrates that around 2,000 Dja Dja Wurrung descendants have survived and are also keen to share and learn about our shared history.

Sincere thanks to:

  • Hepburn Shire Council, staff, Community RAP Committee & Coordinators.
  • Uncle Ricky Nelson for the traditional Welcome to Country.
  • Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation
  • Great Dividing Trail Association and members.
  • Parks Victoria
  • all others who have contributed or volunteered in any capacity.

Registration

All walkers must be registered at the start and wear the participant identification provided. The $5 donation requested goes towards the cost of the walk organization: half goes as a donation to the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.

Approximate Walk Schedule (# explanation points: themes)

  • Before 9.15am: Registration in the crater, Mt Franklin Reserve.
  • 15am: ‘Welcome to Country’ in the Crater by Uncle Ricky Nelson.
  • 30am: Brief Welcome by Shire Mayor, John Cottrell, and short safety briefing before the walk to #1 Top of Mount Franklin: Country and People pre-1836 Optional: if you want to avoid a steep climb … but miss the explanation and great views!).
  • 00am: walk down along the crater rim road (View towards Kooroocheang # 2: Early Squatting and initial Protectorate at Nerreman 1838-1841), then out of the crater.
  • 30am: Cross Midland Highway: TAKE EXTREME CARE.
  • 00am: top of Carroll’s Lane # 3 Loddon Protectorate story 1841-49.
  • 30am: Morning tea, Carroll’s Lane.
  • 00 midday: Old Mill Stream on Hepburn Franklinford Road: # 4 Protectorate Era Flour Mill.
  • 30am: # 5 Aboriginal School, Ellen’s story, closure and removal to Coranderrk (previous Protectorate Main Site) South Street, Franklinford.
  • 00pm Franklinford Cemetery # 6 Original Protectorate Cemetery.
  • 30pm: walk past the original ‘Franklin Ford’ to BYO lunch at Clarke’s Pool Franklinford Streamside Reserve.
  • From 2.00-3.00pm: Transport provided for drivers only back to cars at the crater (two trips), who will return to Clarke’s Pool for any passengers: we suggest via Powell Connection (bitumen) Road.

 Toilets

 The toilets are few and limited to:

  • at the start in the Mt Franklin crater
  • a Portable Toilet provided approximately half way (near where we will have BYO morning tea) on Carroll’s Lane.
  • the Franklinford Cemetery
  • there are also trees in places along the way …

 Safety

Once we depart the Mt Franklin Crater we are walking on or beside public roads. Please follow the instructions of Walk Marshalls (wearing bright vests). When on bitumen roads please keep to the LEFT side of the road, giving way to car and other traffic. The walkers will likely form into three groups: faster, medium, and slower). Take particular care and follow instructions when crossing the Midland Highway.

Take care walking on the loose surface of the scoria road down from Mt Franklin, and well as on steeper parts of Carroll’s Lane.

Where do we walk?

We walk 12km from the top of Lalgambook / Mount Franklin through important and fascinating parts of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate (and later Aboriginal Station) 330 metres down hill to Clarkes Pool on the nearby Jim Crow Creek (see note p.10, below).

The intention is to enable local people to walk and learn the story of Dja Dja Wurrung people in the footprint of the current Shire of Hepburn in the three tumultuous decades following first contact with Major Mitchell in 1836.

Why do we walk here?

Mount Franklin (Lalgambook, also called Lalgam-burrk or Laldjam-burrp) is a remarkable volcanic crater close to the south end of Dja Dja Wurrung country. Its beauty, resources and surroundings have drawn people for thousands of generations. (A detailed history of Mt Franklin is provided below, pages 9-10).

Our walk from the crater along roadsides through the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate through present day Franklinford enables the story to be told of what happened in this landscape from the 1830s, including to Ellen, her family and also to the Dja Dja Wurrung peoples.

It is notable that we undertake this walk with some of the 2,500 Dja Dja Wurrung descendants who have survived to celebrate NAIDOC week and the ongoing important roles Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women play in Australia in 2018.

NOTES: The extra notes that follow (written by Barry Golding) are based on available written historical sources, with a brief Reference list at the end.

Who was Ellen?

Ellen was a Dja Dja Wurrung woman who was born at the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate in 1849, the daughter of Yerrebulluk (Dicky) and Brebie (Eliza). She was taught to read, write and do needlework at the Aboriginal school.

When the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria married in 1863 the Dja Dja Wurrung people sent the Queen two letters written by Ellen and a collar she had crocheted.

The Queen replied with her thanks, particularly asking Ellen to make it known to her people that she was concerned for their welfare. The Queen’s concern was warranted. Twenty-five years of contact with white people had already led, directly and indirectly, to the death of large numbers of the Dja Dja Wurrung people across central Victoria.

Ellen was removed, with six other Aboriginal children and five adults (including her mother, Eliza) when the Aboriginal Station at Franklinford closed, to the new reserve at Coranderrk, near present day Healesville, in April 1864. Ellen herself died in 1874 at the age of 35, following the deaths of her three children from tuberculosis.

Ellen’s life as well the lives of her parents is illustrative of many of the tumultuous changes that occurred to the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation and peoples in the three decades following first contact with Major Mitchell in 1836.

Walk participants will receive more information about the history of the area and the Protectorate at six scheduled stops during the walk.

The explanations at our stops along the way highlight:

  • The way volcanoes and basalt flows shaped the local landscapes.
  • The notion of ‘contact’.
  • The local Dja Dja Wurrung Nation and Clans.
  • The initial contact period and arrival of overlanders and squatters, 1838-1841.
  • The Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate 1841-1849, and role of E. S. Parker.
  • Post-Protectorate era, 1850-64
  • Removal of most remaining people to Coranderrk, 1864
  • Survival of Aboriginal Nations, the continuing legacy of successive Stolen Generations, Missions and Central Stations from 1865, Children’s Homes in Ballarat and Bendigo to the 1970s.

The volcanoes

 The ‘Newer Volcanics’ erupted from over 100 eruption points including Mount Franklin crater as recently as half a million years locally.

  • The basalt flows filled most large valleys (covering their gold bearing gravels).
  • Soils developed on the basalt, systematically burnt and maintained as grasslands over millennia by Aboriginal people, since exploited for agriculture.
  • Many of the eruption points like Mt Franklin are scoria cones or lava hills that form prominent features on the now cleared basalt plains.
  • ‘Tuff rings’ form low relief hills on the volcanic plains, containing swamp deposits or lakes in the craters, with rich aquatic food resources.
  • Wherever there is no basalt the rocks are very old tightly folded sedimentary shales and mudstones, weathering to very poor soils and generally unsuitable for agriculture (therefore still mostly forested).
  • Granite peaks protrude through the bedrock to the north, including Mt Beckworth, Mt Tarrengower and Leanganook (Mt Alexander), and in the distance other peaks including Mt Kooyora. Again, the peaks are rocky and generally not suitable for agriculture.

‘Sovereignty … assumed over their Ancient Possessions’:

 The Aboriginal Protectorate System

… which the North West Protectorate (1840-1849) and Loddon Aboriginal Station (1853-1864) in the Mount Franklin area formed part of …

  •  Was set up as a result of a British Parliament Select Committee Inquiry into the Condition of Aboriginal Peoples during 1837. Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State was one of the chief initiators of schemes to protect the inhabitants of British colonies, and ordered that the protectorate be confined to the Port Phillip District (then part of NSW).
  • The underlying basis of the Protectorate lay in the refusal of the British Government to recognize prior ownership of Australia by Aboriginal people. In effect Aboriginal people were regarded as being under British sovereignty from the outset (though with almost no legal or constitutional rights). The Protectorate system was a gratuitous offer of ‘protection to which they derive the highest possible claim from the sovereignty which has been assumed over their Ancient Possessions.’ [Glenelg to Bourke, 1837].
  • The idea was hatched at a time of increased hostility and conflict between invading European settlers and the Aboriginal traditional owners. The instigation of the Protectorate was widely and sometimes savagely criticized by the popular press.
  • Four Assistant Protectors were appointed in Britain in December 1837 (Thomas, Seivwright, Dredge and E. S. Parker). Edward Stone Parker had been a Wesleyan minister and teacher. None had any prior experience of Aboriginal people.
  • The Chief Protector George Augustus Robinson, most recently from the Flinders Island Aboriginal Station, was appointed Chief Protector in Port Philip. He had played a pivotal role in the previous decade in ‘successfully’ coercing and removing Indigenous Tasmanians from several Nations to Flinders Island to be Christianised and civilized, and out of harm’s way from other recent invaders of their lands. The Protectorate system was a variation on the previous tragic theme.
  • The stated aim of the Protectors was to ‘… watch over the rights and interest of the natives and endeavour to gain their respect and confidence … protect them from any encroachments on their property and from acts of cruelty, oppression and injustice’.
  • The Assistant Protector’s specific brief was to attach themselves to the tribes of the District (in Parker’s case, the area about Mount Macedon ‘and the country to the northward’) until they could be persuaded to settle in one location. Once ‘settled’ they were to be taught European agricultural, technological, social and religious practices.
  • It was assumed that the Assistant Protectors would learn Aboriginal language and customs but achieve their aims by moral and religious (Christian) instruction.
  • All Assistant Protectors arrived in Sydney in August 1838 and in Melbourne in January 1839. Parker left Melbourne in August 1839 but proceeded only as far as Jackson’s Creek near Sunbury where he built a hut for his young family.
  • By 1843 the Protectorate system was in disarray: hampered by colonial bureaucracy, a legal system that gave Indigenous people minimal rights and violent and often deadly hostility between squatters and Aborigines. It was, in part, Parker’s favourable reports on the Loddon River Protectorate Station in 1843 and also in 1845, which saved the Protectorate system, at least until a NSW Parliamentary Select Committee recommended its abolishment in 1849.

Temporary compensation for declaring terra nullius ….

Brief settlement at Neereman near present day Baringhup, and later selection of the ‘Jim Crow’ (= Mount Franklin) site

  • Parker briefly occupied a site at Neereman (on the Loddon River downstream of Baringhup and upstream of O’Brien’s Crossing) from Nov 1840 to June 1841.
  • Parker noted in 1840 that ‘I deem it my duty respectfully but firmly to assert the right of Aborigines to the soil and its indigenous productions, until suitable compensation be made for occupation by reserving and cultivating a sufficient portion for their maintenance’.
  • Each Assistant Protector was to create an inner reserve of one square mile for cultivation purposes and a station, and an outer reserve of five miles in radius for ‘the hunting ground of the natives’, with no squatters stations and as far as possible from the major lines of communication’.
  • In June 1840 Parker was asked to set up a proposed reserve on the Loddon River ‘near a hill called by the natives Tarrengower’.
  • Though the site was already occupied and the reserve was disputed by squatters Dutton and Darlot, by February 1840 twelve permanent Aboriginal dwellings had been built at Neereman.
  • For a range of reasons, including the Neereman’s perceived unsuitability for agriculture, a new site was decided on: ‘… an old sheep station of Mr Mollison’s called Jim Crow Hill’ (also anglicised to Jumcra. (Jim Crow was a derogatory term for African Americans. Mt Franklin was referred to as Jim Crow Hill by John Hepburn in his 1841 diaries, Lalgambook by the Dja Dja Wurrung people and Salus by Major Mitchell).

 A brief history of the Protectorate at Franklinford:

Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station 1841-1849

  • Located at Larnebarramul (‘House of the Emu’) near Lalgambook, later named Mount Franklin after the visit to the area of the former Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin and Lady Franklin in December 1843).
  • At the time of the Station’s establishment the land was owned by the Gunangara ginditj clan of the Dja Dja Wurrrung Aboriginal Nation, though occupied by Mollison, one of the invading squatters.
  • The boundary of the reserve around the Protectorate Station was proclaimed by Governor Gipps in 1840. The original cemetery boundaries (now contained within the later Franklinford Cemetery) were surveyed by Howe in June 1848.

 Post-1850

  • ‘Following abolition of the Protectorate in 1849, Parker applied for and was granted a Pastoral License to the Protectorate Reserve under an arrangement with [Governor] La Trobe.’
  • Parker was ‘… allowed to depasture his own stock and cultivate sections of the land for his own use and that of the Aboriginal School, subject to him giving ‘… employment, both pastoral and agricultural, as far as possible, to the Aboriginal natives.’
  • By 1854 the Aboriginal Protectorate had been dissolved and all that remained were an enclosed paddock which continued to be used as an Aboriginal School (closed by the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines in 1864, and the remaining four Aboriginal adults and six children moved to Coranderrk near present day Healesville), some of the outlying huts and a stockyard.
  • The Township of Franklinford was subdivided in 1858-59. The other sections of the former Protectorate Reserve were increasingly taken up by miners’ rights and land sales during the 1850s.
  • The Aboriginal people who were forcibly moved from Mt Franklin to Coranderrk in 1864 died within 12 years except Beernbannin who live until 1880. Alienation from their land and insanitary conditions at Corankerrk were among the major causes of death. Dja Dja Wurrung descendants have survived through the family of Thomas Dunolly (1856-1923) who was brought to Coranderrk from Mt Franklin in 1863.
  • There are as many as 30 apical ancestors from whom around 2,500 present day Dja Dja Wurrung people have descended.
  • Thomas Dunolly’s daughter, Ivy Sampson visited Mount Franklin and was photographed in Franklinford at the Aboriginal School site in Edgar Morrison’s booklets, published in Daylesford during the 1960s and 1970s. Ivy Sampson died in the 1980s.
  • A Corroboree took place near the top of Leanganook (Mt Alexander) as part of the Black Gold Conference in 2005, facilitated by a range of Victorian Aboriginal organisations through Parks Victoria that included Dja Dja Wurrung descendants.

Tommy Farmer

Edgar Morrison, in The Loddon Aborigines (1971, p.69) records that Thomas Farmer, who ‘had been ‘brought up by white people’, was transferred from Neereman to Lan-ne barramul (present day Franklinford). While there he cleared land and fenced it, erected residences, borrowed a plough and cultivated 21 acres of land with wheat, which he carted to Castlemaine to be ground into flour.

In 1853 Mr Parker transferred from the old [Aboriginal] Station site to his new residence on the western slopes of Mount Franklin, having been granted a pastoral lease on the former Reserve. …

In 1859 Parker recorded that:

…two [Aboriginal] families old land under the authority of the Government; they have been farming on their own account since the year 1852. They were the first youths I induced to say with me in the earliest periods of my experience as Assistant Protector of Aborigines.

Farmer married his first wife, Nora at ‘Jim Crow’: she died in the Castlemaine Hospital. After transfer to Coranderrk (near Healesville) in 1864, Thomas remarried (Maggie) and died there in 1880.

The Old Mill Spring (that we walk past)

Edgar Morrison, in The Loddon Aborigines (1971, p.48) records 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 discernable 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. …

In summary

  • The history of Aboriginal stations at Franklinford spans 23 years between 1841-1864.
  • There were two Aboriginal Stations: one, the Aboriginal Protectorate at Franklinford 1841-1849; a later one The Mount Franklin Station from 1853 at the base of Mt Franklin.
  • It was administered by three government organisations (the Aboriginal Protectorate 1839-49; the Office of the Guardian of Aborigines (1850-59 and the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1860-1870).
  • Most of the voluminous Protectorate records are preserved in State and National archives.

Dja Dja Wurrung

Originally consisted of around 20 clans sharing the same wurrung (speech name) with a degree of political and economic association.

form part of a larger group of clans sharing religious and social ties. The Kulin have two moieties: bunjil (eaglehawk) and waa (crow)

  • the traditional owners of land in Central Victoria between Kyneton, Creswick, Boort, Donald and the Pyrenees.
  • Parker’s Loddon Protectorate census of 1841 listed 282 Aboriginal people. This number was far from ‘pre-contact’ as a consequence of well documented conflict with Europeans, deliberate killing, post-contact European diseases and evidence of one or more major smallpox epidemics which originated and were spread from the vicinity of Sydney soon after the arrival of the First Fleet.
  • Important elements of Dja Dju Wurrung culture and people survive today in cities, towns and communities of central Victoria, including in Castlemaine and Bendigo.

Mt Franklin History

The mountain was created by a volcanic eruption about 470,000 years ago. It is fine example of a breached scoria cone. The breach in the south-eastern rim (through which the road now enters the crater) was caused by lava flow breaking through the rim. The caldera is one of the deepest in the central highlands area. Earlier flows extend to the north and west. The coarse ‘ejecta’ exposed around the summit includes red and green olivine and shiny crystals of (white) orthoclase and (black) augite Lumps of Ordovician sedimentary and granitic bedrock. On the western slope is the parasitic scoria mound known as “Lady Franklin”.

Some volcanic eruptions (though likely not this one) would have been witnessed by members of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation who called this country the ‘smoking grounds’. The clan that occupied the country around Mount Franklin were the Gunangara Gundidj who called it Lalgambook. Mount Franklin and the surrounding area is a place of considerable religious significance to Aboriginal people. Ethnographical, archaeological and historic evidence indicates that frequent large ceremonial gatherings took place in the area. Lava from Mount Franklin and other volcanoes in the area filled valleys and buried the gold bearing streams that became the renowned ‘deep leads’ of the gold mining era.

Reports from Major Thomas Mitchell’s third (1836) expedition took him as close as Guildford and Newstead. He reported ‘fertile land waiting to be claimed’ prompting a minor rush by squatters including John Hepburn, who called the mount “Jim Crow Hill”. Charles Joseph La Trobe, superintendent of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales named the mountain after Sir John Franklin after they climbed the hill together in December 1843. (Franklin had been Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania] from 1837 to early 1843 when he was removed from office). The Franklin River in Tasmania also bears his name. During 1843 Franklin visited Victoria. Franklin disappeared on his last expedition, attempting to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The icebound ships were abandoned and the entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning and scurvy. He was last seen by Europeans on 26 July 1845: a note recovered in 1851 confirm he died on 11 June 1847.

During the Aboriginal Protectorate era (1842-9), the Mountain was within the five mile reserve radius.

In 1866, the crater of Mount Franklin was set aside as a recreation reserve, and the remainder reserved as State forest. Owing to the high demand for land in the district, two areas of the reserve were excised and sold for agricultural settlement. This galvanised popular support for the permanent reservation of Mount Franklin.

During the 1870s and 80s, scenic qualities of natural bushland gained popularity as recreational venues as compared to formal parks and gardens. In 1875, a meeting asked the Victorian government to reserve all the land at Mount Franklin for public purposes and a reservation of 157 acres was gazetted the following year under shared management of the surrounding local government areas. In 1891 the Shire of Mount Franklin was given sole control of the reserve.

From the 1880s, parts of the reserve were being leased for grazing, providing much-needed revenue for the committee of management. By the 1920s, rabbit infestation was a major problem. Nevertheless, during this period the crater was still a popular destination for picnickers and pleasure-seekers. Mount Franklin was promoted as a local beauty spot within easy reach of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs mineral springs resort. A shelter shed and rainwater tank were erected.

In 1944, a devastating wildfire destroyed most of the native vegetation on the mount. As a result, the inner and outer slopes of the crater were planted with exotic species, mainly conifers, to prevent erosion and to provide revenue through commercial harvesting. The caldera was planted with ornamentals such as silver birch, white poplar, sycamore and Sequoia sempervirens (Californian Redwoods).

Not everyone approved of the scheme. The late Edgar Morrison from Franklinford remarked on Mount Franklin’s “pine-clad heights”: “One feels that when the Forest Commission, a generation ago, draped this foreign garb around its shoulders, the old mount …. resented the indignity.”

‘Jim Crow’ Creek

Our walk finishes at what is currently called ‘Jim Crow Creek.’ The Jim Crow laws were racial segregation laws enacted after the Reconstruction period in Southern United States, at state and local levels, and which continued in force until 1965, which mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states of the former Confederacy. The separation in practice led to conditions for African Americans that were inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages. These Jim Crow laws followed the 1800–1866 Black Codes, which had previously restricted the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans with no pretence of equality. Jim Crow was the derogatory name for a black person at the time. Lalgambook / Mt Franklin (called ‘Salus’ by Major Mitchell, after the ancient Roman God of health and prosperity) was dubbed ‘Jim Crow’ by John Hepburn in 1841, perhaps anglicised from Mollison’s outstation in the area, briefly called ‘Jumcra’. The derogatory connotation of the term Jim Crow is a good reason to consider its future renaming, as has recently been done to a similarly named mountain near Rockhampton.

Some Useful References

Attwood, B. (2017) The Good Country: The Dja Dja Wurrung, the Settlers and the Protectors. Monash University Publishing, Clayton.

Clarke, I. D. (Ed.) (1998) The Journals of George Augustus Robinson, Chief Protector, Port Phillip Aboriginal Protectorate, Volume 1: 1 January 1839 – 30 September 1840. Heritage Matters, Melbourne. (pp.163-185 in Robinson’s diary of 11 to 29 February, 1840 was within southern Dja Dja Wurrung country).

DDWCAC: Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (2014a) Families of Dja Dja Wurrung, with Jessica Hodgens, Djuwima-Djarra: Sharing Together: Dja Dja Wurrung : Our Story. DDWCAC, Bendigo.

DDWCAC: Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (2014b) Dhelkunya Dja: Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan 2014-2034, http://www.djadjawurrung.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Dja-Dja-Wurrung-Country-Plan.pdf.

Haw, P. & Munro, M. (2010) Footprints Across the Loddon Plains: A Shared History. Boort Development Incorporated, Boort.

Morrison, E. (1965) Early Days in the Loddon Valley: Memoirs of Edward Stone Parker 1802-1865. Yandoit.

Morrison, E. (1967) Frontier Life in the Loddon Protectorate: Episodes from Early Days, 1837-1842. Yandoit.

Morrison, E. (1971) The Loddon Aborigines: “Tales of Old Jim Crow”. Abco Print, Daylesford.

PROV: Public Records Office, Victoria (1983) Victorian Aborigines 1835-1901: A Resource Guide to the Holdings of the Public Records Office. PROV, Victoria.

Quinlan, L. M. (1967) Here my Home: The Life and Times of John Stuart Hepburn 1803-1860, Master Mariner, Overlander, Founder of Smeaton Hill, Victoria. Oxford University Press, London.

Rhodes, D. (1985) An Historical and Archaeological Investigation of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station and Mount Franklin Aboriginal Reserve, Occasional Report No. 46, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.

Tully, J. (1997) DjaDja Wurrung Language of Central Victoria, including place names. Australian Print Group, Maryborough.