Reconciliation on the land of Australia: Cora Gooseberry and Biddy Giles

As well as known Aboriginal men who were leaders of their clans and figured in ongoing relationships with the British colonisers in the coastal Sydney area, there are Aboriginal women who are recorded in the early colonial records. Paul Irish recounts what is known about some of them, in his book “Hidden in Plain View”.

Cora Gooseberry was the widow of Bungaree (see https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/30/reconciliation-on-the-land-of-australia-bungaree-and-mahroot/). She was born around 1777 and lived until 1852. Cora was a well-known identity in the Sydney streets. Born as Carra or Kaaroo, she was the daughter of Moorooboora, leader of the Murro-Ore (Pathway Place) clan, named from muru (pathway) and Boora (Long Bay).

Irish reports that Gooseberry’s mob, including Ricketty Dick, Jacky Jacky and Bowen Bungaree, camped in the street outside Sydney hotels or in the Domain, where they engaged with the British invaders by giving exhibitions of boomerang throwing. In July 1845, in exchange for flour and tobacco, Cora Gooseberry took Angas and the police commissioner W.A. Miles on a tour of Aboriginal rock carvings at North Head and told them ‘all that she had heard her father say’ about the places where ‘dibble dibble walk about’, an inference that he had been a koradji from that region. (See http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gooseberry-cora-12942)

Biddy Giles, 1810 to 1888, lived first in the Illawarra, where she had two daughters to Burragalong, known as Paddy Davis. Davis lived with Biddy from 1850s on a farm at Mill Creek, off the George’s River. Biddy was skilled at fishing and hunting with a pack of dogs. Irish reports that she ran guided tours in the bush land near George’s River down to the Heathcote area, from the 1850s onwards, and then tours to whale engravings near Bundeena in 1860s and 1870s

About the time Paddy died around 1860, Biddy moved to the Georges River, with a new partner, an Englishman called Billy Giles. They lived on the western bank of Mill Creek, known to the Dharawal as Gurugurang, in a farmhouse built earlier by Dr Alexander Cuthill. They had fruit trees, goats and abundant bush tucker from the river and its banks. During the 1860s, Biddy and Billy acted as guides for groups of travellers in shooting or fishing parties, sharing their knowledge of the river and its wildlife, telling stories and sharing skills. These trips ranged from Mill Creek east all the way to the ocean and south into Dharawal country as far as the Shoalhaven.

Some of these travellers wrote accounts of their trips with Biddy, marvelling at her unfailing ability to find fish, her control of her hunting dogs and the skill with which she could rustle up a delicious meal from local produce. (See https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/giles_biddy)

Such women are fine models for us to ponder during this National Reconciliation Week.

(In the picture, Cora Gooseberry is top right, Biddy Giles is bottom left.)

See also

http://home.dictionaryofsydney.org/paul-irish-hidden-in-plain-view-the-aboriginal-people-of-coastal-sydney/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/27/we-are-sorry-we-recognise-your-rights-we-seek-to-be-reconciled/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/28/reconciliation-on-the-land-of-australia-learning-from-the-past/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/29/reconciliation-on-the-land-of-australia-bennelong-and-yemmerrawanne/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/30/reconciliation-on-the-land-of-australia-bungaree-and-mahroot/

On the doctrine of discovery: https://johntsquires.com/2018/08/13/affirming-the-sovereignty-of-first-peoples-undoing-the-doctrine-of-discovery/

Reconciliation on the land of Australia: Bungaree and Mahroot

Paul Irish, in his recent book, “Hidden in Plain View”, introduces us to various Aboriginal people who are noted on a number of occasions in the early colonial records. One of them was Bungaree (1770s-1830), who came from the area we know as Broken Bay, at the northern end of “Coastal Sydney”.

Bungaree, or Boongarie, was born around the time that the First Fleet was being gathered together in preparation for the long trip to the Great South Land. As an adult, he adopted the role of a mediator between the invading British colonists and the Aboriginal people. He sailed in that capacity with Matthew Flinders, becoming the first Australian to circumnavigate the continent on that voyage of 1802–03.

It is said that, during this voyage, Bungaree used his knowledge of Aboriginal protocol to negotiate peaceful meetings with local Indigenous people. later, in A Voyage to Terra Australis, Matthew Flinders subsequently wrote that Bungaree’s ‘good disposition and open and manly conduct had attracted my esteem.’ (In A Voyage to Terra Australis)

In mid-life he found a patron in Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who made Bungaree ‘Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe’, set aside land and gave him a boat for fishing. In his later life Bungaree, while still respected as an Aboriginal leader, was regarded as the best-known character in the streets of Sydney.

Bungaree died in 1830. There is a substantial entry on him in the Dictionary of Sydney (https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/bungaree)

Another Aboriginal leader was Mahroot (1790s to 1850), who was also known as “Boatswain”. Mahroot lived with his wife at Botany (near the site of the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel), and it is recorded that he worked there as ferryman and guide in the 1840s. It is also claimed that several white people lived there, as his tenants. (https://dictionaryofsydney.org/person/boatswain_maroot)

Mahroot had regular and consistent engagement with whites in the colony; it is said that Mahroot and the British colonisers happily co-existed. He gave evidence to the Select Committee on the Condition of the Aborigines in 1845 where he spoke frankly about his life, his family, his Country and the impact on Indigenous people since 1788.

See also

http://home.dictionaryofsydney.org/paul-irish-hidden-in-plain-view-the-aboriginal-people-of-coastal-sydney/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/27/we-are-sorry-we-recognise-your-rights-we-seek-to-be-reconciled/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/28/reconciliation-on-the-land-of-australia-learning-from-the-past/

On the doctrine of discovery: https://johntsquires.com/2018/08/13/affirming-the-sovereignty-of-first-peoples-undoing-the-doctrine-of-discovery/

Reconciliation on the land of Australia: Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne

During this National Reconciliation Week, I think it is worth recalling the evidence for various positive and respectful relationships that existed between First Peoples and the invading colonisers from Britain. We are accustomed, now, to reading of the violent conflicts and massacres that occurred. These are tragic parts of our history that we must not deny, overlook, or ignore.

But in the early stages of the colony—and, indeed, stretching throughout the colonial period—there were mutually respectful relationships between these groups. National Reconciliation Week seems to be a good time to recall this.

Perhaps the best known persona from amongst the First Peoples encountered by the invading British coloniser was Bennelong, born in 1764 on the southern shore of the Parramatta River. Paul Irish (in Hidden in Plain View) notes that his various family connections meant that Bennelong had connections to country on Goat Island, at Botany Bay, on the lower north shore of Sydney Harbour, and along the northern side of Parramatta River.

Bennelong was kidnapped in November 1789, under the orders of Governor Arthur Phillip, who thereby set an unfortunate tone for the relationship with the locals from the very early years of the colony. Phillip apparently assumed that Bennelong was a “King” of the local people, and thus the correct person with whom to negotiate about co-existing in the same area. It was an attempt to build a constructive relationship, even if it was carried out in what we now recognise to be an entirely flawed manner.

It is said that Bennelong took readily to life among the white men, relished their food, acquired a taste for liquor, learned to speak English and became particularly attached to the Governor. At the end of his term as Governor in 1792, Arthur Phillip travelled to England with Bennelong and another Aborigine, Yemmerrawanne, a Wangal man of the Eora people.

Yemmerrawanne was described by Watkin Tench, in his work, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson (1793), as a “good-tempered lively lad” who became “a great favourite with us, and almost constantly lived at the governor’s house”. (See https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/yemmerrawanne)

Yemmerrawanne never returned home from his trip to England. After a long illness, he died from a lung infection on 18 May 1794 at the home of Mr Edward Kent at South End, Eltham in the county of Kent. His gravestone in Kent marks his life, and death.

Bennelong stayed in England from 1792 to 1795. On his return to Sydney, he was able to develop more positive relationships with the British, and functioned as an advisor to Governor Hunter.

Bennelong lived his last years with one of his wives, Boorong, at Kissing Point, with an extended group of about 100 people, until his death on 3 January 1813. He was buried in the Kissing Point orchard of the brewer James Squire—no relationship! Squire had been a great friend to Bennelong and his clan; another sign of positive, respectful relationships between Aborigines and the colonisers. We need to learn from such stories in our history.

See the extensive article on Bennelong in the Australian Dictionary of Biography at http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bennelong-1769

The image portrays Bennelong, the grave of Yemmerrawanne, and the 2019 National Reconciliation Week logo and theme.

See also

http://home.dictionaryofsydney.org/paul-irish-hidden-in-plain-view-the-aboriginal-people-of-coastal-sydney/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/27/we-are-sorry-we-recognise-your-rights-we-seek-to-be-reconciled/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/28/reconciliation-on-the-land-of-australia-learning-from-the-past/

On the doctrine of discovery: https://johntsquires.com/2018/08/13/affirming-the-sovereignty-of-first-peoples-undoing-the-doctrine-of-discovery/

Reconciliation on the land of Australia: learning from the past

During this National Reconciliation Week, I think it is worth recalling the evidence for various positive and respectful relationships that existed between First Peoples and the invading colonisers from Britain.

We are accustomed, now, to reading of the violent conflicts and massacres that occurred As the invading colonisers settled on lands which had belonged, for millennia, to the First Peoples of the continent. These are tragic parts of our history that we must not deny, overlook, or ignore. (See my earlier posts on this aspect, noted below.)

But in the early stages of the colony—and, indeed, stretching throughout the colonial period—there were mutually respectful relationships between these groups. National Reconciliation Week seems to be a good time to recall this.

Paul Irish, in his recent book, Hidden in Plain View, has traced the evidence that shows the positive and respectful relationships that existed in the 19th century “between the colonial settlers and Aboriginal people in Coastal Sydney”. (See https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/hidden-plain-view/)

Irish maps an area stretching from Port Stephens to the Shoalhaven, as far inland as the headwaters of the Parramatta and George’s Rivers in the Sydney Basin, but including coastal spurs along northern and southern edges of the Basin. (Pretty much like the current urban sprawl of Newcastle-Central Coast-Sydney-Wollongong-Kiama-Nowra.)

According to Irish, this was an area within which many of the Indigenous peoples moved about, living in different locations at different times, because of their long-established family and clan links with those locations. His interest in is mapping the relationships between the colonisers and Indigenous people at various locations in this coastal area.

Irish refers to “those whose links to coastal Sydney extend back hundreds of generations, whose ancestors met the first Europeans, and who found a way to create an ongoing place for themselves in the oldest and largest city in the country.”

He writes about their “remarkable story of survival through cultural strength and cross-cultural entanglement that sits in stark contrast to commonly held views of colonial and Aboriginal Australia, and to the experiences of most Australians today”. (There is an edited extract from his book available online at https://insidestory.org.au/atween-here-and-the-georges-river/)

Paul Irish refers to men such as Bennelong, Yemmerrawanne, Bungaree, and Mahroot. He also refers to women such as Cora Gooseberry, Biddy Giles, Matora, and Mary Ann Burns. They were leaders in their communities and they were able, for the most part, to relate to the colonisers who had invaded their lands, with grace and respect. In this National Reconciliation Week, we would do well to reflect on them and to follow their example.

(More reflections to come as the week continues …)

See also

http://home.dictionaryofsydney.org/paul-irish-hidden-in-plain-view-the-aboriginal-people-of-coastal-sydney/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/27/we-are-sorry-we-recognise-your-rights-we-seek-to-be-reconciled/

On the doctrine of discovery: https://johntsquires.com/2018/08/13/affirming-the-sovereignty-of-first-peoples-undoing-the-doctrine-of-discovery/

On learning from the land:

https://johntsquires.com/2018/12/17/learning-of-the-land-1/

https://johntsquires.com/2018/12/18/learning-of-the-land-2-ngunnawal-namadgi-and-ngarigo/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/01/30/learning-of-the-land-3-tuggeranong-queanbeyan-and-other-canberra-place-names/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/02/08/learning-from-the-land-4-naiames-nghunnhu-fishtraps-at-brewarrina/

On difficulties and tragedies in the early relationships:

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/the-profound-effect-of-invasion-and-colonisations/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/01/18/endeavour-by-every-possible-means-to-conciliate-their-affections/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/we-never-saw-one-inch-of-cultivated-land-in-the-whole-country/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/they-stood-like-statues-without-motion-but-grinnd-like-so-many-monkies/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/01/24/resembling-the-park-lands-of-a-gentlemans-residence-in-england/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/01/26/they-are-to-be-hanged-up-on-trees-to-strike-the-survivors-with-the-greater-terror/#more-424

We are sorry, we recognise your rights, we seek to be reconciled

Yesterday was National Sorry Day. It has been observed for only a decade. On 26 May 1997, the Bringing Them Home Report report was tabled in Federal Parliament. This report addressed them impacts of the fact that in the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, Australian government policies resulted in many Stolen Generations, in which thousands of Indigenous children were separated, often forcibly, from their families, with the aim of removing them from their culture and turning them into “white Australians”.

Because of this, the date 26 May carries great significance for the Stolen Generations, as well as for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and its supporters among non-indigenous Australians. So Sorry Day is an annual event that has been held around the continent on 26 May since 1998, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

Today marks the start of National Reconciliation Week. This week was initiated in 1996 by Reconciliation Australia, to celebrate Indigenous history and culture in Australia and promote discussions and activities which would foster reconciliation. It is held between 27 May and 3 June of each year, with the dates holding special historical significance.

27 May marks the anniversary of the 1967 referendum in Australia, which gave the vote to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, while 3 June marks the anniversary of the 1992 judgement by the High Court on the Mabo v Queensland case.

Sorry Day (26 May) and the National Apology (made in Federal Parliament on 13 February 2008), the 1967 referendum, the 1992 Mabo decision, along with the Wik decision on native title (delivered by the High Court on 23 December 1996), are considered to be key events in addressing the historic mistreatment of indigenous Australians, and in taking steps towards reconciliation and restorative justice.

But these were only steps. The path still lies ahead. We need to take more steps, foster deeper relationships, advocate for a more embedded restoration of justice, work for wider and more lasting reconciliation within our communities. May we tread that pathway with compassion and intent.

The picture montage shows a Sorry Day poster, celebrations after the 1967 referendum, Eddie Mabo who brought the High Court case that was resolved in 1992, Gladys Tybingoompa dancing outside the high court in Canberra on 23 December 1996 following the Wik people’s native title win, and the front page of a national newspaper reporting the National Apology in 2008.

Once again: affirming our diversity, celebrating joyous marriages

Last year, the Assembly resolved to allow Uniting Church ministers and authorised celebrants the freedom to conduct or to refuse to conduct same-gender marriages. Some within the church were not happy with this decision. Many councils of the church across the country reviewed the decision. Most affirmed it strongly or unanimously. Some questioned it. A few asked for it to be revisited. In the end, the decision stood, and still stands today.

There are some within the church who are not able to let go of their angst about this decision. They hold on to old understandings and continue to fight past battles. Most recently, we see that they are feeding sympathetic journalists in the media misinformation, making misleading and mischievous claims. But the decision has been made, and stands firm.

It was a good decision, and it provides a good expression of our faith. We recognise that there is a diversity of opinion across the church. The Assembly explicitly affirmed that, amongst the members of the Uniting Church, there is “a diversity of religious beliefs and ethical understandings” in relation to marriage. Nobody is excluded. Nobody is being forced out. Nobody is being pressured to act contrary to their beliefs.

The Assembly determined that “the Church is able to accept this diversity within its life and make the decisions necessary to enable its ministry and members to act with integrity in accordance with their beliefs”. We continue to hold to that affirmation.

This affirmation of diversity is strategically significant. It speaks of who we are—as people of the church, and as people in the wider society in which we live. In making this decision, the Uniting Church remains faithful to its commitment, as articulated in the Basis of Union. We are, indeed, a pilgrim people, on the way towards the promised goal of the kingdom that God has in view.

The decision about marriage involved so many difficult conversations and challenging moments for many people. The decision of Assembly steps out in a new direction. Some are not able to let go of their angst about this decision. They hold on to old understandings and past battles.

In my view, this decision demonstrates how the Uniting Church continues, today, to look for a continuing renewal. Last year, I wrote that, in that search, we clearly affirm our readiness to go forward together in sole loyalty to Christ the living Head of the Church. This decision is one that many people believe is a faithful response to what God is today calling the Church to be and to do. It is a signal that we seek to remain open to constant reform under his Word.

Throughout this process, I believe that we have continued daily to seek to obey his will, and to discern ways by which we might confess the Lord in fresh words and deeds. We continue to do that now, as Ministers across Australia implement the decision of the Assembly and rejoice in the celebration of joyous marriages, within the church, of couples of the same gender.

As this takes place, I am certain in holding to the belief that we are not apostate, we have not betrayed our faith, as some critics stubbornly maintain. We continue to hold to the essence of the Gospel in all good faith. The marriages of people of the same gender serve to remind us, in a fresh way, of the grace which justifies [us] through faith, of the centrality of the person and work of Christ the justifier.

As our President has reminded us, we are all included in that abundant grace and we look with anticipation to the promise of liberating hope.

And, as my Anglican colleague Chris Bedding has affirmed, “The Uniting Church in Australia, in its very foundation, has already offered an ecumenical witness to the church. I believe The Assembly decision to offer marriage to all couples is an evolution of this witness. The impact of this decision will be felt by people across all Christian traditions in this country for many years to come, because, every LGBTQIA+ Christian will know that somewhere out there is a church that will affirm them, and marry them.

“If the ‘ecumenical question’ is ‘What if marriage of same-gender couples in Uniting Churches is a gift to other Christians, which can foster unity and strengthen evangelism?’,  I think the answer is a resounding yes. When the histories are written, this pioneering decision will be seen as one of the signs that the snow is beginning to melt, as together we fulfil the great commission.” (See https://johntsquires.com/2018/10/26/marriage-of-same-gender-people-a-gift-to-the-whole-church/)

For the Uniting Church’s affirmations on human sexuality and same gender relationships, see https://johntsquires.com/2018/10/20/seven-affirmations

For the President’s statement about the inaccurate and misleading ABC report (dated 26 May 2019), see https://assembly.uca.org.au/news/item/3015-statement-on-abc-news-report

And see also https://johntsquires.com/2018/07/31/in-celebration-of-diversity/

https://johntsquires.com/2018/07/30/marrying-same-gender-people-a-biblical-rationale/