During this National Reconciliation Week, I am recalling the evidence for various positive and respectful relationships that existed between First Peoples and the invading colonisers from Britain, drawing on the work of Paul Irish in his recent book, Hidden in Plain View. (See https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/hidden-plain-view/)
Earlier this week, I mentioned Bungaree, an early Aboriginal leader. He is reported as living, at various times, at Broken Bay, Sydney Town, and the Hunter region. Paul Irish reports that his first wife was Matora (1770s-1820s) and his second wife was Cora Gooseberry (1770s-1852). Both women were from the Sydney Harbour area, and Cora became known as the “Queen” of coastal Sydney in her latter years.
I love Bungaree for his clear and forthright declaration, when he was part of an Indigenous group meeting with a group of sailors from Russia in 1820. In one such meeting, he apparently declared to them: “These are my people … this is my land”.
(Irish cites this from a report by Glynn Barrett in “The Russians at Port Jackson 1814-1822”, published in 1981. Barrett’s work relates to Russian ships travelling from Europe to Alaska, which often stopped at Sydney, anchoring at Port Jackson. Naval Officers and Sailors had close dealings with the Aboriginal people of the area.)
Bungaree spoke truth. This was (and still is) the land of his people. But the colonial powers of Britain failed to listen and respond appropriately. During Reconciliation Week, we need to foster an attitude of respectful relationship and careful listening, as we engage with our Indigenous sisters and brothers.
On the doctrine of discovery: https://johntsquires.com/2018/08/13/affirming-the-sovereignty-of-first-peoples-undoing-the-doctrine-of-discovery/