Aboriginal and European Encounter in the Canberra Region:
a question of change and the archaeological record

Table of Contents 
Chapter 1 
Chapter 2 
Chapter 3 
Chapter 4 
Chapter 5 
Appendix 1 
Appendix 2 
Appendix 3 
List of Figures 
List of Tables 

The Contact Period

In this chapter, the history of Aboriginal and European encounter in the Canberra Region will be examined. The following discussion has been divided into several sections, based primarily on European settlement patterns in the ACT during the nineteenth century, which had varied implications on Aboriginal society and economy over the course of time.

Early 1820s
European Exploration.

The first known European exploration in the region known as the Limestone Plains was recorded in 1820 by Charles Throsby, who had learnt of the existence of the Murrumbidgee River and Lake George from Aborigines on the Goulburn Plains (Lea-Scarlett 1968: 7-10). After finding Lake George, a party consisting of Throsby's nephew, Joseph Wilde and James Vaughan set out to find the Murrumbidgee River, and although the party did not find the Murrumbidgee, they did investigate the Molonglo and Queanbeyan Rivers. Throsby was determined to find the Murrumbidgee River, and was successful in doing so in 1821. He was followed by Captain Mark Currie in 1823 and Allan Cunningham in 1824.

Throsby and his party failed to observe any Aborigines on either expedition, but did report the sighting of "several native fires at a distance, the first I've seen since I left the new country" in the Canberra Region (ibid.). Currie in 1823 encountered a group of Aborigines beyond Tuggeranong near the Murrumbidgee River, however the group fled on the party's approach. With the help of a 'domesticated' Aboriginal guide and the offering of gifts, he was able to learn of the country to the south (Hancock 1972: 3, Gale 1927: 18). Cunningham met no Aborigines in 1824, though he did see fires in the vicinity of Lake George and noted burnt patches of land on the Tuggeranong Plains (Harvard 1956: 16-17).

It is unlikely that the Ngunnawal were largely affected by European exploration on the Limestone Plains. Most European exploration was undertaken during the Summer when the Ngunnawal were probably in the mountains utilising bogong moth resources. However, it is likely that the Ngunnawal knew of these intruders, as suggested by their wide communication network with other Aboriginal groups, and may have attempted to avoid contact. It is also possible that the Ngunnawal had already experienced some effects of European occupancy in Australia, in the form of disease for instance, which may have preceded actual white settlement in the region (Butlin 1983: 20).

1823 to 1830
Initial Land Settlement.

In 1824, six months after Cunningham's exploration of the Limestone Plains, stockmen employed by Joshua Moore arrived with sheep and cattle, and occupied 2000 acres between Black Mountain, Mount Ainslie and the Molonglo River, now known as Acton (Fitzhardinge 1974: 4-5), and these settlers were soon followed by Robert Campbell's overseer, James Ainslie, in 1825. Ainslie was droving Campbell's sheep up the Yass River in search of good pastures, when he met an Aboriginal woman who guided him to Ginninderra, and later to a more suitable site called Pialligo (Bluett 1954: 3, Watson 1927: 22, Fitzhardinge 1974: 17, Lea-Scarlett 1968: 20). In 1826 the Palmerville property was established by G.T Palmer at Ginninderra Creek, and in the same year two major pastoral stations were established - Timothy Beard at Queanbeyan, and Robert Johnson on the Tuggeranong Plains (Fitzhardinge 1974: 7).

According to Bell (1975: 47), in this initial period of white settlement, grazing occurred on sections of the land that were not food-rich, and therefore Aborigines were not forced to rely upon the resources of the Europeans, however Raffaele (1988: 46) asserts that this was probably due more to the extent and nature of white settlement than the particular portions of land they occupied. European settlers were probably also using areas of land for grazing which were unofficially opened for occupation, and although low stock numbers and the absence of fences may not have restricted Aboriginal access and movement, other factors such as European antipathy may have limited utilisation of the tablelands.

The Ngunnawal were used to accommodating other visiting Aboriginal groups, but were probably unaware of the intentions of the white invaders and their concepts of land ownership. From historical evidence, it would appear that the establishment of early properties was on land significant to the local Ngunnawal people. According to Bluett (1954:1), Pialligo was used for "frequent local social gatherings", and the foot of Black Mountain was the scene of "all tribe peagants [sic]". Wright (1923: 57-58) also noted from conversations with the Kamberra tribe, that their corroboree grounds were located at Acton and near `Canberra Church' near the Duntroon dairy. Further, Robinson (1927: 68) on the basis of "definite local assertion" identified a corroboree ground located on what is now known as 'Corroboree Park' in the suburb of Ainslie.

The large density of archaeological material on sandhills at Pialligo, the location of Campbell's property Duntroon, also suggests that it was also an important occupation site before white settlement. Despite sandmining on the Pialligo site, and the removal of artefacts by amateur collectors and archaeologists in the past, large number of artefacts remain, attesting to the importance of the site (Saunders 1989: 88-89). Other archaeological sites found in the Central Canberra area (Moss 1939, Kinsela 1934, Gillespie 1984) further support the argument that initial European settlement was on land important to the Ngunnawal.

It is believed that early relations between the European settlers, consisting predominantly of convicts, and the Ngunnawal were good and without incident (Gillespie 1984: 32, Bell 1975: 47). Aboriginal help was initially sought to establish settlements, and close social relations were secured. From the numbers of 'half-caste' children observed by the Chief Protector of Aborigines George Augustus Robinson at Yarralumla in 1844 (Mackaness 1941: 25), there were obviously frequent contacts between settlers and the Ngunnawal.

However, other evidence suggests that the European occupancy of the Limestone Plains and reciprocity with the Ngunnawal was by no means peaceful. In 1826 large numbers of Aborigines gathered on the shore of Lake George, following the spearing of two white stockmen on the nearby property of Inverary Park near Bungonia. It is believed that the murder of these stockmen was the result of the violation of Ngunnawal women (Orr 1978: 42-42). Accounts of the killing of "half-caste" infants (Bluett 1954: 17, Mackaness 1941: 25) further suggest open hostility towards the European settlers. It is also probable that by the mid-1820s the Ngunnawal had realised that the presence of the white invaders was to be a permanent one.

There are surprisingly few other accounts of Aboriginal resistance to European settlement on the Limestone Plains. Elizabeth McKeahnie alleged that in the 1830s Aborigines had planned to kill all the men on Moore's station, located at the foot of Black Mountain (Gillespie 1984: 54). However, a "kind-hearted gin" warned them beforehand and the "blacks" met a warm reception. In 1827, to the south of the Limestone Plains near Berridale, Richard Brook's station was abandoned when Aborigines attacked a party which was droving cattle (Sekavs 1988: 40). A report in The Australian in June 1828 also states that Aborigines had created havoc amongst settlers in the region but had retreated to the mountains, contrary to the traditional seasonal pattern of movement (ibid.).

Between 1826 and 1828 drought affected both the European and Ngunnawal occupants of the Canberra Region. Lake George and the Murrumbidgee River dried up (Watson 1927: 43), and the Ngunnawal would have been in direct competition for water with settlers whose properties were established close to major water sources. According to Bell (1975: 48), the Ngunnawal were able to retreat into river valleys which were not yet occupied by Europeans, but were in contact with equally desperate Aboriginal groups at a time when they would normally have been dispersed. Accounts of battles between different Aboriginal groups in this early period of European settlement on the Limestone Plains (see Chapter 1) may have been the result of competition for resources and/or the encroachment of Aboriginal groups on the estates of other Aboriginal groups.

1830 to 1860
Pastoral Expansion and Urban Settlement.

The 1830s saw a change in European settlement patterns, involving the extension of existing properties and the arrival of more settlers. The establishment of substantial stations also encouraged the arrival of the owner occupants and their families (Raffaele 1988: 48), with several settlers establishing major properties: John MacPherson and his wife at Springbank (west of Acton) in 1830, Terence Aubrey Murray at Yarralumla in 1836, Klensendorlffe on land adjacent to Yarralumla in the late 1830s, and James Wright at Lanyon in 1835 (Fitzhardinge 1974: 7-9). In 1839 Bingham, the Crown Commissioner for the County Murray, recorded the properties of Charnwood, Booroomba, Freshford, Tidbinbilla and Orroral (Lea-Scarlett 1968: 19). Other signs of European civilisation appeared, including roads and the establishment of a town at Queanbeyan. Subsequently, the white population of the Limestone Plains increased from 94 in 1828 (Census of NSW 1828) to 510 in 1833 (Watson 1927: 10). By 1838 there were 1 728 Europeans in the region (Lea-Scarlett 1968: 16-17).

According to Bell (1975: 51), smallpox, influenza, measles and venereal diseases devastated the Ngunnawal during the 1830s. Additionally, the effects of drought continued throughout the 1830s, and 'inter- and intratribal' warfare, an increasing military presence, and bushrangers in the area may have had severe impacts on the Ngunnawal population (ibid.). The absence of government policy on Aborigines for many years was probably a result of the belief that they were doomed to extinction. Certainly in 1834, Lhotsky (1835: 61) when passing through the Canberra Region, already assumed that no surviving Aborigines remained.

Historical evidence suggests that the effects of European invasion on different Ngunnawal groups varied. In the 1834 blanket issue at Tuggeranong, two Aboriginal groups were recorded identifying themselves with the Limestone Plains (AONSW Blankets to Aborigines 4/113.3, see Figure 4). One group, under Jemmy the Rover, identified 46, and another group under Hongyong (though only five were actually present) was estimated to consist of 60-70 individuals. Although members of both groups are recorded as having European names, the members of the group under Hongyong were described as "wild blacks ... [who] seldom go near the haunts of white men".

Historical and archaeological evidence suggests that the Ngunnawal continued to use traditional campsites despite the presence of Europeans. For example, a large artefact scatter has been located at Reidsdale, to the north of the NSW-ACT border, in proximity to ochre and chert sources (Flood 1980: 162). Margaret Ryan, who lived close to the Reidsdale site, was frightened by the Aborigines and in 1842 chose to travel to Sydney with her husband rather than remain alone at their residence (Gillespie 1984: 34). Mary Reid, nee Casey, also lived close to the Reidsdale site, and is said to have seen corroborees near her home (ibid.). Similarly, Aborigines probably continued to camp at Pialligo, as suggested by frequent references in historical sources to the 'Pialligo tribe' (Bluett 1954: 1, Robinson 1927: 68, Shumack 1977: 148-149, Sydney Morning Herald 11.6.1927).

The effects of drought and European settlement of the Limestone Plains (particularly the stock displacement/destruction of native flora and fauna) probably forced the Ngunnawal to search for alternative food sources. In 1832, an Aboriginal women at Goulburn informed the naturalist George Bennett that:

"You ought to give the blackfeller milliken [sic], bullock and sheep, for white feller come up here, drive away opossum and kangaroo, and poor black feller get nothing to patta [sic], merry, merry, get hungry" (Bennett 1834: 241).

Sometime before the mid-nineteenth century, Nellie Hamilton of the 'Queanbeyan tribe' expressed similar feelings:

"... You come and take our land and kill our game and let us starve, and if we take a sheep or kill a calf you shoot us or put us in gaol. You bring your disease and give it to us - we had nothing like that until you came and stole our land - you give us rotten blanket and bad rum" (Shumack 1977: 150).

According to Bluett (1954: 18), stock grazing on the Limestone Plains were easily accessible, and the spearing of sheep and cattle was a common occurrence. Wright (1927: 15) mentioned that Hongyong was once caught by Henry Hall of Charnwood spearing livestock and consequently was shot in the leg. European stations were probably seen as another alternative to obtain resources. Tea, sugar, flour, tobacco and alcohol were obtained from European settlers out of fear or charity (Gillespie 1984: 34) or in return for short-term labour (V & PLC 1842: 19).

After 1840, Aboriginal campsites were often located in closer proximity to European settlements than in previous years(Wright 1923:122-123, Robinson 1844: 275, Shumack 1977: 148-151, Bell 1975: 56, Queanbeyan Age 11.3.1913). According to Reece (1974: 19), by 1838 the remaining Aborigines of the 19 Counties were reduced to begging for food. However, attempts by European settlers failed to establish Aborigines permanently on their stations. Terence Aubrey Murray of Yarralumla, in reply to a circular letter from the Immigration Committee concerning the employment of Aborigines in 1841, remarked:

... they in general shew [sic] a determined dislike to settled habits of any kind ... their love of independence is too great and habits of wondering too strong to admit of it .... they are so wedded to their own habits - supporting themselves with so much ease by the chase - that it can scarcely be expected they should adopt ours (V & PLC 1842: 19).

Other historical accounts support the argument that Aborigines were not entirely reliant on European resources (Sydney Morning Herald 14.1.1922) and continued to exploit traditional sources of food on the tablelands (Queanbeyan Age 9.6.1865) and unaffected food supplies in the mountains (Sydney Morning Herald 11.6.1927).

It appears many European settlers maintained good relationships with the Ngunnawal, including Murray and Mowle at Yarralumla, Cotter to the west of the Murrumbidgee, Palmer and Davis at Ginninderra, the Wrights at Lanyon and later Cuppacumbalong, Shumack at Emu Bank, and the Davis and McKeahnie families at Booroomba. Stewart Mowle, for example, whilst managing the Yarralumla property for Murray in the 1830's, learnt to speak the local Aboriginal language and befriended two young Walgalu, Tommy and Harry Murray. Tommy and Harry often slept in Mowle's bedroom to discourage hostilities from "wild blacks" (Mowle 1926: 8). Garret Cotter also established good relations with the Ngunnawal, and according to oral traditions was led to good grazing land by Hongyong of whom he made a lifelong friend (Bell 1975: 44). However, not all settlers were so kindly disposed to the Ngunnawal. Henry Hall of Charnwood, for example, is reported as being notorious in his poor treatment of both Aborigines and convicts (Shumack 1977: 151, Wright 1923: 15).

The Ngunnawal and visitors from other areas appear to have gathered annually in Queanbeyan for 'corroborees' and to receive 'gifts of blankets' from the colonial government. Groups of Aborigines visiting Queanbeyan are recorded in April and May 1841 (AONSW Blankets for Aborigines 4/1133.3), May 1844 (ibid.), June 1859 (Goulburn Herald 11.6.1859, 29.6.1859), 1860 (Sydney Morning Herald 9.5.1927), April 1861 (Golden Age 11.4.1861) and April 1862 (Golden Age 5.4.1862). Disputes and the deaths of individuals often occurred during these gatherings (Gale 1927: 66, Shumack 1977:148, 150, Wright 1923: 66, Golden Age 5.4.1862, Sydney Morning Herald 11.6.1927), suggesting that these gatherings may have had manifold purposes, including the performance of ceremonies, the collection of blankets and the administration of justice.

Some European stations were used almost as permanent homes for the Ngunnawal and their visitors. For example, George Augustus Robinson, the Chief Protector of Aborigines, visited the Murrays' farm at Yarralumla in September 1844, and was informed that "blacks" were always camped about his property and were likely to remain for the Summer (Robinson 1844: 275). Aborigines were also recorded camping at Yarralumla in July 1841 (V & PLC 1842: 19). There were around 60 Aborigines camped on and near the station in 1844, with representatives of bands from Boorowa, Yass, Tumut, Goulburn, Molonglo, Tuggeranong, the Murrumbidgee and the Limestone Plains (Robinson 1844: 275-280). However, soon after Robinson's visit, the Ngunnawal seem to have avoided the Yarralumla property. The reason for this is unclear, though according to Jackson-Nakano (1994: 43), with Murray's new status as a married man, a father and a politician he may not have welcomed the Ngunnawal on his property as he had done in the past.

During the 1840s it appears Hongyong's band maintained a close relationship with the Wright family at Lanyon, and after 1847, Cuppacumbalong. Meredith (1844: 100-101) recorded that there had always been rivalry between Hongyong and Jemmy the Rover over tribal leadership issues. Hongyong was later killed by Jemmy the Rover, as while the latter was away Hongyong had usurped his position as chief (Shumack 1977: 148-149), suggesting that the Nammitch and Hagen-Hope 'tribes' had united. This is also supported by the 1841 blanket issue at Queanbeyan, where Jemmy the Rover and Hongyong are listed as belonging to the same group (AONSW Blankets to Aborigines 4/1133.3). Hongyong died sometime between 1847 and 1852 and was buried at Cuppacumbalong on a rocky hill near the Tharwa bridge (Wright 1927: 56).

After Hongyong's death, the main camps of the Ngunnawal were located at Cuppacumbalong and Queanbeyan (Jackson-Nakano 1994: 45). According to Bluett (1954: 19) "half-castes" often remained on stations, acting as housemaids and stockmen. Some members of the tribe had probably already joined other Aboriginal groups, while others drifted off to the gold rushes at Braidwood, Araluen. Majors Creek, Kiandra and Adelong (ibid.).

During the 1850s gold rushes, European landowners employed Aborigines to cope with the labour shortage. James Wright at Cuppacumbalong, for example, lost all his men to the gold rushes, which necessitated his becoming a shepherd on his own property for some time (Fitzhardinge 1974: 30). Long Jimmy and Neddy, members of Hongyong's family group, are recorded as working at Cuppacumbalong and are described as "... very good and careful stockmen [as] aboriginals usually were" (Wright 1923: 66). Other local Aborigines, including Bobby Hamilton, Jimmy Taylor and his son Johnny Taylor were employed by William Davis at Ginninderra. Apart from living and working at Ginninderra they were also taught to play cricket by Davis (Shumack 1977: 150, Goulburn Herald 10.9.1857, Golden Age 8.1.1863).

Some Ngunnawal may have been able to maintain traditional or semi-traditional subsistence in areas outside intensive European settlement. According to Bell (1975:77), the Naas Valley provided a place of retreat for Aboriginal groups and was a favourite camping area from the 1850s onwards. Although in terms of resources the region was not as favourable as the Murrumbidgee Valley (that was quickly settled), it could provide the necessities and the settlers were kindly disposed towards them. As the Ngunnawal were a "highly mobile group", the retreat to the Naas Valley was "not such a loss", as they were able to hunt and perform their ceremonies (ibid.).

Despite the absence of adequate support for Bell's argument in the historical record, it appears that the traditions of the Ngunnawal were not abandoned until they became unsustainable due to the encroachment of the aforementioned social, economic and political factors. The Ngunnawal did continue to use unaffected sources of food which lay outside white influence, such as bogong moths, of which the last recorded gathering for their exploitation occurred at Uriarra in 1859 (Sydney Morning Herald 11.6.1927). However, with the intensification of European land use and increased pressures on traditional food supplies, from the 1840s onwards the Ngunnawal were doubtless becoming gradually more reliant upon white settlements for survival.

1860 to 1900
Intensive Land Settlement.

The 1860s saw dramatic changes in European land use in the ACT. The Robertson Land Acts were introduced in 1861, in an attempt by the government to assist the settlement of people returning from the goldfields by allowing the purchase of small blocks of land. A settler could be assigned a minimum of 40 acres and a maximum of 320 acres at a cost of [[sterling]]1.00 per acre. Initially the Land Acts did not result in a large-scale redistribution of land, as established landowners already possessed large properties, and through the Land Acts they were able to legitimise expansion in a process known as 'dummying' (Shumack 1977: 86-88). People making claims under the Land Acts invested great effort into these small landholdings to achieve the level of productivity required to maintain the land, particularly since the Acts required improvements to be made to the property three years after its acquisition, to the value of [[sterling]]1.00 per acre (Baker 1961: 4-5). This resulted in the ringbarking of trees, clearing, fencing, and the damming of creeks and rivers in order to satisfy these requirements on such small holdings. In 1875 the Land Acts were amended, doubling the maximum selection size to 640 acres (Hancock 1972: 96). However, by the 1880s larger landowners also began to fence and ringbark trees on their properties, as they could no longer expand without purchasing more land (Shumack 1977: 117, Raffaele 1988: 73).

The Robertson Land Acts spelt ecological disaster as small holders stocked more livestock than their land could sustain, resulting in erosion and major changes to vegetation communities (Shumack 1977: 108, Raffaele 1988: 70-73). The toll on native fauna was equally devastating and in some districts many species were completely eradicated. In the Gungahlin area, for example, wallabies and wallaroos were so numerous that frequent culling drives were organised to reduce their numbers. In one drive, some 114 wallabies and 80 joeys were killed (Gillespie 1985: 16-17). Introduced animal such as rabbits, which reached plague proportions, exacted a further toll upon the environment.

"The colonist's "mania" ... for stock and land soon disclosed as axiomatic that a hunting and pastoral economy cannot co-exist within the same bounds" (Stanner 1972: 22). With intensive land settlement and increasing numbers of small-scale selectors, the Ngunnawal must have been driven away from the remaining areas where they could maintain a traditional subsistence lifestyle. Also, with the fencing of properties, access and movement would have been severely restricted. Despite these barriers, the Ngunnawal continued to use traditional sites, as supported by the following account of the burial of an Aborigine known as Kangaroo in the vicinity of the Queanbeyan Showground which may have been used as a 'burial ground', as suggested by the recovery of skeletal remains and grave goods in the area (Queanbeyan Age 10.12.1935, Gillespie 1984: 16):

... The camp where Kangaroo died was situated about 200 yards from the grave ... one of the blackfellows named Bobby lifted the dead man on to his head, no one assisting him in this somewhat difficult task ... Half-way to the grave was a four-rail fence. When the obstacle was reached, Bobby set his burden on the top rail, steadying it with one hand until he got himself over. Then he again took it on his head, and carried it to the grave (Gale 1927: 122).

The alienation of land and economic dependency upon Europeans was facilitated by other factors, including a measles epidemic in the 1850s which apparently resulted in the rapid decline of the local Ngunnawal community (Shumack 1977: 151, Sydney Morning Herald 11.6.1927). Some traditional food-procuring methods involved the participation of the whole tribe (Shumack 1977: 151, Queanbeyan Age 9.6.1865) and with this population decline, as well as addictions to tobacco, alcohol and sugar, Aborigines may well have been forced to rely on the resources of Europeans.

With the arrival of newcomers into the Canberra Region in the 1860s, the attitude of Europeans changed towards the Ngunnawal. Constant complaints of drunkenness, quarrels and the appearance of Aborigines in Queanbeyan probably persuaded the Ngunnawal to stage their gatherings elsewhere (Jackson-Nakano 1994: 45). Other factors, including the fact that after 1863 Aborigines had to work to obtain blankets, may have brought an end to the gatherings at Queanbeyan (AONSW Blankets to Aborigines 4/1133.3, Brennan 1907: 212).

When the Wrights' sold Cuppacumbalong to De Salis in 1856 and moved to Illawarra, Jemmy the Rover and his band were cast adrift (Jackson-Nakano 1994: 46). Jemmy the Rover, after allegedly killing an Aborigine at Braidwood, spent his last days hiding from police in the hills near Booroomba, passing away in 1864 (Shumack 1977: 149). Some members of Jemmy the Rover's band joined other groups outside the Canberra Region or continued to work on European stations (Jackson-Nakano 1994: 47). For example, Bobby Hamilton and the Taylors stayed at Ginninderra until they followed Davis to his selection at Gungahlin which he took up following the enactment of the Land Act of 1861. Jimmy Taylor died soon after, while Johnny Taylor moved to Tumut until he passed away with measles in 1875. Bobby Hamilton died of tuberculosis in 1873 (Shumack 1977: 150).

Bobby Hamilton's wife, Nellie, worked as a domestic servant for various settlers from 1861; on Bobby's death in 1873, she was living with an Aborigine named Jemmy Parker from Dubbo in an Aboriginal camp near Queanbeyan (Queanbeyan Age 11.9.1873). In a court case concerning an assault made on Nellie Hamilton, Sergeant Latimer remarked that "there is not a Queanbeyan tribe of blacks, they are nearly all extinct, except herself [Nellie Hamilton], her children, and an old black gin named Nanny; the others have been dead for years" (ibid.). However in the same statement Nellie Hamilton was said "not to go with the wild tribes of blacks", suggesting that other Aborigines may have still been in the region.

According to Bluett (1954: 20), in later years when the Aborigines had been forced out of Canburry and Pialligo, one "Aborigine of royalty" called Kongwarra, was accepted by a small part of a tribe located at Tidbinbilla. Bluett added that Tidbinbilla was a favoured location for stoneworking and was the last meeting ground for the "former virile race". However as late as 1889 it was still possible to encounter as many as 300 Aborigines camped on the Murrumbidgee at Tharwa (Lea-Scarlett 1968: 21). Similar numbers are recorded at a 'fringe-camp' located on the Molonglo River near the Oaks Estate in 1889 (Walker 1988: 4-5).

Some Ngunnawal, realising that they could no longer use their land freely, sought new alternatives. The following article appeared in the Goulburn Herald in 1890:

Queanbeyan - August 6. Land Sale Queanbeyan Court House. One of the purchasers is an aboriginal and I have heard the question raised as to his being legally in possession of the land, he not being a naturalised British subject. I contend, however, that he having been born under the British flag, is to all intents and purposes a British subject and therefore entitled to all rights and privileges enjoyed by those natives of other portions of the British dominion (Goulburn Herald 9.8.1890 cited in Cross 1985: 45).

The 1891 census for Queanbeyan and Canberra recorded 21 Aboriginal people located at Uriarra, Queanbeyan, the Gundaroo area and Tharwa (NSW Census 1891). All Aborigines in the census are recorded as living on European stations, with the exception of Nellie Hamilton who appears to have had her own house in Morriset Street, Queanbeyan. "Queen Nellie", supposedly the last "full-blood" Aborigine of the "Queanbeyan tribe", passed away in 1897 (Queanbeyan Observer 5.1.1897).

Although many Ngunnawal may have left the Canberra Region, there is evidence that some remained. From the 1895 census for the Queanbeyan District it appears that the number of Aborigines in the Canberra Region was actually increasing (Goulburn Herald 12.2.1895). Twenty-six Aborigines are recorded, the majority being of part-European parentage, with two living in the town of Queanbeyan and the remaining number located in the surrounding district. Further, the Aboriginal Protection Board granted a reserve in the Naas Valley in 1895 (AONSW Register of Aboriginal Reserves 2/83348), however this grant was revoked in 1898 as there were apparently no Aborigines remaining (ibid., Gillespie 1990: 217).

1900 to the present.

In the early 1900s a large group of Aborigines, consisting mainly of women, settled on the 'Ford Paddock' on the side of the Murrumbidgee River opposite Cuppacumbalong (Brown in Withycombe 1988 - oral transcript). Few men were present at the camp with the exception of 'Black Dick' their leader (ibid.), and were probably working on stations in the region or at the 'Black-White Mine' located near the Lanyon homestead. Also, according to Bluett (Sydney Morning Herald 21.5.1927), with the Commonwealth's acquisition of the ACT, there were 10 or 12 Aborigines of "lighter shades" working infrequently at Yarralumla and at other stations in the area.

In the 1920s there were four Aborigines present in Queanbeyan - King Billy, Queen Mary, Jimmy Saturday and Old Marvel. King Billy and Queen Mary probably lived on the Oaks Estate, while Jimmy Saturday made stock whips which he sold from a horse and cart on surrounding stations. Old Marvel or Marvellous also travelled around the district selling boomerangs and occasionally assisted the European shepherd Matt Smith at Red Hill. Either Marvellous or King Billy, though probably the former, was present at the opening of the Provisional Government House in 1927 (A.A Mildenhall Collection item 3108, Sydney Morning Herald 11.5.1927, NF & SA 'The Birth of White Australia' - film, Coulthard-Clark 1988: 26-27). In the 1930s a family of Aborigines, the Lowes, were working at Tuggeranong . This family may have been related to the Canberra Ngunnawal woman, Nanny, whose daughter Sarah married Richard Lowe of Gudgenby in 1885 (Shumack 1977: 151, Gillespie 1984: 59).

Little was heard from the Ngunnawal until relatively recently. Under the Aboriginal Protection Act of 1909, the Ngunnawal were separated from their families to be trained as domestic servants and labourers. At present there are ten families who identify themselves as Ngunnawal (Jackson-Nakano 1994: 86). Although the Ngunnawal have survived some 174 years of contact, the belief that they became extinct with the the death of Nellie Hamilton in 1897 is still commonly held (i.e. Bell 1975, Raffaele 1988, Gillespie 1984, 1990).


From the evidence discussed, it appears that the Ngunnawal may have been able to continue to make use of traditional food supplies until at least the mid-nineteenth century, gradually adopting European resources into their subsistence. As European occupation was initially relatively limited, the Ngunnawal were probably able to utilise the tablelands and mountains in a traditional manner with only slight modifications. However, with the extension and intensification of pastoral activity, the depletion of traditional food supplies, disease, and other factors, the Ngunnawal appear to have become increasingly reliant on relationships with the European invaders. The changes experienced by Aborigines as a result of European colonisation of the Limestone Plains will be further examined in Chapter 3.