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'I Succeeded Once'

'I Succeeded Once': The Aboriginal Protectorate on the Mornington Peninsula, 1839-1840

Marie Hansen Fels
Volume: 22
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    'I Succeeded Once'
    Book Description:

    In 'I Succeeded Once' - The Aboriginal Protectorate on the Mornington Peninsula, 1839-1840, Marie Fels makes the work of William Thomas accessible to anthropologists, archaeologists, historians and the descendants of the Aboriginal people he wrote about. More importantly, people who live, work, study, holiday or just have a general interest in the area from Melbourne to Point Nepean can learn about the original inhabitants who walked the land before it was cleared for agriculture and urban development. Of course, development of the Mornington Peninsula is ongoing and this book will help those involved in development or the management of Aboriginal cultural heritage to identify, document and protect Aboriginal places that may not be identifiable through archaeological investigations alone. Marie Fels supplements Thomas's writings with other contemporary accounts and her exhaustive historical research sheds new light on critical events and the significant places of the Boon Wurrung people. Of particular importance is the critical review of information about the kidnapping of Boon Wurrung people from the Mornington Peninsula. Winner of the Best Community Research, Register, Records at the Community History Awards by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria and the Public Record Office of Victoria in 2011.

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-13-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Eleanor A Bourke

    Marie Fels has been working in ethno history since her study on the Native Police Corps. The thesis version of her previous publication Good Men and True is among the most widely consulted in the archives of The University of Melbourne. It contains over 100 pages of biographical details of individual Aboriginal men. The records she has used in this publication were written in the earliest years of contact with Europeans, before traditional life changed forever. These are rare and valuable records of interest to all Victorians. Though they were written for other purposes, mainly administrative, and by white males...

  4. About the Author
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Marie Hansen Fels
  6. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. Glossary
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  8. 1. The writings of William Thomas
    (pp. 1-12)

    This treasure trove of records created by Assistant Protector William Thomas can be divided into two categories – those which he wrote for other eyes to read, and his private journals.

    In the course of his duties as Assistant Protector, Thomas wrote monthly summaries, quarterly reports, six monthly returns of births and deaths, and annual reports, plus single-subject letters, to the Chief Protector mainly, but also to others: in addition, he made formal submissions to several Parliamentary Select Committees of Enquiry, 1843 and 1849 (New South Wales) and 1859 (Victoria). His regular reports as Assistant Protector were submitted to the Chief...

  9. 2. The Context
    (pp. 13-32)

    The Port Phillip Protectorate lasted from 1839 to 1849, one of a number of European policy initiatives directed towards the traditional owners of the land: these included the Yarra Mission (1837–1839) on the site of the present botanical gardens on the south bank of the Yarra River; the Native Police Corps (1837–1853) at what is now Police Paddocks, Stud Road Dandenong, subsequently re-located to Merri Creek in what is now Yarra Bend Park; and the Baptist Aboriginal School (1845–1850), also at Merri Creek.

    The Protectorate was a British idea, an earnest attempt to prevent in the Port...

  10. 3. The record of observation
    (pp. 33-118)

    This chronology is selective for the periods when the Bonurong were in Melbourne, noting only those events which I consider to be of significance or interest specifically to them. When they moved back into their own country, this chronology records incidents of significance on a daily basis – the fundamental criteria for selection being the aim of introducing the reader to the terms and conditions of daily living – what life was like, as well as getting the names of the people into the public record so that we can begin to see the original owners of the peninsula as people, not...

  11. 4. Tubberubbabel, Protectorate head station
    (pp. 119-172)

    Tubberubbabel is the Protectorate head station, shown to Thomas by the owner Burrenum (Mr Dredge) who was born there. It is Bonurong heartland where the 100 huts were found by Gellibrand’s party in 1836. It is also the place where the Bonurong accepted Thomas’ proposals for a future. The intimacies of daily interaction at the site are presented here, and in Chapter 9 the issues are examined surrounding the paid work done at this place by the Bonurong: at the end of this chapter is the Bonurong retrospective view of it all.

    Its location has been identified by the following...

  12. 5. Kangerong, Protectorate second station
    (pp. 173-194)

    Kangerong is the Aboriginal name for the place occupied as a pastoral run by Edward William Hobson who took it up in the middle of 1838 but was subsequently forced off it by Hugh Jamieson’s purchase of it in 1841 as a Special Survey.

    Assistant Protector William Thomas described Kangerong, meaning the run, as the principal encampment of the Bonurong on the Mornington Peninsula. But Hobson’s run, Kangerong, actually included all three Protectorate stations. It is marked on two plans, that of Nutt 1841 and Smythe 1841, on the lower southeast slopes of Mt Martha within the Brokil Creek drainage...

  13. 6. Buckkermitterwarrer, Protectorate third station
    (pp. 195-222)

    Buckkermitterwarrer, the third Protectorate station was where Edward William Hobson actually lived (see map). La Trobe camped here on 30 August 1840. It has links with the distant past as the site of the pre-contact massacre when almost half the Bonurong were killed in a dawn raid by their traditional enemies the Kurnai of Gippsland (see Chapter 8).

    It has links with the colonial past – it was the place where the young girl named Barebun also known as Mary, who was both daughter of the Bonurong chief Benbow and wife of the Waworong chief Billibellary, was assaulted: from here two...

  14. 7. Kullurk, the Bonurong choice for a reserve
    (pp. 223-248)

    The named place Kullurk, this general area around Sandy Point, was the Bonurong choice for a reserve, and it was the place to which they looked back to Thomas, accusingly, when they did not get it. Many Europeans walked across it and described the land as fine open country, which means that it was burned regularly as a kangaroo run by the Bonurong. Some described huts and signs of habitation. It is more prominent in the early records than either Point Nepean or Cape Schanck as a resort of the blacks. Point Nepean has claimed our attention because of the...

  15. 8. The raid into Gippsland and the massacres remembered
    (pp. 249-290)

    The evidence for the pre-contact massacre which occurred between Kangerong and Arthurs Seat, at Buckkermitterwarrer, comes into the records in the context of the Bonurong raid into Gippsland in February 1840. Thomas was embarrassed that his blacks had deceived him – after this raid, he understood better the meanings of their actions; if they left the women and children behind, and took spears, it meant trouble for him. It is an interesting comment on how well they were reading power and authority at that time, that though they successfully kept knowledge of the purpose of the raid into Gippsland from Thomas,...

  16. 9. Manufacturing industry on the Mornington Peninsula, ‘the successful plan at Arthurs Seat’
    (pp. 291-304)

    Thomas proposed that instead of throwing whole bodies of animals in the fire to cook, the Bonurong could skin them and sell the skins, and the women could sell their baskets, plus hats plus watch pockets for which Mrs Thomas would supply a pattern: this was what he called his ‘successful plan at Arthurs Seat’. This plan was in accordance with the Protectors’ instructions from England quoted earlier – the Protectors should ascertain what is that species of industry which is least foreign to the habits and disposition of the objects of their care, and should be provided with all the...

  17. 10. Death of Johnny and his burial on the foreshore at McCrae
    (pp. 305-324)

    Johnny’s death and burial occurred in a later and different era, the gold rush period, 11 years after the Protectorate moved from the Mornington Peninsula. I came upon the location of his grave when seeking information from George Gordon McCrae’s journal about George Smith. Then George Smith turned out to be the earliest legal licence holder of the foreshore where Johnny was buried. I was struck with the intimacy, the connectedness of these people, black and white, in those far-off days: here are the same people, Bogy Bogy/Pereuk and George Smith, first met with in the Protectorate era.

    And when...

  18. 11. The abduction between Arthurs Seat and Point Nepean, and Yankee Yankee’s return
    (pp. 325-392)

    The account which follows considers the so far discovered information about eight females and a boy, those who were taken from Port Phillip ‘about a year and a half ago’ before John Helder Wedge reported the abduction in March 1836.¹ If Wedge’s understanding of his Aboriginal informants was correct, that would place the abduction as occurring in the latter half of 1834. It is a remarkable fact that the abducted boy Yankee Yankee (Robert Cunningham) was the brother of Barebun (Mary) whose story was told in Chapter 6. It is equally remarkable that the VDL woman, Matilda, who originally decoyed...

  19. 12. Thomas’ translations
    (pp. 393-398)
  20. Afterword
    (pp. 399-400)

    This then, is what I have made of the evidence: there is no conclusion, no grand summing up. I have, it is true, done more than I set out to do, in the sense of ranging outside the stated period of research in search of meaning, but still… no generalisations.

    The teacher whom I admired most in my far-off student days was the late Emeritus Professor Greg Dening. Over and over and over again, he taught that the historical effort was to understand and to explain: not to judge, not to label, not to take sides. In this task of...

  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 401-414)
  22. Select Index
    (pp. 415-422)