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(Warning - I found it hard and sad to read these stories, a tragedy that makes Shakespeare look like a soapie writer, Geraldine)

The landing of Captain Cooke at Botany Bay 1770
llan C. Green 1878-1954 photographer. SLV H325/1961

Australia Day, Eureka and Anzac are stories about our identity, yet to many women they mean little - why? 

It wasn’t hard to uncover the answer. As women, our voices are hardly there.

If we are Aboriginal women our voices are doubly overlooked.

Patricia Grimshaw, Marilyn Lake, Ann McGrath, Marian Quartly:

The creation of nations has traditionally been seen as men’s business ... men have positioned themselves as the main players. We wish to challenge this version of history, by asserting the agency and creativity of women in the process of national generation. Creating a Nation, McPhee Gribble 1994 p.1


a. captain Cook
b. the first fleet
c. Aborigines not even recorded
d. starvation & disease
e. women’s voices hardly recorded
f.  who were these women? 
g. guilty, no chattels, to be hanged
h. from first fleet convict to lieutenant governor’s lady
i. ‘Nanny’, wife of a Pallangan-Mittang tribesman,
daughter of the Pangerang
j. charity of white settlers
k. settlers - Ann Spark - Ann Horden
l. botany bay 200 years later
m. our survival day


Gladys Adler:

She (Gladys’s mother) would tell us how they were on the beach at Kurnell on the ridge and Captain Cook came in and landed, and how they shot a couple of them on the ridge. She’d tell us about her grandfather and her great grandmother and that’s all history down Botany Bay. Maria Nugent, Botany Bay where histories meet Allen & Unwin 2005 p.84


Patricia Grimshaw, Marilyn Lake, Ann McGrath, Marian Quartly:

The transports dropped anchor in Sydney Cove on 26 January, 1788 and began landing the male convicts the next day. They were set to work unloading cargo and stock, clearing the ground, felling trees, hauling nets for fish, and digging the ground to plant vegetables ...

7 February, all the settlers gathered to hear the official reading of the governor’s commissions, the legal basis of the colony, its government, and its judicial system. The occasion was as solemn and splendid as parading redcoats, flying colours, and drums and fifes could make it. The formal reading of the commissions concluded with the first bars of “God Save the King” played between each volley. Creating a Nation, McPhee Gribble 1994 p.34


Patricia Grimshaw, Marilyn Lake, Ann McGrath, Marian Quartly:

If the Aboriginal inhabitants of what came to be known as Sydney Cove observed these celebrations, their presence was not recorded ... Creating a Nation, McPhee Gribble 1994 p. 38

Phillip attempted to include Aboriginal people within his vision, welcoming them into the settlements and punishing white men who injured them. But the white invaders took too many fish from the sea. White men were speared and black men were shot in the competition for food. Creating a nation, Mcphee Gribble 1994 p.34


Patricia Grimshaw, Marilyn Lake, Ann McGrath, Marian Quartly:

In the areas closest to the white settlements Aboriginal children were found to be starving in the winter of 1788.Then in April 1789 the Europeans discovered that they - or some other visitors - had brought upon Aborigines a far greater injury.

Every day dead and dying Aborigines were found on the shores of the harbour, suffering from smallpox. “The number that was swept off” one white observer wrote, “was incredible.” Beaches where hundreds had lived were deserted,” the excavations in the rocks were filled with the putrid bones of those who had fallen victims to the disorder.” For years one could not walk in the land without finding skeletons ... Creating a Nation, McPhee Gribble 1994 p.34

Around Sydney it killed one in two of the Aboriginal population, most commonly young adults. Historians have estimated the numbers of Aborigines in New South Wales fell from 250 000 in 1788 to some 145 000 in 1800, mostly as a result of smallpox. Creating a nation, Mcphee Gribble 1994 p.38


(As well as no recorded voices from the Aboriginal women who were here, on the first fleet there were women and children, wives and convicts. Very little of their voices are recorded, either. - Geraldine)

Patricia Grimshaw, Marilyn Lake, Ann McGrath, Marian Quartly:

Most of the women were not landed until 6 February. Bowes describes them as leaving the Lady Penrhyn in new clothes issued for the occasion: “dressed in general very clean, and some few amongst them might to be said to be well dressed.”

He added “the men convicts got to them very soon after they landed, and it is beyond my abilities to give a just description of the scene of debauchery and riot that ensued during the night.” The orgy has been a favourite subject history books, but accounts are probably exaggerated. “A just description” eluded Bowes because he spent that night not on shore, but with the drunken sailors on board the Lady Penrhyn. Creating a Nation, McPhee Gribble 1994 p.34


Babette Smith:

Drunks, whores, pickpockets, burglars, paupers, misfits. Genetic criminals? Moral degenerates? Survivors or victims?

The opinion of Australia’s women convicts has veered from criminal whore to helpless victim. They have been used to make a case in black and white - Damn the women and uphold the Establishment; Damn the Establishment and uphold the women. They have been vilified, lionised, statisticised and generalised, but no one has yet asked: What were they like as human beings? A Cargo of Women, Susannah Watson & the Convicts of the Princess Royal Pan McMillan 1992, first published NSW University Press 1988 p.1


Ian Forster:

Ann Forbes, a young girl of about fourteen years old, was on trial for stealing ten yards of cotton material ... A handwritten note, scribbled across the top of the indictment notice, indicates the result of the trial “Guilty, no chattels, to be hanged”. p.15

(She was transported to Australia on the first fleet Prince of Wales, landing 6 February 1788. Ann and her family finally settled on the banks of the Colo River.)

By the mid 1830’s, all of Ann’s children, except for John and Sophia, had married and left home ...  Settlers were occupying properties along the banks of the Colo ... The surveyor, Felton Matthew ... was accompanied by his wife, who, in her journal, described the Colo.

Matthew’s wife:
“The Colo river, or second or upper branch as it is more generally called, ... has a wide entrance, but narrows suddenly, the mountain closing in on both sides, with only occasional openings into fertile flats; it is bordered in many parts by Wattle or Mimosa, now generally in bloom, and perfuming the air to a considerable distance, it is a beautiful shrub or rather tree, and the dark foliage, with the rich yellow blossom in clustering masses, have a superb appearance.

It was rather late ere we reached our camping place near the farms of the McDougal’s ... This is a favourite camping place, it is so quiet and secluded, scarce a sound is to be heard, and nothing to be seen but the quiet river, the unbroken forest, and everlasting mountains.” p.90-92

Although fascinated by the scenery along the Colo river, it seems that Mrs Matthew was not impressed by the rustic charm of its inhabitants, whom she described as “some of the lowest and most ignorant class of settlers.”

Ann Forbes died on 29 December, 1851 ... At the time Ann died, she was the last surviving first fleet convict on the mainland ...In total, Ann’s children presented her with at least 113 grandchildren, more than 100 of whom were born before she died. Guilty, no chattels, to be hanged: the story of Ann Forbes, First Fleet convict 1991 p.96


Susanna de Vries-Evans:

Caught shoplifting two pieces of black lace in July 1786 (Esther Johnston ) was sentenced to transportation to New South Wales aboard a vessel of the First Fleet. At the time she was a pregnant 15 year old apprentice milliner ... p.17

On 26 January 1788 the First Fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour and the women convicts were allowed to disembark on 6 February. George Johnson and Esther Abrahams-Julian lived together from that time ... p.18

1804 Esther had Robert; Rosanne; George; David; Maria; Julia; and the sickly baby Isobella ... p.22

George and Esther became some of the wealthiest settlers in New South Wales ... Esther also received two large grants in her own name of Esther Julian, making her financially independent. p.19

April 1813 George returned home after an absence of four years ... Under Esther’s management Annandale had become one of the finest commercial beef properties in NSW ... she was able to negotiate large government contracts in her own name ... and she received a substantial land grant in her name of 570 acres ... p.23

January 1823 ... George died ... Robert contested his father’s will unsuccessfully, and control of Esther’s property passed to the crown. p.24 Pioneer Women Pioneer Land, yesterday’s tall poppies Angus & Robertson 1987


Marilyn Lake & Farley Kelly ed:

Convicts came to Australia against their will; married women also had little effective choice about emigration ... For the few single women with capital to invest, however, there were fresh opportunities for independence and increased prosperity ...  By 1841, when Ann Drysdale and Caroline Newcomb took up residence at “Boronggoop”, most of Port Phillip Bay had already carved into pastoral stations. Aboriginal opposition to the occupation of their lands had forced some squatters in the outlying districts to abandon their runs.

In north-eastern Victoria, clashes between George Faithful’s party and Taungerong tribesmen led to prolonged warfare and the desertion of all runs taken up on Pallangan-mittang territory. Following further clashes involving deaths on both sides, “Nanny”, the wife of a Pallangan-mittang tribesman, sought out Henry Bingham, a commissioner of Crown Lands, to tell him that her husband had been murdered by a white overlander.

Nanny’s plea for white justice and her use of a European name both suggest a recognition of her people’s defeat. Displaced after only a decade of British occupation, the Aborigines of the Port Phillip district had themselves become exiles. Double Time, Women in Victoria 150 years Penguin 1985 p.2


Marian Averling:

By 1845 the commissioners reported that the Murray Aborigines were no longer contending for the plains. They were subsisting on the charity of white settlers, or on the produce of the river alone; in winter they were starving.

Nanny seems to have chosen to remain at Ulupna, where at least the river was more kind. From the mid-1870’s a Nanny from Ulupna appears in the records of Daniel Matthews’s Maloga mission, across the Murray from Echuca. In May 1875 Nanny and Ellen, “old lubras”, came to tea at Maloga and wept over photographs of dead friends and relatives in Matthews’s album.

The camp at Ulupna was ill supplied and riddled with tuberculosis. In July 1877 Matthews persuaded the old people there to allow some of the children and young adults to “leave their own country” for Maloga ...  Then in September 1877 ... Nanny ... brought into Maloga more children ... ill with tuberculosis.

Over the next four years, Nanny watched all five of her Howard grandchildren die ... Nanny tried to mourn them in the traditional way by burning herself with firesticks. She was restrained by younger members of the camp. Dora, the youngest child, was the last to die in 1881, aged 11. Old Ellen, probably her aunt and Nanny’s daughter, had died the previous year.

Nanny’s death date is not clear, but she is last listed amongst the Maloga residents in 1882. Double Time, Women in Victoria 150 years Penguin 1985 p.2

k. SETTLERS - Ann Spark, Ann Horden



Edward, Ann and her 5 children sailed from Liverpool on 4 Aug 1852 on the 'fever ship' Ticonderoga ... All passengers were quarantined on the beach at Portsea until all signs of disease had abated. This was the origin of the Quarantine Station at Portsea ...

This family suffered no losses and made their way to ... Waldie's ... sheep station ... about 3 miles north of Lake Wendouree ... Edward and Ann were living here for the birth of their first Australian born child in 1854 ...

She was known as Ann SPARKS on 13 May 1863 in the Creswick County Court when she was running the Wheatsheaf Hotel at Ascot in the absence of her son John ... In the Ballarat Shire Rate Book for 1868 Ann ... farmed 29 acres at Ascot.


Helen Palmer & Jessie Mcleod:

Ann Horden: “There were none of the stately buildings we have been accustomed to in England ...” Flies and mosquitoes abounded ... Most of the passengers would have gone back if they could” ...

The end of the ‘20’s found ... Mrs Horden established as a milliner and draper ...

Gold fever seized the colony in the 1850’s. All was uncertainty and excitement for a time, but in the end trade flourished. The Hordens now had a prosperous-looking house in the fashionable suburb of Darling Point (Sydney).

pp. 14, 21-2 Makers of the First Hundred Years Longmans, Green & Co.


Maria Nugent:

Iris and I stood on the street in front of her house (at Botany Bay in July 1985) while she showed me the view. The scene she revealed centred on some scrub on the foreshores of Frenchman’s Bay at the bottom of the slope from where we were standing.

This was where, in the closing years of the nineteenth century, her mother had been born. She pointed out an oleander tree to indicate the former site of a small Aboriginal settlement, which was known to be in existence in the late 1870’s, though perhaps it was there earlier.

Iris Williams -
(The Aboriginal Lands Trust) was abolished in 1983 when new legislation came in and set up the Local Lands Council so now we are responsible to ourselves only.  Richard Nile ed. The Australian Legend & Its Discontents p.347

AUSTRALIA DAY - also known as:






Raylene Campion:

Another Australia Day has arrived
Celebrations across our land
Guess they donʼt think what weʼve been through
Our ancestors tried to hold our land
Keep us together to protect our clans
Barbecues burning and sweet tasting wine
The white manʼs celebrating what belongs to us
But weʼre here in the background
Being proud of who we are
Our red, black and yellow unites us all
Saying we have survived another century
Of white manʼs invasion

"Another Australia Day has arrived", republished with kind permission, as published in the Koori Mail, 468, 27 Jan 2010; p.26