Through the Dreaming the major groups of people emerged. Identified by their mother-tongues, social customs and spiritual attachment to specific geographical areas, these groups have subsequently been described as Awabakal, Worimi, Gringai, Kamilaroi, Wonaruah, Geawegal and Darkinung.

The coastal areas of the Hunter Region were occupied by the Awabakal centred on Lake Macquarie and its mountainous hinterland; to their north were Gaddang speaking tribes, who included the Worimi centred on Port Stephens, possibly the Gringai of the Dungog area, and the Birpai, who were north of the Worimi. To the south of the Awabakal were the Kuringgai ( or Guringgai ), living both north and south of Broken Bay. Inland of the Kurringai and bordering both the Awabagal (sic) and the Wonaruah were the Darkinung tribes, whose territory extended from the Hawkesbury River northwards towards the southern drainage of the Hunter River ( Brayshaw, 1986: 40 ). ( Heath, 1997: 41 )

The Goori communities developed flourishing civilisations along the lines of contemporary nation states. Respecting the laws handed down from the Dreaming they needed neither army nor prison. Their was no meaning to invasion as sharing and caring were central philosophies of their belief systems, as was the concept of reciprocity and the practice of "payback". The people cared for the land, and the land responded accordingly. Their sedentary lifestyle ensured that they kept material possessions to a minimum and it reduced their need to build permanent housing.

The separate nation-states only came together in great gatherings of more than 1,000 people for special occasions and ceremonies. Closer contact of smaller groups occurred more often for trade and other exchanges.

While these civilisations developed independent of other parts of the world, European civilisation also developed. However it developed along much different lines; particularly in regard to a spiritual detachment from Mother Earth and the obsession of acquiring material resources. These differences were to ultimately impact greatly on Goori civilisation. Two of the great civilisations of Europe, the Greek and Roman Empires were built upon the colonisation of other peoples. However it was peoples from other parts of the world that had first contact with Goori peoples.

The following groups are documented as being the first to impact on Goori societies, albeit in other parts of the country.

Pre-contact Goori Societies
Last Ice Age
Lake George, Lake Mungo, Swansea Heads
Roman & Greek Empires 4000 BC ie 6000 years ago
Birth of Christ 1st Century ie 2000 years ago





It is possible that the first foreign probe to Australian shores was made by the Chinese, who may have landed in what is now Darwin in 1432. Although the Chinese were already great travellers and seafarers, the period of the Ming Dynasty ( 1368-1644 ) was the most expansive for China. The admiral Ch'eng Ho assembled a fleet of more than sixty junks and on seven great voyages between 1405 and 1432 visited almost all the regions bordering the Indian Ocean, including East Africa, India, Java and Sumatra. In 1879 a Chinese statuette from the Ming Dynasty was uncovered in Darwin, then an English outpost only ten years old. A piece of porcelain believed to be of the same era was also found in the Gulf of Carpentaria. While precise dating of these objects is not possible, they could have arrived in Australia during the time of Ch'eng Ho.

( Grassby & Hill, 1988:9 )


Pre-dating the Macassans and still a mystery to European Australians was the arrival on the shores of north-east Arnhem Land of the Baiini Some stories indicate they were of European origin, others suggest they were traders from the East Indies or sea gipsies of Malayan type who were to be found in all parts of the East Indies Archipelago.

They are described as having come by sailing ship, and once they arrived on the shores of Arnhem Land they built houses of stone and ironbark. The Baiini apparently left Australia to return from whence they came, abandoning their houses and rice plantations and leaving only memories of their coming in song and stories. ( Grassby & Hill, 1988:6 )


For a period of 200 years to just after the end of the nineteenth century at least 1000 Macassans, more than the total complement of the English First Fleet, came south each year from the Indonesian island of Sulewesi to north Australia , to fish for the sea slug known as trepang, or beche-de-mer. Dried trepang, which was prized in Chinese cuisine, was a major commodity throughout Asia. The Macassans called the Northern Territory coast "Marege", and they also worked along the Kimberley coast of Western Australia, which they called "Kayu Jawa".

This peaceful invasion left Macassar each year as the north-west monsoon began, providing the constant winds needed to avoid being blown off course. They would stay in Australia for approximately five months before heading back in April when the winds changed to the south-east. The Macassans established settlements on sheltered beaches along the coast of Arnhem Land not far from the shallow waters where trepang could be collected. Near their settlements they set up processing plants for the trepang, rows of stone fireplaces which supported the cauldrons in which it was boiled. Some of these still stand………….. …………….. The connection between Macassar and north Australia was severed in 1907. English pearling interests had for some time called for the exclusion of the Macassans from what was then an English colony. ( Grassby & Hill, 1988:8 )


In 1605 Quiros........returned to the Pacific, full of inspiration to explore and conquer.............they reached what Quiros first thought to be the great south land, which he claimed in the name of the King of Spain.................and named in his honour Austrialia del Espiritu Santo. He established a settlement, and then discovered he had reached an island in what is now Venuatu..............................................Quiros' second-in-command, Luis Vaer de Torres, returned to Spain via Manilla. The route he chose was through the strait that today bears his name. An attempted landing at the tip of Cape York was repulsed. The people of Australia, changing their tactics of withdrawal before would-be intruders, attacked with spears and war clubs, as Torres reported on his return to Madrid. ( Grassby & Hill, 1988:10 )


In 1606, the same year that Torres sailed into history, William Janaz in the Duyfken made a probe on behalf of the expanding Dutch Empire. Like Torres he found the people of the north hostile: as the dutch came ashore on the western side of Cape York the sailors found themselves under heavy attack....................Janaz acknowledged that a number of his sailors were killed in the attack.

( Grassby & Hill, 1988:11 )


The occupation of Australia became, in fact, a race between the English and the French, another vigorous people on the imperial ascent. The first recorded English presence in Australia was in 1622, when an English ship, the Tryal, was wrecked on rocks just north-west of Monte Bello islands off the west coast...................................They were followed by the notorious William Dampier, who made two visits to the west in 1688 and 1699.

( Grassby & Hill, 1988:12 )

However, it wasn't until Cook's proclamation of English ownership in 1770: " in the name of His Majesty King George III ", that the ongoing dispossession of Goori peoples began, although there was some respite until Phillip's First Fleet in 1788. Cook's proclamation appeared to be in contravention of his instructions which said he should take possession " with consent of the natives ". The lie of terra nullius ( land without people ) was born.

Year Regional National/International


  Captain James Cook


  American War Of Independence


  Governor Phillip


Smallpox Unleashed on Goori Society


Lt.-Col. Collins of the First Fleet reported in 1789

Early in the month of April, and through its continuance, the people whose business called them down to the harbour daily reported, that they found, either in excavations of the rock, or lying upon the beaches and points of the different coves which they had been in, the bodies of many of the wretched natives of this country. The cause of this mortality remained unknown until a family was brought up, and the disorder pronounced to have been the smallpox.( Collins, 1804: 57 ).

While Collins was speaking in regard to the immediate area being occupied by the British, the official report to Britain, as cited in Butlin " declared that half the aborigines between the Hawkesbury and Botany Bay died during April and May; it also concluded that the disease must have ' spread ' to a great distance." (Butlin, 1983: 20). This distance would have included the Hunter given the nature of the disease and the interactions of Hunter Gooris with those from the Hawkesbury.

Further evidence was provided by the observation of pock-marked Gooris in the Hunter Valley in 1810 ( Butlin, 1983: 24 ).



Convicts at Port Stephens


In September, 1790, four convicts seized a small boat in Port Jackson and made off to the North. After hugging the coast for some miles they put into Port Stephens where they landed and fell in with a tribe of aborigines with whom they lived for five years. In 1795, they were picked up by Captain Broughton in the H.M.S. "Providence"............ It is more than probable that these men in their wanderings with the natives would have visited many parts of the Hunter River
( Goold, 1984: 4 ).

The fact that the convicts were accepted into Worimi society is in keeping with traditional law and would have necessitated their observance of traditional law. It also reflects the experiences of earlier times in northern Australia of the Gooris and Macassans etc

As with all group members a breach of law would have to be reciprocated by punishment.

Being convicts, the way of life afforded to them in this new society, although quite foreign would have appeared a much better option than that already experienced. One of the challenges to them however would have been the severe discipline needed to remain part of the group.




Pemulwuy Leads Goori Resistance


The somewhat peaceful relationship that existed between the British and the Gooris was certainly interrupted in 1790 when a group of Gooris, led by Pemulwuy commenced a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the settlers and then the Redcoats, around Parramatta and the Hawkesbury:

This savage was first known in the settlement by the murder of John McIntyre in the year 1790, since which he had been a most active enemy to the settlers, plundering them of their property, and endangering their personal safety. (Collins, 1804: 405)



John Shortland arrives in Newcastle Harbour (Muloobinbah)


Following on from the convicts, who returned to the Sydney Cove settlement and reported on the vast coal deposits lying along the beaches around present day Newcastle, Lt. John Shortland was the first Englishman to officially set foot on the Awabakal lands at Muloobinbah.

This discovery of coal by whites was to have significant impact on future relationships between both peoples. The supply of coal was officially verified by Lt. John Shortland, who in pursuit of escaped convicts in September 1797; landed and camped near the foot of what is now Market St. in Newcastle. His report also informed of the vast timber resources along the river, particularly cedar and ash.



Penal Colony established at Muloobinbah; and on going arguments in support of penal colony  


  Parramatta School/Policy of Assimilation


  Australian Agricultural Company (AACo)


a company was formed in Britain for carrying on the usual operations of a colonial settler's pursuits; only on a gigantic scale, and for the benefit of a great number of individuals. Agriculture and stock breeding were the chief objects of the society, although mining for coals was added with considerable profit to the company, and benefit to the colony...........The capital of the association was raised in shares, nominally to the amount of (1 million pounds sterling). As private parties obtained their grants of land, so this public company applied for a grant, and had several grants given to them, in separate blocks, to the extent of a million and a half acres. The first grant, containing 1 million acres, was chosen by Mr Dawson, the original agent, in the neighbourhood of Port Stephens.
( Braim, 1846: 62 ).

Nominally the land that had been provided for the Worimi and the Gringai in the Dreaming, and the lifestyle that had evolved through many thousands of years, was swept away through the issue of a new land title from the powers that be within the invading society.

In reality the Gooris on the newly acquired property of the A.A Co. continued to live as best they could with the increasing constraints placed upon them. Their experience mirrored that of Gooris elsewhere. That is, their response was varied. Unlike the Port Hunter clan of the Awabakal they were not for many years to be confronted by a burgeoning town that had allotments providing for relatively dense living conditions. Rather the immediate needs of the A.A.Co. were for vast tracts of sparsely wooded lands for grazing, and resources such as timber and road making supplies to provide a supporting infrastructure. This situation along with fast growing flocks of sheep, inadequate labour supplies and imbalance of males to females led to a demand for Gooris on the property. ( Heath, 1997: 51 )


  London Missionary Society (LMS)


Around the same time as the allocation of one million acres for the A.A.Co.; the appropriation of hundreds of thousands of acres on the Hunter River for free settlers; and the laying out of the parish of Newcastle by Mr. H. Dangar, 10,000 acres of land was reserved at Reid's Mistake ( Awaba ) for an Aboriginal mission station. The mission was to be run by Reverend L. Threlkeld under the auspices of the London Missionary Society.

The background to the mission extended to the first attempts by Governor Phillip to capture Gooris and attempt to assimilate them for the benefit of the invaders.
One notable experiment being Bennelong. Following on from Phillip many similar efforts were made, usually restricted to capturing children. The results were contrary to the expectations of the whites. Another notable experiment was the setting up of the Native Institution at Parramatta (1814) and this had further influence on the emergence of the Lake Macquarie mission. As did concern for the need to provide some form of protection for Gooris from the ongoing atrocities. An example of some of the sentiments behind the initiative at Lake Macquarie is shown in the following extracts from a letter from Lachlan Macquarie to Wesleyan Missionaries dated March 12th, 1821 :

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter,..... on the subject of forming an agricultural establishment for the civilisation of the aborigines.... Your pious and humane proposal of directing your labours towards the civilisation of the natives, is highly praise-worthy, and demands my best acknowledgment on the part of this Government, as well as on the part of these poor ignorant people themselves------ whom I consider as also placed under my immediate protection.....At the same time, I am every way disposed to give all possible facility to your pious endeavours for civilising the poor degraded natives of this country…..( MMS : Australia 1 ) ( Heath, 1997: 54)


  Myall Creek Massacre


Atrocities continued throughout the region with Gooris usually spearing individual males, along with sheep and cattle and the plundering of food supplies. The white response was more orchestrated and as pointed out by Elder:

Throughout 1836 and 1837 the frontier skirmishes reached a level that the settlers found unacceptable. They felt that too much effort was being expended in removing the Aborigines from the land; the settlers were constantly seeking new runs and the Aborigines were constantly resisting. ( Elder, 1988: 65 ).

The scene was thus set for the Myall Creek massacre. As a massacre it was not unusual, its uniqueness derives from it being one of the few instances where the white justice system provided anything approaching equitable treatment for Gooris. The massacre took place outside of the Hunter Region but it impacted on the Hunter Region ( and elsewhere) for many different reasons. The site of the massacre was on a northern property of Henry Dangar and the event followed closely on the genocidal deeds of Major Nunn, carried out in north-western N.S.W. upon the orders of Lt. Colonel Kenneth Snodgrass “ who as a landowner at Raymond Terrace.......was eager to assist troubled property owners.” ( Elder, 1988: 69 ).

More than 40 Gooris had set up camp on Dangar’s Myall Creek property and had established a friendly intercourse with the station hands, including two Gooris who were employed there as servants. On 9th June, 1838 they were approached by a posse of armed non-Aboriginals. Fearing for their lives they sought protection in one of the station hand’s huts. From here they were

all roped together and weeping uncontrollably. There was the giant figure of Daddy with tears streaming down his face. There were women with their babies wrapped in possum coats. There were people looking bewildered and trying to understand what was happening. Little Charlie, the three-year-old who had been a favourite with the stockmen, ran behind trying to catch up to his mother.

( Elder, 1988: 76 ).

The next description as depicted by Elder is the scene of the stockyard:

Near the stockyard was a pile of twenty-eight bodies lying in a lake of blood. It seemed that the murderers, not wanting to waste ammunition, had drawn their swords and cut the Kwiambal to pieces. They had decapitated most of the babies and children. Heads had been hurled far from the bodies. One man had been burnt to death.........They had kept one of the attractive young Kwiambal women alive....... after the killing the men turned on her and, with the blood of her family on their hands, they raped her over and over again. ( Elder, 1988: 76 ).

That those responsible for the massacre were brought to trial depended largely on William Hobbs who was in charge of the station at the time and sent notice of the atrocity to the police magistrate at Muswellbrook. This led to a trial, an acquittal, a retrial and the eventual hanging of seven men; a result that received a mixed reception throughout the colony.

Henry Dangar’s responses are worth noting, for in reference to the trial he stated as cited in Elder ; “You can depend on Hobbs and everything he says,” and then informed Hobbs that his term of employment would not be renewed in October. At the same time a Hunter based organisation gathered funds to fight the charges.

In October 1838, a month before the first trial, the Sydney press reported the formation of an organization of Hunter River and Liverpool Plains landholders and squatters, known as the Hunter River Black Association, whose avowed aim was to raise money for the legal defence of the eleven accused. Thanks to the energy of its chairman Robert Scott, a sum of 300 ( pounds ) was collected at a meeting at Patrick’s Plains, the subscribers including Henry Dangar

( Reece, 1974: 147 ).
The pleas of those found guilty were based around their belief that the killing of blacks was so common it was legal. One response to the hanging of the seven men was to ensure that future massacres went unreported whilst another was to increasingly depend on the use of poisoned flour to reduce the Goori “ problem”. ( Heath, 1997: 56 )


  Aboriginal Protection Policies


Among the varied responses to the Myall Creek massacre was an increase in the debate over Goori rights. Resultantly many pieces of legislation were enacted to help clarify the issue, one which established the Border Police to try to make consistent the responses of the white community as it further encroached on Goori lands. In May 1839 Governor Gipps republished the order forbidding forcible detention of Goori women in the squatting districts and thereby raised the ire of the A.A.Co. ( This was within months of Mary Ann and John Bugg being sent to the Orphan Home in Sydney. It also led to their parents being forcibly split up, although they were later to re-unite).
Gipps raised further anger by trying to enact legislation that allowed Gooris to give evidence in court, leading to such outbursts as Wentworth (of Wentworth, Blaxland and Lawson fame) comparing Goori evidence with “ the chatterings of the ourang-outang “.
( Reece, 1974: 181 ).

Other legislative moves, that reinforced the inequality before the British law that Gooris were subjected to, included a clause in the Publicans’ Act 1838 forbidding the transfer of alcohol to Gooris and a Bill forbidding the use of firearms by Gooris without permission of a magistrate. The latter was not enacted. Debate was also entered into regarding proper payment for Goori labour and the processes of interbreeding of the races. Of the latter a response by Bishop Broughton is worth noting :
Broughton disapproved of mixed marriages on the grounds that the Aborigines were unbelievers and when the Rev. William Cowper requested permission to marry an Aboriginal woman and an employee of
the Australian Agricultural Company at Stroud and to baptize their children, the Bishop allowed the baptisms but forbade the marriage
( Reece, 1974: 206 ).

These discriminatory measures reflected the continuing uncertainty of how best to deal with the “ Aboriginal problem “ with responses ranging from hostility through humanitarianism to protectionism. Resultant were discriminatory policies which were introduced periodically and existed continually, although not applied universally, until the 1970’s. They included the forced removal of Gooris onto mission stations or reserves such as at Karuah and St. Clair ( Singleton ), the removal of Goori children from their families, the exclusion of Goori children from the public school system, exclusion of Gooris from the public welfare system, the exclusion of Gooris from award wage entitlements and the denial of Goori rights to land and cultural pursuits.
( Heath, 1997: 57 )


  Edmund Kennedy Expedition


A Wonnarua man known by the English name of Jacky-Jacky was the real hero of the ill-fated Edmund Kennedy expedition of 1848. Kennedy sought to find a route from Rockhampton to the Cape York Peninsula in order to take the land over for pasturalism.

The expedition found the country too rough near the coast and had to abandon most of their supplies which were being pulled by cart and included great numbers of cattle.

Their last ditch effort saw Kennedy and Jacky-Jacky continue ahead alone for the last leg of the journey.

Only kilometres short of the Cape they were attacked by Gooris with Kennedy being killed. Jacky-Jacky survived to complete the journey and meet their supply ship. He then led a return party in an unsuccessful attempt to recover Kennedy’s body.

Jacky-Jacky returned south to a hero’s welcome, including being awarded a brass chest-plate by Governor FitzRoy, before returning to his people around Singleton.


Mary Ann Bugg Gaoled at East Maitland


Mary Ann Bugg; who was to become well known as the wife of one of Australia’s longest surviving bushrangers, Captain Thunderbolt; was born on the Australian Agricultural Company’s property near Gloucester on May 7 1834. She was the daughter of a Worimi/Birpai woman with the English name of Charlotte and an ex-convict shepherd, James Brigg.
Along with her younger brother John, Mary Ann was taken to Sydney in 1839, to be ‘civilised’ at the Orphan School. Here she received an education necessary for her to work as a domestic servant. By the age of 14 Mary Ann had returned to the Gloucester area and married a shepherd called Edmund Baker. Sometime after Baker’s death Mary Ann became the wife of Fred Ward ( Capt Thunderbolt), who had already served a prison sentence as a receiver of stolen horses. Just before the birth of their first child, Marina Emily Ward at Dungog, Fred Ward was regaoled at Cockatoo Island. In 1863 along with Fred Britten, Ward escaped and oral history traditions hold that Mary Ann swam out to Cockatoo Island, through shark infested waters, to accomplish this. The reign of Captain Thunderbolt had now begun with Mary Ann often at his side.
In March 1866, in an effort to capture Thunderbolt the troopers arrested Mary Ann, along with her two elder children and baby.
The two older children were taken away from her and, with the baby, she was brought before the bench.

Mary Ann was charged with being an ‘an idle and disorderly person and a companion of reputed thieves, having no visible means of support or fixed place of residence’, and sentenced to six months imprisonment at East Maitland gaol. There was immediate controversy in the Legislative Assembly over this
‘perversion of justice’. The governor intervened and Mary Ann was released after serving only a short part of her sentence. ( Jansen, 1996: 6)

This incident led to legal reforms to ensure that such perversions of justice did not occur again.



Aboriginal Cricket Team, Maitland


On 5 March, 1867 the Maitland Mercury reported on the cricket match between a white Maitland representative team and the Koori cricket team from Victoria. The match was played in front of 3000 spectators.

The Koori team toured England in 1868, and became the first Australian Cricket Team to do so. It’s record in England was 14 wins, 14 losses and 19 draws from 47 matches. One of the stars of that team was Johnny Cuzens, whose traditional name was Yellanach.

this tiny man (5 feet 1 inch or 155cm) was, with Johnny Mullagh, the star of the famous Aboriginal cricket team.................he played 46 of the 47 matches; scored 1364 runs for an 18.94 average; and took 113 wickets for an 11.38 average.
Dr W.G. Grace praised the ‘all round form’ of Cuzens and Mullagh. In 1866 Cuzens played for Victoria against Tasmania. (Tatz at al: 1996 )



  Aboriginal Cricket Team to England


  Aboriginal Protection Society


Willie Price; Worimi, individual land claim


One of the earliest recorded claims by the Worimi people for the return of part of their lands was an individual claim by Tom Price:

Willie Price asked for land in 1873 at Nelson’s Bay near Karuah, and he too was told that as an existing coastal reserve was in force, his land would be secure enough if it was held only as ‘permissive occupancy’. Although Price was unable to gain further security over the land, the Lands Department was still prepared to confirm his right of occupation in 1892 when it was queried. (Goodall, 1996: 80)



  Federation, Australian Constitution


The states joined together and formed the Commonwealth of Australia. The Commonwealth Constitution stated that “in reckoning the numbers of the people......Aboriginal natives shall not be counted”.

During debate in Queensland on protection powers over Aborigines, Augustus Gregory, Member of Parliament for Chermont, says;

the law of evolution says the nigger shall disappear in the onward progress of White Australia cited in Weekend Australian, May 27-28, 2000


William Ridgeway, Worimi, individual land claim


As in the case of Willie Price, another Worimi man gained limited ownership over part of his peoples land when:

A later permissive occupancy over beachfront land was granted to William Ridgeway at Tea Gardens, on the northern side of the Karuah inlet, in 1905, adding to the possibility that there may have been other such Aboriginal requests to secure land between 1870 and 1905 which led to the same outcome.
(Goodall, 1996: 80)



  Aborigines Protection Act


  King George V’s Coronation


  World War I/Defence Acts


Fred Maynard, Australian Aborigines Progressive Association (AAPA)


The first Aboriginal protest group to be formed was the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association which held meetings in Sydney between 1924 and 1927 under the leadership of Fred Maynard. ( Broome, 1982: 166 ).
Fred Maynard was born at Hinton in 1879 of Worimi background and was the nephew of a Goori farmer, Tom Phillips, who farmed the St. Clair mission which was taken over by the Aboriginal Protection Board ( from the Australian Inland Mission ) in 1916.
In 1913 the local committee of the APB recommended that the Kooris’ land at St, Clair be revoked and their bullocks sold. They further suggested that the Kooris should be induced to work the local farms rather than the farms on the mission. They looked at Kooris as a cheap form of labour. ( Heath, 1997: 61 )



  Coniston Massacre



1930’s Platt’s Estate

  Cumeroogunga Walk-Off


  Nemarluk’s resistance in the NT


  Australian Aborigines Conference, Day of Mourning


The Aborigines Progressive Association with Jack Patten as President and Bill Ferguson as Organising Secretary declared the 26th January, 1938, the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet, as a Day of Mourning and Protest. They called a conference at The Australian Hall in Elizabeth St, Sydney with: Aborigines and Persons of Aboriginal Blood only (are) invited to attend.
The Conference was asked to move the following resolution:
“ We, representing THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA, assembled in Conference at the Australian Hall, Sydney, on the 26th day of January, 1938, this being the 150th Anniversary of the whitemen’s seizure of our country, HEREBY MAKE PROTEST against the callous treatment of our people by the whitemen during the past 150 years, AND WE APPEAL to the Australian Nation of today to make new laws for the education and care of Aborigines, and we ask for a new policy which will raise our people to FULL CITIZEN STATUS and EQUALITY WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.”
cited in Bill Ferguson: Fighter for Aboriginal Freedom by Jack Horner





Harold Blair auditions for Marjorie Jackson

Pilbara campaign


Harold Blair, who was born on the Aboriginal settlement at Cherbourg in 1924 and brought up on Purga Mission near Ipswich, sang at the Lennon Hotel in Brisbane on Sept 29th 1944, for the renowned Marjorie Jackson. Following the audition Miss Lawrence was reported to say “You’ve got a fine tenor voice and a natural musical instinct. If you work hard you can become one of the greatest ambassadors for your race. You can do more than politicians or fine speeches. Work hard. You’ve got it in you to succeed!”.

From reportedly being illiterate at 18 year old, Harold Blair became an outstanding tenor who sang fluently in five languages and performed on the stage in many different countries including America, England, France, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark.

Among his many fine achievements was his unyielding struggle in the fight for justice for his people.

Years later, in 1997, Harold’s daughter Nerida took up an academic appointment at Newcastle University in the Umulliko Research Centre. Nerida, like her father, has actively pursued justice for her people, having not only worked in Indigenous Australian education programs but also in the Human Rights Commission.


  FCAATSI/White Australia Policy continues


Dave Sands’ death near Dungog


On the morning of August 12, 1952 a disbelieving Australia heard that Dave Sands, national and Empire middleweight boxing champion and contender for the world title, had died the previous evening at the age of 26.

Dave suffered head and internal injuries when the truck he was driving crashed and overturned on a metre high embankment as the road divided near Dungog.

Extract from an article by Phil Wilkins in THE SUN 19-8-85

Dave was perhaps the best known of the famous Ritchie family. The six brothers fought under the name of Sands during the 1940’s and 50’s. Whilst born of the Dunghutti peoples and brought up at Burnt Bridge near Kempsey they were regulars on the program at Newcastle Stadium. Together they:

forged a unique record in world boxing: between them 607 fights, 249 knockout wins, one Empire (Commonwealth) title, one Australasian, four Australian, and three state titles. (Tatz, 1995: 132)

The Ritchie family maintained a close association with the Newcastle area with Clem, the eldest brother, and their sister Lillian, being actively involved with the setting up and then the ongoing activities of the Awabakal Co-op.

Clem was the last of the ‘Fighting Sands’ to die with his passing in September 1989. However subsequent generations of the family are still actively involved in community activities.



  Native Welfare Conference Definition of Assimilation


The policy of assimilation means all Aborigines and part Aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, as other Australians
cited in Survival. A History of Aboriginal Life in New South Wales


Newcastle University forces Gooris off land


The university’s involvement with the Goori community is worthy of note. In acquiring the land in 1963 it participated in the forced removal of Gooris from the site:
In April, the Newcastle City Council ordered the removal of nineteen squatters, mainly Aborigines..........................It took eighteen months of effort by the City Council, the University, the Department of Education, the Crown Solicitor and the Aborigines Welfare Board ( which had to rehouse the settlers ) to reach a solution
( Wright, 1992: 84 ).



  American Black Power Movement
Olympic Games Protests


  Gurinji Walkout at Wave Hill Station

Establishment of Foundation For Aboriginal Affairs in Sydney


Following a decision of the Arbitration Commission in 1965 that industrial law applied equally to all Australians, and thus Aboriginal Stockmen were entitled to full wages, a lobby group from the pastoralist industry in the N.T convinced the Commission that immediate implementation would have a disastrous effect on the industry. The Commission agreed to defer its ruling for 3 years. This led to the August 1966 walk-off of Gurindji stockmen and their families from the Wave Hill station run by the Vesty company in England. Their return to their traditional land at Wattie Creek led to the first Land Rights legislation in the NT.


  Federal Referendum


In 1961 a Senate Committee on Aboriginal voting rights recommended that all Aborigines should be given the right to vote in federal elections and used its powers to provide voting rights to Aborigines in the Northern Territory. This led to the states providing the right to vote by the mid sixties.

On May 27th, 1967 a referendum was held by the Commonwealth government with voters asked to decide whether the Australian Constitution should be changed to:
· Enable the federal government to assume responsibility for Aborigines in each state; the Constitution had been written to enable the federal government to make laws for “the people of any race other than the aboriginal race”,
· Enable the federal government to include Aborigines in national censuses; the Constitution was worded “In reckoning the number of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a state or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted”

Approximately 90% of all voters in the Referendum were in favour of the changes and many people saw this as a positive acceptance of Gooris. The Referendum led to many positive changes, especially the movement of official government policy away from assimilation towards self-determination.


  Lionel Rose, first Aboriginal to win a World Professional Boxing Championship.

Kevin Gilbert writes The Cherry Pickers



  Evonne Goolagong Wins Wimbledon Title

Neville Bonner Appointed to Senate Vacancy Springbok Tour of Australia


In the first week of July 1971 Evonne Goolagong of the Wiradjuri nation beat Margaret Court in the first all-Australian final in the 87 year history of Women’s Singles at the Wimbledon Open in London

The match took just 63 minutes and propelled Evonne to the same heights scaled some years earlier by Lionel Rose.

Evonne was later to repeat the triumph when as a mother in 1980 she won her second Wimbledon title and became the first mother in 66 years to do so


  Tent Embassy, 26th Jan, Whitlam Government,Policy of Self-Determination


Swansea Heads Midden digging by Len Dyall, 8000 year old remains

Resettlement Program commences in Newcastle


Wallarah Hotel licensed to Dot and Ted Wotherspoon  


Smith’s General Contractors commences operations


This organisation was somewhat unique in that it was formed by Goori brothers, originally from the New England area. Initially, the company was independent of government funding. Its main activity was railway line construction although it diversified to include labour hire.
Robert, Roy and Bill Smith had many years experience working on the N.S.W Government Railways and although lacking in formal qualifications, they knew how to construct railway track, including surveying and costing. Bill moved into the Maitland area in 1955 and after fifteen years service on the railways, formed Smiths’ General Contractors in March 1969. The company’s paid up capital was six dollars. The company tendered for work and was successful in carrying out projects in many areas of N.S.W. The first year of operations yielded a turnover in excess of one million dollars. When working outside of Newcastle, Smiths often employed local Gooris to support the Newcastle work crews. The company ensured that 75% of its workforce was Goori.
Perhaps the company’s most noted local achievement was the laying of the track for the coal loader at Port Waratah and during this time Smiths employed more than 100 persons.
The organisation had a major impact on Goori employment. Throughout the 1970’s, many Gooris came to Newcastle knowing they could get a start with Smiths. This workforce contributed materially to the local economy. Smiths also sub-contracted Goori labour, for example to the B.H.P;. although they often found this difficult, as some Gooris might have been looking for only “ a few days work “ on passing through Newcastle. Additionally, Gooris who had been brought up on an often inadequate mission diet, found hard-labouring work difficult to sustain. Some Gooris also felt the practice of labour sub-contracting was one of exploitation. In its efforts to expand, Smiths borrowed from the federally-funded Aboriginal Loans Commission and by 1980, control passed to the Aboriginal Development Commission, which sold the company up leaving the founders with little more than the clothes they stood in. Nonetheless Smiths’ General Contractors had played a major part in the rebuilding of the local Goori Community and had been one of the first organisations to try to accommodate Goori cultural practices within the mainstream production process. ( Heath, 1998: 66 )



  Harry Williams in World Cup Soccer


  Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act


Awabakal Newcastle Aboriginal Co-op commences operations


By 1973 along with other Gooris and some non-Aboriginal supporters Bill ( Smith ) was instrumental in establishing the Newcastle Aboriginal Advancement Society which obtained a federal grant a year later to carry out a cultural awareness program in Newcastle.
Due to funding difficulties this organisation was superseded by the Awabakal Newcastle Aboriginal Cooperative Limited which commenced activities in 1975 and, in February 1977, was formally registered as a Community Advancement Cooperative Society. In 1982, it obtained a second registration as an organisation under the Charitable Collections Act. The decision to register under the Cooperative Societies act was based on the feeling that the spirit of cooperative societies better reflected the philosophies of traditional Goori societies than that of other incorporated bodies which basically reflect competition. Whilst Bill Smith was the inaugural chairperson of the cooperative, the setting up of the organisation and its continued success was the result of the work of a great number of Goori and non-Aboriginal people in both paid and unpaid positions.
Since its inception more than fifty persons have served on its Board of Directors. Early directors include Clem Sands and his sister Lillian, Aunty Amy Ridgeway who had lived at Platts Estate, Jack Thorpe who fought at the Stadium and his wife June, Ted and Dot Wotherspoon, Robert and Shirley Smith, Zelma Moran, Victoria Matthews, and George and Ann Ritchie.
Victoria Matthews and Zelma Moran were later to work for the co-op as secretary and field officer respectively. Among the other early field officers were Amy Trindall, John Ferguson, Wayne Nean and George Griffiths.
Wayne was instrumental in the setting up of the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service in 1984, while George was a member of the NSW Aboriginal Lands Trust prior to the handing over of reserves to communities through the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.
The cooperative’s objectives were deliberately broad and centred around providing for members’ needs in areas of employment, culture, health, welfare, sport, housing and education. These objectives are reflected in the proposed initiatives for the forthcoming year, as documented in the 1977 Annual Report.
a. Hold a cultural camp for 9 to 15 year olds at Rathmines the week before Christmas

b. Establish an Aboriginal Health Centre

c. Reclaim the Sacred sights (sic) at the Wattagans and establish a permanent reserve and cultural centre

d. Establish an Aboriginal Pre-school

e. Obtain an Aboriginal legal service field officer to work from the Co-op

f. Set up a loaning and Homework Centre which would include such teaching programs as; the teaching of the Awabakal dialect

g. Establish our own club

h. Set up our own housing Co-op.

This can be done.........but it needs the support of all our own people.
( Minutes, Awabakal A.G.M. 1977 ) ( Heath, 1998:66 )

By 2000 many of the programs outlined above had been achieved by the Newcastle Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander community. Some, directly by the Awabakal Co-op, and others independent of it; but most often through the initial negotiations and support of the Co-op.



  NSW Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee formed


Newcastle All Blacks Football Club Formed

Birubi Point Excavations


Awabakal XI Cricket Club Formed  


Newcastle Aboriginal Support Group Formed, Biraban Co-op commences,Link Up founded in NSW


In September 1980, 9 Newcastle citizens met in a school classroom to discuss the Aboriginal situation. Impressed by the cruel history and the present disadvantaged situation of the Aboriginal community, the meeting recognised the need and the opportunity to establish a Newcastle Support Group. It was agreed that the Group would be open to all citizens, both black and white, and would endeavour to:
· promote better understanding between Aborigines and non-Aborigines
· support initiatives proposed by Aboriginal groups both locally and nationally

......................................We have been united in an endeavour to put aside the 200-year old attitude that non-Aborigines know what is best for Aborigines; we are prepared at all times to listen to what the Aborigines are saying;
John P. (Jack) Doherty, President, Newcastle Aboriginal Support Group
cited in On The Fringes Of Newcastle Society



  First Report of NSW Legislative Assembly Select Committee Upon Aborigines


Extract from Forward:
Today the citizens of New South Wales live on aboriginal land in affluence while the Aborigines live in poverty. Aboriginal children die because of this. Elderly Aborigines are a rarity. Their housing is often sub-standard and overcrowded. Their unemployment rate is high, their health and educational standards low.
The Select Committee’s Reports were instrumental in the development of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 and a number of other state government programs set up to help address Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander disadvantage. These included the setting up of the NSW Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.


  World Council of Churches Report on Aborigines released


  Brisbane Commonwealth Games

Launch of NSW Aboriginal Ed Policy, March.


Reburial at Darlington Estate, Singleton Heights

“Awabakal Voices” goes to air on 2NURFM

Kerabee Dam Survey conducted by Awabakal Co-op


Singleton Shire Council gave permission on Tuesday night for an aboriginal skeleton to be reburied in the recreation reserve near the building site where it was uncovered. ............After extensive investigation and discussion with the Newcastle Awabakal Aboriginal Co-operative and Singleton Aborigines, the National Parks and Wildlife Service recommended that the skeleton be reburied and that a stone monument be erected with the council to pay the costs.

Speaking against the recommendation, Cr. F. Tulloch said the proposal was discrimination of the worst kind. Newcastle Herald 27-5-82

The reburial took place on 9th August in “a rare and moving aboriginal burial ceremony” held in front of 200 children and adults. “The remains were prepared in traditional style, being wrapped in a cylinder of ti-tree bark bound in a spiral with leaves”. Newcastle Herald 10-8-82



  2nd Biennial NSW AECG Conference held in Newcastle

NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act


  Maralinga Royal Commission under Justice McClelland is established


In 1984 Bill Jonas, a grandson of William Jonas the renowned Goori horseman who rode at King George V coronation in London, was appointed to the Maralinga Royal Commission. At this time Bill was chairperson of the Awabakal Co-op.
Whilst a great personal achievement for Bill it was also a strong recognition of the wider contribution being made by Gooris from the Hunter Region who were continuing the fight for justice that had began some 180 years before.
Bill was the first Goori to obtain an academic appointment at Newcastle University and resigned from there to become Principal of the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra. From here he moved for a short time to the position of Director of the National Museum in Canberra, before moving to Sydney in 1999 to take up the appointment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. Bill is still actively involved in Goori community matters in Newcastle, particularly through the Goori Management Committee at Newcastle University and his many family links in the Cessnock and Karuah areas.


Awabakal LALC formed Sept; Dec 1st successful claims in Hunter, Karuah LALC; Awabakal first claim-Young St Carrington 1986

Red Earth, produced by Freewheels Theatre in Newcastle

Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service established under a 12 month Commonwealth Employment Program grant to promote the care and fostering of Aboriginal children in Aboriginal homes.


The many Goori organisations throughout the Hunter Region, include eight Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

They were formed under the N.S.W Land Rights Act 1983 which with its subsequent amendments provides some Goori communities with the opportunity to claim Crown land that is not required by government. Additionally the Act provides a source of funding to land councils through a percentage of the monies raised by the state government through land taxes over the 15 year period from 1983.

All of the Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC) have been successful in acquiring land. While the Awabakal L.A.L.C. was the first formed, the Karuah L.A.L.C was the first to have a successful claim. This was in December 1984. The Awabakal’s first successful claim was an allotment in Young St. Carrington in 1986.

However, Koompahtoo, based around the western reaches of Lake Macquarie has been perhaps the most successful in terms of area of land successfully claimed.

Each council operates programs, including housing, for the benefit of members. They also work with developers to ensure minimum risk of destruction of Goori sites through economic development.



Awabakal AGM in August Votes to boycott Bi-centenary celebrations in 1988,

Aboriginal Education Unit established at Tighes Hill TAFE.


NADOC Inaugural NSW Aboriginal Artist of the Year, Mini Heath

Koori: A Will To Win, the first major work by a Wonnarua Koori is published

Uluru Handover to traditional owners


Jan. 1st NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Junior Coaching Clinic held

Sept, College of Advanced Education accepts Bi-Centenary Grant to build Wollotuka Centre

Paris Fashion Parade, Mini Heath is one of five Aboriginal designers to exhibit in Paris


  Hawke Government announces Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

N.T Aboriginal Women compulsorily sterilised

Sept, PM Hawke announces a National Compact


Bi-Centenary, Wollotuka Centre, which was completed in 1986 is officially opened with no Gooris in attendance

Awabakal Co-op organises demonstrations for Queen’s visit

Newcastle Gooris join in Sydney protests

Norm Newlin publishes Where There’s Life There’s Spirit, first Worimi published work of prose


Get Up and Dance- Freewheels Theatre production of Ray Kelly’s work wins CONDA Award

September sees the death of Clem Ritchie (Sands)

Marilyn Kong, of the Worimi people is Dux of Nelson Bay High School, along with her twin sister and brother, she is later to graduate in Medicine.

Sandra Eades from W.A and Louis Peachey from Qld. become the first graduates from Newcastle University’s Aboriginal Students Medical Program which commenced in 1985




Corroborees are held at Wollombi, and Newcastle University by Gooris who have embraced traditional law to take up responsibilities as traditional custodians in the region




  Final Report of Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody

Reconciliation Council brought into effect by Australian Government


Uncle Lennie de Silva of the Gumbaynggir people is awarded an honorary doctorate from Newcastle University in recognition of his scholarship in traditional law  


  High Court, Mabo Decision


On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia changed the nation’s common law when it brought down its decision in Mabo and Others v the State of Queensland.
In upholding the claims of the plaintiffs, from Murray Island in the Torres Strait, the Court held that Australia was not terra nullius (‘land belonging to no one’) when settled by the British in 1788, but occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who had their own laws and customs, and whose ‘native title’ to land survived the Crown’s annexation of Australia.


World Indigenous Peoples’ Corroboree, Newcastle  


  Native Title Act 1993, came into effect 1st Jan 1994


On 1 January 1994, the Native Title Act 1993 came into effect. The Act was part of the Commonwealth Government’s response to the High Court’s finding in the Mabo case.
The Act sets up a National Native Title Tribunal and court processes to be used by people who want to claim native title to land. To claim native title people must prove:
· your people owned the land under Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander customs and laws;
· you have not lost your traditional links with the land; and
· Governments have not used the land or given it to anyone else in a way which ‘extinguishes’ or takes away your native title forever

Commonwealth of Australia, January 1994.


Local production of Bran Nue Dae at the Community Arts Centre  


  Wik Decision


Newcastle City Bi-Centenary, Foreshore Focus on Reconciliation

John Lester who was brought up in Sydney but of the Wonnarua people was appointed as Professor at the Umulliko Research Centre, University of Newcastle

Jim Wright becomes an ATSIC Commissioner


  Bringing them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families


Newcastle City Council Commitment to Aborigines


The Council of the City of Newcastle acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in this council area Awabakal and Worimi, were the first peoples of this land, and are the proud survivors of more than two hundred years of continuing dispossession.

Newcastle Council recognises that the British invasion initiated massive changes to the land and its peoples.

As a vital step towards building a just, common future, Newcastle Council recognises the loss and the grief held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Council acknowledges that this loss and grief has been caused by alienation from their traditional lands, the loss of their lives and their freedom, and the forced removal of their children.

Newcastle Council supports the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to live according to their own values and cultures.

Newcastle Council recognises the vital importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ contribution to strengthening and enriching our city and region.

Newcastle Council, in consultation with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is committed to:

respecting and conserving their cultural practices, traditional sites and significant places,

promoting activities which increase cultural sensitivity and awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,

developing an agreement between local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and other community members for the care of the local environment,

working towards the recovery of their languages, health, cultural practices and lost kinship.

Newcastle Council will look towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures for practical knowledge which could help secure a sustainable future for our community.

Newcastle Council, in negotiation with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, will further reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and other community members by working together for a treaty and/or other agreements of reconciliation.

Newcastle City Council, in negotiation with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, will develop an action plan to redress disadvantages and attain justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this community.

14th April, 1998



Kin Tucka Tiddas is the first major production of the Ngoroekah Theatre Company which developed from almost 20 years of collaboration between Freewheels Theatre in Education, the Community Arts Centre and the Goori community.  


  Death of former Senator, Neville Bonner at Ipswich in February

Bill Jonas appointed as Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner,

Senator Aden Ridgeway’s Maiden Speech: Aden is grandson of former Maitland resident, Mrs. Pheobe Mumbler


Gateway Project

4th July 2000 at the Yamuloong Resource Centre by Dr Bill Jonas and the State Minister of IT, Hon Kym Yeadon.


  May 26th Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Document, Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation presented to Australian people.

June 10 Unveiling of Memorial at Myall Creek Massacre Site