First European intrusions into the Eurobodalla Region

There was no permanent European settlement impacting directly on the lives of the Aboriginal people of the Eurobodalla area until the late 1820s. However, there was a considerable amount of interaction with Europeans travelling along the coast for a variety of reasons in the preceding decades. Some of these encounters have been recorded in the documentary record and they are discussed below.

It is undoubtedly the case that other encounters between Europeans and the Aboriginal people of the Eurobodalla area occurred in these early decades of European intrusion but were not recorded in any documents. In particular there was considerable whaling and sealing activity occurring to the south and the ships travelling the coastline as a result of this activity may well have pulled in along the Eurobodalla coast at times.

The first documentary record of the Indigenous people of the Eurobodalla coast was the sighting of a number of individuals on the beach in 1770. In this year Captain James Cook and his crew sailed up the south coast on board the Endeavour; they did not land but did record seeing five Aboriginal people standing on the shore in the general vicinity of Bateman’s Bay on the 22nd of April of that year. In the official log book of the Endeavour it is simply recorded that the crew, “Saw severell (sic) Indians on the beach.” In Lieutenant James Cook’s private log he recorded only that they, “Saw several people upon the beach.”. The master’s mate recorded slightly more detail, stating, “…as we stood along shore we saw four or five of the Indians sitting near the fire; they appeared to be naked and very black, which was all we could discern at that distance.” A number of crew members had recorded the sighting of smoke from fires in the preceding days’ travel along the coastline.

The next recorded encounter was in 1797 when the ship the Sydney Cove was wrecked, probably around Ninety Mile Beach in Gippsland, and seventeen crew members set out to walk up the coast to Sydney. An account of the journey written by one of the four men who made it back to Sydney, W. Clark, is brief and provides little detail on the exact locations of events. However, during their two month walk up the coast they encountered many groups of Aboriginal people who had a range of reactions to the intruders, some hostile and violent, many extremely helpful, often feeding and otherwise assisting the sailors. It is likely that the following extract refers to a meeting with people somewhere near Tuross on the 11th of April:

Met fourteen natives who conducted us to their miserable abodes in the wood adjoining to a large lagoon and kindly treated us with mussels, for which unexpected civility, we made them some presents. These people seem better acquainted with the laws of hospitality than any of their countrymen… for to their benevolent treat was added an invitation to remain with them for the night… As far as we could understand these natives were of a different tribe from those we had seen [to the south] and were then at war with them. They possessed a liberality to which the others were strangers and freely gave us a part of the little they had.

Excerpt from Eurobodalla Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Study, South Coast New South Wales, 2005. Story contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.