Conflict in the First Decades

Throughout Australia as the two conflicting economic systems, of pastoralists and hunter-gatherers, collided, resource competition became the focus of conflict. Aboriginal resistance to the taking over of their land took the form primarily of attacks on stock but also of attacks on stockmen and shepherds. The response of the pastoralists to the actions of Aboriginal people was frequently violent. Within the Eurobodalla area there are few records of violent conflict. Although it is not possible to know if this reflects a low level of conflict or is simply a lack of documentary evidence it does appear that violent conflict was essentially confined to the first decade of European intrusion in this area.

In 1830 William Turney Morris, one of the first settlers at Murramarang in the Bateman’s Bay area, sent the following letter to the colonial secretary:

I have the honor to inform his Excellency the Governor that several acts of hostility have been committed by the native Blacks in this Country. The grossest of which are killing 6 Cows and Bullocks of Mr Thompson’s of Bateman Bay, five belonging to the station at Nathangera near Buttawang, two belonging to Mr Flanagan on the Moroyo River, & several on the station of Capt. Raine near Mt. Dromedary, beside numerous others that they have speared & hunted but not killed.

They have also threatened the lives of Mr Thompson & his men and Mr Egan (Mr Flanagan’s overseer) and his men, so that they dare not go abroad without a musket. In fact they seem to show greater hostility to Mr Thompson and Mr Egan than to any other persons in the neighbourhood and I consider their lives are in Danger if something is not quickly done… If permission was given to those aggrieved to shoot such Blacks as are known to be ringleaders in these atrocities it would make an Example to the other Blacks and be in my opinion a means of preventing further loss of property & perhaps life.

Five days later Morris wrote again:

… the native Blacks have committed further hostilities on Mr Thompson’s farm at Bateman Bay, having killed since then six head of cattle and attacked horses for the same purpose, threatening at the same time to destroy him & his huts and I am afraid lives will be lost there if a few soldiers are not quickly sent there as he has only three men on the farm.

I have also discovered that three head of cattle belonging to Sydney Stephens Esqr. and four of mine have been killed by Blacks with whom I am well acquainted and I have the honor to request you will let me know what steps I am to take to punish them as I am very certain that until the chief instigators are severely punished these acts of Robbery will be increased among them, who moving about among the mountains are only seldom to be met with by White People.

Further representations were made in October by both Morris and Flanagan requesting the presence of soldiers or permission to shoot the leaders of the resistance. As a result of these requests in November the Executive Council of the government discussed what to do regarding what they termed the ‘Aboriginal atrocities’ in the County of St Vincent. The Council sent a patrol headed by Lieutenant Lachlan Macalister to the area. Lieutenant Macalister spoke to both European and Aboriginal people in the area and concluded that the coastal peoples were not involved in the conflict, rather that it was people from the mountain regions who were taking issue with not receiving blankets as the coastal peoples did. As a result of his report blankets were subsequently supplied to the mountain groups as well as the coastal groups and the conflict ceased.

There are very few references to conflict between Europeans and the Aboriginal people of the area after this time, in 1845 the settler Francis Flanagan stated that, “… Some few cattle have been speared, and petty robberies are occasionally committed by them… They frequently fight amongst themselves, upon which occasions, the whites, though often spectators, never interfere… Few are killed in those encounters”.

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