Formation of Aboriginal Reserves

While there were a considerable number of reserves created for the use of Aboriginal people throughout the Eurobodalla region there is limited information available in the documentary record regarding these reserves. Some reserves appear not to have been occupied, many appear to have been occupied by individual families, many were short lived. The table on the following page provides a comprehensive listing of reserves in the area based on the records of the Aborigines Protection Board.

Reserve Gazettal Number Reserve Name Location Description Area of Land Date Gazetted Date Revoked
No number. Listed as ‘Native Reserve’. Wagonga Reserve Situated near the mouth of the Wagonga River, 8 miles from Bodalla and 24 from Moruya. 180 acres 24/12/1861
246 Moruya (Campbell) Reserve Situated near Moruya Heads. Parish of Moruya, County of Dampier. 24 acres 13/7/1875 18/12/1886
347 Terouga Lake (Merriman) Reserve, Terouga Lake On Terouga Lake 5 miles from Bodalla, and 22 from Moruya. Parish of Bodalla, County of Dampier. 40 acres 19/10/1877 23/5/1969
346 Tuross Lake (Bolway) Reserve Tuross Lake. Parish of Bodalla, County of Dampier. 56 acres 19/10/1877 16/12/1914
345 Yarboro (Yarraro) Reserve On the sea coast 14 miles from Moruya, and 8 from Bodalla. Parish of Bodalla, County of Dampier. 40 acres 19/10/1877 27/1/1922
378 Tuross Lake (Neddy) Reserve On the south bank of the Tuross Lake. Situated about 6 miles from Bodalla, and 15 from Moruya. 40 acres 20/5/1878
553 Turlinjah (Benson) Reserve On the shore of Tuross Lake at Turinjah, 11 miles from Moruya and 6 from Bodalla. Parish of Congo, County of Dampier. 32 acres 22/11/1880 7/9/1917
No number Moruya Heads Reserve Moruya Heads 320 acres & 24 acres c.1883/5
112 Tomago River Reserve near Tomakin On the Tomago River, Parish of Bateman, County of St Vincent 40 acres 9/1/1884
13939 Wallaga Lake Reserve North shore of Wallaga Lake, Parish of Noorooma, County of Dampier. Approx. 330 acres 13/6/1891 21 acres on 22/11/1963
17546 Currowan (Currawong) Reserve Situated near Nelligen on Currowan Creek just up from its junction with the Clyde River in the Parish of Currawan, County of St. Vincent. 60 acres 15/4/1893 9/5/1956
34759 Bateman’s Bay Reserve Situated in the Parish of Bateman, County of St. Vincent, Portions 139, 140, 141. 9 acres 19/7/1902 16/9/1927
40698 Snake Island Reserve, Wallaga Lake Snake Island, Wallaga Lake. In the Parish of Bermaguee, County of Dampier 27 acres 4/7/1906 26/11/1954
43648 Merriman Island Reserve, Wallaga Lake Merriman’s Island, Wallaga Lake. In the Parish of Bermaguee County of Dampier. 2.5 acres 3/3/1909 31/12/1931
49561 Narooma Reserve Parish of Noorooma, County of Dampier. 14 acres 1913

Throughout the reports of the Aborigines Protection Board there are very limited and scattered references to the reserves in the region. The Board Station at Wallaga Lake was referred to much more frequently and the material relating to it has been placed in the next section.

The first reserve for Aboriginal people in the Eurobodalla area that has been identified in the research for this report was formed in 1861. It was an area of 180 acres near the mouth of the Wagonga River, lying along the coastline. There are no records to indicate if it was used in the period from its reservation through to the formation of the APB in 1883. The Board recorded that in 1883 it was, “Fairly grassed, not cultivated, not cleared”. In 1890 it was again recorded by the Board as unoccupied.

In 1875 an area of 24 acres near the Moruya Heads was reserved. According to records of the APB dating from 1883 it was reserved for, “… Mr. Campbell and road metal”.

Figure 5: Map of Moruya (Campbell) Reserve 246.
Figure 5: Map of Moruya (Campbell) Reserve 246.

The report for 1883 also recorded that the area was unoccupied and that, “Neighbours cattle graze on it. Not used by Aborigines. They do not seem to require it”. In 1885 the APB recorded that, “Campbell has not resided on this Reserve for many years & is supposed to be living in the Shoalhaven District.” The following year the reserve was revoked.

On the 19th of October 1877 three separate reserves were gazetted for specific individuals, Merriman, Yarboro and Richard Bolway, in the parish of Bodalla. The reserve for Merriman was an area of 40 acres at Terouga Lake.

Figure 6: Map of Terouga Lake (Merriman) Reserve 347 (arrow indicates location of reserve).
Figure 6: Map of Terouga Lake (Merriman) Reserve 347 (arrow indicates location
of reserve).

It is unknown if Merriman lived on it at the time of its formation but certainly by 1880 he didn’t do so. In 1883 the APB recorded of the reserve that it had, “Not been resided upon for past 3 years, Merriman always residing at Wallaga Lake, generally working for the settlers in and around Tilba Tilba.” The reserve was, however, not revoked until 1969.

The reserve for Richard Bolway was an area of 56 acres on the Tuross Lake. It would appear that in both 1883 and 1890, the two dates on which the APB recorded details for the reserve, it was unoccupied and uncultivated. However, by 1890 two acres had been cleared indicating that some use was probably being made of the area. This reserve was revoked in 1914.

The reserve for Yarboro was an area of 40 acres on the sea coast around 8 miles from Bodalla and 14 miles from Moruya. It also appears to have been unoccupied in both 1883 and 1890.

In 1878 a reserve of 40 acres was formed on the Tuross Lake for a man named Neddy. Although by 1890 it was recorded that 3 acres had been cleared it was also stated that it was uncultivated and unoccupied.

A European settler from the area, Richard Dansey, appears to have been involved in the process of acquiring these early reserves. In a letter written in 1880 to the Governor of New South Wales he made some interesting comments on the difficulties encountered by the Aboriginal farmers that highlight some of the reasons that these reserves were unoccupied:

Your Ministers have ever been ready to aid to the utmost of their limited powers, any efforts that are made with a view to bettering the condition of the unfortunate aborigines, and have sanctioned various reserves of Forty Acres each for individuals in this neighbourhood… Two of the Aborigines who had taken up Forty Acres each, have made repeated attempts to cultivate, but insuperable difficulties beset them; they could not find food for their families while fencing, and the crops they put in were destroyed by trespassing Cattle. If Your Excellency’s Ministers could see their way to fencing these reserves, and, in deserving cases, supplying seed and implements, under proper supervision and restrictions, I am persuaded that several of them would prove good and creditable farmers, as most of them know the simple routine of farming generally pursued in the bush. One notable, a halfcaste, made three (sic) several attempts to cultivate his reserve, but was persecuted and harassed by a vagabond neighbour, and had to abandon the attempt.

In the period from 1883 to 1885 records indicate that two additional reserves were formed in the area of the Moruya Heads, one of 24 acres and the other of 320 acres, however, no further details are known.

A reserve of 32 acres was formed on the shores of Lake Tuross near Turlinjah in 1880. The reserve was formed for, “… the use of the Aboriginal William Benson during his lifetime…”.

Figure 7: Map of Lake Tuross, Turlinjah (Benson Wynoo) Reserve 553 (arrow indicates location of reserve).
Figure 7: Map of Lake Tuross, Turlinjah (Benson Wynoo) Reserve 553 (arrow
indicates location of reserve).

Unusually for a reserve there are records of the process of its formation in the form of the original letter of application by Mr. Benson, a supporting letter from the European settler, Mr. Dansey and a letter from the adjoining European landowner.

William Benson, also known as Wynoo had written for him the following letter requesting that a specific area of land be reserved for his use:

…. the undersigned, William Benson, (Wynoo), an Aboriginal Native of New South Wales… and has been for many years resident in this district, working as a Labourer for the white settlers, but generally for John Hawdon, Esquire, of Kyla Park, or for members of his family. That your Petitioner is a married man, having been legally married at the District Registry Office, Moruya; and that he has adopted two deserted aboriginal children, (two of whose [indecipherable word] are in the Parramatta Orphan Asylum, placed there by the benevolence of your Ministers,) and that his two adopted children are regularly attending the newly opened Public School at Turlinjah.

That your Petitioner is desirous of making a permanent home for himself, and of obtaining a portion of land for that purpose, as several other aboriginals have done in this neighbourhood; but that there is no suitable land available near to his work and to the Public School except the piece set forth in the rough sketch annexed hereto; and that portion having been offered for sale and being under Forty acres, cannot be applied for in the usual manner.

That as a new Oyster Fisheries Act is almost inevitable, and your Petitioner could make an excellent livelihood by Oyster-gathering, a small boat or dinghy would be necessary to that purpose; and as your Petitioner has always kept himself aloof from the other aboriginals, who have a fine sea-going boat, unfit for oyster-gathering, he would humbly prefer a small boat of his own.

The adjoining European landowner, Ernest Hawdon, wrote to Richard Dansey regarding the attempt to gain a reserve for the use of William Benson:

I have not the slightest objection to your endeavouring to obtain the reservation of the piece of land enclosed between my purchased selection of forty acres… & my two hundred acres… for the aboriginal William Benson as I think he is equally entitled to land with other aboriginals for whom you have obtained reserves and much better qualified to make a good use of it – as I know him to be an honest sober and hardworking man.

As stated in his letter William Benson had worked for the Hawdon
family of Kyla Park for many years. In 1883 Benson’s reserve was stated to be:

… occupied by 5 males, 3 females, and 6 children some of whom go to the Turlinjah Public School. Fairly grassed, no cultivation. Not cleared. Good fishing station.

In the official report of the Aborigines Protection Board for the year 1890 it was stated that of the 6 reserves in the Moruya area the Turlinjah reserve was the only one that was occupied:

…. occupied by the aborigines. It consists of good open country, is well grassed, and about 10 acres are suitable for cultivation. About a quarter of an acre is fenced in for a garden, and 2 acres have been cleared. A quantity of seed potatoes were supplied by the Board, and they have been planted by the aborigines. Galvanized-iron has also been furnished for them for roofing, and making them more habitable. They have a fishing boat, which is kept on the Tuross Lake. It is fairly well cared for by the aborigines, but they do nothing with it in the way of earning a living.

Figure 8: Map of area enclosed in request for reserve for William Benson Wynoo, showing adjoining landholders.
Figure 8: Map of area enclosed in request for reserve for William Benson Wynoo,
showing adjoining landholders.

The APB also recorded more informally of the reserve in 1890 that, “All the Aborigines in the Moruya district camp on this Reserve. Only six bark gunyahs erected”. The reserve was revoked in 1917,141 possibly as a result of the death of William Benson under the terms of the original reservation.

The reserves discussed previously were all declared before the formation of the Aborigines Protection Board in 1883. Following its formation the Board largely took control of the existing reserves in addition to being instrumental in the creation of new reserves. The Board was also instrumental in the later revocation of many Aboriginal reserves.

In 1884 a reserve of 40 acres was formed on the Tomago River near Tomakin. The APB’s record of its reservation stated that it was, “Occupied by 2 Aborigines “Tommy Bollard” and “Tommy Tinboy” and their gins”.

Figure 9: Map of Tomago River (Tomakin) Reserve 112.
Figure 9: Map of Tomago River (Tomakin) Reserve 112.

There is a king plate in the Milne collection in the National Museum of Australia that is inscribed to Thomas Tinboy, King of Nelligen. Milne recorded the following information in relation to the king plate:

This plate was worn by Aborigine King Tommy Tinboy… He was a full-blood black and King of this district for many years. Mr McCarthy states that this black was well known to him for about 35 years… He used to bring fish and wild honey to his house. In return for this he got tea, sugar, flour, and tobacco… This plate was found by Mr W McCarthy buried in an ant hill, in the ranges near Nelligen Creek, Where the King placed it no doubt before he died.

In 1890 the APB recorded only that it was occupied by Tommy Bollard and Rosie. In the APB’s official report for 1890 they recorded a more detailed description of the Tomakin reserve:

40 acres, situated about ¼ mile from Tomakin and 13 miles from Bateman’s Bay; open country, poorly grassed, part sandy and flat, part suitable for cultivation; all fenced in, 1 acre cleared, and more being cleared and burnt off; 1 acre under cultivation – vegetables and maize being planted. It is occupied by an aboriginal and his wife, who have a 2-roomed weatherboard cottage, with shingled roof, and a small kitchen erected on it.

In 1891 an area of approximately 330 acres was reserved on the shores of Wallaga Lake with the Board rapidly establishing a managed station on the reserve. This reserve community is discussed in detail in the following section.

In 1893 an area of 60 acres was reserved on the Currowan Creek near Nelligen.

Figure 10: Map of Currowan Reserve 17546 (arrows indicate location of reserves).
Figure 10: Map of Currowan Reserve 17546 (arrows indicate location of

In the report of the Aborigines Protection Board for 1893 the following report was made:

A fair quantity of timber has been felled to fence in the land, and 3 acres have been enclosed for the cultivation of maize. The tools and farming implements supplied by the Board have proved very acceptable, and are being made good use of. The Aborigines are cultivating wattle, and also purpose growing maize, potatoes, &c. They have built themselves good, substantial dwellings, and it is probable they will soon be independent of Government aid.

In 1902 an area of 9 acres was reserved on the edges of Bateman’s Bay township.

Figure 11: Map of Bateman’s Bay Reserve 34759 (arrows indicate location of two parts of reserve).
Figure 11: Map of Bateman’s Bay Reserve 34759 (arrows indicate location of two
parts of reserve).

In her history of the issue of land in New South Wales Indigenous political history Heather Goodall included a brief discussion of the conflict over access to public education and the continuing existence of a town reserve at Bateman’s Bay in the early 1900s. Her account is based on archival material from the Aborigines Protection Board and the files of the Departments of Lands and Education:

As early as 1918… the Bateman’s Bay Progress Association had informed the Protection Board that the reserve near that town was standing in the way of white residential development and requested its revocation and the removal of its inhabitants. The Board procrastinated until 1922, when it agreed to ‘encourage’ the reserve residents to move to a newly created reserve some miles out of town. The Koories of the town refused to move from the site where they had built their own houses and from which their children could easily attend the public school.

After further pressure from townspeople, the Board in 1924 agreed to revocation of the town reserve. This did not occur immediately because the Koori residents’ total refusal to leave threw some doubt on the proposed development. The Lands Department now put pressure on the Board not simply to formalise the revocation but to remove the Koori community. The Board again capitulated, and issued removal orders in June 1925. The townspeople had by this time decided to take matters into their own hands: the local Parents’ and Citizens’ Association voted to segregate the school in order to force Koories to leave the town.

School segregation’s had become a well-tried tactic in the hands of white townspeople trying to force the removal of whole communities of Aboriginal people…. The Bateman’s Bay school segregation left fifteen to twenty Koori children with no schooling at all. Rather than leave the town, however, their families mounted a sustained and well-coordinated campaign to have the segregation rescinded. Numbers of white supporters, who all stressed their ALP affiliation in writing to a Labor mi
nistry, appealed to the government on the issues of the injustice of the segregation and the exploitation of Aboriginal schoolage children’s labour in sawmills owned by some of the P & C members who had voted for the segregation.

It was the Koori protesters, however, who put the school segregation in its context, linking it with the attempt to revoke the reserve as a means of forcing them out of town. Prominent in this protest was Jane Duren, whose grandchildren were among those excluded from the school… As it did often when a situation became too difficult, the Education Department called in the Child Welfare Department, but in this instance its inspector declined to remove any children from their families and in fact supported Koori demands for readmission to the school. An assurance was given by this inspector to white parents that ‘an influx’ of Aboriginal children from other areas would not occur and with State Departmental backing withdrawn, the two-year segregation collapsed.

On the basis of the Lands Department records Goodall concluded that the Bateman’s Bay people managed to prevent the revocation of the town reserve in addition to forcing the ending of the school segregation.

Figure 12: Map from pre 1932, arrows indicate area previously forming the Bateman’s Bay Reserve 34759.
Figure 12: Map from pre 1932, arrows indicate area previously forming the
Bateman’s Bay Reserve 34759.

Parish map records suggest that this may not be the case and that the town reserve was indeed revoked before 1932 (probably in 1927) and the white residential development went ahead.

Snake Island, located in Wallaga Lake, was gazetted in 1906, it was revoked in 1954.

Figure 13: Map of Snake Island Reserve 40698 (arrow indicates location of island).
Figure 13: Map of Snake Island Reserve 40698 (arrow indicates location of

Merriman Island, also located in Wallaga Lake, was gazetted as an Aboriginal reserve in 1909.

Figure 14: Map of Merriman Island Reserve 43648 (arrows indicate location of island and relevant text).
Figure 14: Map of Merriman Island Reserve 43648 (arrows indicate location of
island and relevant text).

In her account of life on the south coast Yuin Elder Eileen Morgan refers to Merriman Island:

Uncle Andy [Bond] and Aunty Butter used to live in a bark hut over on what they now call Wallaga Lake Heights. He had a place there after he came back from the [first world] war. He was paying two and sixpence to the government to lease it. After a while the government took the land where he was living off him and they gave him Merrimans Island. Fancy giving him that, they never gave him a boat. How did they expect him to live over there: But he did move over there. That’s where he built a slab hut. It had a tin roof and a square tank, to catch water.

The documents do not indicate if anyone lived on the island before Andy Bond moved on to it. The Island reserve was revoked in 1931.

In 1913 an area of 14 acres was gazetted as a reserve in the Narooma area. No further details are known.

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