Population Figures in the late 1800s

In the period from its establishment through to the turn of the twentieth century the Aborigines Protection Board included census figures in its annual reports. The first of these reports was for the year 1882. For Bateman’s Bay a population of one male was listed, he was stated to be employed at a saw-mill. For Moruya a population of 67 people was listed. It was stated that there were, “Three half-castes working for wages”, that the population in general were not in need of Government aid as they were, “all very well off”. It was stated that the Government had provided them with:

Four boats in this portion of district in fair order, and properly cared for. Impossible to say what they earn…. Two aboriginals and two halfcastes are instructed by Mr. Bennett, Public School teacher… The halfcastes in this district are remarkably well off, and can earn the same wages as Europeans. The half-castes generally use the boats.

At Nelligen a population of 21 people was listed and it was stated that:

Tom Brown and family, half-castes, employed in getting timber and wattle bark. Abraham and Donald, with their families, live principally by fishing and bark-stripping, with occasional odd jobs from settlers… Tom Brown (half-caste), wife, and seven children, (ages from 2 to 21 years), living on the Clyde River, are very industrious. Have applied to Police Magistrate for a Government boat to assist them in getting a living. The others have no settled place of abode for any time.

In the Board’s 1890 report there is the following information on the Moruya district:

Number of aborigines in the district, 16 – 10 full-blood, and 6 halfcastes. Only one is working for wages, being employed ploughing; 7 adults, and 7 children are supported by the Board. The following supplies have been distributed during the year:- 4,171 lb. flour, 130 lb. tea, 1,048 lb. sugar, 9½ lb. raisins, 9½ currants, 9½ lb. suet, 19 lb. beef, 2 pairs trousers, 2 shirts, 5 dresses, 5 petticoats, 3 boys’ suits, 20 blankets, 10 cwt. Galvanized-iron for huts, 8 lb. screws, 6 lb. washers, 20 lb. paint for boat, 1 paint brush, 1 pair oars, and 5 cwt. seed potatoes… Four children are receiving instruction at the public school. All are supplied annually with Government blankets. The issue is necessary, and they are in no way misappropriated. Very few are addicted to habits of intemperance. When ill they are attended to by the Government Medical Officer for the district.

In the Board’s report for the year 1899 they recorded a population of 16 at Bateman’s Bay, 21 at Moruya, 9 at Nelligen, and 116 at Wallaga Lake.

In the 1902 Board report population figures were given for four locations within the Eurobodalla area, at Central Tilba a population of 165 was listed, at Moruya 13 people, 27 at Bateman’s Bay and 9 at Nelligen.

In the Board report for 1911 a population of 139 was given for Central Tilba, 49 for Bateman’s Bay, 16 for Moruya and 8 for Nelligen.176 Two years later the Board’s 1913 report gave a population figure of 128 for Central Tilba, 10 for Moruya, 9 for Nelligen and the considerable increase for Bateman’s Bay of 80.177 The high population at Bateman’s Bay appears to have been a temporary situation, by the Board’s report of 1915 the Bateman’s Bay population was given as 24. Central Tilba continued to be stable at 128, Moruya was listed as having 12 people, Nelligen 17 and Narooma appeared with 2 people listed.

Plate 3: Aboriginal family including Mr. Jimmy Friday (in car) (known as King of Bateman’s Bay) in the early decades of the twentieth century.
Plate 3: Aboriginal family including Mr. Jimmy Friday (in car) (known as King of
Bateman’s Bay) in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Taken from “Eurobodalla Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Study, South Coast New South Wales”. View the full study

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