Aboriginal History, Family History, Local History

Aboriginal Connections and the Australian Dream

When I grew up in the 1950s I absorbed an unspoken but powerful message. Aboriginals were part of another world – not mine. The closest my mother came to verbalizing this was when I met and played with a young Aboriginal girl at South Grafton Caravan Park in 1958. “East is east and west is west,” my mother explained. And I knew what she meant, and what she meant me to do. For decades after, I was bogged down in the fear, caution and aloofness of my white Anglo culture, lacking the capacity or courage to make contact.

In the past few years, as I probed local and family history, I have discovered that our worlds, white and Aboriginal, were not separate but melded – in family, work and farm life. Those connections with Indigenous Australians through eight generations, have been at times shameful and murderous; at times intimate and familial; at other times paternalistic.

A great, great, great uncle Thomas Coutts, shipbuilder and whaling captain, adventurous and ambitious man, turned to pastoral pursuits in the 1840s and 50s. In Australia they were decades of great change and confidence. Transportation was coming to an end, immigrants were crowding in, gold fever was rising, the wool industry was thriving, and squatters were establishing large sheep and cattle runs beyond the settled districts, beyond the Limits of Location. On that same land Aboriginals continued to see their food sources diminish and their country taken. They responded by raiding crops, stealing sheep and cattle and spearing intruders.

Things came to a head following the Myall Creek Massacre of 1838, when twenty-eight Aborigines were slaughtered and set alight by twelve men led by John Fleming, son of a local squatter. According to historian Manning Clark, “The terror of black against white and white against black redoubled in fury”. John Fleming escaped but the other eleven were charged with murder and found not guilty. One juryman apparently later disclosed: “I know well they are guilty of murder, but I for one would never consent to see a white man suffer for shooting a black one”. In a second trial seven were found guilty and executed.

Newspaper reports suggest that Thomas Coutts had several deadly clashes with blacks on his run, “Kangaroo Creek” in the Clarence River area, where he put two shepherds and a hutkeeper to look after his 5,000 sheep and 800 cattle. He moved between that run and his “Bald Hills” run, also on the Clarence, and his residence in O’Connell Street Sydney, where his wife Maria née Bloodsworth maintained an increasing household of children. In 1848 he was committed on a charge of poisoning a group of Aborigines. Thomas was to answer charges in the Supreme Court in Sydney, however the Attorney-General “declined exhibiting any information” and he was not brought to trial.

Another great, great, great uncle settled in 1862 within the Limits of Location at “Gobolion”, on the fringes of Wellington. The Australian Town and Country Journal was lyrical in its description of this established property, where the Macquarie River flowed past and the Wellington Range provided a backdrop. The handsome homestead with its spacious verandah and marvelously constructed furniture was, we are assured, surrounded by fine grassed paddocks, tastefully laid gardens and well-stocked orchards and vineyards. John Andrew Gardiner and his wife Mary Anne née Bloodsworth with their bevy of daughters and couple of sons, were gentry. He was referred to as Lord or Squire of Gobolion, sometimes even, Lord of Wellington.

As for the Aborigines, they were no threat, having been subdued in the 1820s when Captain Allmond and sixty troopers were stationed at Mount Arthur, where many “sanguinary encounters took place” (ie blood-stained). They were domesticated by now having been “civilized and Christianised” at the Wellington Valley Mission from 1830 to 1842, where one missionary acted inappropriately to Aboriginal women and the founder gained a reputation as an abductor of black children. I was gratified to learn that John Andrew had an affectionate, if paternalistic, relationship with local Aborigines. He employed them and formed the Gobolion black cricket team. In February 1883 they beat the Wellington team in the first innings but the Wellington team (champions against Dubbo, Orange and Mudgee) declined to finish the match. The following week, “the dusky sons of the soil marched off triumphantly victorious”. At the opening of the Orange to Wellington railway line Gardiner lead the parade “with a Gobolion black at either hand”; and on arrival at the Terminus Hotel the Gobolion Aborigines performed “various grotesque sablatory evolutions to the music of the band” (sablatory I think is the reporter’s made-up word from sable).

A few years ago I attended the Dabee Exhibition which many of you would be familiar with. It records the history of the local Dabee tribe of the Wiradjuri nation. It was then I discovered that my great great grandfather, who already had fathered nine children by his wife Ann née Thompson (including my great grandmother Mary Anne), fathered two more children by their Aboriginal servant Rose Lambert. She was the daughter of Peggy and Jimmy Lambert, notable elders of the Dabee tribe. James and Rose’s children were George William and Ann Marey. I soon discovered that Lyn Symes (local Aboriginal elder now sadly deceased) and I were related through paternity, she being a great grand-daughter of George William. Our great grandparents shared the normal interactions of farm and family life. I imagine Mary Anne, then an adolescent, played, soothed and coached those youngsters until around the age of seven. That’s when their mother Rose married John Green and they became part of another family. I ask myself: why did my Aunt Meg, an openhearted, gregarious woman, who set me on the path of family history, and recorded so much of it, not tell me about my Aboriginal connections?

I am proud and glad to say that James Morrison provided for Ann Marey and George William in his will. To his son he left land on Coxes Creek – 160 acres freehold and 40 acres conditional purchase, two mares with harness, dray, plough and harrow, and twenty pounds. To his daughter (then Mrs Hobby I think) he left a mare, her pick. His children being already settled, he left the rest of his estate to his grand-children.

It was Lyn Syme who introduced me to Madge Green’s memoir (her grandmother). Madge records the story that Rose told George, of the massacre of the Dabee tribe (mainly women and children) by the Red Coats, . She also writes of her “big laughing uncles…it is sad to think of them dying comparatively young, drunk sodden derelicts; they were parted through racial prejudice from the women they each wished to marry…”

The truth is that ten or so generations of white Australians have thrived because the Aboriginal race, that was here thousands of generations before us, was decimated, dispossessed and dehumanized. And the disadvantage continues.

I decided to choose this subject to blog after I watched The Australian Dream last week. You can still catch it on ABC IView. It has had excellent reviews.

The featured image is an extract from The Dabee Exhibition and gives us something of Rose’s history.

Rose Green from Dabee Exhibition1

25 thoughts on “Aboriginal Connections and the Australian Dream”

  1. Thank you for such an insightful article. I grew up in Kandos in the 1950s and early 1960s. During that time I was not aware of any Aboriginals in the area. I realised now that there were many Aboriginals living in the district – Rylstone, Lue, Mudgee, Kandos etc. Aboriginality was never mentioned in our home as far as I can recall – a little like convicts – they were kept hidden and just not mentioned.They did not exist. It was a sign of the times. Many years later when I questioned my mother about convicts in the family she denied that there were any. I have located at least 6, all on my mothers side of the family! I am thankful that times have changed and that many recognise the roles played by our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. From them we can learn so much. Thank you again.

    Karlyn Robinson


  2. Hi Colleen,

    Thanks for this fascinating family history as I read it and about to share it on the Museum Facebook page when I noticed Lyn’s surname is miss spelt – shouldn’t it be Syme ?

    Hope to see you at an appropriate social distance soon,



  3. This is one of the most moving of posts! My great grandfather’s older brother John Kable worked at Dabee (I think)…connections also at Carwell where my ..I think there are similar kinds of stories for me there and elsewhere in NSW and what is now Qld…too. The Hornet Bank and Yiiman massacres! So, brava! Colleen!


  4. I found this so interesting Thank you Colleen, I am curious to know where John Green came from as my mother’s father was a John Green from Leaning Oak in the Mudgee area and he married Isabelle Blackman whose father was James Blackman and explorer and early settler in Mudgee.


    1. JOHN1 GREEN was born Abt. 1808 in Oxfordshire, England, and died Unknown. He married JANE O’NEILL 30 April 1831 in Parish of Mulgoa NSW Australia, daughter of WILLIAM O’NEILL and SARAH MORNING. She was born Abt. 1804 in County Wicklow, Ireland, and died 24 December 1869 in Forest Camp, Tumut NSW Australia.

      Notes for JOHN GREEN:
      Public Records Office UK. Photostat Copy of Reference 40 27/35 records indicate:-
      Name John GREEN
      County of Berks
      When Tried 1828 Summer Assizes
      Crimes Horse Stealing
      Sentences Death

      Public Records Office UK. Photostat Copy of Reference ASSI 5/148 / 2 62661 records read:-
      Berkshire The Jurors for our Lord the King upon their oath present that John Green….late of the Parish of
      Saint Lawrence in the Borough of Reading in the County of Berks..Labourer……on the first day of May in the ninteenth year of the reign of our Soverign Lord George the fourth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland King defender of the faith with force and arms at the parish aforsaid in the County aforsaid…
      One Gelding of the price of….ten pounds..
      of the goods and chattels of Samuel Palmer……..then and there being found feloniously did steal take and lead away against the peace of our said Lord the King his crown and dignity.

      Public Records Office UK. Photostat Copy of:- Berks Sum r, Ass’s, 9th Geo 4th 1828 ASSI 5/148 /2 reads:-
      Berkshire — Monday July 14th 1828. Commissions opened and read the Court adjournes until 12 o’clock at noon this day — at 12 o’clock at noon the Court sits again and proceeds to business —
      The names of the Jurors Sworn to inquire for our Soverign Lord the King and the prisoners at the Bar.
      John Belcher – Johnathon Butteridge – Benjamin Blackman – Francis Clarke – Joseph Corderoy – John Faulkner – Benjamin Finch – Joseph Fruin – Richard Higgs – William Higgs – John Hissey – Edward Howse.
      Further indicates:-
      John Green for stealing a gelding price 10 pounds property of Samuel Palmer horse, guilty- to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour in the House of Correction for 12 Calendar Months.

      The Death Sentence was not carried out as John GREEN arrived in Sydney Australia aboard the convict ship ” MELLISH ” on the 18 April 1829 as a Convict

      The Guard and Convicts were embarked on the River Thames. The former counting of 30 men and the latter 170 in the latter end of October and first week of November 1828.
      In consequence of the prevalence of westerly winds during November and December the ship was detained at different Ports in the English Channel and having frequent gales with rain and generally damp weather, the health of the Convicts was at first considerably affected by it. The prevailing complaints were Dysentery , Diarrhea and Fever. The most severe case of Dysentery was No. 1 in the journal and I considered it necessary to send him to the Hospital Hulk. The cases of Diarrhea were not severe and being treated at first with purgatives and afterwards ( Pot. Cvetae c. Couf ) ofiat soon recovered.

      On the 2nd January 1829 proceeded on the voyage from Falmouth and on the 10th anchored at Teneriffe. As the ship advanced to a warmer climate the health of the Convicts became considerably improved – on the 31st crossed the equator – being in the tropics during this month a number were affected with continual irritability of stomach and headache induced by change of climate but relieved by one or two purgatives, and the general state of health was good.

      February till the 13th the ship proceeding to the southward with S.E. trade wind, after which wind prevailed from NW to SW. on the 21st passed the island of ( Incitan D Achuna ).
      During this month the atmospheric changes were sudden and frequent from hazy and wet to dry weather.
      One case of fever No.8 and one Catarrh No.9 required to be confined in the Hospital. A number were affected with the latter complaint but in the slight degree and the general state of health was good.

      March the ship advancing towards NSWales in from Lat 40 deg to 44 deg S. winds prevailing from NW to SW generally hazy with occasional rain. Frequently a heavy sea inducing the indisposition of sea sickness, followed in some instances by (—–) and in others by Diarrhea – Several slight cases of Colic & Rheumatism occurred and (—–) fever in those predisposed to ( — ) but general health continued good.

      April – in the beginning of the month reached the Long of N.S.Wales. winds and weather continueing as last month. On the 11th rounded the south of Van Diemens Land and on the 18th arrived in Port jackson, at which time the general state of health on board was good and none of the Convicts required to be sent to the Hospital – they were landed in good health on the 28th.

      In the treatment of the Convicts to preserve health, they were daily examined by mustering. Made to wash clothes twice a week. The between decks kept dry as possible by dry holy stoning and scraping the deck and airing with the (—-) in wet or hazy weather – when within the tropics their woolen clothing was taken from them and returned as the ship advanced to the southward and an additional pair of flannel drawers issued.
      Joseph Cook Surgeon

      Pre 1856 Baptisms:
      Parents John & Jane Green
      Catherine 1836 -1018 -126 -still to check -Reel unavailable requires a birth Certificate
      Frances 1847 -1904 -65 – Yes John & Janes child
      Jane 1842 -1850 -61 Yes John & Janes child
      Mary A 1842 -1849 -61 Yes Jon & Janes child `
      Thomas 1845 -677 -63 Yes John & Janes child

      Mary Ann Green & Jane Green were twins both born on 25/11/1842 and Baptised on 5/12/1842 at Mulgoa by Catholic Priest Mich. Ryan Parents were listed as John Green & Jane Neil [Reference Vol. 61 No’s 1949 & 1850 ]
      Thomas Green was born on 19/6/1845 and Baptised on 8/11/1845 by Catholic Priest Rev. W Vickery
      Abode Of parents was listed as Mulgoa.
      Frances Green was born on 12/11/1847 and Baptised on 23/1/1848 by Catholic Priest J.Keating father John Green Labourer mother Jane Neal Abode of parents was listed as Mulgoa
      Father Keating’s Parish included Mulgoa, South Creek, Penrith, Emu Plains, Nepean & Greendale.

      Notes for JANE O’NEILL:
      It is believed that Jane arrived in Australia as a free person aboard the vessel ” Forth 11 ” in the October of 1830. She arrived with her mother Sarah O’NEILL ( nee MORNING ) and a younger sister named Annie. Her age at the time is believed to have been around 23 years.

      Jane was killed on the 24 December 1869 at “Forest Camp” Tumut as a result of an accident. It is reported that she fell from a dray whilst being under the influence of intoxicating liquour. The dray ran over her. As a result of the accident, one would imagine that the injuries would have been quite extensive. This may account for the fact that Jane was buried the very next day, Christmas Day 1869.
      Her death certificate indicates that there was an inquiry held by P W VYNER, Coroner.
      Her death was registered at Tumut on the 24 December 1869 by J F BLAKE & Henry HILTON, District Registrar.
      The death certificate also indicates that Jane was married to John GREEN in Ireland. This is not correct as they were married in Mulgoa NSW Australia.

      More About JANE O’NEILL:
      Age at Death (Facts Pg): 67 years
      Arrival to Australia: 12 October 1830, Port Jackson, Free person aboard Convict ship ” Forth 11 ”
      Burial: 25 December 1869, Unmarked grave, Tumut Cemetery, Tumut NSW Australia
      Cause of Death: Injuries aquired by falling off a dray whilst intoxicated.
      Death Cert No: 24 December 1869, 452 / 6228 1869 Forest Camp, Tumut NSW Australia
      No of Children: 11

      More About JOHN GREEN and JANE O’NEILL:
      Marriage: 30 April 1831, Parish of Mulgoa NSW Australia

      Children of JOHN GREEN and JANE O’NEILL are:
      2. i. JAMES2 GREEN, b. Abt. 1832, Mulgoa area NSW Australia; d. Abt. 1889, Tumut NSW Australia.
      3. ii. WILLIAM GREEN, b. Abt. 1834, Mulgoa area NSW Australia; d. 19 August 1873, Forbes NSW Australia.
      4. iii. MICHAEL GREEN, b. Abt. 1835, Mulgoa area NSW Australia; d. 28 June 1879, Darling River, Wentworth NSW Australia.
      5. iv. CATHERINE GREEN, b. 12 June 1836, Mulgoa area NSW Australia; d. 29 July 1922, Residence of Thomas Dowling, Bowral NSW Australia.
      6. v. SARAH GREEN, b. 13 February 1838, Mulgoa area NSW Australia; d. Unknown.
      7. vi. JOHN GREEN, b. 15 October 1839, Mulgoa NSW Australia; d. 10 July 1919, Rylstone NSW Australia.
      vii. MARY ANNE GREEN, b. 10 May 1841, Mulgoa area NSW Australia; d. 27 June 1841.

      Notes for MARY ANNE GREEN:
      According to ML Reel 128 St Nicholas of Myre, RC Church, Penrith, Mary Anne was Baptised on the 27 June 1841. Sponsors are listed as Patrick MALLIS and Margaret GEARNS.
      This date is also believed to have been her date of death.
      Her parents were listed as being John GREEN and Jane NEILL, residing at Mulgoa.

      Hope this information gives you more understanding of John Green history

      Greg Green


  5. What an interesting piece! Thanks so much. I researched Peggy and Jimmy Lambert for my ‘People of Capertee Valley’ book, a couple of years ago, and also noted other references to Indigenous local people in newspaper and other reports of the 1800s. Lyn Syme and Mickel Cowie read and approved what I had written and Mickel explained how so many written references in white history have been sanitized, for example where Aborigines were ‘dispersed’ by early settlers this was code for shot and poisoned. Our white history is shameful, mostly just a big land grab by rich people who exploited the environment and ‘dispersed’ the original inhabitants. It did not have to be like that!


      1. My book is available at Capertee General Store for $20, or I could mail you a copy but not sure when I will next be passing a post office, might be a while.


  6. Hullo from Michael Birch. Thank you for your newsletters which bring great revelations. My father in law Thomas Colin Lloyd from “Ferndale” Kandos began my interest. Can you please add his son Thomas John Lloyd to your email list. His email address is Narelleandjohn@hotmail.com Many thanks. Michael 2 April 2020


  7. What wonderful information thank you for sharing. My husband is related to William O’Neill who married Sarah Morning. He was in Australia before Sarah. There was a period they don’t know what happened to him, he was a convict. He managed Gunningbar and then after a decade or so Sarah came to Australia. He lived in Hartley , Wellington and believed to have had connections with the aboriginal people. His daughter Agnes ONeill who had aboriginal descendants but don’t know how or where. Anyone who maybe able to shed light would be great, I know that Jane ONeill was a daughter of William ONeill and they sponsored their granddaughter also may have been a Jane ONeill, I think she married John Green who was related to Rose Lambert who was daughter of Peggy the queen and …. father unsure if it was Aalso king of wiradjurie tribe. Would love to know more as we have reached a dead end.
    My email is anna_maree74@hotmail.com


      1. Hello, Thank you i will check that i have received this. Thank you very much. My email is anna_maree74@hotmail.com please feel free to forward on again. I have lots of emails, so i am not sure what sender i am looking for in my emails. Kind Regards Anna


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