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Mari nawi ("big canoes"): Aboriginal voyagers in Australia's maritime history, 1788-1855

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posted on 2022-03-28, 03:02 authored by Keith Vincent Smith
The English ships that came into Port Jackson in 1788 changed the lives of the Indigenous People forever. Theirs was a canoe culture and saltwater, as much as the land, was their natural habitat. The alien invaders dispossessed them of their land and brought the smallpox virus that, within two years, killed more than half the original population. -- Driven by the will to survive, many among the surviving Aborigines proved to be resilient. In an unexpected way, the English ships would enable them to adapt to the new reality and to make the transition from bark canoes to ocean-going ships. -- This thesis charts the life experiences of those who remade their lives and played a significant role in Australia's early maritime history, actively assisting the colonists to explore and settle their own country. -- The study focus is on Indigenous People who sailed through Port Jackson in the period 1788-1855. It brings to the foreground men and women whose contribution has never been properly acknowledged, adding the names of some 65 Aboriginal voyagers from Port Jackson, Botany Bay and the Hawkesbury and Shoalhaven rivers to our shared history. -- They would become boatmen, sailors, sealers, whalers and pilots, guides, go-betweens and trackers, valued for their skills and knowledge. Their assistance and cooperation contributed to the fledgling colonial economy. In later years some were officially created 'chiefs' and given land grants, fishing boats and gorgets. -- They were present at critical events as they followed the expanding geography of exploration and the establishment of settlements like Newcastle, Hobart and Melbourne. -- Some, like Bennelong and Bungaree, are famous, but the majority are unknown. -- This work is the result of three years of research, following a paper trail of scattered primary documents: ship's musters, logs, official journals and despatches, petitions, shipping arrival and departures records, shipping news and Claims and Demand notices. It draws on oral, linguistic, pictorial, anthropological and genealogical evidence. -- Fresh research has clarified some historical facts and corrected some longstanding errors.


Alternative Title

Mari nawi, Aboriginal voyagers | Aboriginal voyagers in Australia's maritime history, 1788-1855

Table of Contents

Introduction -- Part 1: Canoes, ships and wooden boats -- A canoe culture -- First voyagers -- Exiles -- With the colonists -- Sealers and whalers -- Tom Chaseland: whaling in New Zealand -- Part 2: With the explorers -- Yeranabe and Worogan on Lady Nelson -- Bennelong's voyage to England -- Gnung-a Gnung-a in North America and Hawaii -- Bungaree: sailing with Matthew Flinders -- Daniel Moowattin and George Caley -- Bowen Bungaree at Moreton Bay and in North America -- Part 3: "Sydney" aborigines and the Palawa "conciliation" -- Aboriginal rovers in Van Dieman's Land -- Batman's treaty -- Epilogue -- Conclusion -- Bibliography -- Appendices: A. Glossary of shipping and whaling terms; B. Tristan Maumby; C. "Norfolk Island" vocabulary.


Includes bibliographical references "15 August 2008".

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University. Division of Society, Culture, Media and Philosophy. Warawara - Department of Indigenous Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Indigenous Studies - Warawara

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

J. L. (James L.) Kohen

Additional Supervisor 1

Terrence James Widders


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2008. Complete version suppressed due to copyright restrictions on illustrations. However, on receipt of a Document Supply Request, placed with Macquarie University Library by another library, we will consider supplying a copy of this thesis. For more information on Macquarie University's Document Supply, please contact






xiv, 354, xxviii ill. (some col.), maps

Former Identifiers

mq:12215 1439812