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Field Trip to Yobarnie


This set of photos were sent by Caren Florance following our Field Trip to Yobarnie in January 2014.

The following is an excerpt from an email sent to us by Naomi Parry, who also came along on the Field Trip, and who offered an acknowledgement of country on behalf of our group while we had lunch at Navua Reserve/Yarramundi:

It was a great privilege to be taken around by Ian and Lucas on the Yeomans Project bus in late January and to see the shapes Yeoman cut into his properties. For lunch we stopped at Navua Reserve, on the side of the Grose River. When I looked at the day’s itinerary the destination meant little to me, but when I saw the river I realised I knew this place, but by a different name.

To me this place is Yarramundi, a favourite summer destination for people from Richmond, Penrith and the Blue Mountains. It’s a bit scarred at the moment as it’s had a lot of water flowing through it, but it’s a beautiful soft place, of riverstones and clear water.

The name Yarramundi, which really belongs to the locality, is in honour of a man of the Boorooberongal Clan of the Dharug. Europeans referred to him as Chief of the Richmond Tribes, but he was a doctor, or wise man. Sometimes he is called Yellomundee, as he is in Watkin Tench’s 1793 Complete Account of the Settlement of Port Jackson. Tench tells us that Yarramundi and his father Gomberee, another wise man, met with Governor Arthur Phillip on 14 April, 1791, just three years after the settlement began at Sydney Cove.

Almost exactly two hundred years to the day before our visit, on 28 December 1814, Yarramundi met with another Governor, Lachlan Macquarie, and handed over his nine-year old daughter, Maria, to the care of the Native Institution, then at Parramatta. It is through her that I know the history of this place, as I wrote her story in 2005 for the ‘Missing Persons’ supplement to the Australian Dictionary of Biography. http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lock-maria-13050.

Maria was remarkable for her ability to navigate white society without eschewing her familial bonds or her Aboriginality. In 1819 The Sydney Gazette reported that an Aboriginal girl of 14, thought to be Maria, had won first prize in an anniversary examination, ahead of 20 other pupils from the Native Institution and 100 white pupils. In 1822 she had married Dicky, the son of Bennelong, but he sickened and died the following year. By then she was living at the new Native Institution site at Blacktown and in 1824 met and married a white convict carpenter, Robert Lock. As a convict he was assigned to her: an inversion of traditional patriarchal and racial relations.

In 1831 she did something no Aboriginal person had ever done. She petitioned Governor Darling for land that had been granted to her late brother Colebee, which was sited next to the Native Institution. Colebee had received the land as a reward for working with Nurragingy on an ultimately abortive mission, tracking Aborigines with Macquarie’s men, in 1816. Maria now claimed it, citing her relationship to Colebee, as a daughter of Yarramundi. She received a grant at Liverpool where she was living but she was resolute on the Blacktown land and was finally able to claim it in 1843. It was, in many respects, the first native title claim in Australian history.

Maria and Robert lived well and long and had nine children. The land at Blacktown was lost to the extended family in the 1920s, but some of it and the Native Institution site remains contested. Their legacy, and Yarramundi’s, is in the family they created: up to 7,000 descendants, many of whom still have links with Greater Western Sydney, and identify as Dharug. The Deerubbbin Land Council are active in managing sites like Navua Reserve, and the rivers of the area.

It was a happy and beautiful accident that Ian and Lucas picked Navua Reserve for lunch. It is a fine place to think about land, and how the sense of it, and relationships, run through time.

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