Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Truth about Bungaree and the Broken Bay Aboriginal Tribes Part 1

The true accounts of the first inhabitants in the Woy Woy and Broken Bay area lay scattered across the country in libraries and government records , in fact our own local councils seem to ignore the real truth behind the disappearance of the local tribes back in the 1800's , for there is hardly any record of what happened all in one place. Our local area produced one of the greatest Aboriginal heroes ever - yet hardly anyone knows of him and his achievements and the Government deception that led him from his land near Koolewong to make way for the first white settlers in Woy Woy.
Popular belief the the Darkingjung Tribe are the coast's ancestoral owners are also mis-leading as they inhabited lands west of the coast bounded by Mangrove creek and Yengo National park , they have however assumed the role of caretakers in absence of any remaining Guringai tribe descendants at the time.
In 2002 descendants of the Guringai tribe issued a letter to the Darkingjung Land Council
 " Notification to Cease and desist Misrepresentation of Prehistory Occupation by Aboriginal Peoples In the Area Bounded by Port Jackson in the South , Lake Macquarie in the North and Mangrove Creek in the West - Guringai ( Wannungine/Wannerawa speaking people ) Land "
The Beginning
The coastal Aboriginal tribes were known as the Eora people and consisted of the Sydney tribes ( Kurring-gai / Carigal / Dhurang / Durrouk )the larger coastal Guringai ( Walkeloa clan ) tribes and the Lake Macquarie tribes ( Koompahtoo / Bah Tah Tah / Awakabal ) it is thought that they came to the coast as long as 20,000 years ago , long before the ice age.Scientists have proven that the Aboriginal people have been in Australia as long as 40,000 years and newer research is considering back dating that to 110,000 years.
The tribes were based on family groups and consisted of up to 30 people , there were at least 18 family tribes living along the coast and inland and at peak periods it is estimated about 540 individuals existed , the coastal families were located at: Kincumber , Patonga - Pearl Beach , Brisbane Water - Woy Woy - Gosford , Somersby Falls , Erina - Terrigal - Wamberal - Avoca , Ourimbah - Narrara , Jilliby , Tacoma , Tuggerah , Munmora - Norah Head , Cooranbong - Morriset , Mangrove Mountain - Kulnura and Wollombi.
The coastal tribes interacted closely with their Sydney and Newcastle brothers and meetings were held at special times in secret places hidden in the bushland along the coast , these places were known as Bora ground and were located near natural landforms like exposed sandstone areas with unusual weathering or tessellated patterns or circles of rock in the bushland , they were considered sacred and powerful sites , up to 300 people could gather in these places representing the various coastal tribes. One of these sites is located at Patonga and has a Council road through the middle of it , the same thing happened at the Bulgandry site at Kariong when roads were built in the 1920's.
The tribes around Woy Woy lived happily in the many sandstone caves and had a diet of local wildlife supplemented by the abundant seafood to be found in the waters , they made bark canoes to traverse the Brisbane Water and had a series of markers like road signs scattered through the bush and along the waters edge on trees and rocks that pointed to waterholes and tracks to places. They left many carvings in the sandstone outcrops around Woy Woy and traveled to Mullet Creek to gather ochres to be used in cave paintings and body decorations , a race that existed happily with no need or use for iron tools or the wheel , a race who had evolved over thousands of years and was still evolving at a sustainable pace until white man came along - it was about to come to an end very quickly...

Governor Phillip Arrives
In 1788 Governor Phillip realised that the land at Sydney Cove was not sufficient to support the colony for many years and as a matter of urgency led an expedition to Broken Bay to investigate possible farming land mentioned by Captain Cook.
On March 2 1788 in torrential rain he arrived at Pearl Beach an noticed it was occupied by many Aborigines , fearing them they slept offshore overnight before heading into Brisbane Water the next day , after navigating Half Tide Rocks and The Rip he entered the Broadwater and got as far Gosford before heading back to Sydney.
As he passed the head of Cockle Creek he saw an Aborigine who waved his spear and pointed to Kincumber and said " Kingcoimba ! " then pointed his spear toward Woy Woy and said " Wy Wy " which he knew meant black snake* and he agreed as it was a swampy low lying area , this first friendly meeting impressed him and was in his thoughts as he planned a second more extensive survey the following year.
The second survey explored Erina and Narrara creeks and well as Cockle Creek and Kincumber , Phillip and his party camped at Booker Bay overnight and were met by the local tribe who helped them with fires and gathering fish , at night they exchanged stories and the Aborigines sang the white visitors songs.
The local men were impressed with Phillip because he had one of his front teeth missing - the same as the Aborigines who removed a front tooth during tribal initiation  , wherever Phillip camped overnight inside the Broadwater he was met by friendly natives and this again delighted him , he left Broken Bay to go on and explore the Hawkesbury River and Pittwater.
Also one this trip was a young marine named Robert Webb who was an adapt ship builder and seaman , he noted the Aboriginal canoes and marveled at their lightness and construction , he also noted that the hillsides were covered with trees like mahogany , cedar , beech and many other species suitable for shipbuilding.
White man didn't return to settle the Coast for another 30 years , the local Aborigines were safe for now...

Go to Part 2

Article by Steve Spillard COPYRIGHT 2015


  1. Fabulous! Gonna share on facebook. And I'll contact you about a project I'm working on.

    1. No worries contact blazelands(at)

  2. The location of Bungaree’s gorget, if it still exists, is no longer known. However, from pictures made at the time and descriptions it seems the gorget was crescent-shaped and inscribed ‘Bungaree, Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe, 1815’. The Russian explorers who met Bungaree in 1820 claimed it was made from copper and hung around his neck on a red copper chain. [9] However, a later source claimed it was brass, suspended on a brass chain and inscribed ‘Bungaree, King of the Blacks’, being decorated with ‘the arms of the colony of New South Wales, an emu and a kangaroo’. [10] It is possible also the Bungaree had two gorgets.

    Bungaree may have been the first Aboriginal person to be presented with a gorget because he had a long history of service with naval explorations undertaken by officers associated with the colony" -


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