And So it goes

This is the post excerpt.


DSCN10420003 cropped & autocorrected

It seems that it has become impossible in many blogging sites to ‘like’ or add comments to friend’s posts that I like without joining network’s like google + and wordpress.  So I have.

Initially I had no real aim for this And So It Goes blog, hoping it would shape itself.  It has;  turning out to focus on, and interrogate, the Australian context, culture, and family.

I began blogging in 2013 at ‘For Love of Gaia’.  After a long hiatus I was hoping to be able to return to performance as a sacred art in practice, and blog about it – ‘to explore and foster conversation about the artistic, ethical and philosophical aspects of performance-ritual, that is, performance in the context of ritual and the sacred’.  It hasn’t really turned out that way.

Instead, beginning with quotes, the ‘forloveofgaia’ blogs moved on to topics that explored cultural and religious ideas and questions.  The underlying questions became,

1790 – Elizabeth Pulley’s third year and on the move

Pulley image cropped 3 We left Elizabeth and Anthony at the end of 1789 when everyone in the new colony was feeling abandoned and desperately in need of supplies from Britain.

Growing despair.

The New Year did not fulfil their wishes.  It was now two years since the First Fleet entered Port Jackson and almost three years since it left the homeland.  In that time not a word had reached them directly from England.  The feeling of isolation experienced when the transports had returned to England the previous year deepened.

The supplies which had been brought out with the transports were coming to an end.  Everyone was feeling abandoned and dejected with a growing concern about the lack of food.  As Capt. Tench expressed it, ‘Famine besides was approaching with gigantic strides’.  Phillip did not expect the provisions to last beyond May.  Marines had no shoes, the convicts clothing was in tatters, and the settlement was beginning to look like a gypsy camp.

The only ships left which could be used to procure anything were the Sirius and the Supply.  The previous year the Sirius had travelled to the Cape of Good Hope to obtain provisions.  During the journey it suffered storm damage and had been out of commission for eight months.  Now repaired, plans were instigated to send it to China to obtain more.  It never made it.

Lightening the load.

To ease the stress on the settlement at Sydney Cove, and as prospects seemed more promising at Norfolk, Phillip had gradually over the years sent more and more convicts and marines to the island.  In March Lt. Ross, some officers, a company of marines, and about two hundred convicts, including children and their belongings, were placed on board the Sirius and Supply to be relocated there.

All on shore watched anxiously as the ships sailed out of the harbour and disappeared from view.  The passengers on the Sirius were to be landed at Norfolk Island on the ship’s way to China, and the Supply was to return to the Cove.  Landing at Norfolk had never been easy, and this time the Sirius was caught in the currents and hit a reef.  Although no lives were lost the ship was wrecked.  Phillip was devastated.

Last chance.

With a heavy heart Phillip ordered the last remaining vessel, the Supply, to be prepared to sail for Batavia the following month.  It was to procure flour and, while there, hire another vessel to bring back more supplies.  After the Supply’s departure the settlement was placed on its severest rationing yet and work was reduced so that time could be spent at home gardening;  not that many took advantage of it.

Tightening the belt

All private provisions and remaining animals were taken for public use and carefully guarded.  The killing of animals was forbidden, not that this prevented people, that is, convicts, marines, and seamen, stealing or killing them.  Punishment increased in severity.  Phillip turned over his private supply of flour for public use and placed himself on the same rations as everyone else.

Fishing was a priority and, as the seines now needed repair, Traditional Aboriginal-style techniques and equipment were employed instead.  Attempts were made to hunt the local kangaroos but their wariness made them a difficult target and the enterprise was soon abandoned.

Boilers were erected on the east side of the Cove to extract salt from sea water.  Salt was essential for preserving meat.  A tallow-hut was built, probably for making candles and soap.  As original structures were now starting to decay, the building and repair, especially of secure storehouses, continued slowly.

The silence in the settlement weighed heavily as so many living quarters were now empty and little work was being undertaken by marines or convicts.  Rumours of England’s abandonment of the colony were rife.  People were seen crying.  Officers wrote of how Captain Cook had led them astray and that this country was an alien land which did not support life.[1]  Phillip had already had enough and sent a letter home requesting temporary leave.

Elizabeth and Anthony

So far I have found no mention of Elizabeth, Anthony and son Robert during this time.  Like everyone else they would have been affected by the lack of food, resulting in little energy. Anthony’s work at the brickworks would have been reduced.  It may be possible that Elizabeth’s sentence was now over, although Anthony probably still had some time to serve.[2]

So everyone struggled through. In May, although Phillip had tried to conceal how badly the settlement was doing, it must have been obvious and Bà-n-eelon made his escape.  Undeterred, Phillip ordered the ground to be prepared ready for planting of wheat and barley in both the Cove and at Rose Hill.

Desperate for help from Britain

Since the arrival of the First Fleet a party of marines had been sent to Botany Bay every week just in case an English vessel had arrived there by mistake, but none had.  In January of 1789 a party of seamen had been sent to the bluff on South Head and a flag-pole erected so that a flag could be raised as a signal at the first sighting of ships.  During the following months, as the waiting continued, the temporary shelters that had been erected there were replaced by permanent huts.[3]

Then the miracle everyone had been hoping for occurred.  On 3rd June, while the celebrations for the King’s birthday were being prepared, a flag was seen raised at South Head.  Excitement and confusion reigned.  People ran about aimlessly, some women with children in their arms.  Others hugged each other.  Everyone held their breath.  Phillip headed off down the harbour to check and returned with the news that a transport from England, the Lady Juliana, had finally arrived.

Disappointing news

However all was not as expected.  The transport carried over two hundred women convicts, some too old to work, and no supplies apart from two years provisions for the women on board.  It also carried news of other transport ships and their convict loads following closely behind.  The most devastating news was that the fleet’s supply ship, the Guardian, with its load of supervisors, skilled workers, and provisions, had been shipwrecked on an iceberg at the Cape of Good Hope.  Those items which had been salvaged were transferred to the other ships in the fleet.

The Lady Juliana also brought news from home of the King’s illness, the French Revolution, and letters from family and friends.  A few days later work was suspended and a public Thanksgiving Service held to celebrate the King’s recovery.  The whole settlement attended the service, with Rev. Johnson presiding.  Afterwards the Officers dined and were entertained at Government House.

…better news

Throughout the month four more transports sailed into the harbour discharging their cargoes of male and female convicts, the first detachments of the soldiers who were to replace the marines, and, on the Justinian, some extra provisions and stores.  As soon as the stores were landed the full allowance of rationing was restored, afternoon work reinstituted, and the daily routine once more signalled by the drum.  Bread was baked, liquor distributed, every convict received a pair of shoes, and women were employed sewing new slops (clothes) for the men.

…and disorder

Stealing had not eased with the arrival of the Second Fleet and the reinstatement of full rations.  As soon as the first ships were anchored, people were caught sneaking on board to take anything they could.  In the hospitals and sick tents the sick would steal from each other.

The hospital was full.  A large number of the Second Fleet’s convicts had not been well cared for on their journey, having been shackled like slaves.  Many convicts had died.  The bodies of those who died on arrival were thrown overboard into the harbour or buried on the North Shore.  Even more died during the following months.  Burials were almost a daily occurrence, although weddings kept a similar pace.  According to one of the recently arrived female convicts, ‘The Governor was very angry, and scolded the captains a great deal’, saying ‘it was murdering’.

By the end of June three hundred and forty nine new arrivals had been admitted to the hospital.  By mid-July this increased to four hundred and eighty eight.  The hospital overflowed.  A portable hospital and extra ‘sick tents’ were erected.  The stores, also, had been damaged.  One thousand and twenty eight pounds of rice and one thousand five hundred pounds of flour had to be condemned.

The masters of the ships, hoping to take advantage of the great need in the settlement, immediately set up their own stores to sell clothing, accessories, and other goods at highly inflated prices.  Needless to say they did not sell much.  They had misjudged the amount of money available in the colony and soon admitted defeat, packing up their goods and returning to England with them.

The settlement was now bursting with activity and people.  It was a case of everyone for themselves.  As housing was limited, long-term residents were shuffled to make way for the new.  One newcomer, Capt. Hill, could not believe the state of the colony, the lack of buildings and resources, and the rationing with which he was made to comply.  His letter home laid the blame squarely on Phillip’s ignorance and lack of ability.  I guess he felt he could have made a better job of it.

Phillip at wit’s end

Phillip, on his part, was responding yet again to news of England’s plan to continue sending two fleets of convicts per year from its overcrowded English and Irish gaols.  All he could do was stress how difficult it was to motivate long-term convicts to do anything, and how little support the civil and military officers were willing to give.  He viewed them all as ‘dead weight’, and continued to beg England to send supervisors, artisans, agricultural experts and free settlers instead.  It was a long and frustrating battle.

By the end of August all the transports were on their journey back to England, taking with them those marines and officers who wanted to return, as well as letters and other gifts to family members and the Home Office.  That was not all.  Some had an extra cargo of stowaways, often with full knowledge of the ships masters.  The absconders who were caught during the pre-sailing raids were returned to shore and punished.

The colony expands west, attended by the NSW corps

By the end of the year most of the new arrivals had been bundled off to Norfolk Island and Rose Hill where the focus of agricultural effort was now concentrated.  A few remained at the Cove to assist with public building and maintenance, or to be maintained as servants.  Both groups were also joined by a detachment from the NSW corps, which was to work alongside the Marines.  Our story now moves with them.

Rose Hill/Parramatta,

 After the arrival of the Second Fleet, the establishment of the satellite town at Rose Hill took on greater urgency.  The town was laid out, boundaries tagged, and the sites for an overnight house for the Governor, huts for the convicts, and barracks for the soldiers, marked.  As bricks and tiles were made in Sydney, a road was built from the brick kilns to the Cove for their transportation.  Bricks were then ferried to Rose Hill by boat.  Another road was laid out at Rose Hill from the landing place to allow their transport west to the hill.  Bricklayers and labourers were gradually relocated there to build the much-needed storehouses and huts and clear tracks of land for cultivation.

Dharug and Guringai unrest

Conflict between the new arrivals and local Indigenous Australians continued.  My reading of the journal records is that the settlers robbed the local Indigenous People frequently and that most of the Indigenous attacks were on straying cattle or for food.  A number of the Dharug people expressed their anger at the invasion at Rose Hill and that they were being forced further and further out as their land, food and water resources were increasingly being taken over.

However the problems were more widespread than that.  The Indigenous People had kept well away from both settlements during this time.  They were probably terrified of getting sick or being captured as well as aghast at seeing yet another load of intruders being deposited onto their land.  Also, during winter, the fish had disappeared and Aboriginal families and groups had moved to where food was more plentiful.  A few had been sighted in August by Officers on an excursion southwest of Rose Hill.

Early in September a party on the way to Broken Bay[4] had come across Baneelon and Colby in a group at Manly[5] who expressed their fear of the Governor’s game keeper, McEntire.  Later that day at Broken Bay a young aboriginal man speared Phillip in the shoulder, misinterpreting the Governor’s gesture of peace for one of aggression.  He was a local Guringai man, so probably unaware of the peaceful relations that Phillip and the Officers were used to having with those they knew.  The wound was not fatal and Phillip soon recovered.  However, the garrison at Rose Hill was strengthened.

Elizabeth, Anthony and Robert on the move

It was likely that at some stage during the second half of the year that Elizabeth, Anthony and Robert moved to Rose Hill, being transported there by boat along Parramatta River.  Whether they were part of the group of bricklayers and labourers who moved there in July, or whether they were sent there once clay had been discovered and brick-making commenced in September, is a matter of conjecture.  All I am aware of is that in March of the following year Anthony was charged at Rose Hill with being in possession of a pair of stolen shoes.  It was also during this period that Elizabeth became pregnant with their second child.

Although located at Rose Hill, Elizabeth and Anthony would have known of Phillip’s accident and of other events occurring in Sydney.  The movement of people and goods between Rose Hill and the Cove was a daily occurrence and news of the comings, goings, and shenanigans at both settlements would have been the topic of many conversations.

Runaways and executions

Runaways had been a constant feature of both settlements since arrival.  Some runaways returned starving, others were found dead in the bush, and still others were never heard of again.

Three events particularly would have been of great interest to Elizabeth and Anthony.  The first was the surrender early in the year of ‘Black Caesar’, a man of African heritage who had been working as a servant in England and had been charged with stealing.  He was transported to Australia on the Alexander, the same ship as Anthony and became a repeated absconder.[6]  On his surrender Caesar spoke of seeing cattle[7] in the care of an Aboriginal group.

The second was the abscondment of five male convicts in a stolen punt from Rose Hill to Sydney Cove in September.  On reaching the Cove the escapees stole another boat and headed out to sea, never to be seen again.  The escape had been carefully planned, with the men taking provisions, bedding, clothes and utensils with them.  They had collected their provisions over a number of weeks, so everyone in the settlement would have known about it.

Another major event was the execution of two men found guilty of armed robbery at Rose Hill in October.

Bà-n-eelon and Còl-bee re-appear

In October an interesting reversal took place at Sydney Cove.  One day Bà-n-eelon and Còl-bee caused quite a stir by returning to the settlement with a few friends. They proceeded to show their friends around and introduce them to those they knew.  Gradually the visits of the local Aboriginal People increased in frequency until they occurred on a daily basis.  While in the settlement they would be fed and sometimes slept overnight.  As the frequency increased Aboriginal women began to leave their children in the settlement to be fed and cared for while they went on ‘walkabout’.  Food was scarce, but no longer scarce in town


Bà-n-eelon’s visits became so frequent that Phillip built a hut on the point on the East side of the Cove for him and his family, which probably included his second wife Barangaroo[8].  Sometimes the sounds of Baneelon’s group singing and dancing around the fire at night could be heard in the town.  By December Bà-n-eelon, Còl-bee and a group of friends would remain in the settlement three or four days at a time.  During one of these visits Abaroo, who had been living with the clergyman’s family, went to join them.[9]  Nanbarree, who had been living with Surgeon White, also spent a night away but returned the next day.

In December some of the local Aboriginal people joined Phillip on one of his regular visits to Rose Hill.  Bà-n-eelon, Barangaroo and Còl-bee also visited at various times.  However none stayed long, indicating they wanted to return to Sydney as soon as possible.  Barangaroo would not even stay overnight.  None seemed comfortable in the area[10].


In any case the visits at both settlements came to an abrupt end later in the month when McEntire, Phillip’s game-keeper, was fatally speared while in Botany Bay.  In a way it was not unexpected.  The aboriginal people did not like him and, in fact, feared him.  Even Còl-bee had expressed his fears to Phillip when they had met in September.

The story was that McEntire had been staying in an overnight hut on the North shore of Botany Bay when some of the local Dharug approached him.  Thinking they were friends, he walked towards them unarmed.  One of the group speared him.  McEntire made it back to the settlement hospital where Còl-bee and others came in expressing their concern.  They gave the name of the perpetrator as Pemulwuy, from Bid-ee-gal group living in Botany Bay, and promised to deal with him.[11]

Nevertheless Phillip was so outraged at what seemed an unprovoked attack that he reluctantly, and not without opposition from some Officers, sent out two successive parties to capture and bring back, or kill, as an example, six of the clan.  Both raids were unsuccessful.  The Dharug in the area had long gone and the parties ended up getting lost, probably due to misdirection by their Indigenous guides.  Còl-bee’s and Bà-n-eelon’s, promises of ‘taking care of Pemulwuy’ were also never carried out.  In fact, at one stage they were seen going in a totally different direction.

McEntire finally died in January 1991.  It was suspected that the attack on him had not been unprovoked:  if not this time, then on previous occasions.  The feeling in the settlement was that he did not treat the First Nations people kindly and they definitely did not trust him.  Judge-Advocate Collins wrote, ‘this man had been suspected of having wantonly killed or wounded several of the natives in the course of his excursions after game’.

Settling in

By the end of 1990 Rose Hill was becoming a thriving community.  Land had been cleared, crops planted and the brick kiln erected. Well over five hundred convicts had moved there.  Convict huts had been built along two cross streets, each with its own garden;  thirty two men only group houses along the main street, nine houses for single women along the cross street, and ‘several small huts where convict families of good character are allowed to reside’ – most likely where Elizabeth, Anthony and Robert lived.[12]

Rose Hill 2 cropped

The Governor’s hut was finished, and the barracks begun.  The new storehouse was nearly complete.  There was a church camp, a blacksmith’s, a hospital, a bakery, brick-kilns where Anthony probably worked, the superintendent’s house, and cattle-yards, and on the other side of the river, the Government farm, barn and granary.

Ending the year on a good note.

The end of 1990 also saw the arrival of the Dutch snow, Waaksamheyd, hired by the Supply in Batavia to bring out flour, rice and salt.  And, at Rose Hill, a Christmas divine service would have been conducted by Rev. Johnson, with all in attendance.[13]

[1] Initially British agricultural and husbandry practices did not naturally thrive in the Australian environment and the colonial leaders were constantly on the lookout for more appropriate sites.  It is interesting to be updating this in 2020 when Australia is in the middle of an horrendous drought and fire season, as well as diminishing water supplies.  The whole issue of appropriate land and water use practices is being seriously debated.

[2] There were a number of convicts who had now completed their sentences, were officially ‘free’, and under no obligation to work.  Some of them wanted to return to England.  Phillip did not know what to do with them and had written to Home Office requesting instructions.

[3] According to https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/south_head ‘Aboriginal names for the area were recorded as Woo-la-ra or Tarralbe for Outer South Head, Burra-wa-ra or Barraory for Inner South Head, and Mit-ta-la (or Metallar) for Green Point (Laings Point). According to the same source Nanbarry, made an unsubstantiated claim in 1790 that, ‘as it is recorded in the journals, this was one place the aborigines did not go near.  To them the area was considered to be a ‘place of death’’.  The journals record that the area was understood to be a burial or cremation ground, and a place of ‘engagements’ (i.e. a place where internal and intertribal conflicts were resolved through ‘payback’ combat).  Arabanoo was taken there in February for a visit where he demonstrated Indigenous burial practices and how to light a fire with two sticks.

[4] Probably the land of the Wannungine/Wannerawa band of the Guringai nation

[5] Land of Cannalgal or Kayimai people of the Guringai nation.  Some Indigenous Australian’s interpretation of this event is that the spearing of Phillip could have been intentional but was not aimed at killing him.  Rather, because the spear used was not a ‘killing spear’ with barbs, and the position of entry was not in an area of the body which would have been fatal, it could have been a warning that they were unhappy with the way that they had been treated and with the actions of McEntire, and a sign of acceptance/respect in accordance with their tradition of ‘payback’ .

[6] ‘Black Caesar’s’ story appears to be one of working hard and reliably for periods, followed by stealing, being charged and escaping into the bush.

[7] Cattle had disappeared from the Governor’s farm in 1788.

[8] The area is now named Bennelong Point where the Opera House is located.  B’à-n-eelon’s first wife had died.  Barangaroo was from the Cammeraygal band from the north side of the harbour and must have been imposing as this was remarked upon by the officers.  She was also a fishing woman and in control of the food supply, making and using lines and hooks to fish from a canoe, with a small fire inside for cooking the catch.  She did not like the new arrivals at all, refusing to mix with, or dress like, them.  Barangaroo Reserve is named after her and, in addition to everyday public access, serves as a focal site for Indigenous ceremonial events.  When she died in 1791 Barangaroo was buried in Phillip’s garden as were her daughter, Dilboong, who died in infancy and Arabanoo.

[9] Abaroo, also known as Boorong, became Baneelon’s third wife after the death of Barangaroo.

[10] My understanding is that band/clan/language differences needed to be respected and ‘just arriving’ without proper ceremony was unacceptable and could be dangerous.

[11] Pemulwuy was later to lead the guerrilla-style resistance against the outward thrust of English settlement in areas around the Georges River, the Nepean, and beyond.

[12] I thought I read, possibly in an Historical Journal, that the married quarters were near the brick kilns but as I am unable to find the reference this cannot be confirmed.

[13] Rev. Johnson had been complaining of the lack of attendance during the year until Phillip announced that those who did not attend in future would experience a reduction in rations.

‘Rusty’ Rups’ liberation from Kranji, September 1945

During World War II my father, who had been conscripted into the Dutch Army, was captured by the Japanese and incarcerated in Changi and Kranji prisoner-of-war camps for three years.  He wrote a number of short accounts of this time and emailed them to friends and contacts.[1]  I have previously uploaded another of these accounts as Rusty Rups’ Xmas in the camps.

The Japanese officially signed the terms for reoccupation on 4th September 1945, and the surrender was complete on 12th September.  The filmed church service at Kranji celebrating liberation is dated 7th September 1945.  This is my father’s story.[2]

“I decided to…tell you a funny story about the camps.  The Kranji camp I was in when we were liberated was situated in an old rubber plantation.  There were a number of bamboo huts with thatched leaves (as) roofs; home to centipedes, (and) when they had a fight up there one would fall down and give you a hell of a fright.  The camps (were) surrounded with a double barbed wire fence” and “the Jap soldiers used to patrol in between those fences.

At a distance from the huts were deep boreholes used as latrines.  Some had seats but others had slats to squat on.  It was a complete open space, no divisions, so there (were) always happy conversations going on.  From that came the word borehole(‘s double-) meaning: ‘rumour’.  Someone from the camp would come up to you and say, ‘did you hear the borehole, they are going to move the camp?’”

“Also there were some smart guys who would trade with the Jap guard (and sell) over the fence.”

“In the centre of the camp was an open area where four blocks of concrete were laid well apart, and on each…were six showers.  All (were) in the open, of course.  Why would you worry to put up partitions?”

“The advancing troops arrived a few days after the Japs surrendered, (and) in that convoy were also amenity people: a concert party and women to look after ‘these poor buggers’.  They were so eager to be kind to us that they arrived at the gate with their vans and walked straight into the camp…  There was pandemonium.

The war was over (and) there were no working parties, so everyone went (their) own way. (They were) coming out of the barracks with a towel over (their) shoulder…a piece of soap in (their) hand, and starting to have a good shower.  When all (the) women came in there was no escape.  The barracks were a distance away and one had to rinse the soap off before one could put a towel around one’s body.

Well, the next day the day’s orders stated the times one was allowed to shower and use the toilet.  In haste, bamboo partitions were obtained and a few days later all was civilized again.”

“Love to you all, Frank Rups (in the camps my name was Rusty;  Rusty Rups)”

in Singapore on release from POW

in Singapore upon release from the camps

[1] This account was emailed 28th March, 2000.

[2] My edits for continuity are in brackets.

Response to ‘Dark Emu’

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PREAMBLE: December 2019.  I wrote Response to Dark Emu in April 2019.  It is now December 2019 and a controversy has arisen within and outside the Aboriginal community around the claims in the book and Bruce Pascoe’s background, with some questioning and others supporting the research analysis.  As in my initial response below, many Australians were excited to read this book and to have, finally, a compact consolidation of information about early Australian Aboriginal life.  No doubt the conflict will play out in the media until a definitive answer is reached.  In the meantime, encouraged by an article in The Saturday Paper, I am happy to stand by my original response.

I’ve just finished reading Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe[i], and was challenged by a contact to follow up and write a response.  I’m not sure if what I will have to say will add anything to the information out there, but here we go.

For a while there have been a number of articles online and through my networks about how badly we, that is the general Australian public, have got ‘it’ wrong;  the ‘it’ referring to the truth about pre-colonial indigenous Australian presence and civilization.  It is not so much that the early Europeans who were dumped here, as well as those coming by choice as explorers and claimers of land did not know, they did, and recorded it in their journals and letters.  It is more that this truth was never recorded in and taught as part of accepted Australian history, and my understanding is that it is still being ignored.

Bruce Pascoe has done the research through the journals and letters, and the drawings that accompany them, as well as archaeological evidence, and consolidated the research into compelling evidence of pre-colonial Australian indigenous life:  of permanent and semi-permanent settlements and villages; of agriculture, irrigation practices, and food preservation and storage; of animal husbandry and aquaculture; and of inter-tribal, or clan group, co-operation and trade.  What existed here were thriving communities, not only the ‘hunter-gatherers’ depicted in accepted Australian history.

Why has this early history been ignored?  Well, that is what conquerors do.  They dehumanize and devalue those who are already living in the territory they wish to conquer so that they feel justified in doing so.  In 1998 I wrote a text for the video which became the hypothesis for my thesis.  Part of it follows.

‘I am a displaced woman
Living in a strange land,
     not mine by right
But claimed by my recent past

My people came from the North
What is it about the North that gives “right of possession?”
The right to see a land
     and a people
          and say
               and feel
that it is O.K. to take possession
That we are more civilised
     and will benefit those already on that land
That we will bring a better morality
     a better understanding of life
     a better experience of life
That we have the answers.

The vanity.....the foolishness...’[ii]

What is also interesting is the continuing affect this paternalistic, Eurocentric attitude has on what the rest of the world considers to be important, and what we study and learn.  Last year I read of the discovery of stone pillars in Turkey of 10th to 8th millennium BCE – ‘the world’s oldest known megaliths’ – and that religion in the area appears to have an earlier history than previously considered.  Well, apparently Australia had its own ancient standing stones positioned in a way that could have had cosmological significance – how come I wasn’t taught that?

The regions around Turkey and the middle East have long been perceived as the beginnings of modern civilization, when hunter-gatherers began to settle, and from where their practices spread.  However that may be an illusion.  All history is interpreted from the perspective of whoever is interpreting it and information available.  What if, at the same time or even before, indigenous Australians had also settled and engaged in similar practices of planting, harvesting and storing local strands of grain, baking bread and cakes, corralling animals and building permanent homes?  What then?

The other accepted story is that we all emerged from East Africa, travelling north-east and then split off; groups moving north, or further east, and some moving through the south of India to Australia.  From the Human Journey,[iii]

‘Another hypothesis is that Homo erectus reached the Near East about 125 KYA and from there they moved across Asia and into Europe around 43 KYA in one direction, and east to South Asia, reaching Australia around 40 KYA in the other direction. East Asia was reach by 30 KYA.’

However, what if this is not the case, as seems to be one of the underlying questions in Dark Emu.  This year I came across an article which placed humans in Australia 120,000 years ago, not long after it is accepted that humans arrived in the Near East.[iv]   While I respect, have great interest in, and support The Human Journey project, the above information clearly needs to be updated, and I’m sure it will be as information comes to hand.  However it is the Western bias of archaeology and interpretation which continues to prioritise the information that reaches the general public and becomes ‘fact’.

Pascoe also challenges the Western mindframe and history of dependence on conquest, innovation and intensification in contrast to early indigenous Australian’s culture of kinship and cosmology (spiritual), sharing of resources, the land viewed as being held in common, and an aim of continuance. The types of crops and agricultural practices, the aquaculture system, and the land caring and clearing practices all worked with the Australian environment, not against it.  To continue with my 1998 text,

‘Yet we bring in all the trappings of an alien life
     and suffocate what is already there
          alien food
          alien clothes
          alien morality
          alien spirituality
          alien lifestyle
Nothing...not one thing

So we fight...and fight...
     to survive
Fight the land
     Fight the people of the land
We do not listen
     We do not see
     We do not respond
until we have created a space...an environment
     that is our own
Then and only then do we feel
     a sense of place
But it is an alien place in this land
It sits on top...
               all that is here
All that makes this land itself.’

Earlier this year I read Position Doubtful by Kim Mahood (Australia, Scribe, 2016).  I was struck by her need to repeatedly return to the country in which she was born, to remember and reinforce her connection on a deeper level.  On page 213 she writes,

‘Finding an iconography and an organising principle that was embedded in my own hybrid European-Antipodean culture became my driving preoccupation.  The ancestral imprint that gave the desert paintings such authority and power was not available to me.  Nor were the domestic and ceremonial elements of women’s paintings.  I needed to find an equivalent that belonged to my own culture.’

It so reminded me of why I travelled the well-worn track of my thesis, both physically and theoretically, and that this project continues to haunt me and has been part of the way I define myself.  I would like to think that if the forebears who made decisions about acceptable history and education had had the foresight to include the real pre- and post- colonial history warts and all, as well as the language and permitted songs, dances and beliefs or cosmology of indigenous Australians, I would not have been left feeling so alienated later in life as I became aware of that loss.  I would like to think that as a child I would have found it fascinating and fun.[v]

Dark Emu presents the real pre-colonial history which included alternatives to our current agricultural and animal husbandry practices, alternatives that work with the land rather than against it.  It seems to me that Pascoe is hoping that the rest of Australia will wake up so that the next generation of Australians will learn another way, especially as we seem to be losing the race with self-sustainability and climate change.

We have an election coming up.  The current government is focusing on economic prosperity and growth, and seem to be ignoring the cost in environmental and human terms;  the opposition and some other candidates, including the Greens, are championing climate change, sustainability, alternative energy sources, education, and health with a focus on community.  The Indian-owned Adani coal mine has just been given the go ahead by the federal government in spite of opposition from many Australians, including the traditional land owners who are now being threatened with covering Adani’s court costs.  So I guess we will see what the majority of Australians really do care about, and if they are yet ready to listen.

To continue,

‘And what of our spirituality?
Those religions which came with us from the North?
     from elsewhere?
They also sit on top
     uneasy in their new location
Imposing their rituals
     their beliefs
     their festivals
     their seasons
on a place that does not connect...communicate

Their place...their heart...
     like the people who worship them
          is not here.
It is in another land
where they make pilgrimage
          always away...
               never here...
                    never here

How then can we aliens feel a sense of place
     of belonging
     of home
     of spiritual home
when we ignore and are ignorant of all that is here...
     that was here from the beginning?

Can we recover what was lost...
     connect with what was ignored...
          or is it already too late
               too late to make a beginning
                    to take the first step
                         to take time to make the first step?’

c. Annette Maie, 2019


[i] Pascoe, Bruce, Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture.  Broome, WA, Magabala, 2018 (2014).  Reconciliation NSW has put together a recommended reading list on Indigenous Australian cultures, history and politics, 10 Recommended books

[ii] Women and the Land, 1998.  At the time of my own gaining awareness, sorting and writing I did not go so far as say ‘murder those already living on the land’, but that is the reality of what occurred.  A continually updated Map of known massacres of tribes in Australia is available.  It is an eye-opener.

[iii] http://www.humanjourney.us/

[iv] http://ancientnews.net/2019/03/11/archaeology-places-humans-in-australia-120000-years-ago/?fbclid=IwAR2kYplDVu27MLHqmVeoAm4ja91TelzZw_2NBIzodvZdmbFYqPkjweIkV9I

[v] I was so impressed by the response of New Zealanders to the murders of Moslem worshippers this year, including the young people of many nationalities joining their Maori brothers and sisters in performing the traditional Haka: such a symbol of unification tied to the longer heritage of that land.  I remember in the 1970’s being taught a Haka by a New Zealander of European descent, yet he had learnt the movement and song at school.  At that stage the hidden story of indigenous Australians had not yet reached me, although now I am aware that the reaching out had begun decades earlier.

1789 – Elizabeth Pulley’s second year

pulley image cropped 3 The following is the next in the series of my version of Elizabeth’s first years in Australia[1][2].  The story is my take on what life would have been like for Anthony and Elizabeth, and draws on events that would have affected them directly or of which they would have been aware.  The previous instalment, 1788 – Elizabeth Pulley’s first year, finished in December 1788 at the time of Ar-ab-anoo’s capture.  Ar-ab-anoo was probably from the Kayimai  of the Guringai nation who were living around North Sydney/Manly.


The second year of settlement began with New Year celebrations, which included the usual hoisting of the flag, suspension of work, and the Governor’s dinner at which Ar-ab-an-noo was in attendance.  The band played, a singer sang, but Ar-ab-an-noo was not impressed and went to sleep. Ar-ab-a-noo’s abduction had led to a few months of relative peace.  The Traditional Owners, understandably, kept their distance, as the little trust they may have had in the British would have evaporated.

Ar-ab-a-noo, Nān-bar-ee and Ab-ar-óo

Ar-ab-a-noo was quick to learn the English language and customs, and was taken back to his people a few times so they could see he was not harmed.  But his people kept well away.  Phillip’s plan had backfired.  By April Ar-ab-a-noo’s fetter was taken off and he was free to move around the settlement, causing comment wherever he went.  In the same month disaster struck.

Reports were coming in of large numbers of Aboriginal People being found dead around the cove and along the coast.  It was small-pox, probably brought in by the British.  Whereas the settlers were immune, being previously exposed to this disease, the Indigenous population had no resistance.  Between April and June they died in their hundreds[3].

A number of Indigenous Australians who were found sick but still alive, were brought into the settlement’s hospital for treatment.  Of those, two children survived.  The boy, Nãn-bar-ee, was adopted by Mr. White, the surgeon-general, and the girl, Ab-ar-òo, was ‘received into’ the family of Mrs. Johnson, the clergyman’s wife.  [4]

Then, in May, Ar-ab-a-noo, who had been tending his people in the hospital, became ill, and died eight days later.  According to Captain Tench, ‘the governor, who particularly regarded him, caused him to be buried in his own garden, and attended the funeral in person’.  I wonder if his remains were ever found or are still under, supposedly, The Museum of Sydney?

East side vertical

East side of the Cove: Governor’s residence on corner of Bridge and Loftus Sts. [5]

The developing town

Life for Elizabeth, Anthony, and now Robert, continued with little change.  Couples married (Anthony was witness to a friend’s wedding in September), children were born, and a number of them and their mothers died during or after birth.  The building and organisation of the settlement struggled on.

Two roads, one linking the landing, hospital and stores, and another down to the magazine and Observatory, were under construction.

Sydney cove west side vertical

West side of Sydney Cove[6]

A second and more stable boat was being built to transport supplies between the Cove and Rose Hill.  Temporary shelters were slowly being replaced by more permanent brick buildings and Anthony would have been busy at the brickworks.  

The brickworks[7]

Well, most of the time.  On 11th February Anthony, along with John Summers, was charged with ‘neglecting to work where ordered’, and ordered 25 lashes.  Then, on 9th March, Anthony was charged again, and ordered 25 lashes.  Perhaps there was a reason for his reticence.


The brickworks were well out of town, so there was always a potential lack of supervision of workers there.  It seems that conflict between the brickworkers and Traditional custodians, probably the Gadigal or Kamegal bands of the Dharug nation, which had come to public attention in December, was not isolated and on 6th March it came to a head.  Members of the Brickmaker’s gang, and some others, armed with working tools and large clubs, went towards Botany Bay to attack and to plunder their fishing-tackle and spears.

They were met or ambushed, depending on source, by a group of Indigenous Australians who killed one of the convicts and injured seven others.  The convicts who escaped gave the alarm and an officer, with a detachment of marines, was sent to rescue the wounded and bring them back.  Later two more armed parties of marines reconnoitred the area to signal the Governor’s disapproval.

Over the next couple of months the convicts involved were rounded up, charged, and ordered 150 lashes and to wear a leg iron for a year.  Samuel Day, who had been Elizabeth’s accomplice in the sea-pye incident the previous May, was one of them.  Anthony, however, was not on the list.  I would like to think that his reason for shirking work during this period was because he would have known of the plans for the impending attack and he did not want to be part of it.  So, he stayed away.  But I could be quite wrong.  He may have just been ‘slacking off’.

Protecting food supply, the Night Watch, and mutinies

As well as ‘slacking off’, the stealing of anything and everything at both Sydney Cove and the newly established Rose Hill gardens by all and sundry continued unabatedly.  In March six marines were executed for a well-organised and long-term exercise of systematically robbing from the stores.  By August a Night Watch was established in both places to try and quell the nighttime raids.  It turned out to be very effective.

Tension between the officers continued.  This time Lieutenant-Governor Ross turned his ire on Governor Phillip and Judge-Advocate Collins.  Ross’ complaints related to the chain of command being abused, and he, or his officers, being slighted or sidelined.  Underlying the complaint was the old grievance of who was in charge of whom and who should be required to do what.  The newly established Night Watch, which was instructed to stop and detain marines as well as convicts, was also a sore point.

Ross had had enough, and openly, and inappropriately, complained about his situation.  He was heard publicly stating, ‘Would to God my time was expired, too’.  He was soon to get his wish.  Plans were already being made in Britain to bring the marines home and replace them with an army corps.  But Ross was not the only discontent.  Insurrection was also becoming a problem at Norfolk Island.  In March news had come from there of an unsuccessful convict mutiny.

The Kings birthday and the first play

The tension was somewhat diverted mid-year with the celebration of the King’s Birthday.  This time the officers were entertained at dinner in the newly built Government House (cnr. Bridge & Phillip Sts).  The highlight of the night was the performance of Farquhar’s comedy of the Recruiting Officer by some of the convicts.

Sixty people attended the play, held in a convict-hut especially fitted up for the occasion with

‘three or four yards of stained paper, and a dozen farthing candles stuck around the mud walls’.  A ‘prologue and an epilogue, written by one of the performers, were also spoken on the occasion;  which…contained some tolerable allusions to the situation of the parties, and the novelty of a stage-representation in New South Wales.’

Expansion beyond the Cove

In the meantime explorations continued further west of Rose Hill, and north-west along the Hawkesbury River, past Richmond Hill and the waterfall at the junction of the Grose and Nepean rivers.[8]

from the cove to the hawkesbury

The usual selection of seeds and vegetables were planted in any potentially suitable site on the way.  The parties noted yam planting, animal traps, hunting huts, and other signs of organised Aboriginal husbandry.[9]  They also noted the after-effects of torrential rain and flooding, which meant that the area would not be suitable for European agriculture.  Every attempt to go further, towards the Carmarthen and Blue Mountains, was still thwarted by the rugged countryside.

Diminishing stock and food reserves

Back in the settlements provisions were, as usual, limited. Rats, which had decimated everything in March, still proved to be a problem in the stores in October. There was an imbalance in new births of sheep and goats, with significantly more males than females being born.  Everyone was henceforth forbidden to kill a female.  Fish once again returned with the warmer weather in September, and by summer they were plentiful.

At Rose Hill and Norfolk Island clearing and planting crops had continued steadily throughout the year.  There was still hope that the gardens at Rose Hill and on Norfolk Island, as well as in the Cove, would soon produce crops beyond seeding stock.

rose hill from bradley 1789Rose Hill c. 1789

 James Ruse, a farmer and one of a number of convicts whose sentences were now expired, had been sent to Rose Hill to develop an experimental farm.  Even so, in November, almost everyone’s rations were again reduced.

The Indigenous population re-emerges

The warmer weather also brought the Aboriginal Australians.  The devastation caused by small-pox, and the usual lack of food in winter, meant that very few Aboriginal people had been seen on the shore or in canoes.  Many had run away or moved to other areas.  Then in September the attacks on solo or unarmed English recommenced.

At the end of November Phillip once more captured two adult males, using the two Aboriginal children Nãn-bar-ee and Ab-ar-òo as bait,.  The men were Bà-n-eelon and Còl-beeCòl-bee was a chief or elder of the Ca-di-gal band, and was very respected by Bà-n-eelon, who remained quiet in his presence.  Bà-n-eelon was from the Eora. [10] Both had obviously survived small-pox. 

It was not long before Còl-bee managed to escape, even with an iron ring on one leg.  Bà-n-eelon, however, seemed right at home.  He quickly imitated the language and manners of the English, eating and drinking everything he was offered.  He laughed, danced, sang, and skited about carrying off women and fighting competitively, especially against the Cam-ee-ra-gal (based on the North shore, and one of the largest and most powerful tribes in the area).  He was quite a character; dressing in the military red coat and trousers, flirting with the women, and generally keeping the town entertained.[11]

Fear of starvation

In spite of these diversions, everyone in the settlement was becoming pre-occupied by a growing fear.  As the year drew to a close and 1790 began, Capt. Hunter wrote,

‘in every company, the converfation turned upon the long expected arrivals from England…with a fupply of provifions’.

c. Annette Maie, 2020

[1] These stories sprang from the research my mother, Madge Rups (nee Rope), undertook in the 1970’s and 1980’s which I extended from late 1990’s onwards to include the social context and Indigenous-British relations.  It is a compilation drawn from the Journals of the First Fleet, the Historical Records, the Picman Catalogue, the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, articles from the Royal Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, and other writing.

[2] As I explained in the previous instalment, it was two hundred and thirty years since my ancestor Elizabeth Pulley arrived in Australia and it seemed an apt time to offer my version of her first year in the colony.  I had also uploaded a very much abbreviated version of the first part of Elizabeth’s story, Beginnings and Arrival, in 2017 as Remembering Elizabeth Pulley on ‘Australia Day’  , which I then extended as a series in 2019-2020, Elizabeth Pulley Sets SailAll the stories are excerpts from a longer doco-story, The Story of Elizabeth Pulley: and her first five years in Australia which I wrote for my family in 2010.

[3] Estimates vary from hundreds to thousands.  Gov. Phillip commented that, from the information he was able to gather, ‘one-half of those who inhabit this part of the country died’.

[4] I have not yet found a reliable genealogy for Nãn-bar-eeAb-ar-òo, also known as Boorong, was from the Burrumattagal band of the Dharug nation (around Parramatta) and became Bennelong’s third wife (Ref. Why we should remember Boorong).

[5] Soas not to infringe copyright all sketches are my copies of original records with additions.

[6] My understanding is that George Street follows this early road, and that at this stage the landing of goods, etc was carried out via the beach.

[7] I have previously uploaded this section about the brickworks onto the Rope-Pulley facebook page.

[8] During the course of my research I have been constantly amazed how quickly and extensively the newcomers travelled in their efforts to find suitable settlement and agricultural sites.

[9] In his article, Australian Temper and Bias,  Bruce Pascoe summarises the evidence, recorded in explorer’s journals, of early Aboriginal settlement and agriculture around Australia by the time of European arrival – vast fields of agriculture, bread making, the damning of rivers and streams, and building.  Pascoe has published a detailed account of this in his adult’s and children’s versions of Dark Emu.

[10] This is one example that the devastation caused by the smallpox epidemic meant that old tribal groupings and territory divisions had broken down.

[11] Detailed information about Woollarawarre Bennelong, as he preferred to be called, and his story can be found at, Bennelong among his people.  In November 2018 the NSW State Government bought the site where Bennelong is believed to have been buried to establishing a public memorial.  Although Bennelong was born on Wangal land on the south side of the harbour, he was buried in Wallumedegal territory on the north side at Ryde.  Both Abaroo and Nãn-bar-ee are believed to be buried beside him.  It interests me to note that I was born on Wangal land and in the later years of my life have moved back there.

Australia Day: conflicts and alternatives

This year I will again be honouring my convict ancestors’, Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope, arrival in Sydney Cove on 26th January 1788.  Elizabeth had been sentenced to be ‘hung by the neck till she be dead’.  She escaped that fate by being shipped to Australia.  Because of this I and our family have been given the gift of life yet I am well aware of the devastation it caused Australia’s, and therefore our, First Peoples.  As I have written many times previously, while I am happy to celebrate my ancestors arrival in Sydney Cove on this date, designating 26th January as ‘Australia Day’ for all Australians is insensitive, unacceptable, and must change.

According to research undertaken by the Rope-Pulley Family Heritage Association[1], celebrations on 26th January by emancipated convicts began in 1808 in Sydney.  In 1818 Governor Lachlan Macquarie designated the date as Foundation Day and a holiday for all government workers.  By 1888 all states except South Australia were celebrating Foundation or Anniversary Day on that date.  By 1935 the day became officially known as Australia Day.[2]

The Reconciliation Council of NSW has uploaded additional information about, and history of resistance to the 26th January being designated ‘Australia Day’.[3] Some of it includes,

The Roving Date

The 26th January as a national official public holiday called ‘Australia Day’ is recent (1994) and could well have been politically motivated as were earlier dates.  The first ever official national day that was actually named ‘Australia Day’ was July 30 in 1915, which was to raise funds for the World War I effort.  In 1916, the Australia Day committee that had formed (to organise the war effort fundraising the year before) determined that it would be held on July 28.  In 1837, the first Sydney Regatta was held. In 1838, crowds of people attended the event and to see the hoisting of the New South Wales flag. South Australia, Western Australia, and Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) were toasted as sister colonies, despite having their own celebratory day.[4]


In 1938 on 26th January there was a significant Aboriginal protest against Australia Day, calling it a ‘Day of Mourning’ and, as the rally against Australia Day was held, 25 Indigenous men were told if they did not perform the role of ‘retreating Aborigines’ in a re-enactment of the First Fleet, their families would starve.[5]  Then, in 1972 the Aboriginal tent embassy was established in front of Parliament House.  In 1988 40,000 Aboriginal protesters and non-Aboriginal supporters marched from Redfern Park to a public rally at Hyde Park and then on to Sydney Harbour to mark the 200th anniversary of British invasion.[6]

Alternative events

There are an increasing number of events on offer that highlight this conflict.

In 2019 the Festival of Sydney began offering a vigil beginning at 8pm 25th January at Barangaroo Reserve, to signify ‘The Day Before Everything Changed’, in which the public was invited to participate.  In 2020 the event was title was shortened to Vigil.

WugulOra Morning Ceremony, at Barangaroo Reserve on 26th.

For a number of years at 11 am on 26th there has been an Invasion Day protest and march beginning at the corner of Elizabeth and Liverpool streets, Warrang (Sydney).

Yabun Festival at Victoria Park has been an alternative event for many years which celebrates Aboriginal heritage, culture and survival.  In 2020 Inner West council changed its policy recommending that the community support this event instead of alternatives.

Change needed

In 2017 Reconciliation Australia published an issue addressing the arguments around the need for change. 

Aboriginal coach, trainer and speaker Anny Druett also discusses background and issues involved suggesting the name ‘Acknowledgement Day’ as an alternative for 26th January: one which would have “the potential to connect us through cultural protocols that have been handed down for over 60,000 years, or over the last 4,000 generations”, so that “Australia will genuinely be able to commemorate and celebrate both our First Nations, and our continent: past, present and future.”

Then there are #changethedate campaigns.

There was a documentary on NITV in 2019 during which an elder spoke of the tradition of the annual gathering of various tribal groups in October/Spring when plants emerge from the ground, and during which each group shared their tradition through stories/song, and I assume, dance. This communal gathering was well established long before the rest of us arrived and perfectly timed for our Australian climate…Spring…new beginnings…hope for the future/survival.  A perfect time for Australia day, especially as we already celebrate the Australian-specific Wattle Day around this time. [7}

What Australia Day should be doing is choosing a time and format which recognises and respects our longest traditional culture and its history as well as sharing the stories of all cultures which have arrived more recently.

There are already councils around Australia who are deciding to move ‘Australia Day’ to a more appropriate time of the year or change the focus of the current date, in spite of the current government’s opposition and attempts to stop the change.

I would love to be able to continue to celebrate my ancestors’ arrival on 26th January and at the same time acknowledge the ‘day of mourning’ it represents for descendants of Australia’s First Peoples: to rephrase one of the current events, The Day Everything Changed.  Is there a way?  Is it possible through some sort of reconciliation event, and transfer a nationally celebrated Australia Day to another time?

In the meantime, to bridge the gap the Reconciliation Council of NSW has offered Approaching 26 January respectfully: protocols and suggestions.


[1] Rope-Pulley Family Newsletter, January 2016, No. 81

[2] still not in all states

[3] https://www.facebook.com/reconciliationNSW

[4] https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/article/2018/01/23/many-different-dates-weve-celebrated-australia-day?fbclid=IwAR1Sx4HexsSXLF7LrF1f4kHArixEsGBNU_Rr0a3V7_BNrNAu-pvTxNQHdUQ

[5] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-25/eighty-years-since-forced-first-fleet-reenactment/9358854

[6] This was the beginning of my real awareness that ‘there was something wrong’.  I had been involved in a number of reconciliation events which included choreographing an Australian history timeline in which the National Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre had been invited to take part, and was becoming increasingly aware how us ‘whities’ were speaking for ‘them’, and that we needed to listen.  I also remember walking down Elizabeth street with my family, dressed in colonial garb for the ‘official’ ceremony, seeing the thousands of protesters marching by and cheering them along.  I had put earrings of the Aboriginal flag in my ears as my own small protest;  not much…just a symbol/acknowledgement to myself.

[7] There has been an upsurge in interest over the last two years regarding the designation of Wattle Day as Australia Day, Sydney Morning Herald, Opinion, 2017;  Sydney Morning Herald, Politics, 2017The New Daily 2018




Anthony Rope and the Sydney Cove brickworks

thumbnail (1)

I’ve been motivated by Julie Austen’s link on Rope-Pulley Family Heritage association facebook page to upload information I have.  This is an excerpt from my The Story of Elizabeth Pulley and her first five years in Australia.

‘On 11th February Anthony, along with John Summers, was charged with ‘neglecting to work where ordered’, and ordered 25 lashes.  Then, on 9th March, Anthony was charged again, and ordered 25 lashes.  Perhaps there was a reason for his reticence.

The brickworks were well out of town (The Dictionary of Sydney places them two kilometers out of the settlement in what is now Chinatown), so there was always a potential lack of supervision of workers there.  It seems that conflict between the brickworkers and the Traditional owners, which had come to public attention in December, was not isolated, and on 6th March it came to a head.  Members of the Brickmaker’s gang, and some others, armed with working tools and large clubs, went towards Botany Bay to attack the Aboriginal groups there and plunder their fishing-tackle and spears (probably from the Kameygal or Gweagal clans of the Dharwal nation).

They were met, or ambushed (depending on source), by a group of Indigenous Australians, who killed one of the convicts and injured seven others.  The convicts who escaped gave the alarm and an officer, with a detachment of marines, was sent to rescue the wounded and bring them back.  Later two more armed parties of marines reconnoitred the area to signal the Governor’s disapproval.

Over the next couple of months the convicts involved were rounded up, charged, and ordered 150 lashes and to wear a leg iron for a year.  Samuel Day, who had been Elizabeth’s accomplice in the sea-pye incident the previous May, was one of them.  Anthony, however, was not on the list.  I would like to think that his reason for shirking work during this period was because he would have known of the plans for the impending attack, and he did not want to be part of it.  So, he stayed away.  But I could be quite wrong.  He may have just been ‘slacking off’.’


c. Annette Maie, 2018



Elizabeth and Anthony Rope’s life at The Ponds, 1791- ?

Elizabeth and Anthony Rope’s life at The Ponds, 1791- ?[i]


The Ponds Creek was originally a series of swamps, soaks and tributaries along Dundas Valley. The name Dundas came into use in the late 1790’s but not officially until the late 1800’s.  Originally the home of the Darug speaking Wallumedda clan.  www.parracity.nsw.gov.au

2. The Ponds location map

Captain Watkins Tench lists the Ropes among the settlers at the Ponds during his last visit to the area on 6th December, 1791. Bonwick’s ‘Return of Land in Cultivation…as of 16th October, 1792’, dates Anthony as being settled at the Ponds on 10 January, 1792.  Perhaps January was when Anthony’s sentence expired and he ‘officially’ received the grant.  If that was the case, by mid-January Anthony could have been farming full-time,[ii] and the family would only have needed to visit Parramatta for their weekly ration, as well as for replacement tools, seeds, clothing, medical assistance, and divine services.  

Whatever the case, by the beginning of 1792 Elizabeth and Anthony would have been well settled into their new environment.  The Ponds, so named because of the large ponds of good water in the area, was located in the gently rolling hills and creeks around Dundas Valley.  Elizabeth would have noticed the quiet and the sense of isolation in contrast to the bustle of Parramatta, especially while Anthony was at work in town.

Because of their two children they had the largest allotment: seventy acres reaching over the hill between two creeks or ponds.  The other 14 or so allotments were settled by couples, or, as in the case of Anthony’s friend John Summers, were share-farmed by two men.[iii]  In the centre of the small community was a military detachment of one officer and 3 privates, who were to protect the new settlers until the clearing of the land was complete.[iv]

Upon settlement they would have received the same provisions and equipment, and would have been under the same conditions, as the other ex-convict settlers. The family would have been given enough grain for the first year and tools.  Tools were given to both men and women;  each receiving a hatchet, a tomahawk, two hoes, a spade, and a shovel.  A number of cross-cut saws were shared among the community, and muskets were given to each family for their protection.  Also, at some settlements, a convict was given to a family as an assistant.

As well as tending to the vegetable garden and assisting Anthony with the bulk crops, Elizabeth would have been making clothes, cooking, and caring for the needs of their children: Robert, now almost three and a half years old, and Mary, just over six months.  At the time the home gardens included vegetables, such as cabbages, greens, peas, kidney-beans, turnips, carrots. leeks, parsley, all of which did well in the Australian climate.  The larger crops were wheat and other grain.

They had obviously immediately set to work clearing the land and planting.  Records show that by February 1792 the Ropes had 8 1/2 acres cleared from trees, and another 8 1/2 acres were under wheat and maize;  a major improvement since the previous December. They would have built their own hut, to which a brick chimney would have been added mid year.[v]  By February they had acquired one horse and eight hogs.  So they were doing well.  When Atkins visited the Ponds in March he was generally impressed, remarking that the settlers ‘are for the most part…very comfortably lodged…  In short they are in every particular much better situated than they could possibly be in England.’

It was a fulltime job as there were inevitable problems with scavenging hawks, crows and bugs, which meant replanting, as well as marauding absconders and local aborigines who were after anything edible or barterable.  Elizabeth and Anthony were also lucky to get the animals, for although two sow pigs were promised to each ex-convict settler, they were not always received.

In spite of their progress, however, it was too soon for the family to self support, and in February three of them are listed as still being on government stores.  Elizabeth was probably breastfeeding Mary, the fourth member of the family.  The stores were essential for the new settler’s survival, as it was becoming obvious that it would be some time before they would be self-sufficient.  The government had given them eighteen months to establish themselves, after which they would be taken off stores and would need to pay for the hire of their convict labour themselves.[vi]  After five years of continuous farming the land was theirs at one shilling per annum rent.

The previous year had seen some major changes in the settlement of New South Wales.  The focus of cultivation of crops and animal husbandry, which had moved from Sydney Cove to Parramatta and Norfolk Island, was now extending further north, east, and west of Parramatta.  Sydney Cove was now considered an administrative centre and a depot for stores, with the Governor’s main residence there.  Parramatta was the agricultural centre where the Governor had a second residence.  Commuting was the norm, and a pathway now connected the two towns.

As well, Sydney Cove was turning into a busy port.  One month after the last of the Third Fleet had departed in January, 1792, the first ship of the Fourth Fleet pulled into the harbour.[vii]  The bi-annual arrival of Fleets had begun.  By the end of 1792 this traffic was augmented by trading and Whaling ships, which had heard about the new colony in other ports, and were hoping to trade goods, as well as to carry out repairs and replenish supplies of wood and water.

The movement of ships and people between the Cove and Norfolk Island increased in frequency as convicts, supervisors, soldiers and provisions were ferried back and forth.  Often ships from the Fleets would be commissioned in this way before returning home.  Phillip also regularly diverted the returning ships to Batavia or Calcutta to purchase extra provisions, clothing, and stores.

The colony was still much in need, and there was the constant fear that the storeships from England would be delayed or shipwrecked.  So the weeks between one ship departing and another arriving were spent in anxious anticipation.  In addition, the stores, clothing and provisions, when they were landed and checked, were often damaged, underweight, or unsuitable for the climate and harsh conditions of the country.  In the end extra provisions were purchased from the trading ships as well, to make up for any losses or omissions.

The Fleets themselves were now commissioned from private firms by the English Government.  So the ships masters would view the exercise as a trading opportunity and not just the transport of personnel and government goods.  Shops were set up in huts on shore, and people would flock to purchase the wares.  Some newly settled convicts took the short-term option of selling their stock and leaving their land so that they could purchase the alluring ‘unnecessaries’ or a return passage home.[viii]  Disputes regarding money exchange and the price of goods began to form part of the Court’s agenda.  And, of course, convicts would regularly stowaway, and sailors abscond.

At the other end of the river, Parramatta continued to expand.  Many of the convicts and soldiers were now based in the area:  the convict men in agriculture or other trades, and the women making clothes from material they collected from the stores, acting as ‘minders’ for the men’s huts while the men were at work, or themselves working in the fields and, of course, getting married and having children.[ix]  Reverend Johnson calculated that by October 1792 he had performed 220 marriages and 226 baptisms since arrival.

Increasing numbers of First Fleet ex-convicts and ex-marines, who had decided to settle were, like Elizabeth and Anthony, on their way to becoming self-supporting.  New settlers were given land around Parramatta, in areas called Prospect Hill (west), the Ponds (northeast), the Field of Mars (along the creek) the Eastern Farms, the Northern Farms, and south of the creek.  As the crops from these outlying farms were harvested the excess was brought into town for barter or sale.

The area northwest of Parramatta, initially called ‘new farms’ and later named Toongabbie, was selected as the site for the new public farm.  In January 1792 the clearing began.  By June the convicts employed there were planting seed, and in September they had harvested the first crop of wheat and Indian corn.  The produce, if not stolen, was taken to the government stores where it was augmented by imported provisions, or stored as seed for the following season’s planting.[x]

Expectations for the future were high, and in April the foundations for a town hall, to include a market place for grain, fish, poultry, livestock and clothes, and a hospital were laid at Parramatta.  A ‘clerk of the market’ was appointed to register sales and barters, in an attempt to deter the sale and exchange of stolen goods.  Goods on sale at Parramatta market during May included:  hens, cocks, chickens, eggs, fresh pork, vegetables, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, soap and cheese.  New arrivals commented on how well the colony seemed to be doing, and how much the convicts had compared to labouring people in England.  The reality was that the colony was still struggling to feed itself.

Everyone was still on reduced ration, a situation that had continued almost unchanged since November 1789.  Many of the convicts were starving and a number of newcomers commented on their appearance.  Atkins described them as ‘mere walking shadows’.  By March 1792 work was restricted to the hours between 5 and 9 in the morning, and 4 and 5.30 in the afternoon, as the convicts were too weak to do more.  Then in April, as in the previous year, rations were reduced further.

The rationing took its toll.  During the first half of the year at Parramatta, there were daily burials of convicts.  Small children were also vulnerable.[xi]  Quite a number of the convicts had never recovered fully from the lack of care during their journey out the previous year and were weak and malnourished.[xii]  In addition, the hand-mills, which England had sent out, were not strong enough grind the Indian corn, and the grain was being eaten raw.  In an attempt to bring relief, the Governor established a fishery on South Head, and sent gamesmen to Parramatta to procure fresh meat for the hospital.  The fresh protein, added to the large numbers of vegetables the gardens produced, and a little rum, gradually slowed the death-rate during the rest of the year.

Governor Phillip had been concerned and in June, a few weeks after the King’s Birthday, he visited the new settlement (Toongabbie) where most of the convicts were labouring.  He apologised to them for the small ration, and asked them to be patient, orderly and to do their duty.  He promised that storeships were expected, and that when the ships arrived the convicts rations would be increased if they behaved well.  He then released all those in irons, a gesture which usually coincided with the King’s Birthday.  Yet it was some months before rationing approached an adequate quantity.

By this time relations with the aboriginal inhabitants seems to have settled down once more.  Reverend Johnson mentions their daily presence in camp.  Five aboriginal people seemed to have been living permanently in the towns and are listed as being on government stores.  These were probably working for, or living with, some of the English.[xiii] There is mention of groups of aborigines stealing the ripening corn and other items from the outlying farms, but there is only one incident recorded of a ‘payback’ nature.  In May a convict was found dead, having been speared and cut as payback for firing on, and, it was assumed, killing, one of a group caught stealing goods from a hut.  Otherwise there is very little comment on relations between the two cultures.

Each new boatload of convicts, on the other hand, continued to cause as much trouble as they could.[xiv]  Whereas many of the convicts who came out in 1788 were now settling down and becoming ‘model’ citizens, the new arrivals went through the whole rebellious cycle of absconding, stealing, running scams, [xv]and mutiny, including attacking people for their provisions on the roads from Parramatta to Toongabbie or to Sydney. [xvi]

The court record for Parramatta on 9th January, 1792 is an example of the types of crimes committed by the convicts at this time.  The court heard seventeen charges of stealing chickens, corn, greens, vegetables, including from the Governor’s garden, clothing, money, of disorderly behaviour, and of going to Sydney without permission.  The severity of punishment, such as stocks, iron collars, lashes, executions, or transportation to Norfolk Island for life, did not seem to have deterred them.

As well as the community’s growth in size, a much more complex society was emerging.  The new colony was no longer just an extended ‘low security’ prison, but an agricultural and trading centre with two major towns and a number of satellite communities.  Reverend Johnson and Judge-Advocate Collins were both writing of their increased workload.

The Reverend was conducting divine services in three places: Sydney, Parramatta, and ‘a new settlement 3 miles west of Parramatta’ (Toongabbie).  Attendance, however, was still irregular and although four hundred acres of land had been given over for church use, no building to house the congregations had yet been erected.[xvii]  As well Johnson now had competition.  A number of the more recent convict arrivals were Irish and Catholic.  In November four males and one female signed a letter at Parramatta alerting the Governor to the inconvenience in not having ‘a pastor of our religion’, that is, a Catholic priest.

The need for administrators, supervisors and skilled workers was increasing, a point that Phillip continued to make in his letters to England.  He was also alerting England of the need to pay skilled workers, as the ships masters were offering passage home in return for work, and draining the colony of experienced tradesmen.[xviii]  The skill pool was further reduced by accidents, sickness and by some who had been here long term requesting retirement.[xix]

Some of Phillip’s needs were addressed during the year.  Atkins, a magistrate, arrived in February, and was posted to Parramatta to deal with criminal matters there, as well as assist Judge-Advocate Collins in Sydney.  In October a replacement surgeon, a master carpenter, a master miller and a settler experienced in cultivation arrived.  The gaps were also filled by ex-convicts who had proved themselves trustworthy and were granted remission and jobs.[xx]

Money was now a commodity, partly due to the trade instigated by the arriving ships, but also due to skilled workers needing to be paid, and the increasing numbers of ex-convicts having to support themselves.  By October shops for private trade had opened in Sydney and Parramatta.[xxi]  In response to Phillip’s requests ‘three thousand-eight hundred and seventy ounces of silver in dollars’ arrived in November on the transport Kitty.  One thousand were immediately dispatched to Norfolk Island, the rest was held in Sydney as ‘public money’.

Education appeared on the agenda.  By March 1792 three schools had been established for the children of civil and military families, and some convict children: one at Parramatta, another in Sydney, and the third at Norfolk Island.  Those in Sydney were run by schoolmistresses;  the one in Norfolk by a convict ex-teacher.[xxii]  Reverend Johnson was writing to England for financial support and resources, such as books.  He stressed the need for educating convict and aboriginal adults and children.  He also canvassed for additional teachers, ‘as I fear that a school mistress wd not do so well neither be proper to instruct the men Convicts’, and missionaries for ‘the ignorant and benighted heathens’.

The arrival of Major Grose in February, as Lieutenant Governor in charge of the NSW corps, began well.   He was agreeably surprised by the colony.  But this was not to last.  He was soon unwilling to abide by Phillip’s more democratic philosophy.  By October he was complaining to Phillip and England that he and his soldiers had been placed on the same ‘unwholesome’ ration as everyone else, and of the limits placed on the availability of liquor.[xxiii]  In spite of Phillip’s opposition, he and his Officers privately hired the Britannia to go to the Cape of Good Hope and bring back provisions they considered essential for men of their rank.  It seemed as though the battles that Phillip had fought with the First Fleet officers were about to recur.

However Phillip by this time had had enough.  His decision to resign, publicly announced at the end of October, caused a flurry of activity as long-termers, like Judge-Advocate Collins and Surgeon-General White, also submitted requests for leave in the hope of accompanying him home.  Phillip had slowly been working towards consolidating his administration throughout the year, and October and November were spent finalising all accounts, writing detailed reports to England, restating his mandate for the colony, updating records of provisions, stores and personnel, and granting absolute and provisional pardons to those he considered deserving.

On Friday 7th December Phillip conducted his last item of business and officially closed his government.  Then on Monday 10th at 6pm, he ‘quit his charge’ and embarked on the Atlantic.  He was received near the wharf on the east-side, where his boat was lying, by Major Grose at the head of the NSW corps.  There the NSW corps ‘paid him all the marks of honour’.  The officers of the civil department, and the three marine officers who were to accompany him to England, were in attendance.

On board were the last of the marines, two convicts whose period of transportations had expired, and two aboriginal men, Bennillong and Yem-mer-ra-wan-nie, who were friends of Phillip.  They had decided to travel with him, much to the distress of their wives and friends.  The following day those officers who were to remain behind sailed with Phillip down the harbour.  At 9am they disembarked, and gave three cheers as the ship prepared to move between the heads and depart the colony.

It was not without regret on both sides.  In Phillip’s view, the colony was now approaching ‘that state in which I have so long and anxiously wished to see’.  From the standpoint of those who had worked alongside him since the beginning, it was a great loss and ‘no small degree of concern in the settlement’.

Major Grose was sworn in by Judge-Advocate Collins, and immediately began to institute military, rather than civil rule.  Nothing in future was to be done, including court proceedings and punishment, without Grose’s and his officers’ approval and direction.  A few days later a distinction in rations was ordered, with all civil and military personnel placed on full ration while the convicts’ allowance remained restricted.[xxiv]  Some of the convict-settlers responded by selling off their stock in order to buy spirits.  As Atkins commented, ‘times are changed’.

It is difficult to imagine how Elizabeth and Anthony would have felt during this time.  Change is always unsettling, and they, like everyone else, were probably biding their time to see how advantageous or not, the new government was to be.  The inequalities in rationing would not have affected them greatly, as their allowance was supplemented by the produce of their farm, and their community was well enough away to function on its own.  As they do not seem to be mentioned in any records until 1794, they probably were not causing any trouble worth noting.

During the year they would have received the extra ration of spirits for the King’s birthday celebration in June.  They may also have benefited from the clothes which arrived, and were handed out to convicts, at the end of October.  They probably did receive one of the ewes, for the purpose of breeding, which Phillip gave to each married settler just before he left the colony.

But over the long-term, it seems that the changes brought in by military rule had their effect on Elizabeth and Anthony as well.  Not only was government provisions now unequally rationed, the military began to monopolise both the marketplace and the giving of land grants.  Military insistence on easy access to liquor meant that spirits became the preferred currency, the illegal distillation of liquor a preferred source of income, and farming being a lot of hard work for virtually nothing.

In addition Elizabeth and Anthony lost their third child, Elizabeth, who died in 1794 soon after birth, and could possibly be buried at The Ponds.  Although they were still there during 1795 for the birth and baptism of John, by the end of the following year the family is recorded as having settled at Mulgrave Place, near Windsor.  Perhaps they had had enough and walked off their farm to squat around the Hawkesbury like so many other people at the time, or perhaps they had received a settler’s permit there.[xxv]  Whatever the case their land at The Ponds was left unresolved for a number of years while the family focussed their efforts in the area bounded by the Hawkesbury and Nepean Rivers, South Creek, and Rope’s Creek.

c. Annette Maie, 2018

[i] The information for this story springs from the research my mother, Madge Rups, undertook in the 1970’s and 1980’s which I extended from late 1990’s onwards to include the social context and indigenous presence.  It is a compilation drawn from the Journals of the First Fleet, the Historical Records, the Picman Catalogue, the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, as well as articles from the Royal Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, and other writing.

[ii] Toby Ryan places Anthony working at Toongabbie, which is a government farm, around this time.  As the Ropes already have their own farm at the Ponds, I cannot see them living at both places, unless Anthony travelled to Toongabbie to work as a labourer from time to time.  Anthony’s trade is still listed as a bricklayer, so this could be what he still did in addition to working his own farm.

[iii] There is little mention of other friends of theirs.  Betty Mason, who lived with Elizabeth and Anthony for a while, and married Richard Hawkes in 1790 gave evidence at a trial in April 1792  But it looks as if she and Richard separated around this time.  By May Richard was established on a farm by himself, and at the end of the month she gave birth to a daughter under her maiden name.  At the daughter’s christening later that year, Phillip Morris was named as the father.  Isabella Richardson (nee Rawson) whose marriage to William in 1789 had been witnesses by Anthony, became a schoolmistress.  Both these women were probably based at or around Parramatta, and Elizabeth & Anthony may have remained in contact with them, but they may just as much have gone their separate ways.

[iv] The military presence was to deter poaching and violence.  All the food and water sources for the local aborigines were being increasingly taken over by the expanding settlement and understandably they would take from the farmer’s crops and animals for their own survival.

[v] In July Phillip organised builders to come in to add the chimneys to the huts ‘at the Ponds’, and to carry out other repairs.

[vi] By December Phillip was writing that more time would be needed.

[vii] This one with Lt. Governor Francis Grose, who was in charge of the NSW corps, soldiers, more convicts, and, as usual, limited provisions of salted beef and pork.

[viii] Not all convict-settlers worked the land they were given.  Some just worked for their neighbours and forfeited their grant.  The result was they ended up back where they started:  homeless, off stores, and causing mischief.  Part of the reason was that many ex-convicts still wanted to return home and saw no purpose in making their home here.

[ix] Rather than supply convicts with ready-made clothes Phillip decided to keep everyone busy, and the women had to return the clothes to the stores once completed.  He had found that the convicts, generally, became more ‘socialised’ when they worked in some sort of trade, gradually leaving their convict language and behaviour behind.

[x] In October Phillip was writing of the 1,500 bushels stolen from the grounds, in spite of precautions taken to protect it.

[xi] The death tally for the year included 418 male convicts, 18 female convicts and 29 children.

[xii] In England the trial against the master of the Neptune, for ill treatment of convicts, was underway.  Later transports carried a naval agent to supervise convict’s treatment and a ‘medical gentleman’ to treat them if they fell ill.

[xiii] Rev. Johnston still had two aboriginal girls living with his family.

[xiv] Upon disembarkation in Sydney a number would immediately abscond into huts, and would have to be found, detained, and transferred to Parramatta by force.  By October Phillip had decided to curb this practice, sending them directly to Parramatta and Toongabbie instead.

[xv] One of the scams was that convicts were selling their supplied clothes to soldiers.  Phillip wrote of the need to distinguish them, and all other convict items, in some way, like with a special strip, so that they could not be sold or bartered.

[xvi] The path turned out to be a problem as thieves used it to move their stolen goods between Parramatta and Sydney, or abscond, without anyone noticing.  Phillip responded by stopping its use.

[xvii] The previous year the foundations of a church building had been laid at Parramatta, but the building was quickly converted into a prison, and by 1792 it had become a granary.

[xviii] Phillip, whose health was deteriorating, also continued to ask for leave: ‘the complaint seldom leaves me lately for more than a few days’.  His ailing condition was also remarked upon by a number of new arrivals.

[xix] In April Burton, a Botanist and Supervisor who had examined and reported on the soil in the settlements and cultivation areas around Parramatta, died from a shooting accident.  Phillip wrote: ‘I lost one whom I cannot replace and whom I could ill spare’.  In July, Arndell, the assistant surgeon based at Parramatta retired due to age, and settled on his farm at East Creek.  In October, Phillip commented that of the four superintendents sent out from England, only one was left who was effective.

[xx] Such as Stephenson, who began work at the provisions store in October, Kelly, who was employed as assistant surgeon at Toongabbie, Barrington, head constable of the Night Watch at Parramatta, and Robinson, who was employed at the Public Barn and Granaries at Parramatta.

[xxi] These shops had a licence to sell porter, but also traded other spirits, which led to some ex-convict-settlers setting up drinking houses on their farms and selling to others at inflated prices.  The result was ‘much intoxication.’

[xxii] One of the schoolmistresses was Isabella Richardson (nee Rawson) whose marriage to William in 1789 had been witnesses by Anthony Rope.

[xxiii] Even Phillip was eating the same rations as everyone else, although it was probably supplemented with game and wine.

[xxiv] Everyone’s rations had increased in June with the arrival of rice, dahl and soujee from Calcutta.  But as not many knew how to cook these foods it was of little help.  In July, salted beef and pork finally arrived and brought some relief.

[xxv] As later there were problems with the sale of The Ponds grant and arrears in rent, this could well have been the case.  It is really unclear what occurred.  Hawkesbury was viewed as the next promising area for farming, and ‘permits to settle’, not actual land grants, were given by Gov.s Grose and Paterson.  According to Paterson, by June 15, 1795 there were 400 people settled nearly 30 miles along the banks on both sides of the river (Mulgrave Place).  Anthony is not mentioned on this list.  (in Campbell, 1925, pp. 106, 107).  I also have in my notes, with a note to check with Colby, that mid 1797 Anthony sells the Pond grant to John Larkham for £50 with crops and  that Larkham then sues Anthony for not including the crops, and wins the crops.