Makarrata: The Legacy of Windradyne (The Bathurst Wars)
The Legacy of Windradyne
The Bathurst Wars of New South Wales, Australia
The Parramatta Treaty Between the British Empire & the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia 1827
By David Atwell
Much of this Alterative History article, which you are about to read, is based upon the original historic events in Australia during the 1820s. There is a Koori (Aboriginal) Nation called the Wiradjuri, who had occupied about a quarter of the state of New South Wales for thousands of years. There was a Wiradjuri elder by the name of Windradyne who would battle it out with the British colonials & become famous in doing so. As a result, there was a bloody war, called the Bathurst Wars, during which the colonial forces committed horrendous crimes against the Wiradjuri. Yet there were some individual colonists who did what they could to help the Wiradjuri. Finally, there was a great march, from Wiradjuri territory to Parramatta, across the Blue Mountains, lead by Windradyne. It is considered to be one of the great military achievements in Australian history, but few know of this achievement. The Wiradjuri achieved full surprise by moving undetected over 160km (100 miles) to demand a meeting with the Governor in Parramatta, whilst the British had most their forces around Bathurst. The Governor, surrounded in his official residence, had little choice other than parlay with Windradyne. These events are historical facts which cannot be disputed.
Unfortunately, even though the Wiradjuri put up a tough fight, like their Maori cousins in New Zealand, the OTL Koori never got their version of the Waitangi Treaty of 1840. In this Alternative History, however, history changes at Parramatta. Instead of a friendly chat followed by a cease fire, the Wiradjuri demand better conditions. Knowing little of British ways, they nonetheless had a tradition of the Makarrata, which basically means 'treaty'. Although Makarrata means much more than that, for the purpose of the average reader, 'treaty' in the European sense of the word is enough to suffice here. Much of the aftermath is, sadly, akin to the original history. Having said that, even though the events from the 1960s to the 1980s maybe similar, just as took place in New Zealand, things are far more favourable (in the alternative present) for the Indigenous Peoples of Australia.
One last thing: this Alternative History is not intended to insult or racially abuse the Wiradjuri or Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Peoples of Australia. Furthermore, my humble apologies to the Wiradjuri People for using other Aboriginal People's languages to describe several events which were their own, not to mention I had the arrogance to speak for Windradyne.
David Atwell, Cessnock Australia, 2006
The Bathurst Wars would become the largest military struggle ever to take place on Australian soil. It would witness the clash between the forces of the British Empire & those of the Wiradjuri Nation. It would go on for three years wherein both societies would be exhausted, although more so for the Wiradjuri than the British. Nonetheless, the heroic resistance of the Wiradjuri under the leadership of the great warrior Windradyne, ensured that the British knew they were in deep trouble in their new colony.
British expansion into the heartland of Australia had at first been slow. It was not until 1816 when Governor Macquarie permitted such expansion, & even then it was limited. This policy continued until Governor Macquarie was replaced with Governor Brisbane in 1921. Hereafter, it was only a matter of time before trouble began.
The warnings, however, were really there from the start when the First Fleet arrived in 1788 to establish the first colony at Sydney Cove. The Aboriginals were far from appreciative of this new British colony, even though the first settlers did all they could to ferment peaceful relations. Some efforts worked, others did not. Hence, through one effort or another, the coastal Aboriginals were displaced & the British took over, within a few years, the territory which would one day become the metropolitan area of Sydney. This city today may number about 5 million people, but back then it numbered no more than 5 000. Nonetheless, everything in the small British colony appeared to be going ahead with little hassle: that was until they angered the Wiradjuri.
The Wiradjuri Buudhang
The Wiradjuri Buudhang (People) are an ancient people. It has been forgotten when they first settled in the inner parts of New South Wales. Archaeological evidence suggests, though, that the Wiradjuri have occupied their lands, equivalent to about a quarter of New South Wales or about the size of England, for at least 10 000 years. Many, furthermore, have argued that the Wiradjuri have been there for much longer with that, with estimates of between 15 000 to 30 000 years. Needless to say, from the point of view of the Wiradjuri, their territory has always been theirs since the Dreamtime.
Having said that it must be understood, which was not when the white man first arrived, that "territory" as such did not exist as in the European sense of land ownership. In fact, without getting too involved with Aboriginal beliefs, the Aboriginal relationship with land could be said to be the reverse. In other words, Aboriginals are part of the land & it is the land which owns them. All the same, it can be said that the land was owned & shared by the community. This is probably the closest translation of the Aboriginals relationship with the land which Europeans could relate. Indeed, this aspect would become central to the Parramatta Makarrata in 1827.
Like other Aboriginal Peoples, the Wiradjuri shared many similar beliefs & customs. To the ignorant, which meant the entire population of the British colony at Sydney, the Wiradjuri appeared to be no different than the Aboriginals which they had encountered around Sydney. There were, however, fundamental differences & these would come into play as the British pushed inland. Although these differences are numerous, probably the most important was the population size of the Wiradjuri People. Even though the Indigenous population was unknown in the early 1800s, it has been somewhat accepted that 3.3 million Aboriginals inhabited Australia. Out of this number, at least 500 000 were Wiradjuri. Whatever the real number, though, it can be said with certainty that the Wiradjuri People were the largest nation in Australia at that time, including the British colonials.
Another important aspect to Wiradjuri society were the warriors. All men, especially the young, were expected to be able fighters. Why this is the case, no one seems to understand. The Wiradjuri, for the most part, were a peaceful people & had no conflicts with their neighbours. Nonetheless, a warrior tradition, although not central to Wiradjuri culture, was an important part. It is argued by many scholars in the field that the Wiradjuri "warrior" was essentially a hunter. The difference in Wiradjuri society was not really considered as distinct, unlike in European societies. Again it is another aspect of the 1820s which contributed to British ignorance. Having said that, the Wiradjuri ability to hunt, was easily & skilfully transferred into soldiery.
Thus was the Wiradjuri situation on the eve of the Bathurst Wars. But the wars would take ten years to begin after contact was first made between the expanding British colony & the Wiradjuri People. This officially took place in 1815, when the outpost of Bathurst was established, although limited contact had been made prior to 1815, going back to at least 1805. All the same, 1815 is the important date when Governor Macquarie met the local Wiradjuri leaders at Bathurst. In a simple meeting, Macquarie assured the Wiradjuri that the British were friends & were not here to threaten them. An informal agreement was hence made, & if there were any grievances, then the Wiradjuri would be assured of an audience with the Governor in order to right any wrong.
Alas Macquarie would be replaced in 1820 in somewhat sinister circumstances. Even though Macquarie meant what he said, the next Governor decided to implement new policies as ordered by London. Sir Thomas Brisbane, after coming to terms with his new responsibilities, began to change Macquarie’s well thought out & implemented policies. Instead of a cautious expansion of the colony, Brisbane ordered the reverse. Soon colonists headed north, south &, unfortunately, west. Aboriginals soon found themselves pushed off of their land with no concern to their welfare. This happened faster along the coast, than to the west, but by 1821, Bathurst had begun to expand as rapidly as elsewhere.
In the coastal areas, where the Aboriginal nations were rather small in population size (some being no more than a few thousand), resistance was almost pointless. The British had enough soldiers to quell any trouble which the Aboriginals tried, even though a few pitched battles did take place. The result, however, for the Aboriginals was always the same: defeat. Now, though, came the turn of the Wiradjuri. Enjoying a large population, being hunters rather than gatherers as the coastal peoples mostly were, the British in 1821 did not know it, but they were in for one huge shock.
It did not take long for trouble to start in Bathurst. Until 1821, the outpost at Bathurst had hardly grown. It continued to be nothing more than a small town which had a small army garrison of the 39th Regiment, a handful of pubic servants, & a few private citizens. Even after Brisbane reversed Macquarie’s policies on territorial expansion, Bathurst’s population never got beyond 100. But in 1821, what with government incentives for colonists to settle in the Bathurst region, a few hundred decided to accept the government’s offer.
Still this did not worry the Wiradjuri overly much. However, as the numbers grew & it became evident that the acquisition of land was the main intent of the British, the attitude of many Wiradjuri began to change. The main instigator among the Wiradjuri at the beginning was the elder Windradyne. Very early in the piece, Windradyne questioned the position which the older Wiradjuri elders had adopted. Although he was not at Macquarie’s meeting in 1916, & thus did not participate in the original informal agreement, he nonetheless accepted this agreement with Macquarie.
Now things had changed & he was the first of the Wiradjuri to notice it. The Wiradjuri leadership, however, refused to accept Windradyne arguments & continued to stick to their agreement with Macquarie. As such, more & more colonists arrived to begin claiming ownership of land in order to commence farming . Naturally the Wiradjuri had no concept of private ownership of land & tensions began to rise between the two groups. Soon, as was bound to happen, altercations took place.
Windradyne, hearing that some colonists had begun acts of violence against fellow Wiradjuri, began to see for himself what was happening. With a small band of fellow warriors, Windradyne’s group swept through the Bathurst region gaining intelligence. He noted two things. First, the older colonists who had been in the district for some time continued to have cordial relations with Wiradjuri & never challenged them. The recent arrivals, however, refused access to the land & were prepared to use violence when their demands were not followed. These were declared by Windradyne to be Wandang (bad spirits).
Windradyne decided upon a campaign of intimidation against the Wandang. The colonists who had accepted Wiradjuri customs would be left in peace. Having said that, it was never Windradyne’s intention to kill anyone. He knew that the colonists had powerful weapons. Instead, he wanted to either make the Wandang accept Wiradjuri ways, especially in regards to the land, or make them leave Wiradjuri territory. Alas the Wandang did not see things this way.
It did not take long before small scale skirmishes took place. At this point, this involved only about ten Wiradjuri, including Windradyne, & one or two Wandang. The Wiradjuri seldom attacked beyond chasing the Wandang off of the farm which they had established. Yet this very process itself meant that the ejected colonial settlers arrived at Bathurst with tall stories of escaping massive native attacks. As these escapees grew in number, Commandant Morrisett, the man in charge of Bathurst, began to send patrols out to confirm the stories of native rebellion.
Clashes between Windradyne’s group & patrols, by the 39th Regiment, were avoided by the superior bush skill of the Wiradjuri. Nonetheless, thanks to the pillaging of Windradyne’s group, the stories of natives running amok were somewhat confirmed. Morrisett, being an unimaginative & disciplined military officer, sent word to Governor Brisbane of the so-called native uprising. Brisbane, however, refused to send reinforcements, but ordered Morrisett nevertheless to arrest the natives involved to ensure that law & justice be upheld. What Brisbane did not add, though, was that he did not want any trouble with the Wiradjuri. Even though his policy of expansion more or less ensured that trouble would occur, he nevertheless knew that he did not have the resources available to fight a war with anyone.
It soon became apparent to Windradyne that the Wandang were not leaving Wiradjuri territory. Instead they were staying in Bathurst. Although nominally British, the town was Wiradjuri territory all the same. Although Windradyne never intended to take the fight to the township itself, things soon meant that this would take place. Morrisett’s patrols had caught some Wiradjuri "trespassing" on a Wandang’s farm. It was pure luck that two of this Wiradjuri party had been arrested. Taken to Bathurst for trial, as per Brisbane’s instructions, such an action quickly got the attention of the Wiradjuri People. Included, of course, was Windradyne.
Windradyne decided to rescue his fellow Wiradjuri from the Wandang. As far as he was concerned, due to the actions of the people of the township, they too were now all Wandang. On the night of 15 January 1822, Windradyne’s small party stealthfully entered Bathurst & tried to break into the gaol holding their two comrades. Unfortunately, a sentry saw the small party of would-be goal breakers & made the alarm. Out came the garrison, confused more than anything, but somewhat organised. The two prisoners, however, were not freed. Instead, as Windradyne’s party fled to the countryside, Windradyne himself was captured in order to ensure that the others got away.
Because nothing overly bad took place, & that little could be proven against Windradyne at the time, all he got was two months imprisonment for assault & battery. During the two months in goal, Windradyne studied his enemy & learnt some English. More to the point, this giant of a man became known throughout the entire colony, thanks to an article in the Sydney Gazette, the leading newspaper of the colony at that time. Called Saturday by the Gazette, Windradyne soon got an amazing following amongst the colonial population.
Windradyne did not only get a following among the colonists, he also, thanks to his imprisonment than his intimidation campaign, got an even larger following among his fellow Wiradjuri. Having sacrificed himself, so that the others in his party could escape, it was now truly well known that he was an elder of honour & integrity. When Windradyne was finally released, he demanded a trial corroboree to discuss & decide what to do with the Wandang invaders. Aware that the Wandang were never going to leave, in fact they had every intention of taking away everything the Wiradjuri had, Windradyne convince the Wiradjuri leadership that they should prepare for the worst. "The storm clouds are gathering", Windradyne was noted as saying, "and it will be worse than the most violent thunder and lightning."
The Bathurst Meny-Gunda
The Meny-Gunda (fighting war), which would dominate the 1820s, had not yet really started. The adventures of Windradyne, so far, was nothing more than small skirmishes involving a handful of men from both sides. Although it is considered by many that 1821 is the year in which the Bathurst Wars commenced, it is probably more accurate to state that the war really started at the beginning of 1823, as there is clearly a break of the conflicted between early 1822, when Windradyne was captured, & when the event took place, outside of Bathurst, which started the large scale fighting.
In all the events which may cause a war, the leading cause to the Bathurst War must rank as one of the most stupid in all of human history. Potatoes. The Bathurst Wars, which would take thousands of lives & turn the Bathurst region into a wasteland, was caused by an altercation over potatoes.
In February of 1823 a group of Wiradjuri were following one of their tracks as they had always done. A new farm, belonging to a colonist, had been established along the track outside of Bathurst. It had only been there for a year. The farmer, like most others, could not care less for the Wiradjuri or anyone else for that matter. Still, that did not help in the following event. The Wiradjuri, now introduced to European agriculture, decided to venture onto the farm in search of food. Do remember that the Wiradjuri had no understanding about private land ownership. Furthermore they did not understand the concept of private ownership of food either.
The farmer, who also had three convict helpers, saw that the Wiradjuri party were on 'his' land &, furthermore, were digging it up looking for his crop of potatoes. The farmer, along with the convicts, armed themselves & headed off to repeal the 'native attack'. Of course there was no Wiradjuri attack, but that did not stop the four white men attacking them anyway. Armed with muskets, the four white men let loose a volley which was surprisingly effective. Two of the Wiradjuri were shot: one fatally. The others escaped.
Windradyne was convinced, after hearing of the shooting, that the British were only out to take Wiradjuri land & kill off his People. Others too, who earlier had supported peace, were now not so certain. At a corroboree, not far from Mudgee, Windradyne successfully argued that the British had broken the peace & that the British meant war. The Wiradjuri would, however reluctantly, have to fight in order to survive. It was either them or the British.
The fighting in the first two years of the Bathurst Wars was new to the British experience in Australia. Instead of the Wiradjuri being easily defeated, as had happened elsewhere, the British were in trouble from the start. This was thanks to the superior tactics adopted by Windradyne. Unlike with neighbouring nations, the Wiradjuri went onto the offensive. Again, unlike their fellow indigenous neighbours, they avoided the British army patrols. Instead, they concentrated on the vulnerable farms. Having only a handful of people at each farm, large war parties of Wiradjuri numbering around fifty or so members, were more than enough when dealing with four or five colonists.
This same pattern of hitting quickly, & without warning, the Wandang farms, then disappearing, would become common practice of the Wiradjuri. The British Army detachment at Bathurst was far outnumbered to do anything about these attacks. As only about 100 personnel of the 39th Regiment was in Bathurst, Morrisett could only react. Often the patrols found the farm destroyed with its workers killed. But as word spread about the attacks, more & more of the farmers would quickly flee & escape to Bathurst.
By 1825, after constant requests from Morrisett, Governor Brisbane finally acted. First he declared all of the Bathurst region to be under Martial Law. This gave Morrisett the power to press civilians into a militia service: one which many of the now unemployed farmer workers, whether they be freemen or convicts, gladly joined. Combined with this action, Brisbane sent most of the remainder of the 39th Regiment to Bathurst.
If the British colony thought that things would thus change in the war, then they were to be disappointed. With the arrival of the bulk of the 39th Regiment, arrogance came with them. Convinced that the Wiradjuri could now be hunted down with superior numbers, the British could not be more wrong. Furthermore, Morrisett, not knowing where the Wiradjuri were, had to divide the 39th Regiment up into patrols whilst keeping the militia back to cover Bathurst.
Meanwhile, Windradyne continued with the hit & run tactics on the farms, which by now were all but deserted. The few which remained were either considered friendly or had become stockades garrisoned by large groups of farmers & convicts. Thus by mid 1825, the Wiradjuri were forced to attack these stockades & things did not necessarily go their way. For the first time in the war, the Wiradjuri suffered setbacks. Things only seemed to get worse when the patrols of the 39th Regiment began arriving at the stockades under attack. Although they did not necessarily stop all of the attacks of the Wiradjuri, they did nonetheless cause the Wiradjuri to withdraw for the most part.
After the somewhat fruitless months that followed, Windradyne decided to take the war to the British soldiers. This came as a shock to the patrols of the 39th Regiment, as previously the Wiradjuri had always ran away whenever they arrived. Now they were coming under attack instead, as their small parties patrolled the region around Bathurst. Soon the British casualties began to rise to the point where Morisset was forced to withdraw & reorganise the patrols. Instead of ten to twenty men of the 39th Regiment, in a given patrol, the number rose to at least fifty. Although this reduced the number of patrols, it ensured safety in numbers.
The shift in the new tactics employed by the British caught the Wiradjuri by surprise. In the first time during the war, it was the Wiradjuri who started to suffer heavy casualties. Windradyne soon responded, however, by copying Morisset’s simple tactic by increasing the size of the Wiradjuri war parties. Soon these war parties numbered around 150 personnel, thus ensuring that the Wiradjuri had the advantage of numbers once again.
At the beginning of 1826, however, things were about to get worse. As numbers in the 39th Regiment had declined, so too had the British ability to conduct effective patrols. Just as it appeared that the Wiradjuri would once again control the countryside, outside of the towns & stockades, Morisset decided to use the militia to supplement the ranks of the regulars. This had mixed success at first, but by working with the soldiers of the 39th Regiment, the members of the militia were soon a polished force. They may not have had the same disciple, or ethos as their uniformed counterparts, but they became an effective force all the same.
The result of the introduction of the militia, into the fight, meant that large scale skirmishes took place all throughout the Bathurst region for the next three months. By May, both sides had exhausted themselves, with the Wiradjuri suffering higher casualties. Still, thanks to a large population, the Wiradjuri could afford such a situation. Soon a stalemate took place, which could favour the British more so than the Wiradjuri.
Nonetheless, Windradyne took advantage of this stalemate period & began to analyse the situation. He concluded that the Wiradjuri, considering the changes in the British method of operations, would have to reorganise into larger units number at least 500 members. The current size, numbering 150, had clearly become too small against the current size of British units. And according to his scouts, the British were employing everyone that they had in their current units, & it was unlikely that they could field larger numbers. The Wiradjuri, however, could.
It was not until August, though, when the war awoke from its slumber. In dreadful winter conditions, the reorganised Wiradjuri army was on the move. The British, on the other hand, were in their barracks scattered around the Bathurst region. None could support the other. It was a dreadful mistake by the British.
The first slaughter took place at an outpost called Sofala. Although the stockade there offered some protection, the 52 members of the outpost, most of whom were from the militia, were trapped all the same. Windradyne himself conducted the operations of the Wiradjuri. At first the Wiradjuri tried a stealth approach, but a sentry alerted the garrison. The Wiradjuri were forced to withdraw with the loss of ten men. If the garrison thought that they had won a victory, they were about to be disappointed. Windradyne decided to attack in full. 500 odd warriors thus attacked, overwhelming the defenders. There were no British survivors.
A week later, it was the turn of the Wattle Flat garrison. Having suspected that something bad had happened, the commander at Wattle Flat prepared for an attack. Manned mostly by members of the 39th Regiment, they were a better match for Windradyne’s forces than those at Sofala. Furthermore, Windradyne had not been reinforced since his victory, & had lost about 150 of his warriors. Even so, the Wiradjuri attacked at dawn only to be defeated. They retreated back to Sofala without harassment.
Elsewhere a similar pattern took place. Initial attacks by the Wiradjuri were usually successful, albeit with heavy loss. Due to this casualty rate, though, follow up attacks failed. The Wiradjuri were then forced to fall back weakened. The British, on the other hand, had lost several outer outposts & their garrisons, whilst the inner ring of outposts held on. Furthermore, reinforcements were hurriedly sent from Sydney to stabilise the situation in Bathurst. Among these reinforcements were some colonial cavalry.
Morisset, now with these reinforcements, went on the offensive & retook with little effort the lost outposts. This had been fully achieved by late November. He had done this employing conventional doctrine using a large column. Upon regaining the previous outpost, a garrison was left to defend it as before. Morisset would then move the column onto the next objective. Only at Molong, the first outpost Morisset had decided to retake, did the Wiradjuri offer a defence. But the Wiradjuri were, for once, outnumbered & clearly out gunned. Elsewhere, on the approach of Morisset’s army column, the Wiradjuri withdrew without offering resistance.
It is at this point when Morisset decided to conduct, what would be called later by military strategists, as 'total war'. Enjoying, for the first time, large numbers, Morisset decided to let the militia loose. Whilst keeping the Regulars back to garrison the region, the militia would be free to attack, not the Wiradjuri war parties, but the civilians living in their villages & camps. Although they had orders to round the Wiradjuri civilians up, this seldom happened. Instead an orgy of blood took place. No one knows the exact figure killed, but its safe to say that it is in the thousands.
Things, however, came to a head at a location called Windamere Flat. A militia unit forced at least 200 women & children to jump to their deaths off a high cliff. The atrocity was so horrendous that even Morisset was forced to act by ceasing the activities of the militia. Several members of the particular unit were arrested for murder. All but two convicts got off later. The Wiradjuri warriors, however, were able to take some revenge upon a different militia unit returning from a foray west of Sofala. None of the militia unit survived.
The Guraarr Yanaay
On the day Governor Brisbane ordered the 3rd Regiment to Bathurst, in order to reinforce the remnants of the 39th Regiment (& replace the militia), Windradyne & his war party had just left Wiradjuri territory for the Guraarr Yanaay (Great Journey) to Parramatta. Neither side was aware of the others actions at this point, but the Wiradjuri were at least aware of the locations of the British forces around Bathurst. This knowledge ensured that Windradyne’s party of 400 warriors was able to move undetected until they reached the Blue Mountains.
It was never Windradyne’s intention, however, to conduct warfare in the Blue Mountains region. For starters, this region was not part of Wiradjuri territory. His warriors were under strict orders to avoid contact at all costs. Instead they were to use the Koori trails, which the British did not use, & make their way in secret to their objective. The distance was rather long being at over 160kms. And no one knew what was waiting for them once the Wiradjuri party left their lands.
Windradyne’s plain was a simple one. The Wiradjuri, who had been holding their own in the war so far, had become both outraged & worried by the recent tactics of the British. In fact the militia’s actions at Windamere Flat had rattled even Windradyne. Even though the Wiradjuri were satisfied by their revenge, they still were concerned as to the future. Having their women & children killed, & without being able to offer any defence, was a matter of deep concern.
Remembering Governor Macquarie’s offer, however, of meeting with him over any concern, the Elders of the Wiradjuri decided to take up the Governor’s offer. Not knowing that a different man was in the Governor’s office, Windradyne was ordered nevertheless to head to Parramatta & take up the offer of a meeting. So it was, as the British sent a second regiment to Bathurst to enter the war, the Wiradjuri headed for Parramatta to finish the war.
The Wiradjuri journey itself to Parramatta was an uneventful affair as far as fighting was concerned. The Wiradjuri’s far superior knowledge of the environment ensured that they travelled the distance undetected. The same could not be said for the British. In fact, as these things go, at one point the Wiradjuri watched on as the men of the 3rd Regiment marched past their vantage point. Some of the warriors wanted to attack the vulnerable British Regiment there & then, but Windradyne was against it.
Instead, Windradyne, who was initially against peace talks, realised at this moment that the Wiradjuri probably had little chance against the British in continuous warfare. It seemed that for every soldier, that the Wiradjuri warriors killed, several more took their place. The only way, thus, to win a future for his people was to get a Makarrata. It was here, when Windradyne realised what his fellow Elders wanted. This realisation, however, only made Windradyne stronger & more resolute in this purpose.
Onward the Wiradjuri party journeyed until they reached the eastern plains. It had been years since a Wiradjuri had ventured over the mountains to the plains, but alas all could be seen was the presence of the British. There were no longer any Koori here. This, as much as anything, convinced Windradyne of the probable future of the Wiradjuri. Hence they journeyed on. In order to avoid detection, once again they turned to the old, & now abandoned, Koori trails. This took them to the south of Penrith & the other British settlements. Thus, at some distance from the British towns, they were able to continue their journey east & finally to Parramatta.
Although the township of Parramatta was rather large & busy, Governor House was located towards the west of the town on a hill. In fact it would be safe to say that it was some distance from the town, albeit within eyesight. This meant, though, that the House was isolated with just a handful of guards. The town’s army barracks (which currently was almost empty), down by the river & not far from the town centre, meant that any reinforcements for Governor House was some way off. But then again the military minded assumed that any trouble would take place in the town itself & not at Governor House. Furthermore, Governor House was a recent addition to Parramatta: built some time after the town was established. The Governor, at the time, did not want to associate with the riff-raff of the town, so the building was located at the isolated position on the hill. Ironically, this arrangement of town & Governor House suited Windradyne just fine.
Corroboree At Parramatta
On 18 December 1827 Windradyne & his warriors surrounded Governor House. Only six guards were present to repeal 400 Wiradjuri warriors should they attack. Needless to say, Governor Brisbane was summoned by the guards. In a similar fashion, Windradyne asked politely for the Governor. It was all rather formal, which somewhat surprised the British who were present. In fact Windradyne appeared dressed in a coat & top hat in order to meet the Governor.
Still, Governor Brisbane, let alone the guards, had no idea what the Wiradjuri were up to. Here they were, surrounding Governor House, armed &, for all intents & purposes, appeared to be ready to storm the building. Unlike other Governor House’s around the British Empire, which appeared like palaces or castles, this one actually was a house of average size. Hence storming it by 400 warriors would not be impossible. Furthermore, British reinforcements were close to impossible. The 3rd Regiment, which was usually stationed in Parramatta, was 160km away in Bathurst.
Windradyne, however, calmed things down after a few minutes of anxiety. He announced in broken English that he was here to talk to the Governor about ending the war. He made it clear, however, that he was not here to surrender. He made that very clear. Thus the Governor, having been surrounded, had but little choice but to hear Windradyne out.
Several days would go by whilst Windradyne & Brisbane negotiated for a settlement. Settlement, though, was not what Windradyne wanted. It had to be a Makarrata or nothing. And it had to be one which was acceptable to the Wiradjuri. Certain items were not negotiable. By 24 December an agreement was thankfully reached, although not without tension. By now two companies of the 40th Regiment were finally on the scene. Having marched all day on 21 December, the 40th Regiment arrived from Sydney & surrounded the Wiradjuri who inturn had remained, now encamped, around Governor House. Nonetheless, Brisbane ordered these new army units from Sydney not to attack the Wiradjuri.
In the end Brisbane, though, did very well for the British. He had stopped the war & made the Wiradjuri a subjective people to the British. The Wiradjuri would accept British sovereignty provided there were, however, two fundamental stipulations. The first was protection of all Wiradjuri possessions, including the land. A part of this stipulation ensured that Wiradjuri land could only be purchased by the Crown & only with the agreement of the Wiradjuri. There were also restrictions as to what could be done to the land after ownership had been passed to the Crown.
The second stipulation was probably more important than the first. In fact, in later years, it would become the basis for several legal challenges in the next century. The Wiradjuri People would become subjects of the Crown, & full British citizens, with the same rights & privileges as any other free person in the colony. More importantly, they would have the same legal status as any free settler.
To the Wiradjuri, however, it appeared that they had won a great victory. Importantly the war had stopped. As far as the Wiradjuri were concerned, they had not been defeated &, more to the point, had ensured that their territory was secured from further British encroachment. The Wiradjuri would have to tolerate, though, the current British settlements, farms & other outposts, but at least the government would pay for the land already taken. Windradyne would go down in history for this victory & the Wiradjuri were one of the first of native peoples, anywhere, to gain equal footing with the British.
Initially the Wiradjuri were happy with their Makarrata. Windradyne had proven to be an honourable & worthy adversary & had succeeded in securing the Wiradjuri’s future along side that of the British colony. Many in the colony did not at all like the idea of such a treaty with any of the Aboriginals, let alone the Wiradjuri, but many others thought that if the natives wanted their open plains over the mountains, a region which few colonists wanted anyway, then the Wiradjuri could have the plains provided the war was over.
London was not at all happy when word came through from Sydney of the Parramatta Treaty. For his efforts, Governor Brisbane was recalled back to London & was replaced by Sir Ralph Darling. Unfortunately for London, Governor Darling proved to be a major trouble maker for their colony. Not only were numerous "characters" rounded up in the colony, & charged with numerous crimes, but Darling was more than willing to enforce the Parramatta Treaty. Instead of the army chasing Wiradjuri from the land of white farmers, as it had in the past, now it was the turn of trespassing British colonists to be chased off Wiradjuri land.
Having said that, many white farmers & towns people were permitted to stay in Wiradjuri territory as were several outposts. The Wiradjuri were happy to see this as some colonists had befriended them during the war & had accepted Wiradjuri customs in regards to the land & friendship. Other than that, the Wiradjuri got money from the others. Among the most valued friend among the colonists was Suttor. In fact Suttor would become a defacto ambassador, although officials were inclined to ignore him as well as the Wiradjuri whenever it suited them. Nonetheless, the descendants of the Suttor family are still involved with the Wiradjuri People.
Alas Windradyne would not live long after the Parramatta Treaty to see the irony of the situation. Having been accepted into white society, Windradyne began to visit Bathurst & other British outposts which had been permitted to remain in Wiradjuri territory under the Treaty. In fact he became a respect figure in both colonial & Wiradjuri societies. But there were problems within the tribe as some of the warriors wanted to renew the war. In 1835, during one such argument, Windradyne was seriously injured when a fight broke out. Although he was taken to the hospital in Bathurst, the great Windradyne died of his wounds.
Along with Windradyne’s death, the Wiradjuri seemed to lose their way. After Governor Darling was replaced by William Sorell, the Wiradjuri’s last "protector" was gone. Sorell was never up to the task of running, what was now, a large colony. The pressure to secure more land now led the pastoralists over the mountains west to Wiradjuri land. And Governor Sorell did nothing to stop them. Soon, although officially the Parramatta Treaty was still in effect, in reality it became a worthless piece of paper for the next 100 years. By the late 1870s, virtually all Wiradjuri land had been occupied by pastoralists & the once proud Wiradjuri People had been moved into reserves. Once numbering well over 500 000, thanks to the war, illnesses & starvation, only 50 000 remained when Australia became a nation in 1901.
The situation would, thankfully, eventually change, even though it took until the mid 1960s for change to take place. Now with the support of several unions, the Australian Labor Party, & a change in the Australian Constitution, the Wiradjuri gained vital legal support leading to important challenges to their situation. Out came the Parramatta Treaty, which first stung the New South Wales government at the time, & later the Australian Federal government. The Wiradjuri all of a sudden were awarded, after numerous trails, all the rights which had been guaranteed them in 1827.
The legal battles, however, did not stop here. Soon other Aboriginal tribes challenged governments on the basis of the Parramatta Treaty. The final such legal battle, finally settled in 1982, saw the granting of Native Title to all Aboriginal Peoples based upon the clauses of the original Makarrata. Although this would cause confusion & business chaos for the pastoralists, many of whom had no connection at all to the original events leading up to the acquisition of their land, arrangements were made wherein an accommodation was agreed to. In most cases this meant that the local Aboriginal tribe would be paid dues which previously the government would get. Needless to say, the renaissance of the Parramatta Treaty, won long ago by Windradyne, has gone a long way towards reconciliation with the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia.
Broome, R. Aboriginal Australians, St Leonards, 1994
Clarke, M. A Short History of Australia, Ringwood, 1995
Clarke, M. Select Documents in Australian History1788-1850, Sydney, 1970
Cowlishaw, G. & Morris, B. Race Matters, Canberra, 1997
Crowley, F. A New History of Australia, Melbourne, 1974
Lippmann, L. Generations of Resistance, Melbourne, 1994
Lowe, D. Forgotten Rebels, Sydney 1994
Martin, G. The Founding of Australia, Sydney, 1978
Reynolds, H. Aboriginal Sovereignty, St Leonards, 1996
Rowley, C. D. Outcasts in White Australia, Ringwood, 1972
© 2003, 2006 David Mark Atwell
Presidential Medal of Science Fiction Geekiness
with Crossed Colonial Rifles
and Cylon Basestar Clusters