The Queen's Letter
In Victoria, the Kulin 'nation' comprised five tribal groups: the Wathaurong, Woiworung, Boonwurrung, Taungurong and Nguraiillam. With more and more of their lands taken up by the colonists, the Kulin became the main group at the Coranderrk reserve set up in 1863 near the town of Healesville. Historian Diane Barwick tells of their political initiative to secure recognition of their land ownership:
'The Kulin...had for years been told that the Queen had explicitly commissioned the Governor to protect Aborigines and were apparently aware that this formal consent was required for the reservation of land. The leaders of the camp at Corranderk Creek originated the idea of attending the Governor's public levee, open to all gentlemen, on 24 May 1863. The whole colony was celebrating the recent marriage of the Prince of Wales as well as the Queen's birthday and the Kulin decided they too would send gifts to equip Prince Albert for his role as a married man. Learning two days beforehand of their plan to walk to Melbourne with weapons for the Prince and rugs and baskets for the Queen, Smyth [secretary of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines] hastily sent for William Thomas [government adviser on Aboriginal welfare] to help draft and translate a loyal address in the express hope that this would win sympathy for the Aborigines from the "Home Government". Wonga gracefully presented the written address with a speech in Woiwurru. Wonga, Barak, two more Woiwurung and two Bunurong men, eight men and five boys from various Taungurong clans and one man of the "Pangeran tribe" formed the deputation. They spoke good English. They had a few words with their host, Sir Henry Barkly [Governor of Victoria 1856-63], about their need for land. The reservation of 2,300 acres [931 ha] for their use on 30 June 1863 was probably coincidental. Gazettal of this first portion of the Coranderrk reserve was perhaps hastened by the fact that Heales, the president [of the Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines], had replaced Duffy as Lands Minister in a new coalition government three days earlier. But the timing of this decision, whatever its cause, encouraged the Kulin to believe in the efficacy of deputations to men who could influence governments. Subsequently the Corranderrk people were sent copies of the Queen's letter assuring them of her protection. These letters helped to establish their belief, still voiced by descendants in the 1970s, that Corranderk was the direct gift of the Queen and Sir Henry Barkly and belonged to them and their heirs in perpetuity.'
Keywords: Corranderk, Kulin nation, land ownership, Protection Boards, Queen Victoria, reserves, 1860s
Barwick, Laura and Richard (eds), Barwick, D 1998, 'Rebellion at Corranderk', Aboriginal History Monograph 5, Aboriginal History Inc pp 66.
Author: Rowse, Tim and Graham, Trevor
Source: Barwick, D