Australia in the 1830s

William Buckley

In 1835 after 32 years spent living with the Wathaurong people, William Buckley (1780–1856), an escaped convict, came out of the bush and surrendered to an advance party of settlers in the Port Phillip District of New South Wales. Later known in the colony as the 'wild white man', Buckley owed his life to the Wathaurong people who rescued him after his escape from the failed penal settlement at Sullivan Bay in south-east Australia. He barely survived in the bush, where, without fire, he ate raw shellfish and constantly searched for fresh water, struggling to survive in an unfamiliar environment where the animals and plants were unknown to him.

The Wathaurong believed Buckley was a recently deceased Wathaurong warrior, Murrangurk, returned from the spirit world, and so accepted him as a member of their group. Buckley lived with pre-contact Wathaurong and gained a unique perspective on their social customs and way of life. He learned their language and how to hunt and fish, their social customs and their cultural values. Within the group he had a wife and a daughter.

Although over the 32 years he had spent with the Wathaurong other European parties had landed close to where he was, he made no effort to contact them as he was fearful he would be punished for his escape. In his memoirs recorded by a journalist, John Morgan, he reported that he only made contact when he realised that some Aboriginal warriors were going to attack the advance party of settlers. After living with the Wathaurong so long, he found it difficult to speak English again. On return to his previous life, he found it difficult to live in European society. He acted as an interpreter and as a go-between for the settlers and the Aboriginal groups.

William Buckley_1830

A snapshot of 1838

  • January
    • John Pascoe Fawkner (1792–1869) founded the Melbourne Advertiser, the first weekly newspaper published in Melbourne. It was originally handwritten on four pages until a press and type arrived from Tasmania.
    • The 50th anniversary of the colony of New South Wales was held.

  • June
    • The Myall Creek massacre of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children occurred.

  • November
    • Pastor Kavel brought about 200 German dissenters escaping religious persecution in their own country to South Australia.
    • The Melbourne Cricket Club was founded.

  • December
    • Melbourne's first school opened at Batman's Hill.
    • The Jenolan Caves were discovered.


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