Australia in the 1800s


Pemulwuy (1750–1802) was a Bidjigal man from the Botany Bay area who led the Eora nation's resistance to European expansion into Eora lands. His name means 'earth: man of earth' in the Dhurag language. He questioned the immense damage done to Aboriginal society by the murder of his people and the loss of their traditional lands and hunting grounds. He retaliated against these atrocities by spearing cattle, burning huts, destroying crops and attacking settlers. His response is significant as it was the largest organised Aboriginal retaliation to the British invasion. Aboriginal groups usually fought in groups of around 30, but Pemulwuy was able to form groups of more than 100 people connecting different clans and language groups. During the 1790s, he had been hunted and shot many times and his survival from these wounds was so remarkable that his people believed he had some spiritual protection from the guns.

In 1801 Governor Philip King (1758–1808) issued an order that any Aboriginal person found near the Parramatta district, the Georges River and Prospect should be driven from the area and could be shot on sight. King further decreed that Pemulwuy was an outlaw and offered a reward for his capture.

In June 1802 Pemulwuy was shot by Henry Hacking (1750–1831) at Parramatta. Governor King ordered that his head be preserved and sent to Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820) in England for study. In a letter to Banks, King wrote that even though he believed Pemulwuy to be a 'pest', he also praised him as a warrior who was brave and independent in character. Tedbury, the son of Pemulwuy, carried on the resistance for another eight years and was also eventually shot in 1810.


A snapshot of 1808

  • January
    • The governor, Captain William Bligh, was deposed and placed under house arrest.

  • May
    • Thomas Livingstone Mitchell became surveyor-general following the death of John Oxley.

  • September
    • The first medical diploma in the colony was issued to William Redfern.

  • October
    • The colonial office in London announced the recall of the New South Wales Corps to England.

  • November
    • The Cascades Female Factory for women convicts opened in Hobart Town.


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