Tag Archives: aboriginal

The birthplace of European Settlement in Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land): Risdon Cove

The start of my walk along the next stage of the Derwent River will be at Risdon Cove.

Earlier blogs explained how Lieutenant John Hayes, with two ships, entered the River and named it the Derwent in 1793. Twenty six kilometres upstream, while mapping the River, he saw an inlet on the eastern shore and named it Risdon Cove. Risdon, Risdon Vale and Risdon Cove were named after Captain William Bellamy Risdon. Risdon took command of the Duke of Clarence, the second ship that was part of Hayes excursion up the Derwent River.

Another decade passed before European colonisation began.

The Lady Nelson was the first ship to arrive at Risdon Cove in September 1803 when Lieutenant Bowen was sent from Port Jackson (Sydney area) to establish the first settlement at Risdon Cove, and rename it Hobart. As an aside, in the late 1980s a replica was built and the new Lady Nelson became well known on the Derwent River round Hobart. Currently locals and visitors volunteer time to maintain and crew the ship. Short sails are scheduled throughout the year for those who are interested. The website http://www.ladynelson.org.au/ provides further information, and has published the photo which I have reproduced below.

Lady Nelson

Despite the recommendation of the explorer George Bass, Risdon Cove proved to be a bad choice for a settlement site because the soil was poor and fresh water minimal.

In early February 1804, Lieutenant Colonel David Collins arrived from establishing the first small settlement at Sullivan Bay in the state of, what is now known, as Victoria. Quickly Collins realised Risdon Cove was inadequate and ordered the relocation of the settlement to a new site at Sullivan’s Cove, the present wharf-front centre of today’s Hobart. By late February 1804, the military and convicts had been moved to Sullivan’s Cove on the western shore of the Derwent River.

How many settlers were there?

Gathering reliable figures for the numbers of people remaining at Risdon while Bowen was away sailing and exploring and once Collins had moved some of his people to Sullivan’s Cove has proved to be impossible. According to the reputable Australian Dictionary of Biography, Bowen’s landing party in 1803 numbered 49 persons in total including 24 convicts previously transported from England via Port Jackson (Sydney). The site http://www.treasury.tas.gov.au/domino/historyW.nsf/v-all/021976A07261DACBCA256EB400107431 declared that in 1803, 100 people were settled at Risdon Cove, so I assume that further ships arrived after Bowen later that year. The same website refers to “Collins’s expedition of more than 430 people.” Apparently by July 1804, Collins had ‘hutted’ 400 people on the western shore around Sullivan’s Cove and bays further along the Derwent River. Other reports indicate an unspecified number of people stole a boat and escaped from Risdon Cove, thereby reducing the number of people living in that tiny settlement.  I wanted to have a sense of the scale of the residents remaining at Risdon Cove in order to determine whether the settlers might be afraid of the aboriginals simply on the basis of being outnumbered.

The Shag Bay and Bedlam Walls area covers much loved and used aboriginal land of the Moomairremener people

Various websites have indicated that the tract of land between Geilston Bay and Risdon Cove contains a great deal of evidence of land and river use by the original land owners.

Previously I acknowledged the traditional owners of the land along the Derwent River that I have been walking across. This land, before European settlement, belonged to the Moomairremener people however the early international settlers failed to understand that the local inhabitants had established government practices and legal systems, and worked with the land and sea to ensure an ongoing food supply. Unfortunately the characteristics which made the indigenous people civilised were different to those characteristics which made the settlers civilised. Because of their major cultural differences, both groups of people couldn’t grasp the positive values of each other. Each failed to learn from the other so that neither came to an understanding that the difference between them did not make one group better or worse.  As the new settlers encroached on aboriginal land and hunting grounds without understanding the value and significance of what they were doing and attacked aboriginal people, inevitably the Moomairremener people attacked in return.

Bedlam Walls Point’s aboriginal cave, middens and quarry were the main features of aboriginal occupation that I expected to access during my walk. Regrettably I did not find the cave or the middens but I did see, at a distance, the quarry.  Another walk is needed to take more time to access these additional sites.

All the above are in easy walking distance of the site (Risdon Cove) at which, according to one story, an Aboriginal band hunting kangaroos was mistaken by whites for attackers and massacred (http://fieldnotestasmania.blogspot.com.au/2009/11/bedlam-walls-walk.html). According to http://www.australianhistorymysteries.info/pdfs/StudiesAHM-1.pdf “On 3 May 1804 there was a violent clash between a group of British settlers and a large party of Aboriginal people at Risdon Cove, near Hobart in Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen’s Land). Different writers and historians have given varying accounts of what happened then.”  In my view, neither option expressed on this website does any credit to the early settlers.

I cannot help thinking about the ongoing contemporary parallels where governments provoke fear by urging our populations to be vigilant against others who dress or look different. I cannot see this is a helpful way to learn to understand the benefits that different people can bring to all our lives.

Stage 6 of my walk along the Derwent River tomorrow – Tuesday

In preparing to walk from Geilston Bay north to Risdon Cove looking at natural and historical features along the way, I expect to make good use of initial research. Apparently I should see considerable evidence of past European and Aboriginal settlements and use of the land. Currently, there are no settlements along this edge of the Derwent River until the tiny suburb of Risdon is reached.

Birds between Geilston and Shag Bay

An obvious bird lover has blogged extensively on Tasmanian birds and, in particular, has walked part of the distance I will cover tomorrow.

More detailed information with glorious photos is available at http://tassiebirds.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/shag-bay-bluewings-more.html however, in summary; I should see a wide range of native birds if fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and with my eyes open.

Silvereyes, Black-headed Honeyeaters, Yellow-throated Honey eaters, Grey Currawongs, Blue-wing parrots, Yellow Wattlebirds, Brown Quails, Australasian Pipits, Dusky Woodswallows, Pied Cormorants, White-breasted Sea Eagles, Spotted Pardalotes, Dusky Robins, Black-face Cuckoo Shrikes, Grey Butcherbirds, Green Rosellas, New Holland Honeyeaters, Crescent Honeyeaters, and Brown Thornbills.  Phew!  What a collection!  I can identify some of these birds but not all. Therefore, I will be poring through my bird books later today to give me a better chance of seeing more and knowing what I am seeing.

Name of Shag Bay

Now is a good time to consider the name Shag Bay, the first Bay I will reach after Geilston Bay.  I cannot discover who gave the name, when, or why. In the absence of any information I have a theory. The common European bird Phalacrocorax aristotelis known familiarly as a Shag, is a species of cormorant. Cormorant birds are commonly seen fishing along our Derwent River. In fact, Tasmania has 4 species of cormorants with a vagrant fifth flying in from time to time. It seems very reasonable to imagine that the first Europeans, coming into what is now Shag Bay, repeatedly saw many cormorants fishing and so the name was easily applied.

Australia has developed a useful colloquialism: “like a shag on a rock”. This means abandoned and alone.  The Australian National Dictionary Centre explains “Any isolated person can be described as, or feel like, a shag on a rock – for example, a political leader with few supporters, or a person without friends at a party.”

Acknowledgement of Country – to the Moomairremener people

I will be walking on the land of the Moomairremener people as I walk along the eastern side of the Derwent River.  Therefore, 

“I acknowledge and pay respect to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community as the traditional and original owners and continuing custodians of this land.”

The first people to live in Clarence were the Moomairremener, a band of the Oyster Bay tribe. Their home was all of present-day Clarence as well as Pittwater. In summer the Moomairremener went up the Derwent to the New Norfolk area to hunt, while the people there came down to the coast. In autumn they returned to the coast. Europeans later recorded some Aboriginal place names: More.der.tine.ner and Reemere were South Arm, Trum.mer.ner pine.ne was Droughty Point, Nannyeleebata was Rokeby, Mole.he.ac Kangaroo Bluff, Lore.by.larner was Betsey Island, and Ray.ghe.py.er.ren.ne was one name for the Derwent River. The Moomairremener people continued their usual life in Clarence until 1803. (http://www.ccc.tas.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/FINALClarence_01_to_1805.pdf)