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Theme 6 - First Contact in Port Phillip

Within this section, events are discussed relating to the colonisation of Port Phillip in 1835. The names of the principal characters involved, that of William Buckley, John Batman, John Pascoe Fawkner and William Barak are well known to the public.

However as the saying goes, history is written by the winners.
This section therefore endeavours to lift the veil on this period of
our colonial history through an understanding of the
Aboriginal perspective.

A little understood narrative dictated by William Barak in 1888 is examined to reveal new insights about the influence of William Buckley on Aboriginal thinking, and the location of the 1835
treaty meeting with Batman.


  1. If Buckley survived 32 years in Aboriginal society, was he as dumb as he was painted by some colonists?

  2. If Batman had his treaties signed by eight Aboriginals, in ink, on a log, in middle of winter, how come there is not one ink blot, smudge, fingerprint or raindrop?

  3. Who was the nicer person, John Batman or John Pascoe Fawkner?

AH 6.1

Buckley’s adjustment to tribal life

The escaped convict William Buckley spent 32 years with the Kulin people. His personality and character was an important factor in him being able to adapt and survive.

AH 6.2

Murrangurk’s Law

Buckley became a knowledge-keeper and ‘headman for education about whitefellahs’. William Barak told how Buckley had warned that killing any white man would bring terrible revenge.

AH 6.3

Barak’s account of meeting Batman

At the age of almost 11, Barak was present at the meeting with Batman. In 1888, he described the meeting as having occurred on the Plenty River at Greensborough.

AH 6.4

Interpreting Barak’s story

Barak’s 1888 account of the 1835 meeting with Batman has not been properly understood, so it is analysed more closely to give deeper historical and cultural context.

AH 6.5

Batman’s second bogus treaty

Most people are unaware that Batman had two ‘treaties’ and both were bogus. The second treaty claimed preposterously to have bought land in Geelong from the Melbourne tribe.

AH 6.6

How the Yarra got its name

When one of Batman’s Sydney Aboriginal Guides pointed to the waterfall at Queen Street and said ‘Yarra’, Batman’s surveyor, John Helder Wedge thought he was saying the name of the river.

AH 6.7

Buckley’s re-entry to colonial life

Buckley was initially employed as a guide and interpreter by the colonial government, but he soon became disillusioned and went to Tasmania to live.

AH 6.8

Melbourne’s feuding founding fathers

John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner hated each other and both lay claim to have been Melbourne’s founder. Both were deeply flawed characters.

AH 6.9

Another flawed founding figure

Lionised by many historians as ‘the gentlemanly John Wedge’, Batman’s surveyor was the most flawed of all. The evidence is incontrovertible that he was in fact, a child abductor.

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