Australia in the 1810s


First contact


In the first few years of Macquarie's rule there were peaceful relationships with the Indigenous peoples of the area until an Aboriginal boy was shot in 1814 and a colonial soldier was speared to death in retaliation at Appin, south of Sydney. This led to fighting between the cultures with groups of colonists attacking and killing Indigenous groups and families and Indigenous groups responding with payback, part of their system of responding to acts of violence. Payback included raids, killing livestock, destroying farm houses and setting fire to crops.

In 1814 Governor Macquarie established the Parramatta Native Institution. Its aim was to educate, train and Christianise Aboriginal children in an attempt to assimilate them into colonial society. The missionary William Shelley and his wife Elizabeth taught Indigenous people how to read the Bible and to learn a trade. Children had to live in the institution, and once they were sent there they were not permitted to return to their parents or to their traditional ways of life. The institution closed in 1823, criticised by some as being too expensive and by others for not achieving its aims. In 1819, the Sydney Gazette reported that a 14-year-old Aboriginal girl, Maria Lock (1805–1878), won first prize in an annual school examination ahead of 20 students from the Parramatta Native Institution and 100 non-Indigenous students.

In December 1816, Governor Lachlan Macquarie initiated an annual ceremony to present breastplates to Aboriginal 'chiefs' at a large feast in the marketplace in Parramatta. He also issued them with British uniforms. Bungaree of the Broken Bay group was the first person to receive a king-plate. It read 'Boongaree Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe'. He guided a number of journeys, surveying areas across the country including Moreton Bay and Norfolk Island in the north, and acted as a mediator between his people and the colonists; this breastplate was presented in recognition of his services. The colonial authorities believed the breastplates were a way of fostering cooperation and loyalty and a reward for service, acts of bravery and honesty and for acting as an intermediary between the colonists and Indigenous peoples. The various titles engraved on the breastplates reflected British customs and values. Aboriginal men were given the title of 'Chief' or 'King' and women such as Cora, the wife of Bungaree, were given the title of 'Queen'. These titles reflected an ignorance of Aboriginal groups, which do not have monarchies or royal families as the British did. Instead there are Elders within groups who are respected for their wisdom and knowledge in regard to their particular language and culture.


In 1816, passports or certificates were issued to some Aboriginal people who observed British values to show that the Europeans officially accepted them. An annual feast was also introduced in which the governor could meet with local Aboriginal people.


A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.

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