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The Aborigines of eastern Victoria and far southeastern New South Wales, 1830 to 1910 : an historical geography

posted on 29.11.2016, 03:51 by Wesson, Sue Caroline
Patterns of movement and occupation were developed over millennia by the Aborigines of far southeastern Australia in response to the terrain and the seasonal availability of resources including fresh water, plants, animals and artefact materials. This occupation was dynamic and change was stimulated by both intra and extra-group modifications of the political and economic circumstances of extended family units. These fluctuating fortunes resulted in expectations of, and strategies capable of responding to, what were then drastic events of abduction, small scale war and death. However the European invasion brought even greater change that challenged the survival strategies of these people and their capacity to continue the occupancy, utilisation of resources and movement through their countries. This dissertation examines the ways in which the customary attachments to country of the Aborigines of far south-eastern Australia changed with the coming of Europeans by detailing the movement history of Aborigines in eastern Victoria and far south-eastern New South Wales in the period 1830 to 1910. It explores the impact on movement patterns of key nineteenth century events like capitalist ventures (the timber getting, pastoral and agricultural invasions), religious missions (segregation and reservation in the name of God and Empire) and racial discrimination (segregation of and later assimilation for Aborigines’ social elevation). The research found that seasonal movement practices were modified surprisingly little by the attempts to impose European value systems, lifestyles and capital works on Aborigines’ physical and psychological landscapes. Furthermore its detailed genealogical and historical research shows that Aborigines continued to move more than the published ethnohistories suggest. European occupation broadened the scope of Aboriginal movement through its disabling impact on the maintenance of traditional boundaries. Thus, extraordinary journeys were taken by Aborigines in both known and unknown territories of Australia and on oceanic voyages. There were migrations by extended families and communities in response to mission closure, for marriage and to avoid disease or harsh mission management practices. So while some communities lost the connections with their home countries altogether, others managed to maintain strong ties to country despite migrating hundreds of kilometres. This study reveals a previously unwritten and largely unrecorded Aboriginal history which exists outside of, or obscured within, the published sources, and illustrates the resilience of a culture in the face of major change.


Principal supervisor

Stephen Legg

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Geography and Environmental Science


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts