Australia’s attitude to its indigenous people has changed dramatically over the centuries and still has a long way to travel. Recording early indigenous material presents major dilemmas for any folklorist as the material is often racist and sexist. My job is to record such material and I would caution anyone wishing to use this material in a detrimental way.
We have to announce the death of his Aboriginal Majesty King BOONGARIE, Supreme Chief of the Sydney tribe. He expired on Wednesday last, at Garden Island, after a lingering sickness of several months. A coffin has been despatched thither from the Lumber Yard, and he will be interred at Rose Bay, beside the remains of his late Queen Gooseberry, this day.
The facetiousness of the sable chief, and the superiority of his mental endowments over those of the generality of his race, obtained for him a more than ordinary share of regard from the white inhabitants of the colony, which was testified by frequent donations suited to his condition, not only from private individuals, but from the Authorities.
At the commencement of his last illness, the Hon. Mr. M’leay procured him admission to the General Hospital, where he received every necessary attention, and remained some weeks; but becoming impatient to return to his PEOPLE, he was, of course, permitted to depart, and the Government allowed him a full man’s ration to the day of his death.
BOONGARIE was remarkable for his partiality for the English costume; and it must be confessed that his appearance was sometimes grotesque enough, when he had arrayed his person in such SHREDS AND PATCHES of coats and nether garments as he could by any means obtain; the whole surmounted by an old cocked hat, with “the humour of forty fancies pricked in’t for a feather”.
The late Commodore Sir JAMES BRISBANE, was particularly partial to him, and on one occasion presented him with a full suit of his own uniform, together with a sword, of which he was not a little vain. BOONGARIE had long association with the naval service in various ships of the Royal Navy; and his history was not unknown to the late Commodore. BOONGARIE accompanied the late Captain Flinders, both in the NORFOLK, sloop to Moreton Bay, and in His Majesty’s Ship INVESTIGATOR to the Gulph of Carpentaria. He also accompanied Commander James Grant in H.M. Colonial Brig, LADY NELSON to Port Macquarie. More recently he was with Commander P. P. King in the MERMAID, cutter on its voyage to the north-west and tropical coasts of Australia.
For some time past, his increasing infirmities rendered it evident that he could not much longer survive his forefathers; and, on the day above named, in the midst of his own tribe, as well as those of Darling Harbour by all of whom he was greatly beloved, he ended his mortal career. We have not yet heard of his successor; but the honour of course, devolves on the most renowned of his tribe.
“Sydney Gazette,” 27 November 1830