A NEW Shoalhaven history book will be released as part of this year’s Shoalhaven River Festival celebrations.
The Year Dot by Nowra historian Bill Hancock covers the arrival of Alexander Berry in the Shoalhaven and the early Shoalhaven Aborigines.
Researching information on the pioneer cedar cutters in the area Mr Hancock said he came across enough information to make into two books and decided to dedicate a book to the early local Aborigines.
“They are an amazing story and one that has not been told,” he said.
“They deserve recognition for what they did and it’s something the area should know and be proud of.”
Published with help from the Shoalhaven Historical Society, the book has been a number of years in the making and was reviewed by the Nowra Local Aboriginal Land Council for 12 months prior to publication.
“Like many people I didn’t think there was anything happening in the Shoalhaven until Alexander Berry arrived in 1822 and established the settlement at Coolangatta,” Mr Hancock said.
“But there is so much more than that and the significant role Aborigines played in the area long before white man arrived.
“There should also be more acknowledgments, especially of our early Aborigines and the role they played not in the local area’s history but that of Australia.”
He said one Shoalhaven Aborigine in particular, Pigeon, played a big part.
“The role of Bennelong is universally recognised but I believe Pigeon did just as much if not more and he came from right here in the Shoalhaven,” Mr Hancock said.
He was first mentioned as being in Pitt Street in 1803 and then later in 1811 was reported being employed as crew on the ship Sally and Mary along with two other Aborigines Potter and Jack Stewart.
It was a boat that eventual Nowra local Mary Reiby had shares in – at the time it was seeking seal skins and oil from Bass Strait and Macquarie and Campbell islands in the sub Antarctic.
“Pigeon would go on to change the course of Australian history,” Mr Hancock said.
“While on one of their whaling trips they also came across the French surveying the area around the Great Australian Bight.
“When Governor Darling in Sydney got wind of that, he moved swiftly to start other settlements and sent a convict ship to establish the first white settlement at Albany in Western Australia.
“Pigeon was employed as mediator and interpreter between the new settlers and Aborigines in the area.
“John Batman had got to known Pigeon during his cedar cutting days in the Shoalhaven River and took him to Tasmania where there was resistance to the European settlement.”
Along with John Crook he was selected by Batman for their tracking skills and understanding of the Aboriginal language.
When communications broke down the pair was sent back to NSW to recruit more Aborigines from outlying districts; in total five Shoalhaven locals were recruited, including Pigeon’s brother Maccah [Lewis] and Jack Stewart [Gillang].
The locals witnessed many atrocities as the negotiations broke down and many Tasmanian Aborigines were killed.
Pigeon returned to the Shoalhaven, staying on Alexander Berry’s property.
But he was soon again off with Batman, this time arranging treaties for land around Port Phillip, resulting in the leasing of vast tracts of land that would later be known as Melbourne and Geelong.
When Batman returned to Tasmania, Pigeon was left in control of the land.
The book also tells the stories of other early Shoalhaven Aborigines such as Maccah Lewis, Joe The Marine, Jack Waterman, Johnny Sawyer, Jim Charcoal, Broughton, to name just a few.
The Year Dot by Nowra historian Bill Hancock will be launched as part of the Shoalhaven River Festival on Saturday, October 26.