An Aboriginal man known as the ‘King of Jervis Bay’ is believed to be buried on the site of the Huskisson Holy Trinity Church.
Save Husky Church has discovered that a man named Bud Billy or King Budd Billy of Jervis Bay was buried at the site in 1905.
According to information held at the National Library of Australia he was known by many names, including Jimmy Golding, King Golden, King Jimmy and Jimmy Carpenter.
Newspapers from the time state Billy was known as the King of the Jervis Bay Aboriginals, while his wife Mary Carpenter was known as the Queen of Jervis Bay.
Photographs from the time show that King Billy lived at Shark Net Beach, close to the Huskisson Holy Trinity Church.
An edition of the Evening News, dated July 22 1905 detailed King Billy’s “Christian burial” on the church grounds.
“[He] had a Christian burial in the churchyard with a minister,” the article read.
Save Husky Church member Shirley Fitzgerald said while she was aware of stories about Indigenous burials on the site, this was the first time such specific information had become available.
“We have spoken with [some] Aboriginal elders in the area and they are very excited and interested in this discovery,” she said.
“But we are as anxious to find knowledge from the descendants as well as to give them the information.”
According to a research report by Raymond C Nelson titled Connecting with Billy Budd II, King Billy worked as a police tracker in uniform during the 1890s, and was attached to the Nowra Police Station.
King Billy had a reasonably high profile in both the White and Aboriginal communities in Nowra, according to the report. Despite this, official documentation of his existence is absent.
Shoalhaven City Council made a determination about the location of other burial sites on the Church grounds several years ago, after using a ground penetrating radar.
Of the area that was checked, seven bodies were found, with five of those bodies found in ‘Lot 7’ of the site.
Ms Fitzgerald said while Lot 7 had been checked for bodies, the rest of the site, has not been checked for any potential grave sites.
“Eighty-nine per cent of the site has not been tested and there is no reason to believe there are no graves [on the rest of the site],” she said.
Ms Fitzgerald said the group’s research had found bodies may also have been buried in ‘Lot 8’.
“We don’t know if there are more Indigenous people buried on the land, but it is possible, and that’s part of our concern,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“This [the potential development of the site] seems to be happening with undue haste.”
Despite developer Stephen Bartlett amending his DA to stop the demolition of the church building, Ms Fitzgerald said the land should not be touched at all until “a proper heritage assessment” is carried out.
“We have lodged an Interim Heritage Order [with the Office of Environment and Heritage] not just on the Church building, but the whole site,” she said.
“We’ve sent the heritage council this additional information.”
The heritage council is expected to make a determination on the Interim Heritage Order at its upcoming meeting in November.