Matthew Flinders, c 1801
Unknown artist
Watercolour miniature on ivory
Mitchell Library Sydney

Keith Vincent Smith

The recent discovery in London of the coffin and remains of Captain Matthew Flinders among 40,000 graves buried beneath Euston Street Station sent a frisson  of excitement through British and Australian nautical history buffs.

Flinders, born at Donington in Lincolnshire in 1774, died at the age of 40 on 19 July 1814 and was buried in the graveyard of St. James’s Church on 24 July.

But are the skeletal remains in the coffin those of Matthew Flinders?

Anthony J. Brown in Ill-starred Captains: Finders & Baudin, Fremantle Press, North Fremantle, 2000, page 478, wrote:

Matthew Flinders, neglected in death as in life by his countrymen, had his grave destroyed and the contents ‘carried away as rubbish’ within forty years of his burial.

‘No man knows exactly where his bones were laid’ wrote Ernest Scott in The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders R.N., Angus & Robertson, Sydney 1814. In 1912 the vicar of St. James’s stated that the entry in the burial register was written, by a clerical error, in the name of ‘Captain Matthew Flanders, aged 40′.

Anthony Brown’s assertion (above) is derived from remarks by Flinders’ daughter, Mrs. Petrie, quoted by Scott [pages 396-7]:

Many years afterwards my aunt Tyler went to look for his grave, but found the churchyard remodelled, and quantities of tombstones and graves with their contents had been carted away as rubbish, among them that of my unfortunate father, thus pursued by disaster after death as in life.

To me and many other students of Indigenous history the news about Flinders grave  immediately evokes the memory of Bungaree, the Garigal leader from Broken Bay, north of Sydney, who sailed on HMS Investigator with Flinders, who described him as a ‘worthy and brave fellow’. On that voyage in 1802-3 Bungaree became the first Australian to circumnavigate our continent.

In the early nineteenth century Bungaree was one of Sydney’s most colourful characters. Intrigued by his adventurous early years as a voyager and mediator on English sailing ships, I wrote King Bungaree, published by Kangaroo Press in 1992. You will see various references to him on this website.

Bungaree meets
Keith Vincent Smith
at Mosman Town Hall

There is one statue of Bungaree in Sydney.

Bungaree was honoured with a bust outside the Mosman Town Hall in Sydney by Indigenous sculptor Laurie Nilson.  He faces a similar bust of Archibald Mosman, for whom the area is named. See my speech at the unveiling of the bust in 1999 on the file titled Personal on this website.

In 1820 Phillip Parker King, captain of HMS Mermaid, named Bungaree Island,  in Prince Frederick Harbour, off the north-west Kimberley coast in Western Australia.

Ships and ferries (as well as racehorses) were named after Bungaree. In 1890 the steam collier SS Bungaree completed the voyage from London to Sydney in 42 days and 11 hours.

A coastal cargo ship called the Bungaree, built in 1937, was taken over by the Royal Australian Navy in 1940 and converted to a mine loader, HMAS Bungaree.

After the war in 1946 the ship was decommissioned at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour. Bungaree Shoals, in Torres Strait, was named after this wartime vessel. Renamed Eastern Mariner, she struck a mine and sank in the Saigon River in South Vietnam in 1966.

Moowattin Creek and the Cataract of Carrung-Gurring
Detail from Atlas, Matthew Flinders
A Voyage to Terra Australis, London 1814

I believe that Daniel Moowattin, the young Burramattagal man who became the third Indigenous Australian to visit Britain, met Matthew Flinders on a visit to Sir Joseph Banks at his home in Soho. On Sunday 12 May 1811, Flinders, then lodging at No 7 Nassau Street, London,  wrote in his journal:

Walked out in the evening. At 9, went to Sir Joseph Banks, where I met the two Daniels.

[Matthew Flinders, Private Journal, 1803-1814, 12 May 1811, MS S1/48, Mitchell Library, Sydney]

One Daniel was Banks’s colleague the botanist Daniel Solander, who collected so many new plant species at Botany Bay in April-May 1770. The other might have been Daniel Moowattin.

On Monday 27 May 1811, George Caley, Banks’s plant collector in New South Wales, who took Daniel Moowattin to England, called on Robert Brown, who took him to see Flinders. Flinders wrote in his journal that day:

Mr. Brown called in the evening, with Mr. Cayley [sic], in order to my consulting him about the parts at the back of Port Jackson …

The botanist and scientist Robert Brown had sailed on HMS Investigator with Flinders and Bungaree.

The ‘parts’ Flinders referred to appear in the chart in his Atlas of A Voyage to Terra Australis, published shortly before his death in June 1814, which identifies Moowattin Creek (now the Cataract River) and the Cataract of Carrung-gurring (Appin Falls), seen by Daniel Moowattin in 1807 when he was sent by Caley to acquire a koala as a specimen for Banks.

There is a good case for the original name to be restored. Caley told Banks in a letter that he had named the river ‘to commemorate the memory of the native to whom I am indebted for the discovery of the cataract.’
[Caley to Banks, 25 September 1807, Banks Papers, A83, vol. 20, page 281, Mitchell Library, Sydney]

In London Daniel Moowattin first met Banks, the influential President of the Royal Society, on 4 January 1811 and Robert Brown on 9 January 1811, a snowy day. On 2 February, a Saturday, Daniel Moowattin was again at Soho Square, where, wrote Caley, Sir Joseph Banks ‘questioned Dan about the Cola [koala]’.


On Monday 16 January  Daniel went to Lambeth with the gardener George Suttor to visit William Bligh, deposed as Governor of New South Wales in the famous ‘Rum Rebellion’ of 1808.

In his journal for 21 January George Caley wrote: ‘Dan went to Mr Suttor’s to Governor Bligh’s etc.’

In October 1811, Daniel and Suttor boarded the convict ship Mary at Portsmouth which arrived in Sydney on 12 May 1812. Suttor wrote in his memoirs:

I was accompanied by Dan the native (Moowattie,) who had been taken to England by my dear friend, Mr. George Caley.

Daniel ran off in two weeks from Suttor’s Chelsea House at Baulkham Hills and sold a fowling piece given to him by Robert Brown to shoot birds.

[Based on Chapter 11, ‘Daniel Moowattin in Regency London’, pp 118-134 in Keith Vincent Smith, MARI NAWI: Aboriginal Odysseys, Rosenberg, Dural, 2010. See my Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) entry online at


George Caley stood ready to give evidence in favour of William Bligh at the court martial at the Royal Hospital Chelsea of Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston of the New South Wales Corps, who led the infamous 1808 ‘Rum Rebellion’ coup against Bligh.

Caley attended court every day for fourteen days, but was not called to give evidence.

I have just found a report that shows Daniel Moowattin was also in court on the third day of the hearing. He would face a more serious court in 1816, after his return to Sydney. The Globe, London, reported on 10 May 1811 (page 4):

The Court was much crowded. One of the witnesses in attendance is a native of New South Wales; he resembles a Malay, but of a darker hue, and undersized. He was brought to this country by the desire and expense of Government.

Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2020


I was privileged to give a talk about Bungaree’s voyages and his later flamboyant life to an audience of 100 interested people, including some of his descendants, at the Pearl Beach Hall on Friday night 23 November 2018.

The following day, Saturday 24 November, marked 188 years since Bungaree’s death at Garden Island and his burial at Rose Bay in Sydney in 1830.

My book King Bungaree is long out of print and difficult to obtain. However, I can recommend an excellent new publication, Bungaree’s Mob, a thoroughly researched and accurate 50-page illustrated small book.

The first section is a valuable and informative ‘deep history’ and archaeological survey of the New South Wales central coastal area around Pearl Beach and Patonga, with an explanation of many Indigenous concepts. This would be an excellent primer for schoolchildren, students and people like me, who were taught nothing about our First People at school.

The second part, ‘Bungaree c1775-1830 & the Garigal people’ starting at page 25, picks up the ‘epic story’ of this remarkable man, with an accurate chronological account of his voyages with Matthew Flinders and later with Phillip Parker King, Australia’s first Admiral. Highly recommended.

The Wannangine of the Woy Woy Peninsula & beyond
Justine O’Brien (ed.)
2nd edition revised 2018
Pearl Beach Aboriginal History Group

Price of the booklet is $15, with postage of $3 for one copy or $5 for two copies. Send orders to pbaboriginal history@gmail.com.

Keith Vincent Smith 2020


Flying the Aboriginal flag, the gaff-rigged ketch Tribal Warrior returns to Sydney

Keith Vincent Smith

Flying the distinctive Aboriginal flag, the tiny gaff-rigged ketch Tribal Warrior set out from Gomora (Darling Harbour) in Sydney on 30 August 2001, passing under Pyrmont Bridge to the Heads at the entrance to Port Jackson into the open sea.

The timber-hulled 15 metre long former pearling lugger (Mina), launched in 1901, carried a crew of seven Aboriginal men, ranging from 17 to 45 years of age.

In a voyage lasting 648 days, they carried a message of ‘goodwill, achievement and reconciliation’ to 120 Aboriginal communities scattered along the continent’s 36,000 kilometre coastline.

This was the first circumnavigation of Australia in a sea-going vessel crewed only by Indigenous Australians.

The Tribal Warrior followed in the wake of HMS Investigator, a 52 foot sloop with a crew of 15 men. Investigator, commanded by Captain Matthew Flinders, left Port Jackson on 22 July 1802 to explore, survey and chart Torres Strait, the Gulf of Carpentaria and the north-west coast of the continent then known as New Holland.

Two Aboriginal men, Bungaree and Nanbarry, accompanied Flinders. On 18 October 1802, Nanbarry returned to Sydney from the Great Barrier Reef in the sloop Lady Nelson.

As all the others on the ship were British, Bungaree, the Broken Bay leader, became the first known Australian to circumnavigate the continent.

Investigator returned to Sydney on 9 June 1803. Coincidentally, Tribal Warrior, dwarfed by the rocky headlands, got into Sydney Harbour on 10 June 2003 – just 200 years and one day after Flinders and Bungaree.

Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2019


Born in Wangal Country on the Parramatta River 1764
Died in Wallumedegal Country on the Parramatta River
3 January 1813
Buried in the orchard of James Squire at Walumetta

Survey of Port Jackson, New South Wales, 1826 
[Showing Bennelong’s presumed birthplace at ‘The Flats’
(top left) and the site of his burial at Kissing Point (right).
John Septimus Roe (1797-1878)
  Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty, London
See Bennelong’s Legacy, 18 November 2018 (below)
See Paul Daley, Bennelong’s grave, The Guardian, 19 November 2018

Keith Vincent Smith 3 January 2020


Keith Vincent Smith

Welcome to 2019, declared by the United Nations General Assembly as The International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019).

This weblog is intended to be an accurate account of the culture, language, social life and and personalities of the Indigenous People who inhabited the coastal area of what is now the City of Sydney. In January 1788, an  English convoy of eleven ships arrived in this place, which they called Port Jackson, to establish the convict colony of New South Wales.

It is estimated that there were originally some  250 or more separate Indigenous  languages spoken throughout mainland Australia. Today only 20 or so are spoken fluently and many of these are endangered.

One language united the Aboriginal clans or extended family groups in the Sydney area, from the north shore of Botany Bay in the south to Pittwater in the north and west along the river to Parramatta. It was spoken by some 30 clans,  including the Wangal, Wallamattagal, Gadigal, Burramattagal, Cameragal, Gweagal, Gabrogal, Bidjigal and others.

The officers of the First Fleet, who recorded many Indigenous words, never learned the name of this language. Marine Captain Watkin Tench called it ‘the dialect of the sea coast’ and said it was spoken at Rose Hill (Parramatta). David Collins, who acted as secretary to Governor Arthur Phillip, preferred ‘The Port Jackson Dialect’.

In modern times it was called ‘The Sydney Language’ by Dr. Jakelin Troy, whose work of the same title, published in 1994 and based on language notebooks compiled by Lieutenant William Dawes, began the revival which has brought this supposedly ‘sleeping language’ back to life.

Shane Phillips
CEO Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation
Redfern, NSW

Young Koori boys and girls in Sydney’s inner suburb of Redfern have been learning the Sydney Language since 2011, when ‘Lingo on the Block’ classes were introduced by Uncle Shane Phillips, CEO of the Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation, as part of the Clean Slate Without Prejudice project aimed at developing cultural awareness and pride among young people.

Phase 1 of the course, supervised by Paul Wilson of Augustinian Volunteers Australia, with Kareel Phillips and friends from Tribal Warrior, began the restoration of the original Sydney Language.

Since 2014 Tribal Warrior mentors have been tutored in the language by Jeremy Steele, who completed a Master of Arts research degree at Macquarie University, Sydney, The Aboriginal language of Sydney, in 2005, freely available online at http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/738

The mentors pass this knowledge on to the young people in the scheme, in lessons based on Jeremy Steele’s database of Indigenous languages, grammar and phonetic respelling of words from William Dawes and other First Fleet vocabularies. The young learners can now sing songs, play games and welcome friends and strangers in Sydney’s original language.

The ‘Lingo’ sessions, Jeremy Steele has written, have been complemented by my own illustrated talks and presentations, based on decades of research into Indigenous culture, clans, social life and archaeology, including biographical sketches of such heroic Eora figures as Bennelong and Barangaroo, Colebee, Pemulwuy, Patyegarang, the Garigal voyager Bungaree, and many others.

Paul Wilson, who taught for several years at Cherbourg Indigenous community in Queensland, remains the coordinator of the Friday meetings – and much more at Tribal Warrior, now at 27 Cope Street, Redfern, New South Wales.

[Select Language on the EORA • PEOPLE Home Page for further information]

Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2019