W.H. Fernyhough
Mitchell Library, Sydney

Keith Vincent Smith

The reference to the Garigal / Broken Bay leader Bungaree as ‘this enterprising Australian’ by the botanist Allan Cunningham (1791-1839) during the voyage of HM Cutter Mermaid commanded by Lieutenant Phillip Parker King first appeared in print in 1925. 

As I wrote in Keith Vincent Smith,  King Bungaree (Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, 1992, page 98):         

After gathering botanical specimens in an area of sand and mangroves at Port Hurd on Bathurst Island on Tuesday 26 May [1818], he [Cunningham] wrote. 

During the whole of this day’s excursions I was accompanied by our worthy native chief Boongaree, of whose little attentions to me and others when on these excursions I have been perhaps too remiss in making mention, to the enhancement of the character of this enterprising Australian.

Bungaree might be the first individual to be called an ‘Australian’, but it was not the first time the name ‘Australian’ appeared in print

The quote from Allan Cunningham first appeared in a printed text in Ida Lee, Early Explorers of Australia, Methuen, London, 1925, page 391. Lee (Mrs. C.B. Mariott) seems to have been the first person to transcribe Cunningham’s Journal and to tell that story. 

In his 1818 journal, Cunningham referred to groups of Aboriginal people in the north as ‘Australians’ but did not name any other individuals apart from Bungaree. In a letter to his father from Port Jackson dated 6 August 1819, now in Sydney’s Mitchell Library, Cunningham’s shipmate John Septimus Roe used the term “us Australians”.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie introduced the use of the term ‘Australia’ (not ‘Australian’) after reading Matthew Flinders’ Terra Australis (London 1814). 

In my entry about Bungaree on The Dictionary of Sydney website in 2011 I wrote:

The snub-nosed cutter Mermaid left Port Jackson on 22 December 1817, put into Twofold Bay, steered through Bass Strait, and followed the Great Australian Bight to King George Sound (Albany). On this voyage Bungaree also assisted the botanist Alan Cunningham, who called Bungaree ‘our worthy native chief’ and praised ‘the character of this enterprising Australian’, a very early use of the name.

Of course I am hunting for the first reference in print to a person described as ‘Australian’. The earliest printed mention that I can find appeared in The Sydney Gazette of Sunday 11 November 1804, page 3, in an ironic paragraph about ‘Guy Vaux’ (Guy Fawkes) Day becoming an ‘Australian fete’, but did not refer to any individual. 

Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2020