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Timeline - Contact History 1500 - 1900


Indonesian trepang fishers visit northern Australia.

Bark painting by Mini Mini. Acquired in 1948 from Umba Kumba, Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory.

A Macassan prau (boat) in a typical Groote Eylandt style. Aboriginal populations from Australia's north coast have been in contact with Macassan fishermen from south east Asia for over four hundred years.


Dutchman Willem Jansz and his ship Duyfken explore the western coast of Cape York Peninsula and were the first Europeans to have contact with Australian Aboriginal people. There were clashes between the two groups.

The Spaniard Luis Vaez De Torres sailed through Torres Strait.


Dutchman Jan Carstenz described several armed encounters with Aborigines on the northern coast of Australia. Shots were fired and an Aboriginal man was hit.


Englishman William Dampier visited the west coast of Australia.


Anticipating that Captain Cook would discover the great southern land he was issued with special instructions to "with the consent of the natives take possession of convenient situations in the name of the King... or if you find the land uninhabited Take Possession for His Majesty".


April 29 Captain James Cook in the Endeavour entered Botany Bay. After an encounter with local people in Botany Bay Cook wrote that "all they seem'd to want was us to be gone".


August 18 the British Government chose Botany Bay as a penal colony.


18 January Captain Arthur Phillip entered Botany Bay. A total of nine ships sailed into Botany Bay over three days.

Aboriginal people watched the arrival.

25 January Phillip sailed to Port Jackson and between 25 January and 6 February 1 000 officials, marines, dependents and convicts came ashore.

Frenchman La Perouse and two ships arrive at Botany Bay and remain until March 10.

Resistance and conflict between Europeans and Aborigines begins almost immediately.

Early February the French fire on Aborigines at Botany Bay.

29 May the first conflict between the First Fleet arrivals and Aborigines takes place near Rushcutters Bay, Sydney. Two convicts are killed.

December, Arabanoo is the first Aborigine captured by Europeans.

Captain Phillip estimates that there are 1 500 Aborigines living in the Sydney Region.


April, smallpox decimates the Aboriginal population of Port Jackson, Botany Bay and Broken Bay. The disease spread inland and along the coast.

The settlement spreads to Rose Hill, later called Parramatta.

November, Governor Phillip captures two Aboriginal men - Bennelong and Colebee. Colebee escapes but Bennelong is kept at Government House for five months.


Bennelong and a boy named Yemmerrawanie are taken to England by Phillip. Bennelong meets George III. Yemmarrawanie dies in England. In 1795 Bennelong returns to Australia.


September, Pemulwuy spears Phillip's gamekeeper, John McEntire, and Phillip orders the first punitive expedition. Pemulwuy and his son Tedbury led Aboriginal resistance in the Sydney area in a guerrilla campaign lasting several years.


Time-expired convicts granted land around Parramatta.


Colonists spread to Prospect Hill, Kissing Point, Northern Boundary, the Ponds and the Field of Mars.


By August, 70 colonists farming on the Hawkesbury. Aborigines dispossessed of their land.


Punitive party pursue Pemulwuy and about 100 Aborigines to Parramatta. Pemulwuy is wounded and captured but later escapes.


Colonists dispossess Aborigines of land around Georges River flats and Bankstown.


Two Aboriginal boys killed near Windsor by five Hawkesbury settlers. A court martial found them guilty but referred sentencing to the Secretary of State for Colonies and the men are released on bail. Governor Hunter is recalled. Acting-Governor King is instructed to pardon the men.

Beginning of a six-year period of resistance to white settlement by Aborigines in the Hawkesbury and Parramatta areas. Known as the 'Black Wars'.


April, Governor King orders Aborigines gathering around Parramatta, Georges River and Prospect Hill "to be driven back from the settler's habitation by firing at them".


June 30, Proclamation stating: "His Majesty forbids any act of injustice or wanton cruelty to the Natives, yet the settler is not to suffer his property to be invaded or his existence endangered by them, in preserving which he is to use the effectual, but at the same time the most humane, means of resisting such attacks".

Shortly after this Pemulwuy is shot by two settlers. Tedbury continues the resistance.


Settlements established near present-day Melbourne at Port Phillip and in Tasmania at Risdon, on the Derwent River by Governor King. The settlement at Port Phillip is abandoned.


Colonists are authorised by Lt. Moore to shoot 50 Aborigines at Risdon Cove in response to Aboriginal resistance. Hostilities increase - the slaughter of Aborigines in Van Diemen's Land has begun.


Most of the Cumberland Plain west of Sydney is occupied by colonists. The Darug people are being dispossessed of their land.


Aborigines trying to defend their land, kill colonists. A Government order on 19 April directed Captain William Bligh to send soldiers "for their [colonists] protection against those uncivilised insurgents".

20 July the colony's Judge-Advocate, Richard Atkins when referring to whether or not Aborigines could be witnesses or criminals before a court stated that Aborigines "are at present incapable of being brought before a criminal court - and that the only mode at present when they deserve it, is to pursue them and inflict such punishment as they merit".


Tedbury is wounded but there are no records of what happened to him.


Colonists, assisted by Aboriginal people, cross the Blue Mountains. Create new hostilities as they pass through Aboriginal lands.


The establishment of a "Native institution at Parramatta" by Governor Macquarie to "civilise, educate and foster habits of industry and decency in the Aborigines". An annual 'feast' is also begun to reunite parents with children, who have been separated from their parents to attend the institution.


Remnants of the Broken Bay Aboriginal people are established on a reserve at George's Head.


Attacks on farms by Aboriginal people on the edge of Sydney. Macquarie sends Captain James Wallis with three detachments of the 76th Regiment to arrest 'offenders'. They attack a camp near Appin at night and 14 Aborigines are killed including Carnabyagal.

4 May Macquarie announces a set of regulations controlling the free movement of Aboriginal people.

No Aboriginal person is to appear armed within a mile of any settlement and no more than six Aboriginal people are allowed to 'lurk or loiter near farms'.

Passports or certificates are issued to Aboriginal people "who conduct themselves in a suitable manner", to show they are officially accepted by Europeans.

Five areas are set aside by Macquarie as agriculture reserves for the settlement of Aboriginal people from the Sydney area. The Aboriginal people who settle on these lands are given seed, tools, stores and clothes for six months. Convicts are assigned to help with cultivation of crops.

1819 - 1820

Rapid expansion of the colony into present day Queensland. A penal settlement set up a Redcliffe but moved to present day Brisbane three months later.

Colonists spread west of the Blue Mountains and establish stations.

There are a number of large scale killings as conflict over dispossession of land and erosion of hunting rights continue.


'Saturday' leads Aboriginal resistance in the Bathurst area.

August, martial law is proclaimed in the Bathurst area when seven Europeans are killed by Aboriginal people and conflict with Aborigines is seen as a serious threat. Soldiers, mounted police, settlers and stockmen carry out numerous attacks on Aboriginal people. As many as 100 Aboriginal people are killed. Martial law stops in December.

August - a Mission is established at Lake Macquarie, north of Sydney.


John Oxley leads an expedition to the Liverpool Plains west of present day Tamworth, NSW. This area is settled in the 1830s, with an increase in settlers during the 1837-1845 drought, when more land is needed. Kamilaroi people are dispossessed of their land.


A colony is set up in Perth, on the south-west coast of Australia.


October beginning of the Black Wars in Tasmania. Governor Arthur tries unsuccessfully to drive all the remaining Aboriginal people in eastern Van Diemen's land on to the Tasman Peninsula. 2 200 men form a 'Black Line'. It cost 5000 pounds and only two Aboriginal people are caught - an old man and a young boy.


October, Governor Stirling leads a party of men to a site near present day Pinjarra, on the Swan River and attacks 80 Aboriginal people. One of Stirling's men dies and many Aborigines are killed. Official reports say that 14 Aborigines were killed but Aboriginal accounts suggest a whole clan was decimated in the attack. This became known as the 'Battle of Pinjarra'. The battle was an attempt to punish Aboriginal people south of Perth, after conflict with settlers the death, in April, of Hugh Nesbit.

The Aboriginal people are unsuccessful in defending their land and are dispossessed.


John Batman attempts to make a 'treaty' with Aboriginal people for Port Phillip Bay, near present day Melbourne by 'buying' 243 000 hectares with 20 pairs of blankets, 30 tomahawks, various other articles and a yearly tribute. Governor Bourke does not recognise the 'treaty' and the purchase is voided. This is the only time colonists attempt to sign a treaty for land with Aboriginal owners.

The Dunghutti people of north coast NSW are now confined to 40 hectares of land on the Bellwood Reserve, near present day Kempsey. They previously owned 250 000 hectares.

October, George Augustus Robinson, who sees himself as a protector of Aborigines, takes over the European style settlement on Flinders Island in Bass Strait. He spent much time convincing the last Aborigines on Van Diemen's Land to move to Flinders Island. After most Aborigines have died from various diseases the protectorate is abandoned in December 1849.


Port Phillip District established. As the settlement expands Aboriginal lives are severely disrupted and people die in great numbers.

Colony of South Australia is founded. A protector of Aborigines is appointed but the Kaurna people, near Adelaide, are unable to maintain life as a group because of the expanding settlement and loss of their land.

1836 - 1837

A select committee of the British House of Commons said that Aborigines had a "plain right and sacred right" to their land.

The committee reports genocide is happening in the colonies.


Conflict between Aborigines and settlers, stockmen and shepherds increases on the Liverpool Plains between 1827 - 1837.

Info found on
Indigenous Australia