Rovers | State Library of New South Wales


In the 1830s a group of Aboriginal adventurers, mainly from the Shoalhaven River, near Nowra in southern New South Wales, sailed through Sydney to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) to join settler John Batman.

Batman (born at Parramatta) first employed Janenbaya (Johnny Crook) and Warroba (Pigeon) in 1829 in ‘roving parties’ helping to track and capture the Palawa (Aboriginal Tasmanians). They later recruited a dozen mainlanders, including Pigeon’s brother, Maccah (Lewis), and Gillang (Jacky Stewart), to assist the self-styled ‘Conciliator’, George Augustus Robinson, to bring in ‘wild natives’ from the Tarkine in Tasmania’s north-west.

Five of the so-called ‘Sydney natives’ crossed Bass Strait with Batman in the ship Rebecca. There, on his behalf, they brokered meetings with the Kulin clan heads at Port Phillip in 1835 that resulted in Batman’s Treaty: the unauthorised ‘purchase’ of a vast tract of land covering the present cities of Melbourne and Geelong.

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