Lucy Beedon

Lucy Beedon (1829–86), educator, businesswoman and political activist, was born on Gun Carriage Island into an Aboriginal Islander community, derived mostly from Tasmanian Aboriginal women and European convict-sealers. Her father Thomas Beedon was an ex-convict, her mother Emmerenna an Aboriginal woman from Portland. Lucy grew up on Badger Island and was educated in Launceston, while her father taught her business skills.

The Islander community had little material wealth but a strong community ethic. A capable businesswoman, Lucy controlled the Islanders' trading operations with Launceston, and was regarded as 'The Queen of the Isles'. Bishop Nixon described her as good-humoured and kind-hearted, high-minded and earnest in her Christian profession, dedicated to doing good. She enjoyed close relations with Marcus Brownrigg, which expanded her influence with government, and this enhanced her reputation as the matriarch of the Straits, a stern upholder of the Christian moral order and temperance. She encouraged education, teaching herself and paying for teachers until a government teacher was appointed in 1872. Active in Islander efforts to gain land as compensation for the wrongs done them by Europeans, Lucy Beedon was a chief architect of the Islander tradition of resistance to unjust authority.

Further reading: J Bonwick, The last of the Tasmanians, London, 1870; B Mollison & C Everett, The Tasmanian Aborigines and their descendants, Hobart, 1978; M Brownrigg, Mission to the islands, Hobart, 1979; T Reibey, 'Reports on the subject of half-caste Islanders in the straits‚' Tasmanian Parliamentary Papers 17/1862, 48/1863.

Shayne Breen