Telling Places in Country (TPIC)

Robinson's Forays 1830-1831

Background to Friendly Mission

Commencing in 1829 George Augustus Robinson set out from Hobart Town with a number of Trouwunnan guides on a mission to walk the length of the island and make contact with the clanspeople. He was under orders from Governor Arthur to persuade the clans who remained in the bush to stop the war against the colony and to negotiate an agreement that would restore a peaceful outcome. Robinson's aim -similar to the 'Pied Piper' -was to persuade the clans to follow him to a place where they would be safe from harm. The task set by Robinson coincided with another strategy under Governor Arthur's authority -a military operation against the clans in the eastern half of Van Diemen's Land known as 'The Line', 'The Great Army', or 'The Black Line' -that would involve soldiers, convicts and free men throughout the colony. The strategy of the military operation under Arthur's supervision was to form a line of several thousand armed men -some on foot and others on horse back -to drive the clans from their lands into the southeast peninsular and trap them there away from the colonised districts. Concurrently, private operations were being conducted that were led by the landed gentry who engaged armed roving parties to scour the bush for clanspeople. Those responsible for these vigilante parties held that they were operating under the legal protection of martial law that had been declared in November 1828. From mid 1830 the Trouwunnan clanspeople were under great threat from all sides when Robinson made plans to begin his so called 'Friendly Mission' into the northeast region.illustration of ground

By 1830 the clanspeople were fighting for their very survival against a force of soldiers and armed roving parties who were scouring the countryside in search of the enemy. The clanspeople had been carrying out guerrilla style attacks against the invaders of their lands and families. Robinson mentioned in his journals "Nothing is heard in Launceston but extirpating the original inhabitants. Cowardly beings! I question the bravery of those persons engaged in the crusade against the natives. What can be more revolting to humanity than to see persons going forth in battle array against a people whose land we have usurped and upon whom we have heaped every kind of misery" (Plomley, 1966, p435). There is little doubt in Robinson's mind as he left Launceston that the colony wanted to eradicate the clanspeople from the face of the earth.

Accompanied by eight clanspeople guides, who provided Robinson with intimate knowledge of the landscape and signs that would otherwise be obscure, he left Launceston on 9 October 1830 for George Town. From the Tamar Heads he intended to walk through the northeast lands in search of clanspeople who were still in the bush. Robinson had been told in Launceston that there were an estimated 700 'fearsome' clanspeople in this region and, without knowing the exact numbers he was going to meet, it seems that he had no idea of the names of Coastal Plains clanspeople who remained alive in the bush at that time.

The guides comprised three from the southeast coast (Woorrady, Trugganini and Pagerley), one from the northwest coast (Peevay or Tunnerminawait), two from the northeast lands (Timme and Bullrer or Jumbo), two from the Oyster Bay lands (Tanleboneyer or Sall) and Kickerterpoller (Black Tom). Only two of the guides would have had some knowledge of the northeast clanlands albeit they had been very young when they had been removed from their people.

Robinson was to realise the value of his guides and he would come to rely not only on their tracking and survival skills in the bush but also they provided the key to successfully making the initial contacts and convincing the clanspeople to parley him. Juxtaposed with his reliance on the guides being the key to success Robinson would praise his part at 'conciliation' and 'saving the people' as his alone and he would be rewarded with money and land grants.

Patsy Cameron