The Library is proud to have named several of its rooms after prominent Aboriginal men and women. This is a chance to learn about Aboriginal leaders and their contribution to Australian national history and a great opportunity to celebrate stories of strong Aboriginal men and women.
Some of these personalities - for example Pemulwuy, Ruby Langford Ginibi or Sydney figures such as Cora Gooseberry and Ricketty Dick (Warrah Warrah) - have their records in the Library's collections.
Ruby Langford Ginibi (1934–2011), a renowned Bundjalung writer and historian, was originally from Coraki on the Richmond River in northern NSW. Ginibi is the Bundjalung word for the black swan. Her most acclaimed work was the autobiographical Don’t Take Your Love to Town, published in 1988. Ginibi was a staunch advocate for Indigenous, prisoners’, and disabled peoples’ rights. Her personal and literary papers are held in the Mitchell Library.
Pemulwuy (c. 1750–1802), Aboriginal warrior, was born near what was later named Botany Bay, on the northern side of the Georges River, New South Wales. His name (also spelt as Pemulwhy, Pemulwoy or other variations) was derived from the Dharug word pemul, meaning earth. Europeans also rendered his name as ‘Bimblewove’ and ‘Bumbleway’. He spoke a dialect of the Dharug language and had a blemish in his left eye. From 1792 Pemulwuy led raids of resistance and defence on settlers at Prospect, Toongabbie, Georges River, Parramatta, Brickfield Hill and the Hawkesbury River. He was shot dead about 1 June 1802 by Henry Hacking. On 5 June Governor King wrote to Sir Joseph Banks that although he regarded Pemulwuy as ‘a terrible pest to the colony, he was a brave and independent character’ [Information from JL Kohen, ‘Pemulwuy (1750–1802)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography].
Cora Gooseberry (c. 1777–1852) was the daughter of Moorooboora (Maroubra), a prominent leader of the Murro-ore-dial clan, south of Port Jackson, and also the second wife of Bungaree. Her traditional name was recorded at various times as Kaaroo, Carra, Caroo, Car-roo or Ba-ran-gan. For 20 years after the death of her husband she was seen around Sydney in her trademark Mother Hubbard dress, government-issue blanket and headscarf, smoking from a clay pipe. In July 1845, in exchange for flour and tobacco, Kaaroo took the artist George French Angas and the police commissioner WA Miles on a tour of Aboriginal rock carvings at North Head and told them ‘all that she had heard her father say’ about the places where ‘dibble dibble walk about’ [Information from Keith Vincent Smith, ‘Gooseberry, Cora (1777–1852)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography]. View her portraits in the beautiful collection by Fernyhough and Charles Rodius.
Warrah Warrah (c.1795 – 1863). Also known as Ricketty Dick or William Worrall/Worrell was a well-known Gadigal man who lived mostly in a gunyah on the Point Piper Estate, Rose Bay. He was related to Cora “Karoo” Gooseberry. Warrah Warrah suffered from a disease of the lower limbs which eventually crippled him. He was a favourite of William Charles Wentworth, who paid a man half a crown a week to look after him. When he died in 1863, a coin was struck in his honour. While there are portraits by Rodius and Fernyhough, his most famous likeness would have to be the charcoal and pastel by an unknown artist, possibly Charles Meryon. Read here an interesting story about Warrah Warrah.
David Unaipon (1872–1967) was a preacher, author and inventor. Born at the Point McLeay Mission, South Australia, he attended the mission school from the age of seven to 13 and then became a servant to politician and landholder Charles Burney Young in Kanmantoo. Young encouraged Unaipon’s interest in philosophy, science and music. After returning to Point McLeay in 1890, he continued to read widely, and became a bootmaker then a bookkeeper. A keen inventor, Unaipon lodged numerous patents during his lifetime. One of his most successful inventions was a sheep-shearing comb, which was widely adopted throughout the wool industry. Unaipon studied Aboriginal mythology and in the 1920s published a series of books of legends, funded by the Aborigines’ Friends’ Association, his employer. He continued to publish legends and poetry into the 1960s. David Unaipon also influenced government Aboriginal policy and assisted in inquiries into Aboriginal welfare. As Australia’s ‘best known Aborigine’, he was often called upon as his people’s spokesman [Information from Philip Jones, ‘Unaipon, David (1872–1967)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography]. Discover his famous work Legendary Tales of Australian Aborigines from the Library's collections.
‘Embracing those golden moments of understanding’. Patyegarang (c. 1780s), whose name means ‘grey kangaroo’ in the Sydney language, was an amazing young woman who helped to bridge the cultural gap between the Eora and the invaders. She was aged around 15 when she became William Dawes’ guide and language teacher. She was to prove vital to his understanding and documentation of the Sydney language. Together they made the first real study of Indigenous language in Australia.
Daniel Moowattin (c. 1791–1816) was born around Parramatta and was adopted as an infant by Richard Partridge, the government flogger and executioner. By 1805 he became a guide and helper for the botanist George Caley, who collected flora and fauna specimens for Sir Joseph Banks. Caley annotated many specimens ‘got by Dan’. Caley and Moowattin had an excellent relationship so when it was time for the Englishman to return home in 1810 he wrote to Banks seeking to bring the young man with him. Moowattin became the third Aboriginal person to visit England. He enjoyed his time there but was back home by 1812, saying: ‘I am anxious to return to my own country, I find more pleasure under a gum tree sitting with my tribe than I do here’.
Matora was the first wife of Bungaree and the mother of his children, including Bowen Bungaree. The Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld recorded that her name meant ‘small snapper’ in the Awabakal language around Newcastle, where she was probably born. Both she and Bungaree are buried at Rose Bay. Her portrait is part of a stunning Russian sketch book from our rare books collection.