Apical Argument – Part 1

A short history of Aboriginal relations at the Swan River through the story of John Henry Monger and his closest associates.


JH Monger Death Notice Above: Gone to the grave. The name of John Henry Monger (the elder) has long been associated with the birth of Benil, also known as John Jack Mungar Bennell, patriarch of the well known Noongar Bennell and Garlett families of today.  Image: taken  from Classified Advertisements, The Perth Gazette and West Australian Times, Friday 3 September 1869.


Warning: This post is concerned with Indigenous family history and carries the names of many deceased persons. The intention is to neither prove nor disprove existing theories or beliefs, only to throw light upon a subject of interest to many indigenous and non-indigenous families alikeThe View From Mount Clarence is the work of a non-indigenous writer and researcher on the subject of racial integration in South-West Western Australia.



For Aileen, Glenys and Darren Quartermaine-Garlett and all descendants of

John Henry Monger, the Elder, 1800-1867

John Henry Monger 1802-1867




In recent months I’ve been drawn back into family matters. When I say family, I mean extended family, and in this case the extention is wide and far. But that’s the beauty of it and one of the reasons I decided to get involved. The other is because the matter at hand is distressing and it’s not nice to find people in distress.

A relative of mine has been told she belongs to a family she doesn’t know. For the purposes of the Single Noongar Claim, a Perth woman through and through has been told by the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) that she’s from the Avon Valley.  She’s been told she belongs to an old and very well known Ballardong family with roots buried deep in the days of first settlement at York. She holds nothing against that family, of course, she just doesn’t understand or agree with the judgement. Her whole life she’s been told stories of her grandparents, great grandparents and beyond living along the Swan. My Aunt says her people were the 19th Century Perth personalities Tommy Dower and Fanny Balbuk, not the York patriarchs Benil, Mungarlit and Kikit.

Continue reading

Mokare’s Mob – Part 4b

Collie after Mokare

(Continued from Part 4A)


Cultural impasse aside, it’s important to stay close to our intended purpose of trying to determine the ultimate role played by Mokare in leading the Albany Aborigines into non-violent intercourse with the incoming European presence. The question is not whether Mokare and the succession of incomer leaders were inseparable friends, but what was the outcome of their association?

To that end, we can say in the wake of Mokare’s death and Collie’s continued presence at the settlement, relations remained intact; the foundation being strong enough to survive without its key protagonist. As the new administration sought to more fully exploit Aboriginal knowledge, Nakinah assented by leading two important local expeditions of discovery, both of which lay the groundwork for continued, indeed improved, cross-cultural cooperation.


Dale Panorama -Large - 3Above: Development of the settlement and friendly Aboriginal relations at Albany are certainly in evidence, but from the summer of 1831/32 Governor Stirling’s administration cleverly arrested the Swan River Colony’s flagging appeal both locally and abroad through managed exaggeration of conditions down on the South Coast. Image: Panel from Panoramic View of King George’s Sound, Part of the Colony of Swan River, by Ensign Robert Dale, 1832. This version from S.P. Loha Foundation, Rare Book Collection.

Continue reading

Mokare’s Mob – Part 4a

Mokare and Dr Alexander Collie (1793-1835)


And so to Dr Collie himself, Albany’s original ailing academic.

Doctor, botanist and casual explorer, by the early 1830s Collie had become a reknown natural history collector as well. His naval experience aboard HMS Blossom cruising the coasts of the Americas, including the Pacific Islands and far north, prior to his arrival in West Australia in 1829, bolstered his enthusiasm for collecting as well as his reputation for it among the scientific institutions back in Britain.

At the Swan River, Collie, whose health was fundementally compromised by lung disease, was based aboard the colony’s loaned naval vessel HMS Sulphur, effectively a troop ship, which had accompanied the Parmelia out to Western Australia on an approximate three year term, and upon which, somewhat ironically, the suffering Aberdeenshire graduate held the position of Ship’s Surgeon.

Collie attended the officials and associated military contingent of the 63rd Regiment whose job it was to support the colony’s lieutenant governor. Stirling used the Sulphur as a means of security, for procuring personnel and supplies, and for familiarising himself with the south-west corner as the need for more and better agricultural land increased. Thus, for nearly two years Collie coasted between Albany and the Swan River as often as Stirling saw fit for the ship’s use, which was intermittent but not infrequent.

Collie stayed busy during the lay-offs, profiting both directly and indirectly from his collections as (in tandem with Lieutenant Preston, also of the Sulphur) he combined them with smaller scale overland exploration initiatives to York and Pinjarra, along with coastal excursions south to Leschenault and the Vasse River (Bunbury and Bussleton) and then north to the Murchison (Geraldton) in search of the mouth of the Avon River which no one had yet realised was a branch of the Swan.

Collie’s ill-health was the equivalent of Mokare’s, both suffering and dying young at Albany, the difference being that Collie understood the benefits of containment, warmth and sustenance whereas Mokare, though much reduced, was still first and foremost a man of physical exertion and the outdoors. Collie’s witnessing of the sick and dying Aborigines at Albany, along with the understanding he was not only presiding over but monetarily gaining from the usurping of their lands, led him to an apologetic end in which he sought to ease his guilt by requesting burial in the same place as Mokare. A redemptive act of lasting symbolic importance, perhaps, but not one of consequence.

Most of the items comprising the Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja exhibition were sourced by Dr Collie during his time at Albany which commenced twenty-two months after his arrival at Fremantle.


HMBV Sulphur by Craig Mitchell

Above: Dr Alexander Collie was attached to the pioneer vessel of the Swan River Colony, HMS Sulphur, as Ship’s Surgeon. When not ashore collecting and exploring, Collie lived aboard the vessel as part of a small permament crew from time of arrival in June 1829 until it delivered him to Albany mid-April, 1831. Image:  Scale model of HMS Sulphur made by Craig Mitchell. Photo by Brett Green, taken from HSGalleries website.

Continue reading