As with every aspect of The View From Mount Clarence‘s look into the inclusive history of Albany and the South Coast, exploring the life and times of Mokare and his fellow Menang Aborigines has been nothing short of compelling. This is because most non-indigenous people, myself included, have little knowledge of -and do not properly understand- Aboriginal culture, either in an historical context or as it is played out in the today’s much changed world.
Discovering who our indigenous people were along with the extraordinary circumstances they were met with during the period of first contact is essential to understanding the society we live in today.
Above: Some of Mokare’s Mob, actual players in the first settlement drama from 1826, looking out over King George Sound from the southern flank of Mnt Clarence. Image: Habitans Du Port Du Roi Georges, N’elle Hollande‘ Coloured engraving, embossed with the blind stamp of Jules Dumont d’Urville, Commander of the French corvette, Astrolabe. Courtesy Australian Art Sales Digest
Where through their respective publications history doctors Tiffany Shellam and Murray Arnold sought to verify and deepen our understanding of the chronology of Aboriginal relations at Albany while valiantly shedding light on how Mokare’s Mob likely viewed the incomers, the focus of this exploration has been directed as much at trying to understand the relationships which existed between the Albany Aborigines and the first enduring White presence in their country as it has been an investigation into the make-up of their own social group, along with the fraught relationship conducted between themselves and their rival clan to the north, the opposing Will’s men.
As the often fatal conflict between the King George Sound and Willmen Aborigines dominates surviving texts from the Mokare era, it is impossible to disregard. All the more so when the concept of Mokare as hero is not universally accepted amongst today’s descendants of those groups.
In titling the series Mokare’s Mob, The View set out its stall in fairly explicit terms and the wares now lined up reflect this. Mokare’s Mob is an attempt to get deeper inside the world of the original Albany Noongars with a view to understanding how Menang families still tied to the town today might look back on their history, and how the town’s interested non-indigenous citizens might better their understanding of this most historical of persons and the effects of his short but highly influential life.
Mokare and Captain Collet Barker
Our impression of life with the Aborigines at the garrison prior to the arrival of Captain Collet Barker can be compared to Scott Nind’s watercolours. From them we get a sense of place and time, but the landscapes Nind painted are unpeopled and vacant. In contrast, from the opening entry of Barker’s journal the story of day to day activity at the garrison explodes into life. In an instant we’re dropped smack-bang into the middle of a busy and highly unusual cross-cultural affair.
Above: Another of Scot Nind’s technically accomplished watercolours from garrison era Albany. This view looks south-west from the lower slopes of Mount Clarence over the garrison and its cultivated surrounds to the harbour and Torndirrup National Park beyond. Image; View of Frederick Town, King Georges Sound, at the expiration of the first year of its settlement, Feby 7th 1828. Courtesy, Mitchell, Library, State Library of New South Wales.
Mokare- His character and influence
Above: Louis de-Sainson’s Albany Aborigines sketched in October 1826, coloured and printed 1833. The images are of Mokare (bottom right); Patyet, thought to be Nakinah (bottom left); and young brother Yallapoli with the brothers’ father, also named Patyet (middle). The two men at the top are unidentified but likely to be close relatives, possibly Mokare’s close cousins, half brothers or uncles Coolbun and Dr Uredale. Image courtesy Trove Unique identifier here:
Apart from confidence and his willingness to connect, what do we really know of Mokare’s character and influence among the Menang?
The best the archives can give comes from the personal writing of three people; Dr Isaac Scot Nind, Captain Collett Barker and Dr Alexander Collie. Prior to that it is the official despatches of the military which tell a more limited story.
Mokare: 1800 – 1831
Not since the time of Mokare has there been more future driven anxiety facing the South Coast’s Indigenous.
As final deliberation on the Single Noongar Claim looms, Western Australia’s South-Western Aborigines face acceptance of the decades long Native Title case against the Government of Australia, an issue as much rooted in the story of Mokare and first contact at King George’s Sound as with Midgegooroo and Yagan at Perth.
This post comes as response to the Noongar artefact exhibition Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja at the West Australian Museum, Albany, a co-incidental display which ties physical objects from Mokare’s time to the resolution of an approaching two-hundred year ordeal.
Sponsored by the British Museum, the exhibition runs from Wednesday, 2nd Nov, 2016 to Sunday, 9th April, 2017.
The exhibition title translates as Returning: Mokare’s Home Country, words of such symbolic magnitude they render the artefacts transcendent. As if possessed by Dreamtime elements, these original spears, spear throwers, axes, hammers and boomerangs come as direct representation from a time long past; the era of the military garrison.
Originally published 12 April 2014:
The fourth story in the OUTDONE collection, When Patrick Taylor Met Charles Darwin, is set in March, 1836, nine full years after the Amity’s arrival. By this time the New South Wales colonial outpost Major Lockyer had called Frederickstown had been usurped by the newly formed Swan River Colony, a business venture established by the monumentally ambitious Scottish Naval Officer, James Stirling.
A westward look at Frederickstown, on the north shore of Princess Royal Harbour. Colour Lithograph reproduction of an etching on woven paper, with some hand colour retouching, made by Major Lockyer prior to April 1827