The Story of Maria Locke
Maria Locke, an amazing Aboriginal woman and historical
My name is Narelle Tait. I was born in Sydney. In
2002 I discovered to my amazement that I had Aboriginal Heritage. My mother is a descendant of Maria Locke of the Darug tribe;
my mother's family had kept its Aboriginal ancestry a closely guarded secret known only to a select number of its senior members.
I believe the story of Maria Locke should be made
known to Australia; her story is the story of the meetings of two cultures, the devastation to her own people and the laying
of the foundation of the Australia we know today.
Maria Locke was a full blood Aboriginal; a descendant
of the Boorooberongal clan who lived in what is now the Western suburbs of Sydney. Her father was Yarramundi, to whom the
British gave the title 'Chief of the Richmond tribe.' Yarramundi met Captain Watkins Tench and provided medical assistance
to one of Tench's party who had been injured.
Yarramundi and his father Gomeberri were Koradji (healers).
Yarramundi and Gomeberri met Governor Phillip in April
1791. They presented Governor Phillip with a gift of two stone axes.
Maria Locke was the first girl to be placed in the
care of the Native Institution at Parramatta when it opened in 1815. Maria was said to be an excellent student. Here she solicited
the chief prize when tested against approximately20 Aboriginal and 100 European students.
Maria became the first Aboriginal woman to legally
wed a European man when she married Robert Locke on 26 January 1824 at St John's Church, Parramatta. Robert Locke was a convict
carpenter who was assigned to his new wife after their marriage. Maria could return her husband to the Government if she desired.
With the commencement of this marriage, Maria was given a cow and a grant of land at Liverpool totalling 40 acres. The site
of Maria's land grant is now the location of the Liverpool City Council Chambers.
Maria was the sister of Colebee, who along with Narragingy,
received the first grant of land made by the British to an Aboriginal person. Colebee was a guide assisting William Cox when
he surveyed the road across the Blue Mountains.
Maria was an extraordinary woman, at a time when women
were not a political force and Aboriginal women even less so, she petitioned Governor Darling stating that she had received
only a part of the promised entitlements that should have resulted from her marriage. Considering the standing of Aboriginals
in the colony I think this is action alone is worthy of recognition.
Maria, Robert and their family of 9 children lived
on the land grant at Liverpool for 11 years before moving to Blacktown in 1844, when they inherited Colebee and Nurragingy's
land. Maria continued living there until her death in 1878, aged 70.Maria and Robert are buried in unmarked graves in the
grounds of St Bartholomew's Church, Prospect.
Although Governor Macquarie, had bequeathed the land
given to Colebee to Maria's family "to have and to hold forever" the land was split up gradually and sold by the authorities
sometime late in the 1940s. Many of the Darug children were sent to homes in the days of the Protection Board.
In the eyes of many the Darug tribe no longer exists.
In less than 100 years the Hawkesbury and Cumberland Plain was emptied of all the Aboriginal people who had cared for the
land for 30,000years. Martha Everingham nee Hobs was the last full blood Aborigine of the Hawkesbury: she died in 1926.
Doctor James Kohen told me that there are 7000 descendants
of Maria and Robert Lock. Like me and my immediate family many of these descendants may not be aware of their Aboriginal ancestry.
Hopefully by telling the story of Maria people will learn more of our shared history and some may discover their own Aboriginality.
The telling of Maria's story will add to the reconciliation process. I feel privileged to have discovered my Aboriginal heritage.
- Narelle Tait, New South Wales
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