George Augustus Robinson

Tasmania specific bushwalking discussion.
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George Augustus Robinson

Postby Lophophaps » Sat 25 Apr, 2020 7:22 am

I have received an email from a person who is associated with a foreign entity. He is not in Australia, and the website filters stop posts from where he is. It's simpler for me to start a topic with his words.

I would like to pose a question, especially to the Tasmanians.

George Augustus Robinson in his 'Friendly' trips (I am well aware of the controversy here) traveled up the West Coast of Tasmania it seems starting at Bathurst Harbour or there abouts. This is at a pretty early stage at the end of the 'Black Wars' . I have read parts of his diary, but sadly I do not have a copy. My question is, can one trace his journey and maybe even mark the places he met the locals and so on?

*** ends

Advice about the above would be appreciated. TIA.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby Mechanic-AL » Sat 25 Apr, 2020 3:49 pm

There is a brief chapter on G A Robinson in Kathleen and Ralph Gowlland's "Trampled Wilderness " ( vol. one ) which includes a vague map and outline of his travels.
Seems like his attempts to "meet" the natives was largely a failure and without the help of Alexander McKay he would most likely still be out there somewhere.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby peregrinator » Sat 25 Apr, 2020 6:44 pm

Friendly mission : the Tasmanian journals and papers of George Augustus Robinson, 1829-1834 / edited by N.J.B. Plomley.

http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/permalink/f/1cl35st/SLV_VOYAGER1559579

1162 pages. Give me, let's say, six months until the library reopens. So I'll get back to you about this time next year.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby doogs » Sun 26 Apr, 2020 2:45 pm

I thought he started on Bruny Island as that's where his Mission was located.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby slparker » Mon 27 Apr, 2020 9:08 pm

I have a copy of Friendly Mission, Robinson basically did the south coast track and then walked up the west coast with a detour to the Arthur ranges, there is a map in the book that Plomley drew, based upon his notes.

@ mechanic Al - he was aided mainly by Tasmanian Aborigines (one of whom was Truganini) but, yes, he also had the support of a resupply vessel and some convicts.

he did meet a few of the West Coast people and they were not pleased to see him.

Addit: if you give me some time I can post some notes from the text to answer the OPs question or give me their email and I can answer it directly. If they are really interested the book is available from the QVMAG museum bookshop or Astrolabe bookshop in Salamanca. Anyway, here is an essay by Cassandra Pybus (linked below that describes some of the journey:

https://www.utas.edu.au/news/2017/10/30 ... pocalypse/
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby peregrinator » Mon 27 Apr, 2020 10:42 pm

In addition to the support mentioned by slparker of 'a resupply vessel and some convicts', Robinson effectively had the armed support of the entire colony when Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur declared martial law in 1830. Colonists were immune from prosecution once the so-called Black Line program began.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby Mechanic-AL » Tue 28 Apr, 2020 5:47 pm

Old Georges' adventures come under close scrutiny from James Boyce in his epic book ' Van Diemen's Land ' too.
His travels seem to be well documented.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby peregrinator » Wed 06 May, 2020 10:24 pm

I hope anyone interested in this topic was able to hear an ABC radio program tonight, or can listen to it later anytime from the website.

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/truganini:-beyond-the-myth/12200938

A very well-researched discussion on the life of Truganini, with her relationship with Robinson taking up a good part of the program. I'd hope as well that those from other states might like to hear it, given Robinson also worked in Victoria. And also considering how first nation/settler-colonist relations are an essential ingredient in the full story of this continent. It's not just "history", it is enduring.

But if none of that tempts you to listen, you might at least get a sardonic laugh from the references to the absurdity of admonitions from the government to the white populace to get out in them thar hills to form a Black Line.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby slparker » Thu 07 May, 2020 8:10 am

Coincidentally I looked up Robinson's Victorian and NSW history a few weeks ago. When I get some more time I will look at his Victorian journals.
It's becoming increasingly clear to me that, despite the man's considerable flaws and failings, he also managed to record Indigenous languages from Tasmania to the south coast of NSW which are extremely valuable records now. History owes him a debt as well as admonishment.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby peregrinator » Thu 07 May, 2020 11:10 am

Comments on the many contradictions and apparent dichotomies in this topic was one of the most fascinating aspects of the ABC program.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby MariaFlyLand » Fri 08 May, 2020 11:24 pm

I originally asked about Robinson. Thanks for all the helpful pointers. It is particularly interesting to see how freely the aboriginal people could move around in the SW. I wonder whether the coukd penetrate the wild stuff around New River.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby slparker » Sat 09 May, 2020 2:38 pm

There is evidence of human occupation of river valleys in the west and SW going back Millenia but I can’t speak specifically for New River.
The vegetation has changed significantly since the last ice age from tundra to what it is now and th3 general agreement amongst botanists is that the buttongrass plains are a consequence of Aboriginal fire stick techniques - they would be otherwise rainforest.
The vegetation now though might be very different to 200 years ago with much more open river valleys, kept open by fire. That said, Robinson kept largely to the coast (although did climb into the Arthur Ranges) so it also possible that the Aboriginal people kept largely to the coast. They had semi-permanent, and quite large dwellings, on the coast.
Plomley, writing from Robinson’s notes, describes the existence of clan groups west of the central highlands but they were depleted by warfare and/or disease by the time of the Friendly Mission and he never encountered them. So it is plausible that the SW river valleys were populated (but perhaps nomadically and seasonally) but most evidence points towards a littoral economy and population in the 1800s.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby north-north-west » Sat 09 May, 2020 6:18 pm

Where there are significant stretches of buttongrass and similar sedge/heath country, you can be fairly confident there was regular Aboriginal visitation and usage of the land.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby Jon MS » Sun 10 May, 2020 10:24 am

The route used by Aboriginal people to access the South Coast is an issue I have given a lot of thought to over the years.

I have also carefully been through Robinson's diary (as transcribed by Plomley in 1966) to work out when Robinson was taken by the locals. One thing that is very clear is that Robinson was taken along a open "track". His walking speed too fast for the route to be anything but open and well formed.

As far as I can work out the Aboriginal South Coast track was as follows:
- Cockle Creek to South Cape Bay via Blowhole Valley along a similar line to the current track.
- South Cape Rvt to Blackhole Plain via Blackhole Creek. This is the route taken by Taylor and Harper in 1906 which is the earliest "bushwalker" trip I have been able to find. It does not appear to have followed the 1930s Osmiridium Beach mine track which went further inland. It also appears to have not gone via the current line put in by Milford Fletcher in the 1960s which goes via the hills (Fletcher's nickname was after all, "Hilltop") just west of South Cape Rvt.
- I don't know the route from Blackhole Plain to Granite Beach but the vegetation indicates that it was probably more towards the coast than the current line, which also avoids some of the climb over the South Cape Range.
- From Granite Beach to Deadmans Bay the route is clear. The Aboriginal track followed the low ridges, plains and beaches. On the low ridges, the large Stringybarks have grown up in open country, but are now surrounded by pole regrowth dating to the 1897/98 and 1933/34 fires.
- The route from Deadmans Bay to Louisa Bay most probably initially followed the line later put in in the 1930s by Denny King which went up to the Ironbound Notch. The Aboriginal track must have then gone up and around Layka Creek, which Robinson described as a "hideous defile".
- From Louisa Bay they went inland to Cox Bight.

The question of Aboriginal usage of the New River valley is interesting. I argue that the New River valley is probably, with the exception of the area around New River Lagoon, probably the only large catchment not occupied by Aboriginal people. The reason for this is that, pre-European, it was the largest patch of the very fire sensitive King-billy pine and so was not burnt by Aboriginal people.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby slparker » Sun 10 May, 2020 1:47 pm

Very interesting, Jon.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby MariaFlyLand » Mon 11 May, 2020 12:46 am

Yes, very interesting indeed Jon. It was precisely because I thought someone might have done this that I asked. There is an implicit implication here that the New River valley was, is this so to anyone's knowledge?
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby MariaFlyLand » Mon 11 May, 2020 12:47 am

Was logged I meant
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby Jon MS » Mon 11 May, 2020 9:09 am

New River valley has not been logged although there were proposals to log and mine limestone around PB. Remember the slogan: "Don't scruff our Bluff"? And, the PB-Hartz swap?

Along Aboriginal access routes the SW was open and easy traveling at the time of European settlement.

Alexander Mckay, when getting provisions for the Robinson party, went from near Low Rocky Pt (probably from Cowrie Beach which was a major Aboriginal camp and has the only shell mound middens I know of in Tas) up to Birchs Inlet then to Sarah Is, and then on the return, very heavily laden with food, back to near Low Rocky Pt then up to High Rocky Pt in 4 days. The coast from the Mainwarring R to High Rocky Pt alone now takes 3 hard days... And Cowrie Beach to Birchs Inlet is 2 very long days along a dozer track.

Also, Sharland went from the Lodden Plains (where he described Aboriginal burning-off) to Malbrough (now Bronte Park) in 1 and a half days.
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby north-north-west » Mon 11 May, 2020 10:48 am

Jon MS wrote:Also, Sharland went from the Lodden Plains (where he described Aboriginal burning-off) to Malbrough (now Bronte Park) in 1 and a half days.


On foot or horseback?
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Re: George Augustus Robinson

Postby Jon MS » Mon 11 May, 2020 12:19 pm

Foot. See: Sharland WS 1861. Rough notes of a journal of expedition to the westward in 1832. Survey Office Reports, Legislative Council Journal volume VI part 1, report 16, Hobart, Tasmania.
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