Wednesday, 17 September 2014 11:33

Annie's Story brought to life by Dr Marguerita Stephens

Annie's Story: fragments of agency and resistance


On September 16th, Dr Marguerita Stephens, the 2013 Redmond Barry Fellow, gave a free lecture at Melbourne University about her research on Assistant Aboriginal Protector William Thomas, and his important journal. Dr Stephens' research led to a collaboration with VACL staff, culminating in the publication of a four volume transcription of the journal of William Thomas in June 2014. 

In her lecture, Dr Stephens focused in on one of the many people whose story is brought to life through these transcriptions. The story of Guartugurck, who regularly appears under the name of "Annie" in Protector William Thomas' journal from 1863 to 1867. 

We have 'known her from a baby', wrote Thomas. She is 'very intelligent, .... a prudent fine Aborig/l woman', but, like Green, he was unsure how to deal with this rebellious woman. 

'I know not what to do with her', Thomas wrote. 'She would make a good rough servant. Mr Green has frightened her once more away. [Perhaps we could find] some farmer about Kew who would take her as a servant, she can milk cows[;] when at De Castella's at Yering she milked every morning, she is a good rough servant, can clean well, sew, iron and can read and write...'

A Taungurung woman, born around 1840, she was probably an occasional tiny scholar at Thomas' own rough school at the Merri Creek from 1843-5 when the Taungurung came to Melbourne, and was possibly one of the girls at the school run by the Baptists at the Merri Creek in the late 1840s. She married Pulbunyahung, or 'Tarra Bobby' of the Bratawooloong clan of the GunaiKurnai people around 1859. Their son, Tommy Yering, was born in 1860. Annie and Tommy fell out with John Green at Coranderrk and he banished them from the station but would not let them take Tommy with them. But Annie refused to accept the separation from her child. Protector Thomas recorded, 'by what I can glean, "Annie" is determined not to leave [Coranderrk] without her child'. 

The four volume set of William Thomas' journal is available for purchase through VACL, to find out more click here

Thank you to Dr Marguerita Stephens for providing the text for this story.