Darug people travel to Brisbane Waters for marine resources and to trade axes from the Nepean/ Hawkesbury.


Driven by the need to find good land for producing crops, Governor Phillip explores the inlets and branches of Broken Bay. He describes the land as “much higher than at Port Jackson, more rocky, and equally covered with timber”. He enters the Brisbane Water branch. The following year Gov Phillip again studies Broken Bay, but after the discovery of fertile flats around Windsor, little interest is shown in the north for many years. European occupation on the northern side of the Hawkesbury is also restricted as the government wants a buffer zone between Sydney settlers and the penal colony in Newcastle. This changes when the convict post moves from Newcastle to Port Macquarie in the 1820s. (Blair, 2003, 20-21).


A smallpox epidemic sweeps through the coast people and spreads inland. It affects the Aborigines in the Hawkesbury-Hunter Ranges. (Ford p33) While Collins observes around Sydney Harbour that “bodies of many of the wretched natives of this country” lie upon beaches, rocks and coves” caused by “the smallpox”, an official report to Britain declares that half the Aboriginal people between the Hawkesbury and Botany Bay die during April and May and concludes that the disease must have “spread to a great distance”. This includes the Hunter, especially given the interactions of Hunter Gooris with those from the Hawkesbury. Many pock-marked Gooris are observed in the Hunter Valley in 1810 (Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association, ACRA)

When Governor Phillip returns to Broken Bay, many have died of small pox and some survivors are recovering. This contrasts sharply with the earlier excursion during which there are so many Aborigines on the shores that apprehensive explorers camp in their boats. (Ford p34).

Gov Phillip with Captain Hunter and others explore Broken Bay. They see the river the Aborigines call Deerubin and return again to determine its source. They reach Richmond Hill. Over half of the population of southeastern Australia perish within three years of British arrival and long before they reach more remote areas (Joan Lawrence, Pictorial History: Pittwater, p4).

July 1 Governor Phillip leads a boat expedition “inland” into the ranges along the Hawkesbury River Branches. They come into first contact with Darkinung Aborigines who are roasting “wild yams” in a camp fire on the river bank. They later find yams in “greatest plenty” on the marshy banks. The explorers reach a fork and row up the Macdonald River. They take an afternoon stroll along the bank and approach a small bark gunyah. A young Aboriginal woman darts away into the trees. The men examine the hut and find two small children eating roasted yams. Further upstream at Ebenezer and Sackville, they observe Aborigines harvesting yams, banks that are “ploughed” and other signs of occupancy: the setting of animal traps. When the river branches again, Phillip’s party follow the Colo River, this time observing Aborigines in canoes who “flee into the woods”.

Not all of the mountain people met in the river valleys flee. Two Darkinung men seek to trade with the newcomers near Wilberforce. After being attracted from the bush to the riverbank by calls of “Co-wee”, they readily accept the gift of a freshly shot duck and steel hatchet in return for hand woven twine and a spear. Offering their spear may have had ritual value akin to laying down one’s arms for trading. Phillip’s party observe that these river people expect to trade. (Ford, 29-41). Although the two groups did not understand each others’ language, they communicate in the vicinity of a an important centre for Darkinung society.