Academic recognition of RH Mathews. American researcher working at the South Australian Museum helps break the academic veto on RH Mathews’ work on Aboriginal language, culture and estates. This stand-off was established decades earlier by British trained ethnologists/scientists, especially Victorian Baldwin Spencer. Joseph Birdsell in conjunction with Adelaide scientist Norman Tindale publish a guide to Aboriginal territories and tribal identities. It includes Darkinung of the Hawkesbury-Hunter ranges, although Tindale’s interpretation of Mathew’s records of Darkinung grammar and the country in which it is spoken attracts critical scrutiny. (Ford, 263-5)

Indigenous Australians are divided over the issue of military service. Some believe war service will help the push for full citizenship rights. Others, such as William Cooper, Secretary of the Australian Aborigines League – who lost a son during WW1 – believe that Aboriginal people should not fight for White Australia. He demands improvements at home before taking up "the privilege of defending the land which was taken from him by the White race without compensation or even kindness”. Many Aboriginal people defer their activism to serve in the Australian army including Jack Patten, Bert Groves, Doug Nicholls and Kath Walker. Reginald Saunders becomes the first Aboriginal officer in the Australian Army. (AWM)

Andrew Barber (eldest son of John Luke Barber) of Sackville Aboriginal Reserve works on or visits Mitchell’s farm. This is adjacent to Sackville Reserve and is a former Everingham property (Ford 191)

Bill Onus (Son of William Onus from Wollombi Brook and grandson of Martha Everingham from Sackville Reserve) is appointed Secretary of the NSW Aborigines Progressive Association. He organises fund raising for returning soldiers, including Bert Groves from Walhallow (Caroona) at La Perouse. (Jack Horner, Seeking Racial Justice, 2004; Gary Foley’s Koori History website).

Awabakal man Black Adam is living at Swansea South. Black Adam’s Rest is named after him. (Newcastle Morning Herald, 20 May 1961, Newcastle Library)


The gorget belonging to King James of Patrick Plains in 1845 is found in long grass during the construction of a new Aboriginal settlement at Boggabilla. It bears the inscription: “King James of Baelpin, Patrick’s Plains. Presented by W.C. Lesley, JP. (Singleton Argus, 24 May 1950, p1).

As a small child Merle Stevenson (parents Cleo Jonas and Robert Stevenson) returns with her family to her Spirit Home, Allworth on the Karuah River. Nearly 80 years later, she recalls this moment: “My Mother married a white man so for five years we were away from our real Spirit Home. Then we moved back to a small village called Allworth on the Karuah River. It was there where I came alive. I could feel a belonging, this was where my Mother’s family was raised, everything excited me. The river teeming with fish, even the calmness of the water, the high tides of Xmas, and the floods. Bird calls, even now when I hear the rain bird call, my mind goes back. Different animals. Taking us for walks in the bush naming different trees and flowers. Eating berrys, black currants, puddings and wild raspberrys. Sucking honey out of flowers, eating gum from the wattle tree, finding native bee nests, eating the honey and mushrooming after the rain. I loved it when all our relations came together at Xmas time, every cousin, uncle, aunt knew each other. I still get a feeling of belonging when I go back, even though things have changed. But you can’t change the Spirit”. (2014 Merle McEntyre)


September 27. Andrew (Andy) Barber lives alone on Sackville reserve in his one roomed, smoke-blackened tin shack until he dies on this day and is buried at Windsor. He is approx 93 years old. He is the last Darkinung Aborigine to live on Sackville Reach Reserve. He leaves it deserted. As a lone widower he did not move from the Hawkesbury. He was the son of John Luke Barber and his first wife, Ballandella. (Ford 191; Brook, 1st edit, 43).

Andy Barber is not without friends. He is reported to have been “one of the best known residents of the district…a popular figure for almost a century…he always took pride in his appearance and was courteous and obliging”. “He could turn his hand to anything and did as much work as a man and a half” (local farmer); Andy was “in his glory when with children”…he would take them to Maroota to pick waratahs, then give the flowers away on their return home; he spent a great deal of time camped below Ebenezer Church near the river fishing, he virtually lived on the fish he caught. Harold Hall believed Andrew was a member of the cast (black tracker) in Raymond Longford’s film “Fisher’s Ghost” made in 1924. One elderly Hawkesbury Resident, Jack Cox says when he was at Ebenezer, he only had to coo-ee and Andy would be there with his boat to take him across the river (Brook, 1st edit, 47-49; Windsor and Richmond Gazette)

With Andy Barber’s passing, APB Reports ranging from 1884 to 1944 document the rise and fall of the Aboriginal population of Sackville, Windsor and “black town” (“black settlement”) on Richmond Road:

September 6. Article published “Aborigines at Platt’s Estate. ALP Council asks that they remain”.

October 28. Article published “No evictions Platts Estate dwellings” from Newcastle Morning Herald, p2. These articles describe a “blacks camp” in Waratah near the expanding populated area of Newcastle and debates surrounding its removal or continuance. The land on which Platt’s Estate is located formed part of the original Australian Agricultural Company estate (probably since first settlement in the early 1800s) and fronts directly onto the Hunter River. Mangrove Road and Island Ferry Road run through it. It was subdivided for development in 1929 but by this time and into the 1950s, Platt’s estate is still a “humpie” town or “black shanty town”. An inspection by health and lands officials in 1954 is most probably driven by a desire to close such “black camps” on the periphery of a modern industrial city. (Newcastle Morning Herald p.2)

Two positions on the Aboriginal Welfare Board are designated for Aboriginal people: one “full-blood” and one having “a mixture of Aboriginal blood”. William Ferguson is elected to the AWB. (Koori History)


Harold Blair auditions for Marjorie Lawrence. Harold Blair (born Cherbourg 1924 and raised on Purga Mission) sings at the Lennon Hotel in Brisbane in 1944 for the renowned Marjorie Lawrence. Following the audition Lawrence says “You’ve got a fine tenor voice and a natural musical instinct. If you work hard you can become one of the greatest ambassadors for your race. You can do more than politicians or fine speeches. Work hard. You’ve got it in you to succeed!”. Blair does work hard. He reportedly goes from singing on canefields and illiteracy at 18 years of age to an outstanding tenor who sings in five languages and performs on the stage around the world. In the process, Blair takes advantage of new opportunities to advance the struggle for justice for Aboriginal people. This includes during his concert tour to Newcastle in 1949 (see 1949 Opera singers plea for equality). (Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association, ACRA)

Julie Frame is born at Kurri Kurri.

Alan Ambler is born at Lakes Entrance.

Article published: “Native skeleton on beach” Newcastle Morning Herald p. 2 tells of an old Aboriginal burial ground south of Norah Head.

Raelene Henderson is born at Kurri Kurri.


May. Dave Sands becomes champion boxer. Dave Sands (born Kempsey 1926 to George Ritchie, rodeo-rider, timber cutter and bare knuckle fighter of mixed Aboriginal descent and Mabel nee Russell his Aboriginal wife) moves with his brothers to Newcastle to train with boxing tutor Tom Maguire. At this time, Dave defeats Jack Kirkham for the Australian middleweight boxing title. Three months later he knocks out Jack Johnson to become national light-heavyweight champion. (ADB)

September 9. Death of Fred Maynard, founder of the AAPA.

May 17. Sackville Reach Aborigines Reserve Nos 23598 and 28546 are revoked. Both are set aside for public recreation on 2 August 1957 (Brook, 1st edit, p43).

Compared to many other Aboriginal communities in NSW, those who congregated at Sackville fared remarkably well. Their relationship with the local white community was excellent and many found work and were considered good employees. It was a secluded community beside the Hawkesbury River where they could relax with their own kith and kin. Slowly Aborigines of the Hawkesbury filtered into the “outside world” and were absorbed into white society. Few, if any, relinguished their cultural heritage. Many sought out and married other Aboriginal people. For many years, many kept quiet and hid their Aboriginal background from their white neighbours. The fear of having their children taken away by the APB (later Welfare Board) to be placed into a Home for “their protection” was a powerful reason for remaining quiet. The missionaries helped to smooth the path to their assimilation into white society. (Brook, 1st edit, 63).

Pilbara campaign. Nearly 800 Aboriginal pastoral workers defy the Aborigines Act 1905 (WA) and walk off in protest over lack of personal freedom, poor pay (often only rations) and sub-standard living conditions. It becomes Australia’s longest strike and affects over 6,000 square miles of sheep farming country. Aboriginal strikers are seized by police at revolver point and put in chains. The Pilbara strike is supported by 19 state unions, seven federal unions and four Trades and Labour Councils. It is meticulously organised by Clancy McKenna, Dooley Bin Bin, Peter Kangkushot Coppin and white communist Don McLeod.

In Melbourne, President of the Australian Aborigines League, Bill Onus (son of William Onus from Wollombi Brook) organises support for the Pilbara strikers. (Museum of Australian Democracy; Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association; Gary Foley’s Koori History Website)


John Ayerst is born in Waratah.

Hunter Valley Aboriginal men on set of Eureka Stockade at Singleton. After the success of The Overlanders, one of Australia’s biggest and most expensive postwar films, Eureka Stockade, is shot on set at Blind Creek, Singleton. Director Harry Watt seeks to employ local workers and cast people in small parts and as extras during its two year production. Four unnamed Aboriginal – perhaps workers, bit actors or even sightseers – relax on set with British actor, Peter Finch and Al Thomas.


Joyce Herbert escapes from mission authorities in western Sydney. Removed from her Aboriginal mother and sent to Mulgoa Mission as a very young child, Joyce escapes at 14 years of age and goes into hiding. The Aboriginal Welfare Board and police search for her in vain. While in hiding, Joyce is re-united with her mother Tess who travelled from Central Australia years previously to be near her daughter. The case receives much publicity. A court rules the following year that Joyce can live with her mother. Her mother cries at the decision, saying she has been out of her mind with worry. Joyce later moves to the Brisbane Waters district, raises her own family and becomes actively involved with the local Aboriginal community, especially the the Mingaletta Corporation at Umina. (see video of Joyce Herbert)

Christine Cooper (descendant of Maria Lock) is born in Cessnock. She marries Verne Munro in 1970 and moves to Gosford.

William McLintock (“Lin”) Onus is born to Bill Onus and Mary Kelly in Melbourne.

Dave Sands wins world boxing title. Tutored by Tom Maguire at his Hamilton boxing gymnasium (Newcastle), Sands has by this time beaten all his local opponents and most American “imports”. His fight against French boxer Tony Toniolo in 1949 leads the English promoter Jack Solomons to take an interest in him and Sands begins his campaign for a world title. In 1949, Sands defeats Robert Villemain in the “fight of the year” and months later is victorious over Dick Turpin in less than 3 minutes for the British Empire middleweight title. (ADB)


Death of Alfred Parsons at Wallsend. His wife is Victoria Stubbings.

After three years, the determination and tenacity of the Pilbara strikers is rewarded with improvements to pay and conditions for Indigenous people. (Museum of Australian Democracy)

Don Brady graduates from AIM’s Bible College in Karuah. Brady (born Palm Island) is one of the first to train as a missionary at the Men’s Native Workers Training College of the Aborigines Inland Mission at Karuah and graduates in 1949. He is later appointed to Brewarrina, Walcha, and Moree. Brady becomes a prominent Aboriginal church leader. After his return from the US where he holds a Churchhill scholarship, Brady speaks out on issues of justice. He becomes a catalyst for an emerging Black church. He is also an activist in the land rights movement and often questions government policies towards Aboriginal people. (Cathleen Inkpin. "Making Their Gospel Known, 67-68; Koori History)

Opera singer’s plea for equality for Aboriginal people. Harold Blair visits the Hunter Valley as part of a concert tour of five states. The Aboriginal tenor signs autographs and performs in Newcastle’s City Hall. In a media interview he states: “The whole thing I want is quality for the Aborigines. If I succeed as a concert artist and operatic singer, I feel it will be one step towards proving we can make good if we are given the chance”. Fifty years later, Harold’s daughter Nerida lives in the Hunter Valley and works for the recognition of Darkinung people and their history (see 1998 Nerida Blair)