Captain Cook experienced the first resistance when landing at Botany Bay, though minor, it did indicate the Aboriginal objection to the uninvited men to their land. After sailing up the east coast observing no signs of agriculture or other developments Cook claimed the east coast for Britain on 23 August 1770 under the prevailing European law that such land was deemed terra nullius, or land belonging to nobody. Subsequently the British Government decided to establish a prison colony in Australia in 1786 using the European legal doctorine – that indigenous Australians have no property rights and territory could be acquired through ‘original occupation’ rather than conquest or consent. The British invasion and settlement of Australia commenced with the First Fleet in 1788 in New South Wales, then later in Tasmania and Victoria.

Violence between indigenous Australians and Europeans began shortly after the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney on 26 January 1788 when in May 1788 five convicts were killed and an indigenous man was wounded.

Geelong itself was first ‘established’ by Europeans between 1836-1838. Deprived of their hunting ground’s and attracted to white man’s foods they attached men and animals. Lots of lives were lost on both sides. In 1836, Dr. Alexander Thomson who squatted on land at Buckley Falls claimed to have distributed blankets to “Buckley’s tribe” finding that they numbered on 279. Concerned about the attacks squatters called on authorities in Sydney to provide protection. As a result, in 1837 Captain Foster Fyans was sent as police magistrate to Geelong with three policemen to keep the peace. The following year 13 military men were sent to help. As a result of declining food sources (due to the introduction of sheep and cattle) and a severe influenza epidemic in 1839, the Wathaurong population began to decline rapidly. However, by 1840 the squatters were once more complaining about the aggression of the Aborigines and the deficiencies of the Protectorate. At this time the hostilities between the tribes had increased. In the Kulin Nation around 1842, towards the end of the Silent War, with depleted numbers of Aboriginal men houses couldn’t be rebuilt and squatters prevented Aboriginal communities to build in the prime river or lake frontages often shooting them as trespassers.

In 1844 the Wadawurrung balug (Barrabool Hills) clan was involved in a fight with the Keyeet balug (Buninyong clan).

In 1846 the Wadawurrung balug massacred the Otway tribe and were again ready for war in 1850 but by then their numbers had been greatly reduced.

In 1854 Dr. Thomson calculated that there were only 34 adults left and two children under five years.

In 1861 a reserve of only one acre was set aside for Wadawurrung balug tribe on Ghazeepore Road just south of Andersons Creek. On it lived the six males and one female that then comprised the tribe. Willem Baa Nip (King Billy), the last of the local Wathaurong (1836 – 1885) it is said he was named after a bunyip his father had sighted on the day he was born at Waurn Ponds; he is buried at Geelong Western Public Cemetery. During his life time he defended his right to live on the land of his people.

King Billy and the Wathaurong (click for story)

Frontier Massacres across Victoria

Frontier Massacres around Victoira


Wynd, Ian 1992
Barrabool – Land of the Magpie. Barrabool Shire, Torquay

Pascoe, Bruce 2003
Wathaurong : the people who said no.  prepared by for the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative and Coast Action

Macintyre, Stuart (1999)
A concise History of Australia. Cambridge Concise Histories, Cambridge university Press

Geelong Advertiser, 1837

The University of Newcastle, Australia
Ryan, Lyndall; Pascoe, William; Debenham, Jennifer; Gilbert, Stephanie; Richards, Jonathan; Smith, Robyn; Owen, Chris; Anders, Robert J; Brown, Mark; Price, Daniel; Newley, Jack; Usher, Kaine Colonial Frontier Massacres in Australia Newcastle: University of Newcastle, 2017-2020, (accessed 7/12/2019). Funded by ARC: DP 140100399.