Funny how things happen. Yesterday I attended my first meeting as a committee member of the newly incorporated Matthew Flinders Society. There I met Ray Baker, Melbourne-based sports trainer and remedial masseur who works with, among many others, Aussie Rules teams Carlton and Essendon. Ray is also a direct descendant of Bungaree, the last tribal chief of the Broken Bay Aborigines.
Now Bungaree’s name may not be well known to you, or even known at all. But it ought to be, because he circumnavigated Australia with Lieutenant Matthew Flinders and the cat, Trim, in that pioneering expedition of 1798, Flinders noting that Bungaree was ‘a worthy and brave fellow’ who, on more than one occasion, saved the expedition. Flinders was the man who coined the name ‘Australia’ and, upon doing so, he is reputed to have told Bungaree that he was “the first Australian”, Flinders himself having been born in England and Trim the cat in South Africa! Bungaree subsequently cut quite a figure around Sydney and was the subject of no less that 17 portraits - including the one here painted in 1826 by Augustus Earle.
Governor Lachlan Macquarie, recognising Bungaree’s courage and worth, gave him some land in the general area of where ASOPA is today. But Bungaree wasn’t much of a farmer, preferring hunting and fishing, and the farm never came to much. But, along with other aspects of Middle Head’s rich history, it remains a substantial part of the Australian story. And yesterday I took Ray Baker across to Mosman in a cab for his first visit to his forbear’s land. I’m glad I did. It was one of those small, important, memorable events.
Ray met with Bob Clark of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to talk about how Bungaree’s life and times may be marked in the amazing project that is transforming Middle Head, extolling its history and restoring its heritage. The old ASOPA campus is part of this, of course, and that’s why you Sydneysiders and near Sydneysiders should try to make that information day at the School between 2 and 4 pm on Saturday 31 March.
Bob Clark suggests you bring along any old photos and documents that may be relevant to the site, but especially your knowledge of how the place was at various points in its development and how it worked. I’ll see you there.