January 26, 2019
The quest to find historical brown people to replace white historical figures just got even stupider.
Bungaree was born in the area now known as Broken Bay, just north of modern day Sydney, in about 1775.
European Captain James Cook had “discovered” Australia five years earlier. By the time Bungaree was in his early 20s, huge swathes of the indigenous people who had lived in Australia for tens of thousands of years had been wiped out.
At some point in the 1790s, Bungaree made the decision to move south to the burgeoning city of Sydney. It was here where he began establishing himself as a central figure in the new colony – able to move between his own people and the newcomers.
In 1798, he joined the crew of the Reliance, which was undertaking a trip to Norfolk Island, almost 900 miles off the coast of Australia.
The voyage clearly left an impression on the young man, as it was the first of many he was to undertake. It was also the place he would meet – and impress – Capt Flinders.
It was Capt Flinders who recruited Bungaree for the Investigator’s trip around the continent in May 1802. Flinders later wrote it was the Aboriginal man’s “good disposition and open and manly conduct” which impressed him.
Bungaree’s kindness to the ship’s cat Trim would also warrant a mention in the sailor’s memoirs.
However, it was more than his disposition that made him invaluable to his crewmates during the 13-month expedition.
Bungaree was the only person born in Australia on the ship – even Trim had been born at sea – and as such, played a vital diplomatic role as they made their way around the coast, overcoming not inconsiderable language barriers in places.
“He chose the role of a go-between,” historian Keith Vincent Smith told ABC Sydney’s breakfast show last year. “He often, by taking off his clothes and speaking to people in the very top end of Australia, could mollify the indigenous people who were about to attack the sailors.”
And this program is just getting started.
In 10 years, kids will be learning about the great adventures of Bungaree, the monumentally influential… ship’s translator… who was actually a king somehow.
And they won’t know the name of Captain James Cook.
Because he was evil and has to be erased from history.