2020A history of Brighton – stolen lands

12 June 2020

The go-to official history of Brighton was researched and penned by Weston Bate in his eponymous book – A History of Brighton 1962 MUP.

Brighton, 5120 acres, from North Road to South Road and, from the shores of the Bay to East Boundary Road, purchased in 1841 by an Englishman Henry Dendy from Surrey for the grand sum of 1 pound per acre.

Weston writes in the almost poetic style of the blacks that possessed the shores and land – – – “used to wander”  – – –

            “Between the trees and tussocks of native grasses the appropriate seasons brought forth a profusion of wildflowers, many of them being common to the whole geographical area but others having a restricted residence such as a group of rare marine plants on a patch of soil at Brighton Beach or the orchids found east of  Brighton by Doctor Hart at the end of last century (1900). One of them was a rare blue deep variety with white spots and another was of a fine purple colour. Altogether, he stated more than 300 species of native flowering plants could be found in and around Brighton including 50 of the 80 orchids then known in Victoria.

In this benevolent setting, the aborigines of the Yarra and Westernport tribes used to wander, while tribes from further afield may also have paid brief visits for food or corroboree. Middens similar to one at Brighton Beach have been discovered at trip at frequent intervals along the Port Phillip coast. and stone implements and other artefacts of also been found suggesting that the place was popular with the Aborigines. although a stone axe head found in the 1880s was considered such a rarity that its finder took great pride in it

Even when the white man came the natives continued their visits to the shore often spearing gummy shark during the day and at night, equipped with torches of she-oak wading in shallow water for flounder and whatever other varieties of fish might be attracted within range of their spears.

One of the hills behind the early town has carried down the reputation of being a favourite place of corroboree while along the creek nearby numbers of bones are said to have been unearthed by early residents, explained by the Aborigines to be those of the victims of a tribal fight which took place near a lagoon now in the city’s Landcox Park

The natives fitted unobtrusively into the setting much in the manner of the wildflowers though not in such profusion. The numbers were small even at the coming of this first whites.  In 1836 the two local tribes together numbered only 350 while in 1840 just before Brighton was settled, the Wawoorong (sic) or Yarra tribe numbered 118 – 70 males and 48 females – and the Bunurong or Westernport tribe only 62 – 43 males and 29 females. Yet over a period these tribes. with the help of others making casual visits, had, in several places along the cliffs and shore, piled huge kitchen middens composed of half-burnt mussel, muttonfish, cockle and periwinkle shells, ashes and animal bones; leaving behind them also a number of scapers and firestones as well as the rare stone axe.

Into the quiet peace the sandy loam with its roving blacks, it took little time for the tide of white settlement to move, once it had settled down, as it did after discoveries of Major Mitchell from an adventurous trickle to a steady purposeful acquisitive stream of sheep and cattle drovers, flowing south from New South Wales”.

Publisher Melbourne University Press 1962