Day 8 on the ‘Ong Tour finds us in the NSW Southern Highlands town of Mittagong, a name which is said to come from an Aboriginal word meaning “little mountain”. Other suggested meanings are “a companion” and “plenty of native dogs”, as apparently the hills around Mittagong were home to many dingos at one time.
In 1802, the explorer Francis Barrallier met the local inhabitants , the Gundungara people, as his party moved through what were generally known as “The Cowpastures” southwest of Sydney. Barrallier noted in his journal that the Gundungara “themselves build huts for the strangers they wish to receive as friends.” We got this information from Wikipedia who went onto inform us – “In 1816, fourteen people were killed near Appin by troops sent by Governor Macquarie during punitive expeditions to capture and kill the Aborigines who had been involved in some attacks by Aborigines between 1814 and 1816. The Gundungara killed had probably not been involved in these attacks.” That would have happened a lot, we surmise.
Also according to Wikipedia, in 1828 there was some interaction between the Surveyor-General, Thomas Mitchell – the same bloke mentioned in the post entitled ‘We’re in Wiradjuri country now’ who worked with a local Aboriginal man Yurinaigh to survey the Molong area and beyond. Mitchell was overseeing the survey and construction of a road and some men from the Gundungara acted as guides.
Wikipedia went onto say that local Gundungara people were apparently badly affected by an influenza epidemic of 1846/47. In 1848, the Goulburn Bench of Magistrates estimated the number of Aborigines in Goulburn (just down the road from Mittagong) to be 25. So between Governor Macquarie’s hit squad and introduced infections, we white folks did a pretty good job of polishing off the original inhabitants of the Mittagong area.
‘Ongwards we go, tracking back to the coast south of Sydney to the lovely spot of Gerringong where the cemetary has the best view in town! According to NSW Area Health Services Aboriginal Nations map (good to see our tax dollars at work), the Tharawal people were the original inhabitants in the Gerrigong area.
Apparently the name Gerrigong derives from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘fearful place’ probably due to the sighting of foreign ships in full sale heading up the coastline to what eventually became the first European settlement in Sydney Cove.
Before heading towards Wollongong, our last stop on the ‘Ong Tour, we will head south from Gerringong for a bit to take in the little known places of Tomerong, Comerong Island, Bewong, Bolong and Yerriyong. Do join us.