© Michael O'Rourke Passages to the NW Plains
This paper brings together the doings of Aborigines, colonial explorers (who oftenused Aboriginal guides), the colonial landholders, and convict workers.It also brings together river catchments. For the local historians, quite unlike thefirst colonists, often seem hemmed in by dividing ranges. I almost ignore both theLiverpool Range and the Dividing Range proper so as to be able to range across theMudgee region, into the north-west plains, and up through the Hunter basin. But indoing so I describe both the approach to, and the crossing over of, the key mountain passes: Pandoras Pass
in the west and the Murrurundi Pass [Nowlands Gap] in theeast.Among other things, I explain that much of the Liverpool Plains was
and that most of the rest was open woodland. The extensive wheat farmingthat began at the end of the 19
Century did not,
in this part
[repeat: in this part]
of New South Wales
(NSW), require massive forests to be cleared. Such forest (thick
) as there was could usually be worked around. There was some tree-clearing but it was not massive.
I also examine why
so few Aborigines
seem to have lived on the rich LiverpoolPlains; and whether the clashes between Aborigines and colonists in the middle andupper Hunter Valley in 1825-26 really constituted
a “general rising” by the Aborigines
.The examination here of the Hunter River troubles is a more extensive and detailedthan the short account in John Connor’s
Australian Frontier Wars
(2002). I haveventured to correct several mistakes of his. I also show that the term ‘war’ is rather overblown. I hasten to add that
overall is a very clear, comprehensive,useful and accurate account. It is especially pertinent as a reminder that, as well ascivilians, the military and police were active on the frontier before 1830.The secondary literature on the process of exploration is fairly strong, and I haverelied mainly on it. In a couple of cases, however, I have gone to the primary sources.First, the fine details of Cunningham’s 1825 trip down Coxs Greek almost toBoggabri are published here for the first time, taken from his manuscript journal. (Ifelt obliged to look closely this episode, as his party were the first to visit the Tambar Springs district, where I had the privilege to be raised [1951-68]. Cf Catullus LXIII:
patria o mei creatrix, patria o mea genetrix, ego quam miser relinquens ..
.) Second,the ‘Hunter Valley War’ of 1825-26, which I first examined in the 1990s before Mr Connor’s book appeared. The primary sources are easily consulted, or most of them,having been printed in the great reference text
Australian Historical Records
Aboriginal Alliance Networks
The Aboriginal peoples of the Murray-Darling basin originally belonged to a number of ‘culture blocs’ or ‘alliance networks’. The largest and best known are theKamilaroi [
or Gamil’raay: pronounced “gumm-ill-rye”] in the central-north, and the Wiradjuri [correctly:
] in the central-south, each with
The modrrn practice is not to use apostrophes in place-names.
NB: I do not deny that many trees were removed. If one compares a satellite map, egGoogle Map, of the region, one can easily see large cleared areas that on Lang’s map (2008)show as woodland. Cf Lunt et al. 2006: 9: “we suggest that [only] 1–3 billion large trees have been cleared from the Murray–Darling Basin, rather than the 6.3 billion large trees suggested by Walker et al. (1993)”.