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Woollarawarre Bennelong (c. 1764 - 3 January 1813) (also: "Baneelon")[1] was a senior man of the Eora, an Aboriginal (Koori) people of the Port Jackson area, at the time of the first British settlement in Australia, in 1788. Bennelong served as an interlocutor between the Eora and the British, both in Sydney and in the United Kingdom.[1]


Personal details

Bennelong was a member of the Wangal clan, connected with the south side of Parramatta River, having close ties with the Wallumedegal clan, on the north side of the river, and the Burramattagal clan near today's Parramatta. He had several sisters, including Warreeweer and Carangarang, who married important men from nearby clans, thereby creating political links for their brother.[2] Bennelong had a daughter named Dilboong who died in infancy, and a son who was adopted by Rev. William Walker, who christened him Thomas Walker Coke. Thomas died after a short illness aged about 20.[3]

Capture and life in the British settlement

Bennelong was brought to the settlement at Sydney Cove in November 1789 by order of the governor Arthur Phillip, who was under instructions from King George III, to establish relationships with the indigenous populations. At that time the Eora conscientiously avoided contact with the new comers, and in desperation Phillip resorted to kidnap. A man named Arabanoo was captured, but he, like many other Aboriginal people near the settlement, died in a smallpox epidemic a few months later in May 1789.[4][5] Bennelong (married at the time to Barangaroo) was captured with Colbee (married to Daringa) in November 1789 as part of Governor of New South Wales Arthur Phillip's plan to learn the language and customs of the local people. Colbee soon escaped, but Bennelong stayed in the settlement for about six months. He then escaped also, but renewed contact with Phillip as a free man. First, about three months after his escape, he organised for Phillip to visit Manly where he was speared in the shoulder, most likely as payback for the kidnappings. He then maintained ongoing good relations with the colony. In a gesture of kinship, gave Phillip the Aboriginal name Wolawaree.[6] He learned to speak English.

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