One of the earliest, most famous and well-documented indigenous men is Woollarawarre Bennelong.
Having lived from 1764 to 1813 he was a man of the Eora, Koori People, which reside in Port Jackson, NSW. Bennelong occupies a special place in Australian History due to his engagement with the British settlement in Australia in 1788.
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 west side of the river, and the Burramattagal clan near today’s Parramatta.
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.
Bennelong was captured in November 1789 as part of Phillip’s plan to learn the language and customs of the local people. Bennelong stayed in the settlement for about six months. He then escaped. Bennelong travelled to England in 1792. Many historians have claimed that they were presented to King George III, but there is no direct evidence that this occurred. Although soon after their arrival in England they were hurriedly made clothes that would have been suitable for their presentation to the King.
Bennelong’s health was perhaps damaged by the consumption of alcohol, one of the most popular pastimes in the colony. He died at Kissing Point (now known as Putney, in Sydney’s North West) on 3 January 1813.