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A long time working: Aboriginal labour on the
Coolangatta Estate, 1822-1901

Michael Bennett



Unfortunately, the ledger books contain limited information about the type of work undertaken by Aboriginal people. In the latter half of 1842, an Aboriginal man named Monkie burned off stubble from the land. On 23 August 1843, four unnamed labourers cut maize cobs from their stalks and two days later, seven others each received a shirt and a pair of duck trousers, most probably for the same task

The Sydney Gazette . Sunday 15 May 1803, page 4. News

An old man who by dint of manual industry erected himself a small hut in Pitt’s
Row, on Monday last went into the Woods to split shingles and paling, leaving in charge
of his little cabin and 18 or 19 bushels of maize, a labouring man, to whom he gave house room. The ingrate, however, betrayed his trust, and when the poor man returned on Friday night, lie found neither his lodger nor his corn, which had been openly hawked and sold in his absence.





FROM Brief History of Brisbane City in the 19th Century

In the new Brisbane Town,
slab huts were quickly built for accommodation and the convicts set to work growing corn. There was some talk of establishing a farm on the upper reaches of Oxley Creek but due to the problem of coping with tidal flow in the River the plan was dropped in favour of the development of a farm on 2,225 hectares of land known as Eagle Farm. Clearing land for farms at various points along the River began to change the landscape and expose the soils to erosion. Maize, the first successful staple crop, was grown at South Brisbane, directly opposite the main settlement.
Magnificent vegetation was obliterated. A convict described the western end of South Brisbane as it appeared in the late 1820’s:

“a tangled mass of trees, vines, flowering creepers, staghorns, elkhorns, towering scrub palms, giant ferns, beautiful and rare orchids and the wild passion-flower; while along the River bank were the water lily in thousands and the convolvulus of glorious hue”






The Sydney Gazette . Saturday 29 June 1816, page 2.


A second flood at Hawkesbury was occasioned
by the succession of rains experienced the last
fortnight. Last Thursday sennight the rise in the
main river became rapidly perceptible, and in the course of the following day all land travelling was put a stop to, the water having attained nearly to as great a height as on the recent previous occasion. Great quantities of maize have been
washed away, and it is feared the destruction of
the whole of the wheat that had been sown is thoroughly compleated



The Sydney Gazette Saturday 13 January 1821, page 4.

At his Auction Mart in Macquarie Place, on Tuesday next, the 16th Instant, immediately after the Sale of the above;

THAT valuable FARM, consisting of 150 acres, situate in the District of Cabramatta, and known by the name of Joyce’s Farm ; it joins the Farms of
Captain Brooks and Mr. Nichols. Sixteen acres are cleared and well fenced in, with six acres of maize now growing thereon. A Purchaser may have immediate possession of the above Farm, and will be treated with on liberal terms, on application to Mr. LORD, Macquarie Place. -: BY MR. LORD,



Cattai Creek Bridge

Despite Governor Phillip’s reluctance to establish settlements along the Hawkesbury River, the district was turned to farming in 1794 when Lieutenant-Governor Major Francis Grose issued the first grants in the area. The agricultural land of the Hawkesbury was attractive for settlement and opened up for farming at this time because the arable land at Parramatta was under strain. Wheat was the primary crop grown in the district, although corn (maize) and barley were also harvested. By 1796, more than 1000 acres of land in the Hawkesbury were in cultivation. Governor Lachlan Macquarie visited the Hawkesbury River district in 1810 and planned five new towns on elevated flood-free sites at Windsor (earlier Green Hills), Richmond, Castlereagh, Pitt-Town and Wilberforce. In 1818, James Meehan surveyed the lower Hawkesbury River for settlement, which led to further occupation of the area after this time.


With the passing in 1861 of the Robertson Land Act, much of the land around Lismore was opened up for free selection. This same land which was unsuitable for running cattle because of the dense scrub (The Big Scrub) was now eagerly taken up by free settlers who undertook subsistence farming. Agriculture included sugar, maize, corn and the pasturing of the first dairy cattle.






The Sydney Gazette and… Thursday 27 November 1823 Supplement: Supplement To The Sydney Gazette, page 2


VALUABLE COUNTRY SEAT.-To LET, a small and compact FARM, of about 135 acres,
delightfully situate on the Bank of George’s River, within half a mile of the Town of Liverpool, and 19 miles from Sydney. As a Residence for a genteel Family, fond of a rural life, this beautiful Place offers many inducements. There are on the Premises a neat cottage, with servants’ hut, barn, and other necessary Out-buildings. The cottagers erected on the borders of a lagoon, affording variety of fish. There is also a fine orchard, stocked with the choicest fruits. About 5O acres of the land is in a high slate of cultivation ; and the crop of wheat, maize, &c, now thereon, with a few head of cattle, will be given the Tenant at a fair
valuation.-Apply to J. K. DAYTON, No. 13, O’Connel street.

In 1822 Mr Lord was auctioning Maize again. He had about 600 bushels “more or less damaged” – but doesn’t say what the damage is nor what caused it