One of the Aboriginal children placed in Governor Macquarie’s Native Institution in 1814 was Kitty of the Warmuli or Prospect clan of the Darug. After leaving the Native Institution Kitty married, first Coleby, brother of Maria Lock and then convict Joseph Budsworth and moved to the Maitland area of NSW.

By 2012 I had identified four of Kitty’s descendants as serving in World War One, using a combination of Jim Kohen’s Darug genealogies, National Archives and New South Wales Birth, Death and Marriage records and information from Budsworth descendant Jo Rose. Now with more assistance from Jess Holland and Liz Locke, I have been put in touch with Leigh Budden whose grandfather, born a Budsworth, is yet another of Kitty’s descendants to serve in the AIF. He was Robert John Coleman (also known as Walter) born Robert John Budsworth in 1896 and legitimised by John Joacquim Coleman as his son in 1913. His mother Catherine Sarah Budsworth, granddaughter of Kitty, married John Coleman in 1898. Robert volunteered aged 19 on 18 July 1915 and served as Walter John Coleman in the Middle East and France. Catherine Sarah was the daughter of James Bowen Budsworth and the sister of Roderick Budsworth, killed in France on 5 November 1916. Another brother, James Henry Budsworth survived the war as did and two other Budsworths, Wilfred and Joseph, both of whom were cousins of Walter Coleman.

COLEMAN nee Budsworth Wal (Robert John) & Nellie wedding 1_5_1930 courtesy Leigh Budden

Wal Coleman and his second wife Nellie, 1930.

Courtesy Leigh and Joan Budden

I have mentioned boomerangs before in connection with men of the AIF. Walter Coleman also possessed a boomerang (see below) similar in make and material to the one owned by Bert Leane .The precise circumstances of his receipt of this object are unknown but its present owner, his daughter Joan Budden, says that it was a gift from one of his uncles. Although this boomerang may not necessarily have any connection with Walter Coleman’s Aboriginal heritage, it is of interest in the context of war service overseas in general and the use of boomerangs to symbolise safe return. Walter Coleman’s boomerang is asymmetrical and roughly similar to the one belonging to Bert Leane. The dark wood with yellow banding suggests both were made from mulga.

Wal Coleman's boomerang courtesy Leigh Budden

The boomerang belonging to Wal Coleman, a gift from his uncles.

Courtesy Leigh and Joan Budden

Family research by Leigh Budden has revealed another parallel with Bert Leane, known to his AIF friends as ‘Darkie’. He points out that Robert Budsworth was known not only as Walter John, Wal and Wally but also as Darkie Coleman. He also states that according to his mother’s cousin Ray Coleman, his grandfather was nicknamed ‘Nigger’ by many of his friends including some of his family. This was not meant as an insult but a (perverse) term of endearment. A post card sent to his brothers Frank and Bob from Wareham U.K. where Walter was stationed in March 1917 (while assigned to the later disbanded 61st Battalion) demonstrates the affection between the brothers.

Wal COLEMAN sent this Post Card from Wareham UK WWIWal COLEMAN sent this Post Card from Wareham UK WWI  (2)

Card sent to his brothers by Wal Coleman. His realistic appraisal of the uncertainties of his life as a soldier is evident when he writes –  ‘if I get home’.

Courtesy Leigh and Joan Budden

The use of the word ‘nigger’ underlines the ever present casual discrimination faced by men of Aboriginal heritage. However the mateship he enjoyed (like Bert Leane), was implicit on his death in 1944, in the notice placed by the 30th Battalion AIF Association in the Newcastle Herald.

Budsworth Walter John Coleman 1944 death notice 001 crop

The discovery of Walter Coleman is another example of the fact that there are more men of Indigenous heritage to be recognised as volunteering for the first AIF. The Darug people of New South Wales are particularly well documented thanks in great part to the research and personal interaction with families of Jim Kohen. This in turn has assisted in the identification of war service by Darug men. Now the addition of Walter Coleman, yet to be included in Darug genealogies, brings to at least 72 the number of Indigenous servicemen with links to the Aboriginal people of the Sydney basin.

My thanks to Leigh Budden and his mother Joan Budden for family information and photographs

Philippa Scarlett 29 October 2013

About Indigenous Histories

Author & Publisher of Australian history, art and culture.
This entry was posted in WW1. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. doug mackaway says:

    my mother Mary Therese (Molly) was a sister to Wal – she has a twin sister Kitty – other siblings I know of were – Jack, Frank, Nelly, Jean, Florence, Jim – I have a photo of Catherine Sarah Budsworth – a beautiful woman

  2. Rosemary says:

    Hi there Doug, Catherine Sarah Budsworth was my great great grandmother . I would dearly love a photo of her if you have one my name is Rosemary i am the daughter of Janice May Holland (nee Budsworth) you can email me on thank you

  3. Ceane Towers says:

    Warrami Ceane Towers here of the Warmuli Clan Black Kitty Line married into Budsworth after Colbee died. My email is please contact me 0405375007. I live in Lithgow, i am in Blacktown today and visited Prospect yesterday Aunty Carol s son, my cousin Paul Tearman told me of significant of areas at Blacktown and Prospect to Kitties Darug mob and today will go looking for her plaque. Happy to talk to any one here.

  4. Debra Morris says:

    I am also a descendant of kitty , my grandmother was Mary Therese Coleman whose mother was a budsworth. I am so proud 🌼

  5. Lynda Bristow says:

    Hi everyone, good to meet. I’m also a descendant of Kitty’s. My grandmother was Florence Budsworth, daughter of Catherine Sarah Budsworth who for some time lived in Merewether, Newcastle. She took the name Coleman from Catherine Sarah’s marriage to John Coleman.

    • Leigh Budden says:

      Hi Lynda, my grandfather Walter Coleman, first son of Catherine Sarah Budsworth and younger brother of Florence also took the Coleman surname after Catherine’s marriage. I would like to learn more about Florence – would you please contact me at, thank you Leigh Budden

  6. Jennifer Coleman says:

    Hi All This has been SO interesting to read – my grandfather was Bob Coleman (recipient of the postcard above, sent by Wal). My parents traced the family tree in Newcastle library about 25 years ago, and we’ve assumed that Kitty was a Kamilaroi woman.

  7. Jennifer Coleman says:

    My father, John Coleman, gets a bit confused these days, but he tells me he definitely remembers Uncle Wally & Aunty Nellie (?Grey) and a lovely cousin, Joan. Also Uncle Frank (a tram driver), Aunty Molly, and an Uncle Jack and thinks he recalls an Aunty Flo. Because Dad’s parents were divorced, he didn’t get to know the Coleman side of the family too well.
    He did ascertain that Catherine Sarah (nee Budsworth) was widowed when John Coleman was killed in an industrial accident where he worked at the ‘Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners Advocate’ .

    • Leigh Budden says:

      Hi Jennifer, I am one of Wally’s grandsons, and a son of Joan Coleman. I have quite a bit of family history on Catherine and John Coleman – which I would be happy to pass on to you if you are interested – likewise I would be very interested to learn more of the Kamilaroi connection if you can share it? Please contact me on – thanks Leigh Budden

      • Jennifer Coleman says:

        Terrific Leigh – I’ll contact your email. Just want to say that I’m afraid the Kamilaroi connection BEGINS with my dad, who met with people from the Kamilaroi mob >25 yrs ago when he discovered Kitty in the family tree. It was assumed she was Kamilaroi because of the area she and Joseph Budsworth lived and had their children. Dad was kindly welcomed as a Kamilaroi man, which made him incredibly proud. I’ve begun the process of enlightening him!

  8. Margy says:

    Kamillaroi are Moree mobs….you ascertain the mob of your ancestors not by the lands they were living on…even if they had children themselves who were born in that area, it doesn’t mean they are Gomaroi….they retain the mob from where they and their ancestors were born and originated from. If you went back to the Gamillaroi mob today and gave names to them, they wouldn’t be able to link you because Kitty’s mob were Durug.


    • Craig Cruse says:

      Hi Margy. I too descend from Kitty Budsworth. Thank you for clarification Margy as I have been trying to make this clear to other family descendants.


  10. Michelle Flynn says:

    Hi Craig and Ceanne , I’m not sure if you are aware but there were 2 Catherine Budsworth’s . This Catherine Sarah is the neice of the Catherine Budsworth / Stafford/ Kendall whom our family descends from . It may be of some interest for you to read unpacking Alfs cricket case the link is above the comments box .

    • Keryn says:

      Hi Michelle I’m a descendant of Catherine Budsworth / Joseph Stafford , down from their daughter Margaret Stafford. I have just finish reading Rosemary Norman-Hill (Bachelor of Social Science) Jun20 Thesis – Reclaiming Darug History. She is a descendant from Kitty Warmuli very interesting reading seeing we are in lock down

      • Michelle Flynn says:

        Hi Keryn I too am a descendant of catherine Budsworth and Joseph Stafford their son John Allen stafford is my g grandfather . I’ve donated a lot of family history to Aiatsis in Canberra . My email address is . Happy to share information with you .I have some information on Margaret too .

Leave a Reply to Michelle Flynn Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s