• The Story of Jenny Swift: A lost daughter of William Lock?





1880 – 1924

Warangesda etching 1883 Illustrated Sydney News


Philippa Scarlett


© Philippa Scarlett 1994












This 1883 etching, first published in the Illustrated Sydney News, shows the church, tent school, flag pole and a drop log house (rear centre), similar to descriptions of the one built for his family by John Gribble. The slab huts to the right belong to the people of the mission.

Rev. J. B. Gribble “Black But Comely” or Glimpses of Aboriginal Life in Australia, Morgan and Scott, London, 1884.









Warangesda Daily Life and Events was written in 1994, seventeen years ago. Since then my understanding and views about Warangesda have developed and changed and resources enabling more detailed study of Warangesda people have become available. While I hope to write again about Warangesda incorporating much additional research, the information in this monograph still has something to offer about the place and its people.

Philippa Scarlett                                                                                                                                                                                                                        October  2011


                        1          Note on the Sources 2
                        2          Introduction and Overview 4
                        3          John Brown Gribble 7
                        4          The mission farm and the work of 11
                                    the men,   women and children
                        5          Food and Clothing 19
                        6          Relations with the Community 22
                        7          Law and Order 29
                        8          Recreation and Leisure 36
                                                Christmas   at Warangesda 40
                        9          The Girls’ Dormitory 41
                                                 Jenny Swift  49
                                                Daisy   Brown 51
                        10        Health 52
                        11        The WarangesdaSchool 56
                        12        The Managers 57
                                                Mr   Whalley                                                                 59
                                                Mr   Harris 61
                            NOTES 63
                            BIBLIOGRAPHY 82




What follows is not a history but an attempt to describe some of the events and details of life at Warangesda mission during the period it existed on the banks of the Murrumbidgee – from 1880 to 1924. Based as it is primarily on the written records of the mission’s white administrators it lacks the direct voice of the Aboriginal people for whom the mission was created and who lived and died there.  But this voice does on occasions make itself heard through the white records, and often gives readers an opportunity to make judgements on people and events which do not always coincide with those implied by the record makers.

The main source of material used here has been the open access records which relate Warangesda – the diaries of the mission’s founder John Gribble covering the period 1879 to 1885, the mission managers’ diary kept between 1887 and 1897, the Aborigines Protection Board (APB) reports covering the years 1883 to 1922 and records of the Warangesda School held at State Records of New South Wales. The mission managers’ diary possibly not coincidentally ends in the year the Aborigines Protection Association (APA) surrendered control of Warangseda to the APB. Although written for the manager it was not always written by the manager himself.  This diary and the Gribble diaries provide the richest source of material about the mission activities and people, and in the absence of any comparable material for Warangesda’s subsequent years emphasis has fallen on the operation of the mission in the years documented by these records.  More detailed study of the later years using APB minutes and related records would complement material put forward here and throw more light on the struggle of individuals with the strictures of the Board, and events in Warangesda’s final years of operation. The fact that Warangesda ceased to operate in 1924 has meant that oral history although illuminating provides less detail about mission life than it does about life and resettlement in the period after the mission closed.

There is still much to be found out about the people of Warangesda. Some of the information used here is located at the Australian War Memorial and the Australian Archives.  It is likely that a careful and thoughtful search of the New South Wales State Archives would produce more than the obvious material relating to the WarangesdaSchool and the records created by the APB.  Where people’s lives come in contact with officialdom the information which can be gleaned is not always of a an impersonal nature and even when it is, such information can, often obliquely, throw unexpected light on people and events. Correspondence of the managers and other staff and of the mission people if any could be found, and records from the surrounding properties are just some of the other areas which are open to investigation.  The existence of photographs of Warangesda and its people is referred to by Gribble and a later mission diarist.These, if they survive, would provide invaluable evidence of people and place.Although under the APB’s 1895 Regulations for the Management of Aboriginal Stations, the manager was required to “keep a diary of all the occurrences at the station together with the usual statistics” 1 those diaries of the mission which are known to exist cover a relatively short period of its life. The location of further diaries would be invaluable in documenting Warangesda’s history.

 Philippa Scarlett                                                                                                                                             Canberra, May 1994

Introduction and Overview

WARANGESDA – where is it? Warangesda, or the “Home of Mercy” for the poor down-trodden aborigines, is situated on the large and beautiful Murrumbidgee, in New South Wales.  It occupies a position on the south bank of that river, one hundred miles below the town of Wagga Wagga, and may be reached by rail and steamboat from Victoria, or by rail from Sydney, a distance of four hundred miles.                       

The small township of Darlington Point lies about three miles away, where there is a most serviceable post-office and a punt.  The district for hundreds of miles around the Mission Reserve is purely pastoral.  Some of the grandest sheep runs in New South Wales are to be found here.  Millions of sheep are depastured upon the broad, and at certain seasons lovely, plain of Riverina.                       

The climate, for about eight months of the year, is everything that could be desired, but during the summer season the heat is very great, and every vestige of herbage disappears before the fiery rays of an almost vertical sun, and the raids of myriads of locusts.  Sterility and famine, as a natural consequence, take the place of verdure and of plenty.  During such periods horses, cattle, and sheep die in great numbers, and the settlers have to bear serious losses.                      

The above description will prepare the minds of my readers for many a little incident in the course of the narrative which, without such information, would perhaps appear rather strange.

This is how John Gribble introduced the mission he had founded in 1880 to the readers of his book“Black But Comely” or Glimpses of Aboriginal Life in Australia.  His words stand equally well here.

The mission which he so graphically locates in climate and countryside was a small and changing village like settlement.  In essence, for much of its life it consisted of a church, school building, a residence for the manager and cottages for the overseer, dormitory matron and school teacher.  The mission families lived mainly in two-roomed huts, but there were also some huts with four rooms.  The young men lived separately in a single men’s hut and a girls’ dormitory accommodated girls and young women of varying ages.  There was also a store and ration house and numerous farm buildings and structures which were peripheral to the mission proper.  The buildings of the mission were periodically whitewashed with lime and in 1908, the roofs of the manager’s residence and the dormitory were painted with refrigerating paint in an effort to combat the heat1.  Some of the buildings had verandas and most were surrounded by picket fences, which kept out wandering animals, enclosed small gardens and contributed to the village like appearance of the mission settlement.

In 1883 a visitor saw Warangesda as presenting a “very pleasing appearance, the buildings of which there are about thirty forming a kind of quadrangle with a neat and commodious church at its centre”2.  Descriptions in the next ten years note huts empty and in disrepair3, unmended fences and implements scattered untidily about the mission grounds4.  In 1891 the APA inspectors reported that “the appearance of the station causes us to infer that more care needs to be exercised”. 5 By 1894 most huts needed repairing and some were condemned, the girls’ dormitory was described as unfit for habitation and the church was riddled with white ants6.  This decline in conditions was related to the emphemeral nature of some of the buildings, the effects of flooding, notably the great flood of 1891, and the financial strains imposed by the 1890’s depression.

The mid nineties to the turn of the century was a time of necessary physical renewal – and a time also of consolidation of the identity of its people. In May 1895 the church was completely refurbished7.  Between June and October of the next year a new girls’ dormitory was erected 8 and new young men’s huts built in 1895 and 1897.9  Between 1897 and 1904, 20 new family huts were built, making a possible total by 1904 of 32 huts10.  This activity overlaps with the placing of the mission on a more definite financial footing.  With the complete takeover of Warangesda by the APB in 1897, formalised in 1898, it was at last free from the financial uncertainties which had plagued it from its very beginnings under Gribble and which continued during the administration of the financially failing APA – increasingly propped up by government funds.

From 1893 an Aboriginal Vigilance Committee played an active part in mission life, helping to diffuse tensions.  Thirty three Warangesda Aborigines were on the New South Wales electoral roll and entitled to vote in the 1895 New South Wales election, and the first federal election11.  By this time a generation of people who had been born on the mission were entering adolescence or becoming adults, and a Warangesda identity had been established in the eyes of the surrounding district and the mission people themselves.  If Aboriginal people had lost their identity as Wiradjuri in most European eyes, they had gained a new one as Warangesda people.

The years that followed the start of the new century were ones of change and disintegration for the mission and its people. Warangesda Aborigines lost their right to vote in any election by 1904.12 A decade later the girls’ dormitory ceased to exist, as did the young men’s hut (probably because of the policy of keeping able bodied men off the mission) and by 1920 the duties of the teacher at the Warangesda school had been given to the mission manager.

The operations of the Cootamundra Home, an “established fact” by 191212b, and the consequences of the Aborigines Protection Act of 1909 and its 1915 and 1918 amendments depleted and disrupted the Warangesda population.  As well as escalating expulsions and the removal of children, the outbreak of World War I in 1914 may also have affected the mission and accelerated the dispersal of the mission population.  The labour shortages which it created in country areas drew people away from the mission, and in the first year of the war there were only 65 people in residence in December, in comparison with 118 in December 1913.13 During this period also, a number of those people in the surrounding district associated longest with Warangesda and neighbours who had provided continuity in the face of the many changes in mission staff, were dying or moving away.  Mr and Mrs E Lander, some of Gribble’s first friends, had moved to South Australia as early as 1895 (although their family remained).  The deaths occurred of Warangesda’s neighbours Mr K C A  Cummings in 1900, Mr T  Beaumont in 1902 and the storekeeper Mr J L  Bennett in 1909 – all except Mr Beaumont had played a part in mission affairs as members of its Local Board – and their departures signalled the beginning of a new era at Warangesda.  From 1915 official local involvement with the mission was ended by the replacement of the Local Committee (formerly Board) by a Government Inspector, the notorious Mr Donaldson.  His implementation of APB policy, in particular the removal of children to training institutions, gave cause for stronger and deeper resentment than any action of the local body he replaced.

By 1921, the population which from 1883 to 1914 had hovered around a hundred, had fallen to 48 13a largely as a result of increased expulsions and the removal of children.  APB funds were in short supply 14 and rations becoming expensive to provide. Warangesda occupied saleable farming land on the Murrumbidgee whose prospects were enhanced by the commencement of the Burrinjuck Dam in 1914, which assisted in checking the worst effects of the flooding to which the area was prone.  A solid core of those who remained at the mission like James Turner who had come to Warangesda with Gribble in 1880, consisted of people who had survived by learning to live with the Board and to tolerate mission conditions, in exchange for its benefits.  As well as identity, living at Warangesda meant food and shelter, the opportunity to work, a limited bargaining power and a home. Warangesda’s closure in 1924, for the convenience of the Board accompanied by its virtual physical destruction, underlined how illusory this all was.  The people owned nothing they had not bought themselves.  They had built their houses and the mission buildings and in some cases lived there for much or all of their lives, but these considerations had no relevance to the thinking of the Board. As a result of the endeavours and sacrifices of John Gribble some Aboriginal people had found a new place to live after their displacement by Europeans.  But in 1924 this too was taken away from them by Gribble’s more pragmatic successors.

Those who have looked back on what it was like to live at Warangesda see life there from varying perspectives.  Mrs Isobel Edwards who spent her childhood at Warangesda in the period before its closure remembered it as a good place15. The feelings about Warangesda of Mr Charles Kirby passed to his son Gordon were mixed.  Mr Kirby saw the mission where he had lived for some time as an adult as a good place to be “before the rules changed and they started taking the kids away”15a. Mrs Val Weldon’s family, the Kennedys, had long associations with Warangesda.  However the memories of the mission and its closure she received from her father Roy were not happy ones.  Conversation about Warangesda was not encouraged in her home and when mentioned it was in the negative context of punishments and expulsions16.  But whatever views are now held about the mission, it is a place where for 45 years Aboriginal people lived and died and struggled to survive, and as such its importance cannot be denied to all Australians and most particularly to the Wiradjuri and other Aborigines who were its people.


John Brown Gribble founded Warangesda Aboriginal Mission in 1880, and in the years that followed he attempted in the face of determined local opposition and financial insecurity, to turn the Crown land granted to him near Darlington Point, New   South Wales, into a home for dispossessed Aboriginal people. That he was a man of deep moral conviction and physical courage is unchallengeable. His founding of Warangesda and endurance of its dangers and privations, his earlier winning confrontation with Ned Kelly at Jerilderie and the stand he later made on behalf of Aboriginal people against white settlers in Western Australia – all amply attest to this.

He was at the same time a complex man of contradictions, only too aware of the ordinary human frailties he possessed. He was not shy of advertising the sacrifices which he had made in leaving his “comfortable and profitable” post in Jerilderie to establish Warangesda1.  His uncomplicated and literal faith on many occasions seems as simple as that he ascribed to his “poor black men.”  Once when desperate for funds he prayed “`O Lord send me £100′.  Then . rising above doubt and fear I said `O Lord send me £150′”. within three weeks, he records the full sum had been received2.  Despite Warangesda being his “Home of Mercy” he showed none to those whom he punished for their attempt to escape from its confines. 3 Yet at the same time he worked without sparing himself beside the Aboriginal mission men for long hours often in poor health, and in almost unendurable heat, linking his actions with his hopes for the betterment of the people and the success of Warangesda

9 January 1882 Worked at the fence.  I find such labour very trying to my system but am anxious by working myself with the blacks to set them an example of industry and to push on the work of improvement. 104° in shade. 4

His hard and relentless work at this time may also have been a way of contending with and attempting to subdue the terrible doubts and recriminations preoccupying his mind, disturbed and uneasy and veering towards nervous collapse. At times the combination of overwork, appalling heat and spiritual depression made him unable to conduct either of the daily services and forced him to take to his bed. 5 Cruelly, hard work for him only seemed to exacerbate his disquiet of mind.

Writing of his experiences at Warangesda in his book, ‘Black but Comely’ Glimpses of Aboriginal Life in Australia, published in 1884, Gribble describes how Warangesda’s numbers swelled as “more natives came pouring in from all quarters, from the Darling, the Lachlan, the Murray and even the distant Namoi.” 6 Some did come “to see for themselves” as Gribble described it.  Some of the old and sick, like Tiger, the oldest man on the river who was shortly to die, and who was carried from his gunyah to a mission hut, as “helpless as a babe ” 7 may have preferred to stay where they were.  Others, particularly young women with ‘halfcaste’ children were happy to be brought to a place of shelter and safety. Gribble’s diaries show too that he travelled extensively seeking people from the camps and outlying districts where he could sometimes encounter resistance to his invitation to visit Warangesda. He records that when he visited one camp near Cootamundra “some of the older ones were very free in opposing my suggestion.  I hope to get about a dozen away with me.” 8

Apart from visits seeking recruits for the mission Gribble made numerous trips away from Warangesda to raise money by publicising his missionary endeavour. Between February 1882 and January 1883 he made visits to Sydney, Goulburn, Jerilderie and Albury and travelled to Ramahyuck and Lake Condah missions in Victoria, with three Aboriginal companions, Billy Free, Rowley and Little David.9 This took him away for a total of over six months, three months of which were devoted to one trip alone.  Despite references in his diary to moments of pleasure at Warangesda, the times when he seemed to experience real enjoyment were during his absences.  It was at these times that he seemed most happy and at ease preaching and lecturing about his work and seeking donations for the mission.

From the very beginning, Gribble had taken steps to link Warangesda with the Church of England.  He became a stipendiary reader of that church in 1880 and a deacon in 1881.  By May 1883 he had studied for and successfully passed the examinations which qualified him for ordination as a priest.10 His decision to move from the Congregational Church to the Church of England was criticised by some, but proved a wise one.  It not only drew funds to the mission, and secured him a separate salary in February 1882 11 but in his bishop, Mesac Thomas of the Diocese of Goulburn he found a powerful ally and friend. Bishop Thomas supported and encouraged Gribble and lived up to his assurance that he would be “active in seeking the permanent good of the mission” and in “striving to create an interest in you whenever I have an opportunity.” 12 The direct association of Warangesda with the Church of England was severed in 1884 when Bishop Linton of the newly created Diocese of Riverina, in which the mission now fell, declined to take responsibility for it – and Warangesda became a secular institution.13 However the Church maintained its interest in mission affairs and still provided some assistance with  funding.

Gribble’s vision for Warangesda extended beyond simply the provision of a home and refuge for Aboriginal people. He also saw what he called his Central Mission Station on the Murrumbidgee, as a place of training for other missionary workers. Although events overtook the flowering of this plan at least one of the men and women Gribble listed as candidates for his proposed Missionary Training College at Warangesda 13a – a Miss Hurst – came to live and work there in 1885, only to die less than a year after her arrival.

Despite Gribble’s high hopes for Warangesda, by 1883 the harsh realities of its day to day existence were beginning to overcome him.  In April that year, restless and still suffering the consequences of overwork, he sought to leave 14 but was dissuaded by Bishop Thomas from his intention of taking up a position, for which he had successfully applied, in the Diocese of Perth.15 By this time Gribble had achieved his goal of establishing a home for Aborigines.  He had physically created the mission with the help of the Aboriginal men and he had worked hard to furnish it with donations and funding. Moreover, as well as allying Warangesda with the Church of England, he had also secured the support of the Aborigines Protection Association, a private charitable body, which Daniel Matthews, founder of Maloga mission, had been instrumental in forming in 1880.

However Gribble’s and Matthews’ efforts to gain support for their missions had attracted attention as well as donations.  In 1882 Maloga and Warangesda Missions were the subject of a New South Wales government inquiry which reported in August of that year.  The outcome of the inquiry was that while management of the missions was to be the responsibility of the APA, which would provide what funds it could, the bulk of the funding was to be contributed by the New South Wales government. This was to be achieved by grant from Parliament to the Aborigines Protection Board, formed in 1883. The corollary of this government support was accountability and surveillance.  The APA was required to report at quarterly intervals to the APB on how the money it received was spent.16 With the money that was now available much needed purchases of food and stock were made at Warangesda – and regular visits of inspection began.  This involvement of the government in mission finances proved also to be the first step to complete state control. The APB in its 1882/83 Report was at pains to make clear that the “Aboriginal Mission Stations at Warangesda and Maloga have not been in any way placed under the control of the Board” whose actions were simply to be confined to the supervision of expenditure provided by government grant.16 These protestations notwithstanding, the reality was that the APA, while nominally administrator of the mission, was not free from the influence of the Board. This increased as the APA was less and less able to attract sufficient money to support even its nominal role in mission management, and in 1897 Warangesda passed wholly into the hands of the APB.

While the long term result of the government’s inquiry was total government control, in the short term it freed Gribble from the responsibility he felt for the mission he had founded.  The inquiry had not treated him kindly.  The report which it produced acknowledged the devotion of Gribble and Matthews to their work, to the impoverishment of themselves and their families, and recognised their personal standing among the Aborigines, but concluded in a manner, which damned after faint praise, that:

if Aboriginal stations are to be formed under the control of the Government, the services of persons should be obtained with such qualifications as will in all respects have the confidence of the public. 17

The inquiry of which Gribble makes no mention in his diary and refers to only obliquely in  “Black but Comely” 18 must have been a severe blow after his efforts and privations over the preceding two years and may have been a factor in his decision to leave Warangesda. It seems likely that it was influenced by opposition to his efforts apparent in the Sydney press. The inquiry also affected the people of the mission and created dissent between them and Gribble.  The additional funding now allocated to Warangesda led some of the men to believe that they no longer needed to work and they travelled to Sydney to complain about Gribble’s insistence that they do so.  Gribble expelled them and their wives and took the incident as an enormous blow to all he had tried to establish at Warangesda – “It really seems to me as if the place must be broken up.  I want to do what is right but it is hard to do so.” 19

Tensions between Gribble and his staff, emerging as early as 1882 also contributed to his decision to leave :

17 June 1882.  Received insult and injury from Mr Bridle which made me very ill.

18 June 1882.  I have decided to ask the Bishop to release me from my present position in favour of Mr Bridle who seems to desire the chief position.20

Gribble did not proceed with this action in 1882 but stayed on.  His decision to abandon his plans to go to Western Australia in 1883 was courageous in the face of the criticism he had received and the health problems he was experiencing.  It seemed also to be a firm one.  After a visit to Sydney in August 1883, he returned to Warangesda with a governess for his children – a Miss J. Lea, and purchases of goods and furniture.  The 4th of September was devoted to unpacking and arranging the new furniture, which led him to remark in his diary “the rooms look a little comfortable now.” 21

Gribble remained at Warangesda while his worsening health and its effects on his family permitted.  But this was not to be long.  By 1st December 1883 he was “very ill indeed.  Poor Mrs Gribble is completely knocked up in consequence.  Painful experience for us all.  I must give up working altogether.” 22 His judgement was confirmed a few days later “drove to Narrandera  and saw Dr Barber for the baby and myself – he said I should have immediate rest and change. ” 23

Although he returned briefly to Warangesda after a year’s recuperation and lecturing about the Aboriginal cause in England, its problems again overcame him, and on 24th May he preached his last sermons at Mr E Lander’s neighbouring property and in the mission church. He left Warangesda on 3rd June 1885 24 and in line with his earlier intention took up a missionary post in Western Australia.

His last visits to Warangesda between 1888 and 1890 in his capacity as Travelling Missionary for the APA 25 were happy occasions.  As a visitor he was no longer responsible for the day to day survival of the mission and could take pleasure in observing its growth and development.  For his visit on 20th March 1890 – the tenth anniversary of his founding of Warangesda – a holiday was declared.  The pulpit from the church was brought outside and Gribble held a long service under the Ebenezer pine tree, where a decade before he had preached the mission’s first sermon. 26 When he died on 3rd June 1893 his last words (later recorded in the mission manager’s diary) were “remember me to my dear blacks at Warangesda.”



From the start it was Gribbles’ intention to turn Warangesda into a self-supporting community and to free it from the uncertainties of dependence on charity.

To do this he planned to work the mission as a farm with the Aboriginal men, cultivating land and grazing animals.  The first years set the pattern of years to come – of clearing, grubbing out stumps and fencing, as more and more useable land was carved out of the reserve of approximately 2,000 acres which Gribble eventually secured. Once fences were erected there was continuous mending and rewiring as well as ploughing, sowing, harvesting, hay making, chaff cutting and shearing.

By early 1882 the men with Gribble had fenced Warangesda’s first paddock of about 200 acres, and in March of that year Gribble was in Sydney to beg seed for 33 acres, which were prepared and ready for cultivation1.  Over the succeeding years varying acreages of wheat, the major crop, were sown.  By the final years of the mission wheat planting was only 20 acres, less than Gribble’s first crop.  In the intervening years, plantings of between 50 and 80 acres became the norm, although areas as large as 156 and 190 acres were planted in 1914 and 1915.2 Sometimes small quantities of barley and corn were also sown, and in the cultivation paddock crops of pumpkins, potatoes, field peas, vegetable marrows, rock melons and preserving melons were all grown at different times.

There were numerous attempts over the years to grow vegetables in and around the mission, usually thwarted by lack of water.  It was only after 1908 when a 12 foot windmill and tower were installed that ample water was available and a vegetable garden could flourish for any length of time. 3 In 1888 a small orchard and vines were planted although they do not seem to have prospered. 4

Sheep were grazed for wool and for meat for the people. On 20 July 1883 Gribble bought 250 sheep at 5/6d  a head from UriPark and in the following November bought another 700 sheep from Mr McCulloch of Orange, taking a week on the track to bring them back to Warangesda. 5 Sheep were also bought from Kulkai, Gogelderie and other stations in the area.  The number of sheep on the mission varied and was affected by mission finances and climate.  In 1901 there were 1,024 sheep but only 22 in 1905. 6 When Warangesda closed there were approximately 500 7.  As well as sheep there was a smaller number of cattle, generally under 100, some goats, horses for farm use, fowls and pigs.

Ten years after it was founded in 1880, Warangesda was described as a reserve of 1, 981 acres, 500 of which were good open country, the rest heavily timbered.  All was grassed, with parts suitable for cultivation, the remainder for grazing.  By this time a total of 1,950 acres had been fenced and 120 acres cleared, of which 70 were planted with wheat and potatoes. 8

Gribble’s hope of making his mission self sufficient was still being repeated in 1906 by the APB, but even with the efforts of managers who were practical farmers or who tried hard to make the farm work – like Mr Clarke (1889) and Mr McDonald (1898-1906), this was a goal not to be achieved. On a few occasions the Warangesda accounts balanced in the mission’s favour, but the dream of its founder of a continuing self supporting community was never realised.

The produce grown on the Warangesda farm was either sold or consumed or replanted as seed.  Wheat was sold to Wise Brothers at Narrandera and wool and sheepskins were sent to Sydney.   Hay was sold or used for feed. The proceeds of all sales were used to defray the operating costs of the mission.

The working of the mission as a farm suffered continually from lack of money.  A visitor in 1890 saw Warangesda as “under great disadvantage for the want of a little outlay of capital.” 9 There were other difficulties too.  The main, and after 1897, the only source of funding and the overall management decisions lay with the APB 400 miles away in Sydney.  This meant that the manager was unable to make purchases for the mission without permission from his superiors.  He could not pay for labour as it was earned, or sell produce without reference to Sydney – instead of as the demand for it occurred.  This state of affairs prompted another visitor in 1891 to urge the placing of “the whole working procedures of the station on a better system [so that] more be accomplished.” 10

After a Local Board was established in 1895 the situation for the manager was made even more cumbersome, since the Local Board was required to sign all requisitions before they were transmitted to Sydney.  Any expenditure incurred without authority was the responsibility of the manager.  One manager circumvented this system by buying much needed equipment with his own funds.

Two scythe blades ordered by the mgr arrived at the Point this afternoon to be used together with the motor which is too slow to use alone, and the hay is getting very dry.  These blades are the property of the manager.11

Farm machinery and equipment, as Warangesda grew older, was constantly breaking down and needing replacement or repair.  During 1896 alone the dray, harness, plough and chaffcutter all broke down.  All but the chaffcutter, for which no suitable bolts could be found, were repaired on the mission 12 – although four months later the plough was again out of service.  If possible repairs were made at Warangesda – as this was cheaper and less disruptive to the work of the farm.

When equipment had to be repaired by the blacksmith at Darlington Point delays were inevitable.  In 1894, when the wagon carrying wheat to the station broke down and needed repair by the blacksmith, it was out of commission for almost a week.13 It was not until 1908 when a blacksmith’s shop was opened at Warangesda itself that problems like this could be dealt with more easily. 14

Neighbours helped the mission by lending much needed equipment.  A wool press was borrowed from Mr Cummings in 1887 15 and Mr Bennett lent a reaper in 1896.  But machinery gained in this way was not always in good condition:

  19th October 1896  Reaper – brought in from the Point today where it has been standing for some years. Have thoroughly saturated it with kerosene oil.

  20th October Tried reaper.  Works fairly well only.16

In 1905 some of Warangesda’s old machinery was sold and raised £76-10-6d.  In the same year a new thresher, ploughshares and dray were bought, but at a cost of £107-13-8d.17

Although the APB reports of mission finances show expenditure on equipment and repair as a frequently recurring item, Warangesda seems to have limped along, borrowing and repairing where it could and increasingly subject to the reluctance of the APB to incur expense on the mission’s behalf. After 1920 almost nothing was spent on machinery or repair.  What farm machinery there was when Warangesda closed must have been in bad repair or outmoded and this may explain why so much survived the clearing sale held in 1925 to dispose of the mission property.18

The dry conditions which to greater or lesser degree affected the Riverina during most of the mission’s existence more often than not made farming a thankless task.  The weather in the Riverina in the 1870’s before Gribble established the mission had been atypically good, but in the years to follow long periods of nil or minimal rainfall devastated the countryside.  At Warangesda the wheat crop completely failed in 1888, 1893, 1898, 1899, 1902, 1905, 1907, 1910 and 1914.  Poor conditions made yields very low in 1896 and 1897.18a The stock were kept alive with difficulty during the drought periods. Conditions were so severe in 1902 and 1903 that some of the horses and cattle had to be sent away on agistment.19  Again in 1919 drought forced the removal of almost all the cattle from the mission.19a

Rabbits, which had begun arriving in the Riverina in the 1880’s were a continuing problem despite efforts by the men to dig them out, poison and trap them and in 1909, the purchase of a fumigator. 20 The rabbit problem was compounded by plagues of mice 21 and grass hoppers.  In 1899 grasshoppers totally destroyed the garden and the wheat crop “eating the flags and heads and finally the stalks” leaving the ground “as bare as though it had been visited by fire.” 22

When drought and plague were not affecting the mission the periodic floods which were part of life by the Murrumbidgee were interrupting farm life.  In some years Warangesda suffered the effects of both.  In 1894 work came to a halt as the men prepared for the coming flood

 24 April Water began to run over the flats below the dormitory.  Mr Nash gave the manager permission to put wheat in the schoolroom…all contract work stopped on the station.

  25 April  Men preparing a place for camp should we have to leave the houses. 23

Flood waters came into the mission grounds in 1887, 1890, 1891, 1893, 1894 and 1900.  In 1900 flooding destroyed 35 acres of wheat and 3 acres of potatoes 24 and in 1906, 21 acres of wheat were destroyed. 25 If floods did not adversely affect the crops themselves, fences could be damaged, as in 1908 26, and the farm work disrupted by the need to repair and clear fences and paddocks fouled with flood born debris. Even when there was no flooding the “beautiful rain” 27 so often badly needed stopped shearing, stripping, hay making and ploughing.27a

Strong winds and dust storms could sweep over Darlington Point stopping work and causing discomfort to all.  In October 1894 the wind was so strong “as to blow large trees down” 28.  Winds like this not only interfered with normal work but were disastrous for crops.  In 1911 30 acres of wheat were recorded destroyed by wind 29 and this instance is unlikely to have been an isolated one.

On 3 February 1885 the temperature was 106° in the shade when Warangesda was engulfed by a “terrific dust storm.  Dense darkness reigned for some time although it was only a little after noon.” 30 In March 1900 the combination of drought and raging wind created a dust storm which lasted all day and well into the night, darkening the sky and piling up dust and sand. 31

It was in this increasingly inhospitable setting that the Warangesda mission farm tried to survive and prosper. Experience of the climate and changing market opportunities had led property owners in the Riverina from the 1860s to realise that the country was most suited to sheep.32 The decision to abandon cattle and to concentrate primarily on sheep was not made at Warangesda until 1919.33

The mission farm was worked by the Aboriginal men under the direction of the manager and an overseer  who, except in the case of Paddy Swift (1894-1897?) 33a was also white.  Able bodied men worked in return for rations, and failure to work could result in denial of rations not only to the man concerned but also to his family.34  The mission bell called men to work and told them when to stop.  Any lapses in punctuality or undue haste to down tools could attract censure by the manager. 35 Work started between 4 am and 6 am 35a in this way avoiding the often searing summer heat, and in Gribble’s time the men worked a six day week, Sunday excluded.

As well as undertaking the general field work of the farm there were the jobs of butcher and milkman, sometimes combined.  Jacob Walters, Richard Clayton, William Gillman and Mickie Ryan were butcher and milkman in 1894 36 and Whyman McLean butcher only in December 1896.36a Wood had to be chopped continuously for cooking, and heating in winter, and water had to be drawn from the well  or pumped for the tank before the windmill was erected in 1908.

Sheep were shorn at Warangesda until at least 1911.  In later years the sheep were taken for shearing to nearby Beaumonts according to Mrs Isobel Edwards, who was born at Warangesda in 1909.  There was no shearing shed on the mission when she was growing up, 37 so it is probable that the shed erected in 1911 38 was diverted to another use or fell quickly into disrepair as the mission neared its end and funds were not forthcoming to replace it.

Shearing on Warangesda in August 1887, was described by the manager:

All hands shearing viz J. Murray and B. Foote, B. Woods and E. Christian  – pressing N. Davis, R. Christian – wool picker J. Norris – F. Gibson and R. Kennedy mustering sheep – A. Christian butcher – J. Howell cook … J. McCalister  [the overseer] … supervising board… shearing until 6pm.39

The men did not work for rations only but had the opportunity to earn money from their own labour.  Gribble paid men for their work and assisted them to spend their earnings. “Settled with the men today for their work fencing.  Made sundry purchases for them.  They are very much pleased with the articles they received as value for their money.” 40

Under the management of the APA, a system of contract work for payment was employed and applied to most work.  Contracts were let by tender and details of one such tender received by the manager in 1896 for fencing the new cultivation paddock, an area of about 50 acres were:

Geo Allen                               splitting          £1.5.0 per 100 posts

Wm and Lewis Gordon         splitting          £1.10.0 per 100 posts

James Smith                           splitting          £1.5.0 per 100 posts

Herbert Walker                       fencing            £10 per mile

Edward Davis                         fencing            £12 per mile 41

Payment of this kind although not regular meant that the men and their families had access to some income and the degree of independence this gave them.  They also had the opportunity of working for wages on the surrounding properties, where the clearing, grubbing, ploughing, rabbiting, horse breaking and shearing skills which they had learnt at Warangesda were in demand.  Fruit picking and Council works in the latter years of the mission were other areas of outside employment.41a

Warangesda was in the centre of a sheep growing district, which in the shearing season could attract as many as a thousand workers.  At this time it was not unusual for only three or four men to be left on the mission, with the women and children. 41b Men leaving would make provision for those who stayed behind by chopping the wood which would be needed while they were away. 41c Pens could be secured in advance by arrangement between the manager and property owner but such arrangements did not always work out.  In July 1895 the manager saw Mr Ross of UriPark who had promised him four pens for four of the men.

He stated he could not give the men the pens as the white shearers objected to them being in the shed. The men had awaited fully expecting to get the shed and had not tried to get others.42

There may have been another dimension to the racism implicit in this case.  Although the shearers decided after the 1890 strike in the Riverina that Aboriginal men could become members of their union (Chinese and Kanakas were still excluded 42a) the union status of Warangesda shearers is unclear and if they were non union labour the men in this instance may have been unwelcome on more than one count.

Since 1893 there had been a policy of allowing those men considered capable to farm small allotments on the mission, for their own benefit.  The first to receive an allotment was George Allen43. Others who worked their own land were James Turner, Richard Westall and James Smith, who in 1899 put in 15 acres, 7 acres and 6 acres of wheat respectively. 44 Residents were allowed to own cattle and horses – a maximum of two per family and in 1897 the APB reported that many did.  They owned dogs too, but these required licences and were a potential cause of disharmony when sheep were killed and dogs destroyed by order of the manager.45

The constant need to keep down rabbit numbers provided a further source of income and food for Warangesda people.  They earned money for rabbit destruction and could sell rabbit skins, although the bonus on rabbit scalps declined rapidly by the 1890’s.46   In 1894 a group of people returned empty handed to the mission from Mr Ross’s because “they could not make the rabbiting pay.” 47

The work of the farm and the work of the men outside Warangesda had the dual and to some extent overlapping aims of assisting in the support of the people of the mission and of occupying those able to do so in useful work.  Increasingly the policy of keeping able bodied men off the mission worked against the first of these aims.  If Warangesda were to become entirely a home for the old, and the weak and for women and children its existence as a farm would inevitably suffer. In this sense the farm was destined to fail.  Its smooth working was not helped by its accountability to a remote government organisation and the manager’s obligation to divide his attention between the people of the mission and the working of the farm.

If Warangesda as a farm did not live up to its founder’s hopes, its success lay in its role as a place of training and experience for Aboriginal men in farming skills which helped them to gain work and later simply to survive in the world outside the mission.  There was also the assurance at Warangesda of remuneration for work performed, in contrast to the situation which sometimes pertained elsewhere.  In 1895 Nebo, an Aborigine from Yass, sought to stay at the mission rather than return to his ’employer’ Mr Massey because although he had worked for him for several years he had yet to receive any pay.48

Because the women and children were not involved in the heavy physical work of the farm, (much of which is recorded) the part they played in the life of the mission is harder to identify.  Although there was a male milkman the women also helped with the milking.49   They made candles, 50 were taught cooking, and attended sewing classes 51 and would have sewn and mended some of their own clothes and those of their families.  In 1888 Jack Bryan and Maggie left the mission “to go fishing to get money for dog licences,” 52 while Richard Westall and his wife in 1894 were at Mr Ross’s for rabbiting. 53 These were remunerative activities in which the women as well as the men could take part.

The manager records that a shed was built near the tank in February 1896 for the women to work in.54  The nature of their work is not mentioned but they could have sewed here, unpacked and sorted sale store goods or divided the rations, which would have come in bulk, into weekly portions.

Food for the dormitory girls was made by two cooks probably drawn from the married women55 who also helped the matron.  On three occasions, Aboriginal women were given the position of dormitory matron in the 1890’s – Mrs Lewis, Mrs Swift and Mrs Allen.55a  Aboriginal women also acted as midwife where necessary 55b and assisted the manager’s wife and other white staff with household duties – as did Lucy Buckley, Nancy Murray and Evelyn Turner in 1894.56

The women were probably also responsible for cleaning the church, Warangesda’s main communal building, and the school – sweeping and scrubbing the church and school floors were both punishments given to women by the manager57.  In December 1914, Daisy Bamblett was appointed cleaner to the school at a salary of £5-11-057a (this money had been ‘saved’ in 1910 by the teacher, Miss Hill, who required the older boys and girls to undertake the cleaning duties unpaid after school, as a form of what she described as “industrial tuition.”57b)

As well as attending to their families the women were under obligation to keep their huts in a constant state of tidiness and cleanliness.  The huts were regularly inspected by the matron and also subject to the intrusion of unofficial and official visitors to the mission. Such visits often produced comments like those of Arthur Collingridge who wrote in the Illustrated Sydney News of May 1883:

The women are found to be clean and orderly in their domestic arrangements,  some of the cottages being kept as clean as if under the tidiest and most industrious white house wife.

This fishbowl existence which families lived at Warangesda was part of the price they paid for the relative security of mission life.

The children of Warangesda attended school, Sunday school, played games like marbles and played on the mission swings.58 They went rabbiting and fishing, played by the river, helped with farm chores and could also get in the way and into trouble.  Part of the mission was fenced off in 1908 to protect children from galloping horses, 59 indicating that accidents or near accidents had already occurred.  The mission, incorporated as it was with the farm, could be a dangerous place for children.  Tommy McGuiness in 1896 was run over by a dray, but since it was empty was only slightly bruised. 60

In 1894 the manager

had a little trouble with the boy Percy Gibson.  He was required to go milking cows with Bertie Murray and refused.  The manager led him round the paddock and made him go. 61

What transpired while the boy was being led around the paddock is not recorded.  However, the manager was ready if neccessary to deal with any problem in the discipline of children which might arise.  Gideon McClean in 1895 was “punished by request of his mother, he being constantly disobedient.” 62

If not living with their families – while they were permitted to – girls lived in the girls’ dormitory and then proceeded to domestic duties elsewhere.  Boys, after completing school as early as age 11, could be sent to positions or apprenticed outside the mission.  In 1894 “Mrs James Murray went up to Tubbo and brought home her boy who had been apprenticed, his time being up.” 63  Willie Rogers left Warangesda in May 1888 to go to Mr Robinson at Jeranbuck where he was to receive “5/- a week if suitable” and “after one month clothes as well.” 64 By their late teens the boys, if still at Warangesda, would have entered the single men’s hut from which they worked on the mission or in the surrounding district.

For the children as for their parents Warangesda was a training place in European farming and domestic skills.  It was also a place where at the mission school they could receive education which discrimination could deny to them elsewhere.  The skills learnt at Warangesda did have survival value.  But counterbalancing this was the fact that many of the children were separated from their parents and processed into employment away from the mission – and this was for them, their families and their culture more often than not negative in its consequences.


While the money the men earned on and outside Warangesda could be quite substantial it still did not give them the security of permanent employment.  A large proportion of the Warangesda population was at times entirely dependent on the resources of the mission, which in view of the precarious existence of the farm, boiled down to the financial support of the APB.  In 1907, the first year the APB reported on numbers on rations at Warangesda, these people made up 82 per cent of the year’s average population of 108.  By 1915 the population had fallen to 68, 85 per cent of whom were still receiving rations. 1

These rations were distributed weekly and could be augmented by melons, potatoes and pumpkins and other vegetables grown on the mission, when these were available.  In 1895 a full weekly ration consisted of 8lbs flour, 2lbs sugar, 1/4lb tea, 7 rations of meat, and 1/4lb of bacon.  Salt and soap were issued as required. 2 In that year the APB defined those eligible for rations as the “aged, infirm or sick aborigines on the station as well as any children depending on them.” There was provision for rations to be issued in cases of emergency or distress where able bodied men or women were destitute or unable to find employment. 3 In practice most women received rations unless supported by their working husbands.

Delays in the arrival of rations were frequently experienced.  Supplies of meat, flour, tobacco, tea and sugar could be completely run down, and as a consequence there would be no work.  These shortages in Gribble’s first years were due to lack of money and then and later to drought, delivery problems because of flood waters or simply to the ineptitudes in the management of the Council of the APA through which they were requisitioned.

Shortages of supplies in 1893 and 1894 were particularly severe.  On 26 May 1893 there was no tobacco, sugar or tea on the mission4 and on 24 September 1894 there was no rice, tobacco, flour or soap.4a The Local Board in the beginning of 1895 found there was

much dissatisfaction among the residents owing to the irregular manner in which rations arrived on the station, but on strong representations being made to the Board this difficulty was entirely removed.5

However this was an over optimistic assessment and shortages continued to occur from time to time in the years to follow.

When supplies were low the manager could resort to various measures to make them go further.  In 1892 when there was very little flour the manager, to spin out supplies, distributed a flour mixture which was not received well, prompting the manager to comment euphemistically that “the residents murmured.” 6  In 1897 “supplies not being to hand only part of the weekly ration could be distributed”7.  When there was no meat on the mission in  1887, the manager sent the men to hunt kangaroos.8 Almost ten years later in 1896 in a similar situation the men were sent fishing,9 as they had done once for Gribble to great effect when drought drastically affected the condition of the sheep.10

Throughout the history of the mission rations were always a source of problems stemming from their availability, the question of who was to receive them, their refusal as punishment and particularly in the last years of the mission their cost to the APB.

As well as rations, blankets and clothing were distributed once a year.  In the APB’s 1895 Regulations for Management of Aboriginal Stations, articles of clothing for distribution to Aborigines were listed as “moleskin trousers, crimean shirts, knicker suits, wincey [a durable cloth of linen and wool], flannel and calico”.11 No mention was made of clothing for the women or girls – presumably this was to be made up from the wincey, flannel and calico.  However, the year before Inspector Smith of Hay had forwarded “10 dresses and petticoats for the children and 12 more were to follow.” 12 In 1904 the APB listed clothing for distribution to Aborigines as a coat, pair of trousers and flannel and twill shirt for each man, for women and girls a dress and warm petticoat and for boys under 14 a knicker suit and a flannel and twill shirt.13  During the life of Warangesda boxes of donated goods, particularly clothing, flowed in haphazardly14 and these supplemented the APB clothing.

Boots and shoes, which as well as hats could be bought from the mission store, are not mentioned in the list of free clothing.  Children pictured in the mission schoolroom in 1883 wore no shoes.15 Later accounts of the mission in 189116 and 1908 17 also describe the children as shoeless and the men and women as having bare feet.

Photographs and drawings of groups and individual Warangesda people, including an 1899 photograph of a group standing outside the church,18 show the people dressed in clothes unsuited for work.  These were unlikely to be the government issue clothing and would have been best clothes, donned for church or the camera.  In the 1899 photo the men wore coats, and the women dresses of formal appearance – clothes which could have come from those donated or could have been bought with the “good money” 19 sometimes earned by the men.  The 1908 account commented that the congregation attending a church service at Warangesda had “certainly not dressed in their Sunday best.” The men were coatless with rolled sleeves, and the childrens’ clothes were “tattered” 19a indicating that by this date the church service was not an occasion for more formal wear, or that they had none.

Not all the people would have been able to own clothes in addition to the meagre quantity supplied by the mission authorities and at times must have suffered from the cold Warangesda winters.  Those of the dormitory girls who had come from far afield would have had no family to help them with extra clothes.  On several occasions the clothing of the dormitory girls was noted as wanting.  The girls in 1891 were described as “not well clothed…Clothing should be at once supplied as they suffer much from the cold” 20 and again in 1894 they were said to be “ill clad and even raggedly dressed.”21

It was APA policy to have a store at the mission and after the APB took over full control in 1897 this policy was continued.  The presence of a store was described as being for the convenience of the residents.  Probably more important to the thinking of the administrators was the fact that a mission store helped to keep the people out of the neighbouring towns where there was access to alcohol. 22 The store sold items of food and clothing not available as part of the ordinary rations, and assisted those with money to achieve some diversity in dress and diet.  Goods, which were to be sold at near cost price, included boots, hats and groceries including tinned goods such as salmon and sardines, 23 which would have had the advantage of keeping, unopened,  in hot temperatures.

A butcher’s shop was opened in 1896 24 and before Warangesda was closed there were also two fruit shops 25.  Bread was baked on the mission (the bakehouse was destroyed by fire and re-erected in 1888) 26 and this would have been distributed or sold.  The bakehouse, the store and later the butcher’s shop and fruit shops provided the people with some of the basic requirements for living.  However, Darlington Point was only a few miles away from Warangesda – within easy walking distance – and Hay, Whitton and Narrandera were accessible by road and rail.  The range and quality of crockery in the surface archaeological record of the mission 27 suggests that, despite the wishes of the APB, the people shopped for goods such as these and probably other less durable items including food and clothing in the neighbouring townships.


The relations of Warangesda with the community in which it was placed did not begin well.  In the first two years ofi its existence Gribble and the people had to contend constantly with “the cruel conduct of those around us who were professedly Christians and who sought to break up the camp and scatter the blacks.” 1 The source of this resentment was the removal of Aboriginal women and men from the exploitation of Europeans.  The Darlington Point Correspondent for the Town and Country Journal summed up the problem:

The withdrawal of the blacks from the shanties and sheep stations is … being criticised very savagely by the white population, and now that Sambo is no longer encouraged to barter fine Murrumbidgee Cod for a glad of bad spirits and attractive half caste girls have realised the sin and shame of acting as public decoys, a host of disappointed debauchees are employing their unscrupulous tactics against the good work which has opened the eyes of their victims, and foiled at the same time the brutal lust and greed of their oppressors. 2

In retaliation against Warangesda and the protection it afforded to those who had formerly been convenient victims, stock were allowed to invade the mission borders and the people were plied with alcohol both at Warangesda itself and at Darlington Point.

In 1882 the people were menaced on the mission grounds by “a wicked young fellow, a boundary rider” from a neighbouring station who rode into Warangesda and threatened to brain any one who came near him.3 After another incident in which the peace was disturbed, this time by the effects of imported alcohol Gribble wrote despairingly that “the publicans appear to be in league against one’s endeavours to bless the blacks.” 4 He found his efforts to bring offenders to justice were fraught with difficulty.  When a case against Samuel Barnes licensee of the Punt at Darlington Point broke down because of a problem with the statements of the Aborigines he complained bitterly how hard it was “to secure a conviction in a matter like this without a white person’s evidence.” 5

But at the same time as these difficulties were being endured and to some extent overcome Warangesda was carving out for itself a place in the day to day life of the district. Gribble was soon in demand to conduct services for people in the surrounding countryside.  As a former Congregational minister and by 1883 an Anglican clergyman this was something he was well qualified to do.  He recorded in January 1882 the receipt of £14 “from a few friends in the district to whom I minister,” 6 a testimony also to their support for his endeavours.  At other times he travelled further afield “across the plains and visited several settlers and held short services with them”7.  By 1881 Bishop Thomas had suggested the area between Groongal and Gogelderie as the one in which Gribble would officiate as a representative of the Church of England.8

At a tea meeting held in October 1883 to celebrate the anniversary of the Warangesda church, Gribble recorded that “A large number of white friends were present… Mr E Lander JP occupied the chair and Mr Bridle [overseer], Mr Bennett [the Darlington Point storekeeper] and myself gave addresses.” 9 By this time he had formed friendships for himself and his mission with neighbouring small land holders and towns people at Darlington Point and maintained cordial relations with the larger, usually managed properties, which provided the major source of outside work for the Warangesda men .

In the time he was at Warangesda, Gribble in this way established a social network which was inherited by later managers.  Outings to neighbouring properties took the Gribbles, particularly Mrs Gribble who did not travel as extensively as her husband, away from what could be the disturbing world of the mission.  On 5 February 1882 Gribble “after breakfast drove Mrs Gribble and Annie Skinner to Kooks, Landers and Murrays.  They enjoyed the day’s outing very much.” 10

These neighbouring land holders maintained their connection with Warangesda until well past the turn of the century.  The names of Kook, Lander, Cummings, Bennett all became associated with the mission Local Board from its establishment in 1895.  Mr K C A Cummings as the magistrate further consolidated his official connection with Warangesda and like other Local Board members lent farm equipment and horses.  When on 25 April 1893, Arthur Hamilton married Susan Davis in the mission church the manager recorded that “Mrs Cummings made a nice cake for Art”.  Lending of equipment was not one-sided – on 18 November 1893 Mr Ross of neighboring UriPark borrowed the Warangesda winnower. 11

Despite what Gribble called a “formidable” debt 12 to the storekeeper Mr J L Bennett, ran up before Warangesda began to receive government assistance, Mr Bennett was a founding member of the Local Board and later became its chairman.  He too demonstrated his good will by lending machinery and in 1890 sought to please the Warangesda residents with boxes of cake and fruit from his shop and the presentation of a magic lantern show.13 That this good will did not extend to all managers or impede his sense as a business man is evident in 1894 when he refused the manager “15/- worth of cloth for the school children” 14 (presumably to be supplied on credit) and his refusal of flour in similar circumstances.15

Other land holders in the district – Mr Ross of Uri Park, the Spillers, Warbys and Beaumonts, and the larger adjacent properties Kerabury, Tubbo, Kooba and Toganmain and further afield Gogelderie and Burabogie all figure in the mission records as people and places where mission people visited and worked  and with whom the mission staff and people cooperated.

In 1883 Gribble wrote “A great bushfire is raging not far from the mission – all the men and boys whom we can possibly spare are away to help.” 17 The bushfires which broke out frequently in the district helped to consolidate Warangesda’s position in the eyes of its neighbours.  The existence of the more or less permanent source of manpower which the mission represented was a valuable asset at such times of crisis. This assistance was not one sided.  “Plenty of help from the Beaumonts” 18 was given in 1894 when a fire threatened the mission boundaries.  After another fire that same year at Uri Park, whose owner Mr Ross was to become a Local Board member, Warangesda men assisted and “mutton was sent by Mr Beaumont for the men who worked so well at the fire.”19 Fires often broke out at nearby Tubbo and Kerabury stations. In 1894 a year which seems to have been particularly fire prone, the Warangesda manager recorded that “the manager of Tubbo personally thanked the Warangesda men for their help in putting out a fire on the station.” 20

Gribble had introduced cricket to Warangesda before 1882. and by 1892 Warangesda cricketers were playing matches regularly against a Whitton team. 21 The cricket matches, and sometimes football games which were played with teams from Jondaryan, Hay, Kooba, Carrathool and Narrandera were yet another way in which the mission established contact with the world outside it.  In addition – although very different activities – fighting fires and playing sport each in its own way conferred approval on participants and contributed to the creation of an identity for Warangesda  in the district.

Some of the most patronised social events of the district were race gatherings.  These were held regularly at Darlington Point and Whitton and despite the disapproval of the manager, going to the races was very popular with Warangesda men and women. The manager’s attempts to keep people away were so unsuccessful that in 1897, he adopted the practice of attending himself to ensure “good behaviour” and to prevent drinking. 22 Men from Warangesda took part in the races as well as being spectators.  In 1896, at the Darlington Point Easter races several of the men had mounts and one of them, Alec Bright, was fatally injured. 23 The involvement in pursuits of these kinds integrated Warangesda into the social landscape and contributed to the establishment of an identity for those who lived there as Warangesda people.

Gribble had purposely set out to make the public aware of the existence of Warangesda and from the beginning, visitors to the mission were commonplace.  Warangesda, because of the continual scrutiny it received from the small local world and the wider one beyond, was far from an isolated or introverted institution and its people were kept in constant contact with people and events outside.  While there was a positive side to such exposure – as far as conditions at Warangesda were concerned, it must also have constituted an added intrusion into the already restricted lives of the people.  People visited the mission for a variety of reasons.  The clergymen from Whitton, Hay and Narrandera visited to give church services and perform marriages and christenings.  Bishop Thomas of Goulburn visited Warangesda in its first years and the Bishop of the Riverina came from time to time after 1884, when the mission was included in his diocese.  Officials from the APA and APB made regular visits of inspection to assess progress and conditions.  The Local Board was required to visit monthly and generally did so after 1894, and its individual members also visited separately. There were official visits from the police who reported on the state of the mission and were responsible for the collection of census figures. The doctor from Narrandera came when required, to tend to the sick and also to inspect the state of the mission and the medical officer first appointed to Warangesda in 1899 came to treat and advise on health matters.  The official and semi official were joined by the simply curious or by those seeking to bring Warangesda to a wider audience.  Arthur Collingridge the well known Sydney artist who visited in 1883 for the Illustrated Sydney News and the correspondent for the British journal, the Colonist who was at Warangesda in 1922 fell into the latter category.  Some used their visits for their own purposes as did Walter Harris who incorporated his short experience of Warangesda into his book of traveller’s tales. 24  When Mr and Mrs Bailey from Narrandera and Mr and Mrs McCallum of Tubbo paid a private visit in November 1892, the ladies went to see the huts and took it on themselves to say that “they were very pleased with the general appearance of the residents.” 25 Visitors such as these showed the negative side of identity as mission people – which meant their assessment and inspection as charitable objects rather than as people trying to conduct their lives as best they could.

Throughout its history impressions of Warangesda formed by those who came in contact with its could be heavily influenced by the motivations of the visitors.  It was quite common for the written impressions of unofficial visitors to be characterised by descriptions of seas of smiling faces, neat cottages and clean and happy residents.  These observations contrasted markedly with the more hard nosed and down to earth comments of officialdom.  The pleasing description of mission structures and the conduct of the mission given by Bishop Thomas of Goulburn, friend and promoter of Gribble, in 1881, 25a bears little relationship to the negative comments on these issues of the commissioners who inquired into Warangesda in the following year. Fourteen years later on 18 May 1894 Miss Lizzie Vincent and Miss Emily Cummings of the Womens’ Christian Temperance Union registered with pleasure the “bright hearty singing and riveted attention of the mission audience” (thirty three signed the pledge) and were “most agreeably surprised to find the place and people presenting such a comfortable appearance.” 26 Ten days later, when Dr Mitchell and Inspector Smith inspected Warangesda, there was little they could find to say in favour of the place.  As well as condemning some of the huts, they made unfavourable comments on other buildings and noted that the children’s clothing was inadequate and in poor condition. 27

John Gribble and his family maintained their connection with the mission Gribble had founded by returning on numerous occasions.  Gribble himself came to visit and preach several times between 1888 and 1890 and Mrs Gribble, their daughter Amy, and some years later their eldest son Ernest all spent time at Warangesda.  The children of the white staff came to the mission for school holidays, sometimes bringing friends with them, like Miss Nash, daughter of Mr Nash the school teacher, who brought her friend Miss Cameron back for the holidays in 1894.28 One of the visits of Daniel Matthews, founder of Maloga, and his wife in 1899 was the occasion for a special church service and a group photo outside the church.  Semi official visits like that of Mrs Stuart, wife of the NSW premier, which coincided with the anniversary of the founding of Warangesda, in March 1883, were turned into social events with picnics and outings.29 The visit of Mr Hugh Robinson, Inspector of Public Charities, who spent a few days inspecting the mission in 1883 was enlivened by duck shooting at Landers.30

The links which were constructed and strengthened in various ways between the mission and the people and places in the outside white world, were parallelled by the consolidation of Warangesda in the post invasion Aboriginal world.  Some features of Aboriginal living patterns, disrupted if not all but destroyed by the spread of European settlement, were being replicated in an uneasy new form.  The movement of groups of people to visit relatives, socialise, attend weddings, funerals and other family based occasions now took place between those places where white people allowed Aborigines to concentrate.  Together with Warangesda, places like Narrandera, Brungle and Yass and the Lachlan area, all mentioned in the mission diaries, became part of a well established visiting network 31.  People were continually arriving at and leaving, or the camp which existed just outside the mission boundary.  This was sometimes referred to as the “old people’s camp” 32 and was peopled by those who did not wish to capitulate fully to the mission’s regime, but who by being close to it could participate in some of its material benefits and associate with relatives and friends.  Permission was required to leave Waragesda but not the camp, although policing the movements of the Warangesda people was often difficult. Movement between places could be by road, but was also made easier by the railway which linked Warangesda, through the Darlington Point railway station opened in 1881, to large areas of New South Wales and Victoria.

The continuous movement of people is reflected in the changing annual population figures.These (excluding the marked decline in the years prior to Warangesda’s closure) teetered up and down from between 60 to a 100 or so people, and reaching nearly 200 in December 1908.33 The way in which mission numbers fluctuated can be seen clearly in the manager’s diary entries for May 1887.

5 May – 7 men went away.

9 May – Caroline Bradley and Susannah Buckley went away       Jack Bradley,  Jackie Mellen left.  Tommy Bundo came.

13 May – Ella Brid and children left the mission.

 17 May – Dan Crow left the mission.

  26 MayAnnie Bright went to Narrandera. Her husband sick.  Agnes Holm went away. Sam Bow, Billy Woods, Billy Clements, Jane Murray, Archie Christian, Ronald Christian, Tom Smith, Bob Heland, Billy Cole, Dick Clayton came on the mission.

 27 May – Dick Mudgee came.

In Warangesda’s later years – after 1900 – numbers increased dramatically at Christmas as relatives arrived to visit their families, to attend the sports held at this time and to enjoy any extra Christmas hospitality which could be found.  In 1913 the APB reported that “the Christmas sports passed off most successfully, about 400 people being present, some coming from long distances.” 34 This contrasts with the 25 people who were present at the 1889 sports,35 testifying to the growth of the mission as a focal point and meeting place for Aboriginal people.  These sports in particular were of importance -. their increasing popularity helped consolidate the mission’s identity and further confirmed Warangesda in its position as a Wiradjuri visiting place.  These large gatherings can also be seen as an extension, even if a pale one, of the former great ceremonial gatherings of Aboriginal people  – an irony for the white managers who promoted the sports.

Relations with Cummeragunga Aboriginal Station near Echuca, which was outside Wiradjuri territory but closely connected with Warangesda, were fostered by the circumstances common to them both.  Each place had in some respects a similar history.  Each was originally missionary founded, then subsequently managed by the APA and APB.  Daniel Matthews, founder of Maloga – later Cummeragunga, had helped Gribble when he established Warangesda.  The friendship between the two men, and later the missions’ common administrative arrangements, resulted in a considerable traffic of people between the two places.  In 1880, James Turner, Johnny Atkinson and Bagot Morgan – “trained and christianised blacks” – from Maloga were amongst those who joined  Gribble in the very early days of Warangesda and helped him to found the mission and build the mission settlement 35a.  Others like Whyman McClean, Dan Crow, Allowidgee, Paddy and Jenny Swift, Herbert Walker, Aaron Atkinson and Bobby McDonald were just some of the people from Maloga/Cummeragunga who spent time in the 80s and 90s and early 1900’s at Warangesda.36  The missions were linked too, by interchange of staff – the result of their common administration.  Mrs Edwards, Mr G Bellenger, Mr G E Harris, Mr E W Pridham, Mr G C Smith and Mr Bruce Ferguson all spent time at both Cummeragunga and Warangesda. 36a From both managements’ points of view Warangesda and Cummeragunga were safe and suitable places to visit.  In 1894, prior to Anniversary Day “five men arrived from Cummeragunga for a holiday” 36b and such visits were common, especially during holiday periods, like Christmas.  Over Christmas 1895 Mr James the teacher at Cummeragunga and his family and a party of Aboriginal people who had come with him, spent several days at Warangesda.  When they left before New Year, James Turner and his family accompanied them back to Cummeragunga. 37

Families from Warangesda in common with others in the district lost members temporarily and permanently to the battle fields of World War One. James Smith, Walter Bright, Joe Gotch, Thomas Lyons, Tom and Dick McGuinness, Alex Little, Arthur Weston, David Kennedy and John Heland all volunteered for service with the first AIF as did John and Duncan Ferguson two sons of William Ferguson. It is likely that there are more men with Warangesda connections or from the mission itself to add to this list. David Kennedy over 40 years old, John Heland and Duncan Ferguson did not serve overseas, Dick McGuinness lost his life. The others returned to Australia, in Walter Bright’s case after a period in a German prisoner of war camp. John Ferguson was awarded the Military medal for gallantry.39 The war service of these men incorporated them into an activity which has had deep and continuing significance for most of the Australian community.  The fighting and sacrifices of Australian soldiers in World War One is a major component of Australian national sentiment and Warangesda people played a part in that experience.  In doing so they were fighting beside the white soldiers who had volunteered from the surrounding district –and descendants of Warangesda’s founder John Gribble.  They were also fighting for a country which was theirs but in which they were denied the rights of citizenship.

Difficult circumstances could draw together all elements of the community including Warangesda, to support its members.  When the little daughter of Emily and old Bill Ferguson, parents also of Aboriginal activist William Ferguson, of Waddi was run over by a dray and killed, the manager records that “the whole district sympathised with them in their trouble” 40 and that a large gathering attended her burial.

For the sports held each year over the Christmas period at Warangesda, the Aborigines Protection Board Report for 1913 noted that “many useful prizes were contributed by local ladies and gentlemen.” While it is possible to see these donations as testimony to the good relations between mission and district, they can also be interpreted in the light of the fact that the sports were, in common with practices at other Aboriginal stations, encouraged specifically to keep Aboriginal people out of the town, as was the operation of the mission store.

During the life span of Warangesda there developed a growing hostility towards Aboriginal people from the country towns in whose vicinity they tried to live. Hostility from the Darlington Point district had been originally directed towards Gribble for removing Aboriginal people from the town and camps, where they could be exploited for white gain. As Warangesda grew, the emphasis at Darlington Point as elsewhere, shifted and the perceived loss to those in the community was outweighed by growing feelings of resentment towards Aboriginal presence in the town.

The district land holders and business men who made up the Local Board were from its establishment in 1895, frequently critical of the behaviour of the mission people, over whom they would have liked to exercise closer control. To them and to others, the existence in the charge of only a few white administrators of 100 or so Aboriginal people, combined with the incidence of confrontations, unrest and strikes may well have seemed an unwelcome and potentially destabilising element in the district. The end of local involvement with the running of the mission in 1915 – with the abolition of the Local Committee – meant that the people of the district were no longer able to exercise any direct power over Warangesda and this loss of control may have fuelled or even created additional white feelings of antagonism or insecurity.  The practical results of such antagonism had already been made plain at least eleven years earlier, in the form of objections from within the community to voting rights enjoyed by some Warangesda Aborigines. These resulted in 1904 in attempts to remove Warangesda voters from the state and federal rolls.  While these actions did not go entirely unchallenged 41, they were indicative of the negative attitudes and power of some in the community.

Health was also a convenient issue around which negative feelings towards Warangesda people could rally. The Narrandera Argus in 1894 had voiced criticism of health conditions at the mission.  By 1911, although not good, health conditions were better than in the preceding decade. But in this year the use of questions of health to exclude Warangesda children (temporarily without a teacher) from the Darlington Point Public School reflected more than just community concern over the issue. The reasons given by Dr Lethbridge, medical officer to the mission in support of exclusion of mission children supposedly on health grounds were judgemental and racist. 42

It is clear that while Warangesda had established its place and identity in the district, and while there existed the positives of cooperation with neighbours, and the men’s participation in cricket, football and fire fighting, the mission could not always be said to sit easily in the community in which it had been placed.  Despite this, there was always at Warangesda a continual interaction between the community and the mission – an interaction which helped prevent Warangesda people from succumbing to the hopelessness and institutionalisation which characterised the lives of Aborigines on missions in other parts of Australia. 43 The Warangesda community itself was for most of its life a large interconnected group, whose members had contacts reaching beyond the Darlington Point area through their Aboriginal network – and who engaged in activities of various kinds which brought them into contact with the life of the surrounding district.


The Aboriginal people of Waragesda were answerable not to one but two white laws.  There was the outside law of the land to which everyone in the mission was subject, and there was the internal rule of the mission which applied only to its Aboriginal residents.  After the passing of the 1909 Aborigines Protection Act and its subsequent amendments the restrictions which ruled the Aboriginal people on and off Warangesda were backed by state legislation.  The law of the land was administered by the police and magistrates.  Initially the law of the mission was in the hands of its manager, backed for most of its existence by the APA and APB.  After 1909, it too was enforced by the police.  Gribble’s rules for Warangesda which he speaks of several times in his diary may not have survived.  But the working rule, that men must work for their rations which he refers to specifically1 and the ban on drinking and gambling are rules which persisted under the secular management of the mission.

A check on the manager was created in 1895 by the appointment of a five member Local Board – after 1909 called the Local Committee.  This operated until 1915 when it was replaced by the appointment of two APB inspectors.  The newly established Local Board itself replaced an advisory council which had existed for several years previously but exercised no real power.  The Board was made up of nearby landholders and the Whitton Anglican clergyman, with a superintendent of police as an ex officio member.2 It acted as an intermediary between the manager and the APB which, as funding for the APA dwindled, assumed an increasingly important role.

The functions of the Local Board were to inspect and report on the mission each month.  It had a mandate to inquire into complaints about the management of the mission and to advise the manager on this and on matters of discipline3.  1896 was a busy and typical year for the Local Board. Its Chairman Mr H. Kook, and Honorary Secretary, the Reverend G.R.F. Nobbs reported to the APB that:

during the past year the Local Board held eleven meetings at each of which there was much to occupy their attention.  Disputes had to be settled, differences adjusted, misconduct rebuked and advice given upon many matters.4

To Mr Kook’s and Mr Nobbs’ regret although the majority of residents had conducted themselves circumspectly “a large minority had not done so having been guilty of gross misconduct”. 4a

The existence of the Local Board was theoretically of benefit to the people, in that it put the manager officially under the constant watchful eye of the immediate outside community.  But it also exposed the lives of the people to increased interference, scrutiny and censure, particularly when the Warangesda community did not conform to the standards which the Local Board seemed to expect of it.  This amounted basically to being seen but not heard.

From the beginning the people, or at least the men, were drawn into the disciplinary process.  In 1883 Gribble held “a court with all the men of the place” to decide on the fate of three women whom he described as guilty of immorality with three Namoi men.  The judgement that the men be cautioned, as it was their first known offence, but that the women should be imprisoned for three days, reflected the composition of the court and the thinking of the time.  His sermons the next day on the texts “the wicked shall be turned into hell” and “the leprosy of sin” appeared chosen to fortify the court’s decision.5 When in 1894 Jenny Swift and her husband were accused of buying and drinking brandy on the way to Narrandera, a meeting of sixty people was held to hear their defence.  All who accepted Mr Swift’s explanation were asked to vote by show of hands.  The Swifts were exonerated when “nearly everyone in the room held up his hand.” 6

This form of internal justice was complemented in 1893 by the formation of a Vigilance Committee.7  This committee, made up of six Aboriginal men was initially opposed by the people but went on to operate as the community’s self policing body.  Its function was to bring misdemeanours usually minor, to the attention of the manager.  There were some who resented its role.  In 1894 James Turner and James Murray had “a wordy war concerning James Turner’s duties as a member of his Vigilance Committee” 8 – but the Committee gained authority from the fact that the people were involved in the choice of its members.

 8 November 1893Vigilance Committee elected. Count Fusco, Ned Davis, Arthur Hamilton nominated by the people, James Turner, Paddy Swift and Frank Fisher by the manager. 9

Its membership was not static and could change with the appointment of a new manager.10 It is uncertain how long it operated but even assuming it survived into the new century its existence would have been incompatible with the new order resulting from the Aborigines Protection Act of 1909.

The working of the Vigilance Committee meant that during its operation the community was under surveillance from within and signified some degree of support for the rules of behaviour which the committee was assisting the manager to uphold.

In 1896 the Committee informed the manager of its “deep suspicions that the men were gambling down at the river.” 11 As well as gambling, marital disputes, drinking and swearing were all brought to the manager’s attention.  The Committee acted on information received from other residents or its own observations.  Sometimes people went to great lengths to make accusations.  In 1896 George Allen kept watch through the night by the girls’ dormitory.  His vigil bore fruit and he was able to secure a charge against a man he found to be loitering outside.12

At meetings of the Committee those apprehended were charged, pleas of guilt or innocence were made and witnesses called.  Sentence was passed by the Committee in conjunction with the manager or by the manager alone – or the matter might be referred to the Local Board.   Although being brought before the Vigilance Committee seemed usually to mean being found guilty, this was not always the case.

 14 Aug 1893. Committee was called today to investigate a charge against Mrs Kennedy.  It came to nothing.13

Sometimes individual members of the Committee would take it upon themselves to speak to people about their behaviour – in 1894 Paddy Swift asked Dan Hart to deal more gently with his wife. 14 Rather than punishment people could simply receive cautions.  This at first was the case with James Gibson who in 1895 was warned by the Committee never to enter the house of a married woman again.15

While the Committee strengthened the position of the manager, it also had a restraining effect.  It delayed summary punishment and provided a forum for the accused to explain his or her actions.  The working of the Committee and of the larger meetings of mission men could be also interpreted by the people as related to traditional Aboriginal decision making procedures and in this was a reassertion of elements of traditional life even if in altered and emasculated form. Whether Gribble and his successors consciously used this association for their own purposes is uncertain, but their rule was strengthened by the people’s participation.

Despite this involvement of the mission people, and the establishment of the Local Board, the manager as the man on the spot still had great powers over the people and the conduct of their lives.  The degree to which this took place was limited only by the way in which individual managers viewed their responsibilities.  The manager’s two major powers were to expel people from the mission and to refuse rations, both of which were powerful weapons.

Expulsions which had been first used by Gribble, while executed by the manager, in later years had also to be ratified by the Board. Initially official attitudes to expulsion were more moderate than those of Gribble and his fellow missionary Daniel Matthews. The Commissioners inquiring into the mission in 1882 considered Gribble and Matthews in many cases were using expulsion in circumstances not serious enough to warrant such drastic punishment.  Moreover, such actions were viewed as simply forcing the Aborigines into the evil of the outside world from which the missionaries claimed to be seeking to save them. But despite the Commissioners’ recommendation that expulsions should be “reserved for persons guilty of misconduct of a serious nature.” 15b expulsions continued and the reasons given for them do not seem to differ in character from those recorded by Gribble.

Expulsion did not always mean permanent exclusion from the mission. While in Joe House’s case expulsion in 1896 was for life, 16 expulsion in many cases was temporary only, and could be for periods of less than six months.  People were expelled for such offences as drinking, gambling, immoral behaviour, offensive language and insolence to the manager.  It is not possible to determine the degree of the “crime” and why these offences could also attract lesser penalties or expulsions of varying length.  Fred Tarco in February 1892 was described as being “out for a week” for being drunk17 whereas five months later Jacob Walter was expelled for three months for the same offence.18  However repeated offending or the idiosyncrasies of the manager would have had some bearing on this matter.  The sentence of expulsion was not always a final one.  In 1897 the Local Board met to consider the readmission of James Gibson, and decided to cancel his expulsion provided he undertook to do what he was told and endured a six months probation period. 19 Expulsions also were not always initiated from above.  James Gibson had been expelled after statements made by another member of the mission were judged to incriminate him.20

A recurring reason for expulsion was loafing or refusal to work.  This could be the act of one man alone, or as in 1883 and 1913, what amounted to a strike.  In 1883 this was about the need to work at all, in 1913 the stop work was about wages – the result in each case was expulsion. 21

Another reason for expulsion which gained momentum after the 1909 Act defined who in the State’s opinion could be called Aboriginal and live on government reserves – and gave legal backing to the Board’s actions – was expulsion fundamentally not for what people had done, but for who they were.   The Local Board, which had been dissatisfied with the men “who will not work, who linger about the station” observed that “when the [1909] Act and Regulations came into force it will be possible to remedy this state of affairs.” 22 In response to the Act, by 1910 the Local Board, or Committee as it was now called, could report a “considerable exodus of octoroons most of them self-supporting.” 23 Three years later the APB reported with satisfaction that “about 40 aborigines had been sent off to employment.” 24

The real basis for expulsions by this time had shifted away from being a means of ridding the mission of people who were considered trouble makers or punishing non conforming behaviours.  Although in its report for 1914 the Board attributed what it called “the good behaviour” of the people at Warangesda to the fact that “the bad characters had been expelled” expulsion was becoming not so much a form of individual punishment as a means of manipulating whole groups of Aboriginal people to achieve, as the Board put it in 1919 “the elimination of these people of lighter caste.” 25 By 1921 the population had declined to only 48 from 189 in 1908, a reduction which was in large measure the result of expulsions.26

The refusal of rations was also used as a manipulative tool.  The parents of children who were not placed in the Warangesda girl’s dormitory were liable after 1907, by instruction of the Board, to have their childrens’ rations stopped. 27 In 1896 the manager tried to entice two men, Bright and Ryan, back to the mission from their camps just outside its boundary, with the promise that if they did so “they might at once get their rations.  They declined.” 28 In 1897 the Local Board complained of “the small amount of useful work and the numbers of strong able bodied men, the majority of whom are halfcaste who are always to be seen about the station and who do no work.”  The Board instructed the manager not to supply rations to such men until they had earned them by doing “a fair amount of work.” 29 By 1904 the Board had issued instructions to the manager that no rations were to be supplied to ‘halfcastes’ and that they were to leave Warangesda and seek work outside the mission.  However since those who left were unable to find work, they were permitted to return – but on condition they promised to contribute to the support of their families.30

In cases where a man’s rations had been stopped members of his family might share theirs with him.  The manager reprimanded several men in 1893 who were not working (hence not in receipt of rations) and told them to “earn their ration and not eat that of women and children.“31 Any attempts to get around punishment by this means could be foiled by the manager who was prepared to stop the rations of a wife who tried to share her rations with her husband.32 When James Smith’s rations were stopped in May 1893 he was in addition ordered to pay 5/- a week for the support of his wife and children. 33 Three months later his family’s rations were also stopped “as a punishment pending Council [of the APA] decision to remove them from the station for good as Smith has been very troublesome.” 34

Bad or indecent language was one of the most frequently occurring causes of censure by the manager.  This was not limited to words directed to the manager himself or even to other people on the mission.  J Malcolm who was spoken to in 1896 for bad language while working was swearing at a dog.35 Punishment for offensive language could range from producing a simple apology to more severe or humiliating treatment.  In 1895 Mrs Paroo, who had sworn at her husband, was ordered to scrub the school floor.36 In the same year Mrs Murray, for quarrelling with her husband and using “bad language” on more than one occasion, had to sweep out the church once a week for four weeks and in a separate punishment to put an apology in writing and read this out in church.37 The use of speech unpalatable to the manager was restricted even beyond what he considered to be rude or offensive.  Gossipping or the spreading of unpleasant yarns was not tolerated and could earn reprimand.38

Drinking attracted a variety of punishments. In 1895 James Murray and George Perry were reported by the Vigilance Committee to have been drinking and confessed to James Turner.  As punishment they were ordered by the manager to grub twelve and four stumps respectively.39  In 1887 Lizzie Kennedy and Tommy Bund were expelled for what was considered the serious combination of drinking, making others drunk and bringing drink on to the mission.40 Some offenders were merely spoken to by the manager for drinking like Mrs Foote and Mrs Kennedy in 1896 41  and others were excused punishment if they promised not to offend again or took the pledge.42  Capitulation of this sort was not the choice of all who were caught.  Dixon when spoken to by the manager in 1893 about drinking at Darlington Point replied that he “would go where and when he liked without reporting himself” and adamantly refused to give up drink.43 As a result he was made to leave the mission until he changed his mind.

In 1882 Gribble had no hesitation about physically chastising a runaway from the mission although he described it as an unthankful task.44 In 1896 the manager was still inflicting physical punishment on people.  “For unseemly conduct” Gilbert Barlow was given six cuts to the hands with a strap.  The manager’s actions were sanctioned by George Allen and his wife who were present as witnesses to the punishment.45 Gribble’s practice of locking up offenders – notably but not always women who had escaped from the dormitory 45a – was still being employed as punishment a decade later.  In 1892 “Alice Kennedy had to be put in the outhouse for showing her temper.” 46 Later that year Mr Smith, the overseer, recorded that “Godfrey Bryan came up for punishment this am.  Locked him up for about an hour.” 47

The manager was not above using the powers of the police to bolster his own.  When in 1894 four men stole from the mission store, the manager asked Senior Constable Gallagher to see the culprits and to “give them a bit of a fright which he did.” 48 This was a less severe option than actual police intervention.

In another occasion in 1895 when men stole from an Indian hawker the manager, at the hawker’s request, did not bring in the police but punished the men himself – with twelve months expulsion.49 However the hawker changed his mind, with the result that the men were sentenced to 20/- fine and fourteen days in Hay jail 50 – an interesting contrast with the punishment meted out by the manager.

That aspect of mission regulation which circumscribed behaviour and imposed “morals” on the residents was not necessarily reinforced by the law of the state.  One man incurred the censure of the manager in 1894 when he was seen in the early hours of the morning on the teacher’s premises.51  An inquiry and questioning established that he had been all night with a woman in the teacher’s employ, and that he had been there already four times that month.  For this the man was suspended, but the manager was frustrated in his attempt to take the matter to court, because as the police constable pointed out to him, the woman was a consenting party and so a conviction was unlikely.52

The manager’s perceptions of his rights versus those of the residents could be proved wrong, when the residents invoked the law which applied to all.  In one such case in 1895 the manager had opened and read a letter against the wishes of its recipient, Bob Bungie.  He took exception to the “immoral” contents of the letter and refused to return it.  When Bungie threatened legal proceedings if the letter were not returned, he was invited by the manager to “start away as soon as he liked.” 53 The manager, was subsequently summonsed and the magistrate’s decision was that that the manager had no right to open any letter addressed to the residents “no matter what the contents may be.” 54

In addition to challenging the manager through appeal to the legal system, the incorporation of the mission in an administrative structure gave people an opportunity to appeal to an authority higher than the manager.  In the 1883 strike the men formed a deputation and went to Sydney to complain about Gribble,55 and in 1895 William Onus wrote to the Board to voice dissatisfaction with treatment of the men by the manager.56 These direct complaints did not necessarily bear fruit and in 1883 specifically rebounded onto the complainants.  But through the involvement of the mission in a system the people were given and often took the opportunity of commenting on aspects of the conditions they faced.

Expulsions, ration denial and subjection of the people to petty punishments and forced apologies satisfied some managers’ sense of keeping law and order on their domain, at least during the management of the APA.  However threats to the manager’s person could cause the manager to step outside the mission’s disciplinary procedure.  Dan Hart in 1896 shook his fist in the manager’s face and abused him.  He was subsequently summonsed to appear at Darlington Point Courthouse on a charge of threatening language against the manager for which he was cautioned and ordered to pay costs.57

This did not always happen.  A mission diary entry in 1892 reads rather off handedly.

 July 21.  Nothing imp.  54 at church. Lewis Gordon came to the home in drink and threatened both Mr Hannabus [the manager] and myself [Mr Smith, the overseer and current diary keeper], Lewis lay us down with a revolver.  About 9pm when he came.

In this case what appeared to be a potentially very serious offence seems to have passed with little incident and there is no record in the diary of repercussions.

For a few years in 1912, 1913 and 1914 the APB made a practice of publishing lists of convictions with its annual report.  Convictions at Warangesda, except in one case of assault (on the manager), were for drinking, abusive language or trespass.  The almost total lack of convictions for any crime against person or property suggests that Warangesda people were a basically non violent and vice free community.  It shows too that those offences once punished within the mission, often at the manager’s whim, were by then being dealt with as police matters.  The Act of 1909 had made provision for imposing penalties not exceeding ten pounds for breaches of any regulations of the Act, and after this time fines replaced the reprimands and punishments of the manager.  This probably had the initial effect of weakening the manager’s position in the mission.  Within five years moves had been made to swear him in as a special constable and in 1916 he was issued with hand cuffs and revolver.

Obviously the days were gone when the manager could enforce his own punishments in the manner of a Victorian schoolmaster and the internal self regulation of the mission had been replaced by state regulation and the power and authority of the police.


The heat and dust, frustrations and conflicts which were part and parcel of mission life were interrupted throughout the year by a series of holidays – the usual public holidays observed by the community in general, and others which from time to time commemorated events particular to the mission itself.  Christmas, New Year, Anniversary Day (26 January), Easter, the Prince of Wales’ Birthday, the Queen’s Birthday and Jubilee were variously celebrated.  The anniversary of the foundation of the mission on 20 March 1880 was marked with a holiday until at least near the turn of the century and possibly later.  Other events such as Gribble’s birthday, the launching of the mission boat “Ena” in 1883, weddings on the mission and New South Wales’ election day, on 24 July 1895, were all declared holidays.

Officially such holidays meant no work, but this did not mean freedom from organisation.  Holidays were times of arranged leisure activities for the mission people.  Usually these would take place by the river where there would be a picnic, races and sports, for which prizes were awarded in a separate entertainment.

3 February 1894Meeting in the church. Gave prizes to winners of races etc. held at the holiday.  Mr Nash in the chair. Several solos, duets and choruses were sung. Mr Nash gave two recitations.  Very pleasant, enjoyable evening.1

Sometimes, “after a half day of sports at the bank dinner and tea were given only to those residents who did not go to the races at Darlington Point.” 2 Going to the races was a popular alternative to the mission sports, but one which did not earn the approval of the manager.  However there was great enthusiasm for team games and foot running amongst the mission people and in the wider community and there does not seem any reason to doubt the manager’s usual assessment of the holiday sports he arranged as enjoyable for all, even it behind these orchestrated events there was always the shadow of the institution. The major holidays, particularly  Christmas and New Year, were also a time to meet friends and relatives, who came in increasingly large numbers to the mission.  After the turn of the century, the Christmas sports became so popular that temporary population figures at Warangesda could double or even treble.3 A further indication of the popularity of the holiday sports was that they endured after the mission closed.  The Darlington Point Picnic held over the January long weekend at least up to World War II on the sandhills near the Police Reserve attracted people from all the surrounding towns and was a time when people enjoyed themselves by the river or engaged in the varied games, footraces and tugs of war which were part of the entertainment.4

A variety of other entertainments and events were organised to fill the people’s leisure hours during the year.  Singing and musical performance were an important part of mission life and a useful one, because religious songs and hymns could teach and reinforce Christian belief.  In April 1887 “a band of nine girls from Warangesda mission” – which was in Sydney with Daniel Matthews assisting at his meetings – sang at Government House for Lord Carrington.4a  The dormitory girls also sang at “the annual meeting” 5 [of the APA] and at Darlington Point in 1889.6  In 1891, singing practice was held after prayers and as many as 50 people might attend.7 Concerts which in 1913 were held once a fortnight 8 had been held at fairly regular intervals throughout the previous history of the mission.  Maloga was noted for the quality of its singing, and the members of the Maloga Missionary Band who spent time at Warangesda from 1887 on – Dan Crow, Whyman McClean, and Paddy Swift 9 – must have given an added impetus to the music making at the mission.  By 1882 the mission possessed a harmonium, played by the school teacher 9a and later an organ in the church.  This instrument was showing its age by 1894 9b and had already been mended several times in the preceding years (including being completely pulled apart by the overseer, Mr Smith, in 1891).10 Some years later the Whitton clergyman was seeking donations for the purchase of an organ for Warangesda, 10a making it seem likely that the organ now in the Darlington Point Museum is the successor to the mission’s first organ.  A piano which was sent to Mrs Bridall the dormitory matron in 1890 11 was probably placed in the dormitory dining room.  As well as being used for the dormitory girls’ singing it would have been played at the wedding breakfasts and celebrations which were held there.  In addition to the more formal music making at Warangesda, the fiddle, button accordion, mouth organ and gum leaf later played by the people at Darlington Point Police Reserve 12 must have been used for informal entertainment – like the “rough music” which was heard by the manager on New Years Eve 1895.13

Singing practice, concerts, recitations and debates took place in the church and often had sober overtones

8 February 1894 – A vocal and instrumental concert held in the church – Mr Nobbs gave a short address on praising God with song. Very appropriate.  About 60 present [cf population December 1894 of 130].14

In March 1893 the people were possibly entertained or bemused by a debate in the church  on `Drink versus War’.  “Whalley [the manager] argued for the side of drink in a well thought out speech – Hurrell argued against.”15 In contrast the school was used for what could be judged more exciting pursuits.  Dancing, which was not permitted in the cottages, took place there on public holidays and at wedding festivities.  The school house was under the control of the Department of Public Instruction and was lent on these occasions by the teacher.  Mr Nash, the teacher in 1894, did so in the face of the strong objections of one manager who unsuccessfully took the matter up with the Department of Public Instruction16.  In May 1889, to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday, the people were given “a tea in the school room at night and had some singing afterwards.  We all enjoyed ourselves.” 17

One of the first magic lantern shows at Warangesda was held in 1882 “Mr Bridle entertained us most pleasantly with a magic lantern.  As some of our blacks had never seen such a thing before it was a source of surprise and wonderment to them.” 18 Magic lanterns continued to be shown in the 1880s and 1890s, usually by visitors including Gribble, who exhibited a magic lantern at Warangesda in September 189019 to mark his visit and to please the people with special entertainment.

Attendance at church services at first occupied a large proportion of the people’s leisure time.  Services were held by Gribble, as a Congregational and later Anglican clergyman and by the clergy from Whitton, Hay and Narrandera.  But for the most part services were conducted by the manager, the overseer and the teacher, none of whom, with the exception of Gribble, had any formal qualifications.  Tensions over their respective approaches to Christianity sometimes emerged between these self appointed preachers which could have provided an amusing or even upsetting side show for the congregation.  In September 1891 – “Mr Clarke [the manager] had a few words with Mr Nash [the teacher] about interfering with the religious life of the mission.” 20 These were apparently unheeded by Mr Nash who in October 1891 – “preached a most insulting sermon may the Lord save his soul.” 21

Services at first were held twice a day, morning and evening with an afternoon Sunday School.  In 1889 the number of services a week had been reduced to six.22 By 1893 services were held on two days a week only – on Sundays in the morning and evening, and on Wednesday.23 An attempt in that year to reintroduce daily morning and evening church services met with little interest.24  Although church going was not compulsory, in 1892 the manager upbraided the people for their non attendance. 25 In February 1894 Mrs Swift went from hut to hut trying to encourage people to go to church26, but her efforts were only temporarily successful and by September of that year, in an attempt to bolster Sunday attendances, the Wednesday night services had to be abolished.27 In the years following enthusiasm for religion does not seem to have intensified and by 1910 attendance at the religious instruction provided weekly in the church by a visiting clergyman was “regrettably small.” 27a

Comments on the numbers at church were regularly recorded by the managers during the APA period and seemed for some like a barometer of the success and progress of the mission. Sometimes attendance figures were high – a visitor usually guaranteed a good turn out, but counter attractions, cold weather, sickness, and prior to its refurbishment in 1895, the deteriorating state of the church, kept people away. 28 As Warangesda slipped into its role as a government institution and became distanced in time from the spiritual aims of its founder the emphasis and frequency of church services diminished.  However, the church remained a useful tool of the state to subvert and replace Aboriginal culture.

In 1882 Gribble wrote approvingly that “the blacks amused themselves in various ways – some in fishing, others hunting and others still by playing marbles and rounders.” 29 But more often than not in later years spontaneous or non organised leisure activities were frowned upon.  Going to the races, playing marbles on Sunday 30 or “throwing dice for a pin” 31 were viewed with disfavour.  So was the decision in 1894 of most of the people to attend a circus at Darlington Point, rather than churchat Warangesda.32  Stolen moments of freedom were regarded as loafing and could not be condoned.  George Perry and Archie Murray who in 1892 decided to go bird catching instead of working had their rations stopped by the manager.33

The river was the main focus of unorganised as well as organised recreation.  People went swimming or fishing or simply enjoyed being there, rather than in the often hot and oppressive mission environment.  “It being hot most of the people went down to the river and did not return till dark.”34 At the river the mission life could recede and fishing, mussel gathering, catching turtles and camp fire cooking could maintain links with traditional life.

During Easter 1896, as well as the usual holiday sports “the old people had spear throwing and canoeing on the river.” 35 In December 1891, the “aborigines had a corroboree and kept it up till eleven.” 36 The next year the Aborigines were recorded as having “a dance.” 37 These events noted without comment by the mission manager, were not seen in the context of the Aboriginal culture, which the white society was attempting to obliterate, but as entertainment. The tolerance of such activities indicates not only lack of interest but the degree of confidence (not necessarily well placed) which the manager had in the substitution of European for Aboriginal culture at the mission.  In their eyes, for the church going, European garbed and predominantly English speaking people of Warangesda, exposure to this cultural expression was no threat.

The game of cricket which Gribble had introduced to Warangesda in its first years was taken up with enthusiasm.  On 14 January 1882, “Mr Carpenter brought good bats and balls from Sydney.  The men were overjoyed at receiving them and this evening I [Gribble] took part in a lively game of cricket in company with the men.” 38 Cricket was played on the mission and outside it.  There were impromptu matches against the shearers39, regular matches with the Whitton team and games with teams from Hay, Narrandera and Carrathool.  By 1895 the Warangesda Cricket Club had been formed and played the Jondaryan Cricket Club.40 The men also played football with outside teams, and on the mission where the married men pitted their skills against those of the single men.41

A game of cricket was for some a more pleasurable alternative to church.  In 1897 the men accepted an invitation to play at Kooba and as a result church was “very sparsely attended.” 42  However, not all games were played for pleasure or willingly.  The day after twelve men struck work on 12 January 1894, the manager cryptically reported “twelve men left the mission this am on a sporting trip.  They left under protest.” 43

In 1885 Gribble distributed books he had brought from England to the people 44 and in 1913  – to encourage “good” reading – suitable books, magazines and papers were made available to the residents.45 But what access the people in general had to reading matter apart from the Bible and books at the school is not clear.  There was interest amongst the adults in education and about 20 men and women attended the evening school which was started in 1887. 46Although it subsequently lapsed, interest rekindled and it opened again under Mr Shropshire in 1896.47

At Warangesda leisure and pleasure were often circumscribed and directed.  This was part of the price of mission living and one which the people adapted to or tolerated.  Although to a large degree recreational activities were used by the manager as a means of occupying and controlling the people, this – notably in the case of the holiday sports and picnics – did not stop the people from enjoying themselves or from using them for their own purposes.

Christmas at Warangesda

Records of the Christmas season at Warangesda in the 1890’s show it to have been a busy period.

In the days before Christmas in preparation for the holiday to follow, the people were occupied cleaning up their yards and cottages.1  The mission buggy went back and forth from Darlington Point Station, meeting children of the white staff coming home for the Christmas holiday and any other Christmas visitors,2 as well as picking up the Christmas parcels sent from Sydney which contained food and  toys for the children.3  While the men went shooting for game for the Christmas table,4 the manager as well as attending to his usual duties spent time selecting prizes and planning the sports to be held on Boxing Day and New Year.5

By Christmas eve, the church had been decorated with pine boughs and other greenery and a Christmas tree set up by the men.6 Christmas day was celebrated with church services, Christmas cards were given out7 and Christmas fare – roast beef and plum pudding (quality unknown) was distributed to the people8.  The Christmas period was usually very hot, 108°F in 1892 and 114° in 18969.  In 1892 the awful heat was put to a sudden end in the evening by a southerly buster so severe that it forced the evening church service to be abandoned.10  The 1896 heat was unrelieved, causing the death of one child  – “Julia’s baby” – probably from heat exhaustion and dehydration.  That evening there was a terrible dust storm “and as the lamp in the church would not burn there was no service.” 11

Boxing Day was a day of organised sports at the river,12 but on Boxing Day 1894 many instead had attended the Darlington Point races and were considered unfit for the dancing Mr Nash had arranged in the school that evening.13 On Boxing Day 1896 those who did not go to the races “partook of a tea which had been provided by the matron, consisting of fruit cakes, lollies and coconuts which were afterwards scrambled [for].” 14

The sports usually continued into the next day – 27 December15 and were followed in the evening by a concert and prize giving16.  The next day, 28 December, could be taken up with a cricket match.17 In 1893 there then followed an exodus of the visitors from Cummeragunga who had spent some of the Christmas holiday at the mission, as well as families from Warangesda paying a reciprocal visit.18

In the last days of the year preparations were made for New Year’s Day and the men cleared ground by the river for the New Year’s Day picnic19.  The New Year was welcomed in with “rough music” into the night, 20 and on New Year’s Day, there were more sports by the river, followed by the usual prize giving ceremony on 2 January, 21 so ending the festive season.


The girls dormitory was a continuing strand in mission life until about twelve years before the closure of Warangesda in 1924.  The provision of a refuge and home for women and children was integral to John Gribble’s early vision of his “home of Mercy” and by 1883 the construction of the separate accommodation consisting of sleeping quarters, dining room and kitchen, which comprised the girls dormitory had been completed.1

Mrs Gribble first provided supervision for the girls but by early 1883 or before Mrs Edwards, probably the Mrs Edwards who had assisted Daniel Matthews at Maloga, had been appointed as sub matron or dormitory matron.  This began a long history of dual control of the dormitory – the manager’s wife usually acted as matron in general to the mission, with an overall supervisory role, and the dormitory matron specifically looked after the girls in the dormitory as well as overseeing the married women.

When not seeing to the cleanliness and health in the dormitory, the dormitory matron and the manager’s wife taught domestic skills to the girls – many of whom were later placed with white families as servants – usually in a menial capacity. This training was in addition to the education received at the Warangesda school which girls of eligible age attended.

The girls who lived in the dormitory were drawn from the mission itself, the surrounding country and towns and Sydney – from places which included Junee, Cowra, Wellington, Narrandera, Moss Vale and La Perouse.  The manager or dormitory matron frequently set out from Warngesda to pick up children identified as in need or neglected.  Girls were also brought to the mission by police or officers of charitable organisations and from 1905 the girls dormitory was officially designated by the APB as a place of care for orphaned children.2

Gribble was not alone in his concern for Aboriginal women and children and behind the strongly emotive language he customarily used to publicise their plight, his views did not differ markedly from those of his friend, the more plainly spoken Daniel Matthews. It was Matthews’ mission at Maloga, started as a combined school and dormitory building in 1874, which had strongly influenced Gribble in establishing Warangesda. However the concerns of both men in establishing a dormitory and school at each mission were seen by the 1882 government enquiry into Warangesda and Maloga as falling far short of providing for the children’s ultimate welfare. Both Gribble and Matthews were criticised by the enquiry’s Commissioners for not addressing the future of the children beyond the provision of moral training and education at each mission – and it was the Commissioners’ recommendation (whose future significance was to be profound in its effects) that the children should be removed from the mission environment, boarded out and trained for domestic or industrial services.3These criticisms were repeated in 1887 after the visit to Warangesda of an Inspector of the Department of Public Instruction, Mr G. O’Byrne.4 In response the APA, which by then had started to send girls from the dormitory to outside positions, pointed out that it was already considering a training scheme which would separate ‘halfcastes’ and ‘quadroons’ from their present surroundings.5 In the following year in its annual report to its major source of funding, the Aborigines Protection Board, the APA sought immediate action to provide a training home for girls for domestic service, as this would “prove of vast importance for the well being of the girls growing up on the stations.” 6

The girls’ dormitory, although generally called by this name throughout the history of Warangesda, was from 1889 officially designated the Girls Training Home, and in this can be seen the genesis of the Cootamundra Home “for orphan and neglected children.”7 By the end of 1889 the new training home at Warangesda which usually accommodated 10 children was well enough known as a source of domestic labour for the manager to note that there was “no difficulty in getting respectable homes for the girls – at present we get more applications than we are able to supply.” 8

The new status given to the Warangesda girls’ dormitory was described as a trial and a temporary arrangement only. In official eyes there were drawbacks to its location and it was envisaged that the Home would in time be moved nearer the city. Here girls, who would be “halfcastes” between the ages of 10 and 14, could be separated from the “wandering habits of the old people” and the influence of the nearby camps.” 9 Despite its disadvantages, the APA’s choice of Warangesda for the first girls training home was no doubt influenced by the mission’s central position and suitability in comparison with the two other APA missions, Cummeragunga (close to and formed from the population of Maloga) on the Victorian border and the more recently established Brewarrina mission, which was the result of the relocation of much of a large nearby camp.

In pushing for the establishment of a training home, the APA, supported by the APB was giving practical effect to the recommendations of the 1882 Commissioners. It was also giving a purpose and direction to Warangesda which Gribble’s vision of the mission, as a permanent home for Aborigines, had not encompassed. Under the training scheme Warangesda, first as the Girls Training Home, and later as a feeder for the Cootamundra Home, became a part of a process which summarily detached those for whom Warangesda had provided home and refuge and separated them from the society of their families and eventually other Aboriginal people.

In this way, the Warangesda dormitory, like dormitories at other missions, became part of a wider process whose implications were the destruction of Aboriginal culture and identity, not only as far as individual girls were concerned – but in its cumulative effect on continuing generations of children – for large numbers of Aboriginal people in New South Wales.

By 1907, that period before the Act of 1909, when the Board was hardening its approach to the status of Aborigines and reaching for the backing of legislation to support its actions, the age for entry to the Girls Training Home at Warangesda was lowered still further. A few years earlier the Local Board had been regretful that “more parents had not seen fit to avail themselves of matron’s beneficial influence” 7 by surrendering their children to the dormitory.  In 1907 the Board adopted the suggestion of Miss Rutter, the current dormitory matron, that if eligible girls did not enter the Home their rations would be stopped, and that the age of entry should be lowered from 10 to 7 years.8 Even before the adoption of the hardline measures suggested by Miss Rutter, the pressure for girls from the mission to be placed in the dormitory was hard to escape. In 1894 Lydia Naden and Harriet Bungay sought unsuccessfully to avoid being placed there. But despite the help of Mrs Dixon and Mrs Hart, who hid them and had their meat rations stopped for their pains, the girls’ efforts were futile.8a In 1916 members of the Williams, Ingram and Howell families left Warangesda to avoid surrendering children to the dormitory 8b – a stratagem adopted also by others as the only way in which children could be saved from compulsory separation.

At least two buildings which were used as the girls’ dormitory are known to have existed – the first one built by Gribble and the mission men and a later dormitory which was built between July and October 1896 by Mr Burgess, a Sydney carpenter, with help from the men. 9 This building provided the matron and girls with “a measure of comfort and happiness which they did not experience in the old building.” 10 Physical conditions in the latter were grim with walls which were cracked and let in chilling draughts in winter, draped with bags in an attempt to keep out the cold. 11

The construction of the new dormitory at this time may have been connected with adverse reports on the condition of the old one in 1891 and 1894.12  These showed the provision of a new dormitory was a priority but one which was probably of necessity delayed until 1896.  By this time there would have been some recovery from the more than usually straitened financial circumstances which the depression of the early 1890 had imposed on Warangesda.

By 1914 the “large spacious dormitory for girls” 12a erected in 1896 could be described as “an old building formerly used as a Girls’ Training Home which was cleaned, painted and repaired and was converted into a residence for the manager.”13 The memories of the girls’ dormitory of Mrs Isobel Edwards, a former resident, are those transmitted by her mother.  She herself was born in 1909 and said she could remember no dormitory in existence when she was growing up at Warangesda.14 By 1911, the dormitory matron’s and teacher’s duties had been combined and the operations of the dormitory were last referred to in APB reports in that year, 14a  After this time children were taken directly from their homes at Warangesda to the Cootamundra Home, opened in 1912, instead of from the dormitory itself.  As Mrs Edwards described it

When the dormitory didn’t operate any more Mr Donaldson came from the Aboriginal Protection Board, and two other chaps would come down from Sydney every three months to see how the mission was going and what they were doing and they decided they would take a few more children away.15

By 1915 the forced admission of girls to the Cootamundra Home was facilitated by the amendment to the 1909 Act giving the APB increased power over Aboriginal children.

The mission population was depleted by the transfer of girls to Cootamundra and also by the departure of families who chose to leave Warangesda rather than surrender their children first to the dormitory and then to Cootamundra.15a In this way the concept of a Girls’ Training Home, experimented with at Warangesda and realised fully in the Cootamundra Home, contributed to the decrease in numbers which preceded the closure of the mission in 1924.

In the official reports the performance of dormitory girls despatched to domestic service was always described in such positive terms as “giving satisfaction”, or “reports good”.  As might be expected the reality was that the placing of girls did not always work out so happily.  Hints of this can be found in the cases of Angelina and Lucy.  Angelina was brought to the mission from Sydney in 1894 and underwent a year’s “training” in the dormitory.  By mid February 1895 she had already been sent to two positions, first at Narrandera, then Whitton, and had been returned once to the dormitory with unfavourable comments from her employer.16

Lucy, who with another girl was despatched to Cowabee to work for Mrs Armstrong, returned alone to the mission after five months.17  The feelings and experiences of these girls are not known, nor of those others who had to suffer exploitation but who did not return.

While APA and APB reports describe the occupants of the dormitory as girls between 10 and 14 years, and later as between 7 and 14, in reality the dormitory population was not such a neatly defined group. In Gribble’s day, before Warangesda’s increasing institutionalisation, the dormitory was home to younger girls, single women and mothers with young children.  Even after the ages for the dormitory were finally laid down, the ages of those in the dormitory ranged more widely.  A photograph in the APB report for 1899 entitled “Matron and dormitory children – Warangesda” is hardly the subdued school-like photo one might expect.  The group pictured is not a happy looking one.  There are ten children in the photograph, including teenage girls and smaller children – some possibly boys.  All have short cropped hair and the expression of several could well be described as disturbed.  The impressions gained from this photo are reinforced by the mission manager’s diary, which shows that the “dormitory girls” were in reality part of a small volatile community which still included older girls, babies and young children of both sexes.

Babies in the dormitory could create problems. Concealment of the birth of her baby by Rosie Trowden was the cause of great distress to Gribble and greater suffering for the baby’s mother who was made to pay for her action with three months gaol.18 In 1895 little Frank Kennedy scalded his feet “fearfully” when he pulled a pot of boiling water on top of himself.  He was treated by matron with linseed oil and lime water and “the poor little fellow got a little ease towards night.” 19 In the following year Maud Heland was unhappy because her child’s play things were being taken and used by others in the dormitory.  Life there with her baby was so frustrating for her that she told the manager she would not stay in the dormitory any longer as “she was twenty one years old and was her own master.”  The manager’s response was to tell her that she was not to talk like that, and she was to remain where she was.20

The confined quarters of the dormitory, combined with the rule of the matron, created tensions, resentments and ample opportunities for argument.  In 1894 an unpleasant name calling session, which developed in the dormitory involving the dormitory matron, Mrs Swift, and the girls, became serious enough to be reported to the manager. 21 In 1896 a dormitory girl, Nina Barlow was given two cuts to the hand for striking the dormitory matron and for neglecting her duties.22 At the same time Louisa Barlow was cautioned for constantly hindering the dormitory matron in the discharge of her duties.23 In 1897, what was described as “exceeding rudeness” to the dormitory matron on the part of Maggie Burwood, culminated in her being dragged fighting into the girls’ bedroom where she was locked up by the manager.  Such was the nature of the disturbance that the manager called Constable Gallagher to threaten to take her to the lock up.24

Evidence of more violence in the dormitory is found in 1894 in a letter to the manager from Mr G. Allen of Narrandera who was uncle to two dormitory girls and was concerned about their welfare.  He sought to “get these two girls out of the dormitory as Julia gets knocks[ed] about too much.  I do not like to see her knocks[ed] about by anybody.” 25

He was not the only one on record seeking to remove their children from the dormitory.  While the dormitory did of necessity provide a place for some people to leave their children while they sought work away from the mission, many were far from happy to have their children remain there, in particular the relatives of children who had been brought to the mission because they were classified in need of care.  Just as in later times, the practice in the mission’s first years of taking children considered to be neglected away to a place like the girls’ dormitory, was often contrary to the wishes of their people.  Gribble wrote in 1883:

 20 MarchEvening disturbed by Rachel King and others from La Perouse.

 21 March.  Great disturbance this morning by Rachel King and party taking forcible possession of Norah, Sophie and Carrie.  House broken into, police protection required.  Children in charge of the police at Darlington Point.

In 1887 the mother of a child, Mary Mann, sought the return of her daughter from the dormitory.  Her reasons are unknown, but the child would have been nearing the age where she could have been absorbed into the domestic service system and all its uncertainties.  The manager refused to surrender the child “unless she gets an order from the magistrate as it is reported she drinks heavily and she had not seen the child for twelve years.” 26

Access to dormitory girls was strictly controlled.  Mrs Little, who unsuccessfully attempted to see her sister Louisa in the dormitory in 1892, was ordered off the mission by the manager, causing “a great deal of excitement.” 27 Hopeful young men were spoken to and punished for loitering about the dormitory at night or for being caught in the dormitory yard. George Wallace who reacted violently when he was caught near the dormitory after dark was expelled for six months.28 He had already been cautioned several times for the same offence and had once actually spoken to two of the girls.  Such behaviour, because of the obsession of the mission managers and their masters with the morals of the residents, was treated with severity.

In 1897, five young men were in trouble for not only loitering about the dormitory but succeeding in getting into the dormitory dining room “where the girls pass through” and sending messages into them by some of the younger boys living in the dormitory. For this they were disciplined by the Local Board which censured and cautioned them.29 The threat of expulsion was always there even if unstated.

Although sometimes described as a village, Warangesda was an institution and run as such.  In 1887 eight men left the mission because they were not allowed to associate with the girls when they pleased.30 Contact between the dormitory girls and young men was to be strictly on the management’s terms.  Charles Upright and Louisa Barlow, who were called before the manager because they had met twice in the dormitory yard, were told that “young men were not on any account permitted to hold commerce with the girls they met clandestinely”.  In this case, since they expressed mutual affection they were allowed to keep company with a view to marriage.31

While young men were trying to get into the dormitory at unauthorised times, the dormitory girls were trying to get out.  The girls rebelled against being locked in at night, and one night two girls, Mabel Heland and Tory Murray, interfered with the dormitory locks.  As a result the manager put a bolt on the back door and a padlock on the front.32 Later the matron’s keys were taken from her room while she was at church and Margie, the only girl not at church (apart from the little children of the dormitory who were sleeping) was punished for it.33

The girls’ already limited private life was even more restricted by supervision of their correspondence to the point of actually reading their letters.  Mary Kennedy earned the displeasure of the manager when she sent letters to her sister, by Janie Clayton, and posted other letters without permitting the dormitory matron to read them. 34 Louisa Barlow was brought before the manager because she had received and answered letters from Harry Wedge and written to Bamblett, all without showing the letters in question to the dormitory matron.  For this she had to promise in the future to show any letters she received to the matron.35

While an 1883 illustration shows swings hanging from a tree in the mission square.35a By 1888 there was a separate fenced playground with swings for the dormitory children who even in play were strictly controlled.36 In that year too an extra wing was added to the current dormitory “to form the sub matron’s apartment so that constant supervision of the children can be maintained.” 36a Punishments could be given for any absences from the dormitory without the consent of the matron.  Tory Murray, who in 1896 went rabbiting after school without permission, was reported by the matron and duly reprimanded by the manager. 37

On some occasions when young women from the dormitory (or indeed married women from the mission) left without permission, they were hunted down and forced to come back by the manager who, if necessary, would call in the police.  In 1885 Helen Palmer slipped away from Mrs Gribble and Miss Hurst in an attempt to go back to Sydney.  She was unsuccessful and, after being detained by the police at Darlington Point, was locked up for the night by Gribble as punishment.38

The well secured dormitory was a convenient place for the manager to keep offenders – like Mrs Johnson who left Warangesda in 1896 and went up river for several days.  She was the subject of a search by the matron and Constable Gallagher, and when she finally returned of her own volition was kept in the dormitory until her husband could fetch her. 39

Crowded conditions in the dormitory and, prior to 1896, the deteriorating state of the dormitory building did not promote good health amongst its occupants. Girls in the dormitory suffered from measles, whooping cough, pneumonia, and coughs and colds and deaths occurred.  In April 1894 seven were ill in the dormitory bedroom and the patients were moved into the dormitory dining room where there was at least a fire which helped to make them more comfortable.41

While in the eyes of the manager and the matron the behaviour of the dormitory girls was a constant problem there were also ways in which the dormitory figured in the life of the mission, which did not bring down censure of the mission administrators upon it.  Marriages often took place between dormitory girls and young men from the mission or surrounding district.  On these occasions if the marriage were celebrated in the mission church the wedding breakfast and festivities were held in the dormitory dining room.

 13 November 1896   Mary Kennedy, Anne Hardy and Julia Cubby married this am.  The grooms being E. Buckley, Geo Kennedy and Jack Little.  Breakfast was held in the new dormitory at which nearly all the people with few exceptions were present.  Day was observed as a holiday.  The Rev Nobbs performed the marriage service in the mission.42

As well as wedding breakfasts teas were also held in the dormitory on public holidays for those residents who stayed at the mission.

The training received in the dormitory was to encompass “cooking, washing, sewing and other domestic duties.” 43 The standard of instruction would have varied with the experience, skills and interest of each dormitory matron.  Gribble was glad to see the last of his matron, Mrs Edwards, whose religious zeal led her to neglect the practicalities of “order, thrift and cleanliness” and who “completely wrecked the rule and order of the girls’ department.” 44  Her successor, Miss Chudley, was of a more practical bent.

 25 December 1883  This evening announced the results of Miss Chudley’s scripture class and housekeepers list.  Buckley took the prize for the boys.  Rosie (Christian) and Mrs Bright for the women.45

Even so Miss Chudley, who had come to Warangesda from New Zealand, Miss Hurst who came from Britain and Miss Ardill, a relative of Mr George Ardill, Chairman of the A.P.A., were more motivated by religious ardour and anticipation of good works done than were the matrons from the full APB period. Warangesda was, by this time, solely a government institution and for these matrons the simple need for employment would have been an important factor in seeking a position.

The steady diet of house work and needlework to which the dormitory girls were subjected was relieved in 1890 when a piano arrived from Sydney for Mrs Bridall, the current dormitory matron.46 In 1896 the dormitory was also provided with a sewing machine, but the finer points of needlework were still taught and in 1911 the girls won a prize for their sewing at the Carrathool Show.47 There was more upgrading of equipment or simply replacement of the old and worn in 1908 when a new stove was installed which was “of great value to matron in teaching the children cooking.” 48 This was the last improvement in the dormitory which in several years time ceased to function.

It was rare for dormitory matrons to stay there for more than a few years.  Some stayed for much shorter periods.  The most unstable period for the dormitory was between 1898 and 1902 when Miss Thorne, Miss Ardill, Miss Chicken, Miss Hancox, Miss Hyde and Miss Reid were successive matrons.49 Some like Miss Reid and Miss Chicken stayed at Warangesda for less than a year.  The position of dormitory matron was vacant from 1902 until 1905 when Miss Emmeline M F Rutter was appointed and stayed until 1909, an unusually long period of service, during which she assumed firm control of the dormitory and earned the Board’s approbation for her suggestions.50  She was later selected as the first matron of the  Cootamundra Home, largely on the strength of her “experience in dealing with Aboriginal children in her capacity as dormitory matron at Warangesda station.” 51

Apart from exceptions like Miss Rutter, single women did not stay long at the mission, nor did the combination of overseer and dormitory matron in a married couple like Mr and Mrs Swift (1893-1894)52 create much more stability.

Three of the dormitory matrons were Aboriginal women, drawn from the mission itself – Mrs Lewis (1891-1892), Mrs Swift (1893-1894) and Mrs George Allen (1894), who took over when Mrs Swift became ill in July 1894, 53 but was not acknowledged officially as matron in the APB reports.  In the period 1902-1905 when the position of matron was unfilled the girls were probably supervised by an Aboriginal woman or women whose services were also unacknowledged.

The employment of non Europeans in the dormitory was not always viewed with favour.  In 1891, Mr Treseder of the APA Council observed of the dormitory that “Mrs Lewis, a halfcaste is at present in charge, but there should be an intelligent Christian woman at once appointed to the post” 54 – a statement loaded with the prejudices, judgements and assumptions of his time.

The girls’ dormitory became an important tool for cultural disintegration.  In its original role, as a shelter for the weak, helpless and dispossessed it did save some from further misery and degradation.  But it also separated children from their families and further alienated them from their culture.  Most ironically of all, the dormitory, through the system of graduation to domestic service, exploited and often endangered the vulnerable whom it had been originally designed to protect.

Jenny Swift

Of the dormitory matrons, Jenny Swift – dormitory matron from 1893 to July 1894 – stands out because she was one of the few Aboriginal women to officially hold this position and because although converted and thoroughly immersed in the mission process she ultimately defied it.

Mrs Swift and her husband Paddy had earlier lived at Maloga. She was a Darug woman from the Sydney area and he from Wodonga in Victoria.1 They received special status for their whole hearted conversion to Christianity and their ability to spread it to others.  They became for Daniel Matthews, founder of Maloga, model Christian Aborigines.  He took them on his visit to England in May 1889 where they stayed for some months and lived with Matthews’ brother John in a large house near London.2   In England they took part in Matthews’ fund raising activities as examples of the end product of the Christian missionary process.  They even submitted to being photographed ridiculously garbed in enormous fur cloaks and red indian style headdress 3 – to pander to the preconceptions of the white society into which they had been thrust.  The curiosity which they excited in London was a far cry from the rough and tumble of the Warangesda girls’ dormitory where Mrs Swift was later to become matron.

After returning from England she and her husband eventually settled at Warangesda where in 1893 Mrs Swift’s husband, a horsebreaker of some skill, became overseer, and Mrs Swift dormitory matron.  At first, things had gone well for them at Warangesda.  They held prayer meetings in the cottages, Mrs Swift took sunday school and Mr Swift preached regularly in the church and held open air religious meetings.4

By 1894 Mrs Swift had been accused of drinking – a charge defended as the taking of medicinal brandy because of her ill health5 – and Mr Swift’s action in putting his hands around  the  dormitory girls in  what was called an indecent manner – defended by him as merely a playful gesture –  had caused Mrs Swift  to have a fit  in the Church.6

She was only in her thirties but her health was already beginning to deteriorate.7  She became involved in a number of incidents with the manager, who accused her of not keeping the dormitory girls clean, and of neglecting to feed and properly tend to the sick in the dormitory.8 In one altercation with Mrs Swift he wrote that she “became rather insulting.” 9 The manager’s choice of words here differs in tone from his usual complaint of bad or offensive language – unlikely to be used by someone of Mrs Swift’s background – and he appears somewhat taken off guard by her ability to criticise him.

In another argument between Mrs Swift and the dormitory girls, she called the manager a hypocrite and said that “all whites were hypocrites” 10 – a statement which she, with her extensive experience of white society, was in a good position to make.

The manager, in his complaints about the neglect of her duties, showed no compassion or hint that she was probably sicker than her charges, and was in fact close to death – something he must have recognised.  After she died from tuberculosis on 6 October 1894, he noted tersely “Mr Swift not evidently feeling his loss very much.” 11

Mrs Swift had stopped work as dormitory matron in July 1894 and visited the doctor in Narrandera.  She did not stay on at the Narrandera hospital despite medical advice to do so, as Mr Swift could not afford to keep her there or to stay with her.12   Instead – in a gesture against the white society which had taken them up as “converted aboriginal natives …  who advocate their claims and sing the Gospel,” 13 a society which had used them and imbued them with Christianity but had not treated them according to its teachings – they camped together in the sandhills, 14 then returned to Warangesda where she died soon afterwards.

Daisy Brown

Daisy Brown was sent to the girls’ dormitory from Sydney, where since the age of 6½ she had been in the care of a Sydney family.  She was an orphan whose mother a “Dark woman” and whose father a “half caste” stockman had lived at Boggamildi, where her ten year old brother Willy remained after their deaths1.A letter of introduction to Mrs Hannabus, the manager’s wife and mission matron, did not speak kindly of her.

Daisy has been taught to do all kinds of housework well.  She can do it if she likes, but you can never depend upon anything being well done.  She has been most troublesome from the very beginning but she can be gentle and attractive when she likes .. she would not learn to read, always misspelling letters and being very trying.  She may improve with other children.  She has a propensity to thieving which she had from the beginning and it seems to increase, and I am afraid it will bring her into trouble some day.  She is a sad storyteller.  I might use a much stronger term – I have failed to cure her of these faults. 2

On the face of it these seem damning criticisms.  But they can also be seen as a testimony to the difficulties faced by a small child who had lost the society of her parents and brother, and was trying to survive in an alien and loveless environment.  Obviously she was being made to work for her keep and the emphasis in the home she had been placed in was on the value of her labour rather than on her nurture as an orphaned and defenceless child.

In 1892 – age unknown but when she could still be described as “little Daisy” she arrived at the girls’ dormitory at Warangesda.  The nature of the letter which accompanied her makes it seem more than likely that her guardian was ridding herself of the child because she disliked her and found her an unsatisfactory worker.

What was to be her short life did not progress happily and she soon succumbed to the ill health so often prevalent in the dormitory.  When she died on 7 August 1892 her death did not pass without incident.  In belated and for her futile compensation for the neglect she had received in her life, the people of the mission blamed the staff for her death.

People up in arms about Daisy Brown’s sudden death.  Blaming Mrs Hannabus and Mrs Lewis for being cruel to her.  Also Mrs Smith for mixing the medicine.3

Constable Simpson was called to examine the child but could find no bruises.  All involved were interviewed, and a post mortem was performed by Dr Langdon followed by a magisterial inquiry at the mission – the upshot of all this being that death by double pneumonia was pronounced, and the medicine was certified harmless.4

As to the cruelty, after the result of the post mortem this was not made an issue, but the fact that the people suspected it could indicate that during her short stay at the dormitory she had not been treated well.  It is obvious too that life for her if not actually cruel had been very unhappy, and its final blow was to die of pneumonia in the Warangesda girls’ dormitory.


Sickness and disease ravaged Warangesda especially during its first twenty years.  In March 1883 many of the people were suffering from pains in the stomach and sore heads.  By April Gribble, now sick himself was faced with “quite an epidemic here all over the mission …  Served out medicine to about 30 sick.  This evening very unwell.” 1   Occurrences of this sort were common in the years to follow and deaths were frequent.  People fell prey to enteric fever, typhoid, consumption, pneumonia, pleurisy, dysentery, influenza and hydatids. 2 Epidemics of measles which were recorded in 1894, 1895 and 1906 and whooping cough in 1892, 1893 and 1899 affected the dormitory and other  children at the mission as well as some of the adults.3  In 1886, following an outbreak of diptheria at the mission, the school was closed for ten weeks.3a  The winter months  in contrast with the extraordinary heat of summer were often cold and miserable, and people suffered constantly from coughs and colds and sore throats.  The biting winter winds caused “face ache” 4 and general misery in the uninsulated and often draughty huts and buildings.  In September 1894 church attendance was poor as “so many people have colds and the church being draughty it is no wonder they do not care about coming out at night.”5 Of the white staff Mr Carpenter, Mr Ledger, Miss Hurst, Mr Wales and Mr Clarke all died at the mission or from disease contracted there.6 Many Aboriginal people died and the manager, overseer and men were often employed making coffins.  Once wood was so scarce that an old suitcase had to be adapted for the purpose.7 When Mr Wales died in 1889, the mission diarist wrote “3rd April – Sent to station for coffin and stores.”  Coffins which were home made for Aborigines were purchased  for at least some of those white staff who needed them.

Gribble makes no mention of non religious burial formalities, but in Warangesda’s second decade, these are noted carefully by the manager.  The post mortems performed on Daisy Brown and Ada Miller in 18927a, and the official inquiry which took place into Daisy Brown’s death, 8 no doubt were instrumental in close attention being paid to these details.  Deaths were reported to the police and the signature of the magistrate was required before burial could take place.  As soon as the necessary formalities were complete burial, probably partly because of the climate – in summer at least – was prompt.  Even the usual church service would be cancelled while the manager and assistants undertook the task of making the coffin.9 Burial took place in the mission cemetery which was described after Warangesda closed as overcrowded. 10 Only two graves are now marked – that of a baby and Miss Hurst who died in 1885.

The sick were treated on the mission by the matron and dormitory matron.  A Government medical officer was located at Narrandera and did visit if necessary but for the most part people in need of treatment travelled by rail or road to Narrandera either to see the doctor or to be admitted to the hospital, which was opened in 1883.  Travel to Narrandera for treatment was dependent on the consent of the manager who made his own assessment on any given medical condition, and could withhold his permission.11  Occasionally it was necessary to seek treatment in Sydney at the Waterfall Sanitarium for Consumption or the Moorcliff Hospital for Opthalmia.12

The sick who remained at the mission were given special medical comforts by the matron and dormitory matron and were supplied with what was described as nourishing food, which did not constitute part of the normal rations.  Rice, sago, maize, butter, broth and cocoa were all listed as invalid food in the dormitory in 1894.13 In 1897 Arthur Fisher, sent home from Narrandera hospital to die, was given fruit by matron to tempt his appetite.14

By the beginning of 1889 there was so much sickness (probably contagious) at Waranggesda that the manager decided to segregate the sick from the well.  On 5 January the men built “a hut close to the dormitory for a hospital for females beside the one for males”.15 On 6 January Miss Wales, the manager’s daughter, in place of her mother the matron who was also sick, sat up all night with Nellie “and will have to do so again”16 as Nellie’s condition had not improved.

Since medical attention was not immediately to hand emergencies had to be treated with what remedies were available.  Dixon was “taken with spasms” on 7 October 1893 and treated with turpentine and hot fomentation.17. In 1895 Bright’s feet started to swell and he began to get violent pains in his right side.  Treatment in this case of possible thrombosis was “mustard lead plaster … and some turpentine vinegar and white of egg for his feet.” 18  Sometimes people could take several weeks to die and their decline was recorded in the manager’s diary.19  At other times death was quick and help unavailable:

18 December 1883This morning at five o’clock Bobbie Shanks called hurriedly saying Ellen his wife had broken a blood vessel.  Mrs Gribble and I hastened to the hut and did all for the poor sufferer we could … she passed away about twenty minutes after the rupture took place.20

Spread of disease would have been assisted when hygiene was poor or neglected.  In 1891 the manager, Mr Clarke, died during an outbreak of typhoid at the mission.21 The Warangesda sanitary conditions earlier that year had been described by an APA visitor as “open to considerable improvement” 21a and the well – a potential source of ill health to all who used it – singled out as in need of immediate attention.22  In 1894 when typhoid again broke out, the Narrandera Argus reported very adversely on the condition of a Warangesda woman who was admitted with the disease to the Narrandera hospital – describing her as being in a state of “animated filth”.23  When Dr Mitchell the Government medical officer and Inspector Smith inspected Warangesda some months later, they found hygiene in the slaughterhouse wanting, and recommended that it be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.  They also found fault with the dormitory kitchen which they said should be completely rebuilt.24

About the turn of the century health began to improve, although 1899, 1902 and 1904 were years when considerable sickness was recorded.25 Eye infections were so virulent in 1904 that 16 people were admitted to hospital at Narrandera. 26 By this time, although the diet provided by rations was still a poor one, there were no longer the grave shortages of food which occurred in earlier years.  Dr Watt was appointed medical officer to the mission in 1899 and was later succeeded by Drs Broad and Lethbridge 27 who visited regularly and advised on health matters.  At the suggestion of the medical officer in 1905, a supply of patent medicines was kept at the mission.28  In previous years orders had been given for medicine by the doctor from Narrandera or mixtures bought from the storekeeper, Mr Bennett at Darlington Point.29 Medicines were now given out from a dispensary which by 1914 was located with the store and office in the recently vacated manager’s residence.30 This dispensary may also have served as the clinic remembered by Mrs Isabel Edwards.31a

The Local Board in its report to the APB in 1899 commented that

The appointment of a medical officer has been of the greatest benefit to the people not only in his attendance on them during sickness but in the improvement he has caused to be effected in the sanitary arrangements.

In that year drains were constructed to take away excess rain water and sanitation was overhauled.  Fresh pit lavatories, the usual method of disposal of human waste, were constructed, the old ones filled in, and the rubbish heaps which constantly accumulated in the streets were carted away31.  House refuse was usually disposed of by burning 32 and even the mission’s old horse Bob who died in 1896 was consigned to the flames.33

After 1908 better health was promoted by improvements to the water supply.  Water was originally drawn from a well, by buckets – which frequently broke.  By 1896 water was pumped and stored in a tank.34 But it was the erection in 1908 of a 12 foot Alston windmill with a 30 foot tower which ensured an ample supply of water 35 and made growing vegetables a much less chancy operation.  There were further improvements in 1914 when an 8000 gallon tank was erected and the huts were connected to the water supply by taps.36

Running water, a more varied diet and increased access to medical care were all instrumental in creating living conditions healthier than those which first existed at Waarangsda.  Even given the lowered life expectation and standards of health of the time, the mortality during the mission’s first decades was high.  In 1888 the death rate for the Australian colonies was 15.3 per 1,000 persons.37  Expressed in the same terms, the death rate at Warangesda in the same year was 50.8 per 1,000 persons,37a and none of the deaths in that year were attributable to the fatal accidents, murder and suicide included in the overall figures.  In immediately following years the death rate was even higher, rising in 1894 to 72.9 per 1,000. 38 Although by the turn of the century the numbers of deaths per year had decreased (to 16 per 1,000 in 1901), from 1912 there was a marked increase in the number of people dying each year at the mission.39 This may reflect the changing composition of the mission population – as the young and able bodied adults were forced from the mission, and children sent away to domestic training, leaving behind a higher population of the most vulnerable – the very young, the sick, and the old.  Introduced disease amongst the dispossessed Aboriginal population, from whom the mission population had been plucked, was also rife, and initially the rate at which people fell victim inside the mission may not have been so very different from that of Aboriginal people living outside it.  Certainly the phenomenon of a large group of people living in confined conditions was one which facilitated the spread of infections and contagious disease. Against this background, the death of Jackie Melon, a founding member of the mission, from “decay of nature” in 1896 stands out as one of the few apparently natural deaths recorded in the mission manager’s diary.39a

The acceptance of the large number of deaths during the management of Gribble and the APA may in part be related to the emphasis placed during this time, not so much on the preservation of life, as on ensuring that those who died did so in the Christian faith. The manager, Mr F W Clarke reported to the APA in 1889 “we are at times cheered by those who pass away to be with Jesus” since it was “in suffering and death that we see most clearly the simple trust of the people in Christ.” 39 Toleration of the numerous deaths which occurred was also related to the prevailing view of the inevitability of the demise of Aborigines as a race.  For this reason the APB saw its role as that of temporary custodian only and could define its aims as “the amelioration of the condition of a race, which but for this aid would suffer and die out at a much greater rate than at present.” 40


The children could attend the Warangesda school which had been established by Gribble in 1880 and in 1882 given the status of a Public School.  Although both Gribble and Warangesda’s last managers combined the positions of manager and teacher, the intervening teachers were responsible first to the Department of Public Instruction, an independence which added to the tensions between staff which were a feature of mission life.  The curriculum was described as standard primary except for “drill and history”, but emphasis (increased after 1915) was instead placed on manual labour – carpentry, bootmaking, housework and sewing – the latter taught by the dormitory matron who was also sewing mistress to the school.

Some Department of Public Instruction inspectors were scathing in their criticism of the teaching, discipline and cleanliness of the pupils and of the mission as a whole.  To others, the teachers appeared satisfactory and the functioning of the school “tolerable” when the “peculiarities of the pupils and other disadvantages are taken into account.” 1 Despite poor teaching conditions, lack of equipment and inadequate housing, it was the teachers – of all the staff – who in general stayed the longest at the mission – 8 years in the case of Mr G C Nash. Mr Nash’s affection for the mission was expressed in the name he later gave his house in Marickville – ‘Warangesda.’2


The job of the manager was not an easy one.  Not only did he face the difficult task of trying to make a going concern of the mission farm, but his primary role of attending to the “physical and moral welfare” of the people, known as “residents” or at worst “inmates”, and of overseeing the white staff, demanded administrative skill and judgement which managers did not always possess, or exercise wisely.  In addition to his other responsibilities, as Warangesda’s closure became imminent he was also expected to take on the role of teacher.1 Although the manager had power and could abuse it, except initially in Gribble’s case he was not his own master but responsible to the APA and APB to whom he was required to report monthly on paper and defer to for most decisions, in particular financial ones.  However presumably because he occupied the position he did, he was in substantial agreement with the attitude of the APA and the policies of the APB towards Aboriginal people.

Of all the mission superintendAnt or managers, the name of John Gribble, as its founder is most associated with Warangesda.  In the 45 years of Warangesda’s history at least 17 managers can be identified, and in comparison with the varying lengths of time served by each, Gribble’s stay of four years was a reasonably long period.  The longest to stay at the mission was Mr Thomas McDonald who came in 1898 and left in 1906 and whose qualifications as an earnest worker were praised by the Local Board. 2  Some managers who, like Mr T A Whalley (1893), and the two managers unnamed by the APB reports who filled the manager’s position between 1906 and 1907, were able to take only months of what Gribble called “mission excitements.” 3 Mr Hopkins and his wife who quit the mission in 1891 “felt compelled to resign after a short stay as the work is too heavy for their strength.” 4 Others like Mr Wales (1887‑ 1889) and Mr F.W. Clarke (1889-1891) had potentially longer terms cut short by death.  Mr George Harris (1893-1895) and Mr Edward Pridham (1893-1896) were examples of the “career” managers who went on to manage other government stations in New South Wales for the APB.  Mr Harris, like Mr Whalley before him, at times had an uneasy relationship with the people and staff.  It is possible that the men who petitioned against his exchange with Mr Pridham,5 then manager at Cummeragunga, did so more because of knowledge of Mr Pridham than loyalty to Mr Harris.  Mr Pridham, an Englishman was motivated in his vocation by his Christian belief but his attitudes towards Warangesda’s adult population were apparent in the childish punishments to which he subjected ‘wrong doers.’ 6

The manager by reason of the power he possessed, and often the way he exercised it was usually the focus of ill feeling.  However not all were regarded in this light.  Mrs Isobel Edwards, speaking of the mission’s last two managers said

I know they didn’t like the last bloke that was there, a fellow by the name of Trottman.  His brother was there first, Arthur Trottman I think, and they thought he was terribly nice.7

After his death Gribble was also said to be remembered with affection by people who had lived with him at the mission 8 – despite the fact that some of their number had been locked up, expelled and physically chastised by him. Possibly the reason for this affection lay in the basic goodwill which underlay his actions, however questionable they may have been then and now.

In 1882 Gribble met and argued with George Thornton, the newly appointed Protector of Aborigines, who told him he did not think Aboriginal people capable of moral and spiritual good “but I told him emphatically that we knew that they were.” 9 This attitude and the response it evoked in the people of the mission is evident in an exchange between Gribble and Peter Murray in July 1883.  Murray had come home drunk and been reprimanded by Gribble.  “He went to fight me.  I asked him what for.  He said because he was very fond of me.” 10. In contrast is an incident which arose between the manager, Mr Harris and Dan Hart on 18 June 1895, when Harris refused a pass to Narrandera to Hart, who was suffering from severe toothache and needed medical attention.  Hart called Harris

a crawler and told him if he would come off the mission he would punch his big head for him and caught hold of the manager’s shirt and vest.  The manager lost his temper and said it was a nice thing to be talked to by a thing like him.11

Incidents like this illustrate the change in the relationship between the manager and the managed.  The general mutual goodwill which had characterised Warangesda’s first years despite difficult circumstances, did not survive and Gribble’s spirit of compassion for his fellow man was replaced by a passion for effective administration only. Rather than the solution which the creation of a mission had originally represented to Gribble, Warangesda and its people became for his successors and their masters simply a problem.

Gribble, trusting in his god’s help, was not deterred by the fact that “an enlarged community at the mission means increase in expenditure and addition to the load of anxiety.” 12 His attitude to his mounting expenditure was laudable, if not financially prudent – “I am not ashamed when I know the debt has been contracted on behalf of the poor blacks.” 13 The APB had begun its financial support for Warangesda and Cummeragunga with “misgivings that this cost will be out of proportion to the aid accorded to aborigines generally.” 14 These misgivings persisted and it was financial considerations which always tempered what passed for humanity in the Board’s actions and which appeared to win out finally in 1924 when Warangesda was closed.

Mr Whalley

 Manager 1893

Mr Whalley arrived at Warangesda to take up his appointment as manager on 22 February 1893,1 but by 22 May he had tendered his resignation. 2  During this time his intense interest in the Temperance Movement and the reintroduction of evening and morning church services, which were “very thinly attended,” 3 did nothing to ingratiate him with the people.  Less than one month after his arrival the men had all stopped work because of a dispute with the Council of the APA over contract work.4 The manager had severely chastised Teddy Dixon for seriously insulting the dormitory girls5, and expelled A. Murray, H. Nelson, Jim Gibson, Ned Davis and Jack Grovenor for 6 months for gambling and loafing.6  In April after an argument with Dick Westall he stopped his rations.7

Problems at this time with the supply of rations, which were often completely run down evoked the usual response.  On 12 April no work was done “owing to there being no tea.” 8 On 15 April, Mr Whalley with the men still not working intimated his intention of going to Sydney to interview the Council “about the method of dealing with the aborigines.” 9 His next move which was to announce the formation of a Vigilance Committee of Aboriginal men only further antagonised the men, who again refused to work, and as a consequence had their rations stopped. 10

The situation was only diffused after Mr Lander, a member of the Council of Advice came onto the mission to speak to the men, and a general meeting of residents was held.11 At this, those opposed to the Vigilance Committee signed a paper “agreeing that from that day they would knock off all the habits which the Committee were supposed to suppress. Work started at 2pm.” 12  Despite this capitulation the men had made their point by indicating their dissatisfaction with the current management.

The manager’s largely self imposed difficulties continued and before resigning on the 22 May he had a dispute with James Smith “over keeping birds and drawing water” and stopped his rations, 13 and held an open air meeting for young converts although “very little interest in it was taken by the residents.” 14

More stop works took place as rations of tobacco, tea and sugar failed to arrive15 and Mr Whalley discharged Dan Hart from Warangesda for one month for insolence16 and continued to clash with James Smith whom he described as “very troublesome indeed.  Any little thing or grievance that crops up among the men he is generally the agitator of it.” 17

Mr Whalley was not only experiencing difficulty with the Warangesda Aboriginal people  – the store keeper at Darlington Point had refused to provide him with much needed flour 18 and six days after his resignation, and possibly emboldened by it, he clashed publicly with Mr Hurrell, the overseer.

28 MayAt the evening service Mr Whalley stopped the service feeling the remarks of Mr Hurrell personal, calling him a hypocrite, liar and a scoundrel.  Mrs Nash was very unwell causing most people to leave the church in alarm.19

Shortly after this scene Mr Hurrell received permission to leave the mission immediately, but was asked by the manager to stay until the end of the month20.  Mr Whalley himself stayed until November, and one of his last acts was to attend the Courthouse at Darlington Point” on a charge of wilfully poisoning James Smith’s dog.   Case was dismissed.” 21

Mr Harris

Manager November 1893 – November 1895

Immediately following Mr Whalley’s departure, Mr Ardill of the APA who had arrived from Sydney, held a meeting with the men and introduced the new manager, Mr Harris.  At the meeting he invited the men to voice their complaints and announced as a placatory measure the decision to give those able to use it a small portion of land which they could cultivate for their own use.1

Mr Harris had inherited a difficult situation.  Although in the months following Mr Whalley’s resignation tensions seemed to have eased to some extent, the situation while he was there was probably best described as one of stalemate.

One of Mr Harris’ first actions after being introduced by Mr Ardill was to organise the election of a new Vigilance Committee. 2 This event passed without incident – the people seeming to have accepted the idea of a committee formed from their own ranks.

As with Mr Whalley, and indeed other managers, the usual frictions between the manager and the rest of the community began to emerge.  He clashed with Mr Nash when the latter permitted dancing in the school 3 and had several exchanges with Mrs Swift, the dormitory matron, over  the performance of her duties 4 which were being affected by her ill health.  She was an Aboriginal woman who was relatively well educated and travelled and trained by Daniel Matthews – all of which may have been the source of some resentment from Mr Harris.  He also clashed with Richard Clayton whom he threatened to “take down to the Point.” 5 To Mr Harris Richard Clayton had become what James Smith had been to Mr Whalley;

This man Clayton has been a source of annoyance ever since the present manager has been here.  He has been dealt with very leniently … punishments having been put aside on his promising to conduct himself properly but he seems to have an idea because he is a full blood he cannot be removed from the station.6

Whatever Richard Clayton’s actions, it seems that for some managers there was always one person with whom they came into conflict through personal incompatibility, and who to some extent became scapegoat for the manager’s general dissatisfactions.

Mr Harris’ relationship also became cool with Dr Mitchell of Narrandera 7 with whom he had increasing contact in the winter of 1894, because of the growing incidence of sickness at the mission.  At this time too he was faced with rising flood waters and a continuation of the ration shortages which had dogged Mr Whalley’s managership and which created discontent amongst the people.  There were stop works and strikes but none as threatening as those faced by Mr Whalley.  In his last year at Warangesda Mr Harris had both insulted Dan Hart and been physically threatened by him8, and had been summonsed for intercepting a resident’s letter. 9 His attitude earlier to Mrs Swift and to Ruth Saxby who though sick was accused of being ungrateful and not interested in her baby,10 was hard and unfeeling.  Yet on one occasion he had given boots out of the store to Lucy Buckley whom he felt needed to keep her feet dry 11 and had sometimes moved the very sick into his house for care.12

When the news came that Mr Harris was to exchange positions with the strict and school masterly Mr Pridham of Cummeragunga all the men, after a meeting, petitioned the Board in Sydney to maintain the status quo.13 However by April another communication had been sent to the Board this time complaining of the treatment of the men by Mr Harris. 14

The most serious event of Mr Harris’ period as manager was the official inquiry into Warangesda which took place in June 1894.  This brought to the mission a deputation of APB and APA officials who also investigated conditions at the government funded stations at Cummeragunga and Brewarrina.15 The inquiry at Warangesda was largely the legacy of Mr Whalley’s troubled months there. It was also the result of official neglect of the mission and was triggered by the damning report of conditions made by Dr Mitchell and Inspector Smith in the previous month.

Mr Harris, who since the death of Mr Clarke from typhoid fever in 1891 was the fourth manager in three years, could not be held responsible for all these things and no specific action was taken against him.  After the visit of the APB deputation the decision was made to create a Local Board of interested parties who could assist the manager, monitor conditions and report to the central APB.  A comprehensive set of regulations was also drawn up for the management of all missions for which the APB provided funding.16 What was significant about this second inquiry into Warangesda was that whereas the government investigation of 1882 was prompted by external reports, the 1894 inquiry was to a large degree a response to the discontent and actions of the people themselves.

Following the appointment of the Local Board in 1895, the situation at Warangesda which Mr Harris left to Mr Pridham on 1 November of that year was one temporarily free from complaints and the mission itself set on a course of dual administration – of Local Board and Manager.  This was to last until 1915 when the local body was replaced by a system of government inspection.  In the meantime, the existence of the Local Board was to create a situation inherent with difficulties for the manager, and one which increased surveillance and interference with the lives of the Warangesda people.



1.         APB Report for 1895, Appendix J, p 11.


1.         APB Report for 1908, p 13.

1a.       Morgan and Scott, London, 1884,  pp 33-34.

2.         Arthur Collingridge, “Warangesda Aboriginal Mission”, Illustrated Sydney News, 12 May 1883, p 6.

3.         W Carpenter, G Ardill in Visitors’ Comments 27 March [1891], Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda.

            Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda.

4.         Mr Green in Visitors’ Comments 16 January 1893, Mission Managers’ Diary.

5.         W Carpenter, G Ardill in Visitors’ Comments 27 March [1891], Mission Managers’ Diary.

6.         Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 29 May 1894.

7.         Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda.

8.         Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda.

9.         Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 8 January 1895 and 11 January 1897.

10.       APB Reports for 1897 to1904.  The APB Report for 1891, p 14, notes that 12 huts had been erected by that year by the APA.  It is possible that some of the 20 huts subsequently recorded as having been built were replacement buildings.

11.       W M Camper, DRO, Riverina, to F W Biden, Esq., Commonwealth EO, Sydney, 26 February 1904 including a list of Warangesda aboriginal voters, and M Chanter to G Lewis Esq. CEO, April 1904, Commonwealth Record Series A101, file B 1904/473.

12.       Opinion 23 April 1904 “Aborigines Right to Vote”, Opinion Book 512/04, p301, CRS A79.

12a.     Transcript of interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 23 October 1985, pp 1, 2.

12b.     APB Report for 1912, p 3.

13.       APB Reports for 1913, p 11 and for 1914, p 12.


14.       J Horner, Vote Ferguson for Aboriginal Freedom, Sydney 1974, p 15.

15.      Transcript of interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 23 October 1985, p 2.

16.       Record of conversation.  Mrs Val Weldon with Philippa Scarlett, via Hall ACT, 27 February 1994.


1.         “Black But Comely”or Glimpses of Aboriginal Life in Australia, Morgan and Scott,     London 1884, pp 37-38.

2.         “Black but Comely,” Morgan and Scott, London 1884, p 45.

3.         J B Gribble Diary, 16 January 1882.

4.         Gribble Diary.

5.         Gribble Diary, 8 June 1883.

6.         J B Gribble, “Black but Comely”, Morgan and Scott, London 1884, p 47.

7.         Gribble Diary, 3 August 1883.

8.         Gribble Diary, 1 February 1883.

9.         Gribble Diary.

9a.       Gribble Diary, 7 June 1883.

10.       Gribble Diary, 20 May 1883.

11.       Gribble Diary, 24 February 1882; J B Gribble, “Black but Comely”, Morgan and Scott, London 1884, p 39.

12.       M. Goulburn to J Gribble, 11 May 1881, Letter 691, Letter Book of Mesac Thomas Bishop of Goulburn.

13.       M. Goulburn to Rev. G C Blaxland, 9 Feby 1886, in B. Thorn (Ed.) Letters from Goulburn,Canberra 1964, p 71.

14.       Gribble Diary, 16 April 1883.

15.       Gribble Diary, 9 and 21 August 1883.

16.       APB Report, 1883-4, p 3.

16a.     G E Ardill Memorandum re Mr Inspector O’Byrne’s report on the Warangesda Mission Station [1887].  WarangesdaSchool File 5/18018.2. State Records of NSW

17.       P G King and E Fosbery Report of Commission of Enquiry into the Aboriginal Mission Stations at Warangesda and Maloga in Daniel Matthews, Diaries and Mission Reports on the Maloga Mission to the Aborigines, Part 2.

18.       Morgan and Scott, London 1884

19.       Gribble Diary, 21-26 April 1883.

20.       Gribble Diary.

21.       Gribble Diary.

22.       Gribble Diary.

23.       Gribble Diary, 7 December 1883.

24.       Gribble Diary.

25.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda,  APB Report for 1888, p 6.

26.       Mission Managers’ Diary


1.         J B Gribble Diary, 13 January 1882.

1a.       Gribble Diary, 1 March 1882.

2.         Details of wheat plantings contained in APB Reports.

2a.       APB Reports, Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda,

3.         APB Report for 1908, p 13.

4.         APB Report for 1888, p 6, Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 9 June 1888.

5.         Gribble Diary.

5a.       Gribble Diary, 1-8 November 1883.

6.         APB Reports for 1901, p 5 and 1905, p 19.

7.         W Gammage Narrandera Shire, Narrandera Shire Council NSW 1986, p 166.

8.         APB Report 1890, p 14.

9.         Visitors’ Comments, 13 December 1890, Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda.

10.       Visitors’ Comments, 4 April 1891, Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda.

11.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 6 November 1896.

12.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 10 and 11 March 1896.

13.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 16-23 January 1894.

14.       APB Report 1908, p 13.

15.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 29 August 1887.

16.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda.

17.       Receipts and Expenditure, Warangesda, APB Report for 1905.

18.       P Kabaila Warangesda – Archaelogical Reconstruction of an Aboriginal Mission, BA Hons thesis, ANU, 1993, p 15.

18a.     APB Reports for these years.

19.       APB Reports for 1902, p 5 and 1903, p 7.

19a.     APB Report for 1919, p 3.

20.       APB Report for 1909, p 13.

21.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 17 August 1894, APB Report for 1901, p 4.

22.       APB Report for 1899, p 16.

23.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda.

24.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda.

24a.     APB Report for 1900, p 4.

25.       APB Report for 1906, p 16.

26.       APB Report for 1908, p 13.

27.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 22 February 1894.

27a.     Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 19 November 1891, 5 September 1893, 20 December 1894, 21 December 1896.

28.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 7 October 1894.

29.       APB Report for 1911, p 12.

30.       Gribble Diary.

31.       [L Kubank] Early History of Darlington Point, typescript, p 20.

32.       G L Buxton The Riverina 1861 to 1891 – an Australian Regional Study, MUP, 1967, p 34.

33.       APB Report for 1919, p 3.

33a.     Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 13 September 1894.  Paddy Swift is recorded as performing overseer’s duties in the Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda in 1894, and mission records show payment to him for overseer’s duties as late as 1897.

34.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 1 December 1894.

35.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 7 July  and 21 December 1896.

35a.     Gribble Diary, 5 February 1882, Transcript of interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 23 October 1985

35b.     J. Gribble First Report of the Warangesda Church of England Mission to the Aborigines Sydney 1881, quoted in A Curthoys “Good Christians and Useful Workers” in What Rough Beast. The State and Social order in Australian History. Sydney Labor History Group 1982, Allen and Unwin, p51.

36.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 12 June and 6 July 1894 and 16 August 1895.

36a.     Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 4 December 1896.

38.       APB Report for 1911, p 12.

39.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 8 and 9 August 1897.

40.       Gribble Diary, 14 January 1882.

41.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 28 January 1896.

41a.     Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 11 September 1895.

41b.     [L Kubank] Early History of Darlington Point, typescript, p 17.

41c.     Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 12 August 1893.

41d.     Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 15 July 1896.

42.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 18 July 1895.

42a.     G L Buckston The Riverina 1861 to 1891 – an Australian Regional Study, MUP, 1967, p 265.

43.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 2 November 1893.

44.       APB Report for 1899, p 16.

45.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 15 April 1896.

46.       R B Ronald The Riverina – people and properties, 1960, p 149.

47.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 14 June 1894.

48.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 17 September 1895.

49.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 19 October 1891.

50.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 30 August 1887.

51.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 16 November 1893, APB Reports for 1895, Appendix J and 1908.

52.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 13 December 1888.

53.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 14 June 1894.

54.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 24 and 26 February 1896.

55.       Transcript of interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 23 October 1985, p 8.

55a.     Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 5 July 1894, Report by John G Treseder of his Visit to the Aborigines Mission Station at Coomeragunga and Warangesda, Sydney July 13th. 1891, p 34.

56.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 8 March and 12 July 1894.

57.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 28 November and 30 December 1895.

57a.     WarangesdaSchool File 5/18012. 2. State Records of NSW

57b.     Miss M Hill to Department of Public Instruction, 21 December 1910, WarangesdaSchool File 5/18012. 2. State Records of NSW

58.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 9 December 1896 and 5 November 1888.

59.       APB Report for 1908, p 13.

60.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 9 December 1896.

61.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 21 December 1894.

62.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 21 December 1896.

63.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 7 February 1894.

64.       Mission Managers’ Diary, Warangesda, 3 May 1888.





1.         APB Reports for 1907, p 13 and 1915, p 7.

2.         APB Report for 1895, Appendix J, Regulations for the Management of Aboriginal Stations, pp 11-12.

3.         APB Report for 1895, Appendix J, Regulations for the Management of Aboriginal Stations, pp 11-12.

4.         Warangesda Mission Managers’ Diary.

4a.       Warangesda Mission Managers’ Diary.

5.         APB Report for 1895, p 11.

6.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 9 April 1892.

7.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 23 January 1897.

8.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 20 June 1887.

9.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 22 January 1896.

10.       J B Gribble “Black but Comely” (Morgan and Scott), London, 1884, pp 46, 47.

11.       APB Report for 1895, Appendix J.

12.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 13 July 1894.

13.       APB Report for 1904, p 4.

14.       There are numerous references to donations of clothing in the diaries of John Gribble and later mission Managers’.

15.       Illustrated Sydney News, 12 May 1883.

16.       APB Report for 1891, p 18.

17.       Walter Kilroy Harris Outback in Australia (Garden City Press), 1913, p 159.

18.       Photograph of congregation with clergyman and Daniel and Janet Matthews, AIATSIS pictorial collection.

19.       APB Report for 1897, p 9 and Walter Kilroy Harris Outback in Australia (Garden City Press), 1913, p 158.

20.       Report by John G Treseder of his Visit to the Aborigines Mission Station at Coomeragunga and Warangesda, Sydney July 13th. 1891, p 34.

21.       Mission Managers’’ Diary, 29 May 1894 [noting recommendations of Inspector Smith and Dr Mitchell after their inspection].

22.       APB Report for 1919, p 3.

23.       APB Reports for 1897, p 9 and 1919, p 3.  Mission Managers’’ Diary, 8 May 1896.

24.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 8 May 1896.

25.       Videotaped interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 1975.

26.       APB Report for 1888, p 6.

27.       P Kabaila Warangesda – Archaelogical Reconstruction of an Aboriginal Mission, BA Hons thesis, ANU, 1993, p 22.




1.         J B Gribble “Black but Comely”, Morgan and Scott, London, 1884, p 41.

2.         Quoted in L Kubank The Warangesda Mission, PMS 5382 AIATSIS

3.         J B Gribble Diary, 18 February 1882.

4.         Gribble Diary, 9 September 1883.

5.         Gribble Diary, 13 September 1883.

6.         Gribble Diary, 11 January 1882.

7.         Gribble Diary, 27 January 1882.

8.         M. Goulburn to J Gribble, 12 January 1881, Letter 403, Letter Book of Mesac Thomas Bishop of Goulburn.

9.         Gribble Diary, 17 October 1883.

10.       Gribble Diary, 5 February 1882.

11.       Warangesda Mission Managers’’ Diary.

12.       Gribble Diary, 12 January 1882.

13.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 6 October 1890.

14.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 20 December 1894.

15.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 5 July 1893.

16.       APB Report for 1913, p 3.

17.       Gribble Diary, 4 December 1883.

18.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 November 1894.

19.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 17 November 1894.

20.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 29 November 1894.

21.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 25 June 1892 and later entries.

22.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 17 March 1897.

23.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 17 March 1896.

24.       Walter Kilroy Harris Outback in Australia (Garden City Press), 1913, pp 156-161.

25.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 11 November 1892.

25a.     M Goulburn to Mr Stuart, undated copy [September 1881] Warangesda School File 5/18018.2. State Records of NSW

25b.     P G King and E Fosbery Report of Commission of Enquiry into the Aboriginal Mission Stations at Warangesda and Maloga in Daniel Matthews, Diaries and Mission Reports on the Maloga Mission to the Aborigines, Part 2.

26.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

27.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 29 May 1894.

29.       Gribble Diary, 18 September 1883.

30.       Gribble Diary, 9 July 1883.

31.       Peter Read, 100 Years War, ANU Press 1988, p 42.

32.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

33.       APB Report for 1908, p 13.

34.       APB Report for 1913, p 11.

35.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 26 December 1889.

35a.     Report of APA for 1881 in Daniel Matthews, Diaries and Mission Reports on the Maloga Mission to the Aborigines, Part 2.

36.       These people are named in Nancy Cato Mister Maloga University of Queensland Press 1993  “Names of 42 Maloga Men” p 280 and elsewhere; and in R Beardsmore Office of Board for Protection of Aborigines, Sydney, to A W Howitt 10 October 1907 [copy of letter listing 1 ‘full blood’ Wiradjuri aborigine at Cummeragunga], Howitt Papers Box 6 Folder 2.  They also appear in Gribble Diary; Mission Managers’’ Diary; George Newland Mgr. Warangesda Aboriginal Station to Scty. AP Board Sydney 14 October 1907 [copy of letter listing 17 ‘full blood’ Wiradjuri aborigines] in Howitt Papers Box 6 Folder 2; W M Camper, DRO, Riverina, to F W Biden, Esq., Commonwealth EO, Sydney, 26 February 1904 including a list of Warangesda aboriginal voters, Commonwealth Record Series A101 B 1904/473  NAA..

36a.     NancyCato Mister MalogaUniversity of Queensland Press 1993, Gribble Diary, Mission Managers’ Diary, APB Reports.

36b.     Mission Managers’ Diary, 24 January 1894.

37.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 29 December 1895.

38,39.  “Returns showing particulars of men of aboriginal origin, parentage who enlisted to serve abroad with the AIF” presented by the Board for Protection of Aborigines, Sydney, 10/8/1932, AWM 27, 535[7].

40.       Mission Managers’’ Diary, 25 October 1894.

41.       NAA  A101 B 1904/473

42     Darlington Point School Centenary 1882-1982, DarlingtonPointSchool Centenary     Committee , Griffith, 1982, p 28

43.       Penny Brock Outback Ghettoes – Aboriginal Institutionalisation and Survival, CambridgeUniversity Press 1993, p 165.


1.         J B Gribble Diary, 21 April 1883.

2.         APB Report for 1895, Appendix J.

3.         APB Report for 1895, Appendix J.

4.         APB Report for 1896, p 11.

4a.       APB Report for 1896, p 11.

5.         Gribble Diary, 17 February 1883.

6.         Warangesda Mission Managers’ Diary, 16 February 1894.

7.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 4 May 1893.

8.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 13 May 1894.

9.         Mission Managers’ Diary.

10.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 16 November 1895.

11.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 16 May 1896.

12.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 22 July 1896.

13.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

14.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 14 May 1894.

15.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 18 November 1895.

16.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 7 February 1896.

17.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 15 February 1892.

18.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 8 July 1892.

19.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 13 January 1897.

20.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 4 January 1896.

21.       Gribble Diary, 21-25 April 1883.  APB Report for 1913, p 11.

22.       APB Report for 1909, p 13.

23.       APB Report for 1910, p 14.

24.       APB Report for 1913, p 11.

25.       APB Report for 1919, p 2.

26.       APB Reports for 1908, p 3 and 1920, p 4.

27.       APB Report for 1907, p 13.

28.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 29 September 1896.

29.       APB Report for 1897, p 12.

30.       APB Report for 1904, p 10.

31.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 14 December 1895.

32.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 1 December 1894.

33.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 10 May 1893.

34.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 11 August 1893.

35.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 18 January 1896.

36.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 30 December 1895.

37.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 November and 30 December 1895.

38.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 12 and 14 December 1896.

39.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 December 1895.

40.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 27 July 1897.

41.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 21 September 1896.

42.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 21 October 1893, 28 December 1896 and 23 October 1895.

43.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 30 November 1893.

44.       Gribble Diary, 16 January 1882.

45.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 12 December 1896.

46.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 19 April 1892.

47.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 19 November 1892.

48.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 3 July 1895.

49.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 18 November 1895.

50.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 21 November 1895.

51.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 8 March 1894.

52.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 19 March 1894.

53.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 5 April 1895.

54.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 12 April 1895.

55.       Gribble Diary, 21 April 1883.

56.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 18 April 1895.

57.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 5 and 21 August 1896.


1.         Warangesda Mission Managers’ Diary.

2.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 16 March 1895.

3.         APB Report for 1913, p 11.

4.         13th Annual Report, Maloga Mission, p 3 in Daniel Matthews, Diaries and Mission Reports on the Maloga Mission to the Aborigines, Part 2,  Mission Managers’’ Diary, 7 April 1887.

5.         Mission Managers’ Diary.

6.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 21 July 1889.

7.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 16 December 1891.

8.         APB Report for 1913, p 11.

9.         Photograph of Maloga Mission Band, 1887, listing members, in Nancy Cato Mister Maloga (University of Queensland Press), 1993.

9a.       P G King and E Fosbery Report of Commission of Enquiry into the Aboriginal Mission Stations at Warangesda and Maloga in Daniel Matthews, Diaries and Mission Reports on the Maloga Mission to the Aborigines, Part 2.

9b.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 2 February 1894.

10.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 19 December 1891.

11.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 29 April 1890.

12.       Record of conversation.  Mrs Val Weldon with Philippa Scarlett, via Hall ACT, 27 February 1994.

13.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 31 December 1895.

14.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

14a.     APB Report for 1894, p 5.

15.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 13 March 1893.

16.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 24 May 1894.

17.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 25 July 1889.

18.       J B Gribble Diary, 29 January 1882.

19.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 22 September 1890.

20.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 15 September 1891.

21.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 4 October 1891.

22.       APB Report for 1889, p 11.

24.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 26 April 1893.

25.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 23 May 1892.

26.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 21 February 1894.

27.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 5 September 1894.

28.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 September 1894.

29.       Gribble Diary, 29 January 1882.

30.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 20 April 1894.

31.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 30 July 1895.

32.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 7 March 1894.

33.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 23 November 1889.

34.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 25 October 1894.

35.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 6 March 1896.

36.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 16 December 1891.

37.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 1 May 1892.

39.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 May 1889.

40.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 2 November 1893.

41.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 5 July 1890.

42.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 November 1892.

43.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 13 January 1894.

44.       Gribble Diary, 6 February 1885.

45.       APB Report for 1913, p 11.

46.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 May 1887.

47.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

Christmas at Warangesda

1.         Warangesda Mission Managers’’ Diary, 18 December 1893 and 24 December 1895.

2.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 18 December 1894.

3.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 23 December 1895.

4.         Mission Managers’’ Diary, 24 December 1895.

5.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 23 December 1895.

6.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 23 December 1893.

7.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 25 December 1891.

8.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 25 December 1889 and 25 December 1891.

9.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 25 December 1892 and 25 December 1896.

10.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 25 December 1892.

11.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 27 December 1896.

12.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 26 December 1895.

13.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 26 December 1895.

14.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 26 December 1896.

15.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 27 December 1895.

16.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 27 December 1892.

17.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 December 1895.

18.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 December 1895.

19.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 31 December 1895.

20.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 31 December 1895.

21.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 1, 2 January 1896 and 1 January 1897.




1.         J B Gribble Diary, 30 January 1882, 21 September 1883.

2.         Gribble Diary and Warangesda Mission Managers’’ Diary note girls coming from these places.

2a.       APB Report for 1905, p 9.

3.         APB Report for 1889, p 11.

4.         APB Report for 1889, p 10.

5.         APB Report for 1888, p 6.

6.         Report of the APA for 1889 in APB Report for 1889, pp 10-11.

7.         APB Report for 1906, p 11.

8.         APB Report for 1907, p 13.

8a         Mission Managers’ Diary 10 December 1894

8b        WarangesdaSchool File 5/18018. State Records of NSW

9.         Mission Managers’ Diary.

10.       APB Report for 1896, p 11.

11.       Report by John G Treseder of his Visit to the Aborigines Mission Station at Coomeragunga and Warangesda, Sydney July 13th. 1891, p 36.

12.       Report by John G Treseder of his Visit to the Aborigines Mission Station at Coomeragunga and Warangesda, Sydney July 13th. 1891, p 36.  Mission Managers’’ Diary, 29 May 1894.

12a.     APB Report for 1896, p 11.

13.       APB Report for 1914, p 12a.

14.       Transcript of interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 23 October 1985.

14a.     APB Report for 1911, p 12.    APB Report for 1912, p 12 records repairs to the dormitory building.

15.       Transcript of interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 23 October 1985.

16.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 4 February 1894, 1 June 1895.

17.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 22 January and 3 July 1893.

18.       Gribble Diary, 26 April and 30 August 1883.

19.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 12 July 1895.

20.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 20 October 1896.

21.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 7 June 1894.

22.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 21 October 1896.

23.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 21 October 1896.

24.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 7 February 1897.

25.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 5 December 1894.

26.       Mission Managers’’ Diary, 24 April 1887.  Her mother’s efforts may have been unsuccesful.  On 11 August 1893 the Mission Managers’’ Diary records the marriage at Warangesda of Mary Mann and Whyman McLean.

27.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 26 November 1892.

28.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 22 July 1896.

29.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 23 January 1897.

30.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 17 November 1897.

31.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 3 July 1896.

32.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 17 February 1897.

33.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 February 1897.

34.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 18 September 1895.

35.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 26 September 1896.

35a.     Illustrated Sydney News, 12 May 1883.

36.       Mission Managers’’ Diary, 7 April 1888, 5 November 1888.

36a.     APB Report for 1888, p 6.

37.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 9 December 1896.

38.       Gribble Diary, 7 May 1885.

39.       Mission Managers’’ Diary, 16 March 1896.

40.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 12 December and following, 1894.

41.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 29 April 1894.

42.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

43.       APB Report for 1895, Appendix J.

44.       Gribble Diary, 8 March 1883.

45.       Gribble Diary.

46.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 29 April 1890.

47.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 10 July 1896.  APB Report for 1911, p 12.

48.       APB Report for 1908, p 13.

49.       APB Reports.

50.       APB Report for 1907, p 13.

51.       APB Report for 1912,  p 3.

52.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 27 July 1893.  Records the arrival of the Smiths as overseer and matron.  By 1894 Paddy and Jenny Swift are referred to in the diary as performing these duties.

53.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 5 July 1894.

54.       Report by John G Treseder of his Visit to the Aborigines Mission Station at Coomeragunga and Warangesda, Sydney July 13th. 1891, p 34.

Jenny Johnston Swift

1.         Nancy Cato Mister Maloga (University of Queensland Press), 1993, p 190.

2.         Nancy Cato Mister Maloga (University of Queensland Press), 1993, p 191.

3.         This photograph is reproduced in Nancy Cato Mister Maloga (University of Queensland   Press), 1993.

4.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 10 June and 1 March 1894.

5.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 6 February 1894.

6.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 27 May 1894.

7.         Nancy Cato Mister Maloga (University of Queensland Press), 1993, p 191, Mission Managers’’ Diary, 6 February 1894.

8.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 3 July 1894.

9.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 3 June 1894.

10.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 10 June 1894.

11.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 8 October 1894.

12.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 4 July 1894.

13.       Fourteenth Annual Report of the Maloga Mission Station 1889 quoted in Nancy Cato Mister Maloga (University of Queensland Press), 1993, p 190.

14.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 1 August 1894.

Daisy Brown

1.         Note accompanying copy of a letter to Mrs Hannabus [from Mrs Janville] March 1892 in Mission Managers’ Diary.

2.         Copy of a letter to Mrs Hannabus [from Mrs Janville] March 1892 in Mission Managers’’ Diary.

3.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 7 August 1892.

4.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 9 August 1892.



1.         J B Gribble Diary, 2 April 1882.

2.         These ailments are all mentioned in Gribble Diary, Warangesda Mission Managers’’ Diary, APB Reports.

3.         APB Reports,  Mission Managers’’ Diary, 12 June 1895.

3a.       W P Carpenter to Chief Inspector Department of Public Instruction, 2 December 1886; G O’B. to Chief Inspector, 5 December 1886 and annotations; Warangesda School File 5/18018.2. State Records of NSW

4.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 23 July 1895.

5.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 September 1894.

6.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 2 June 1894 [coffin for Nora Keilor].

7.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 7 and 20 June 1892.

8.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 9 June 1892.

9.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 5 December 1892 [coffin for Lilly Edwards].

10.       Jeff King, landholder Warangesda 1993, quoted in P Kabaila Warangesda – Archaelogical Reconstruction of an Aboriginal Mission, BA Hons. Thesis ANU 1993, p 50.

11.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 12 December 1894.

12.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 22 January 1893.

13.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 3 July 1894.

14.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 19 February 1897.

15.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

16.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

17.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

18.       Mission Managers’Diary, 3 March 1895.

19.      Mission Managers’ Diary, 19 November 1892.

20.     Gribble Diary.

21.      Mission Managers’ Diary, 27 October to 5 November 1891.

21a.     Report by John G Treseder of his Visit to the Aborigines Mission Station at Coomeragunga and Warangesda, Sydney July 13th. 1891, p 34.

22.       W Carpenter, G Ardill in Visitors’ Comments 27 March [1891], Mission Managers’’ Diary.

23.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 27 February 1894.

24.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 29 May 1894.

25.       APB Reports for these years.

26.       APB Report for 1904, p 10.

27.       APB Report for 1899, p 16 and 1909, p13.

28.       APB Report for 1905.

29.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 16 March 1895.

30.       APB Report for 1914, p 12.

31.       APB Report for 1899, p 17.

32.       APB Report for 1903, p 7.

33.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 6 February 1896.

34.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 10 January 1896.

35.       APB Report for 1908, p13.

36.       APB Report for 1914, p 11.

37.       Graeme Dawson, J W McCarty, Ailsa McCleary eds.  Australians 1888, Fairfax, Syme and Weldon Associates 1987, p 334.

37a.     Mission Managers’ Diary, 1888.

38.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 1894.

39.       APB Report for 1899, p 11.

40.       APB Report for 1904, p 10.




2         Sydney Morning Herald, 13 December 1909. p.6



1.  Transcript of interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 23 October 1985, p 8.

Note re termination of services of Mr H S Trottman, teacher, Warangesda, 31 December 1924, Warangesda School File 5/18018. State Records of NSW

2.         APB Report for 1898, p 13.

3.         J B Gribble Diary, 27 November 1883.

4.         APB Report for 1891, p 22c.

5.         Warangesda Mission Managers’ Diary, 12 January 1895.

6.         These included grubbing out stumps, scrubbing out the Church and reading out apologies in Church – see Chapter 7 Law and Order.

7.         Transcript of interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 23 October 1985, p 3.

8.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 11 June 1893.

9.         Gribble Diary, 27 February 1882.

10.       Gribble Diary, 18 July 1883.

11.       Mission Managers’ Diary.

12.       Gribble Diary, 1 December 1883.

13.       Gribble Diary, 12 January 1882.

14.       APB Report for 1883-84, p 5.

Mr Whalley

Manager 1893

1.         Warangesda Mission Managers’ Diary.

2.         Mission Managers’ Diary.

3.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 26 April.

4.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 9 March.

5.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 14 March.

6.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 15 March.

7.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 14 April.

8.         Mission Managers’ Diary.

9.         Mission Managers’ Diary.

10.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 4 May.

11.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 4 May.

12.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 4 May.

13.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 10 May.

14.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 17 May.

15.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 26 May and 3 July.

16.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 18 July.

17.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 11 August.

18.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 5 July.

19.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 28 May.

20.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 15 June.

21.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 13 October.

Mr Harris

Manager November 1893 to November 1895

1.         Warangesda Mission Managers’’ Diary, 2 November 1893.

2.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 8 November 1893.

3.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 24 May 1894.

4.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 3 June 1894.

5.         Mission Managers’ Diary,  24 December 1894.

6.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 25 June 1894.

7.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 6 June and 3 July 1894.

8.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 18 June 1895.

9.         Mission Managers’ Diary, 10 April 1895.

10.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 11 July 1894.

11.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 20 July 1894.

12.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 29 June 1894.

13.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 12 January 1895.

14.       Mission Managers’ Diary, 18 April 1895.

15.       APB Report for 1895, Appendix J.


Aborigines Protection Board Reports, Votes and Proceedings New South Wales Legislative Assembly

Buxton, G. L., The Riverina 1861 to 1891 – an Australian Regional Study, MUP, 1967

Cato, Nancy  Mister Maloga  University of Queensland Press  1993

Darlington Point School Centenary 1882-1982, DarlingtonPointSchool Centenary  Committee , Griffith, 1982

Dawson, Graeme, J W McCarty, Ailsa McCleary eds.  Australians, 1888, Fairfax, Syme and Weldon Associates 1987, p 334.

Edwards, Isobel, Transcript of interview with Mrs Isobel Edwards, 23 October 1985

Gammage, W.Narrandera Shire, Narrandera Shire Council NSW 1986

Gribble J. B., “Black But Comely” or Glimpses of Aboriginal Life in Australia, Morgan and Scott, London 1884

Gribble John Brown, Diary in Gribble J. B., Collected Papers 1873-1905, MS 1514 AIATSIS

Illustrated Sydney News, 12 May 1883. Harris, Walter Kilroy, Outback in Australia (Garden City Press), 1913,

Kabaila, P.Warangesda – Archaelogical Reconstruction of an Aboriginal Mission, BA Hons thesis, ANU, 1993

King, P. G. and Fosbery E Report of Commission of Enquiry into the Aboriginal Mission Stations at Warangesda and Maloga

Kubank, L.A., The Warangesda Mission, PMS 5382 AIATSIS

Matthews Daniel, Maloga Aboriginal Mission Reports NLA MS  2195

National Archives of Australia A101 B 1904/473 Aborigines Right to Vote

National Archives of Australia Series B2455           First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920

Read, Peter 100 Years War, ANU Press 1988,

Ronald, R. B., The Riverina – people and properties, 1960

Thorn, Barbara (Ed.) Letters from Goulburn,Canberra 1964

Returns showing particulars of men of aboriginal origin, parentage who enlisted to serve abroad with the AIF presented by the Board for Protection of Aborigines, Sydney, 10/8/1932, AWM 27, 535[7].

Treseder, John G., Report by John G Treseder of his Visit to the Aborigines Mission Station at Coomeragunga and Warangesda, Sydney July 13th. 1891. AIATSIS PMS 4606

Warangesda Mission Managers’ Diary NLA MS 1791

WarangesdaSchool File 5/18018. State Records of NSW




Philippa  Scarlett


Since writing this and its publication in the Journal of the Blacktown and District Historical Society (Spring edition 1995) I was put in touch with Mick Murray grandson of Jenny’s daughter Florence Methven nee Johnson and have learned about and met some of Jenny’s many descendants. I’ve also found that Florence was in the Warangesda girls’ dormitory before service on the South Coast and marriage to Thomas Methven.

I am particularly pleased that my research has led to the inclusion of Jenny, now recognised as a daughter of William Locke,  and her descendants in Darug genealogies created by Jim Kohen and published by the Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation.

Philipppa Scarlett 2013

Jenny Swift was born in Blacktown in 1858, the daughter of Lucy – no other name known – and William Locke, farmer.1 Although neither Jenny nor her mother are listed in Darug genealogies, it is possible that Jenny is the daughter of the William Lock – son of Maria Lock of Blacktown – who later married Sarah Ann Castles. Birth, death, marriage and baptism records indicate the existence, in nineteenth century New South Wales, of a number of William Lock[e]s in addition to William Lock son of Maria. While none of these William Lockes married a Lucy, this does not exclude the possibility that one could be the father of Jenny Swift, whose lack of birth registration as Jenny Locke points to the probability that she was born out of wedlock. But nor can the paternity of William Lock son of Maria, be ruled out. Rather it can be given qualified support by a number of circumstances which make it possible to link him with Jenny Swift. In addition to Jenny’s birth place, the fact that Jenny was an Aboriginal woman, even in the absence of information about Lucy, can connect her with this William Lock. Sarah Castles’ age – only eleven when Jenny was born – in contrast with William’s twenty four years, also lends weight to this supposition. This makes it possible to interpret Jenny Swift’s birth as the result of a casual or closer relationship between William Lock and Lucy, terminated perhaps by Lucy’s death and ending in the years between Jenny’s birth and the formation of William Lock’s long term association with Sarah Castles – whose first child was born in 1862. It is also possible to see the fact that William Lock, son of Maria, laboured on land owned by the Lock family, as compatible with the description of Jenny Swift’s father as a farmer.

If, after Jenny’s birth there were any association between Jenny and her father’s family, this  would only have been brief.  The possibility is that Jenny was taken from William’s family, never in their care, or assuming her father to be the son of Maria Lock, her presence was incompatible with William Lock’s relationship with Sarah Castles. But what ever actually took place, Jenny in later years was described as and may have believed herself, an orphan from an early age, who had spent most of her childhood at the School of Industry Home for Girls in Petersham.  Here she received some education and training for domestic service, which she entered probably at about age fourteen.  But by the time she was sixteen she had abandoned her position and married an African American, James Johnstone by whom she had two children – a daughter Florence and a still born son. After several years she left Johnstone because of his violent behaviour and then drifted in the streets of Sydney and its environs, gravitating to groups of other Aboriginal people – many of whom were then camping at the Government boatshed at Circular Quay, Manly beach, the LavenderBay scrub, the NorthShore,  Randwick and Botany Bay.  During this time she formed a second relationship, this time with an unnamed Aboriginal man, but was again ill treated. It was in this situation that she met Daniel Matthews founder of Maloga Mission near Echuca, who in August 1881 arranged for her to travel to Maloga with him and a group of twenty two other Aboriginal people he had collected from the Sydney area.2

At Maloga Jenny was quickly recognised and even feared by Matthews as a woman of superior intelligence and at times overly independent nature whose rebellious spirit, if harnessed,  would be an asset to his missionary endeavours. She soon became one of a select band of Aboriginal Christian converts who performed at mission church services and meetings and who travelled with Matthews to other locations in New South Wales and Victoria, to publicly testify for Christ and to promote Matthews’ missionary activities. In 1886 she married another member of this band, Paddy Swift who had been admitted to Maloga in 1882 from Wodonga and together they continued to assist Matthews with the religious life of the mission, singing, preaching and proclaiming.

When in April 1889 Matthews and his wife Janet –  frustrated by the takeover of the Maloga Mission establishment by the Aborigines Protection Association and its removal to Cummeragunga –  travelled to England to publicise the Aboriginal cause, they took Jenny and her husband  with them, as suitable representatives of the race they were attempting to “save”. Here Jenny and Paddy sang and addressed a string of indoor and outdoor meetings in and around London, ranging from a gathering of seventy women from the Inebriate Mothers Mission at Whitechapel to a congregation of five thousand at the Salvation Army Congress Hall in Claxton – and Jenny, described as “the first Aboriginal woman from Australia raising her voice for Christ in England”performed with distinction. She and Paddy who were said by Sir Henry Parkes, then New South Wales’ Colonial Secretary, to be “two of the most intelligent of the converted natives brought up under [Matthews’] care”4, had served the Matthews well.  Not only did they provide English audiences with an example of the end product of the Christian missionary process, but they even allowed themselves to be posed for a photograph – one clutching a spear, and both strangely garbed in skins and feather crowns – to pander to the preconceptions of the white society into which they had been thrust, which saw them not as individuals but as specimens of a curious race.  No doubt Matthews also hoped their presence would assist in restoring his reputation in England, which the Aborigines Protection Association in Australia was attempting to tarnish.

After their visit to England ended in October 1889, Jenny and her husband did not return as planned to Maloga with Janet Matthews who had accompanied  them on  the voyage home  – perhaps an indication of frictions beginning to develop during the sea voyage and their stay in England5. Instead they spent a short time at Cummeragunga whose administration remained hostile to Matthews. From there they went on to Wahgunyah near Rutherglen – already the scene of missionary activity by Matthews and his friend John Gribble – with the object of forming their own mission.They were also invited during 1890, to Queensland by the Brisbane Aborigines Protection Association, to help with new missionary efforts in that colony.But by this time the very characteristics which had enabled Jenny to perform so well in London and before that at Maloga, were instrumental in a widening rift between the Swifts and the Matthews. Ostensibly this was caused by reports of the Swifts having “backslidden” into alcohol and other vices.6 However the strength of purpose and growing self confidence which led Jenny and Paddy to set out for Wahgunyah were not in line with the behaviour Matthews required of his converts. Just as he had earlier observed of his Maloga people that “the acquisition of much money or success of any kind usually fills them with pride and makes them unemployable”7– so following the Swifts’ visit to England, he was critical of their “independent attitude”8 and at a later date he went on to make it clear, by implication, that the Swifts’ difficulties could be ascribed to their London visit – stating that the use of Aborigines in such missionary ventures was “fraught with danger as the blacks become vain at success, may be rebellious and unmanageable and eventually grievously fall.”9

Jenny and Paddy Swift’s “downfall ” does not seem to have  practically affected their standing with Matthews’ enemy the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Association, and in 1893 they were given positions at Warangesda Mission near Darlington Point, at that time still administered by the Association.  Jenny was appointed matron to the girls’ dormitory, no doubt on the strength of her experience with Matthews, and became the only Aboriginal woman recognised as dormitory matron at Warangesda in Aborigines Protection Association and Protection Board reports.  Paddy was appointed overseer and was also nominated by the manager to join a vigilance committee of Aboriginal men, created by the administration in an effort to counter serious unrest at the mission.  In addition Jenny  taught sunday school and tried to boost the declining attendances at the mission church, where Paddy preached regularly.

Jenny’s appointment as dormitory matron, a position usually reserved for a white woman, was evidence of recognition of her undoubted capabilities.However her time at Warangesda  did not work out well and it was during this relatively brief closing period of her life that despite  being converted and immersed in the mission process she ultimately defied it.

From 1893 her health began to cause problems for both herself and Paddy.  The epileptic fits which she suffered at Maloga – where during one fit she had bitten Matthews on the leg – continued  at Warangesda. The issue of drinking was raised again when Jenny was accused of taking  brandy on a trip to Narrandera – but she was cleared by a Warangesda people’s court when Paddy explained the drink was needed for his wife’s health. Her health and well being at this time were not helped by the physical conditions in the dormitory building which during the period of her appointment were appalling. This not only heightened the dormitory girls’ susceptibility to the diseases which ran like wildfire through the mission but made Jenny’s task, already a demanding, one, even more so. She soon became involved in a number of incidents with the girls and also with the manager, Mr G H Harris, who accused her of not keeping the girls clean and of neglecting to feed and to tend properly to the sick. In one altercation the manager wrote that she became “rather insulting “10 – his choice of words here differs from his usual complaints of insubordination and unpalatable language from mission residents – and he seems somewhat unnerved by her ability to criticise him. She was in fact probably sicker than most of her charges and close to death – something the manager must have been aware of – although in his complaints about her neglect of her duties he showed no compassion or hint that this was so. After she died at the age of thirty six, on 6 October 1894, he merely noted tersely “Mr Swift not evidently feeling his loss very much.”11

Jenny’s period at Warangesda prior to her death had witnessed a turning point in her life. Before her ill health forced her to stop work in July 1894, she announced her intention of quitting the mission and had earlier described the manager and all whites as hypocrites12 – a judgement which. with her extensive experience, she was in a good position to make.  Her appointment as dormitory matron had put her in an invidious position.  Although she was required to exercise authority over what for many reasons was a difficult group, her authority was undermined by the fact that as an Aborigine she by definition lacked the quality of respect the manager gave to her white counterparts.  It was the contradictions of her position in the dormitory and the difficulties she faced there which became the catalyst for the completion of her transition from favoured convert to one who rejected the mission and white society – a transition already in train when she and Paddy parted company with the Matthews.

As her health worsened, her body in the grip of tuberculosis, Jenny consulted the doctor at Narrandera, but did not prolong her visit, despite medical advice to do so  – because Paddy could not afford to keep her there or to stay with her – nor does any provision seem to have been made by the mission authorities to assist them. Instead in a gesture against the white society which had taken them up as ” converted Aboriginal natives…. who advocate their own claims and sing the gospel “13, a society which she recognised had used her and imbued her with Christianity, but had failed to treat her according to its teachings – she and Paddy camped together on the Narrandera sandhills, then returned to Warangesda where she died soon afterwards.

Jenny Swift’s life had taken her on a turbulent and eventful journey far from her birth place in Blacktown to her final resting place at Warangesda – where after a wild night of wind –  “so strong as to blow large trees down”14 she was buried on 7 October.Throughout her life there is no evidence of any contact with her father’s family, but the details given by her husband for her death certificate show she carried with her the knowledge of her parentage and place of birth. Information about her surviving child, Florence Johnstone has been hard to find.There is no record of her accompanying her mother to Maloga or of her presence at Warangesda. All that is known is that she was eighteen at the time of  her mother’s death. It would be interesting to know what happened to her and whether any of the qualities of independence and intelligence so apparent in Jenny Swift’s short life, themselves reminiscent of the determination and ability of Maria Lock, have been passed to further generations.

 Jenny Swift 1889

Detail from reproduction in Nancy Cato Mister Maloga. Original –  Museum of Victoria Norman Collection



1   These details are given in Jenny Swift’s death certificate [N.S.W.] The year of her birth is based on information in certificates for her second marriage [Victoria] and death.

2   Matthews D  Maloga Aboriginal Mission  7th Report 1881/82 pp16-17

3   Ibid  15th Report 1888/89 p20

4   Ibid  14th Report 1887/88 p iv

5   Matthews D Diary entries 1889 quoted in Cato N Mister Maloga University of Queensland Press 1993 p189, p191

6   FA Hagenaur, Missionary, Ramahyuck Aboriginal Station, Gippsland to the Editor, the Southern Cross 6th September  1890

Matthews D Maloga Aboriginal Mission 16th Report 1890/91 p41, p48

7   Ibid  13th Report 1887/88 p9

8   Ibid  16th  Report  1889/90  p42

9   Ibid  18th Report 1893 p38

10 Warangesda Mission  Managers’ Diary 3 June 1894

11 Ibid  8 October 1894

12 Ibid  9, 7 June 1894

13 Matthews D  Maloga Aboriginal Mission  14th Report 1888/89 pvii

14 Warangesda Mission Managers’ Diary 7 October 1994


Aborigines Protection Board Report for 1895  Votes and Proceedings New South Wales Legislative Assembly Vol 3 1896 p405

Births, deaths and marriage Registrations  New South Wales and Victoria

Brook J and Kohen J The Parramatta Native Institution and the Black Town A History New South Wales University Press Kensington 1991

Cato N  Mister Maloga  University of Queensland Press  1993

Kohen J  The Darug and their neighbours : the traditional Aboriginal owners of the Sydney region   Darug  Link in association with the Blacktown and District Historical Society  1993

Matthews D   Maloga Aboriginal Mission  7th – 18th Reports 1881 – 1893 NLA MS  2195

Matthews D  Diary April 1881 – August 1881 NLA MS 2195

New South Wales  Pioneer Series- Births Deaths Marriages 1788-1918  CD Rom NLA                                                                             

Newspaper clippings-Aboriginal subjects  [particularly Maloga Mission] NLA MS 2195

Todd L  A   Place like Home Growing up in the School of Industry 1915 – 1922 Hale & Ironmonger 1987

Warangesda Mission Managers’ Diary NLA MS 1791


12 Responses to Warangesda

  1. Rob La Nauze says:

    Dear Phillippa, I have read your blog on Warangesda with great interest and wonder if you can assist me in locating information concerning the Manager and his family who came immediately after Gribble. His name was the Rev Robert Thwaites. Are there Manager’s records for Warangesda for the period 1885-86? My interest arises from research into the Thwaites family. Robert came to Warangesda from the Framlingham mission in the western district of Victoria where, within the context of the times, he seems to have been a sympathetic mission manager. Best wishes Rob

  2. Noel Doyle says:

    Juanita Daphne Howard, daughter
    Born. Hay, N.S.W, maybe aboriginal
    Emily alma Howard, mother
    Born.1903, maybe aboriginal
    George Howard, grandfather
    Born.1860, maybe aboriginal

    have you come across these names in your research.

    • I haven’t come across them. Have you any evidence they were Aboriginal? There was a white missionary Howard family in the are in the 1880s

    • Adam K says:

      Hi Noel, Juanita was my direct great great-grandmother, and this families history has been told that she was part of the stolen generation and was taken into the missionary as a baby, she was adopted by the Howard family. I would welcome more information or evidence if it is available

  3. Hi Phillipa,
    Do you know when Paddy Swift passed away? Did he have surviving children? He was born on the same Country and was from the same tribe as my Ancestors. Ive been trying to track all people pertaining to Wangaratta.

    • Paddy died in 1922 in Tumbarumba. He was from the Pangarang people rom the Ovens River. Is this the country of your people ?He did have children but they had no descendants. Would like to hear more about your connection

      • Did he? That’s Wolgalu country. I wonder what he was doing there… I was only at Bringenbrong about three weeks or so ago. My Ancestors were born at Oxley in around 1820 – 1844 but they weren’t Pangerang . You assisted me greatly when I first started researching , especially with Edith Brangy from Coranderrk/ Warangesda / Bruegel.

      • You helped me too if this is your ancestor who appears in my book on Aboriginal WW1 volunteers
        BREWER George 1139 POB Wangaratta Vic POE Wangaratta Vic
        Source Grandson of Frank Brangie/Brangy of Oxley and Coranderrk Vic: Megan Carter, Brangy descendant, Woy Woy NSW.
        Paddy was working in Tumbarumba . He himself said he was Nanga aka Pangarang and came from The Hermitage Ovens River.

      • That was me ☺️ I was at the Hermitage not to long ago too. I did a bit of investigation of all the homesteads- Hermitage, Reidsdale , Bringenbrong and attempted Bontharambo and Whorouly . Kitty Brangy , Brangys daughter, was David Reid’s nurse at the Hermitage. The ‘ Nanga’ reference has been food for thought and pondered about the full transcript of this interview because It’s also a Pallanganmiddang word . I wonder, Philipa – did you locate a death certificate for him per chance? I lost track him after he was at La Parouse.

  4. His death is easily located online at NSW BDM site. Certificate detail was filled in by someone with no knowledge of his life – said he was from the Monaro. I’d be interested to know why you are tracking him. He was at La Perouse but did not lived there just preached. Sorry abot late reply have only found your comment

  5. Paddy Swift was included in a list of Aboriginal people at Lake Moodemere.he was living with many of my direct ancestors ; Charlie Barber, Kitty Brangy, Old
    Mary . Brangy’s uncle, Thomas Bamfield was petitioning the Aboriginal Protection Board for shelter and Swift was a co-sign. Whilst undoubtedly Lake Moodmere has refugees from other tribes camping there, the majority of people were North Eastern people.

    I’m tracking him , and those on the list because I think there is a link between him and my ancestors.

    He died in a small place called Ournie on a run called Karara. This run is opposite a place called Pine Mountain or Yabberin . It’s an initiation place. There is a travelling stock route opposite this run full of scar and ring trees and lagoons full of bunyips.
    He was horse training up there.
    I see that daisy Swift was put out to service near Whitton – did she survive ? I found a newspaper article last week about Florence Johnson in Wahgunyah. She was in survive to the local Police Sergeant Lyon when she was 17.

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