When reading the book ‘Warrior’ from Libby Connors I came across a reference of a Dutchman killed by Aboriginal people in February 1859 in Moreton Bay, Brisbane. At this time, this was still part of NSW as the separation of Queensland only happened later that year. The Dutchman was of a party of three the other two were Robert Collins alias Bob Hunter and a man called Morgan, he was referred to in one newspaper article as American. They were all three killed in the attack.
The name of the Dutchman (Holland man) is perhaps Charles, but we don’t know. The only other bit of information about him is as mentioned in the newspaper: The Holland man was a net maker. Morgan told the men they were to have £3 a week each from Mr. Harvey. He told an untruth—they had spent the foreigner’s money, and they were bad friends because Morgan had deceived them.
The murder of the three men needs to be seen in the context of the Border Wars that were taken place between the Aboriginal owners of the land and the white settlers who increasingly took away more and more of their land. The Border Wars in Queensland were amongst the fiercest in the country. This involved a clash of two legal systems on the one hand British Law and on the other hand Aboriginal Law, the latter involved retribution for the killing and the confiscation of Aboriginal territory where they lived, held their ceremonies and sacred sites and where they hunted and collected food.
Obviously these two systems were irreconcilable and of course the one supported by superior weaponry had the power to force their system upon the other. What furthermore worked against the Aboriginal people was that in court they could not speak for themselves and had to be represented by a white person and evidence from other Aboriginal people did not have any standing in court, so the system was very much tilted against the native population.
Of course there were no Aboriginal people as we currently see them. As from time immemorial there were distinct tribes throughout the region and they all had their individual allegiances and peace treaties and others where seen as their enemies. In the newspaper articles below you can read in between the lines that some tribes worked with the whites in order their improve their position and status, while others fiercely opposed the occupation. This lack of unity also worked against a more united stand against the white invaders.
Brisbane started as a penal settlement in 1825 and it was not until the 1860 and 1870s before the colonists started to take full control over these border regions. It is estimated that over 65,000 Aboriginals were killed during these wars and approximately 1,500 white people. The region of SE Queensland was one of the most densely populated areas of Australia during Aboriginal times. As a consequence there have been more clashes between white and black people here than anywhere else in Australia.
There is very little recognition for the fact that for more than 40 years Aboriginal people were able to fight back against the occupation of their lands and the enormous price these people had to pay for defending Country.
The murder of this Dutchman together with two other persons of whom we do have the names needs to be seen in the context of this war and the Aboriginal legal system of retribution.
During my research on the event I came across these articles in Trove, the digital library of the Australian National Library. The above information is important before reading the newspaper articles below from 1859, as these of course very much reflect the sentiment of the white settlers at that time. The Moreton Bay Courier was continuously urging for stronger forces to submit the Aboriginal population and had no interest in the position of the native population.
The 2nd and 3rd articles mention the Dutchman. As far as I know this is the only Dutchman that became a victim of these Border Wars. During the 17th century a few Dutchmen were killed by Aborigines when they explored the west and north coast of the continent.
Paul Budde, 2022