Thursday, 12 August 2021
On this date 200 years ago, a Gadigal man named Nanbarry died, and I'm pleased to have his name recorded by Hansard for the first time on this the bicentenary of his death. Nanbarry was laid to rest by his friend the convict brewer James Squire and was buried, at his own request, in the same grave as this continent's first foreign envoy, Bennelong. As the Australian historian Dr Keith Vincent Smith notes, 'There could be no greater mark of respect.'
Nanbarry was brought into the Sydney colony as a nine-year-old boy suffering smallpox eruptions from head to toe. He was taken into the surgery of John White at the Rocks and nursed back to health. He was nursed by another Gadigal man, Arabanoo, who was being held in chains and forced to learn English so he could be used to act as a translator. Arabanoo also contracted smallpox and died. Both of Nanbarry's parents died of smallpox, a disease that killed 50 per cent of the Sydney Aboriginal clans and an unknown number west of the Blue Mountains.
Nanbarry joined Matthew Flinders on his 1803 to 1804 circumnavigation of the continent he would name 'Australia'. King Bungaree remained on board for the entire voyage. Flinders called them both 'fine Australians'.
When Bennelong returned from London he was invited by James Squire and 100 Aboriginal people to share the 30-acre land grant that Squire had been given. They farmed that land cooperatively and grew it into a 1,500-acre land grant: a testament to positive race relations and a symbol to all modern-day Australians of what can be achieved when we work together in a spirit of friendship and when our First Nations people are provided opportunity and care, dignity and hope.