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West Coast Aboriginal Escapes

Ruins of buildings at Sarah Island (AOT, PH30/1/4056)

Along the west coast from 1830, various captured Aboriginal people tried to flee from GA Robinson. Two Pieman River men, Wawrertorer and Penenebope, managed to escape on 22 July 1833 near Granville Harbour, surrendering later the same day: 'they laughed and seemed pleased they had joined their friends', wrote Robinson. Wyne, recently captured chief of the Pieman River area, was angry that these men had not killed Robinson's party when they had the chance. Three women, Tidderap of High Rocky Point, Toineburrer of Low Rocky Point and Wyerre of Port Davey, were captured in February 1833. They were placed on tiny Grummet Island one mile from Sarah Island, previously reserved for the worst convicts.

After repeated attempts to escape, the three women swam off in mid-March. They were recaptured mid-July at Point Hibbs within a group of seventeen people – family and friends they had been desperate to return to. Towterer, Chief of the Lowrenne people of Point Hibbs area, and his wife Wongerneep, escaped from Robinson's party in May 1833 without their three-year-old daughter Djuke. She had been named after Robinson whom the family had originally trusted. Towterer and Wongerneep gave themselves up three weeks later, Robinson writing that 'he [Toweter] said from the time his child was taken he had been in great grief'. Djuke was shipped to the Hobart Orphan Asylum where she died.

Further reading: N Plomley (ed), Friendly mission, Hobart, 1966; and Weep in silence, Sandy Bay, 1987.

Julie Gough