Monthly Archives: May 2019

Let’s Celebrate Simon Wonga Day on May 24


I HAVE WRITTEN before about how Simon Wonga developed a plan for the survival of the Kulin people in the 1840s.
This was for them to learn agricultural and stock mustering skills in order to establish an economic base in the new world they faced.
Wonga organised the last ever Kulin Nation corroboree in 1852 and gave his people the opportunity to play all their traditional games and thereby say goodbye to tribal life.

I have also told the story of how Wonga Park got its name, in tribute to Wonga’s stock mustering skills and charismatic leadership.
He was a great man, and to me Simon Wonga stands alongside Sir John Monash as the two greatest Victorians in our State’s history.
Perhaps you might agree with me when you hear a brief account of how he secured a government grant of land to establish Coranderrk Station at Healesville in 1863.
It was an achievement against all odds that showed his strategic brilliance.

Wonga’s father Billibelleri was Headman of the five Kulin tribes from 1836 until he died in 1846.
Wonga was then 25 and had been groomed for leadership.
Not because he was Billibilleri’s son, but because his innate ability, character and knowledge made him the standout choice.
However, Wonga did not feel he was ready, so in 1846 the leadership passed to Billibelleri’s younger brother Berberry.
When the government approved the establishment of an Aboriginal Reserve at Pound Bend in October 1850, Wonga decided he was ready for leadership.
Berberry willingly stepped aside and Wonga then began activating his plan.
Unfortunately, gold was discovered at Warrandyte in 1851 which compromised the viability of the Reserve at Pound Bend.
A new Reserve was consequently declared at Woori-Yallock, only for gold to be found there as well.
However, the meagre gold at Warrandyte and Woori Yallock was soon vastly overshadowed by the discoveries at Ballarat and Bendigo.
Curiously, the Ballarat and Bendigo gold discoveries turned out to be an advantage to Wonga’s plans.
With workers deserting their employment and flooding to the goldfields, it inadvertently drove up Aboriginal work opportunities and wages.
Wonga was therefore able to get contract work for Aboriginal people on farms up the Plenty and Yarra valleys.
Wonga in fact won the contract to build the first public house in Warrandyte.
It is a pity his name is not commemorated in some way at the present day Warrandyte pub.
With the disbandment of the Native Police in 1853, William Barak joined Wonga at Wonga Park, where they met the Reverend John Green who had arrived in 1858.
The three of them were to develop a most fruitful relationship over the next sixteen years.

In February 1859, Wonga received information that a settler in the Upper Goulburn had abandoned his run.
Wonga knew it was prime land, so he led a deputation of Elders to see the Aboriginal Protector William Thomas.
The deputation also included my great-great-grandfather’s friend, Murrum-Murrum.
Thomas got approval for them to claim the land, so Wonga, Barak and others left Melbourne, to establish Acheron Station in March 1859.
They were later joined by Reverend Green and others from Woori Yallock.

Over the next two years, Wonga and the Kulin people made a great success of the venture, but they were ultimately cheated out of the land by neighbouring squatters Hugh Glass and Peter Snodgrass.
Glass, a land speculator, was the richest man in Victoria and Snodgrass a Parliamentarian, so draw your own conclusions.
The Kulin were forced onto bleak and inhospitable land near Cathedral Mountain, where people started dying like flies.
So in early 1863, Wonga, Barak and Green led the remnants of their group across the Great Dividing Range, via the Black’s Spur Songline, to present day Healesville where they claimed land there.
Wonga had learned his lessons well.

The demise of Pound Bend, Woori-Yallock and Acheron had shown him he would get nothing from the parliamentarians.
So he went over their heads. On May 24, 1863, which was Queen Victoria’s birthday, Wonga led an Aboriginal deputation to Government House.
They presented gifts of woven baskets, artefacts and possum skin rugs to Sir Henry Barkley for ‘The Good Queen Mother’ and the just married Prince of Wales.
Then Wonga presented a petition for the land at Coranderrk.
Immediately afterward Sir Henry summoned the government leader and told him in no uncertain terms that if the grant of land was not made immediately, ‘the Queen would not be happy’.
The result was that a month later the land grant at Coranderrk was duly approved.
Over the next decade Coranderrk became socially and economically the most successful Mission in Australian history, until Wonga died in 1874.

So to me, May 24 is not Empire Day, it is Wonga Day and it should be fittingly celebrated as the start of Reconciliation Week each year.

Pens down for Pascoe


AFTER 43 YEARS of faithful service to the Warrandyte Cricket Club, long-time 1st XI scorer and club volunteer Ann Pascoe has decided to pack away her signature coloured pens and step away from official club duties.
One of the Warrandyte community’s longest serving sports volunteers, Ann’s combined years of service between Norwood and Warrandyte tallies up to five decades.
For 43 years, Warrandyte’s 1st XI enjoyed immaculate scorebooks thanks to Pascoe’s signature coloured pens and impeccably neat handwriting, along with the use of her own symbols for ducks, wides, leg byes, et cetera.
Her involvement with the club began in 1977, when husband, Steve Pascoe crossed from Norwood to take up the club’s first coaching position.
Ann took up the scoring for the 1st XI, and has been doing it ever since.
Renowned league-wide for her well-kept books, Pascoe also held the positions of Treasurer and Secretary.
With such a unique approach to scoring, Ann admits the idea of using multi-coloured markers came from overseas.
“Coloured pens came into it around the 90’s — I scored over in Windsor, England and they had an elderly gentleman score for them.
“He scored in coloured pencils and I thought that’s a good idea, so I came home and started doing it here,” she said.
Ann achieved life membership at both Warrandyte and the Ringwood District Cricket Association in 1993, and holds the distinction of being the first and only female on the league’s life member honour board.
After approximately 550 games, 95,000 runs, 4,600 wickets and three 1st XI premierships, Ann has seen just about all there is to see on the cricket field including almost 200 players come through the ranks of the club’s top-tier.
“The club’s part of my life.
“I’ve seen a lot of those kids grow up — a lot of them weren’t even born when I first started there — it’s been good, but it’s time to give it up.”
However, the end of an era doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Ann’s involvement with the club, stating that she still intends to watch her beloved firsts on a Saturday afternoon, taking a deserved break
“It’s not like I’m not going to be around the club, I just don’t want to sit for six hours and score and concentrate for however many overs.
I still want to be involved — I just want to sit there and watch them play.”
An extract from the RDCA Annual Report of 2001/2002 remarked that: “It is unlikely there would be many scorers throughout the cricket world with greater longevity.”
This statement stood the test of time as it would be a further 18 years before Pascoe only recently announced that she was vacating the scorer’s chair.
With the thanks of an eternally grateful 1st XI side, and the club overall, Ann fittingly scored her last game against Norwood in the last round of the season and brought to a close one of the more remarkable careers in Warrandyte sport.