The South East Area Consultative Committee has recently published a very comprehensive  "Indigenous  Services Guide for South East NSW. The Logo (left) links to their site where contact details will be found for obtaining this resourceor contact Claudine Lovett, email:

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Taken from the book "Bermagui - A Century of Features and Families"
by Ron Gaha and Judy Hearn

In the period 1797-1800, the Yuin or Coast Murring occupied territory from Cape
Howe to the Shoalhaven River and inland to the Great Dividing Range,
The population pre 1788 was estimated at about 11 000 between Cape Howe and
Batemans Bay, comprising two main tribes; Walbanja, north of Narooma, and
Dyiringanj from Narooma, south to Bega and west to the top of the range. Smallpox
epidemics in 1789 and 1830 plus tribal battles and some venereal disease from
whalers is believed to have reduced population by 95 percent, i.e. only about six
hundred survivors. Massacres by whites had little effect.
The Yuin are considered as the traditional owners of Wallaga Lake land. Yuin is
the general or generic name for all tribes from Merimbula to Port Jackson just as
lnuit (man) is adopted by the Eskimos in northern latitudes. More recently, the
name Koori, from the Sydney area language group, is becoming more popular to
describe the Aboriginal people as a race.
Water travel was by bark canoes usually two persons with small bark blades
paddling in a kneeling position, or smaller one person canoes, paddling by hand.
Burials usually took place in sand dunes where primitive stone axes have
sometimes been found. Most sacred sites have been identified on Forestry
Commission maps but a few others are claimed to be in and around Bermagui
Some aspects of the difficulty encountered by the Aboriginal people in their quest
for survival on the South Coast and/or adaptation to white laws are presented here
in sequence:-1830s:
The main aim was to prevent Gulaga, (Mt Dromedary) a sacred site, being
desecrated by removal of trees for building etc.

1841-47: Aboriginal population by Census


82 males

75 females



22 males

13 females



58 males

80 females



430 males

270 females

Moruya to Victoria


85 males

71 females


1850: Merriman's father, the most significant of the Wallaga Lake community
founders, died. Fortunately Merriman (Umbarra) was able to maintain the integrity of the community with regard to customs etc..1860s: Pastoral land was being fenced, preventing  access to  traditional tribal hunting grounds and ceremonial sites and sometimes fences were damaged, causing friction.

1870s : Miners were staking claims on Mt Dromedary, the sacred mountain. Some  contamination of full blood aborigines by white intrusion had commenced.

1880s : Adapting slowly to white activity, in many cases aiding settlement by way
of food and water sources, Yuin people worked at whaling and timber and on farms,
but not mining (taboo on sacred sites) They were employed seasonally and in
some cases owned land. They became involved in sporting activities, being natural

1882: Bega white population was about 1200, Aboriginal people were much less
numerous and lived in fringe areas of town which persisted for some years. The
Aborigines Protection Board was established in NSW.

 1887: They sought education so a school was established at Wallaga Lake.

1890: Fielded a cricket team which continued for many years. Queen Narelle or
Nerelle, wife of Merriman, died.

 1891: At Wallaga Lake the Aborigines Protection Board established 132 hectares
but inhabitants were virtual prisoners and far removed from their normal lifestyle.
Prices for all commodities were higher.

 The 1891 Census recorded the following household numbers for Wallaga Lake




H Bookellar
W Brierley
A Carter
W Chapman
L Green
D Johnson
R Macbored
J Mumbla
H Thomson
J Walker
E Walkerden
A Whyno



1894: While mining was taking gold worth $16 000 from Dromedary, the people at
Wallaga Lake were living on $1200 total per annum..1900: The Aborigines Protection Board severely restricted activities and forced Aborigines to be state dependent. After 1909 it forced  all able bodied  persons off the reserves to become farm laborers and domestic servants.

1904: King Merriman (Umbarra) of the Black Duck totem died.

1919: Jack Mumbler or Mumbulla (Biamanga) died. He and King Merriman ha71
initiated the last generation of men including Percy Davis, Marram (Murrum) Alf
Carter, Bickel (Bukel) Albert Thomas, and Eric Roberts (d. 1983).

1917 - 1941: Mr and Mrs Sampi supervised the Wallaga Lake Government Mission
station and supplied food and clothing. She taught sewing. child care and nursing
and was like a mother. The Sampis issued food, clothing materials and blankets
supplied from government stores in exchange for Aboriginal labour. The Sampis
left during World War Il. Aborigines at Wallaga Lake didn't move around much and
speared fish to supplement food, The fish were grilled on hot coals along with
cockles, which popped open to reveal red flesh. Roasted possum was another
delicacy captured by cutting toe holes to climb trees. Swans were caught by
swimming underwater, aided by reed tube. Fish were attracted by rubbing grease
on the hulls or sides of boats/canoes or caught by hand in the shallows.
The Depression put 85 percent out of work and many returned to the community.
Between 1921 and 1939 the population at Wallaga Lake rose from 73 to 159 and
by and large, were respected by the white population.
1940s: Seasonal labour picking beans, peas and corn, logging and mill work.
Common sight at Murrah was "King Billy" Hammond. grandson of Biamanga,
dropping in for tea (M Douch). He lived at Tarraganda in later life and picked corn
at Gowings.

1949: The Akolele area was excised from Wallaga Lake Reserve and sold to
developers without Aboriginal consent.

1950s: Aboriginal pick and shovel labour was used to initiate the water supply to
Bermagui from Mt Dromedary via Couria Creek. Arthur Thomas and Rex Morgan
(1916-1977) played Rugby League with Don Wills and other white friends against
local district teams. Rex's wife, Eileen (b 1922) was referee for this section of the

1960s: Aboriginal people picked beans for Art Riches and were good workers. The
houses at Wallaga Lake Reserve were renovated by Bill Crome and Art Riches.
Aborigines became citizens and thus eligible for social welfare benefits.

1970s: Some deterioration in attitude to white government. "King Billy" Hammond

1971: Aboriginal people were counted in the census for the first time. Neville
Bonner became the first Aboriginal member of any Australian parliament as
Senator for Queensland.

1974: Merriman Island in the centre of Wallaga Lake was the first Aboriginal site
of significance in NSW to be declared an Aboriginal Place under the National Parks
and Wildlife Act. About two hectares in area, it is just across the water from the
Wallaga Lake Community, led by Guboo Ted Thomas. Just after World War II,
Andy Bond (a veteran of WWI) was removed from his home at Wallaga Lake Heights and
given Merriman Island as a place to live - an impossible situation!

1976: Guboo Ted Thomas appeared in tribal livery for the Bermagui School

1978: Guboo Ted led campaign to stop logging on Mumbulla Mountain because
of intrusion into initiation sites.

 1980: Agreement was reached to establish an 1100 hectare area known as Biamanga Aboriginal  Place to be jointly managed.

1983: Aboriginal Land Councils set up at Batemans Bay, Mogo, Bodalla, Narooma
Wallaga Lake, Eden and Bega.

1989 : Arthur Thomas died. Good mate of Edgar Jaggers and DMR worker most
of his life.

1991 : Development application was submitted to Eurobodalla Shire Council for
cultural centre on Aboriginal land at Wallaga Lake. It contains displays of culture
and history Guided tours of sites and demonstrations of food and medicines.