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Truganini in 1870.
Born c. 1812
Bruny Island, Australia
Died 8 May 1876 (aged 63–64)
Hobart, Australia
Other names Truganini, Trucanini, Trucaninny, and Lallah Rookh
Known for Last surviving Tasmanian Aborigine
Relatives Very close to Ouray Ouray, if not her daughter.[1]

Truganini (c. 1812 – 8 May 1876) was a woman widely considered to be the last full blood Aboriginal Tasmanian (Palawa).

There are a number of other spellings of her name, including Trugernanner, Trugernena, Truganina, Trugannini, Trucanini, Trucaminni,[2] and Trucaninny.[3] Truganini was also widely known by the nickname Lalla(h) Rookh.[2]

Early life[edit]

Truganini was born in 1812[4] on Bruny Island, south of the Tasmanian capital Hobart, and separated from the Tasmanian mainland by the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.[1] She was a daughter of Mangana, Chief of the Bruny Island people. Her name was the word her tribe used to describe the grey saltbush Atriplex cinerea.[5]

When Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur arrived in Van Diemen's Land in 1824, he implemented two policies to deal with the growing conflict between settlers and the Aborigines. First, bounties were awarded for the capture of Aboriginal adults and children, and secondly an effort was made to establish friendly relations with Aborigines in order to lure them into camps. The campaign began on Bruny Island where there had been fewer hostilities than in other parts of Tasmania.

Truganini, seated right

In 1830, George Augustus Robinson, the Protector of Aborigines, moved Truganini and Woorrady to Flinders Island with the last surviving Tasmanian Aborigines, numbering approximately 100. The stated aim of isolation was to save them,[citation needed] but many of the group died from influenza and other diseases. Truganini also helped Robinson with a settlement for mainland Aborigines at Port Phillip in 1838.[6] After about two years of living in and around Melbourne they became outlaws, stealing from settlers around Dandenong before heading to Bass River and then Cape Paterson where members of their group murdered two whalers at Watsons hut then shot and injured other settlers around the area. A long pursuit followed where those responsible for the murders were captured, sent for trial then hanged in Melbourne. A gunshot wound to Truganini's head was treated by Dr. Hugh Anderson of Bass River before she and her party were sent to stand trial in Melbourne, resulting in her being sent back to Flinders Island. In 1856, the few surviving Tasmanian Aborigines on Flinders Island, including Truganini, were moved to a settlement at Oyster Cove, south of Hobart.[7][8]

Final years and legacy[edit]

Oral histories of Truganini report that after arriving in the new settlement of Melbourne and disengaging with Robinson, she had a child named Louisa Esmai with John Shugnow or Strugnell at Point Nepean in Victoria. Further, Truganini was from the bloodlines of Victoria's Kulin Nation tribes. Indeed, they hid the child from authorities hunting Truganini. After Truganini was captured and exiled, her daughter Louisa was raised in the Kulin Nation. Louisa married John Briggs and supervised the orphanage at Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve when it was managed by Wurundjeri leaders including Simon Wonga and William Barak. [9] According to a report in The Times she later married a Tasmanian known as "King Billy" who died in March 1871.[2] By 1873, Truganini was the sole survivor of the Oyster Cove group, and was again moved to Hobart. She died three years later, having requested that her ashes be scattered in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel; she was, however, buried at the former Female Factory at Cascades, a suburb of Hobart. Within two years, her skeleton was exhumed by the Royal Society of Tasmania and later placed on display.[10] Only in April 1976, approaching the centenary of her death, were Truganini's remains finally cremated and scattered according to her wishes.[11][12]

Truganini is often considered to be the last full-blood speaker of a Tasmanian language.[13] The Companion to Tasmanian History details three full blood Tasmanian Aboriginal women, Sal, Suke and Betty, who lived on Kangaroo Island in South Australia in the late 1870s and 'all three outlived Truganini.' There were also Tasmanian Aborigines living on Flinders and Lady Barron Islands. Fanny Cochrane Smith (1834–1905), outlived Truganini by 30 years and in 1889 was officially recognised as the last full blooded Tasmanian Aboriginal. Smith recorded songs in her native language, the only audio recordings that exist of an indigenous Tasmanian language.[4][14]

In 1997 the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, England, returned Truganini's necklace and bracelet to Tasmania. In 2002, some of her hair and skin were found in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and returned to Tasmania for burial.[15]

Cultural references[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Flannery, T.F. (1994) The Future Eaters: An ecological history of the Australasian lands and people Chatswood: New South Wales, ISBN 0-8021-3943-4
  2. ^ a b c "A royal lady - Trucaminni, or Lalla Rookh, the last Tasmanian aboriginal, has died of paralysis, aged 73. She was Queen Consort to King Billy, who died in March 1871, and had been under the care of Mrs Dandridge, who was allowed £80 annually by the Government for maintenance." The Times, Thursday, 6 July 1876; pg. 6; Issue 28674; col D
  3. ^ Colonial-era reports spell her name "Trugernanner" or "Trugernena" (in modern orthography, Trukanana or Trukanina). In 1869 the town of Truganini was established near Bendigo in Victoria; in 1870 that spelling was first used for Truganini's name.
  4. ^ a b Ryan, Lyndall (1976). "Trugernanner (Truganini) (1812–1876)". Australian Dictionary of Biography 6. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Ellis, V. R. 1981. Trucanini: Queen or Traitor. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. p.3
  6. ^ The Andersons of Western Port Horton & Morris
  7. ^ Gough, Julie Oyster Cove at Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, University of Tasmania
  8. ^ According to The Times newspaper, quoting a report issued by the Colonial Office, by 1861 the number of survivors at Oyster Cove was then 14:"...14 persons, all adults, aborigines of Tasmania, who are the sole surviving remnant of ten tribes. Nine of these persons are women and five are men. There are among them four married couples, and four of the men and five of the women are under 45 years of age, but no children have been born to them for years. It is considered difficult to account for this...Besides these 14 persons there is a native woman who is married to a white man, and who has a son, a fine healthy-looking child..." The article, headed ‘Decay of Race’, adds that though the survivors enjoyed generally good health and still made hunting trips to the bush during the season (after first asking "leave to go"), they were now "fed, housed and clothed at public expense" and "much addicted to drinking". The Times, Tuesday, 5 Feb 1861; pg. 10; Issue 23848; col A
  9. ^ Register of Births, Deaths & Marriages
  10. ^ Antje Kühnast: 'In the interest of science and the colony'. Truganini und die Legende von den aussterbenden Rassen. In: Entfremdete Körper. Rassismus als Leichenschändung [Alienated Bodies. Racism and the desecration of corpses]. Ed by W. D. Hund. Bielefeld: Transcript 2009, pp. 205 - 250. 
  11. ^ 'The Last Wish: Truganini's ashes scattered in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel', Aboriginal News, vol. 3, no. 2, 1976
  12. ^ Truganini Index of Significant Tasmanian Women, at Tasmania's Department of Premier and Cabinet, October 2011. Accessed 21 March 2012
  13. ^ Crowley, Terry; Thieberger, Nick (2007). Field linguistics: a beginner's guide. Oxford University Press, USA. 
  14. ^ "Fanny Cochrane Smith". Index of Significant Tasmanian Women, at Tasmania's Department of Premier and Cabinet. She is probably best known for her cylinder recordings of Aboriginal songs, recorded in 1899, which are the only audio recordings of an indigenous Tasmanian language.  . Accessed 21 March 2012
  15. ^ Barkham, P. and Finlayson, A. (2002-05-31). "Museum returns sacred samples". The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  16. ^ The Times, Saturday, 24 April 1886; pg. 4; Issue 31742; col E
  17. ^ The Times, Thursday, 22 October 1908; pg. 13; Issue 38784; col A

External links[edit]