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Description of Aboriginal Natives

Newcastle 1818

Following is a description of the Aboriginal people of the Newcastle district written by traveller and author W.B. Cramp who arrived in New South Wales as a passenger on the convict ship Lady Castlereagh on 30 April 1818.........

The town of Newcastle is situated about seven miles up the river, called the Coal River, in consequence of coals being found there in great abundance, of very good quality. This town is a place where all are sent to that prove refractory, or commit any crimes or misdemeanours in the colony, and is much dreaded by the convicts as a place of punishment.

Newcastle is the last settlement to the northward of Sydney; the natives are black, and appear to be a most miserable race of people: they live entirely naked, both men, women, and children, and they possess not the least shame. They carry fish and game to the different towns and villages inhabited by the English, which they barter for bread, tobacco, or spirits; they are, in general, of a light make, straight limbed, with curly black hair, and their face, arms, legs, and backs are usually besmeared with white chalk and red ochre. The cartilage of their nose is perforated, and a piece of reed, from eight to ten inches long, thrust through it, which seamen whimsically term their spritsail-yard.

They seem to have no kind of religion; they bury their dead under ground, and they live in distinct clans, by the terms Gull, Taury Gull, or Uroga Gull, etc. They are very expert with their implements of war, which are spears made of reed, pointed with crystal or fish bone; they have a short club made of iron wood, called a waday, and a scimeter made of the same wood. Those inhabiting the coast have canoes; but the largest I ever saw would not hold more than two men with safety.

Their marriage ceremony is truly romantic; all the youth of a clan assemble, and are each armed with wadays; they then surround the young woman, and one seizes her by the arm, he is immediately attacked by another, and so on till he finds no combatant on the field, and then the conquering hero takes her to his arms
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Cramp, W.B., Narrative of a voyage to India; of a shipwreck on board the Lady Castlereagh; and a description of New South Wales. London, 1823