The location of the grave of Matthew Finders (1774–1814) has been identified in Euston, England. Flinders was the first British person to circumnavigate the continent of Terra Australis, in the early 1800s, and he was the one who suggested the name Australia. His cat, Trim, is well-known for accompanying Flinders on this trip.
Trim even had a novel, written by Bryce Courtenay, named after him (Matthew Flinder’s Cat, 2002)—and there is a statue of Trim outside the Mitchell Library in Sydney, with an epitaph from Flinders himself, extolling: TRIM. The best and most illustrious of his race. The most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants,and best of creatures. So Matthew Flinders, and his cat, have significant places in contemporary Australian history.
Flinders was initially charged with mapping the ‘Unknown Coast’, part of what is now South Australia, from the Great Australian Bight to the Victorian border. He is particularly remembered through various locations and institutions bearing his name in South Australia, by the naming of Flinders Street in Adelaide, the suburb of Flinders Park, the Flinders Ranges, Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island, the Flinders Highway from Port Lincoln to Ceduna, Flinders Island, the Flinders University of South Australia and the Flinders Medical Centre. We cannot forget him!
Meanwhile, the Australian Government proposes a novel way to commemorate the voyage of another significant British figure, James Cook (1728-1779), who sailed up the eastern coast of Australia in HMS Endeavour in 1770. But, bizarrely, the proposal is for a replica Endeavour to circumnavigate the continent in 2020, even though Cook never sighted the southern or western coastlines of this continent. Apparently, folks in SA, WA and the NT need to know about Cook, even though he figures nowhere in their local history.
Cook is honoured in the naming of a plethora of sites, both in Australia and in other places. Why, the very electorate in southern Sydney which is represented by our current Prime Minister, is named Cook! There is a life-size statue of James Cook in Hyde Park in central Sydney, and a monument at Cook’s landing place at Botany Bay in southern Sydney, as well as James Cook University in Queensland.
Internationally, we can point to the Cook Islands, the Cook Strait which separates the two islands of Aotearoa New Zealand, and the Cook Inlet in Alaska (he visited there in 1778). Aoraki, the highest mountain in A-NZ was given a “white” name honouring Cook and another Mount Cook sits on the border between Alaska and the Yukon of Canada. The American 1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial half-dollar carries his image. Nobody can forget Cook!
Meanwhile, King Bungaree of the Kurringgai Peoples accompanied Flinders on his 1798 voyage to explore what we know as Bass Strait, and again on the 1801-1803 circumnavigation of the continent. Flinders, writing A Voyage to Terra Australis (1814), noted that Bungaree was “a worthy and brave fellow” who, on multiple occasions, saved the expedition.”
Bungaree continued his association with exploratory voyages when he accompanied Phillip Parker King to north-western Australia in 1817 in the Mermaid. Wikipedia notes that he is remembered in the naming of Boongaree Island, off the Kimberley coast of WA, and the Brisbane suburb of Bongaree, on Bribie Island in Queensland. And, “in 2017, a Sydney ferry was named Bungaree.”
But there is no Bungaree statue, no memorial, no university, no strait or island bearing his name. The co-chair of NAIDOC Week, John Paul Janke, has tweeted that we should honour Bungaree as the first indigenous person to circumnavigate the continent. Maybe there’s a project for Scott Morrison and co?
And then, there is Yemmerrawanne, a Wangal man of the Eora people, who was described by Watkin Tench, in his work, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson (1793), as a “good-tempered lively lad” who became “a great favourite with us, and almost constantly lived at the governor’s house”.
Yemmerrawanne was chosen to accompany Bennelong and Arthur Phillip on a trip to England in 1792. Yemmerrawanne never returned home. After a long illness, he died from a lung infection on 18 May 1794 at the home of Mr Edward Kent at South End, Eltham in the county of Kent.
He was buried in the village churchyard of St John the Baptist, now part of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, southeast of London. Yemmerrawanne was only nineteen. The current location of his remains is unknown. The gravestone’s location is known, but it has been moved several times since his burial, so tracing back to the original site presents difficulties.
John Paul Janke has suggested we need to work harder to find the remains of Yemmerrawanne. Someone must know. So, once again, this would be a fine investigative history project for the Federal Government to undertake. But will they pay any attention to the story of Yemmerrawanne?
Rev. Dr John Squires was formerly Principal of Perth Theological Hall. He is currently undertaking an Intentional Interim Ministry with Queanbeyan Uniting Church.