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The Role of Guerrilla Fighter Truganini in Australian Diverse History

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Truganini was an important figure for Aboriginals during the establishing of contact between the English and Aboriginals during the initial establishment of civilisation on Van Diemen’s Land, now modern-day Tasmania. Truganini’s mission started when she was born in 1812 on Bruny Island, around 35 years after the English’s first contact with Australia on the First Fleet. Truganini is was an Ambassador, Guerrilla fighter and Survivor. Truganini had many rocky experiences with the European settlers resulting with all of her family being brutally murdered by the English and being exiled to Oyster Cove. Truganini was an important figure during the establishment of a European Colony in Van Diemen’s Land.

Truganini grew up on Bruny Island in the 1810s approximately 35 years after the European settlers “invaded” Australia on the First Fleet. She belonged to the South-East Tribe and she spoke a language called Nuenonne (Nyunoni). Truganini was at the young age of 11 in 1823 when Europeans established contact with Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). This contact was established by Sir George Arthur of the 1st Baronet who was the Governor for this mission from 1823 to 1837. During his time as Governor, many things happened he started, the campaign against Tasmanian Aboriginals, known as the Black War or the Guerrilla War. Wikipedia defines Guerrilla warfare as “Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military.” Britannica also defines the Black War as “the term applied to hostilities between Aborigines and white European soldiers and settlers on the Australian island of Tasmania (then called Van Diemen’s Land), which resulted in the virtual extermination of the original Aboriginal population of the island.” This campaign in fact started on Bruny Island where there had been fewer deaths. He implemented two polices to deal with the growing conflict between settlers and aboriginal peoples by executing the native people.

Truganini had a complicated experience of contact with the European settlers resulting in forming an alliance with George Augustus Robinson and being executed in Hobart in 1896. George Arthur awarded bounties for the capture of aboriginal adults and children. Wikipedia defines bounties as“a sum paid for killing or capturing a person or animal.” Another effort was made to establish friendly relations with Aboriginals in order to lure them into groups. Truganini started contact with a man named George Augustus Robinson in 1829. Robinson was the protector of the aboriginals. Truganini gained contact in an effort to save her family from the settlers. Along with Robinson, she moved her family to Flinders Island in 1830 with approximately 100 other aboriginal people. Although they thought this effort was fool proof, many died from the flu and diseases that were carried by the first settlers. In 1838, Truganini also helped Robinson to establish a settlement for mainland aboriginals at Port Phillip. After two years in Melbourne Truganini and two other men started a long pursuit, robbing and shooting people in the streets of Melbourne. They were Guerrilla fighters they participated in what is known now as the Black War. The two men were hung and Truganini was exiled and moved to a settlement in Flinders, then to Oyster Cove, South of Hobart in 1856 before her death in Hobart in 1876.

Truganini had a major impact on her friends and community including us as a nation to this day. After Truganini’s death in 1876 there were many peace keeping measures that were put in place. The government learned from the Guerilla Warfare and decided to leave the aboriginals alone. Many long-term impacts were made. We have aboriginal people in parliament, we have given rightful land back to the aboriginal peoples as well as us establishing national sorry day. Some social measures are people are accepting Aboriginals and indigenous peoples into their social groups and this event is also establishing peace between aboriginals and European settlers. An emotional example is National sorry day had been established for aboriginals to feel better about loved ones who they lost to this cause; this has also been running for 22 years now! A physical impact is giving back land that otherwise wouldn’t have been given back and now this land which we live on we are reminded how this was native aboriginal land initially. A short-term impact was settlers started their acceptance of Aboriginal peoples with the church. Aboriginals stopped warfare and started to try to keep the peace. The most important long-term impact is that Truganini has become the symbol of the struggle and survival of Tasmanian Aboriginals for both Aboriginal and white Tasmanians. Without Truganini Australia probably would have not been as accepting of Aboriginals as we are now.

In conclusion, Truganini has been an influential figure that Australia probably couldn’t have lived without. Truganini was a figure that Australia needed during the complicated time that the aboriginal people lived through. In this report I described the early life and contextualisation of the aboriginal life at the time, I went over Truganini’s experiences with the settlers and I also described the impacts. Truganini made Australia the place it is today, so we cannot take Aboriginal people or indigenous people for granted! 

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