From the Curator
Through kinetic sculpture, projected footage and shadow work, Invoke | Inverse places the story of Lutruwita (Tasmania) Aboriginal Ancestors from the 19th century back in Country through a mechanically animated track that moves silhouette figures around the room, intermittently casting their travelling shadows onto a projection of Lutruwita Country. The watchtower in the room evokes an ever-present sense of colonial surveillance and control as the figures travel past.
The silhouettes represent the 26 remaining Big River and Oyster Bay people still at large in Country at the end of 1831 accompanied by some of their many dogs. A further group of tribal people, including Mannalargenna – one of Julie Gough’s Ancestors, met with these resistance fighters and accompanied them on their journey for Treaty. The entire group walked, with 100 of their dogs, between 31 Jan 1832—7 February 1832, from the high country of central Lutruwita to Hobart Town, to meet and negotiate with the Governor. After a short period in and near Hobart Town the group were permanently exiled to Wybalenna Aboriginal settlement on Flinders Island. The terms of the Treaty or agreement by which they disarmed and boarded the vessel has not surfaced. The installation presents Country as spectre, haunted grounds permanently bearing this still unresolved trek for justice.
“Following three decades of increasing violence between British colonists and the First People of Lutruwita (Van Diemen’s Land / Tasmania) the Government appointed ‘Conciliator of the Aborigines’, George Augustus Robinson, finally met with the last Big River and Oyster Bay tribespeople remaining at liberty, on 31 December 1831, at 'Platform Bluff' (now Skittleball Hill) by Little Pine River near Lake Fergus, after crossing the Big River (River Ouse) north of Lake Echo.
Mr. Robinson, as we had previously announced, made his triumphant entry into town with his party of blacks, amounting in all to 40, including 14 of his former domesticated companions, with the 26 of which the Oyster bay and Big river mobs were composed. They walked very leisurely along the road, followed by a large pack of dogs, and were received by the inhabitants on their entry into town with the most lively curiosity and delight. Soon after their arrival they walked up to the Government house, and were introduced to His Excellency, and the interview that took place was truly interesting…
Colonial Times, 14 January 1832
This group of 16 men, 9 women and one child “including the celebrated chief Montpeilliatter of the Big River tribe and Tongerlongter of the Oyster Bay tribe” determined to accompany Robinson to meet the Governor at Hobart Town.[i]
I have promised them a conference with the Lieut Gov’r and that the Governor will be sure to redress all their grievances.[ii]
The group reached the town of Bothwell on foot on 4 January 1832, where Robinson sent an update to the Governor:
On the 31st ultimo I succeeded in effecting a friendly communication with those sanguinary tribes. Their whole number was twenty-six viz 16 men, 9 women and one child, including the celebrated chief MONTPELIATTER of the Big River tribe and TONGERLONGTER of the Oyster Bay tribe… I fell in with these people thirty miles north-west of the Peak of Teneriffe. They were accompanied by about 100 dogs. When first I saw the natives I was not more than 100 yards from them…This is all that remains of both tribes. Tranquility is therefore (through the blessings of the Almighty) restored to the colony. They have placed themselves under my protection and are desirous for peace.
The following day Robinson received a Government instruction from the Colonial Secretary (5 January 1832) that diverged from his version of events:
The Police Magistrate at Bothwell having reported that the Big River and Oyster Bay tribes of aborigines have surrendered themselves to you I am directed by the Lieutenant Governor to request that you will forthwith bring them to Hobart Town, unless you have good reason for remaining at Bothwell to prosecute further measures. Every possible degree of humanity is to be exercised towards them, but at the same time every precaution should be taken to prevent their escape.
The colonial newspapers[iii], the Colonial Secretary, and Bothwell Police office began to term this a 'surrender'. However these people were not captured, and did NOT surrender, nor not relinquish their arms – spears, waddies or muskets, and they freely hunted game on the one week journey to Hobart Town, a walk of about 160 km, via Bothwell.
On 7 January 1832 the group walked into Hobart Town via the main thoroughfare, New Town Road, straight to Government House, now Franklin Square:
A full explanation then took place, and the result was that they agreed to accompany him to the Governor, who Mr. Robinson promised would readily comply with all their wishes and supply all their wants.
Colonial Times, 14 January 1832
This was not a surrender but a determined walk to Hobart to undertake Treaty negotiations with the Governor. One week after their arrival at Government House, on 14 February 1832, the group were deported on the brig Swan River Packet, to Wybalenna Aboriginal establishment on Flinders Island.
The peaceable departure to Flinders Island of this courageous group, who had desperately held-out as long as possible against increasing numbers of armed colonists, is evidence that an Agreement was reached. However its terms were apparently not recorded by the Governor, not acknowledged publicly, nor subsequently upheld.
Wybalenna was disbanded in October 1847, by which time there were only 47 survivors from more than 200 Aboriginal people exiled to Flinders island over a 17 year period.
There are four wooden posts that hold up a mechanism that moves a line around the room in a circular motion about 8 foot tall. On this moving line are silhouettes of people cut out that include men, women and children and dogs. They are in a state of movement, walking and running. On one of the walls of the room are bench seating and a surveillance tower that is reminiscent of colonial watch towers made from wood with a 360-viewing window, this tower holds a projector. On the opposite wall is a video that runs for approximately 20 mins which shows views of the artist's country in Lutruwita (Tasmania) and the site in which her Ancestors walked from. It shows rivers, bush scenes, creeks running, rocks and land formations. It is lush with green, brown, red and blue colours and green foliage at times. The mechanism carrying the silhouettes hanging down, form shadows that move across the landscape, like ghosts on their endless walk to Hobart.
Text in this research uses verbatim language of the early 19th century records.
Invoke | Inverse (2023)
Julie Gough (Trawlwoolway)
Video projection (4k, H262, 16:9, colour, sound, 23:13 mins)
Film Editor | Wanagi Zable-Andrews
Kinetic Fabrication | Dylan Sheridan
Joinery Fabrication | Aaron C Carter Carpentry and Art Installation
[i] Governor George Arthur (1784-1854). Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land from 1825 – 1836.
[ii] Report to the Colonial Secretary of the Colony of Van Diemen’s Land - George Augustus Robinson, 25 January 1832:
Having encouraged my aboriginal companions who had always heretofore evinced considerable fear in approaching these people whom they deemed the most savage of all the aboriginal tribes and by whom they said they would be surely murdered (a feeling which had induced them on several occasions to
lead me considerably astray), and part of them having promised to act faithfully towards me and to abide by whatever instructions I might give them, I was naturally led to hope that the time would soon arrive when this arduous and harassing undertaking would be terminated. I therefore proceeded at dawn of day on the following morning in quest of the said hostile aborigines and after travelling through much bad country on the 31st ultimo I succeeded in effecting a friendly communication with those sanguinary tribes. Their whole number was twenty-six viz. 16 men, 9 women and one child including the celebrated chief montpeilliatter of the Big River tribe and tongerlongter of the Oyster Bay tribe. I fell in with these people thirty miles north-west of the Peak of Teneriffe. They were accompanied by about 100 dogs. When first I saw the natives I was not more than 100 yards from them. I then halted my people and selected a part of the male friendly aborigines also the aboriginal female who was present at the murder of Captain Thomas, and desired them to inform the hostile natives that I was near them. On the 1st instant I set out on my return back to Lake Echo accompanied by the whole of the tribes above mentioned and having been joined by the rest of my people at Bashan Plains I arrived at this station yesterday afternoon. This is all that remains of both tribes. Tranquility is therefore (through the blessing of the Almighty) restored to the colony and the people are treated as human beings ought to be treated. No restraint in any way has been placed upon them since they have been with me. They hunt &c. Complain loudly of the injuries done to them and their progenitors by the whites. Previous to leaving the natives’ encampment the tribes dispatched four of their females for spears when they shortly returned with four large bundles of excellent spears; and the chief of the Big River Tribe took me to a tier of hills and surrendered to me six stand of firearms loaded viz. three muskets and three fowling pieces. (On this occasion I was only accompanied by my son and a man of colour as servant and without firearms.) I proceed this morning on my way to Hobart Town from which station the people can be conveyed by water to Great Island (Flinders Island). I have promised them a conference with the Lieut Govr and that the Governor will be sure to redress all their grievances. I earnestly hope that every possible kindness and attention may be shewn to these people for they cannot and ought not to be looked upon as captives. They have placed themselves under my protection and are desirous for peace.
[iii] Hobart Town Courier, 14 January 1832
On Saturday Mr Robinson, as we had previously announced, made his triumphant entry into town with his party of blacks, amounting in all to 40, including 14 of his former domesticated companions, with the 26 of which the Oyster Bay and Big River mobs were composed. They walked very leisurely along the road, followed by a large pack of dogs, and were received by the inhabitants on their entry into town with the most lively curiosity and delight. Soon after their arrival they walked up to the Government house, and were introduced to His Excellency, and the interview that took place was truly interesting. They are delighted at the idea of proceeding to Great Island, where they will enjoy peace and plenty uninterrupted. The great susceptibility which they one and all evinced of the influence of music when the band struck up, which Colonel Logan had purposely ordered down, clearly shewed the numerous spectators the power which we have all along pointed out of this agent of communication, even in the savage breast. After, in the greatest good humour and with an evident desire to make themselves agreeable, going through various feats of their wonderful dexterity, they proceeded on board the Swan River Packet, until the Tamar (the Charlotte being too small for the purpose) is ready to proceed with them to Great Island. Whether the expense of this sable but truly interesting colony will ultimately devolve on the mother country or on us, it behoves the authorities to take especial care that the work of education and civilisation is duly carried on amongst them. For it is only by means of such efforts that they can be rendered a productive people, so as to meet the exigencies of their own support. This perhaps may be considered a mercenary view of the case, seeing that the simplest ties of humanity would call upon us to discharge our part in the care of these benighted creatures. But independent of the burdens and difficulties of the settler on whom the expense of such a charge would at last fall, being already more than he can well bear, it would be alarming to contemplate the probability of a rapidly increasing colony of savages ignorant and incapable of providing for themselves, and depending solely on us for support … The removal of these blacks will be of essential benefit both to themselves and the colony. The large tracts of pasture that have so long been deserted owing to their murderous attacks on the shepherds and the stock huts, will now be available, and a very sensible relief will be afforded to the flocks of sheep that had been withdrawn from them and pent up on inadequate ranges of pasture—a circumstance which indeed has tended materially to impoverish the flocks and keep up the price of butcher’s meat …