The Eora People:
I am a descendant of the ‘convicts class,’ and a native of Australia. I am among one of the First Australians. It was my people who named this land even though the people of the tribes who had lived here since the Dreaming make this claim. They were of many nations, but we are becoming one. Like the song, We are one, but We are many. My people have trodden these shores and plains of the Great Southern Land for long enough to be indigenous to this land and yet we are denied these truths.
I am of the Eora People. I am a ‘Woman of the Eora’ in the terms and language of the First Tribal Nations People, the Cadigal and the Tharawal tribes around Sydney. I am a ‘woman of the rivers’… yet I am not considered of First National Heritage. The indigenous population of the colonial era claim to be of ‘First Nation Heritage’ yet they were and remain of many different Nations. Australia is my National Identity. I am not of the tribal populations of Australia, my links are to the tribal populations of the Northern Hemisphere.
The word “Eora” has been used as an ethnonym by non-Aboriginal people since 1899 , despite there being “no evidence that Aboriginal people had used this term in 1788, as the name of a language or group of people inhabiting the Sydney peninsula”.Since the late 20th century it has also come to be used as an ethnonym by Aboriginal people too. The word first appears in the wordlists of First Fleet officers, where it was mostly translated as “men” or “people”
The word “Eora” or its reference form yura in its original sense “people” or “Aboriginal people”, from 1899 onwards non-Aboriginal authors start using the word as an ethnonym, in the sense of “Aboriginal people of Sydney”:
I do not want to belong to a heritage or nation that is not my own. I am not English, I simply wish to have my existence, and the experience and stories of my families acknowledged. I am Australian, I am termed and classed as a white Australian, and yet I acknowledge no skin or creed other than Australian as my own. Nor do I acknowledge a “class” of any kind and yet my ancestors were seen as of the convict or colonial class. This terminology is not our way, nor the way of Australia. In fact, we commonly hid our class origins as our society attempted to place us into ‘class’ in the terms and ways of their ‘Mother Country’ from which we were removed many generations ago. ‘The Mother Country’ is not my country and our skin is also not white, it is spotted and motley, it is brown and dark, and yellow and of many hues. Our ancestors were born of many lands.
My children and grandchildren are not white, their skin is often as dark as that of the First Nations tribes, indeed some are of the First Nations tribal heritage; and yet they too are told by some that they are not indigenous to this land either. To some they are an aberration, neither wanted by their tribal ancestors for their skin is not dark enough, nor wanted by those descended from white colonial class who prefer to think that my family, my people don’t properly exist as a people.
It is from amongst the ranks of my family, of my kind, that the Colonial populace emerged. It is from them that our wild Colonial boys grew to be men and it is from their ranks that the ANZAC’s were born. They are the true Australians. We are the true Australians yet we are not all First Nations people, though we are among their ranks. We are the currency kids of our world, those who were traded in this land. We are people who are undeniably Australian, born to the Nation of Australia and none other.
The Australian children of my ancestors were taken from their mothers for over some seventy years , these children born to convict women, by those deigned by the authority and law or rule of this our land. Their mothers had arrived to these Australian shores in chains. We see few photo’s of them as they pre-date the era of photography. The photo’s we see of those in chains are commonly men known to be of the tribal people and we are told we should be outraged and justly so. But it is as though those who came earlier, those who were first draped and clamped into chains, who are not seen to have existed or suffered . Those who live through such early atrocities also, and yet we are not told that they also deserve our outrage, even though their crimes were of a common nature, as is their treatment and experience.
These convicts were the first of the Australian stolen generation and many of their children did not survive their incarceration in the nurseries, asylums and orphanages of the day. Indeed some of these convicts were still children themselves when they first arrived to these shores. And yet there is little outrange. Outrage for those taken from their families and transported from the lands of their birth; carried in chains across vast oceans, because they lived in poverty and starvation, which had bought them to crimes of property or larceny. Many were but children.
These injustices are not acknowledged commonly. Those Australian currency kids who survived knew their parents walked and worked in chains, some for many years. Others suffering brutal treatment for crimes of poverty, these things also are not acknowledged.
We are the forgotten generations who laboured to build the societal structure of this land and the very earliest cities and buildings of the colony. This too is not commonly acknowledged. This is our history and any sentiments of “Sorry about that” are neither sought nor welcomed. There are no words, or will, to forgive, or to be forgiven for historical facts. There is no “sorry” due. It is what it is and the lessons of this history should have been learnt. We choose not to be victims as we are instead, nation builders . We are survivors and of this we are proud and we will ask only to be acknowledged.
So what makes me a woman of the Eora? Why am I a woman of the river people?
Aboriginal people were the traditional occupiers of the lands on both sides of the Georges River where I grew up, also of the Parramatta River and of the Hawkesbury River when the Europeans arrived, Dharug on the northern shore and Dharawal on the southern. My families have also lived (born and died) in this region for over 200 years, and for several generations.
I am an Eora Woman, I am an Australian.
Jan is an author and writer. You can find her publications on travel throughout Australia, and in fictional tales of Aboriginal Australia at Amazon.com & Amazon.com..au