Koorie Culture's Influence on the Goldfields

Schools - Traditional Aboriginal Gunya In NSW
8) Miners Humpy

One look at a Miner's Humpy will demonstrate how the prospectors during the Australian Gold Rush learned from the indigenous population.

Bark Gunyas have been used as shelter for centuries by the nomadic Aborigines of Australia. The dwelling made of bark and logs can be left behind without fear of leaving a trail of garbage, devastation and waste in its wake.

Fossikers who travelled to the area to try their luck moved on when they did not strike gold. Most preferred to live in a bark gunya made from local timber and bark, which could be easily dismantled, or simply left to rot back to nature. The  Miner's Humpy  differed in that it would often have a single sheet of corrugated iron either as a wall or part of the roof. This was because the miner may have had a single sheet of iron on the bed of their wheelbarrow, to increase the surface area. The camp bed and table were put together with rough cut logs. The stretcher part of the bed was of strong Hessian, usually from an opened up potato sack.

The role of Aboriginal trackers had been well established from the early 1800's to track down convicts and bushrangers.  This became very important with the gold rush and the increase in felonies. Most famous of the Aboriginal trackers were Sir Watkin Wayne  who tracked the notorious Clarke Brothers and George Emmit who tracked Ned Kelly.

A few married the prospectors, or set up house together providing bushtucker for survival. It is important to remember that the Aboriginal population had been reduced from an estimated 300,000 to 60,000 in the first hundred years of European settlement, as a result of introduced diseases and alcohol as well as the conflicts between settlers and Aborigines.

Many of the names of settlements, villages etc are in the indigenous language. Some are self explanatory, such as  Eurobodalla - The Land Of Many Waters. Others have humorous aspect. Mogo means Stone Axe. The stone axe was a very valuable tool for the Koorie people, They named the area  Mogo when they saw prospectors breaking up stones with pick-axes. 

Further Reading