As part of NAIDOC week, this morning on 2SER Breakfast Lisa spoke to Mitch about an extraordinary Aboriginal woman, Maria Lock, who lived in Western Sydney in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The daughter of an Aboriginal chief, Maria had an aptitude for learning European cultural mores. She achieved educational merit in European schooling and married a British convict, which was unusual to say the least (her convict husband was assigned to her – this was unique, unheard of!). Even more extraordinary is the fact that she became a landholder – remarkable even for a European woman of the nineteenth century, let alone an Aboriginal woman in Sydney.
So who was Maria Lock? Jack Brook’s article in the Dictionary gives us a fascinating picture of this unusual woman. We know that Maria grew up at Richmond Bottoms on the eastern floodplains of the Deerubbin, later known as the Hawkesbury River, close to today’s town of Richmond. Her grasp of English and educational achievements suggest that she grew up around, and lived virtually all of her life with, white settlers.
Maria was probably born in 1808. Her father was known as Yellomundee (Yarramundi) and her grandfather was Gombeeree. She had an elder brother called Colebee. Unfortunately, Maria’s mother’s name is unknown.
In 1814 Maria attended the first gathering of Aboriginal tribes at Parramatta, along with her father. She met Governor Macquarie and was selected to be amongst the first students of what was called the Native Institute in Parramatta. She was tutored by William Shelley and his wife. Maria was a star pupil; competing against local white children, she took out the major education award in 1819.
When Maria was 16 she married the convict Robert Lock. She most likely met him when he was building the new Native Institute at Black Town. The ceremony took place in 1824 at St John’s church at Parramatta; it was the first officially sanctioned marriage between a young Aboriginal woman and a British convict. Robert Lock was assigned to his wife. This was not unusual for a convict but it was a first for an Aboriginal woman, and unusual for the penal administration.
Robert and Maria moved to Black Town and lived beside the new Native Institute, before moving to the Reverend Robert Cartwright’s farm at Liverpool, beside Cabramatta Creek. At the time of her marriage, Maria was promised ‘a small Grant of Land and a Cow as a Marriage Portion’. She received the cow, but not the grant of land, so following the deaths of Colebee and Nurraginny she claimed the 30 acres (12 hectares) of land previously granted to them in the Blacktown area. Maria and Robert, along with their ten children, took up residence on the land grant.
We have to admire Maria Lock for her intelligence and resilience. Through her cultural adaptation she found a space for her family to thrive in Western Sydney. Today the numerous descendents of Maria and Robert Lock are unreservedly proud of their ancestry and Aboriginality. Many of them still reside in the City of Blacktown.