Significant Tasmanian Women icon

(1812 - 1876)
Tasmanian Aboriginal

Truganini is arguably the most well known name in Tasmanian women's history. Her life epitomises the story of European invasion and the clash of two disparate cultures.

Born in 1812, she was the daughter of Mangerner, Chief of the Recherche Bay people. By the time she was 17 Truganini had experienced the violent death of her mother, stabbed by a party of sealers, the death of her intended partner, Paraweena, drowned while attempting to save her from abduction, and the abduction and subsequent death of her sister Moorinna.

In 1829 Truganini became the partner of Woorraddy and with him accompanied George Robinson on his missions to the Aboriginal tribes between 1830-1834, serving as a guide and interpreter. She arrived at the Aboriginal settlement on Flinders Island (Wybalenna) in 1835 disillusioned with Robinson and his mission, realising that the resettlement program would further erode the chances of living their preferred lifestyle for the remaining Tasmanian Aboriginal population. In 1839 she went to Port Phillip, returning in 1842. Woorraddy died en route to Flinders Island, a further blow to Truganini.

Although Truganini had formed friendships with the population on Flinders Island she longed for her own country and returned to Oyster Cove in 1847 where she was able to visit Bruny Island and other areas of significance from her childhood. It is said she removed herself spiritually from the Europeans through this phase of her life, despite living with the Dandridge family.

Truganini died on the 8th of May 1876 at the age of sixty-four. Although originally buried at the old Female Factory at Cascades, South Hobart, her skeleton was acquired by the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1878. This acquisition of her bones was the antithesis of her expressed wishes. After a lengthy legal battle with the trustees of the Tasmanian Museum the Aboriginal community in Tasmania were able to have her bones cremated on the 30th of April 1976, the following day her ashes were scattered on the D'Entrecasteaux Channel as she had wanted, nearly 100 years after her death.

Truganini has become the symbol of the struggle and survival of Tasmanian Aboriginals for both Aboriginal and white Tasmanians.

Reference:

Ryan, Lyndall, The Aboriginal Tasmanians (2nd Ed), St. Leondards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1996.

References to Truganini can be found in most books on Tasmanian Aboriginals.


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