Sydney News: Death of Bungaree, Indigenous Elder

24th November 1830

On this day, 24th November 1830, Bungaree, indigenous Elder of the Broken Bay and Sydney tribes died. He was interred at Rose Bay on Friday 26th November 1830. ((Learn more about Bungaree at Wikipedia))

Allan Cunningham referred to Bungaree in his journal, dated Tuesday 26th May 1818. He wrote:

During the whole of this day’s excursion I was accompanied by our worthy native chief, Bongaree, of whose little attentions to me and others when on these excursions I have been perhaps too remiss in making mention, to the enhancement of the character of this enterprising Australian. ((Source: Ida Lee’s Early Explorers in Australia Chapter 10))

Note from The Allan Cunningham Project Team: The excursion Mr Cunningham refers to in his journal, dated 26th May 1818, was on Bathurst Island, off the coast of Australia’s Northern Territory; he and Bungaree were part of an exploration team lead by Phillip Parker King on his first voyage, aboard the Mermaid, mapping the coast of Australia. Bungaree had also sailed with Matthew Flinders aboard the Investigator in 1801 and 1803.

The Sydney Gazette published a short article on 27th November 1830, about Bungaree’s death, as follows:

We have to announce the death of his Aboriginal Majesty King BOONGARIE, Supreme Chief of the Sydney tribe. He expired on Wednesday last, at Garden Island, after a lingering sickness of several months. A coffin has been despatched thither from the Lumber Yard, and he will be interred at Rose Bay, beside the remains of his late Queen, this day.

The facetiousness of the sable chief, and the superiority of his mental endowments … obtained for him a more than ordinary share of regard from the … inhabitants of the colony, which was testified by frequent donations suited to his condition, not only from private individuals, but from the Authorities.

At the commencement of his last illness, the Hon Mr McLeay procured him admission into the General Hospital, where he received every necessary attention, and remained some weeks; but, becoming impatient to return to his people, he was, of course, permitted to depart, and the Government allowed him a full man’s ration to the day of his death.

Boongarie was remarkable for his partiality for the English costume; and it must be confessed that his appearance was sometimes grotesque enough, when he had arrayed his person in such “shreds and patches” of coats and nether garments as he could by any means obtain; the whole surmounted by an old cocked hat, with “the humour of forty fancies pricked in’t for a feather.”

The late Commodore, Sir James Brisbane, was particularly partial to him, and on one occasion presented him with a full suit of his own uniform, together with a sword, of which he was not a little vain.

For some time past, his increasing infirmities rendered it evident that he could not much longer survive his forefathers; and, on the day above named, in the midst of his own tribe, as well as that of Darling Harbour, by all of whom he was greatly beloved, he ended his mortal career.

We have not yet heard the name of his successor; but the honour, of course, devolves on the most renowned of his tribe. A detailed account of all the ceremonies used at the death, and funeral obsequies, we shall furnish for the information of our readers on Tuesday. ((1830 ‘DEATH OF KING BOONGARIE.’, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), 27 November, p. 2. , viewed 12 Mar 2020,))