King Bungaree

A Sydney aborigine meets the great South Pacific explorers 1799-1830

Author: Keith Vincent Smith


Bungaree, was known as the King of the Broken Bay Aborigines.

He was witty, intelligent, something of a diplomat. He accompanied Flinders and Philip Parker King on their voyages of exploration.

For many years he was a Sydney ‘character’, dressed in cast-off European military clothes, often mentioned in contemporary accounts of the colony and often painted or sketched.

Anyone who has worked in the field of early Australian race relations makes the acquaintance of Bungaree, whether as an example of significant collaboration between white and black in many different ways ranging from maritime exploration to the recapturing of escapees, or as a case study exhibiting the essential tragedy of Aboriginal history post contact.

This book reveals the unexpectedly wide dimensions of this one Aboriginal life.

In Keith Smith’s story we have the excitement of seeing an Aboriginal taking on range of attributes and emerging as recognisable human being rather than a simplistic, familiar portrait.

The resulting book will be widely read largely because of the extreme scarcity of biographical studies of Aborigines. It contributes not only to the understanding of the Aborigine who was most often discussed and depicted in the first fifty years but also to our knowledge of those fields of endeavour to which he contributed.

Light is thrown on the work of several major marine explorers and their relationships with coastal Aborigines; on the personalities and attitudes of a swag of marine visitors from many countries enabling us for example to discern changes from the time of Bellingshausen to that of d’Urville.

Smith is at his best in dealing with pictorial representations of Aborigines and highly knowledgeable not only in relation to contemporary sources but also perceptive in using modern commentaries, including that of Dutton’s White on Black, quoting the illuminating remark, ‘He mocked the white men by mocking himself’.

The above text is quoted from the inside cover of the book.


Keith Vincent Smith was born in Ku-ring-gai territory near the lagoon at Dee Why, north of Sydney. He grew up on Dee Why Headland within sight of the Barranjoey Lighthouse at the edge of Broken Bay.

As a journalist, Keith Smith worked on the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian and was a correspondent for Australian Associated Press in London, Saigon and Sydney.

With his wife, Irene, he founded Earth Garden magazine in 1972, writing and editing 52 quarterly issues.

He is well known as an author and co-author of many practical books on gardening and self-sufficiency, which include The Illustrated Earth Garden Herbal (Nelson), The Backyard Organic Garden (Lothian), Earth Garden Building Book, Hard Times Handbook and The Australian Self-Sufficiency Handbook (all Viking O’Neil).

His interest in the life of early Sydney led Keith Smith to write Sydney City (Smith’s Guides,1988), during which he first made the acquaintance of King Bungaree. He spent four years researching the life and times of the fascinating chief of the Broken Bay Tribe and in the process uncovered an extraordinary number of portraits many previously unpublished.

Keith Smith has travelled widely in North America Europe and North Africa, worked on an Israeli kibbutz, visited Samarkand, and crossed the Sahara desert to Timbuktu.

He is a keen organic gardener and book collector.

© Keith Vincent Smith 1992

First Published by Kangaroo Press Pty Ltd
3 Whitehall Road
Kenthurst NSW 2156

ISBN 0 86417 470 5