Hugh Murray

Hugh Murray lived in the Colac district, on Gulidjan Country. He had renown amongst colonists as a pioneer of this district, being the first permanent white settler. Twenty-three year old Murray arrived in the district in 1837, from Van Diemen’s Land. He wrote about the Gulidjan (or ‘Colac tribe’ as he described them) in 1853, in response to a request by Governor La Trobe to early colonists to provide information about their arrival and settlement in the Port Phillip Settlement, including information about Aboriginal people. Murray noted that for the first eighteen months there was limited contact between himself and the Gulidjan tribe, other than Aboriginal people ‘stealing’ sheep. After approximately two years, Murray noted ‘our acquaintance became more friendly’ and he began employing Aboriginal people on his station. In 1858-1859 Murray also responded to the queries sent out by the Parliamentary committee examining the 'state' of Aboriginal people across the colony of Victoria. In answers to these questions he noted that the Gulidjan had been 'quiet' since the mid-1840s and indicated he had employed them ('at about half the current wages of Englishmen'). Murray stated population declines were due to violence with other Aboriginal people prior to the arrival of colonists and low numbers of births since settlement - he did not indicate any violence between colonists and Aboriginal people in the district. Historian Ian Clark noted in the early years of settlement armed parties of colonists pursued the Gulidjan when they had raided livestock, with violent outcomes. Some of Murray's neighbours have been linked to such violence, although notably in the 1870s, one of his neighbours also sought land for the remaining Gulidjan community to reside on, after the Gulidjan spent decades refusing to move off Country.
Hugh Murray, ‘No. 2’, in Thomas Francis Bride (ed.), Letters from Victorian Pioneers, Robert S. Brain, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1898, pp. 3-5.
Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on the Aborigines, John Ferres, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1859
Clark, Ian, Scars in the Landscape: A Register of Massacre Sites in Western Victoria, 1803-1859, Australian Studies Press, Canberra, 1995

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