John Batman's treaty
Students examine some of the problems historians have with John Batman's 'treaty' with the Wurundjeri people through primary source analysis.
- Understand the role that a significant individual or group played in shaping a colony (ACHHK097)
- Locate information related to inquiry questions in a range of sources (ACHHS102)
- Identify points of view in the past and present (ACHHS104)
In 1835, John Batman travelled to Port Phillip with the intention of ‘purchasing' the land around the bay on the behalf of the Port Phillip Association. Batman brought with him legal documents, which were allegedly signed by Indigenous leaders on the Yarra. However, what became known as ‘Batman's Treaty' was never recognised by the colonial government, which insisted that the land belonged to the crown according to the concept of terra nullius.
Primary sources from ergo:
- Batman's treaty with the Aborigines at Merri Creek, painting
- The Batman deed, Melbourne, manuscript
- John Batman's journal, manuscript
Brainstorm why John Batman thought it was necessary to 'buy' Wurundjeri land even though the Crown did not ackowledge Indigenous ownership of Port Phillip.
Ask students to consider terra nullius, who Batman thought would question his claim and the scarcity of fertile farm land in Van Diemen's Land.
Introduce primary sources from ergo. Each source provides contextual information (including transcripts where relevant) and a zoom function so students can investigate detail. Use the evaluating sources template [Word 8.52KB] as a basis for analysis.
Use questions like those below to guide the discussion:
- Why did Batman think he needed a contract in order to 'claim' Port Phillip considering Britain had claimed Australia with no thought to the rights of its indigenous owners?
- What were the key problems historians have with the treaty? What evidence from primary sources do they use to support their arguments?
- Why were men like Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner trying to claim land in Port Phillip?
- Why is Batman generally shown treating Aborigines kindly?
- As no images of Batman were created before his death, how do artists decide what he looked like? Why do you think he is generally handsome in paintings?
- Find out about Batman's time in Tasmania and his involvement in the 'Black line'.