Kitty, the great mother

Of all the matriarchs in recent Indigenous history, few are more significant than Kitty. She was the Mother of William Cooper, was born in the early to mid 1820s, before settlement, or white settlement in that area. Kitty was from the Wollithiga or Wallithica Tribe.

Kitty, it is said, was born near the Moira Lakes, which is in Moitheriban country, a neighbouring tribe to the Wollithiga. She always said she was of the Wollithiga Tribe. The Wollithiga is a tribe that takes in Echuca then comes up to the Moira and Barmah forests near Barmah and takes in the junctions of the Campaspe and Goulburn Rivers with the Murray.

This remarkable woman most certainly would have seen first contact, when European settlement came to the region through people such as Edward Curr, being the pioneer settler in the area in 1841 on the Victorian side of the Murray and then Henry Lewes in 1842 on the NSW side of the river.

Clearly, Kitty was in close contact with at least two white men. But were these relationships consensual?

We can’t be a hundred percent sure. What we do know is that most of Nan Kitty’s children’s fathers are known. The fact that when Nan Kitty was taken from Moira to Maloga, she wanted to pack her stuff up two or three days later and go back to Moira station possibly alludes to a consensus of sorts.

We don’t know if that was because it was what she was used to, or the fact that she had other ties there. We know that her sons, Johnny, Aaron and Edgar Atkinson and also William and Bobby Cooper were still at Moira Station. She only took Jack and Ada, her youngest children, with her when she went to Maloga, Lizzie was already there.

Daniel Matthews made notes of going into the stations and actually breaking the chains of girls chained to beds to save them from the atrocious lifestyles and the things that were being done to them by the station workers. Therefore not all relations were consensual. There are however documented cases of consensual relations between Black and White in that era.

The Irish and the Scottish took many Aboriginal wives and they appeared to be consensual. For some reason, the Irish it is said, were well accepted by Aboriginal people. Even down in Port Augusta, amongst the Barngala people, the Dare family’s name comes from an Irishman by the name of Harold O’Dare. Therefore even in South Australia there were consensual marriages, apparently, between Irish and Aboriginal.

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3 Responses to “Kitty, the great mother”

  1. Nola Grant August 2, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    I am the wife of Lindsay Hurtle Grant, whose mother was Lorraine Nelson (Lulla), and daughter of Priscilla James, and Granddaughter of Thomas Shadrach James, of Cummeragunga.

    My question is about Kitty. Mariah was kitty’s Mother, according to the book Mister Maloga,, and family history,, but who was Mariah’s mother? According to oral history, Mariah was Truganni’s daughter, from Tasmania. Bey Atkinson told us this years ago, and her daughter Rosslyn went to live back in Tasmania.
    I am putting Lindsay’s family tree up, and sorting the ‘stories’ out from the fact is quiet a business. I was pleased to read more on William Cooper, as I was not sure whether he was Kitty’s partner.
    Have you come across the name of a Louisa Wagra, or Wagner, who would have been born in the 1830/40. She partnered with a Mathew Crow. I was interested to note that a Dan Crow is mentioned in Mister Maloga. The spelling was the same. Most of the Crow families I have looked at have their name spelt with an e. If you have any information on the Crow or Wagra families, I would be very grateful if you would forward it to me.? Gratefully Nola Grant.

  2. Robyn Oxley March 7, 2016 at 11:44 pm #

    Hi… Just wondering if Kitty had any siblings and if anyone knows their name(s)?

  3. Russell Patterson November 10, 2017 at 3:47 am #

    I think there have probably been quite a lot of ‘consensual’ partnerships in the 19th century and since.

    Most of the present population who claim aboriginal descent have UK surnames (which presumably they didn’t have to adopt)

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