11. Arabanoo


Learning the language?


Arthur Phillip was keen to carry out his orders to communicate with, and win the “affections” of Aboriginal people. He believed they were refusing to come near because of “bad behaviour” of some of the Europeans, yet Aboriginal people had reasons of their own for keeping away. In late December 1788, he wrote:

“The natives still refuse to come amongst us… I now doubt whether it will be possible to get any of these people to remain with us, in order to get their language, without using force.”

The Capture


Under Phillip’s orders, a group of officers and marines went in two boats to Manly to take prisoner two Aboriginal people. Tench and Collins described them giving presents and trying to talk with them and then… “our people rushed in among them, and seized two men.”

One of the captured men dragged a marine into deep water and escaped. Arabanoo was tied to a boat and…“set up the most piercing and lamentable cries of distress”. It is reported that his group…

“threw spears, stones, firebrands, and whatever else presented itself, at the boats: nor  did they retreat… until many muskets were fired over them.”




We Call Him Manly


When he arrived back at the settlement, Arabanoo was the centre of attention: “Clamorous crowds… flocked around him.”  He is described as around 30, not tall, and robustly built. At first he was called Manly, but within a few weeks his real name became known. He impressed people with his great courtesy shown to European women. A handcuff was placed on his wrist. At first he thought it was an ornament which he pleasantly called “ben-gad-ee”, but when he realised it was meant to hold him captive, he reacted with “rage and hatred”.

Call That Justice?


In March, a convict was killed and seven were wounded, when 16 men tried to steal spears and fishing tackle from Eora people. Governor Phillip took side with the Indigenous people. He tried to impress Arabanoo by showing him the flogging of the convicts as their punishment, but Arabanoo reacted with… “symptoms of disgust and terror only”.

During the smallpox epidemic, an Aboriginal family suffering from the disease were brought in to Sydney. The two adults died, and their two children were cared for by Arabanoo who contracted the disease himself and died.



All for the sake of learning
the language

All for the sake of the things
that we do

We caught a man and we call
him Manly

Even though his name is Arabanoo

He walked chained through the streets of Sydney

People gathered ’round to see what they’d found

The ladies all swooned at his courteous nature

The manliest man in Sydney Town

(SPOKEN by Arthur Phillip)

“In order that you, Mr. Arabanoo, should see that we are just and fair, we will now let you witness the severe punishment of these convicts caught stealing from your people.”


Take me home, I wanna go back

Call that Justice? Don’t wanna know!

Take me home, I wanna go back

Back to the life I used to know


Arabanoo was kept in Sydney

They fed him up well and treated him fine

Couldn’t keep him from new diseases

Arabanoo went into decline