17/18. Bennelong’s Hut / Fish For Tools

Bennelong’s Hut

Fish for Tools


Have you Heard?

At Bennelong’s request, Phillip had a brick hut 3.6 metres square, built for him,  on the site where now stands the Sydney Opera House. News of this would have spread quickly through the neighbouring Aboriginal countries.

The Kameraygal were Bennelong’s enemies. He had often tried to persuade the Governor to fight them for him.

“…indeed from the first day he was able to make himself understood he was desirous to have all the tribe of Camaraigal killed…”


Phillip had heard Aboriginal people near Botany Bay singing a story about Bennelong’s hut.

“[Phillip] had lately been at Botany Bay, where, he said, they danced and one of the tribe had sung a song, the subject of which was his house, the governor and the white men at Sydney.

The people of that tribe, he said, would not throw any more spears, as they and the Cameraigals were all friends, and were good men.”





Details of the negotiations between Bennelong and with Arthur Phillip are not recorded. We do know that they were formal military-style peace conferences. Tench described how during the discussions, Reverend Johnson was found sitting beside a fire with Bennelong’s wife, Barangaroo:

 “At a little distance, on an adjoining eminence, sat an Indian, with his spear in hand, as if sentinel over the hostages for the security of his countrymen’s return…”


Trading going on


Phillip and Bennelong came to an agreement. After the peace talks – trading began.

 “From this time our intercourse with the natives, though partially interrupted, was never broken off.”



 “The next visit from these men brought the same favour from their wives and families, whose example was followed by many others…”


A man of consequence


During late 1790, Tench wrote that Bennelong “…had lately become a man of so much dignity and consequence, that it was not always easy to obtain his company.”

In a letter to Joseph Banks on 3 December 1791 Phillip wrote:

 “I think that my old acquaintance Bennillon will accompany me whenever I return to England…from him, when he understands English, much information may be obtained for he is very intelligent.”

Bennelong eventually went to England with Arthur Phillip, but when he returned, he became less popular with Europeans as well as his own people.

Trading had now begun in Sydney. People like Balloderee in Parramatta established themselves as commercial fishermen. Others like Pemulwuy traded kangaroo meat for tools etc. It was not long before new problems arose…

Bennelong’s Hut


Have you heard? It’s the latest news

Bennelong point they call it!

After him?  Why do such a thing!

Could this be a bribe?

They’re building a house for him made of stone

They want him to live there on his own!

Stranger things we’ve never known

To happen to our tribe!

Fish for Tools


There’s some news in Sydney Town

All of the settlement gather around

For the first time we have found

Trading going on


Fish for tools, now you’re talking

Fish for tools, it’s what we need

Fish for tools, we could be happy

Trading going on

Thank you Bennelong – I can see

You are a very good friend to me

I’m goin to give you some property

Where the Opera House is going to be