For what we do know of the early Aboriginal inhabitants of the region, much we owe to the work of two individuals, the Aboriginal leader of the Awabakal clan, Biraban or M'Gill, who flourished circa 1800 - 1850, and the missionary Lancelot Edward Threlkeld (1788 - 1859), who created an Aboriginal mission on the banks of Lake Macquarie in 1826.
Threlkeld, as well as acting as protector of the Aboriginal people, compiled a grammar and vocabulary of the Awabakal dialect. As part of his missionary instruction, and with the help of Biraban as his tutor, he questioned the Aboriginals about their language, beliefs and witnessed some of their rituals, recording dreaming stories, important places, as well as ritualistic practices.
Threlkeld's correspondence and papers were edited by Niel Gunson in Australian Reminiscences and Papers of L.E. Threlkeld: Missionary to the Aborigines 1824 - 1859. Canberra, A.C.T.: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1974.
Threlkeld's published works on the Awabakal language that were originally published as pamphlets were brought together and edited by John Fraser in 1892 under the title An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba and Lake Macquarie (Near Newcastle, New South Wales) being an account of their Language, Traditions, and Customs. Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, 1892. [See the Works of Rev L.E. Threlkeld, Threlkeld's diaries and papers edited by Gunson and the Percy Haslam papers in the Archives Collections].
Click here for our Virtual Sourcebook of Aboriginal Studies in the Hunter Region which contains scanned and digitised accounts from historical sources.