Aboriginal culture in the Kelly Country had to a large extent been destroyed by the late 1870's. Yet the KellyGang saw aboriginal trackers as a threat. Senior police raised concerns about the local trackers. But please think about the situation for a moment. Would you like to be walking along ahead of a patrol of up to 16 police horses. The KellyGang could hear them from miles away and set up any sort of ambush. The trackers were not trained police. Many of the original trackers came from Coranderrk aboriginal reserve.
After the Jerilderie robbery a team of aboriginal police troopers under Insp O'Connor came down from Queensland to assist the Victorian police to track down the KellyGang. It would seem that most of the officers came from the area around the Conway Barracks near Bowen.
While they went out on patrol with the Victorian police there was a tension within the police and they were never used property. They were all based in Benalla and went out on patrol together with large police search parties. Often they were acting on very little information or reports of sitings of the KellyGang that were quite old.and unreliable.
Insp O'Connor and his trackers left Benalla for Melbourne on their way home to Queensland a day before Aaron Sherritt was shot. There had been some tension between the Queensland and Victorian authorities. There were, however, invited back after Aaron's death and on their way to take up that hunt when they were involved in the siege at Glenrowan.
Aboriginals at KellyGang
Barney, pt Qld
Hero, pt Qld
Jacky, pt Qld
Jimmy, pt Qld
Johnny, pt Qld
Tommy These officers were sometimes identified as aboriginals but more often they were referred to as 'blacks'. While the Queensland officers were employed by the police as native police with the rank of trooper that was seldom referred to. They were only known by a white Christian name and their aboriginal names do not seem to have been known to the authorities
When the first white settlers arrived in the mid 1830's, while first contact was often peaceful, relations often broke down quickly. The white settlers took the land the original inhabitants had used and the aborigines took the sheep and cattle. As a result there was conflict. One of the first examples of this was the Faithful Massacre. There were, however many other conflicts between the squatters and the aborigines.
There was a corroboree sight at Shean's Gully on Faithful's Creek (Ensign26/7/1872)
The Kelly Country was inhabited by the members of the Yaitmathang tribe in the high country and the Pangerang in the plains country along the Ovens River.
See also (Argus19/5/79)
The Pangerang were hunters and they lived around the rivers where there was a good supply of game. Their diet included birds, eggs, fruits, roots and bulbs. They had a strict social order with the tribe split into two groups who married each other. In the colder weather they had possum skin cloaks and kangaroo rugs, but for much of the year they only worn a waist band with a small panel front and rear. The skin was often marked with raised keloid scars which they wore on their arms chest and back.
The Taungurang clan lived in the Delatite area.
The Pallanganmiddang covered the area from Corryong to Glenrowan. Other tribes in the area included the Djilamatang (the people of the Upper Murray), and the Dhudhorua.
The aborigines suffered greatly from small pox, pneumonia and measles after they met the white settlers. It is estimated that at one point there were up to 15,000 aborigines in Victoria. By 1911 the number had dropped to approximately 600 full blood members of the community.
A large number of aboriginals in the Riverina (T&C19/10/1872)