Locke Family Lineage and General Historical Overview

The distinguished Aboriginal Lock/Locke family’s known roots go back to the 1740s. Yarramundi, the son of Gombeeree, was recognised as the Chief of the Richmond Tribes, of the Boorooberongal clan of the Darug people, the tribe who inhabited the Cumberland plains. Both Yarramundi and his father, Gombeeree, met Governor Phillip, on 14 April 1791.

The Darug people lived on the Cumberland plain of New South Wales and their presence there can be dated back to at least 25 thousand years.

Maria Lock was the Daughter of Yarramundi and sister of Colebee.

Yarramundi admitted Maria into the Native Institution at Parramatta on the 28 December 1814 at the age of eight, the day he attended a feast for Aborigines which Governor Macquarie had organised. Maria won first prize in the Sydney annual school examinations ahead of 20 Aboriginal students from the Institute and 100 or more white children from other schools. Maria’s first husband, Dicky, son of Bennelong, died shortly after the marriage. On 26th January 1824 Maria married Robert Lock, a convict. This was the first sanctioned marriage of an Aboriginal woman to a convict. After the death of Maria’s brother, Colebee, she applied for his land grant at Blacktown which was eventually given to her, through her husband Robert in 1843. On Maria’s death in 1878, the considerable land that she owned at Blacktown and at Liverpool was divided between her nine surviving children.

This land had been granted to the Locks by Governor Macquarie in perpetuity, but by 1920 all the land had been forcibly taken, first of all to become the Plumpton Aboriginal Reserve. Later the grant was revoked completely by the Aborigines Protection Board.

Maria is the grandmother to Jerome Locke and Allen Leslie Locke, great grandmother to Henry Augustus Anolock, Henry Lawrence James (Harry) Locke, Joseph James ‘Karadji’ Locke, Olga Cecil Locke, Leslie John ‘Jack’ Locke, George Henry Morley, John Thomas Arthur Bolton, William Robert Locke and great, great grandmother to William Castles.

The Aboriginal Diggers related to Maria on this website are not her only descendants. The object of this website is to highlight those who served as Diggers in WWI.

Maria Lock’s many descendants still live around the Cumberland Plains and Blue Mountains area.



Aboriginal people are recorded as having lived on this continent for over 70,000 years. They belong to one of the oldest civilisations on the planet and were models of environmental and social sustainability.

Those who lived in and near the Cumberland Plain, from the east coast around Sydney, down to Botany Bay, west to the lower Blue Mountains, and north west of Sydney beyond the Hawkesbury River, shared a common language and kinship ties and lived in family groups or clans, and are known today as Darug people. Those who lived in an area which comprised the Southern Blue Mountains, west to the Cox’s River, southwest to Goulburn and the Southern Highlands, are known today as Gundungurra people. This area included the beautiful Burragorang Valley. These indigenous people understood that they belonged to the land and that all living creatures and flora were sacred and to be cared for, the responsibility for which was understood by clans as well as by totems.

The first record of the Hawkesbury Darug people meeting with white men was on the 14th April, 1791. Captain Phillip, together with a group of men including Lieutenant Watkin Tench who recorded the meeting, had taken a boat up the Hawkesbury River and encountered Goombeeree with members of his clan paddling in their canoes. Goombeeree’s son, Yellomundee was also present. Yellomundee (or Yarramundi) was recognised by the whites as the ‘Chief of the Richmond Tribes’ and his daughter Maria had a significant role in the subsequent history of the Darug people.

Initial meetings between the British and Darug people were friendly and respectful but the arrival of about 400 settlers along the Hawkesbury River in 1794 brought great devastation as the bush began to be cleared for houses and farms and competition for food and resources began.  Killings became common place and set a pattern of conflict and dispossession which spread across the country over the next 100 years. Diseases and alcohol which the white settlers brought with them also decimated the Aboriginal population.

In the mid-1800s the British government, which still controlled the Australian colonies, became concerned about the impact of expanding pastoralism on Aboriginal peoples’ access to their Country and so in 1850 small Aboriginal reserves were created on sites that Aboriginal people already used.  Many more reserves were created from 1870s onwards and the first appointment of a ‘Protector of Aborigines’ was in 1881.   In 1883 the Aborigines Protection Board (APB) was established to look after the welfare of Aboriginal people.  This represented a new phase of control over Aboriginal peoples’ lives in NSW.  The reserves were created to remove Aboriginal people from society and public view and reflected government policies of protection and segregation.  Despite the attempts by the APB to move Aboriginal people onto reserves, most Aboriginal people in NSW lived in places they selected for themselves.

In 1909 the Aborigines Protection Act gave the APB ‘the authority for the protection and

care of Aborigines’. Station managers now tightly controlled reserves, particularly who entered and left them. It gave the Board the power to remove Aboriginal people from reserves, and from camping ‘within or near any reserve, town or township’. Admission to reserves was based on appearance of Aboriginality. Children were forcibly removed from their families and often sent to work for white families. This resulted in many Aboriginal families leaving the reserves and by 1900 less than 17% of the Aboriginal population continued to live on the reserves. Quite a number from the Sackville Reach Reserve made their way to The Gully at Katoomba.  The Gully community consisted of close family and kinship groups – records from the 1890s show Darug families included the Stubbings/Stubbinses, Lockes/Locks, Webbs and Sheards and Gundungurra families such as the Lynchs, Coopers, Shepherds and Hughes. WW1 soldiers William Hughes, Albert John Shepherd and Joseph ‘Karadji’ Locke were all associated at one time with the Gully.    Hughes was born in Katoomba in 1894 and lived there until the 1920s, Shepherd was removed from his mother Minnie Shepherd in the Gully in 1902, aged five, while Joseph Locke moved to Katoomba in the 1930s.

On the edge of town and hidden by the bush, the Gully provided some privacy for its inhabitants, where older residents could continue to speak Gundungurra and Darug. The poor but resourceful community collected wildflowers, blackberries and mushrooms and trapped rabbits to sell and to use themselves; their water came from the springs and they cooked on open fires.

‘Houses were constructed with the limited materials available – saplings, kerosene tins, corrugated iron, hessian – and painted with whitewash. The local newspaper, if it referred to the community at all, called it a “camp” and mission records refer to numerous cases of sickness and premature death indicative of social neglect.’ (ref: John Low, Local Studies Librarian, Blue Mountains City Library, 2005)

In 1914, the Great World War began.  At this time the Immigration Restriction Act 1901

enshrined the policy of a White Australia and the closely related Defence Act 1903

prohibited men not substantially of European heritage from serving. Initially recruiting officers allowed Aboriginals to enlist only if their skin was considered ‘white enough’ but as the war went on, with casualty rates rising and recruitment numbers dropping, the officers weren’t as selective. It was the Medical Officers who had the power to determine who were accepted and who weren’t.  Many Aboriginal men, who had tried to enlist in the early stages of the war, were rejected on the grounds of ‘defective physique’, which was often a euphemism for ‘black’. Later the law was modified to allow ‘half castes’, especially after the horrific causalities of the Western Front. Many were able to apply again once the rules were relaxed and were then accepted.

It is estimated that at least 1000 Aboriginals signed up and generally served in ordinary units in Australian Imperial Force (AIF) under the same conditions as other soldiers. They fought side by side with their white country men and forged bonds that would sow the seeds of the modern reconciliation movement. They fought in every major conflict including Gallipoli, the Western Front and the Middle East. In the AIF they were generally treated as equals and were paid the same amount as white soldiers. This was better than life in Australia where they had few rights, low wages and poor living conditions.

Chris Tobin, Darug man and descendant of Maria Lock reflects “at the time of the First World War it was an oddity to see Aboriginal men volunteering to defend an Empire that had oppressed and subjugated them since its arrival in 1788 …especially as it was in marked contrast to the respectfulness enjoyed by people in traditional culture… for many to enlist was an escape from the degrading experience and the attendant poverty that followed; while for others the notion of coming together to defend their country is one of the deep and core values of Aboriginal people…Certainly their standing amongst white Australians improved upon enlistment and for many it would be the first time they enjoyed being treated almost as equals by white people ”.

Research suggests that other factors that played a part were likely to have been an escape from the life that they had to live. Joining the army gave them adventure, it gave them equal wages, a sense of equality and camaraderie and perhaps a sense of empowerment.  For the most part they were accepted with little prejudice. They would be free of discrimination and racism. At the same time, there was hope that on their return they too, would be treated as naturalised British subjects with the same rights and freedom as their ‘white’ brothers-in-arms.

However, this was not to be. Coming home meant an end to equality and they were once again subjected to the same discrimination and racism as before, in some cases, even greater control by local ‘Protectors’. Amendments to the Aborigines Protection Act in 1915 further strengthened the APB’s power.  War pensions and back pay were frequently denied and very few Indigenous diggers were welcomed at their local RSL – except sometimes on Anzac Day.

‘White’ soldiers coming home were able to choose retraining programs, and some were given their own land to farm.  There is bitter irony in this.  As early as 1820, Governor Macquarie gave a substantial land right to the Lock Family around Blacktown and Rooty Hill, in perpetuity.  By 1920 all that land had been resumed by the Aborigines Protection Board.  The Lock/e men returning from the war lost the land that had been theirs by law as well as by historical legitimacy.

We hope this context adds depth to these stories of the 14 Aboriginal Diggers with links to our local area.