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Broughton (1798–1850)

by Keith Campbell

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Broughton (c.1798-c.1850), Aboriginal guide, tracker and constable, and Broger (BROGHER) (c.1800-1830), Aboriginal tribesman, were close relations, probably siblings, born at Boon-ga-ree—known in 1822-88 as Broughton Creek and subsequently as Berry—in the Shoalhaven area of New South Wales. The brothers responded in different ways to the challenges posed by the influx of Europeans. Broughton, whose Aboriginal name was rendered as Toodwick, Toodood or Toodwit, accepted and strove to adapt to the new society introduced by the colonists. By 1818 he was working for Dr Charles Throsby of Liverpool, who probably named him after William Broughton. The trusted Aboriginal served as a guide and translator on several of Throsby's explorations to the south and at least once for John Oxley. In 1822 Broughton started work for Alexander Berry, whose grant incorporated Boon-ga-ree, setting up Berry's farm, Coolangatta, recruiting Aboriginal labour, keeping the peace, capturing bushrangers, droving cattle and providing his own labour. He became a favourite of Berry's, who called him 'my Landsman' and later 'my oldest surviving Black friend' and who presented him with a rectangular breastplate inscribed 'Broughton Native Constable of Shoalhaven. 1822'.

Broger was less accepting of European ways and values, though he could speak English. To Broughton's distress, he refused to undertake regular labour for Berry, preferring instead the company of his wife and at least three children in the forest at Boon-ga-ree. On 6 February 1829, with his Aboriginal friend George Murphy (probably a close relative), he took two sawyers, John Rivett and James Hicks, into the bush in Kangaroo Valley to show them some fine cedar. Here, Broger killed Rivett. Broughton, because of his reputation as a skilled tracker, was recruited to hunt down his brother but led the search party on a wild goose chase. Captured in May, when taken on board ship, Broger stole the keys to his irons from a sleeping guard, jumped overboard and fled. Recaptured in October 1829, he was committed for trial by magistrates Berry and Charles Windeyer.

It emerged that Broger, Murphy, Rivett and Hicks knew each other. Sawyers of the district, Rivett in particular, had a bad reputation for their dealings with Aborigines. A few days before his death, Rivett had cheated Broger and Murphy in an exchange of flour for bush turkey eggs. Further, it was rumoured that Rivett had seduced Murphy's wife. If this were true, then Broger may have been obliged to assist Murphy in securing redress under Aboriginal law. Perhaps, too, Broger resented the effects being wrought by sawyers on the stands of timber in the area, for he was known to refer possessively to Boon-ga-ree as 'his own place'. At his trial at Campbelltown on 20 August 1830 before Chief Justice (Sir) Francis Forbes, witnesses noted his claims that Rivett had attacked him first and he had acted in self-defence. However, he was not allowed to speak in his own defence. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. On 30 August Broger was publicly executed by Alexander Green.

As his knowledge and skills lost their value, Broughton was gradually forced to the margin of European society in the Shoalhaven. His problems within his own society multiplied. He was mocked by his relatives for his devotion to a foreign work ethic, which made him appear to them like a convict worker. Broughton had three wives in all. The first two were Mary, from Kangaroo Valley, and Charlotte. Both were unfaithful to him, and Charlotte died from a beating he gave her. He later took another wife. At least two of the four children of his wives were part-European. An 8-year-old daughter was raped by convicts. His earlier devotion to Berry had earned him an entitlement to regular rations from the Coolangatta store, but records show that he claimed them less frequently over time, indicating perhaps that he spent more time with his family and friends in the bush. He died about 1850.

The names of the brothers survive in several physical features and localities in the Shoalhaven. Brogers Creek is named after the one. After the other there is Broughton Creek, Broughton's Head, Broughton Vale, Broughton Village, and Broughton Mill Creek. A sketch of Broughton (called Broton), by Jacques Arago, the artist with the French scientific expedition, in 1819, shows a thoughtful, even intense, young man with a lightly whiskered face and medium length hair in free-flowing curls.

Select Bibliography

  • Berry papers, vol 111, appendix B (State Library of New South Wales)
  • CGS 898 [9/2743], CGS 13696 [5/1161, COD 294B], CGS 13477 [T 146], CGS 905 [4/2023, 29/2013] (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Keith Campbell, 'Broughton (1798–1850)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/broughton-12820/text23143, accessed 18 November 2017.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Toodwick
  • Toodood
  • Toodwit
Birth

1798
Berry, New South Wales, Australia

Death

1850

Cultural Heritage
Occupation