After convict William Buckley’s escape from a Victorian settlement he was discovered by the Wathaurang people who thought this pale, 198cm giant carrying a spear was the ghost of one of their leaders.
Buckley had arrived at Port Phillip from England in 1803 with about 300 soldiers, settlers and convicts after being sentenced to transportation for life. Before the Port Phillip and Sullivan Bay (Victoria’s first official European settlement) settlement was abandoned, Buckley escaped. He wandered alone for weeks before he was befriended by the Wathaurang people.
Over the next 32 years Buckley lived with the Wathaurang, learnt their language and customs, married and had a daughter. In 1835 he finally emerged to meet Batman’s colonising party and tried to work as an intermediary between settlers and aborigines, but felt he wasn’t trusted by either.
His name lives on in Australian slang with the ironic saying “you’ve got Buckley’s chance” or “Buckley’s hope”.
Further material can be found at the State Library of Victoria's Ergo site:-
Buckley (sketch of William Buckley)
Buckley with a group of Aborigines
Buckley ran away from ship
Reminiscenses of James Buckley who lived for thirty years among the Wallawarro or Watourong tribes
Journal of William Todd
William Buckley painting
William Buckley engraving
Government Residence, Melbourne 1837
J. P. Fawkner's first house
The first settlers discover Buckley
Batman's first meeting with Buckley
Buckley discovering himself to the early settlers.
Melbourne. Buckley and Nunns Limited. Bourke St.
Story education resources
Education State Library of Victoria: Batman meets Buckley
These resources and worksheets relate to a meeting between William Buckley and John Batman, which reportedly took place at Indented Head on 6 July 1835. Buckley was in fact met by other members of Batman's party, including William Todd, whose journal is one of the sources that describe what ‘really happened'. Students evaluate sources, compare images and study a single image in detail. Suitable for VCE Australian History.