Truganini (c. 1812 – 8 May 1876) was a woman who was, perhaps incorrectly, considered by European colonists to have been the last full blood Aboriginal Tasmanian. Aboriginal Tasmanians maintain their culture and identity till the present day.


Portrait of Truganini by Charles A. Woolley
Died8 May 1876 (aged 63–64)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Other namesTruganini, Trucanini, Trucaninny, Trugananner, Lydgugee and Lalla Rookh
Known forBeing described as the last "full-blooded" Aboriginal Tasmanian
William Lanne

Truganini (c.1812 – 8 May 1876), also known as Lalla Rookh and Lydgugee,[1] was a woman famous for being widely described as the last "full-blooded" Aboriginal Tasmanian to survive British colonisation. Although she was one of the last speakers of the Indigenous Tasmanian languages, Truganini was not the last Aboriginal Tasmanian.[2]

She lived through the devastation of invasion and the Black War in which most of her relatives died, avoiding death herself by being assigned as a guide in expeditions organised to capture and forcibly exile all the remaining Indigenous Tasmanians. Truganini was later taken to the Port Phillip District where she engaged in armed resistance against the colonists. She herself was then exiled, first to the Wybalenna Aboriginal Establishment on Flinders Island and then to Oyster Cove in southern Tasmania. Truganini died at Hobart in 1876, her skeleton later being placed on public display at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery until 1948. Her remains were finally cremated and laid to rest in 1976.[3]

In being mythologised as "the last of her people", Truganini became the tragic and triumphal symbol of the conquest of British colonists over an "inferior race".[2][4] In modern times, Truganini's life has become representative of both the dispossession and destruction that was exacted upon Indigenous Australians and also their determination to survive the colonial genocidal policies that were enforced against them.[5][2]

Name and spelling

Other spellings of her name include Trukanini,[6] Trugernanner, Trugernena, Truganina, Trugannini, Trucanini, Trucaminni,[a] and Trucaninny.[b] Truganini was widely known by the nickname Lalla(h) Rookh,[a] and also called Lydgugee.

In the Indigenous Bruny Island language, truganina was the name of the grey saltbush, Atriplex cinerea.[8]

Early life

1831 painting by Thomas Bock, believed to be of Truganini

Truganini was born around 1812[9] at Recherche Bay (Lyleatea) in southern Tasmania.[10] Her father was Manganerer, a senior figure of the Nuenonne people whose country extended from Recherche Bay across the D'Entrecasteaux Channel to Bruny Island (Lunawanna-alonnah). Truganini's mother was probably a Ninine woman from the area around Port Davey.[11]

At the time of Truganini's birth, the British had already begun colonising the region around Nuenonne country, severely disrupting the ability of her people to live and practise their traditional culture. The violence directed at the Nuenonne, who were regarded as helpful to the colonists, was sustained and horrific. Around 1816, a group of British sailors raided the camp of Truganini's family, stabbing her mother to death. In 1826, Truganini's older sisters Lowhenune and Magerleede were abducted by a sealer and eventually sold to other sealers on Kangaroo Island, while in 1829 her step-mother was abducted by mutinous convicts and taken to New Zealand.[11]

There is also an account that around 1828 Truganini's uncle was shot by a soldier, and that she was abducted and raped by timber-cutters. The timber-cutters also brutally murdered and drowned two Nuenonne men, one of which was Truganini's fiancé, by throwing them out of a boat and cutting off their hands with an axe as they tried to clamber back in.[12][10]

By 1828 the British had established three whaling stations on Bruny Island. A reciprocal relationship existed between the whalers and Nuenonne females, where flour, sugar and tea were exchanged for sex. Truganini participated in this trade. She also was an exceptional swimmer and provided further food for her people by diving for abalone and other shellfish.[13]

Association with George Augustus Robinson

In 1828, the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, Colonel George Arthur, ordered the creation of an Aboriginal ration station on Bruny Island, which in 1829 was placed under the authority of an English builder and evangelical Christian named George Augustus Robinson.[14]

On arriving at Bruny Island, Robinson was immediately impressed by Truganini's intelligence and decided to form a close association with her to facilitate other Nuenonne to come to the Aboriginal station which he established at Missionary Bay on the west side of the island.[15] With the assistance of Truganini, Robinson initially had some success in attracting Nuenonne and Ninine people to his establishment. He even took Truganini and her cousin Dray to Hobart dressed in fine European dresses to display them to the Lieutenant-Governor as being examples of his ability to "civilise the natives".[14]

However, colonial violence and European diseases rapidly killed off most of the Indigenous people who visited the establishment, including Truganini's father Manganerer. By October 1829, only a handful of Nuenonne and Ninine had survived, and to strengthen his father-like bonds with the survivors, Robinson oversaw the partnering of the young Truganini with an important surviving Nuenonne man named Wurati.[16]

Guide for the "friendly mission"

Realising that the Aboriginal station at Bruny Island was doomed, Robinson formulated a scheme to use Truganini, Wurati and a few other captured Aboriginal people to guide him to the clans residing in the uncolonised western parts of Van Diemen's Land. Once contacted, Robinson would "conciliate" these clans to accept the British invasion and avoid conflict. Lieutenant-Governor Arthur approved Robinson's plan and employed him to conduct this venture which was named the "friendly mission".[14]

The mission left Bruny Island in early 1830 with Truganini playing a very important role not only as an linguistic interpreter on local Aboriginal language and culture, but also by providing much of the seafood for the group. None of the men in the expedition could swim, so Truganini also did most of the work pushing the other group members on small rafts across the various rivers they encountered.[17]

As they made their way up the west coast past Bathurst Harbour and Macquarie Harbour, the "friendly mission" made brief contacts with Ninine and Lowreenne clans. When Truganini and Wurati were sent to obtain rations at the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island, Robinson was abandoned by his other guides. Alone, starving and debilitated by skin and eye infections, Robinson was saved from death by being located by Truganini and Wurati on their return from the penal colony.[18]

By June 1830, the group had reached the north west tip of Van Diemen's Land known as Cape Grim. Here they found that the Van Diemen's Land Company had appropriated a massive area of land for farmland; displacing and massacring the local Tarkiner, Pennemukeer, Pairelehoinner, Peternidic and Peerapper clans in the process. Sealers on nearby Robbins Island were also found with women kidnapped from both local clans and elsewhere in Tasmania. On meeting Truganini, the kidnapped women cried with joy as Robinson negotiated their release. However, Robinson being informed that the government were offering a £5 bounty for every native captured, now sort financial gain from his "friendly mission". He duplicitously used a Pairelehoinner youth named Tunnerminnerwait to gather some of the local people, who he shipped to Launceston to claim the bounty. Joseph Fossey, the superintendent for the Van Diemen's Land Company, meanwhile took an interest in Truganini and wanted her as an "evening companion".[19]

Flinders Island

Truganini, seated right

In 1835, Truganini and most[further explanation needed] other surviving Aboriginal Tasmanians were relocated to Flinders Island in the Bass Strait, where the colonial British government had built the Wybalenna Aboriginal Establishment. This internment camp proved unsuccessful, and disastrous for the exiled Aboriginal Tasmanian people. The stated aim of isolation was to save them,[citation needed] but many of the group died from influenza and other diseases.

Port Phillip District

In 1839, Truganini, among sixteen Aboriginal Tasmanians, accompanied Robinson to the Port Phillip District in present-day Victoria.

Oral histories of Truganini report that after arriving in the new settlement of Melbourne and disengaging with Robinson, she had a child named Louisa Esmai with John Shugnow or Strugnell at Point Nepean in Victoria, but anthropologist Diane Barwick stated that historians working on a legal case for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service disproved those claims in 1974.[20][21][c] Louisa was grandmother to Ellen Atkinson.

After about two years of living in and around Melbourne, she joined Tunnerminnerwait and three other Tasmanian Aboriginal people. The group became outlaws, robbing and shooting at settlers around Dandenong and triggering a long pursuit by the authorities. The outlaws moved on to Bass River and then Cape Paterson. There, members of the group murdered two whalers at Watson's hut. The group was captured and sent for trial for murder at Port Phillip. A gunshot wound to Truganini's head was treated by Dr Hugh Anderson of Bass River. The two men of the group were found guilty and hanged on 20 January 1842.[22]

Oyster Cove

Photographs by Alfred Winter, c. 1869

Truganini and most[further explanation needed] of the other Tasmanian Aboriginal people were returned to Flinders Island several months later. In 1847, the few surviving Tasmanian Aboriginal people at the Flinders Island settlement, including Truganini (not all Tasmanian Aboriginal people on the island as some suggest) were moved to a settlement at Oyster Cove, south of Hobart.[23]

According to The Times newspaper, quoting a report issued by the Colonial Office, by 1861 the number of survivors at Oyster Cove was only fourteen:

...14 persons, all adults, aboriginals of Tasmania, who are the sole surviving remnant of ten tribes. Nine of these persons are women and five are men. There are among them four married couples, and four of the men and five of the women are under 45 years of age, but no children have been born to them for years. It is considered difficult to account for this... Besides these 14 persons there is a native woman who is married to a white man, and who has a son, a fine healthy-looking child...

The article, headed "Decay of Race", adds that although the survivors enjoyed generally good health and still made hunting trips to the bush during the season, after first asking "leave to go", they were now "fed, housed and clothed at public expense" and "much addicted to drinking".[24]

According to a report in The Times she later married a Tasmanian Aboriginal person, William Lanne (known as "King Billy") who died in March 1869.[a] By 1873, Truganini was the sole survivor of the Oyster Cove group, and was again moved to Hobart.


Photograph of Truganini in old age by Henry Hall Baily

She died in May 1876 and was buried at the former Female Factory at Cascades, a suburb of Hobart. Before her death, Truganini had pleaded to colonial authorities for a respectful burial, and requested that her ashes be scattered in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. She feared that her body would be mutilated for perverse scientific purposes as William Lanne's had been.[25]

Despite her wishes, within two years, her skeleton was exhumed by the Royal Society of Tasmania.[26] It was placed on public display in the Tasmanian Museum in 1904 where it remained until 1947.[27] Only in April 1976, approaching the centenary of her death, were Truganini's remains finally cremated and scattered according to her wishes.[28][29] In 2002, some of her hair and skin were found in the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and returned to Tasmania for burial.[30]


Truganini is often incorrectly referred to as the last speaker of a Tasmanian language.[31] However, The Companion to Tasmanian History details three full-blood Tasmanian Aboriginal women, Sal, Suke and Betty, who lived on Kangaroo Island in South Australia in the late 1870s and "all three outlived Truganini". There were also Tasmanian Aboriginal people living on Flinders and Lady Barron Islands. Fanny Cochrane Smith (1834–1905) outlived Truganini by 30 years and in 1889 was officially recognised as the last Tasmanian Aboriginal person, though there was speculation that she was actually mixed-race,[32] later refuted.[citation needed] Smith recorded songs in her native language, the only audio recordings that exist of an indigenous Tasmanian language.[9][33]

According to historian Cassandra Pybus's 2020 biography, Truganini's mythical status as the "last of her people" has overshadowed the significant roles she played in Tasmanian and Victorian history during her lifetime. Pybus states that "for nearly seven decades she lived through a psychological and cultural shift more extreme than most human imaginations could conjure; she is a hugely significant figure in Australian history".[34]

Truganini Place in the Canberra suburb of Chisholm is named in her honour.[35] The suburb of Truganina in Melbourne's outer western suburbs is believed to be named after her, as she had visited the area for a short time.

Cultural depictions

Visual art

Benjamin Law's 1835 bust of Truganini, commissioned by George Augustus Robinson

In 1835 and 1836, settler Benjamin Law created a pair of busts depicting Truganini and Woorrady in Hobart Town that have come under recent controversy.[36] In 2009, members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre protested an auction of these works by Sotheby's in Melbourne, arguing that the sculptures were racist, perpetuated false myths of Aboriginal extinction, and erased the experiences of Tasmania's remaining indigenous populations.[37] Representatives called for the busts to be returned to Tasmania and given to the Aboriginal community, and were ultimately successful in stopping the auction.[38]

Artist Edmund Joel Dicks also created a plaster bust of Truganini, which is in the collection of the National Museum of Australia.[39]

In 1997, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, England, returned Truganini's necklace and bracelet to Tasmania.

Music and literature

See also


  1. ^ a b c "A royal lady - Trucaminni, or Lallah Rookh, the last Tasmanian aboriginal, has died of paralysis, aged 73. She was Queen Consort to King Billy, who died in March 1871, and had been under the care of Mrs Dandridge, who was allowed £80 annually by the Government for maintenance."[7]
  2. ^ Colonial-era reports spell her name "Trugernanner" or "Trugernena" (in modern orthography, Trukanana or Trukanina). In 1869, the town of Truganini was established near Bendigo in Victoria. In 1870, the current spelling was first used for Truganini's name.[citation needed]
  3. ^ According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Louisa Briggs was probably the daughter of Doog-by-er-um-boroke, a Woiorung woman kidnapped from Port Phillip by sealers (Barwick 2005).


  1. ^ Pybus 2020, p. 310.
  2. ^ a b c Ryan, Lyndall (2012). Tasmanian Aborigines. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781742370682.
  3. ^ Pybus, Cassandra (2024). A Very Secret Trade. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781761066344.
  4. ^ Boyce, James (2008). Van Diemen's Land. Collingwood: Black Inc. ISBN 9781760644819.
  5. ^ Pybus 2020, p. xvi.
  6. ^ TAC place names n.d.
  7. ^ The Times, Thursday, 6 July 1876; p. 6; Issue 28674; col D
  8. ^ Ellis 1981, p. 3.
  9. ^ a b Ryan & Smith 1976.
  10. ^ a b Pybus 2020, p. 281.
  11. ^ a b Pybus 2020, p. 280.
  12. ^ "Black Chieftainess of Van Diemen's Land". The World's News. No. 2787. New South Wales, Australia. 21 May 1955. p. 14. Retrieved 9 June 2024 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ Pybus 2020, pp. 9–18.
  14. ^ a b c Plomley, NJB; Robinson, George Augustus (2008). Friendly Mission, the Tasmanian journals and papers of George Augustus Robinson. Hobart: Quintus. ISBN 9780977557226.
  15. ^ Pybus 2020, pp. 12–13.
  16. ^ Pybus 2020, pp. 22–23.
  17. ^ Pybus 2020, pp. 26–49.
  18. ^ Pybus 2020, pp. 38–42.
  19. ^ Pybus 2020, pp. 46–49.
  20. ^ Radeska 2016.
  21. ^ Barwick 1985, p. 187.
  22. ^ The Australasian Chronicle 1842, p. 2.
  23. ^ Gough 2006.
  24. ^ The Times, issue 23848 dated Tuesday, 5 February 1861; p. 10; col A
  25. ^ Australian Museum.
  26. ^ Kühnast 2009.
  27. ^ Barwick 2005.
  28. ^ Aboriginal News 1976.
  29. ^ DPAC Tasmania 2011.
  30. ^ Barkham & Finlayson 2002.
  31. ^ Crowley & Thieberger 2007.
  32. ^ Roth 1898, pp. 451–454.
  33. ^ Fanny Cochrane Smith.
  34. ^ Pybus 2020, p. xv.
  35. ^ Gazette 1978, p. 14.
  36. ^ Hansen 2010.
  37. ^ ABC News 2009.
  38. ^ Davies 2009.
  39. ^ NMoA 1931.
  40. ^ The Times, Saturday, 24 April 1886; p. 4; Issue 31742; col E
  41. ^ The Times, Thursday, 22 October 1908; p. 13; issue 38784; col A
  42. ^ Harari 2011, pp. 310–311.
  43. ^ Kongfooey 2019.


External links

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