Maria Lock - A Remarkable Woman

(From The Living Floor Project, By Judy Watson 1994)

A Lock family legend used to recall:
"Robert Lock was a member of Governor King's household guard who married an Aboriginal lubra who worked in the Governor's kitchen. On marrying, the couple received a grant of land from the Governor as a wedding present."

The real story is far more interesting.
In 1819, a fourteen year old Aboriginal student won first prize in the NSW Anniversary schools Examination, ahead of 20 Aboriginal and 100 non-Aboriginal candidates. It is thought that this student was Maria, a daughter of Yarramundi, the Boorooberongal elder who had met Governor Phillip on the banks of the Hawkesbury in 1791. Maria was educated in the British way at the Parramatta Native Institution, which she attended with Yarramundi's approval, from its opening in 1815. One of the most successful survivors of the invasion and genocide of the Dharug communities, Maria founded a dynasty that today has thousands of descendants living throughout Western Sydney and Australia. Although her clan lands were in the Richmond area, Maria has a special link with Livepool because it was here, on a site now partly occupied by Liverpool Civic Centre, that she took up her first land grant.

On 26 January 1824, Maria married carpenter Robert Lock at St John's church, Parramatta, the first official Aboriginal- British marriage in the colony. The marriage was even more unusual in that Robert, an illiterate convict, was assigned to Maria. In addition the couple were promised a grant of land and a cow. It required many years of struggle with the colonial administration, for Maria to get the promised land. In the meantime she and her husband settled on the land of the Native Institution at Blacktown.

In 1831, following the death of her brother Colebee, Maria wrote to Governor Darling noting that she had not received her grant and requesting that Colebee's grant be transferred to her. In a reply addressed to her husband, the colonial secretary offered a thirty to forty acre allotment close to the Blacktown farm. Instead Maria and Robert chose 33.5 bordering the farm of their " best and only friend" Reverend Cartwright just south of Cabramatta Creek at Liverpool. Reverend Cartwright spurned this act of friendship,becoming the most vociferous opponent of their selection.

Through letter and visits to the colonial secretary, Cartwright successfully stopped the grant, suggesting that Liverpool was not the right place for the Lock's...and otherwise be most ruinous to my establishment and injurious to the neighbourhood.. His wife being very desirous of removing to Black Town and of obtaining land there, and being convinced that Liverpool was an improper place for them- In rancour Lock himself on one occasion declaring to me that he would leave his wife and children for the Government to keep if he did not get the land promised to her at the time of marriage..."

Maria continued to use official channels, in 1832 petitioning the new Governor, Bourke, to obtain what had been promised eight years before. Finally, in February 1833 she received a grant to 40 acres in the name of Robert Lock:
"in Trust for the said Maria Lock during her life for the sole and separate use without the control of her present or future husband she may have and remain in trust for the Heirs of the said Maria Lock by you her present husband the said Robert Lock begotten."

In 1843 Maria returned to her ancestral lands at Blacktown, having inherited Colebee's 30 acre grant on the Richmond Road. She retained the Liverpool property on her death in 1878 divided it among her four surviving daughters (Eliza Parsons, Martha Stunnings, Mary Ward and Clara Smith) and five sons ( Robert, James, John, William and Charles). In a story that has yet to be told , this Liverpool land was lost to the family around the time that Maria's Blacktown lands were taken over by the Aborigines Protection Board, as part of the second major theft of Aboriginal lands in NSW.

Maria Lock's life links the killing times with the stolen generations. Her success at the Native Institution appears to have been the exception rather than the rule. One of the reasons for this was Macquarie's policy of forcibly taking children from their families in order to keep up the number of students. Even Maria's father Yarramundi,who placed her at the Institution in 1815, was by 1818 having second thoughts. Reporting a visit to Yarramundi's camp, Rev Walter Lawry wrote:
"As I approached , the women and children ran away; but the King (Yellowmonday), with several men, came to meet me. I enquired why the children were carried off; they replied that many of them had been taken away by men in black clothes, and put to school at Parramatta, and they feared I was come on that errand."

A short time after Maria's death, the Aboriginal Protection Board resurrected Macquarie's policy of taking children by force. Among those taken were some of Maria's great grandchildren who remained living on her land at Blacktown. By this time the Board had renamed Maria's farm "The Plumpton Mission".

As before, Maria's family survived. James Kohen writes:
"The result of these forced removals was that there was a wide dispersal of some families. By the 1930's, the descendants of the Lock family were to be found from the north coast at Kempsey to the south coast at Nowra and Bateman's Bay, as well as in Katoomba, Lithgow, Sackville,Windsor, La Perouse, Parramatta and Botany in the Sydney region."

Recently a community proposal has been made to Liverpool Council that the small strip of Maria's original land grant which remains vacant beside the Civic Centre, be dedicated to the memory of this exception Australian. It is to be hoped that this will not take as long as it took for the NSW government to honour its promise in 1824.