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Open Right

Jan Wositzky: Buckley: The Go-Between

Session Info:

Buckley: The Go-Between is storytelling theatre. It tells the story of escaped convict William Buckley, his 32 years with the Wathaurong, and as the go-between in the establishment of Melbourne.

Buckley: The Go-Between deals with Indigenous Australia and European colonisation of the Port Phillip area, from 1803 – 1837, including the founding of Melbourne. It does so by tracking the life of convict William Buckley (1780-1856), including: * Buckley’s 1803 escape from Victoria’s first attempted settlement at Sorrento. * Buckley’s 32 years with Wathaurong Aboriginal people, where he became Murrangurk. * Buckley’s two years as the go-between in Melbourne’s foundation (1835-7), employed as Interpreter between the Port Phillip Aborigines and the colonists: John Batman, John Fawkner and co.

Drawing on Buckley’s 1852 biography, official documents, contemporary Buckley literature, Wathaurong language and Jan’s research in ‘Buckley country’, Buckley: The Go-Between is a well-researched ripping yarn, with a quirky visual display of familiar Melbourne street signs and historical images. It’s exciting, wild frontier history, such as we rarely hear about Victoria. Jan has researched the archives, and pulls no punches about the characters, ironies and violence of the time, without fear or favour to black or white, including: * Batman’s land deal or ‘treaty’ with the Woiwurrung people * Fawkner’s rivalry with Batman and antipathy to Buckley * How Derrimut foiled a planned massacre of the colonists * The first killings of settlers and subsequent massacre of Aboriginals at Werribee * The disappearance of solicitor Gellibrand, who wrote Batman’s deed, and the sabotage of Buckley’s search for him by both black and white interests. And in telling this oft-hidden history Jan asks students to consider many questions about black-white relations that are as pertinent today as in the 1800’s. And it’s from William Buckley that we have our saying, You’ve got Buckley’s – but its origin will surprise!


  • Indigenous and colonial Port Phillip
  • Melbourne’s birth and the people involved
  • William Buckley – a white man who went black

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