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Gudang country

A photo of a green grassy beach with trees on either side allowing a view of the water and a boat. The landmass behind the boat is covered in densely populated trees.
Gudang country

To be resilient

Nicholas Thompson, Gudang, 2014:

For me as a young generation coming through, I can feel our youth ... are very resilient to what our late ancestors have been through ... It’s a sort of skill that us as the next generation coming through have learnt over the years – to be resilient.

Colonial authorities established Somerset on Gudang country in 1864. It was planned to be the administrative centre for the Torres Strait region, but this remote colony on the tip of Cape York became a violent place presided over by the infamous Jardine family. A missionary report noted that ‘Jardine ruled with a Terry rifle with 47 notches on its stock’.

William Kennett, an Englishman who briefly worked at Somerset, attempted to mediate the violence between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the colonists. He took great interest in local culture, collecting objects, taking photographs and learning the languages.

Aunty Maryann Mayor, Gudang elder, 2014:

Despite Kennett’s work, people today only remember the ‘Jardine time’. It’s always beautiful here. Can’t live here though, that history too recent. Every time we visit, that history right there.

Old objects

Headband made from a dingo tail and twine. - click to view larger image
Dingo-tail headband

William Kennett was one of two staff at the short-lived ‘Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts’ mission at Somerset.

In a letter to Augustus Wollaston Franks dated 29 January 1870, he claimed to have amassed what he believed to be a ‘complete’ collection, ‘comprising every weapon, article of dress, or ornament etc. used or manufactured by those natives’.

Upon his return to England, Kennett displayed these objects and photographs at the Manchester Missionary Exhibition of 1869–70. It was from here that Franks purchased the material, including this headband, for the British Museum.

Nicholas Thompson, Gudang, 2014:

Our oral histories are very detailed as they are handed down. The history of Somerset is hard for our old people to share because the violence was bad. Everyone know about Jardine but not Kennett.
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