Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne

Between Worlds

The story of Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne reveals aspects of the establishment of Britain's first colony in Australia. In 1789, shortly after the British settlement of New South Wales, Bennelong, an Aboriginal Australian, was forcibly removed from his people and taken to live with Governor Phillip at Government House in Sydney. During this time, in which Bennelong was required to teach Phillip about Aboriginal culture, they formed a kinship relationship. The system of Aboriginal kinship was highly complex and determined every aspect of an individual's social and religious conduct.

Bennelong and another captured Aborigine, Yemmerrawanne, were brought to London by Phillip, arriving on May 22, 1793. It may be that they felt that they 'owed' it to Phillip to accompany him because of their kinship relationship. Both men lodged with William Waterhouse in Mayfair and were fashionably outfitted to be presented at court and f or their visits to the Theatre Royal Covent Garden and sightseeing trips. However neither made the impact that celebrity visitors such as Mai and they do not appear to have shared his desire to mimic the manners of an English gentleman. Both Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne came from a society in which there was not the same regard for hierarchy. Both had difficulty with the damp and cold climate in England. Little remains of their time in London. Yemmerawanne died in Eltham on 18 May 1794. Bennelong returned to New South Wales in 1795.

Four Kings | William Ansah Sessarakoo| Mai| Joseph Brant| Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne| Sake Dean Mahomed| Sara Baartman| Raja Rammohun Roy| Maharaja Dalip Singh

Yemmerawannie Artist and date unknown Pen and wash on light board, 95 x 65mm - © Dixson Library State Library of New South Wales

Yemmerawannie
Artist and date unknown
Pen and wash on light board, 95 x 65mm
© Dixson Library State Library of New South Wales

 

The Taking of Colbee and Benallon [sic], 25 November 1789 by William Bradley, 1789 Watercolour, 230 x 165mm - © Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

The Taking of Colbee and Benallon [sic], 25 November 1789
by William Bradley, 1789
Watercolour, 230 x 165mm
© Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales