Most of the towns, properties,
mountains and land marks in the Fingal Valley were given names by
the early settlers that related to their homeland, with the Irish
theme being the most dominant. Two towns, however, both of which
were established and became famous after gold was discovered in
the area, ended up with Aboriginal names.
The first to feel the influx of some 500 prospectors in 1852 was
The Nook, later to be given the name Mangana after the Aboriginal
words Mangana Lienta which was their way of describing the South
Soon after gold was found at Mangana, a second and larger find was
discovered 20 or so kilometers north at Mathinna. This find led
to the opening of the Golden Gate mine, which once established,
became the second largest gold producing mine in Tasmania after
the Tasmanian mine at Beaconsfield. The town too grew and with around
300 men per shift working at the Golden Gate in the latter part
of the 1800s, Mathinna was, for a time, the third largest town in
But it is the name Mathinna that I believe has more significance
than the history of the town itself. It reminds us of a time in
Tasmania history that no one should be proud of. It is also a time
we should never forget so that the ignorant acts of our ancestors
will not be repeated.
Mathinna was a beautiful Aboriginal girl born at Wybalenna on Flinders
Island in 1835 after her parents and the rest of their South West
tribe were rounded up by George Augustus Robertson two years earlier.
He was under orders from Governor George Arthur to relocate all
Aboriginals from Van Diemens Land to the Bass Strait Island so they
would cause no more trouble to the settlers.
Mary, or Mathinna as she was later renamed by Europeans, was taken
from her parents as a baby and sent to live with a school teacher
as part of a policy to educate Aboriginal children in white ways
as early as possible. In 1838, the then Governor of Van Diemens
Land, Sir John Franklin and his wife Lady Jane, visited the Aboriginal
settlement at Wybalenna where they were entertained with dance and
song and in return gave out presents of knives, handkerchiefs, beads
and marbles. They also arranged for the pretty, young child, Mathinna,
to be sent to Hobart where she would become part of their household
at Government House.
All of a sudden Mathinna was part of the Hobart upper-class. She
rode in the carriage with Lady Jane, shared a governess with Eleanor,
the Franklin’s daughter. Lady Jane even had convict artist, Thomas
Bock, paint Mathinna’s portrait while dressed in her favourite red
But alas, her time of being the apple in many a European’s eye at
Government house was short lived, in 1843 the Franklins returned
to England without Mathinna. She was sent to the Queen’s Orphan
School in Hobart where she was totally different from the other
girls and completely unaccepted by her fellow students. She was
soon sent back to Flinders Island and again taken in by a school
master. Her people at Wybalenna were dying, however, disease, loneliness
and sheer broken hearts had almost wiped them out and Mathinna returned,
once again, to Hobart and Queen’s Orphan School.
By this time the school had become overcrowded and disease ridden,
with many dying of scarlet fever. Hunger and unjust punishment were
everyday occurrences and at the age of sixteen, when Mathinna was
able to leave the school, she was given another setback when she
went to live with a group of her people at an Aboriginal settlement
at Oyster Cove. Here again she found the same situation as at Wybalenna,
her people were dying at an alarming rate and dwindling to extinction.
Mathinna had no choice but to get caught up in the devastating way
of life forced onto her people by the white man and in no time she
was selling her body for alcohol and enough food just to survive.
Her end, at the age of just 21, was as tragic as hundreds who had
come before her. One dark night, in a drunkard state, she fell into
the water and was drowned.
The township of Mathinna in now only a shadow of its 1800’s hay
days, but it is blessed to have such a lovely name, which stands
as a symbol to a beautiful young lady born into a wonderful race
of people, whose misfortune, it appears, was the arrogance of the
Nineteenth Century Van Diemens Land aristocracy.
Golden Gate Gold Mine at Mathinna.
Towards the Nineteenth Century Mathinna was the third largest town
in Tasmania after
Hobart and Launceton