Australian PrehistoryHistory - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other Countries


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Relations between Aborigines
and colonists

Myths in History
Fabrications for politics

Should they be defined as part of a war?

Black Woman and White Man
Rape or love?

Myall Creek Masscare
Causes and consequences of colonial violence

The Stolen Generations
It's not so black and white

Jimmy Govenor
Not a good fence builder

Mary Anne Bugg
Female Bushranger

Justice or resistance?

1967 referendum
The myths

Convicts and their legacy

Convict legacy
How the past shapes the present

Convict life
Regrets and floggings

Convict crimes
Power and morality

Convict punishments
What purpose?

Larrikin Convicts
Breaking rules

Thinking different

Convict women
Moral diversity


Can Convict Creations be relied upon?

Mary Anne Bugg

The advantages of bridging cultures

She was the daughter of an Woromi woman and a Convict, became famous for being the lover of a bushranger Federick Ward, was sent to prison for vagrancy after being defined as “too civilised” to be Aboriginal and was noted for riding horses astride rather than side saddle… In some ways, Mary Anne Bugg seemed like a feminist heroine from a Jane Austin novel - except her life was far more interesting than a Jane Austin novel.

Mary Anne was born near Gloucester in New South Wales in 1834. Her father was an ex-Convict named James Bugg. Her mother was a Worimi woman named Charlotte. The pair would have 8 children including Mary. Relationships between colonial men and Aboriginal women often transgressed arranged marriages in Aboriginal cultures and elicited hostility; however, the Worimi were said to have been open to such unions (1). Even though the Worimi were open to inter-racial unions, colonial authorities were a bit more concerned. Initially, the marriage application was refused on the grounds that Charlotte was non-Christian and therefore not civilised. Authorities relented after being given assurances that their children would become “civilised”. ” True to the pledge, Mary was sent away to school for orphans in order to learn reading, writing and domestic skills. Although the skills were seen as a mark of the civilised, they were not demanded of white children of the time.

At the age of 14, Mary married a shepherd named Edmund Baker and the couple moved to Mudgee. Ironically, Mary was able to sign her name on her marriage certificate while Baker signed with a cross, thus illustrating some of the absurdity of Aborigines being held to a standard of civilisation that most of the European migrants or their children did not come close to meeting.

After marriage, Mary and Edmund were employed by a Mrs. Garbutt whose son James was involved with a cattle thief named Frederick Ward. Mary and Ward probably formed an instant attraction to each other.
In 1856 Frederick Ward and James Garbutt were sentenced to Cockatoo Island prison for ten years for receiving stolen horses. They served only four years and were released with Tickets of Leave. Ward returned to the Garbutt's station for Mary Anne. With her young child, Mary accompanied Ward to Dungog. (Mary's husband had died while Ward had been in gaol.)

At aged 21, Mary Anne fell pregnant and Ward took her back to her father's house in a different district for delivery of the baby. This violated Ward’s ticket of leave that required that he remain in the district and be available for three musters a month. Upon returning for muster, Ward was arrested and sent back to jail on Cockatoo Island to complete his original sentence.

Two weeks after Ward’s return to Cockatoo Island, Mary Ann gave birth to their first child; a girl named Marina Emily. Despite having six years left on his sentence, Ward would soon see his baby girl. According to disputed legends, as soon as Marina was weaned, Mary placed both her child in care and moved to Balmain (near Cockatoo Island) where she found employment as a housemaid under the name Louisa Mason. She then swam to Cockatoo Island with a file for Ward to cut through his chains.

After reportedly swimming to freedom, the couple moved to the Hunter Valley where Ward became the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt. Despite having three children by March 1866, Mary Ann was a valuable asset to Ward and the gang. Her European training in the refined art of being a lady enabled her to venture into townships to purchase supplies or gather information about police, coach movements or the latest gossip without arousing suspicion. Furthermore, she taught Ward how to read and write, which proved helpful for Ward when reading about his criminal exploits in the newspapers. Mary Anne's Aboriginal knowledge of bushcraft also enabled her to find food and shelter in the mountainous terrain. In addition, her relationships with Aboriginal people provided Ward with local protection. So much so, local Aboriginal trackers were said to have led authorities astray when asked to track Ward; forcing authorities to bring in trackers from Queensland.

Not only did Mary Anne's ability to transgress both Aboriginal and Colonial worlds cause problems for authorities by helping Ward evade capture, it also made her difficult to define her for legal purposes. In 1866, she was charged with vagrancy after being found in an isolated part of the bush with a swag, a child and some provisions but with no stated purpose for being there. Because the Vagrancy Act was not applied to Aborigines, the following three months saw public debate about whether she should have been charged. The prosecution defended its actions by stating that Mary Anne had been baptised, received a Christian education, obtained work as a domestic servant and was therefore civilised. Critics stated that “to send her into gaol for living as her ancestors had lived … was an act of the grossest tyranny and oppression (Maitland Mercury 10 April 1866). A petition to parliament eventually saw her released.

It is not clear exactly how Mary Anne died because two death certificates have been found. One scenario is that while in jail, Ward betrayed her for another woman, Louisa Maison. Distraught at his treachery, Mary Ann gave police information to aid his capture. She then left the area to marry a man named John Burrows. A death certificate showed that Mary Anne Burrows, daughter of James Brigg & Charlotte, died on the 2nd April 1905, aged 70 years

However 'Louisa Maison' is the name Mary Ann reportedly used while working in Balmain. Furthermore, her information to the police proved useless. For this reason, her story of Ward's betrayal might have been a mere smokescreen that helped Ward evade capture, and allowed her to leave the gang so that she could spend time with her children without fear of police persecution.

Another story proposes that iIn 1867, a grieving Ward approached a Mrs. Bradford and told her a woman was dying. Ward asked that Mrs. Bradford care for her and if not, report the circumstances to the police. Mrs. Bradford subsequently found the woman, took her to the house where she died. Soon afterwards the newspapers were reporting that Louisa Mason, alias Yellow Long, had died of pneumonia. Yellilong had been Marry Anne's alias in Aboriginal communities. If Louisa Mason and Mary Ann had indeed been the same person, it seems that knowing she was dying, Mary Ann had left her children to spend her final weeks with Ward in the Australian wilderness.

A further twist is that Mary's fourth child was registered in early 1868, with Fred Ward named the father. In the Tamworth Circuit, Frederick Wordsworth Ward was registered to Frederick & Mary Ann Ward. Perhaps the birth of the fourth child may have contributed to her death or perhaps Mary hadn't died at all. Mary's ability to slip between worlds had made much of her life a mystery, and it seems her death as well.

Activities: Was Mary Anne a feminist?

1) What is feminism?

2) In what ways did Mary Ann break the female mould?

3) Define the female mould that she broke and who had defined the mould?

Why are myth makers not attracted to Mary Anne's story?

Mary Anne Bugg and Jimmy Governor (a farm hand who murdered white women with axes) were two individuals of mixed heritage who gained a degree of notoriety. Of the two, contemporary white myth makers have been more attracted to the Governor story. These poets, novellists and film makers have explained Governor's motivation to kill random white women as stemming from confusion over his mixed race identity and desire to be seen as white despite his black heritage.  In your opinion, why have contemporary white myth makers been more attracted to a failed individual than to someone whose mixed race heritage seemed to bring opportunities those of singular heritage lacked?

1) Kali Bierens, Bachelor of Arts
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of
Bachelor of Arts with Honours (Aboriginal Studies)
University of Tasmania (October, 2008)



John Caesare
The first

Our Ned Kelly
A story heard and considered

Eureka Massacre
Dying for liberty

Post Convicts

Why is it not celebrated?

White Australia Policy
From Convicts to Chinese

Baptism of Fire or Well of Tears

Simpson and his Donkey
A larrikin and a hero

Nancy Wake
A larrikin and a hero

The Depression
Australia's Greek Moment

World War 2
The eastern chapters

Cold War
The expression of transnational identities

Prime Ministers
Values and policies of Australian leaders


The Europeans
Building a new Australia

The Vietnamese
No longer "New Australian", now "Multicultural"




"Let no-one say the past is dead, the past is all about us and within"(Oodgeroo)