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Collin Hood (1836–1914)

by Jan Critchett

This article was published:

Collin Hood (c.1836-1914), stockman and Aboriginal leader, was born near Hexham in south-western Victoria, son of 'King Blackwood' and Mary. A man of the Djabwurung people, he was given the name Merang and grew up with knowledge of traditional life. His totem was jallan, the whip snake. Squatters used his Aboriginal name for a local pastoral run and on Merrang, particularly after it was acquired by Robert Hood's family in 1856, he became a trusted and respected employee: station records show that he was paid as a European. Like many Aboriginal workers he was given his employer's surname.

Collin married Nora Villiers (c.1836-1871), an Aboriginal woman, also known as Ageebonyee, daughter of Ningi Burning and Nango Burn, on 1 November 1855 in a Christian service. They were to have six children. Born at Korrewarra, and baptized at Warrnambool on 24 June 1853, Nora had been a domestic servant and was exceptional in that she could read and write English. Robert Hood described her as 'highly civilised', and to the Presbyterian minister William Hamilton she was one of two Aboriginal women he had met 'possessing a greater amount of religious knowledge than many of our white population'. In 1863 the missionary J. G. Paton called unannounced at her hut in the Aboriginal camp at Hexham, to find her reading the Presbyterian Messenger, with the Bible at hand. Impressed, he spoke about her and read her letters at his Melbourne farewell meeting, when he argued for greater efforts to 'give the Gospel to the Aborigines'.

In 1860 Collin and Nora had been among the first to ask for an individual grant of land when the Victorian government introduced a policy of providing for the dispossessed Aborigines. It appears that the land was granted but the Hoods later lost it. They moved to Framlingham Aboriginal station when it opened in 1865. Nora died on 28 March 1871 in Melbourne and was buried in the new cemetery there. On 6 August 1872 at Framlingham Collin married with Congregational forms Louisa Lutton, née King (or Tappoke), widowed daughter of 'King George' and Mary. Born near Mount Rouse, Louisa was a servant with three surviving children from her previous marriage; she and Collin were to have four children. His experience and the fact that he worked 'willingly and more constantly than most men' persuaded the manager of Framlingham in the early 1880s to appoint him stockman there.

Collin emerged as a spokesman for his community after the Board for the Protection of the Aborigines decided on 7 August 1889 to close Framlingham. The Aboriginal station's inhabitants and their friends, including the politician (later premier) John Murray, protested and the chief secretary Alfred Deakin , visited Framlingham in November. Collin was one of two Aborigines who addressed him. The area had been their 'hunting grounds', he said, and 'they hoped to be allowed to live there for the remaining years of their lives' and 'if removed to other places would not agree'. Deakin was unable to sway the board, however, whose acting general inspector Rev. Friedrich Hagenauer had visited Framlingham and reported: 'A few of the blacks . . . have been crammed in the idea of getting a few hundred acres of land from the reserve either as a hunting ground or small farms, and their leader Collin Hood, seems very earnest in his request'. But, he assured the board, few of the Aborigines were locals, some had already left and the rest would soon follow.

To correct the impression that the residents were not locals and therefore had no special attachment to the locality, the pastoralist Robert Hood asked Collin to make 'a list of the pure blacks at present at Framlingham, their names and birth places'. Prepared by Collin's daughter, this was published in a Warrnambool newspaper. Of thirty-nine 'pure blacks' and four 'half-castes', only 'one pure black man' was born outside the district.

On 23 September 1890 Murray heard that the reserve was about to be transferred to the Council of Agricultural Education. He raised in parliament the injustice of what was about to occur and used details provided by Collin to arouse sympathy. In October Deakin announced that 500 acres (202 ha) were to be retained for the Aborigines. Murray's support was decisive, but nothing could have been achieved without the refusal of the Aborigines to move, and Hood had been vital in firming their resolve.

Louise died in 1890. Though entitled to stay on the reserve, next year Hood was living at Hexham. By 1897, in a period of economic depression, he was at Ramahyuck Aboriginal station in eastern Victoria, probably to be near his family. On 17 March 1898 at Lake Tyers he married Helen Rivers, née Johnson, a 23-year-old, widowed Kurnai woman. Hood died on 3 May 1914 and was buried at Lake Tyers with Anglican rites. His wife and their four sons and one daughter, and a daughter by his second wife survived him. Hood's actions enabled the community to survive, which led to Framlingham being, with Lake Tyers, the only former Victorian Aboriginal station communities to receive title to land in 1971 and to the successful 1970s and 1980s land rights claim to Framlingham Forest.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Critchett, Untold Stories (Melb, 1998)
  • J. Paton (ed), John G. Paton, D.D., Missionary to the New Hebrides (Lond, 1894)
  • A. Campbell (compiler), Victorian Aborigines: John Bulmer’s Recollections 1855-1908 (Melb, 1994)
  • Warrnambool Standard, 2 Nov 1889, 29 Nov 1889
  • B313, item 57, B314, B335, item 1, B1272 (National Archives of Australia)
  • VPRS 3992, N13183 1889 (Public Record Office Victoria)
  • Merrang pastoral records (privately held).

Citation details

Jan Critchett, 'Hood, Collin (1836–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Merang

Victoria, Australia


3 May, 1914 (aged ~ 78)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.