Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Maria Lock (1805–1878)

by Naomi Parry

This article was published:

Maria Lock (c.1805-1878), Aboriginal landowner, was born at Richmond Bottoms, on the eastern floodplain of the Hawkesbury River, daughter of Yarramundi, 'Chief of the Richmond Tribes'. The family belonged to the Boorooberongal clan of the D(h)arug people. On 28 December 1814 Yarramundi's clan attended the inaugural annual conference hosted for the Aborigines by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. On the same date Maria was admitted to the Native Institution, for tuition by William and Elizabeth Shelley.

In 1819 the Sydney Gazette reported that an Aboriginal girl of 14 had won first prize in the anniversary school examination, ahead of twenty children from the Native Institution and almost 100 European students. That girl was probably Maria, who was reported by teachers to be well in advance of other students.

At the end of 1822 Maria was being 'maternally treated' by Anne, the wife of Rev. Thomas Hassall, and living in their household at Parramatta, when she married Dicky, a son of Bennelong and a member of the Richmond clan through his mother. He too had been in the Native Institution, but had moved to the household of the Wesleyan missioner William Walker, and was baptized Thomas Walker Coke. Within weeks of his marriage he became ill and died. He was buried on 1 February 1823 at St John's Church of England, Parramatta, where on 26 January 1824 Maria married Robert Lock (1800-1854), an illiterate, convict carpenter who had been assigned to work on the construction of the new Native Institution buildings at Black Town (Blacktown) in 1823. The marriage was the first officially sanctioned union between a convict and an Aboriginal woman, and Robert was assigned to her. The Locks settled on a small farm at the Native Institution, but later moved to the employ of Rev. Robert Cartwright at Liverpool.

The legacy of Maria's education became evident in March 1831, when she petitioned Governor Darling for her deceased brother Coley's (Colebee) grant at Blacktown, opposite the Native Institution. She asserted that she and her husband were entitled to earn 'an honest livelihood, and provide a comfortable home for themselves, and their increasing family'. In 1831 forty acres (16.2 ha) 'as near to your present residence as suitable vacant land can be found' were granted to Robert on Maria's behalf, but Cartwright frustrated this claim, as he felt it was injurious to the established buildings on his adjoining allotment. Maria persisted, and in 1833 another forty acres was granted to her at Liverpool in Robert's name. She received Colebee's thirty-acre (12.1 ha) grant in 1843.

The Locks returned to Blacktown in 1844, acquiring a further thirty acres there. Of their ten children born between 1827 and 1844, nine survived to adulthood. Robert died in 1854. Maria died on 6 June 1878 at Windsor and was buried beside Robert at St Bartholomew's Church of England, Prospect. Her burial registration, which read 'Last of the Aboriginals from Blacktown', wrongly gave her birth date as 1794. Her lands at Liverpool and Blacktown were divided equally among her surviving children, and were occupied by her descendants until about 1920, by which time the freehold land was considered to be an Aboriginal reserve (Plumpton), and was revoked by the Aborigines Protection Board. Dozens of families in 2005 trace their descent through Maria to Yarramundi and to his father Gomebeeree, an unbroken link stretching back to the 1740s.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Brook and J. L. Kohen, The Parramatta Native Institution and the Black Town (Syd, 1991)
  • J. Kohen, The Darug and Their Neighbours (Syd, 1993)
  • Sydney Gazette, 31 Dec 1814, p 2, 17 Apr 1819, p 2
  • Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser, 15 Mar 1823, p 2
  • J. Kohen, From the Mountains to the Sea: Genealogies in the Sydney Area (manuscript, 2002, privately held)
  • Missionary papers, Bonwick transcripts 50, vol 127, p 480 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence re land: petition Maria Lock 14 Mar 1831, 2/7908 (State Records New South Wales).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Naomi Parry, 'Lock, Maria (1805–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 14 July 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]


Richmond Bottoms, New South Wales, Australia


6 June, 1878 (aged ~ 73)
Windsor, New South Wales, Australia

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