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Mokare (1800–1831)

by Neville Green

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Mokare (c.1800-1831), Aboriginal guide, also known as Mawcarrie, Markew or Makkare, was a Nyungar man of the Minang people, whose territory centred on King George Sound on the south-western coast of Western Australia. He had a married sister and two known brothers Mollian (d.1829), who may have been known as Yallapoli, and Nakina, also a significant figure of the times. In 1830 Mokare's betrothed was still a child. Reports about him and his band covered six years of pre-settlement European contact, when successive garrison commandants acknowledged Aboriginal traditional rights and respected their customs. There was no competition for resources or violent conflicts over women and property. Mokare and his people were neither a threat nor a source of labour.

Probably he was the charismatic 'Jack' who proved of great assistance to the visiting Captain P. P. King in 1821. Mokare was first sketched and named by Louis de Sainson, an artist with the French expedition under Dumont D'Urville, who was at King George Sound in October 1826. Later that year a British garrison under the command of Edmund Lockyer was established there. Mokare became the companion of the surgeon-assistant J. S. Nind, who described him in 1829 as 'Mawcarri, a Native Black, who has now resided with me many months'. The informant for the first anthropological study of the Aborigines of Western Australia, his name appeared as Mawcurrie in Nind's paper, read to the Royal Geographical Society in London.

In Commandant Collet Barker's daily journal, maintained from 18 January 1830 to 26 March 1831, Mokare was recorded as visiting frequently, describing the customs and beliefs of his people, arbitrating misunderstandings and reporting tribal disputes and the effects of an influenza epidemic that killed many of his people in 1830. In December 1829 he had served as guide to T. B. Wilson's overland expedition, during which Mount Barker and Mount Lindsay were named as well as the rivers Hay, Denmark and Wilson. Two months later Mokare was again the guide for Barker's expedition over much of the same country.

Captain F. C. Irwin, commanding a detachment of the 63rd Regiment at the Swan River Colony, invited Mokare to visit Perth as his guest, but on the eve of his departure Lieutenant-Governor Stirling spoke against it. Mokare agreed to accompany Barker to Sydney in March 1831. As the garrison made ready to leave, however, Mokare withdrew to the bush.

In the early letters of Alexander Collie, the resident magistrate, Nakina and Mokare were named as his house guests, and the latter as interpreter and guide during an expedition to the Porongorups in April 1831. The brothers were Collie's informants for an essay on the Aborigines of King George Sound published in the Perth Gazette in July-August 1834. The article described the illness of Mokare and his death on 26 June 1831. The Aborigines and Europeans had assembled at Collie's house and walked to a site selected by Nakina where the Europeans dug a grave to Nakina's specifications. Mokare was laid to rest; his cloak and personal artefacts adorned the grave as those assembled cried and wailed. A short time later, the Aborigines left the settlement for a period of mourning. When Collie was dying in 1835, he asked to be buried alongside Mokare. The graves were disturbed during construction of Albany Town Hall in the twentieth century and some remains, presumed to be Collie's, were interred in the pioneers' cemetery, Albany. What happened to Mokare’s remains after the exhumation is unclear, but there is no evidence to suggest that they were treated with the respect afforded those of Collie. A memorial on Mount Barker commemorates Collie's 1831 expedition and Mokare's role in it.

Select Bibliography

  • J. D. D’Urville, Voyage de la Corvette L’Astrolabe: . . . Atlas, vol 1 (Paris, 1833), plate 8
  • J. Cross (ed), Journals of Several Expeditions Made in Western Australia During the Years 1829, 1830, 1831, and 1832 (Lond, 1833), p 14
  • D. J. Mulvaney and J. P. White (eds), Australians to 1788 (Syd, 1987)
  • J. Mulvaney and N. Green, Commandant of Solitude (Melb, 1992)
  • Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, vol 1, 1832, p 21.

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Citation details

Neville Green, 'Mokare (1800–1831)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 25 February 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
  • Mawcarrie
  • Markew
  • Makkare

Western Australia, Australia


26 June, 1831 (aged ~ 31)
Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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