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Using Daeng Rangka (1845–1927)

by C. C. Macknight

This article was published:

Using Daeng Rangka (1845?-1927), a captain in the Macassan trepanging industry of northern Australia, was born at Labbakang in south Celebes, the son of a Bugis father and a Macassarese mother. Using first came to Australia with the annual fleet as a small boy. In December 1883 he was the first captain to purchase, most unwillingly, a South Australian government trepanging licence for the proa under his command, Bondeng Patola. In the 1886-87 season, in the Erang Poleang, he was wrecked on Melville Island, Northern Territory; with an old carbine he kept off an attack by Aboriginals until four dug-out canoes were launched; three weeks later three of the canoes arrived 'in a very sorry condition' at Bowen Strait revenue station, where they were given rice to continue eastward.

From 1887 Using commanded a new and larger Bondeng Patola. In March 1895 he was again wrecked, on the western coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. With another crew wrecked in the same storm, in three weeks Using made a 400-mile (644 km) trip in canoes to Bowen Strait. In an unsuccessful application for the refund of £47 paid by the wrecked proa, Alfred Searcy, sub-collector of customs for the Northern Territory, described Using as 'honest and always willing to pay [his] duties'. In 1899 Using was by chance discovered in Melville Bay by a government party; he insisted that the loss of his mainmast had kept him from Bowen Strait but paid the greater part of his licence fee and duty.

From the late 1890s Using seems to have regularly commanded the Bunga Ejaya. In 1906 the sudden decision to prohibit the Macassans in favour of local enterprise prompted the entrepreneur Puddu Daeng Tompo to choose him to check the truth of the report. Using thus saw the decline of the 200-year-old industry and was the last of the trepanging captains from Macassar to visit Australia. His signature in Macassarese script preserved on a proa's manifest shows that he was literate, and he was undoubtedly aware of the relevant government regulations. The loss of two vessels and the final problems of the industry make it unlikely that he earned much money from his voyages. After his return from Australia in 1907 he completed one further voyage to the Lesser Sunda Islands and then retired to Kampong Maloku in Macassar. Using's first marriage to a Macassarese woman named Basse' was childless; his second wife Daeng Tanang, also Macassarese, bore him eleven children. A son Mangngellai Daeng Maro accompanied his father to Australia on his two last voyages. Using is also said to have had two daughters and a son by an Aboriginal woman in eastern Arnhem Land. His name is still remembered by Aboriginals in that area. He died at Kampong Maloku in 1927.

Select Bibliography

  • C. C. Macknight, The Voyage to Marege': Macassan Trepangers in Northern Australia (Melb, 1976)
  • in-letters, Northern Territory government resident, and minister controlling the Northen Territory (State Records of South Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

C. C. Macknight, 'Using Daeng Rangka (1845–1927)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Labbakang, Sulawesi, Indonesia


1927 (aged ~ 82)
Macassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia