Author(s): Michael Downes
In 1825, after a vicious attack on their tribe a young aboriginal mother and her teenage daughter are kidnapped by sealers and taken to the Furneaux Islands of Van Diemen's Land.The mother finds herself trapped in an abusive relationship whilst the daughter, called Jumbo, is left in much better circumstances with a white trader named Macleod with whom she has a child.Rhamain, an Indian servant girl, sails with her English employer from Calcutta to Sydney Town. Accused of theft, she jumps ship at Preservation Island. A sealer Long Jack Little claims her and gives her the nickname "Calcutta woman". They are a strange couple living together in a unique and caring relationship on Gun Carriage Island. However, Rhamain is appalled by the violence of other sealers towards their aboriginal women.In an attempt to end the "black wars" and save the aboriginal population, Governor Arthur commissions George Augustus Robinson to round up all the aboriginals and settle them in the Furneaux Islands. In doing so, Robinson forces the sealers to give up their wives and abandon their homes.The Calcutta woman and the young aboriginal Jumbo choose to stay with their "husbands" but, threatened with sexual assault by other dangerous sealers, they escape into the bush. Both women struggle to decide whether or not to stay with their men.This story, though a work of fi ction, is set in historical context of the decade to 1835 and explains some of the very human issues that led to the extinction of the full blood Tasmanian aboriginals.