Memorial unveiled to pioneering Aboriginal woman Maria Lock

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A moving ceremony has been held at the historic St Bartholomew’s Church in Prospect to commemorate the life and final resting place of pioneering Aboriginal woman Maria Lock.

A memorial plaque to the memory of Maria Lock was unveiled at the ceremony last Sunday. The plaque will be installed in the church grounds near to where Maria and her husband Robert Lock were buried in unmarked graves in the 1870s.

Maria Lock was an Aboriginal woman who rose to great heights in both the European and Indigenous societies in Sydney in the 1800’s.

A smoking ceremony greeted descendants of Maria Lock, Darug Elders, Blacktown City Mayor Stephen Bali MP and guests as they arrived at the church.

The ceremony was led by Raelene Billedo and Julie Jones from the Darug Ngurra Aboriginal Corporation and included a Welcome to Country, a wonderful historical speech by Maria Lock descendant Uncle Colin Gale, performances by the Janawi Dancers and songs by Aboriginal singer songwriter Jacinta Tobin.

Maria Lock was the daughter of Darug Boorooberongal Clan Elder, Yarramundi, and one of the early inhabitants of the first Aboriginal land grant in Australia, The Colebee and Nurragingy Land Grant.

Mayor Stephen Bali MP said, “Maria Lock is unique in Australian history as an Aboriginal woman in the 19th century who achieved considerable academic, commercial, political and cultural success and recognition. Many among us have been working for a long time to secure this permanent memorial.”

In 1815, Maria was voluntarily placed in the Parramatta Native Institute where she achieved academic success and won the anniversary School Examinations ahead of 20 children from the Native Institution and 100 European students.

At the age of 16, she married 24 year old convict Robert Lock. The marriage was the first officially sanctioned union between an Aboriginal woman and a British convict. Robert was officially placed under her care, again a remarkable feat for an Aboriginal woman of those times. Governor Macquarie granted her 40 acres of land in Liverpool as a ‘wedding gift’.

Maria Lock acquired the 30 acre Colebee and Nurragingy Land Grant on the death of the original recipient, her brother Colebee. Maria Locke also acquired an adjacent 30 acres as well as the 40 acres at Liverpool. Following her death in 1878, the 60 acres was divided into nine lots for her nine surviving children.

The Lock family lived on the property until around 1917.

“Today the Lock family descendants are many and they all proudly carry Maria’s very long ancestral line and heritage of being connected to family and Country,” said Mayor Bali.

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