Up ahead is ‘Bottom Lagoon’, its original dimensions plain to see. Imagine a meeting of hearth groups here at the lagoon. That young and precocious girl could be Trucanini. That boy, serious and wise beyond his years, might by Woorrady, destined to be the last of the old Nuenonne chiefs.

There are several reasons for the presence here of different hearth groups. Here is a source of good fresh water that is only metres from a shore rich in crays, abalone and other shellfish, and the surrounding land, soon to become Kelly’s Farm, is open eucalypt forest – excellent hunting country.

It is also the gathering point for visits to the mainland – and vice versa. The Channel’s narrowest point is right here at its northern outlet. It is here, at what will become Tinderbox, that the other three groupings that make up the South-East peoples – the Mouheneenner, the Mellukerdee and the Lyluequonny – embark for Bruny. Even the distant Port Davey people sometimes come. And the Nuenonne themselves are gathered at the lagoon to prepare for their own crossing to the ‘Tasmanian Main’.

Step back to the present. At Kelly’s Point there is an Aboriginal shell midden that is 6000 years old – dating back, that is, to the very time the sea level stabilised. It is the oldest known midden on the island. Another midden, this one more than 5200 years old, is beneath the Dennes Point village. It is likely that a great many Aboriginal artefacts lie beneath the vegetation and surface soil hereabouts.

You stand at a major meeting site, then, the point of access to and from the mainland, and a gathering place of extreme importance. Its name is

Further reading

Gray, F. O. (1978), Recollections of North Bruny Island, Richard Lord and Partners, Taroona Tas.).

Johnson, M., and McFarlane, I. (2015) Van Diemen’s Land: An Aboriginal History, UNSW Press, Sydney.

Plomley, NJB (1977), The Tamanian Aborigines, self-published, Launceston.

Plomley, N.J.B. (1983), The Baudin Expedition and the Tasmanian Aborigines 1802, Blubber Head Press, Sandy Bay (Tas.).

Ranson, D. and Lehman, G. (2015), ‘Aboriginal Heritage Significance of Kelly’s Point (Dennes Point), Bruny Island’, unpublished report for Friends of North Bruny.

Robinson, G.A. (2008), Friendly Mission: The Tasmanian Journals and Reports of George Augustus Robinson 1829-1834, 2nd edn, NJB Plomley (ed.), Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery/Quintus Publishing, Launceston.

Ryan, L. (1981), The Aboriginal Tasmanians, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia (Qld.).


  • Duterrau’s ‘Portrait of Trucanini’ – National Library (Trove).
  • Peron’s sketch of a swan, and the image of Aboriginal canoes on the Channel, are from the Museum of Quai Branly, Paris (refs. 54-3338, 54-3344, respectively).
(Click to enlarge images)