Charley Dumas (Bripmuarrimian)1 was born in western Victoria and along with 12 other men, takes his place in history as a member of Australia’s first international cricket team.2 The men learned to play cricket on cattle stations where they were employed as stockmen or station hands. As their skills flourished they toured country venues and on Boxing Day 1866 played in Melbourne in front of 8000 spectators.3
Following an earlier failed attempt, the team finally toured England in 1868 playing 47 matches resulting in 14 wins, 14 losses and 19 draws. After each match the men were contracted to showcase other skills. Charley was described as a genius with the boomerang and amazed English crowds with his precision,4 while Dick-a-dick used a narrow shield to deflect a barrage of cricket balls thrown at him simultaneously with a flick of the wrist.5
The tour was both a victory and disaster. King Cole tragically died of acute pneumonia,6 while Sundown and Jim Crow returned home early due to sickness.7 Despite racism, cold weather, illness and a gruelling schedule, the team won the respect of players and spectators everywhere. In 1869 the Victorian Government passed the Aboriginal Protection Act which restricted movements of Aboriginal people, making it difficult to play competitive cricket.8
Charley moved to NSW where he met Worimi woman Sarah Ann Gibson and had children. Their descendants are well-known throughout the NSW MidCoast and carry on the Dumas name.9 Charley’s place in Australian sporting history is celebrated.
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Traditional name as spelt on his touring contract, Bradman Museum.
2 Also Australia’s first sporting team to tour internationally.
3 National Museum Australia, https://digital-classroom.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/aboriginal-cricket-team-tours-england
4 Arrow, 18 Jun 1926, 11.
5 Argus, 13 January 1917, 6.
6 SMH, 10 Sep 1868, 5.
7 Argus, 13 January 1917, 6.
8 National Museum Australia.
9 NSW BDM, Death Certificate for Frederick Dumas, No. 20452/1940. Confirmed in consultation with Biripi and Worimi Elders, 19 July 2023.