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Aboriginal Australian police officer, John Bungarie (c. 1829-1854), was in foster care as a child.

John Bungarie was taken from his family when he was around five years of age by Stephen and Charles Coxen.

Charles Coxen (1809-1876) was a naturalist who arrived from England in 1834. In Sydney, he joined his older brother, Stephen, who had landed in Australia in 1827 along with his wife Sarah and their three-year-old son. By the time Charles joined the family, Stephen and his family were living at Yarrundi, 7 km from Scone in the Hunter Region of NSW and more than 280 km north-west of Sydney.

The Coxen brothers were in search of bird and mammal specimens around the Namoi River to send back to their brother-in-law John Gould in England, and it was during this four month expedition that they took the Aboriginal boy.

How the Coxens became involved with Bungarie was not established but events suggest he was a Kamilaroi who may have been named after an [Aboriginal] who sailed with Matthew Flinders… Some time in the early 1830s John became the ‘subject’ in a well-meaning social experiment, perhaps as an extension of the natural science investigations of Stephen, Charles and John Gould (Collins 2000).

In 1837, John Bungaree was sent to boarding school along with Stephen and Sarah’s son.

After public examinations in 1839, Bungarie was awarded a prize for ‘writing, geography and English grammar… In 1840 and 1841 he was highly praised for his efforts at school (Collins).

Bungarie’s formal education ended at the end of 1841. The boy stayed with Stephen Coxen until Stephen committed suicide on 5 September 1844.

Stephen Bungarie then worked as a shepherd and station hand before he joined the native police at Wondai Gumbal near Condamine in Queensland.

Bungarie was based at Wondai Gumbal for about a year. By August 1853 he was referred to as Superintendent Bungarie and may have filled that role from his recruitment, applying his education to office duties, including some ordinance control (Collins 2000).

John Bungarie died of pleurisy six months after he and two other Aboriginal police officers were attacked by Aboriginal warriors while on duty.


Chisholm, A. “Coxen, Charles (1809-1876).” Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 3 (1969).

Collins, Patrick. “John Bungarie, the Coxens and the Native Police.” Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, vol. 17, no.7 (2000): 303-320.

Collins, Patrick. “Bungarie, John (c. 1829-1854).” Indigenous Australia.