Collet Barker

(1784—1831) army officer and explorer

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(1784–1831), born Middlesex, England, entered the British Army in 1806 as an ensign and was promoted lieutenant in 1809 and captain in 1825. After service in Sicily, in the Peninsular War and in Ireland, he was posted to Sydney in 1828 and appointed commandant of the settlement at Fort Wellington on Raffles Bay. From 1829 to 1831 he had command of the penal settlement at King George Sound and on the return voyage to Sydney explored the eastern shore of Gulf St Vincent. From Yankalilla Bay he went overland with a party to Encounter Bay where he was speared to death by hostile Aborigines while swimming the Murray mouth. An unusually enlightened penal commandant, particularly skilled in conciliating Aborigines, he was highly regarded by both his superiors and peers. He is commemorated by various memorials, and by Mount Barker, in the Mount Lofty ranges and the township Barker, north of Albany. His journals 1828–1831, meticulously edited and annotated by John Mulvaney and Neville Green and titled Commandant of Solitude, were published in 1992. They are reminiscent of the First Fleet annals of David Collins and Watkin Tench, particularly valuable for their reflection of relations between Aborigines and White settlers.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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