Gawler, cockatoo governor

These ceremonial plumes were part of Governor George Gawler’s dress uniform. He can be seen wearing these plumes in the painting of The first dinner given to the Aborigines 1838 by Martha Berkeley.

Gawler was a popular Governor, and extremely religious. He was sent to South Australia in 1838 to bring some order to the chaos caused by the dual control of the colony by the Colonial Office and the Colonization Commission. He worked under extreme financial difficulties, often ignoring instructions from England. His actions helped the colony deal with the thousands of assisted-passage migrants who required food, shelter and employment as soon as they disembarked. However, his British masters became unhappy with his level of expenditure, and in 1841 he was recalled to England, where he found his reputation in tatters.

Gawler was referred to by local Aboriginal people as ‘Cockatoo man’ because of his tendency to wear plumed military hats.

History Trust of South Australia, HT 90.69