Eliza Batman: Podcast

Eliza Batman: Podcast

Eliza Batman: PodcastIn Black and White: Podcast Series

Eliza Batman is the subject of the latest episode of the free In Black and White podcast on Australia's forgotten characters.

Eliza Batman

Escaped convict, wealthy woman, murder victim: the wild life of Eliza Batman

She was a convict who escaped indentured servitude, bore children in hiding with a future Melbourne pioneer and enjoyed wealth, but Eliza Batman's life ended in tragedy and murder.

She was born in Ireland in 1802, came to Australia as a convict and was put into the service of a settler family, but fled into the Tasmanian bush.

John Batman, a grazier, chanced upon Eliza on his property and offered her sanctuary. The pair fell in love. Eliza usually hid in his basement and dressed as a man to hide her identity when she was upstairs.

Despite the subterfuge, Eliza and John had two daughters in 1824 and 1826. In 1825, police searched John's home after a former servant dobbed in the couple. Miraculously, they found nothing.

Eliza later won her freedom and the couple married in 1828.

In 1835, the Enterprize sailed up the Yarra, and John declared the north bank a fine place for a village. Eliza and their seven daughters came with him.

John tried to circumvent colonial power with his 1835 treaty with the Kulin nation to take control of land stretching across what is now Melbourne and Geelong.

The couple welcomed their only son in 1836, but they were already facing hard times.

Governor Richard Bourke refused to recognise Batman's treaty, which meant his land ownership was null and void.

John's health was crumbling along with his wealth. Syphilis had begun disfiguring his face and robbed him of the ability to walk.

Eliza and John separated, though the reasons are unclear.

John Batman died alone in 1839, aged 37. Eliza returned from London to Melbourne in 1840 to find John dead, her children scattered among friends and the family's Batman's Hill property requisitioned by the government. Eliza was willed only £5. Later, she married William Willoughby, John's former clerk.

Then, her son drowned in the Yarra River in 1845 after falling from rocks. Eliza left Willoughby, moved to Geelong, and began earning a living as a sex worker.

She was found dead in her home in 1852, so badly beaten that she was unrecognisable. No one ever faced trial for Eliza's murder.

An impression of how Eliza Batman may have looked by artist Lianne Gough.

Eliza Batman: Podcast

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Eliza Batman: Podcast 


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In Black and White: Podcast Series

John Batman

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