Australian Dictionary of Biography
The Colourful Life of Mother Buntine

OBITUARY,-An old Gippsland identity, Mrs. Hallet, better known by the name of her first husband– Buntine, or “Mother Buntine,” died in the Gippsland Hospital on Friday at an advanced age, and was buried at Rosedale on Sunday afternoon. In many respects she was a remarkable woman, possessing an iron nerve and powerful physique. She has frequently been known, 40 years ago, to pilot a team [of] bullocks single-handed from Port Albert to the Northern district diggings. Whilst the Gippsland railway line was being constructed between Morwell and Traralgon she is known to have driven a team of bullocks with a load of chaff, across the bridge over the cutting at the “Ridge”, one of the wheels going along a gravel- beam for more than half the distance, there being no side-rails at the time. She was also an expert at ploughing and general farm work and her prowess as a horse- woman was the admiration of the district. She was the mother of a numerous family, and lived to see the third generation of her descendants. On one occasion she was presented to the Earl of Hopetoun as the mother of the first white child born in Gippsland.
Morwell Advertiser, 6 March 1896

Woman Bullock Driver
From Port Albert to Walhalla old men and women still talk of Agnes Buntine, a woman who drove her own bullock teams and worked as hard as any man in the early days of Gippsland. Agnes Buntine, they will tell you, gave birth to the first white child in Gippsland. She was the first woman who drove bullock teams in the bush. The story goes that she and her husband came over from Tasmania and settled in Gippsland. Her husband became ill, and after a time was so incapacitated that he could do little work. It fell on Agnes Buntine to rear her family. The Scot spirit in her was big enough for the job. Her early days were the days when Walhalla was a town of gold. Machinery had to be brought to the mines from Port Albert. Driving her bullock team up from the sea and over the hills to Rosedale, and up to Walhalla, Agnes Buntine took a hand in the transport of the machinery.

An old man who knew her told me: “Those days I had my own bullock team on the road. I used to meet Agnes Buntine often yarn with her and share each other’s tobacco. She smoked an old black pipe – and plug at that. We bullock drivers never thought it odd that she should smoke. Anyhow, she did a man’s work, so why shouldn’t she smoke a man’s pipe? Aye, but she could drive a team of bullocks as good as any bullock driver in Gippsland. The way the bullock waggons went from Port Albert to Walhalla must have been 80 miles or more. The journey look many days, eight at least. At night Agnes Buntine would roll her self up in a blanket and sleep under the pole of the waggon. She was a remarkable woman.”

There was a time, he added, when she had two teams. A man drove one for her. One day, while taking out a gun from the waggon to have a shot at a kangaroo, this man was wounded in the arm. Agnes Buntine tore off a piece of her skirt, bandaged his arm, got a horse from somewhere, helped the wounded man on its back, and told him to ride off to a township with a doctor. Then she drove the two teams to Walhalla.

They told me that Agnes Buntline had died at Sale, and was buried at Rosedale. When, no one knew, I went to the Rosedale cemetery, but I didn’t find her grave. A cemetery register showed that she had died at the age of 76, on March 29, 1896. The register did not have the number of her grave: some of the old cemetery records had been lost. But Agnes Buntine deserved a monument.– By Tom Macdonald, in the “Herald”.
Gippsland Times, 31 March 1932

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