The village of Harkaway is nestled in the hills north of Berwick and about 43 km south-east of Melbourne. The area was first settled in the 1840s. Although the land was hilly and densely timbered, all the more open land had already been taken up by squatters. A large number of the early settlers were German.
Aborigines from the Bunurong tribe sometimes visited the area, but game and water were not abundant. As the European population increased, the Aborigines ceased visiting the area or were driven out. The last corroborees reportedly took place about 1858.