"This mission to the Aborigines has ceased to exist, not from want of support from the British Government, nor from the inclination of the agent, but purely from the Aborigines themselves becoming extinct in these parts; and in leaving this scene of much solitariness, privation, and trial, it is earnestly hoped that He who fixes the bounds of our habitation, apparently in Sydney for a season, will guide our feet through life to his glory, and provide support for a numerous family, so that the 'ministry be not blamed.'"]
On the natural intelligence of the native children, Mr. Moorhouse remarks, after several years practical experience:—
"They are as apt as European children so far as they have been tried, but they have not been put to abstract reasoning. Their perceptive powers are large, as they are much exercised in procuring food, etc. Anything requiring perception only is readily mastered, the alphabet will be known in a few lessons; figures are soon recognised, and the quantities they represent, but addition from figures alone always presents difficulties for a while, but in a little time, however, it is understood."
Upon the same subject, Captain Grey remarks, vol. ii. p. 374.
"They are as apt and intelligent as any other race of men I am acquainted with; they are subject to the same affections, appetites, and passions as other men."
Innumerable cases might be adduced, where native boys, or young men, and sometimes even females, have been taken into the employment of the settlers, and have lived with them as active and useful servants for many months, and occasionally even years. Unfortunately, however, in all such cases, they have eventually returned again to their savage life, and given up the customs and habits they had assumed. The same result has occurred among the many children who have been educated at the various schools established for their instruction, in the different Colonies. Numerous examples might be given of the great degree of proficiency made; and often, of many of the scholars being in such a state of forwardness and improvement, as reasonably to sanction the expectation, that they might one day become useful and intelligent members of the community: this hope has, however, hitherto, in almost every instance, been sooner or later disappointed, and they have again descended from the civilized to the savage state. What can be the causes then, that have operated to produce such unfavourable results?
If we admit, and it is admitted by all whose experience best qualifies them to give an opinion, that the Australian is fully equal in natural powers and intelligence, to the generality of mankind; it is very evident, that where so little success has hitherto attended any attempts to improve him, either morally or socially, there must either be some radical defects in the systems adopted, or some strongly counteracting causes to destroy their efficiency. I believe, that to both these circumstances, may be traced the results produced.
The following remarks, by Captain Grey, upon this subject, point out some of the evils to which the natives are subject, and in a great degree, account for the preference they appear to give to their own wild life and habits. (Vol. 2. pp. 367 to 371.) He says:—
"If we inquire into the causes which tend to detain them in their present depressed condition, we shall find that the chief one is—'prejudice' The Australians have been most unfairly represented as a very inferior race, in fact as one occupying a scale in the creation which nearly places them on a level with the brutes, and some years must elapse, ere a prejudice so firmly rooted as this can be altogether eradicated, but certainly a more unfounded one never had possession of the public mind.
"Amongst the evils which the natives suffer in their present position, one is an uncertain and irregular demand for their labour, that is to say, they may one day have plenty of means for exerting their industry afforded them by the settlers, and the next their services are not required; so that they are necessarily compelled to have recourse to their former irregular and wandering habits.
"Another is the very insufficient reward for the services they render. As an example of this kind, I will state the instance of a man who worked during the whole season, as hard and as well as any white man, at getting in the harvest for some setlers, and who only received bread, and sixpence a day, whilst the ordinary labourers would earn at least fifteen shillings. In many instances, they only receive a scanty allowance of food, so much so, that some settlers have told me that the natives left them because they had not enough to eat.
"The evil consequence of this is, that a native finding he can gain as much by the combined methods of hunting and begging, as he can by working, naturally prefers the former and much more attractive mode of procuring subsistence, to the latter one.
"Many of the natives have not only a good idea of the value of money, but even hoard it up for some particular purpose; several of them have shewn me their little treasure of a few shillings, and have told me it was their intention to save more until they had enough to buy a horse, a gun, or some wished-for article, but their improvidence has always got the better of their thriftiness, and this sum has eventually been spent in treating their friends to bread and rice.
"Another evil is the very extraordinary position in which they are placed with regard to two distinct sets of laws; that is they are allowed to exercise their own laws upon one another, and are again held amenable to British law where British subjects are concerned. Thus no protection is afforded them by the British law against the violence or cruelty of one of their own race, and the law has only been hitherto known to them as the means of punishment, but never as a code from which they can claim protection or benefit.
"The following instances will prove my assertion: In the month of October 1838, I saw early one morning some natives in the public street in Perth, in the act of murdering a native woman, close to the store of the Messrs. Habgood: many Europeans were present, amongst others a constable; but there was no interference on their part until eventually the life of the woman was saved by the courage of Mr. Brown, a gardener in Perth, who rushed in amongst the natives, and knocked down the man who was holding her; she then escaped into the house of the Messrs. Habgood, who treated the poor creature with the utmost humanity. She was, however, wounded in several places in the most severe and ghastly manner.
"A letter I received from Mr. A. Bussel, (a settler in the southern part of the colony,) in May, 1839, shews that the same scenes are enacted all over it. In this case, their cow-keeper, (the native whose burial is narrated at p. 330,) was speared by the others. He was at the time the hired servant of Europeans, performing daily a stated service for them; yet they slew him in open day-light, without any cause of provocation being given by him.
"Again, in October, 1838, the sister of a settler in the northern district, told me that shortly before this period, she had, as a female servant, a most interesting little native girl, not more than ten or eleven years of age. This girl had just learned all the duties belonging to her employment, and was regarded in the family as a most useful servant, when some native, from a spirit of revenge, murdered this inoffensive child in the most barbarous manner, close to the house; her screams were actually heard by the Europeans under whose protection, and in whose service she was living, but they were not in time to save her life. This same native had been guilty of many other barbarous murders, one of which he had committed in the district of the Upper Swan, in the actual presence of Europeans. In June, 1839, he was still at large, unmolested, even occasionally visiting Perth.
"Their fondness for the bush and the habits of savage life, is fixed and perpetuated by the immense boundary placed by circumstances between themselves and the whites, which no exertions on their part can overpass, and they consequently relapse into a state of hopeless passive indifference.
"I will state a remarkable instance of this:—The officers of the Beagle took away with them a native of the name of Miago, who remained absent with them for several months. I saw him on the North-west coast, on board the Beagle, apparently perfectly civilized; he waited at the gun-room mess, was temperate (never tasting spirits), attentive, cheerful, and remarkably clean in his person. The next time I saw him was at Swan River, where he had been left on the return of the Beagle. He was then again a savage, almost naked, painted all over, and had been concerned in several murders. Several persons here told me,—"you see the taste for a savage life was strong in him, and he took to the bush again directly." Let us pause for a moment and consider.
"Miago, when he was landed, had amongst the white people none who would be truly friends of his,—they would give him scraps from their table, but the very outcasts of the whites would not have treated him as an equal,—they had no sympathy with him,—he could not have married a white woman,—he had no certain means of subsistence open to him,—he never could have been either a husband or a father, if he had lived apart from his own people;—where, amongst the whites, was he to find one who would have filled for him the place of his black mother, whom he is much attached to?—what white man would have been his brother?—what white woman his sister? He had two courses left open to him,—he could either have renounced all natural ties, and have led a hopeless, joyless life amongst the whites,—ever a servant,—ever an inferior being;—or he could renounce civilization, and return to the friends of his childhood, and to the habits of his youth. He chose the latter course, and I think that I should have done the same."
Such are a few of the disadvantages the natives have to contend with, if they try to assimilate in their life and habits to Europeans, nor is there one here enumerated, of which repeated instances have not come under my own observation. If to these be added, the natural ties of consanguinity, the authority of parents, the influence of the example of relatives and friends, and the seducing attraction which their own habits and customs hold out to the young of both sexes; first, by their offering a life of idleness and freedom, to a people naturally indolent and impatient of restraint; and secondly, by their pandering to their natural passions: we shall no longer wonder that so little has been effected towards ameliorating their condition, or inducing them to adopt habits and customs that deprive them of those indulgences.
In New South Wales and Port Phillip, the Government have made many efforts in behalf of the Aborigines; for a series of years past, and at present, the sum of about ten thousand pounds, is annually placed upon the estimates, towards defraying the salaries of a Chief Protector, and several subordinate ones, and for other expenses connected with the natives.
[Note: Not included in thei eBook, Table on pages 428-9: ABSTRACT OF EXPENDITURE IN N.S.W ON ACCOUNT OF THE ABORIGINES FROM 1821 TO 1842 INCLUSIVE.]
In Western Australia a sum of money is also devoted annually towards defraying the salaries of two Protectors, and other expenses connected with the department.
I am not, however, personally aware, what the particular arrangements may be that have latterly been adopted in either of these colonies, for the benefit of the Aborigines, or the degree of success which may have attended them. I believe, however, that in both places, more has been attempted, within the last three or four years, than had ever been the case before. What the eventual result may be it is impossible to tell, but with the past experience before me, I cannot persuade myself, that any real or permanent good will ever be effected, until the influence exercised over the young by the adults be destroyed, and they are freed from the contagious effects of their example, and until means are afforded them of supporting themselves in a new condition, and of forming those social ties and connections in an improved state, which they must otherwise be driven to seek for among the savage hordes, from which it is attempted to reclaim them.
In South Australia many efforts have been made in behalf of the Aborigines, and an anxious desire for their welfare has frequently been exhibited on the part of the Government, and of many of the colonists. For the year 1845 the sum of 820 pounds is noted in the estimates for the Aboriginal Department. This sum is distributed as follows:—
Salary of Protector 300 pounds Master of Native School at Walkerville 100 Matron of School at Native Location 20 Provisions 150 Donation to Lutheran Mission 100 Miscellaneous 150 —- Total 820 pounds
There are three native schools established in the province. The first is that at the native location in the town of Adelaide, commenced in December, 1839, by Mr. Klose, one of the Dresden missionaries. The average attendance of children has been about sixteen, all of whom have latterly been lodged as well as fed at the school. The progress made by the children may be stated to have been as follows: on the 16th February, 1844—
14 were able to read polysyllables. 2 were able to read monosyllables. 2 could repeat the cardinal numbers. 14 were in addition. 3 in subtraction. 9 in multiplication. 2 in division.
Most of the children could repeat the Lord's Prayer and Commandments, and they were able to narrate the history of the Creation, the fall of our first parents, and other portions of the Old and New Testament. A few were able to write these subjects to dictation. In geography many of the scholars knew the ordinary divisions of the earth, its shape, diameter, circumference, and the names of the continents, oceans, seas, gulfs, etc. etc. together with the general description of the inhabitants of each part, as to colour, etc. Of the girls, fourteen had been taught to sew, and have made upwards of fifty garments for themselves, besides several shirts for Europeans.
Mr. Klose receives as salary 33 pounds per annum from the Government, and a remittance from his society at Dresden. The matron of the establishment also receives 20 pounds from the Government. The average expense of provisions for each child per week, amounts to two shillings and ten pence. The cost of clothing each child per year is 2 pounds. Until very recently this school was taught in the native language; but English is now adopted, except in lecturing from Scripture, when the native language is still retained.
At Walkerville, about one mile from North Adelaide, another school has been established under the superintendence of Mr. Smith, since May, 1844. Up to October of the same year the average attendance of children had been sixty-three. In that short time the progress had been very satisfactory; all the children had passed from the alphabetical to the monosyllabic class, and most had mastered the multiplication table; eighteen could write upon the slate, and six upon paper; twelve girls had commenced sewing, and were making satisfactory progress.
They go four times in the week to the council chamber to be instructed by gratuitous teachers. On Sunday evening service is performed according to the Church of England by Mr. Fleming, and the children are said to be attentive and well-behaved. The Methodists of the New Connection have them also under spiritual instruction in the morning and afternoon of each Sabbath, assisted by persons of other religious denominations.
All instruction is given in English; their food is cooked by the elder children, (who also provide the firewood,) and distributed by themselves under the master's eye The cook is said to take good care of himself, and certainly his appearance does not belie the insinuation, for he is by far the fattest boy in the lot. The school building is a plain, low cottage, containing a school-room, a sleeping-room for the male children, another for the female, and apartments for the master and mistress. There is also an old out-building attached, where the children perform their ablutions in wet weather. Mr. and Mrs. Smith receive 100 pounds. per annum from the Colonial Government for their services. The children of this school have not yet been generally provided with other clothing than a small blanket each. The third school was only just commenced at Encounter Bay, where it has been established through the influence and exertions of Mr. Meyer, one of the missionaries. The Government give 20 pounds per annum, and the settlers of the neighbourhood 100 bushels of wheat, and some mutton. Six or eight children are expected to be lodged and boarded at this school, with the means at present existing.
Besides the establishment of schools, there is a Protector resident in Adelaide to take the management of the aboriginal department, to afford medical assistance and provisions to such of the aged or diseased as choose to apply for them, and to remunerate any natives who may render services to the Government, or the Protectorate. At Moorunde, upon the Murray, the natives are mustered once a month by the Resident magistrate, and two pounds and a half of flour issued to each native who chooses to attend. This is occasionally done at Port Lincoln, and has had a very beneficial effect. Once in the year, on the Queen's birthday, a few blankets are distributed to some of the Aborigines at Adelaide, Moorunde, Encounter Bay, and Port Lincoln, amounting in all to about 300. Four natives are also provisioned by the Government as attaches to the police force at different out-stations, and are in many respects very useful.
Exclusive of the Government exertions in behalf of the Aborigines, there are in the province four missionaries from the Lutheran Missionary Society at Dresden, two of whom landed in October 1838, and two in August 1840. Of these one is stationed at the native location, and (as has already been stated) acts as schoolmaster. A second is living twelve miles from Adelaide, upon a section of land, bought by the Dresden Society, with the object of endeavouring to settle the natives, and inducing them to build houses upon the property, but the plan seems altogether a failure. It was commenced in November 1842, but up to November 1844 natives had only been four months at the place; and on one occasion a period of nine months elapsed, without their ever visiting it at all, although frequently located at other places in the neighbourhood.
A third missionary is stationed at Encounter Bay, and is now conducting a school, mainly established through his own exertions and influence.
The fourth is stationed at Port Lincoln. All the four missionaries have learned the dialects of the tribes where they are stationed, and three have published vocabularies and grammars as the proof of their industry.
Such is the general outline of the efforts that have hitherto been made in South Australia, and the progress made. It may be well to inquire, what are likely to be the results eventually under the existing arrangements. From the first establishment of the schools, until June 1843, the children were only instructed at the location, their food was given to them to take to the native encampments to cook, and they were allowed to sleep there at night. The natural consequence was, that the provisions intended for the sonolars were shared by the other natives, whilst the evil influence of example, and the jeers of their companions, did away with any good impression produced by their instruction. I have myself, upon going round the encampments in Adelaide by night, seen the school-children ridiculed by the elder boys, and induced to join them in making a jest of what they had been taught during the day to look upon as sacred.
A still more serious evil, resulting from this system was, that the children were more completely brought into the power, and under the influence of the parents, and thus their natural taste for an indolent and rambling life, was constantly kept up. The boys naturally became anxious to participate and excel in the sports, ceremonies, or pursuits of their equals, and the girls were compelled to yield to the customs of their tribe, and break through every lesson of decency or morality, which had been inculcated.
Since June, 1843, the system has so far been altered, that the children, whilst under instruction, are boarded and lodged at the school houses, and as far as practicable, the boys and girls are kept separate. There are still, however, many evils attending the present practice, most of which arise from the inadequacy of the funds, applicable to the Aborigines, and which must be removed before any permanent good can be expected from the instruction given. The first of these, and perhaps one of the greatest, is that the adult natives make their encampments immediately in the neighbourhood of the schools, whilst the children, when out of school, roam in a great measure at will, or are often employed collecting firewood, etc. about the park lands, a place almost constantly occupied by the grown up natives, there is consequently nearly as much intercourse between the school children and the other natives, and as great an influence exercised over them by the parents and elders, as if they were still allowed to frequent the camps.
Another evil is, that no inducement is held out to the parents, to put their children to school, or to allow them to remain there. They cannot comprehend the advantage of having their children clothed, fed, or educated, whilst they lose their services; on the contrary, they find that all the instruction, advice, or influence of the European, tends to undermine among the children their own customs and authority, and that when compelled to enforce these upon them, they themselves incur the odium of the white men. Independently, however, of this consideration, and of the natural desire of a parent to have his family about him, he is in reality a loser by their absence, for in many of the methods adopted for hunting, fishing, or similar pursuits, the services even of young children are often very important. For the deprivation of these, which he suffers when his children are at school, he receives no equivalent, and it is no wonder therefore, that by far the great majority of natives would prefer keeping their children to travel with them, and assist in hunting or fishing. It is a rare occurrence, for parents to send, or even willingly [Note 107 at end of para.] to permit their children to go to school, and the masters have consequently to go round the native encampments to collect and bring away the children against their wishes. This is tacitly submitted to at the time, but whenever the parents remove to another locality, the children are informed of it, and at once run away to join them; so that the good that has been done in school, is much more rapidly undone at the native camp. I have often heard the parents complain indignantly of their children being thus taken; and one old man who had been so treated, but whose children had run away and joined him again, used vehemently to declare, that if taken any more, he would steal some European children instead, and take them into the bush to teach them; he said he could learn them something useful, to make weapons and nets, to hunt, or to fish, but what good did the Europeans communicate to his children?
[Note 107: "Mr. Gunter expressed very decidedly his opinion, that the blacks do not like Mr. Watson, and that they especially do not like him, SINCE HE HAS TAKEN CHILDREN FROM THEM BY FORCE: he would himself like to have some children under his care, IF HE COULD PROCURE THEM BY PROPER MEANS."—Memorandum respecting Wellington Valley, by Sir G. Gipps, November 1840.]
A third, and a very great evil, is that, after a native boy or girl has been educated and brought up at the school, no future provision is made for either, nor have they the means of following any useful occupation, or the opportunity of settling themselves in life, or of forming any domestic ties or connections whatever, save by falling back again upon the rude and savage life from which it was hoped education would have weaned them. It is unnatural, therefore, to suppose that under existing circumstances they should ever do other than relapse into their former state; we cannot expect that individuals should isolate themselves completely from their kind, when by so doing they give up for ever all hope of forming any of those domestic ties that can render their lives happy.
Such being the very limited, and perhaps somewhat equivocal advantages we offer the Aborigines, we can hardly expect that much or permanent benefit can accrue to them; and ought not to be disappointed if such is not the case. [Note 108 at end of para.] At present it is difficult to say what are the advantages held out to the natives by the schools, since they have no opportunity of turning their instruction to account, and must from necessity relapse again to the condition of savages, when they leave school. Taken as children from their parents, against the wishes of the latter, there are not means sufficient at the schools for keeping them away from the ill effects of the example and society of the most abandoned of the natives around. They are not protected from the power or influence of their parents and relatives, who are always encouraging them to leave, or to practise what they have been taught not to do. The good that is instilled one day is the next obliterated by evil example or influence. They have no future openings in life which might lead them to become creditable and useful members of society; and however well disposed a child may be, there is but one sad and melancholy resource for it at last, that of again joining its tribe, and becoming such as they are. Neither is there that disinclination on the part of the elder children to resume their former mode of life and customs that might perhaps have been expected; for whilst still at school they see and participate enough in the sports, pleasures, or charms of savage life to prevent their acquiring a distaste to it; and when the time arrives for their departure, they are generally willing and anxious to enter upon the career before them, and take their part in the pursuits or duties of their tribe. Boys usually leave school about fourteen, to join in the chase, or learn the practice of war. Girls are compelled to leave about twelve, through the joint influence of parents and husbands, to join the latter; and those only who have been acquainted with the life of slavery and degradation a native female is subject to, can at all form an opinion of the wretched prospect before her.
[Note 108: The importance of a change in the system and policy adopted towards the Aborigines, and the urgent necessity for placing the schools upon a different and better footing, appears from the following extract from a despatch from Governor Hutt to Lord Stanley, 21st January, 1843, in which the difficulties and failure attending the present system are stated. Mr. Hutt says (Parliamentary Reports, p. 416). "It is to the schools, of course, that we must look for any lasting benefit to be wrought amongst the natives, and I regret most deeply the total failure of the school instituted at York, and the partial failure of that at Guilford, both of which at FIRST promised so well. The fickle disposition of these people, in youth as in older years, incapacitate them from any long continued exertions, whether of learning or labour, whilst from the roving lives of the parents in search of food, the children, if received into the schools, must be entirely supported at the public expense. This limits the sphere of our operations, by restricting the number of the scholars who can thus be taken charge of. Through the kindly co-operation of the Wesleyan Society at Perth, and the zealous pastoral exertions of the Rev. Mr. King at Fremantle, the schools at both these places have been efficiently maintained; but in the country, and apart from the large towns, to which the Aborigines have an interest in resorting in large numbers for food and money, the formation of schools of a lasting character will be for some time a work of doubt and of difficulty."]
There are two other points connected with the natives to which I will briefly advert: the one, relative to the language in which the school children are taught, the other, the policy, or otherwise, of having establishments for the natives in the immediate vicinity of a town, or of a numerous European population.
With respect to the first, I may premise, that for the first four years the school at the location in Adelaide was conducted entirely in the native tongue. To this there are many objections.
First, the length of time and labour required for the instructor to master the language he has to teach in.
Secondly, the very few natives to whom he can impart the advantages of instruction, as an additional school, and another teacher would be required for every tribe speaking a different dialect.
Thirdly, the sudden stop that would be put to all instruction if the preceptor became ill, or died, as no one would be found able to supply his place in a country where, from the number, and great differences of the various dialects, there is no inducement to the public to learn any of them.
Fourthly, that by the children being taught in any other tongue than that generally spoken by the colonists, they are debarred from the advantage of any casual instruction or information which they might receive from others than their own teachers, and from entering upon duties or relations of any kind with the Europeans among whom they are living, but whose language they cannot speak.
Fifthly, that, by adhering to the native language, the children are more deeply confirmed in their original feelings and prejudices, and more thoroughly kept under the influence and direction of their own people.
Among the colonists themselves there have scarcely been two opinions upon the subject, and almost all have felt, that the system originally adopted was essentially wrong. It has recently been changed, and the English is now adopted instead of the native language. I should not have named this subject at all, had I not been aware that the missionaries themselves still retain their former impressions, and that although they have yielded to public opinion on this point, they have not done so from a conviction of its utility.
The second point to which I referred,—the policy, or otherwise, of having native establishments near a populous European settlement, is a much more comprehensive question, and one which might admit, perhaps, of some reasons on both sides, although, upon the whole, those against it greatly preponderate.
The following are the reasons I have usually heard argued for proximity to town.
1st. It is said that the children sooner acquire the English language by mixing among the towns people. This, however, to say the least, is a very negative advantage, for in such a contact it is far more probable that they will learn evil than good; besides, if means were available to enable the masters to keep their scholars under proper restrictions, there would no longer be even the opportunity for enjoying this very equivocal advantage.
2nd. It is stated that the natives are sooner compelled to give up their wandering habits, as there is no game near a town. This might be well enough if they followed any better employment, but the contrary is the case; and with respect to the school-children, the restriction would be the correction of a bad habit, which they ought never to be allowed to indulge in, and one which might soon be done away with entirely if sufficient inducement were held out to the parents to put their children to school, and allow them to remain there.
3rd. It is thought that a greater number of children can be collected in the vicinity of a town than elsewhere. This may perhaps be the case at present, but would not continue so if means were used to congregate the natives in their own proper districts.
4th. It is said that provisions and clothing are cheaper in town and more easily procured than elsewhere. This is the only apparently valid reason of the whole, but it is very questionable whether it is sufficient to counterbalance the many evils which may result from too close a contiguity to town, and especially so as far as the adults are concerned. With respect to the children, if kept within proper bounds, and under proper discipline, it is of little importance where they may be located, and perhaps a town may for such purposes be sometimes the best. With the older natives however it is far different, and the evils resulting to them from too close contact with a large European population, are most plainly apparent; in,—
1st. The immorality, which great as it is among savages in their natural state, is increased in a tenfold degree when encouraged and countenanced by Europeans, and but little opening is left for the exercise of missionary influence or exertions.
2nd. The dreadful state of disease which is superinduced, and which tends, in conjunction with other causes as before stated, to bring about the gradual extinction of the race.
3rd. The encouragement a town affords to idleness, and the opportunities to acquire bad habits, such as begging, pilfering, drinking, etc. the effects of which must also have a very bad moral tendency upon the children.
The town of Adelaide appears capable of supporting about six hundred natives on an average. Many of these obtain their food by going errands, by carrying wood or water, or by performing other light work of a similar kind. Many are supported by the offal of a place where so much animal food is consumed; but by far the greater number are dependent upon charity, and some few even extort their subsistence from women or children by threats, if they have the opportunity of doing so without fear of detection.
The number of natives usually frequenting the town of Adelaide averages perhaps 300, but occasionally there are even as many as 800. These do not belong to the neighbourhood of the town itself, for the Adelaide tribe properly so called only embraces about 150 individuals. The others come in detached parties from almost all parts of the colony. Some from the neighbourhood of Bonney's Well, or 120 miles south; some from the Broughton, or 120 miles north; some from the upper part of the Murray, or nearly 200 miles east. Thus are assembled at one spot sometimes portions of tribes the most distant from each other, and whose languages, customs and ceremonies are quite dissimilar. If any proof were wanted to shew the power of European influence in removing prejudices or effecting a total revulsion of their former habits and customs, a stronger one could scarcely be given than this motley assembly of "all nations and languages." In their primitive state such a meeting could never take place; the distant tribes would never have dreamt of attempting to pass through the country of the intermediate ones, nor would the latter have allowed a passage if it had been attempted.
I have remarked that in Adelaide many of the natives support themselves by light easy work, or going errands; there are also a dozen, or fourteen young men employed regularly as porters to storekeepers with whom they spend two-thirds of their time, and make themselves very useful. At harvest time many natives assist the settlers. At Encounter Bay during 1843, from 70 to 100 acres of wheat or barley, were reaped by them; at Adelaide from 50 to 60 acres, and at Lynedoch Valley they aided in cutting and getting in 200 acres. Other natives have occasionally employed themselves usefully in a variety of ways, and one party of young men collected and delivered to a firm in town five tons of mimosa bark up to December 1843. At the native location during the year 1842, three families of natives assisted by the school-children, had dug with the spade the ground, and had planted and reaped more than one acre of maize, one acre of potatoes, and half an acre of melons, besides preparing ground for the ensuing year. On the Murray River native shepherds and stock-keepers have hitherto been employed almost exclusively, and have been found to answer well. Most of the settlers in that district have one or more native youths constantly living at their houses.
In concluding an account of the present state and prospects of the Aborigines and of the efforts hitherto made on their behalf, I may state that I am fully sensible that to put the schools upon a proper footing and to do away with the serious disadvantages I have pointed out as at present attending them, or to adopt effective means for assembling, feeding, or instructing the natives in their own respective districts would involve a much greater expenditure than South Australia has hitherto been able to afford from her own resources; and I have therefore called attention to the subject, not for the purpose of censuring what it is impossible to remedy without means; but in the sincere and earnest hope that an interest in behalf of a people who are generally much misrepresented, and who are certainly in justice entitled to expect at our hands much more than they receive, will be excited in the breasts of the British public, who are especially their debtors on many accounts.
I am aware that the subject of the Aborigines is one of a very difficult and embarrassing nature in many respects, and I know that evils and imperfections will occasionally occur, in spite of the utmost efforts to prevent them. No system of policy can be made to suit all circumstances connected with a subject so varied and perplexing, and especially so, where every new arrangement and all benevolent intentions are restrained or limited, by the deficiency of pecuniary means to carry out the object in a proper manner. Already the subject of apprenticing the natives, or teaching them a trade, has been under the consideration of the Government, but has been delayed from being brought into operation by the want of funds sufficient to carry the object into effect. It is intended, I believe, to make the experiment as soon as means are available for that purpose.
My duties as an officer of the Government having been principally connected with the more numerous, but distant tribes of the interior, I can bear testimony to the anxious desire of the Government to promote the welfare of the natives.
I have equal pleasure in recording the great interest that prevails on their behalf among their numerous friends in the colonies, and the general kindness and good feeling that have been exhibited towards them on the part of a large proportion of the colonists of Australia. It is in the hope that this good feeling may be promoted and strengthened that I have been led to enter into the details of the preceding pages. In bringing before the public instances of a contrary conduct or feeling, I by no means wish to lead to the impression that such are now of very frequent or general occurrence, and I trust my motives may not be misunderstood. My sole, my only wish has been to bring about an improvement in the terms of intercourse, which subsists between the settlers and the Aborigines. Whilst advocating the cause of the latter, I am not insensible to the claims of the former, who leaving their native country and their friends, cheerfully encounter the inconveniences, toils, privations, and dangers which are necessarily attendant upon founding new homes in the remote and trackless wilds of other climes. Strongly impressed with the advantages, and the necessity of colonization, I am only anxious to mitigate its concomitant evils, and by effecting an amelioration in the treatment and circumstances of the Aborigines, point out the means of rendering the residence or pursuits of the settler among an uncivilized community, less precarious, and less hazardous than they have been. My object has been to shew the result, I may almost say, the necessary result of the system at present in force, when taking possession of and occupying a country where there are indigenous races. By shewing the complete failure of all efforts hitherto made, to prevent the oppression and eventual extinction of these unfortunate people, I would demonstrate the necessity of remodelling the arrangements made on their behalf, and of adopting a more equitable and liberal system than any we have yet attempted.
I believe that by far the greater majority of the settlers in all the Australian Colonies would hail with real pleasure, the adoption of any measures calculated to remove the difficulties, which at present beset our relations with the Aborigines; but to be effectual, these measures, at the same time that they afford, in some degree, compensation and support to the dispossessed and starving native—must equally hold out to the settler and the stockholder that security and protection, which he does not now possess, but which he is fairly entitled to expect, under the implied guarantee given to him by the Government, when selling to him his land, or authorizing him to locate in the more remote districts of the country.
From a long experience, and an attentive observation of what has been going on around me, I am perfectly satisfied, that unless some great change be made in our system, things will go on exactly as they have done, and in a few years more not a native will be left to tell the tale of the wrongs and sufferings of his unhappy race. I am equally convinced that all one-sided legislation—all measures having reference solely to the natives must fail. The complete want of success attending the protecting system, and all other past measures, clearly shew, that unless the interests of the two classes can be so interwoven and combined, that both may prosper together; no real good can be hoped for from our best efforts to ameliorate the condition of the savage. In all future plans it is evident that the native must have the inducements and provocations to crime destroyed or counteracted, as far as it may be practicable to effect this, and the settler must be convinced that it is his interest to treat the native with kindness and consideration, and must be able to feel that he is no longer exposed to risk of life or property for injuries or aggressions, which, as an individual, he has not induced.
I have now nearly discharged the duty I have undertaken—a duty which my long experience among the natives, and an intimate acquaintance with their peculiarities, habits, and customs, has in a measure almost forced upon me. In fulfilling it, I have been obliged to enter at some length upon the subject, to give as succinct an account as I could of the unfavourable impressions that have often, but unjustly, been entertained of the New Hollanders: of the difficulties and disadvantages they have laboured under, of the various relations that have subsisted, or now subsist between them and the colonists, of the different steps that have been adopted by the Government or others, to ameliorate their condition, and of the degree of success or otherwise that has attended these efforts. I have stated, that from the result of my own experience and observation, for a long series of years past, from a practical acquaintance with the character and peculiarities of the Aborigines, and after a deliberate and attentive consideration of the measures that have been hitherto pursued, I have unwillingly been forced to the conviction, that some great and radical defect has been common to all; that we have not hitherto accomplished one single, useful, or permanent result; and that unless a complete change in our system of policy be adopted for the future, there is not the slightest hope of our efforts being more successful in times to come, than they have been in times past. That I am not alone or singular in the view which I take on this subject, may be shewn from various sources, but most forcibly from the opinions or statements of those, who from being upon the spot, and personally acquainted with the real facts of the case, may be supposed to be most competent to form just conclusions, and most worthy of having weight attached to their opinions. The impression on the public mind in the colonies, with respect to the general effect of the measures that have heretofore been adopted, may be gathered from the many opinions or quotations to which I have already referred in my remarks; many others might be adduced, if necessary, but one or two will suffice.
The following extract is from a speech by A. Forster, Esq. at a meeting held to celebrate the anniversary of the South Australian Missionary Society, on the 6th September, 1843, and at which the Governor of the Colony presided:—
"This colony had been established for nearly seven years, and during the whole of that time the natives had been permitted to go about the streets in a state of nudity. [Note 109 at end of para.] This was not only an outrage on decency and propriety, but it was demoralising to the natives themselves. Like Adam, after having come in contact with the tree of knowledge, they had begun to see their own nakedness, and were ashamed of it. If they could give them a nearer approach to humanity by clothing them, if they could make them look like men, they would then, perhaps, begin to think like men. What he complained of was, not that they were in a low and miserable condition, but that no effort had been made to rescue them from that condition."
[Note 109: And yet a law is passed, subjecting natives, who appear thus, to punishment!—How are they to clothe themselves?]
"The circumstances, too, of the aborigines called upon them for increased exertion. They were wasting away with disease—they were dying on the scaffold—they were being shot down in mistake for native dogs, and their bleeding and ghastly heads had been exhibited on poles, as scare-crows to their fellows."
The report of the Missionary Society, read on the same occasion, says,
"Though it is undeniable that there is much to discourage in the small results which can yet be reckoned from these efforts, and a variety of secondary means might be brought to bear with great advantage on the condition of the natives, still we must exercise faith in the power of the Spirit of God, over the most savage soul, in subduing the wicked passions and inclining the heart unto wisdom by exalted views of a future state, and of the divine character and will."
Captain Grey's opinion of the little good that had ever been accomplished, may be gathered from the following quotation, and which is fully as applicable to the state of the natives in 1844, as it was in 1841. Vol. ii. p. 366, he says,
"I wish not to assert, that the natives have been often treated with wanton cruelty, but I do not hesitate to say, that no real amelioration of their condition has been effected, and that much of negative evil, and indirect injury has been inflicted on them."
Upon the same subject, the Committee of Management of the Native School at Perth, Swan River, Western Australia, state in their 3rd Annual Report, dated 1844.
"With regard to the physical condition of the native children, and those who are approaching to mature life, it may be observed, that they are somewhat improving, though slowly, we trust surely. We find that to undo is a great work; to disassociate them from their natural ideas, habits, and practices which are characteristic of the bush life, is a greater difficulty, for notwithstanding the provisions of sleeping berths in good rooms, also of tables, etc. for their use, and which are peculiar to civilised life, and with which they are associated, yet they naturally verge towards, and cling to aboriginal education, and hence to squat on the sand to eat, to sleep a night in the bush, to have recourse to a Byly-a-duck man for ease in sickness; these to them seem reliefs and enjoyments from these restraints which civilized life entails upon them."
"With regard to the mental improvement of the native children, we cannot say much."
"As to the religious state of the pupils in the institution we have signs, improvements, and encouragements, which say to us, 'Go on.'"
The following quotation from Count Strzelecki's work only just published (1845), shews the opinion of that talented and intelligent traveller, after visiting various districts of New South Wales, Port Phillip, Van Diemen's Land, and Flinders' Island, and after a personal acquaintance with, and experience among the Aborigines:—
"Thus, in New South Wales, since the time that the fate of the Australasian awoke the sympathies of the public, neither the efforts of the missionary, nor the enactments of the Government, and still less the Protectorate of the "Protectors," have effected any good. The attempts to civilize and christianize the Aborigines, from which the preservation and elevation of their race was expected to result, HAVE UTTERLY FAILED, though it is consolatory, even while painful, to confess, that NEITHER THE ONE NOR THE OTHER ATTEMPT HAS BEEN CARRIED INTO EXECUTION, WITH THE SPIRIT WHICH ACCORDS WITH ITS PRINCIPLES."
With such slight encouragement in colonies where the best results are supposed to have been obtained, and with instances of complete failure in others, it is surely worth while to inquire, why there has been such a signal want of success?—and whether or not any means can be devised that may hold out better hopes for the future? I cannot and I would not willingly believe, that the question is a hopeless one. The failure of past measures is no reason that future ones should not be more successful, especially when we consider, that all past efforts on behalf of the Aborigines have entirely overlooked the wrongs and injuries they are suffering under from our mere presence in their country, whilst none have been adapted to meet the exigencies of the peculiar relations they are placed in with regard to the colonists. The grand error of all our past or present systems—the very fons et origo mali appears to me to consist in the fact, that we have not endeavoured to blend the interests of the settlers and Aborigines together; and by making it the interest of both to live on terms of kindness and good feeling with each, bring about and cement that union and harmony which ought ever to subsist between people inhabiting the same country. So far, however, from our measures producing this very desirable tendency, they have hitherto, unfortunately, had only a contrary effect. By our injustice and oppression towards the natives, we have provoked them to retaliation and revenge; whilst by not affording security and protection to the settlers, we have driven them to protect themselves. Mutual distrusts and mutual misunderstandings have been the necessary consequence, and these, as must ever be the case, have but too often terminated in collisions or atrocities at which every right-thinking mind must shudder. To prevent these calamities for the future; to check the frightful rapidity with which the native tribes are being swept away from the earth, and to render their presence amidst our colonists and settlers, not as it too often hitherto has been, a source of dread and danger, but harmless, and to a certain extent, even useful and desirable, is an object of the deepestinterest and importance, both to the politician and to the philanthropist. I have strong hopes, that means may be devised, to bring about, in a great measure, these very desirable results; and I would suggest, that such means only should be tried, as from being just in principle, and equally calculated to promote the interests of both races, may, in their practical adoption, hold out the fairest prospect of efficacy and success.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT OF SYSTEM ADOPTED TOWARDS THE NATIVES.
In the preceding chapters I have given a general outline of the character, manners, and customs of the Aborigines of Australia, and of the effects produced upon them by a contact with civilization.
I have thus endeavoured to lay before the public their present state and future prospects, and as far as I am able, have attempted to explain what appear to me the reasons that so little success has hitherto attended Missionary, or other efforts, in their behalf. I would sincerely hope, that the accounts which I have given, may not be altogether useless; but that a certain knowledge of the real position of the natives, of the just claims they have upon us, and of the little prospect that exists of any real or permanent good being effected for them, until a great alteration takes place in our system, and treatment, may be the means of attracting attention to their condition, and of enlisting the sympathy of my fellow-countrymen in their cause.
Englishmen have ever been ready to come forward to protect the weak, or the oppressed; nor could they lend their aid to promote a greater, or a nobler work, than that of endeavouring, to arrest the decay, and avert the destruction which at present threatens the aboriginal races of our Australian colonies; and to try at least to bring within the pale of christianity and civilization, a people hitherto considered as the lowest, and most irreclaimable of mankind, but whose natural capabilities and endowments, are, I feel assured, by no means inferior to those of the most favoured nations.
I shall now briefly suggest such alterations and additions, in the system of instruction and policy adopted towards them, as appear to me likely to prove beneficial.
I am aware, that in carrying out the improvements I propose, a greatly increased expenditure on behalf of the natives would be necessary, beyond what has hitherto been allowed by any of the Colonial Governments.
It appears to me, however, that they are justly entitled to expect, at our hands, some compensation for the injuries our presence unavoidably inflicts, and some alleviation of the consequent miseries they are suffering under.
If we are sincere in our desires and efforts to promote the improvement, or prevent the decay of this unfortunate people, we are bound to make our measures sufficiently comprehensive to hold out some reasonable hope of success, otherwise our labour and money are only thrown away.
I do not believe that there is any one practically acquainted with the present state of our relations with the Aborigines, and the system adopted towards them, its working, defects, and inaptitude to overcome opposing difficulties, who would conscientiously assert that there is the least prospect of any greater benefits resulting in future than have been realized up to the present time.
There is another reason, independently of justice or humanity, one which, with some, may perhaps have more weight, as a motive for extending and amending our policy towards the natives. I mean self-interest. If our measures were calculated to afford them that protection which we claim for ourselves; and in place of those resources we have deprived them of, to offer to them a certain and regular supply of food in their respective districts, their wandering habits would be partially restrained, and a degree of influence and authority acquired over the whole aboriginal population, in contact with Europeans, which would counteract their natural propensities. The flocks and herds of the settlers, and the lives of his family and servants, would be as unmolested and uninjured as among our own people. There would no longer occur those irritating aggressions, or bloody retaliations, which have too often taken place heretofore, between the black and the white man; and the misfortune of always having the border districts in a state of excitement and alarm, would be avoided, whilst the expense and inconvenience of occasionally sending large parties of military and police, to coerce or punish transgressors that they can rarely meet with, would be altogether dispensed with.
Unfortunately, the system I propose has been so little tried in Australia, that but few instances of its practical results can be adduced. There is one instance, however, which, from its coming nearer to it than any other, may serve to exemplify the success that might be expected. The case I allude to, is that of the establishment of the Government post at Moorunde, upon the Murray, in October 1841, by His Excellency Governor Grey. The circumstances which led to the formation of this post, arose from the disturbed and dangerous state the river route from New South Wales was in at the time, from the fearful losses that had occurred both of life and property, and the dread entertained by many, that the out-stations, which were formed along the line of hills fronting the Murray, would be subject to irruptions from the natives.
Between the 16th of April, and 27th of August, or in about four months, four several affrays had taken place between the Aborigines and Europeans, in which many of the latter had been killed, and stock, drays, and other property, had been taken to a great value, (in one instance alone amounting to 5,000 sheep, besides drays and stores); on the other hand the sacrifice of native life had been very great, and was admitted in one case, to have amounted to thirty individuals, exclusive of many who were perhaps mortally wounded. Four different parties had been sent up the river during this short period, to punish aggressions. or protect property. In one of these the Europeans were worsted and driven back by the natives, in another a number amounting to sixty-eight Europeans, were absent for upwards of six weeks, at an immense expense, and were then obliged to return without bringing in a single culprit from the offending tribes.
[Note 110: In this latter case, the Commissioner of Police, and the greater number of his men, accompanied the expedition, leaving of course the colony unprotected, and ordinary civil arrangements at a stand still until their return. I have already remarked, the little chance there is, of either the police or military ever succeeding in capturing native offenders, and how very frequently it has occurred, that in their attempts to do so, either through mistake, or from mismanagement, they have very often been guilty of most serious and lamentable acts of injury and aggression upon the innocent and the unoffending. As a mere matter of policy, or financial arrangement, I believe it would in the long run, be prudent and economical, to adopt a liberal and just line of treatment towards the Aborigines. I believe by this means, we should gain a sufficient degree of influence, to induce them always to GIVE UP OFFENDERS THEMSELVES; and I believe that this is the ONLY MEANS by which we can ever hope to ensure their CAPTURE.]
The line of route had become unsafe and dangerous for any party coming from New South Wales; a feeling of bitter hostility, arising from a sense of injury and aggression, had taken possession both of the natives and the Europeans, and it was evident for the future, that if the European party was weak, the natives would rob and murder them, and if otherwise, that they would commit wholesale butchery upon the natives. It was to remedy this melancholy state of affairs, that the Government station at Moorunde was established, and his Excellency the Governor, did me the honour to confide to my management the carrying out the objects proposed.
The instructions I received, and the principles upon which I attempted to carry out those instructions, were exclusively those of conciliation and kindness. I made it my duty to go personally amongst the most distant and hostile tribes, to explain to them that the white man wished to live with them, upon terms of amity, and that instead of injuring, he was most anxious to hold out the olive branch of peace.
By the liberality of the Government, I had it in my power once every month, to assemble all the natives who chose to collect, whether from near or more distant tribes, and to give to each a sufficiency of flour to last for about two days, and once in the year, at the commencement of winter, to bestow upon some few of the most deserving, blankets as a protection against the cold.
How far success attended the system that was adopted, or the exertions that were made, it is scarcely perhaps becoming in me to say: where the object, however, is simply and solely to try to benefit the Aborigines, and by contrasting the effects of different systems, that have been adopted towards them, to endeavour to recommend the best, I must, even at the risk of being deemed egotistical, point out some of the important and beneficial results that accrued at Moorunde.
In the first place, I may state that the dread of settling upon the Murray, has so far given place to confidence, that from Wellington (near the Lake), to beyond the Great South Bend, a distance of more than 100 miles, the whole line of river is now settled and occupied by stock, where, in 1841, there was not a single European, a herd of cattle, or a flock of sheep; nay, the very natives who were so much feared then, are looked upon now as an additional inducement to locate, since the services of the boys or young men, save in great measure the expense of European servants. There are few residents on the Murray, who do not employ one or more of these people, and at many stations, I have known the sheep or cattle, partially, and in some instances, wholly attended to by them.
For three years I was resident at Moorunde, and during the whole of that time, up to November, 1844, not a single case of serious aggression, either on the persons or property of Europeans had ever occurred, and but very few offences even of a minor character. The only crime of any importance that was committed in my neighbourhood, was at a sheep station, about 25 miles to the westward, where somefew sheep were stolen, by a tribe of natives during the absence or neglect of the men attending them. By a want of proper care and precaution, temptation was thrown in the way of the natives, but even then, it was only some few of the young men who were guilty of the offence; none of the elder or more influential members of the tribe, having had any thing to do with it. Neither did the tribe belong to the Murray river, although they occasionally came down there upon visits. There was no evidence to prove that the natives had stolen the sheep at all; the only fact which could be borne witness to, was that so many sheep were missing, and it was supposed the natives had taken them. As soon as I was made acquainted with the circumstances, I made every inquiry among the tribe suspected, and it was at once admitted by the elder men that the youths had been guilty of the offence. At my earnest solicitations, and representations of the policy of so doing, the culprits, five in number, WERE BROUGHT IN AND DELIVERED UP BY THEIR TRIBE. No evidence could be procured against them, and after remanding them from time to time as a punishment, I was obliged to discharge them.
I may now remark, that upon inquiry into the case, and in examining witnesses against the natives, it came out in evidence, that at the same station, and not long before, a native HAD BEEN FIRED AT, (with what effect did not appear,) simply because he SEEMED to be going towards the sheep-folds, which were a long way from the hut, and were directly in the line of route of any one either passing towards Adelaide, or to any of the more northern stations. Another case occurred about the same time, and at the same station, where an intelligent and well-conducted native, belonging to Moorunde, was sent by a gentleman at the Murray to a surgeon, living about sixty miles off, with a letter, and for medicines. The native upon reaching this station, which he had to pass, was ASSAULTED AND OPPOSED BY A MAN, ARMED WITH A MUSKET, and if not fired at, (which he said he was,) was at least intimidated, and driven back, and PREVENTED FROM GOING FOR THE MEDICINES FOR THE INDIVIDUAL WHO WAS ILL. I myself knew the native who was sent, to be one of the most orderly and well-conducted men we had at the Murray; in fact he had frequently, at different times, been living with me as an attache to the police force.
In the second place, I may state, that during the time I have held office at Moorunde, I have frequently visited on the most friendly terms, and almost alone, the most distant and hostile tribes, where so short a time before even large and well-armed bodies of Europeans could not pass uninterrupted or in safety. Many of those very natives, who had been concerned in affrays or aggressions, have since travelled hundreds of miles and encountered hunger and thirst and fatigue, to visit a white man's station in peace, and on friendly terms.
Thirdly, I may observe, that ever since I went to the Murray, instead of shewing signs of enmity or hostility, the natives have acted in the most kind and considerate manner, and have upon all occasions, when I have been travelling in less known and more remote districts, willingly accompanied me as guides and interpreters, introducing me from one tribe to another, and explaining the amicable relations I wished to establish. In one case, a native, whom I met by himself, accompanied me at once, without even saying good-bye to his wife and family, who were a mile or two away, and whom, as he was going to a distance of one hundred and fifty miles and back, he was not likely to see for a great length of time. He was quite content to send a message by the first native he met, to say where he was going. In my intercourse with the Aborigines I have always noticed that they would willingly do any thing for a person whom they were attached to. I have found that an influence, amounting almost to authority, is produced by a system of kindness; and that in cases where their own feelings and wishes were in opposition to the particular object for which this influence might be exercised, that the latter would almost invariably prevail. Thus, upon one occasion in Adelaide, where a very large body of the Murray natives were collected to fight those from Encounter Bay, I was directed by the Government to use my influence to prevent the affray. Upon going to their encampment late at night, I explained the object of my visit to them, and requested them to leave town in the morning, and return to their own district, (90 miles away.) In the morning I again went to the native camp, and found them all ready, and an hour afterwards there was not one in Adelaide. Another strong instance of the power that may be acquired over the natives occurred at Moorunde, in 1844:—Several tribes were assembled in the neighbourhood, and were, as I was told, going to fight. I walked down towards their huts to see if this was the case, but upon arriving at the native camps I found them deserted, and all the natives about a quarter of a mile away, on the opposite side of a broad deep sheet of water caused by the floods. As I reached the edge of the water I saw the opposing parties closing, and heard the cry of battle as the affray commenced; raising my voice to the utmost, I called out to them, and was heard, even above the din of combat. In a moment all was as still as the grave, a canoe was brought for me to cross, and I found the assembled tribes fully painted and armed, and anxiously waiting to know what I was going to do. It was by this time nearly dark, and although I had no fears of their renewing the fight again for the night, I knew they would do so early in the morning; I accordingly directed them to separate, and remove their encampments. One party I sent up the river, a second down it, a third remained where they were, and two others I made recross the water, and go up to encamp near my own residence. All this was accomplished solely by the influence I had acquired over them, for I was alone and unarmed among 300 natives, whose angry passions were inflamed, and who were bent upon shedding each others' blood.
By the assistance of the natives, I was enabled in December 1843, to ascend the Darling river as far as Laidley's Ponds (above 300 miles from Moorunde) when accompanied only by two other Europeans, and should have probably been enabled to reach Mount Lyell (100 miles further) but that a severe attack of illness compelled me to return. My journey up the Darling had, however, this good effect, that it opened a friendly communication with natives who had never before come in contact with the white man, except in enmity or in contest, and paved the way for a passage upon friendly terms of any expedition that might be sent by that route to explore the continent. Little did I anticipate at the time, how soon such an expedition was to be undertaken, and how strongly and how successfully the good results I so confidently hoped for were to be fully tested.
In August 1844, Captain Sturt passed up the Murray to explore the country north-west of the Darling, and whilst at Moorunde, on his route, was supplied with a Moorunde boy to accompany his party to track stock, and also with a native of the Rufus named And-buck, to go as guide and interpreter to the Darling. The latter native had accompanied me to Laidley's Ponds in December 1843, and had come down to Moorunde, according to a promise he then made me, to visit me in the winter, and go again with me up the Darling, if I wished it. At Laidley's Ponds I found the natives very friendly and well conducted, and one of them, a young man named Topar, was of such an open intelligent disposition that although my own acquaintance with him was of very short duration, I did not hesitate to recommend him strongly to my friend Captain Sturt, as likely to be a willing and useful assistant. The following report from Captain Sturt, dated from Laidley's Ponds, will best shew how far I was justified in expecting that a friendly intercourse might be maintained even with the Darling natives, and to what distance the influence of the Government station at Moorunde had extended, upon the conciliatory system that had been adopted, limited though it was by an inadequacy of funds to provide for such a more extended and liberal treatment of the Aborigines as I should wish to have adopted.
"Sir,—Feeling assured that the Governor would be anxious to hear from me as soon as possible after the receipt of my letters from Lake Victoria, I should have taken the earliest opportunity of forwarding despatches to his Excellency after I had ascertained whether the reports I had heard of the massacre of a party of overlanders at the lagoons on the Darling was founded in fact or not; but having been obliged to cross over from the ana-branch of the Darling to that river itself for water,—and its unlooked-for course having taken me greatly to the eastward, I had no opportunity by which to send to Moorunde, although I was most anxious to allay any apprehensions my former letter might have raised as to the safety of my party. I tried to induce several natives to be the bearers of my despatches, but they seemed unwilling to undertake so long a journey; the arrival, therefore, of a messenger from Moorunde was a most welcome occurrence, as he proposes returning to that place immediately, and will be the bearer of this communication to you.
"In continuing, for his Excellency's information, the detail of the proceedings of the expedition under my orders since I last addressed you, I have the honour to state that I had advanced a considerable way up the Darling before I ascertained satisfactorily the true grounds of the report I had heard at Lake Victoria, and was enabled to dismiss all further anxiety on the subject from my mind.
"It referred to the affray which took place on the Darling, opposite to Laidley's Ponds, between Major Mitchell and the natives; and I conclude that the circumstance of our being about to proceed to the same place, recalled a transaction which had occurred eight years ago to their minds; for we can trace a connection between the story we heard at the Lake, and what we have heard upon the spot; but all the circumstances were at first told to us with such minuteness, that coupling them with the character Major Mitchell has given of the Darling natives, and the generally received opinion of their ferocity and daring, we could hardly refuse giving a certain degree of credit to what we heard; more especially as it was once or twice confirmed by natives with whom we communicated on our way up the river. I really feared we should come into collision with these people, despite my reluctance to proceed to extremities; but it will be satisfactory to his Excellency, as I trust it will to Lord Stanley, to know that we have passed up the Darling on the most friendly terms with the native tribes, insomuch that I may venture to hope that our intercourse with them will be productive of much good. So far from the show of any hostility, they may have invariably approached us unarmed, nor have we seen a weapon in the hands of a native since we touched upon the river. THEY HAVE CONSTANTLY SLEPT AT OUR FIRES, AND SHEWN BY THEIR MANNER THAT THEY HAD EVERY CONFIDENCE IN US, BRINGING THEIR WIVES AND CHILDREN TO THE CAMP, NOR AT ANY TIME GIVING US THE LEAST ANNOYANCE, BUT ALWAYS SHEWING A WILLINGNESS TO SAVE US TROUBLE, AND TO DO WHATEVER WE DESIRED THEM TO DO. NOTHING INDEED COULD HAVE BEEN MORE SATISFACTORY TO US THAN OUR INTERCOURSE WITH THESE POOR PEOPLE, OR MORE AMUSING THAN THE SPIRITS AND FEELINGS TO WHICH THEY HAVE GIVEN WAY BEFORE US, WHEN UNCONTROLLED BY FEAR. MANY INDEED HAVE CONTINUED WITH US FOR SOME TIME, AND HAVE EVINCED SINCERE AND MARKED SORROW AT LEAVING US. I have made it a rule to give blankets to the old and infirm, and tomahawks and knives to the young men, and they perfectly understand the reason of this distinction. Finding too, that they consider kangaroos as their own property, we have almost invariably given them all the animals the dogs have killed, and have endeavoured to convince them that we wish to be just, and have the kindest feelings toward them. In this humane duty I have been most cordially assisted both by Mr. Poole and Mr. Browne, and I must add, by the conduct of my men towards the natives, which reflects very great credit upon them. WE HAVE RECEIVED VERY GREAT ASSISTANCE FROM OUR GUIDES, WHO HAVE ALWAYS SMOOTHED THE WAY TO OUR COMMUNICATION WITH THE DIFFERENT TRIBES; and I have earnestly to recommend Nadbuck, who has accompanied us from Moorunde to this place, to the favour of the Governor, and to request that he may be rewarded in such manner as his Excellency thinks fit, from the funds of the expedition. We find that Mr. Eyre's influence has extended to this place, and that he is considered in the highest light by all the natives along the Darling. In their physical condition they are inferior to the natives of the Murray in size and strength, but we have seen many very handsome men, and, although diminutive in stature, exceedingly well proportioned. The tribe at Williorara, Laidley's Ponds, numbers about eighty souls; the greater proportion women and children. One of them, Topar, accompanies us to the hills with another native, Toonda, who has been with us since we left Lake Victoria, and who is a native of this tribe. He is a very singular and remarkable man, and is rather aged, but still sinewy and active; Topar is young, and handsome, active, intelligent, and exceedingly good natured;—with them I hope we shall be able to keep up our friendly relations with the natives of the interior.
"I have to request that you will thank his Excellency for the prompt assistance he would have afforded us; but I am sure it will be as gratifying to him as it is to us to know that it is not required.
"As I reported to you in my letter of the 17th of September, I left Lake Victoria on the following day, and crossing the country in a south-easterly direction, reached the Murray after a journey of about fifteen miles, over plains, and encamped on a peninsula formed by the river and a lagoon, and on which there was abundance of feed. We had observed numerous tracks of wild cattle leading from the brush across the plains to the river, and at night our camp was surrounded by them. I hoped, therefore, that if I sent out a party in the morning. I should secure two or three working bullocks, and I accordingly detached Mr. Poole and Mr. Browne, with Flood, my stockman, and Mack, to run them in; but the brush was too thick, and in galloping after a fine bull, Flood's carbine went off, and carried away and broke three of the fingers of his right hand. This unfortunate accident obliged me to remain stationary for a day; but we reached the junction of the ana-branch of the Darling with the Murray, on the 23rd, and then turned for the first time to the northward.
"We found the ana-branch filled by the back waters of the Murray, and ran up it for two days, when the water in it ceased, and we were obliged to cross over to the Darling, which we struck on an east course, about eighteen miles above its junction with the Murray. It had scarcely any water in its bed, and no perceptible current—but its neighbourhood was green and grassy, and its whole aspect pleasing. On the 27th, we thought we perceived a stronger current in the river, and observed small sticks and grass floating on the water, and we were consequently led to believe that there was a fresh in it; and as we had had rain, and saw that the clouds hung on the mountains behind us, we were in hopes the supply the river was receiving came from Laidley's Ponds. On the following morning the waters of the Darling were half-bank high, and from an insignificant stream it was at once converted into a broad and noble river, sweeping everything away on its turbid waters at the rate of these or four miles an hour. The river still continues to rise, and is fast filling the creeks and lagoons on either side of it. The cattle enjoy the most luxuriant feed on the banks of the river—there being abundance of grass also in the flats, which far surpass those of the Murray both in richness of soil, and in extent. I cannot but consider the river as a most valuable feature of the interior: many a rich and valuable farm might be established upon it. Its seasons appear to be particularly favourable, for we have had gentle rains ever since we came upon it. Its periodical flooding is also at a most favourable period of the year, and its waters are so muddy that the deposit must be rich, and would facilitate the growth of many of the inter-tropical productions, as cotton, indigo—the native indigo growing to the height of three feet—maize, or flax; whilst, if an available country is found in the interior, the Darling must be the great channel of communication to it. The country behind the flats is sandy and barren, but it would in many places support a certain number of stock, and might be found to be of more value than appearances would justify me in stating, and I would beg to be understood, in speaking of the Darling, that I only speak of it as I have seen it. The summer sun probably parches up the vegetation and unclothes the soil; but such is the effect of summer heat in all similar latitudes, and that spot should be considered the most valuable where the effect of solar heat can be best counteracted by natural or artificial means. I had hoped, as I have stated, that the Darling was receiving its accession of waters from the Williorara (Laidley's Ponds); but on arriving on its banks we were sadly disappointed to find, instead of a mountain stream, a creek only connects the river with Cowandillah Lake; instead of supplying the Darling with water it was robbing it, and there was scarcely a blade of vegetation on its banks. I was, therefore, obliged to return to the Darling, and to encamp until such time as I should determine on our next movement. From some hills above the camp, we had a view of some ranges to the north-west and north, and I detached Mr. Poole on the 4th to ascertain the nature of the country between us and them, before I ventured to remove the party; more especially as the natives told us the interior beyond the ranges was perfectly impracticable. This morning Mr. Poole returned, and informed me that, from the top of the ranges he ascended, he had a view of distant ranges to the north and north-west, as far as he could see; that from south-west to west to 13 degrees east of north, there was water extending, amidst which there were numerous islands; that there was a very distant high peak, which appeared to be surrounded by water, which shewed as a dark blue line along the horizon. The country between him and the more distant ranges appeared to be level, and was similar in aspect to the plains we had traversed when approaching the hills, which were covered with spear grass, a grass of which the animals are fond, and thin green shrubs.
"I will not venture a conjecture as to the nature of the country whose features have been thus partially developed to us. How far these waters may stretch, and what the character of the ranges is, it is impossible to say, but that there is a good country at no great distance, I have every reason to hope. Mr. Poole states that the small scolloped parroquets passed over his head from the north-west in thousands; and he observed many new birds. I am therefore led to hope, that, as these first are evidently strong on the wing on their arrival here, that the lands from which they come are not very remote from us. So soon as I shall have verified my position in a satisfactory manner,—which a clouded sky has hitherto prevented my doing,—we shall move to the ranges, and leaving my drays in a safe place, shall proceed with the horse teams to a closer examination of the country, and, if I should find an open sea to north-west, shall embark upon it with an ample supply of provisions and water, and coast it round. The reports of the fine interior, which we have heard from the natives, are so contradictory, that it is impossible to place any reliance in them; but Toonda informs us that the water Mr. Poole has seen is fresh—but as we are not more than two hundred and fifteen feet above the sea, and are so near Lake Torrens, I can hardly believe that such can be the case. It is a problem, however, that will now very soon be solved, and I most sincerely trust this decided change in the barrenness of the land will lead us to a rich and available country.
"I have great pleasure in reporting to you the continued zeal and anxiety of my officers, and the cheerful assistance they render me. I have found Mr. Piesse of great value, from his regular and cautious issue of the stores and provisions; and Mr. Stewart extremely useful as draftsman. Amongst my men, I have to particularise Robert Flood, my stockman, whose attention to the horses and cattle has mainly insured their fitness for service and good condition; and I have every reason to feel satisfied with the manner in which the men generally perform their duties.
"I have to apologize for the hurried manner in which this letter is written, and beg to subscribe myself,
"Sir, your most obedient servant,
With reference to the above report, I may mention in explanation, that, after I had accompanied the exploring party as far as the Rufus, and returned from thence to Moorunde, a rumour was brought to Captain Sturt by some natives from the Darling, of a massacre said to have taken place up that river near Laidley's Ponds. From being quite unacquainted with the language not only of the Darling natives, but also of the Rufus interpreter or the Moorunde boy, Captain Sturt's party had been only able to make out the story that was told to them by signs or by the aid of such few words of English as the boy might have learnt at Moorunde. They had naturally fallen into some error, and had imagined the natives to be describing the recent murder of a European party coming down the Darling with stock, instead of their narrating, as was in reality the case, an old story of the affray with Major Mitchell some years before. As Captain Sturt was still at the Rufus (150 miles from Moorunde) when he received the account, as he imagined, of so sanguinary an affray, he felt anxious to communicate the occurrence to the Colonial Government as early as possible, and for this purpose, induced two natives to bring down despatches to Moorunde. Upon their arrival there, the policeman was absent in town, and I had no means of sending in the letters to the Government, but by natives. Two undertook the task, and walked from Moorunde to Adelaide with the letters, and brought answers back again to the station within five days, having walked 170 miles in that period, Moorunde being 85 miles from Adelaide.
Again upon the Government wishing to communicate with Captain Sturt, letters were taken by the natives up to the Rufus, delivered over to other natives there, and by them carried onwards to Captain Sturt, reaching that gentleman on the eleventh day after they been sent from Moorunde, at Laidley's Ponds, a distance of 300 miles.
By this means a regular intercourse was kept up with the exploring party, entirely through the aid and good feeling of the natives, up to the time I left the colony, in December, 1844, when messengers who had been sent up with despatches were daily expected back with answers. For their very laborious and harassing journeys, during which they must suffer both some degree of risk in passing through so many other tribes on their line of route, and of hunger and other privations in prosecuting them, the messengers are but ill requited; the good feeling they displayed, or the fatigues they went through, being recompensed only by the present of a SMALL BLANKET AND A FEW POUNDS OF FLOUR. With these facts before us can we say that these natives are a ferocious, irreclaimable set of savages, and destitute of all the better attributes of humanity? yet are they often so maligned. The very natives, who have now acted in such a friendly manner, and rendered such important services to Europeans, are the SAME NATIVES who were engaged in the plundering of their property, and taking away their lives when coming over land with stock. Such is the change which has been effected by kindness and conciliation instead of aggression and injury; and such, I think, I may in fairness argue, would generally be the result if SIMILAR MEANS were more frequently resorted to.
As yet Moorunde is the only place where the experiment has been made of assembling the natives and giving food to them; but as far as it has been tried, it has been proved to be eminently successful. I am aware that the system is highly disapproved of by many of the colonists, and the general feeling among them appears to be that nothing should be given where nothing is received, or in other words, that a native should never have any thing given to him until he does some work for it. I still maintain that the native has a right to expect, and that we are IN JUSTICE BOUND to supply him with food in any of those parts of the country that we occupy, and to do this, too, WITHOUT demanding or requiring any other consideration from him than we have ALREADY received when we TOOK FROM HIM his possessions and his hunting grounds. It may be all very proper to get him to work a little if we can—and, perhaps, that MIGHT follow in time, but we have no right to force him to a labour he is unused to, and WHICH HE NEVER HAD TO PERFORM IN HIS NATURAL STATE, whilst we have a right to supply him with what he has been accustomed to, BUT OF WHICH WE HAD DEPRIVED HIM—FOOD.
If in our relations with the Aborigines we wish to preserve a friendly and bloodless intercourse; if we wish to have their children at our schools to be taught and educated; if we hope to bring the parents into a state that will better adapt them for the reception of christianity and civilization; or if we care about staying the rapid and lamentable ravages which a contact with us is causing among their tribes, we must endeavour to do so, by removing, as far as possible, all sources of irritation, discontent, or suffering. We must adopt a system which may at once administer to their wants, and at the same time, give to us a controlling influence over them; such as may not only restrain them from doing what is wrong, but may eventually lead them to do what is right—an influence which I feel assured would be but the stronger and more lasting from its being founded upon acts of justice and humanity. It is upon these principles that I have based the few suggestions I am going to offer for the improvement of our policy towards the natives. I know that by many they will be looked upon as chimerical or impracticable, and I fear that more will begrudge the means necessary to carry them into effect; but unless something of the kind be done—unless some great and radical change be effected, and some little compensation made for the wrongs and injuries we inflict—I feel thoroughly satisfied that all we are doing is but time and money lost, that all our efforts on behalf of the natives are but idle words—voces et preterea nihil—that things will still go on as they have been going on, and that ten years hence we shall have made no more progress either in civilizing or in christianizing them than we had done ten years ago, whilst every day and every hour is tending to bring about their certain and total extinction.