George Shelley’s reply on Aborigines

The Sydney Herald

6 November 1841

George Shelley, Esq., of Tumut, 21st July, 1841.

1. Yes.

2. I have had four native youths employed at different periods ; one remained one year, assisting among cattle, and then deserted; another remained for a period of three years and then left, returning occasionally, as best suited his own inclinations ; the third remained about four years, at different employments, then joined his tribe; he also returned when asked to assist in collecting cattle, or in any light employment, but he will not remain more than six or eight weeks at one time; the fourth has been in my employment about ten years, never leaving me during that time, except for a night or so, when his tribe happened to be in the neighbourhood; he is usually employed as shepherd or stockman's assistant; the services of those spoken of, have not been of much value to me; there has been a great want of diligence and activity shewn; their services could not be depended on for one day; if put to laborious employment, they are constantly idle, even when most required to act.

3. The principal remuneration they receive, is clothes and food; with the exception of one or two, they know not the value of money; and unless supplied with clothes when applied for, they become dissatisfied, sulky, and lazy, and will refuse to work; the generality of them require more remuneration than their services are worth.

4. I am of opinion that it is impossible to attach them to an establishment so as to make certain of a continuance of their services; they will not adhere to any agreement if it interfere with their habits of wandering when they wish; judging from my experience, now sixteen years, of their manner, habits, and customs, I should say that they are such as preclude the possibility of making them useful; lads from six to ten years are the only ones that possibly can be persuaded to stay, but upon arriving at the age of manhood, even they will join their tribe; as stockmen and shepherds only will they answer.

5. I have offered every inducement to the men to give up their children to me, but they have no control over them, and it rests with the child itself and in very few instances can they be persuaded to leave their parents; the only suggestion I can offer is, to get the children from their parents, and to teach them to work from their infancy.

6. I have not known an instance of a black fellow performing laborious work for even one day; one European would do as much laborious work in one day as four black fellows; nothing would induce the married men to work at anything but cutting bark or sheep washing, and at the latter work, they cannot remain in the water more than half the time a European can, if the day is at all cold; food and clothing is the only inducement for the young men to stay.

7. They are too lazy and idle, and when asked to perform work which requires manual exertion, they will immediately leave your establishment; the number in this district, known as the Murrumbidgee district, I conceive to be about 400.