Henry Bingham’s Reply to Aboriginal Questions

18 September 1841

Henry Bingham, Esq., Commissioner of Crown Lands, Police Station, Tumut River. June 24, 1841.

1. I have one native aboriginal policeman, and when not on duty with me in the bush, he will do anything he can that I may require. My public duty does not admit of my attending to any other pursuits, or I have no doubt I could attach others to me.

2. I have frequently had the natives to cut bark and grind wheat, though not wanting it, in order that they might do something for any food or presents I might give them, and they have performed the work cheerfully.

3. The remuneration the native blacks most desire is a very liberal allowance of fresh meat and tobacco.

4. I consider the aboriginal natives are a shrewd, cunning, and intelligent people, and a people of great observation and quick powers of imitation; but there are great difficulties in the way of attaching them to the establishments of most settlers, as otherwise they would make most excellent and superior shepherds and stockkeepers. The assigned servants have generally a great dislike to them, and are jealous of seeing them employed, and threaten them; and the natives, finding themselves uncomfortable, will not of course remain at the stations. The treatment that they have been in the habit of receiving from this class of men, and from parties who ought to have known better, until recently checked by the establishment of the border police, has been one great and baneful source of all the hostilities and aggressions committed on the whites; the spirit of revenge lies deep and long in their breasts, and the innocent suffer at times for the guilty; and I would further remark on this point, that the unfortunate promiscuous intercourse that has taken place so much in this colony between the settlers' assigned servants and the native aboriginal women, until recent measures have partially checked the same, has much increased the dislike of the aboriginal natives to the whites; and it is melancholy to dwell on the fact that infanticide is frequent among them, as the native aboriginal men cannot bear to see the half caste children, and the gins destroy them in the wild bush.

5. I have remarked that where the assigned servants are kept from much intercourse with the blacks, the latter will more readily engage, if required, in such pursuits as shepherding and stock keeping, provided there is a kind and humane person at the head of the establishment. I should consider that a large increase of married immigrants in the interior, beyond the limits, would be one great means of attaching the blacks to the stations; and the exercise of a more liberal and generous spirit among the wealthy stockholders beyond the limits, by permitting their superintendents to give them fresh beef occasionally, instead of directing their stock keepers uncourteously to drive them off their runs, on the futile ground that they frighten the cattle, would tend much to the same end. The parties themselves would, if they understood their own interests, save most considerably by the line of conduct I have pointed out; as, if the blacks are kindly requested to traverse any particular direction of a cattle run, when hunting, they will do so, if on friendly terms; they have no desire to disturb cattle, but it is an excellent and good excuse for indolent stockmen, who, in some cases, see their master or superintendent but seldom.

6. I have known some of the aborigines of both sexes (particularly the gins), who, during the day, performed as much work about a house or farm as any European house servant; I have seen them milk cows, drive a team, &c.; but I consider as shepherds or stockmen they would be most useful; I do not think them adapted either by climate or temperament, for direct hard manual labour.

7. I consider that they do not fancy the simple occupation of an agricultural labourer; it is inimical to their disposition and temper; but as shepherds they, could range the forests, and as stockmen they could do the same. The number of, blacks In the Murrumbidgee district may be estimated at from 1,600, to 2,000.