The Aborigines

Morning Chronicle

7 February 1846

We return to the consideration of this important matter, for the purpose of endeavouring to shew in this article what may and ought, to be done, to improve the condition of the blacks and preserve them from extinction.

Whether the articles we have already penned on this subject may have made any impression on the public mind; or whether we shall be able by our arguments to convert others to our own way of thinking we know not; but this we do know, that however lightly the claims of the Aborigines may be treated by our fellow colonists, we shall have done our duty, by bringing prominently before the public both here and in England, the wrongs these helpless creatures have endured at the hands of the white man, and pointing out a plan by which we are convinced their condition may be improved and the injuries they have sustained may be in some measure redressed.

We shall proceed at once simply to state the plan we would propose to be adopted; and to show that we do not stand alone in conceiving the practicability and efficacy of such a plan or something, similar to it, we shall quote from the evidence given before the select committee of the Legislative Council, and from the answers to their Circular letter, several passages in support of it.

The plan we would recommend then is thus:- That in every district of the Colony if necessary, a portion of the land belonging to the Crown, sufficiently large for the support of all the Aborigines of the district, should be set apart for their use:- that the Crown itself should not have the power to alienate that land, so long as there remained any of the Aborigines to occupy it: that the Aborigines of the district should be induced to locate themselves upon that land: that native villages should be built consisting of comfortable huts, one of which should be allotted to every family; that every village should be presided over by a person appointed by the Government; that in each village there should be a school, for the instruction of the young; and that a minister of religion should be appointed to each district, who should constantly reside within it.

To every hut or cottage, a portion of land should be attached, which the occupant should be entitled to consider as his own; and which he should be taught to cultivate.

In every village the means of amusement should be provided, which should consist of manly games and exercises; and even of simple dramatic representations, suited to the taste and habits of the Aborigines, and drawn as much as possible from, their own pursuits and customs; and in which the actors should be the natives themselves.

A code of simple laws should be drawn up, and the punishment of offenders should be awarded by a tribunal of their own, always taking care, however, that its decisions should not be opposed to the fundamental principles of British law. Punishment for offences should be by fines or deprivation of some expected reward for meritorious conduct; and in the imposition' of such fines, or the withholding of such rewards, the chief natives should have a full share of deciding. Marriage should be encouraged amongst them; no man should be allowed to have more than one wife; nor should anyone be allowed to take a woman by force or against her will.

Rewards for good conduct should be given in articles of furniture, such as might be wanted for their habits; in implements of husbandry; in trees and plants for their gardens; sometimes in wearing apparel of a superior description to that in common use; and for great merit or extraordinary services, even in sheep and cattle.

The youth, as they grew up, should be taught to construct their own cottages, to make their own clothes, and implements of husbandry and be instructed in the most simple mechanical trades.

All drinks of an intoxicating nature should be strictly prohibited the settlement; and no white man, except those appointed to office by the Government, should be allowed to enter within its boundaries. Such is an outline of the plan we would suggest, and which we now earnestly recommend to the serious consideration of those gentlemen who compose the select committee of the Legislative Council it may be objected that the expense of such a plan would be too great; but, as we observed in a previous article, no consideration of expense ought to stand in the way of justice.

We do not, however, believe that, after the first year or two, the expense would be very great; the experiment might, however, be tried gradually, let it be tried only in one locality; and with the Aborigines of one district, and its good effects will, we doubt not, soon be visible; and though no great improvement might be made in the way of civilization amongst the adult portion of them, the children who would be born in the place, and would therefore be attached to it, would be well taken care of; they would be well educated; they would be instructed in the doctrines and precepts of Christianity; and they would grow up in the midst of us, a civilized, an interesting, and an useful race; while we, as a nation, should have the high gratification of having saved them from extermination; and of having raised them from the very lowest depths of degradation and destitution, to beings capable of discharging the high and important duties of civilized life.

We postpone any further reference to this subject at present as irrelevant to our present purpose, and because we intend to devote a column to its consideration in our next.

What is, however, of infinitely more importance, we shall have made, as far as lies in our power, atonement for the wrongs done to their fathers; and we might reasonably expect the blessing of heaven, to fall upon our nation; for "the path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards and increaseth even to perfect day," and "the blessing of the Lord is upon the head of the just; but iniquity covereth the mouth of the wicked."

We will now quote from the evidence, the passages which seem to support this plan, to which we have before alluded. His Grace the Archbishop of Sydney, says, "I conceive if the Government were to take care of the Aborigines, and give them tracts of land on which they might congregate, and where they would be in safety, much good might be done, even in the civilized parts of the Colony. They might be encouraged to have little gardens, and be gradually brought into habits of civilization.

Beyond the boundaries, the only way would be to allot to them certain portions of ground, to let them have cattle and other things for their use.

Instead of protectors with large salaries, industrious simple minded married men might have the care of them, to prevent the intrusion of the whites, and to look after their well-being and concerns. The natives would soon learn that it was better to tend their cattle, and to be able to kill an ox when they required. it, than to hunt the kangaroo or emu. The natives would have confidence inspired by the fact, that they would have an asylum where they would he safe from the agressions of the whites.

I would make these Government reserves, and would not allow any white person to trespass, upon them; and if the law can protect the white in possession of his land, I conceive the Government may extend an equal protection to the land it may hold for the use of the aboriginal owners of the soil. I think in all parts of the Colony Government retains reserves; instead of allowing the tribes to wander about begging from farm to farm, which degrades them still lower than they are, I would give them these reserves as a home, and it would not cost much to provide a few cattle among them, and other necessaries and conveniences of civilized life, and this would put a stop, in a great measure, to one of the evils at present existing. The outrages that take place at Moreton Bay, generally arise from a desire, on the part of the Aborigines, to obtain food in the winter season.

Their natural food fails them, the white man drives away the emu and the kangaroo; and the black thinks he has a right to the cattle and sheep he finds in their stead." Henry Bingham,. Esq., J.P. Commissioner of Crown Lands for the district of Murrumbidgee, says - "I should recommend a large reserve being made for them, commanding both hunting and fishing grounds, and that a school for the children of both sexes should be formed adjacent to the reserve, in which the young girls might be taught useful domestic arts, and the boys some light employment, combined with gymnastic exercise, and the mind gradually but not too hastily, led to higher and more important objects, as it expanded to the more ordinary details of improved social life, and when they arrive at a certain age, the young men should be permitted to take wives of those girls, if the parents wished it; I am well aware the subject is one surmounted with great difficulty, but not insurmountable with perseverance."

Edward Parker, Esq., Assistant Protector of Aborigines, amongst other suggestions recommends - "First, an efficient system, providing for their protection and sustenance, such as can only be provided by reserves of land for each petty nation, on which they should be encouraged to raise the means of their own support; experience teaches me that these stations, under faithful management, may ultimately be made self-supporting."

G. A. Robinson, Esq., Chief Protector of Aborigines, Port Phillip, entertains an opinion somewhat similar, for in his answer to the Circular, he quotes Mr. Parker as stating "that the residence of an official representative amongst the Aborigines of this district, and the establishment of a permanent homestead and reserve for their advantage, has been attended with the most beneficial results both to the settler and the aborigines, and expresses a hope that what has been already accomplished in his district, would be deemed a sufficient encouragement to perseverance in the effort to improve the condition of those unfortunate people".

The above passages we think are amply sufficient to show not only the practicality of such a plan as we have sketched out, but also the benefit which would result from it. We trust therefore our suggestions may not be lost sight of, and we would in the words of the Archbishop, say to the Government, to the committee, to the Legislative Council, and to the Colonists; "Make the attempt," - of its success we entertain not the slightest doubt.