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Title: The Story of the Blacks
Author: Charles White
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Title: The Story of the Blacks
Author: Charles White



The Aborigines of Australia.


Charles White.


Published in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette, N.S.W., in serial form
commencing Saturday 30 April, 1904.

An earlier version of this story was published in the Bathurst Free Press
and Mining Journal commencing 14 September, 1889 as part of Charles
White's 'EARLY AUSTRALIAN HISTORY' series, which consisted of:

Part I - The Story of the Ten Governors,

Part II - The Story of the Convicts,

Part III - The Story of the Blacks,

Part IV - The Story of Australian Bushranging, and

Part V - The Rise and Progress of the West. (never published).



The black race of Australia will in a short time be but a memory, for
the final issue in the unequal struggle between the white man and his
coloured brother is not far off, and the last chapter of the history of
the aborigines is even now being written.

In dealing with this subject I do not purpose devoting much time to
speculation concerning their origin; that is a division in which the
general reader could not be expected to take any interest, howsoever
attractive it may be to scientists. My aim has been to place before the
reader a simple narrative of facts illustrative of the life of the
Australian blacks in their savage state, and the condition of
semi-civilization into which many of them were brought by their contact
with the white man after possession of the land was taken by Governor
Phillip and the motley crowd that crossed the sea from England with him
to form a British settlement on this far-off Australian shore. My
information has been gathered from many sources, direct and indirect,
and throughout the long search for reliable material upon which to work
there has ever been present with me a feeling of profound regret that
the opportunity for compiling an exhaustive, succinct and reliable
account of the original inhabitants of these lands should have been
allowed to pass away with the lives of the men who might have seized it
and made better use of it, by reason of the then intimate relationship
with them, than even more competent historians can possibly do at the
present day. For years after the first settlement of the colony the
authorities were too much concerned with regulating the lives of worse
savages than the natives to give attention to a work so insignificant as
that of studying the life of the dark-skinned mortals upon whose land
they had settled--too eager to wring blood from manacled humanity of
their own cast of countenance and colour of skin--too much absorbed in
the task of European settlement, to care whether the race that was being
exterminated was worth a thought. And to-day the position stands thus:
The aborigines as a race have been practically civilized off the face of
the earth which was their inheritance, and those who occupy the land
once theirs are like to forget that ever a black man lived upon the

When the sight of the natives was striking because of its novelty a few
sentences were written from which can be gathered what the men who saw
them first thought of them; but mere impressions do not make up reliable
history, and only such of the statements first made as have been proven
true by subsequent dealings with the different tribes can be accepted as
of any value whatever. It is well to gather up these earlier records,
however, for the men who made them saw the natives in their most natural
condition, and had the best opportunity of observing their appearance,
habits and customs in their primitive state.

The readers of this story must not expect anything approaching nicety of
arrangement in the simple record of facts which I have essayed to place
before them. A writer who wished to win a reputation for skill in this
direction would require to be put in possession of better material than
that which is possible of collection from the incongruous mass of
disjointed narratives, oral and written, which I have gathered during
the search of years. My chief concern has been to secure correctness,
rather than to preserve uniformity, and I can only hope that any lack of
the latter that may make itself apparent will not cause the reader to
miss the points of aboriginal character which the facts recorded are
intended to illustrate. This much by way of explanation--not apology.

Chapter I.--Dampier's Account.

Dampier, the Buccaneer, whose wild exploits in the Indian and Southern
seas reads like a romance, was the first to describe the natural history
and scenery of Australia, and the habits and customs of the natives. In
his journal of adventures in the South Seas, published in London in
1691, appears a narrative of his first visit to the western shores of
Australia, when he was on a marauding expedition in the ship Cygnet. The
description given by him, though by no means flattering, must strike the
Australian reader as remarkable for its vividness and fairly correct
delineation, and having been written more than two centuries ago, may be
looked upon as a curious record of keen observation, although it may not
be estimated of surpassing value as a reliable picture of things as they
existed at that remote period. His visit was made in January, 1688, and
this is the manner in which he recorded some of his observations and

"New Holland is a very large tract of land. . . . . We saw no sort of
animal, nor any track of beast, but once; and that seemed to be the
tread of a beast as big as a great mastiff dog. Here are a few small
land birds, but none bigger than a blackbird, and but few sea-fowls.
Neither is the sea very plentifully stored with fish, unless you reckon
the manatee and turtle as such of these creatures there is plenty, but
they are extraordinarily shy, though the inhabitants cannot trouble them
much, having neither boats nor iron.

"The inhabitants of this country are the miserablest people in the
world. The Hodmadods of Monomatpa, though a nasty people, yet for wealth
are gentlemen to these; who have no houses and skin garments, sheep,
poultry, and fruits of the earth, ostrich eggs, &c, as the Hodmadods
have; and setting aside their shape, they differ but little from brutes.
They are tall, straight-bodied and thin, with small long limbs. They
have great heads, round foreheads, and great brows. Their eye-lids are
always half closed, to keep the flies out of their eyes; they being so
troublesome here that no fanning will keep them from coming to one's
face, and without the assistance of both hands to keep them off they
will creep into one's nostrils and mouth too, if the lips are not shut
very close; so that from their infancy being thus annoyed with these
insects they do not open their eyes as other people; and therefore they
cannot see far unless they hold up their heads as if they were looking
at something over them. They have great bottle-noses, pretty full lips,
and wide mouths; the two fore-teeth are wanting in all of them, men and
women, old and young; whether they draw them out I know not; neither
have they any beards. They are long visaged, and of a very unpleasing
aspect, having no one graceful feature in their faces. Their hair is
black, short and curled, like that of the Negroes, and not long and lank
like the common Indians. The color of their skin, both of their faces
and the rest of their body, is coal black, like that of the Negroes of
Guinea. They have no sort of clothes, but the piece of the rind of a
tree tied like a girdle about their waist and a handful of long grass,
or three or four small boughs full of leaves, thrust under their girdle
to cover their nakedness. They have no houses, but lie in the open air
without any covering; the earth being their bed and the heaven their
canopy. Whether they cohabit one man to one woman or promiscuously, I
know not; but they do live in companies, 20 or 30 men, women, and
children altogether.

"Their only food is a small sort of fish, which they get by making wares
of stones across little coves or branches of the sea; every tide
bringing in a small fish, and there leaving them for a prey to these
people, who constantly attend there to search for them at low water.
This small fry I take to be the top of their fishery. They have no
instruments to catch great fish should they come, and such seldom stay
to be left behind at low water; nor could we catch any fish with our
hooks and lines all the time we lay there. In other places at low water
they seek for cockles, mussels, and periwinkles; of these shell fish
there are fewer still, so that their chiefest dependence is upon what
the sea leaves in their wares; which be it much or little they gather
up, and march to the places of their abode. There the old people who are
not able to stir abroad by reason of their age, and the tender infants,
await their return; and what Providence has bestowed on them they
presently broil on the coals and eat it in common. Sometimes they get as
many fish as makes them a plentiful banquet, and at other times they
scarce get everyone a taste; but be it little or much that they get,
everyone has his part as well the young and tender, the old and feeble,
who are not able to go abroad, as the strong and lusty. When they have
eaten they lie down until the next low water, and then all that are able
to march out, be it night or day, rain or sunshine, it is all one, they
must attend the wares or else they must fast, for the earth affords them
no food at all. There is neither herb, root, pulse, nor any sort of
grain for them to eat, that we saw; nor any sort of bird or beast that
they can catch, having no instruments wherewith to do so. I did not
perceive that they did worship anything. These poor creatures have a
sort of weapon to defend their ware, or fight with their enemies, if
they have any who will interfere with their poor fishery. They did at
first endeavour with their weapons to frighten us, who lying ashore
deterred them from one of their fishing places. Some of them had wooden
swords (boomerangs), others had a sort of lance.

"The sword is a piece of wood shaped something like a cutlass. The lance
is a long straight pole sharp at one end, and hardened afterwards by
heat. I saw no iron nor other sort of metal; therefore it is probable
that they use stone hatchets, as some Indians in America do. These
people speak somewhat through the throat, but we could not understand
one word that they said."

When the natives first caught sight of the strange visitors they
gathered on the shore gazing curiously at the vessel, but when Dampier
and a boat's crew landed they suddenly disappeared in the bush. Search
was made for three successive days for native houses, but none were
found, although the remains of numerous camp fires were seen.

"At last," says Dampier, "we went over to the island, and there we found
a great many natives. I do believe there were 40 on one island, men,
women, and children. The men at first coming ashore threatened us with
their lances and swords, but they were frightened by firing one gun,
which we fired to frighten them. The island was so small that they could
not hide themselves, but they much disordered at our landing, especially
the women and children, for we went directly to their camp. The lustiest
of the women snatched up their infants, ran away howling, and the little
children ran after, squealing and howling, but the men stood still. Some
of the women and such people as could not go from us, lay still by a
fire, making a doleful noise, as if we had been coming to devour them,
but when they saw we did not intend to harm them they were pretty quiet,
and the rest that fled from us at our first coming returned again. This,
their place of dwelling was only a fire, with a few boughs before it,
set up on that side the wind was off. After we had been here a little
while, the men began to be familiar, and we clothed some of them,
designing to have had some service of them for it, for we found some
wells of water here, and intended to carry two or three barrels of it
aboard; but it being somewhat troublesome to carry to the canoes, we
thought to have made these men to have carried it for us, and therefore
we gave them some old clothes; to one an old pair of breeches, to
another a ragged shirt, to the third a jacket that was scarce worth
owning; which yet would have been very acceptable at some places where
we had been, and so we thought they might have been with these people.
We put them on them, thinking that this finery would have brought them
to work heartily for us, and our water being filled in small long
barrels, about six gallons in each, which were made purposely to carry
water in, we brought these our servants to the wells, and put a barrel
on each of their shoulders for them to carry to the canoe. But all the
signs we could make were to no purpose, for they stood like statues,
without motion, but grinned like so many monkies, staring one upon
another, for these poor creatures seemed not accustomed to carry
burthens, and I believe that one of our ship boys of ten years old would
carry as much as one of them. So we were forced to carry our water
ourselves, and they fairly put the clothes off again, and laid them
down, as if clothes were only to work in.. .. . Those inhabitants who
lived on the main would always run away from us; yet we took several of
them. For they had such bad eyes that they could not see us till we came
close to them."

It will be seen later on how very far wrong Dampier was in his estimate
of the visual powers of the natives.

In 1699 Dampier again visited Australia, this time the eastern coast, he
having previously abandoned his piratical career and obtained a
commission from King William III. to make a voyage of discovery. He thus
describes his meeting with the natives at Shark's Bay, where the
voyagers had landed to search for water:--

"While we were at work (digging in the sand for water) there came nine
or ten of the natives to a small hill a little way from us, and stood
there menacing and threatening of us, and making a great noise. At last
one of them came towards us, and the rest followed at a distance. I went
out to meet him, and came within 50 yards of him, making to him all the
signs of peace and friendship I could; but then he ran away, neither
would any of them stay for us to come nigh them, for we tried two or
three times. At last I took two with me, and went in the afternoon along
by the seaside purposely to catch one of them if I could, of whom I
might learn where they got their fresh water. There were ten or twelve
of the natives a little way off, who, seeing us three going away from
the rest of our men, followed us at a distance. . . . Being three or
four times our numbers, they thought to seize us. So they dispersed
themselves, some going to the sea-shore, and others beating about the
sand-hills. We know by what encounter we had with them in the morning
that we could easily out-run them; so that a nimble young man that was
with me seeing some of them near ran towards them, and they for some
time ran away before him; but he soon overtaking them, they faced about
and fought him. He had a cutlass and they had wooden lances, with which,
being many of them, they were too hard for him. When he first ran
towards them I chased two more that were by the shore; but fearing how
it might be with my young man, I turned back quickly and went up to the
top of a sand-hill, whence I saw him near me, closely engaged with them.
Upon them seeing me, one of them threw a lance at me, that narrowly
missed me. I discharged my gun to scare them, but avoided shooting any
of them; till finding the young man in great danger from them, and
myself in some, and that though the gun had a little frightened them at
first, yet they had soon learnt to despise it, tossing up their hands
and crying "pooh, pooh, pooh"; and coming on afresh with a great noise,
I thought it time to charge again and shoot one of them, which I did.
The rest seeing him fall made a stand again, and my young man took the
opportunity to disengage himself, and come off to me; and I returned
back with my men, designing to attempt the natives no farther, being
very sorry for what had happened already. They took up their wounded
companion, and my young man, who had been struck through the cheek by
one of their lances, was afraid if it had been poisoned; but I did not
think that likely. His wound was very painful to him, being made with a
blunt weapon; but he soon recovered of it. Among the New Hollanders,
whom we were thus engaged with, there was one by his appearance and
carriage, as well in the morning as this afternoon, seemed to be the
chief of them, and a kind of prince or captain among them. He was a
young, brisk man, not very tall, nor so personal as some of the rest,
though more active and courageous; he was painted (which none of the
rest were at all) with a circle of white paste or pigment (a sort of
lime, as we thought) about his eyes, and a white streak down his nose,
from his forehead to the tip of it; and his breast and some part of his
arms were also made white with the same paint; not for beauty or
ornament, one would think, but as some wild Indian warriors are said to
do, he seemed thereby to design the looking more terrible; this his
painting adding very much to his natural deformity; for they all of them
have the most unpleasant looks and the worst features of any people that
I ever saw, though I have seen a great variety of savages."

Read in the light of what other explorers have written, the description
given by Dampier of the appearance, habits, and customs of the coastal
tribes must be taken as fairly correct, and ample evidence could be
produced to show that during the time intervening between the last visit
of the reformed buccaneer and the occupation of the soil by the First
Fleeters--running on to a century--there was very little change, and the
probabilities are that had the natives remained in undisputed possession
of the soil until the present day, the same monotonous condition of
non-development would have been observed.

Chapter II.--Cook's Account.

The next account was that furnished by Captain Cook, whose favourable
reports of the country around Botany Bay first induced the British
Government to enter upon that work of colonisation in the Southern seas
which has borne such marvellous fruit.

The first sign of the natives was observed by the famous circumnavigator
when (in 1770) skirting the coast near Port Hacking, when several of
them were seen walking briskly along the shore, four of them carrying a
canoe across their shoulders. At first he thought they intended to
launch the canoe and put off to the ship, but discovering his error he
had a boat manned and pulled to the shore with the object of landing,
upon seeing which the natives ran away. When subsequently approaching
Botany Bay in the pinnace the explorers saw natives on the shore, but as
they were armed with "long pikes and a wooden weapon shaped somewhat
like a cimeter" (evidently spears and boomerangs) a landing was not
attempted. The natives "used many threatening gestures and brandished
their weapons; particularly two, who made a very singular appearance,
for their faces seemed to have been dusted with a white powder, and
their bodies painted with broad streaks of the same colour, which
passing obliquely over their breasts and backs, looked not unlike the
cross-belts worn by our soldiers; the same kind of streaks were also
drawn around their legs and thighs like broad garters; each of these men
held in his hand the weapon like a cimeter, which appeared to be about
two feet and a half long, and they seemed to talk to each other with
great earnestness."

"The place where the ship had anchored was abreast of a small village,
consisting of about six or eight houses; and while we were preparing to
hoist out the long boat, we saw an old woman, followed by three
children, come out of the wood; she was loaded with firewood, and each
of the children carried its little burden; when she came to the houses
three more children, younger than the others, came out to meet her; she
often looked at the ship, but expressed neither fear nor surprise; in a
short time she kindled a fire and the four canoes came in from fishing.
The men landed, and having hauled up their boats began to dress their
dinner, and to all appearance wholly unconcerned about us, though we
were within half a mile of them. We thought it remarkable that all of
the people we had yet seen, not one had the least appearance of
clothing, the old woman herself being destitute of even a fig-leaf.. . .
We intended to land where we saw the people, and began to hope that as
they had so little regarded the ship's coming into the bay, they would
as little regard our coming on shore. In this, however, we were
disappointed; for as soon as we approached the rocks two of the men came
down upon them to dispute our landing, and the rest ran away. Each of
the two champions was armed with a lance about 10 feet long (war spears
called ghe-rubbine), and a short stick (womera) which he seemed to
handle as if it was a machine to assist him in managing or throwing the
lance. They called to us in a very loud tones and in a harsh dissonant
language, of which neither we nor Tupia understood a single word; they
brandished their weapons and seemed resolved to defend their coast to
the uttermost, though they were but two, and we were forty. I could not
but admire their courage, and being very unwilling that hostilities
should commence I ordered the boat to lie upon her oars; we then parlied
(parleyed) by signs for about a quarter of an hour, and to bespeak their
good-will I threw them nails, beads and other trifles, which they took
up, and seemed to be well pleased with. I then made signs that I wanted
water, and, by all the means that I could devise, endeavoured to
convince them that we would do them no harm. They now waved to us, and I
was willing to interpret it as an invitation; but upon our putting the
boat in, they came again to oppose us. One appeared to be a youth about
nineteen or twenty, and the other a man of middle age; as I had now no
other resource, I fired a musket between them. Upon the report, the
youngest dropped a bundle of lances upon the rock, but recollecting
himself in an instant, he snatched them up again with great haste. A
stone was then thrown at us, upon which I ordered a musket to be fired
with small shot, which struck the eldest upon the legs, and he
immediately ran to one of the houses, which was distant about 100 yards.
I now hoped that our contest was over, and we immediately landed; but we
had scarcely left the boat when he returned, and we then perceived that
he had left the rock only to fetch a shield or target for his defence.
As soon as he came up, he threw a lance at us, and his comrade another;
they fell where we stood thickest, but happily hurt nobody. A third
musket with small shot was then fired at them, upon which one of them
threw another lance, and both immediately ran away; if we had pursued we
might probably have overtaken one of them; but Mr. Banks suggesting that
the lances might be poisoned, I thought it not prudent to venture into
the woods. We repaired immediately to the huts, in one of which we found
the children, who had hidden themselves behind a shield and some bark;
we peeped at them, but left them in their retreat, without their knowing
that they had been discovered, and we threw into the house, when we went
away, some beads, ribbons, pieces of cloth, and other presents, which we
hoped would procure us the goodwill of the inhabitants when they should
return, but the lances which we found lying about we took away with us,
to the number of about 50; they were from six to fifteen feet long, and
all of them had four prongs in the manner of a fish-gig, each of which
was pointed with fish-bone, and very sharp; we observed that they were
smeared with a viscous substance of a green colour, which favoured the
opinion of their being poisoned, though we afterwards discovered that it
was a mistake; they appeared, by the sea-weed that we found sticking to
them, to have bean used in striking fish. Upon examining the canoes that
lay upon the beach, we found them to be the worst we had ever seen; they
were between 12 and 14 feet long, and made of the bark of a tree in one
piece, which was drawn together and tied up at each end, the middle
being kept open by sticks, which were placed across them from gunwale to
gunwale as thwarts."

Repeated efforts were made by the landing party during successive days
to get into close touch with the natives, but without success, although
the latter repeatedly came within hailing distance of the place where
the water casks were being filled. The toys placed in the gunyahs were
left untouched, the natives evidently fearing to handle them. During his
excursions into the bush ("up into the country" are the words used in
his diary) Cook made close observation of everything calculated to throw
light upon their habits and manner of life, thus recorded:--

"We saw many houses (gunyahs) and places where they had slept upon the
grass, of which there is great abundance, without any shelter, but we
saw only one of the people, who, the moment he saw us, ran away. At all
these places we left presents hoping that at last they might procure
confidence and goodwill.. . . We saw the dung of an animal which fed
upon the grass, and which we judged could not be less than a deer; and
the footsteps of another which was clawed like a dog, and seemed to be
about as big as a wolf (evidently the animals were the kangaroo and the
dingo or wild dog).. . We found some wood which had been felled by the
natives with a blunt instrument, and some that had been barked, . . and
in some of them (the trees) steps had been cut at about three feet
distant from each other, for the convenience of climbing them. Fell in
with a body of two and twenty natives, who followed us, and often not
more than twenty yards distant. When Mr. Gore perceived them so near he
stopped and faced about, upon which they stopped also, and when he went
on again continued their pursuit. They did not, however, attack him,
although they were all around with lances, and he and the midshipman got
in safety to the watering-place. The Indians, who had slackened their
pursuit when they came in sight of the main body of our people, halted
at about the distance of a quarter of a mile, where they stood still.
Mr. Monkhouse and two or three of the waterers took it into their heads
to march up to them; but seeing the Indians keep their ground till they
came pretty near them, they were seized with a sudden fear very common
to the rash and foolhardy, and made a hasty retreat. This step, which
insured the danger that it was intended to avoid, encouraged the
Indians, and four of them running forward, discharged their lances at
the fugitives with such force, that flying no less than forty yards,
they went beyond them. As the Indians did not pursue, our people,
recovering their spirits, stopped to collect their lances; upon which
the Indians, in their turn, began to retire.

"Twelve canoes, in each of which was a single Indian, came towards the
watering place, and were within half a mile of it a considerable time;
they were employed in striking fish, upon which, like others that we had
seen before, they were so intent that they seemed to regard nothing
else.. . When we returned to the boat, we saw some smoke upon another
part of the coast (Tom Ugly's Point), and went thither in hopes of
meeting with the people, but at our approach these also ran away. We
found six small canoes, and six fires very near the beach, with muscles
roasting upon them, and a few oysters lying near; by this we judged that
there had been one man in each canoe, who, having picked up some shell
fish, had come ashore to eat them, and made his separate fire for that
purpose. We tasted of their cheer, and left them in return some strings
of beads, and other things which we thought would please them.. . Mr.
Monkhouse, the surgeon, and one of the men, who were with another party
near the watering-place, also strayed from their companions, as they
were coming out of a thicket, observed six Indians standing together, at
the distance of about fifty yards. One of them pronounced a word very
loud, which was supposed to be a signal, for a lance was immediately
thrown at him out of the wood, which very narrowly missed him. When the
Indians saw that the weapon had not taken effect, they ran away with the
greatest precipitation; but on turning about the place whence the lance
had been thrown, he saw a young Indian, whom he judged to be about
nineteen or twenty years old, come down from a tree, and he also ran
away with such speed as made it hopeless to follow him.. . On these
banks of sand and mud there are great quantities of oysters, muscles,
cockles, and other shell fish, which seem to be the principal
subsistence of the inhabitants, who go into shoal water with their
little canoes, and pick them out with their hands. We did not observe
that they ate any of them raw, nor did they always go on shore to dress
them, for they had frequently fires in their canoes for that purpose.
They do not, however, subsist wholly upon this food, for they catch a
variety of other fish, some of which they strike with gigs, and some
they take with hook and line. All the inhabitants that we saw were stark
naked; they did not appear to be numerous, or live in societies, but
like other animals, were scattered along the coasts and in the woods. Of
their manner of life, however, we could know but little, as we were
never able to form the least connection with them; after the first
contest at our landing, they would never come near enough to parley; nor
did they touch a single article of all that we had left at their huts,
and the places they frequented, on purpose for them to take away."

During the whole time of their stay at Botany Bay (nine days) the party
could not obtain friendly intercourse with the natives, but upon landing
at Broken Bay, they came into closer touch with them by supplying them
with fish. When the novelty had worn off, however, and the natives had
satisfied their curiosity concerning the men and things so strange to
them, the familiarity became dangerous to the visitors and an open
rupture occurred. A party of blacks, who had previously been presented
with some fish (other food offered they would not touch) attempted to
carry off some of the turtles that had been caught by the crew, and upon
being forcibly prevented they became very angry, and one of them
snatched a lighted brand from the fire at the European camp and set the
long grass on fire in several places. The fire spread with great
rapidity, and much difficulty was experienced in saving the tents and
stores on shore. By way of reprisal a shot gun was discharged amongst
them, and one black fell, while the visitors returned to the ship, from
which they saw the flames spreading for miles along the coast. Writing
of this experience Cook says:--

"If it had happened a very little while sooner, the consequence might
have been dreadful; for our powder had been aboard for a few days, and
the store tent, with many valuable things which it contained, had not
been removed many hours. We had no idea of the fury with which grass
would burn in this hot climate, nor consequently of the difficulty of
extinguishing it; but we determined, that if it should ever again be
necessary for us to pitch our tents in such a situation, our first
measure should be to clear the ground around us."

At the close of his interesting narrative Cook makes the following
general observations:--

"The number of inhabitants in this country appears to be very small in
proportion to its extent. We never saw so many as thirty of them
together but once, and that was at Botany Bay, when men, women and
children assembled upon a rock to see the ship pass by; when they
manifestly formed a resolution to engage us, they never could muster
above 14 or 15 fighting men, and we never saw a number of their sheds
together that would accommodate a larger party. It is true, indeed, that
we saw only the seacoast of the eastern side; and that, between this and
the western shore there is an immense tract of country wholly
unexplored; but there is great reason to believe that this immense tract
is either wholly desolate, or at least still more thinly inhabited than
the parts we visited. It is impossible that the inland country should
subsist inhabitants at all seasons without cultivation; it is extremely
improbable that the inhabitants of the coast should be totally ignorant
of arts of cultivation, which were practised inland; and it is equally
improbable that, if they knew such arts, there should be no traces of
them among them. It is certain we did not see one foot of ground in a
state of cultivation in the whole country, and therefore it may well be
concluded, that where the sea does not contribute to feed the
inhabitants, the country is not inhabited. The only tribe with which we
had any intercourse we found where the ship was careened; it consisted
of one-and-twenty persons, twelve men, seven women, one boy, and one
girl; the women we never saw but at a distance, for when the men came
over the river they were always left behind. The men, here and in other
places, were of middle size, and in general, well made, clean limbed,
and remarkably vigorous, active, and nimble; their countenances were not
altogether without expression, and their voices were remarkably soft and
effeminate. They appeared to have no fixed habitations, for we saw
nothing like a town or village in the whole country. Their houses, if
houses they may be called, seemed to be formed with less art and
industry than any we had seen, except the wretched hovels at Tierra del
Fuego, and in some respects they are inferior even to them. At Botany
Bay, where they were best, they were just high enough for a man to sit
upright in, but not large enough for him to extend himself in his whole
length in any direction; they are built with pliable rods about as thick
as a man's finger, in the form of an oven, by sticking the two ends in
the ground, and then covering them with palm leaves and broad pieces of
bark; the door is nothing but a large hole at one end opposite to which
the fire is made, as we perceived by the ashes. Under these houses, or
sheds, they sleep, coiled up with their heels to their heads, and in
this position one of them will hold three or four persons. As we
advanced northward and the climate became hotter, we found these sheds
still more slight; they were built, like the others, of twigs, and
covered with bark; but none of them were more than four feet deep, and
one side was entirely open; the close side was always opposed to the
course of the prevailing wind, and opposite to the open side was the
fire, probably more as defence from the mosquitoes than the cold. They
were set up occasionally by a wandering horde in any place that would
furnish them for a time with subsistence, and left behind them when,
after it was exhausted, they went away; but in places where they
remained only for a night or two, they slept without shelter, except the
bushes and grass, which is here near two feet high. The only furniture
belonging to these houses that fell under our observation, is a kind of
oblong vessel made of bark, by the simple contrivance of tying up the
two ends with a withy, which not being cut off serves for a handle;
these we imagine were used as buckets to fetch water from the spring,
which may be supposed sometimes to be at a considerable distance. They
have, however, a small bag, about the size of a moderate cabbage-net,
which is made by laying thread loop within loop, somewhat in the manner
of knitting used by our ladies to make purses. This bag the man carries
loose upon his back by a small string which passes over his head. It
generally contains a lump or two of paint or resin, some fish-hooks and
lines, a shell or two, out of which their hooks are made, a few points
of darts, and their usual ornaments, which includes the whole worldly
treasure of the richest man among them. Their fish hooks are very neatly
made, and some of them are exceedingly small. For striking turtle they
have a peg of wood, which is about a foot long, and very well bearded;
this fits into a socket at the end of a staff of light wood, about as
thick as a man's wrist, and about seven or eight feet long; to the staff
is tied one end of a loose line about three or four fathoms long, the
other end of which is fastened to the peg. To strike the turtle, the peg
is fixed into the socket, and when it has entered his body, and is
retained there by the barb, the staff flies off and serves for a float
to trace their victim in the water; it assists also to tire him, till
they can overtake him with their canoes, and haul him ashore. One of
these pegs, as I have already mentioned, we found buried in the body of
a turtle, which had healed up over it. Their lines are from the
thickness of a half-inch rope to the fineness of a hair, and are made of
some vegetable substance, but what particular we had no opportunity to
learn. Their food is chiefly fish, though they sometimes contrive to
kill a kangaroo, and even birds of every kind notwithstanding they are
so shy that we found it difficult to get within reach of them with a
fowling piece. The only vegetable that can be considered as an article
of food is the yam; yet doubtless they eat the several fruits that have
been mentioned among other productions of the country; and indeed we saw
the shells and hulls of several of them lying about the places where
they had kindled their fires."

I have drawn somewhat extensively from the diary of this intrepid
explorer (whose death at the hands of the Sandwich Islanders, in 1779,
was a loss to the world) for the simple reason that the account given by
him--at once graphic, accurate, and simple--is the first through which
we obtain a clear insight into the character of the aborigines before
the country was occupied by Europeans. Cook's writings prove that he
considered ethnological description of the races inhabiting the country
he visited to be quite as important as that of geological bearings and
features; and it is very much to be regretted that those who
subsequently came into closer contact with the aborigines did not make
record as fully as he did of facts illustrating their habits and
customs, while yet they were unlearned in the ways of the race that has
supplanted them.


The old men of the tribes living in the vicinity of Botany Bay and Port
Jackson were doubtless still occasionally talking of Cook's visit when
the First Fleet, under the command of Governor Phillip, made its
appearance off the Australian coast; for eighteen years only had
intervened, and it was a circumstance which they were not likely to
easily forget.

At the very first landing of Governor Phillip on the shore of Botany Bay
(January 18th, 1788) an interview with the natives took place. They were
all armed, but on seeing the Governor approach with signs of friendship,
alone and unarmed, they readily returned his confidence by laying down
their weapons. Presents offered by the visitors were readily accepted,
and no hostility was shown by the natives while the vessel remained in
the bay--thanks, no doubt, to the humane conduct of Cook's people
previously, and the friendly overtures of the Governor and his party.

The next interview took place in Sydney Cove, when Phillip had gone
round to Port Jackson in search of better quarters. Stockdale describes
this meeting in his account of Phillip's voyages. The party of natives
appeared near the landing place, being "armed with lances and very
vociferous"; but gentle means inspired confidence, and the Governor
induced one of the men to accompany him to the spot on the beach where
the boatmen were boiling their meat. He examined the pot and its
contents critically, and the Governor contrived to make him understand
that a large shell might be used instead of a pot, so that he and his
countrymen could boil their meat as well as broil it. It was observed
that the natives always carried with them from place to place, and even
in their canoes, a piece of lighted wood, "their notions of kindling a
fire being very imperfect and laborious." Twenty of the natives waded
into the water when they perceived the boats passing near a point of
land in the harbour, and the Governor was so impressed by their
confidence and manly behaviour that he named the place "Manly Cove."
During the preparations for dinner they became very troublesome,
however, and Phillip drew a circle round the place, and without
difficulty made them understand that they must not cross the
line--"another proof," says Stockdale, "how tractable these people are
when no insult or injury is offered, and when proper means are employed
to influence the simplicity of their minds."

The account by Captain Tench, who accompanied Governor Phillip, and
which appeared in the London "Historical Magazine," 1789, is remarkably
interesting. Among other things he says:--

"Owing to the lateness of our arrival, it was not my good fortune to go
on shore until three days after this had happened, when I met with a
party to the south side of the harbour, and had scarcely landed five
minutes when we were met by a dozen Indians, naked as at the moment of
their birth, walking along the beach. Eager to come to a conference, and
yet afraid of giving offence, we advanced with caution towards them; nor
would they, at first, approach nearer to us than the distance of some
spaces. Both parties were armed; yet an attack seemed as unlikely on
their part as we knew it to be on our own. I had at this time a little
boy, of not more than seven years of age, in my hand. The child seemed
to attract their attention very much, for they frequently pointed to him
and spoke to each other; and as he was not frightened, I advanced with
him towards them, and at the same time baring his bosom and showing the
whiteness of his skin. On the cloaths being removed they gave a loud
exclamation; and one of the party, an old man, with a long beard,
hideously ugly, came close to us. I bade my little charge not be afraid,
and introduced him to the acquaintance of this uncouth personage. The
Indian, with great gentleness, laid his hand on the child's hat, and
afterwards felt his cloaths, muttering to himself all the while. I found
it necessary, however, by this time to send away the child, as such a
close connection rather alarmed him; and in this, as the conclusion
verified, I gave no offence to the old gentleman. Indeed, it was but
putting ourselves on a par with them; as I had observed, from the first,
that some youth of their own, though considerably older than the one
with us, were kept back by the grown people. Several more now came up,
to whom we made various presents, but our toys seemed not to be regarded
as very valuable; nor would they for a long time make any returns to
them, though, before we parted, a large club, with a head almost
sufficient to fell an oxen, was obtained in exchange for a
looking-glass. These people seemed at a loss to know (probably from our
want of beards) of what sex we were, which having understood, they burst
into the most immoderate fits of laughter, talking to each other at the
same time with such rapidity and vociferation as I had never before
heard. After nearly an hour's conversation by signs and gestures, they
repeated several times the word "Whurra," which signifies "Be gone," and
walked away from us to the head of the bay."

The amicable relationship subsisting between the colonizing party and
the natives was, however, not of long duration. The Governor returned to
Botany Bay to find that two ships flying French colours had followed
them into Australian waters, and he at once rightly conjectured that
these were the two vessels which had been sent out from France some time
previously on a voyage of discovery, under the conduct of La Perouse.
During their short stay in the Bay the Frenchmen fell foul of the
aborigines, and used fire-arms against them, thus destroying the
friendly intercourse which had been established by Phillip, who had
firmly resolved that, whatever differences might arise, nothing but the
most absolute necessity should ever induce him to fire upon them.
Referring to this act of the Frenchmen, Stockdale says:--

"This affair, joined to an ill-behaviour of some of the convicts, who,
in spite of all prohibitions, and at the risk of all consequences, have
wandered out amongst them, has produced a shyness on their parts which
it has not yet been possible to remove. Their dislike to the European is
probably increased by discovering that they intend to remain among them,
and that they interfere with them in some of their best fishing places,
which doubtless are, in their circumstances, subjects of very great
importance. Some of the convicts who have straggled into the woods have
been killed and others dangerously wounded by the natives, but there is
great reason to suppose that in these cases the convicts have usually
been the aggressors."

Tench also has something to say concerning the altered conditions:--

"On first setting foot in the country, we were inclined to hold the
spears of the natives very cheap. Fatal experience has, however,
convinced us that the wound inflicted by this weapon is not a trivial
one; and that the skill of the Indians in throwing it is far from
despicable. Besides more than a dozen convicts who have unaccountably
disappeared, we know that two who were employed as rush cutters up the
harbour, were (from what cause we are yet ignorant) most dreadfully
mangled and butchered by the natives. A spear had passed entirely
through the thickest part of the body of one of them, though a very
robust man, and the skull of the other was beaten in. Their tools were
taken away, but some provisions which they had with them at the time of
the murder, and their cloaths, were left untouched. In addition to this
misfortune, two more convicts, who were peacefully engaged in picking of
greens, on a spot very remote from that where their comrades suffered,
were unawares attacked by a party of Indians, and before they could
effect their escape, one of them was pierced by a spear in the hip,
after which they knocked him down and plundered his cloaths. The poor
wretch, though dreadfully wounded, made shift to crawl off, but his
companion was carried away by these barbarians, and his fate doubtful,
until a soldier, a few days afterwards, picked up his jacket and hat in
a native's hut, the latter pierced through by a spear. We have found
that these spears are not made invariably alike, some of them being
barbed like a fish gig, and others simply pointed. In repairing them
they are no less dexterous than in throwing them. A broken one being
given by a gentleman to an Indian, he instantly snatched up an oyster
shell, and converted it with his teeth into a tool, with which he
presently fashioned the spear, and rendered it fit for use; in
performing this operation, the sole of his foot served him as a

Shortly after forming the settlement at Port Jackson, the Governor set
out on an exploring expedition along the coast to the north of Sydney
Heads, and several interviews took place with the natives, who evinced a
friendly disposition, on many occasions meeting them on the shore and
proffering assistance to the strangers, whose advent they celebrated in
native song. The party then made their first attempt to get inland, but
did not encounter any natives, although they frequently came across
abandoned camps. The huts were described by Tench as consisting of
several pieces of bark, about "eleven feet in height and from four to
six in breadth, bent in the middle while fresh from the tree, and set up
so as to form an acute angle, not a little resembling cards set up by
children. It was conjectured that the chief use of these imperfect
structures might be to conceal them from the animals for which they must
frequently be obliged to lie in wait. They may also afford shelter from
a shower of rain for one or two who sit or lie under them." He also
noted the cuts in the bark made for climbing, and holes in the trees
from which some animal (the opossum) had evidently been taken. "In all
these excursions of Governor Phillip," says he, "and in the neighborhood
of Botany Bay and Port Jackson, the figures of animals, of shields and
weapons, and even of men have been carved upon the rocks, roughly
indeed, but sufficiently well to ascertain very fully what was the
object intended. Fish were very often represented, and in one place the
form of a large lizard was sketched out with tolerable accuracy. On the
top of one of the hills, the figure of a man in the attitude usually
assumed by them when they begin to dance, was executed in superior
style." And this early historian observes in closing this part of his
narrative, "had these men been exposed to a colder atmosphere, they
would doubtless have had clothes and houses before they attempted to
become sculptors!"

Shortly after the formation of the settlement, Captain Hunter, who
commanded the "Sirius" frigate in the first fleet and succeeded Governor
Phillip in the government of the colony, was employed in making a survey
of the harbor, and while prosecuting this work he was brought into
frequent contact with the natives, in whom he appears to have taken a
kindly interest, following the good example set by Phillip. In 1793
Captain Hunter published in England "An Historical Account of
transactions at Port Jackson," and the pages devoted in this work to
details concerning the character and habits of the blacks are not by any
means the least interesting. "We saw them," says he "in considerable
numbers, and they appeared to us to be a very lively and inquisitive
race; they are a straight, thin, but well-made people, rather small in
their limbs, but very active; they examined with the greatest attention,
and expressed the utmost astonishment at the different covering we had
on; for they certainly considered our clothes so many different skins,
and the hat as part of the head; they were pleased with such trifles as
we had to give them, and always appeared cheerful and in good humor;
they danced and sung with us and imitated our words and motions, as we
did theirs. I signified to the men that we had observed the women, and
that I wished to make them some presents if they might be permitted to
come forward and receive them. The men seemed unwilling to suffer them
to advance; for we had observed that they took particular care on every
occasion to keep the women at a distance, and I believe wholly from an
idea of danger. They desired to have the presents for the women, and
they offered to carry and deliver them, but to this proposal I
positively refused to agree, and made them understand that unless they
were allowed to come forward they should not have any. Finding I was
determined, an old man who seemed to have the principal authority,
directed the women to advance, which they did immediately, with much
good humor; and during the whole time that we were decorating them with
beads, rags of white linen, and some other trifles, they laughed
immoderately, although trembling at the same time through the idea of
danger. Most of those we saw at this time were young women who I judged
were from eighteen to twenty-five years of age; they were all perfectly
naked as when first born.

"The women in general are well-made, not quite so thin as the men, but
rather smaller limbed. As soon as the women were ordered to approach us,
about twenty men, whom we had not before seen, sallied from the wood,
completely armed with lance and shield. They were painted with red and
white streaks all over the face and body, as if they intended to strike
terror by their appearance. Some of them were painted with a little
degree of taste, and although the painting on others appeared to be done
without any attention to form, yet there were those who, at a small
distance, appeared as if they were accoutred with cross-belts. Some had
circles of white round their eyes, and several a horizontal streak
across the forehead; others again had narrow white streaks around the
body, with a broad line down the middle of the back and belly, and a
single streak down each arm, thigh and leg. These marks, being generally
white, gave the person at a small distance, a most shocking appearance;
for upon the black skin the white marks were so very conspicuous that
they were exactly like so many moving skeletons, The colors they use are
mostly red and white; the first of which is a kind ochre or red earth,
which is found here in considerable quantities; the latter is a fine
pipeclay. The bodies of the men are much scarified, particularly about
the breasts and shoulders. These scarifications are considerably raised
above the skin, and although they are not in any regular form, yet they
are certainly considered as ornamental. The men, thus armed and painted,
drew themselves up in a line on the beach and each man had a green bough
in his hand, as a sign of friendship. Their disposition was as regular
as any well-disciplined troops would have been, and this party, I
apprehend, was entirely for the defence of the women, if any insult had
been offered them. We also observed at this interview, that two very
stout armed men were placed upon a rock, near to where our boats lay, as
sentinels; for they never moved from the spot until we left the beach; I
therefore suppose they were ordered there to watch all our motions. We
left these people after a visit of about four hours, both parties
apparently well satisfied with all that passed."

Stockdale cites a case in which two parties of natives, numbering in all
about two hundred, had a bloodless battle with spears; and he
contradicts an assertion that had been made that the natives had no
fishing nets. "Some smart nets have been brought over," he says, "the
manufacture of which is very curious. The twine of which they are made
appears to be composed of the fibres of flax plant with very little
preparation; it is very strong, heavy, and so admirably well twisted as
to have the appearance of the best whipcord. Governor Phillip mentions
having had lines of their manufacture, "which were made of the fur of
some animal, and others that appear to be of cotton. The meshes of their
nets are formed of large hoops, very artificially inserted into each
other, but without any knots"."

Concerning their adornments and clothing, he says:--

"They have very few ornaments, except those which are impressed upon the
skin itself, or laid on in the manner of paint. The men keep their
beards short, it is thought, by scorching off the hair, and several of
them at the first arrival of our people seemed to take great delight in
being shaved. They sometimes hang in their hair the teeth of dogs, and
other animals, the claws of lobsters, and several small bones, which
they fasten there by means of gum; but such ornaments have never been
seen upon the women. Though they have not made any attempt towards
clothing themselves, they are by no means insensible to the cold, and
appear to dislike the rain very much. During a shower they have been
observed to cover their heads with pieces of bark, and to shiver
exceedingly. Governor Phillip was convinced by these circumstances that
clothing would be very acceptable to them if they could be induced to
come enough among the English to learn the use of it. He has therefore
applied for a supply of frocks and jackets to distribute among them,
which are to be made long and loose, and to serve for either men or
women. The bodies of these people in general smell strongly of oil, and
the darkness of their colour is much increased by dirt. But though in
these points they shew such little delicacy, they are not without
emotions of disgust when they meet with strong effluvia to which their
organs are unaccustomed. One of them, after having touched a piece of
pork, held out his fingers for his companions to smell, with strong
marks of distaste."

With the object of ascertaining how they disposed of their dead, the
Governor caused one of the mounds which he observed in several places to
be opened, and therein was found a few incinerated bones, which led him
to the conclusion that the bodies were burned before burial.

Conciliation by any and every means was the Governor's policy, but in
one of his despatches to the Home Secretary he said he almost despaired
of getting any of them to remain among his people sufficiently long to
learn the language, except by constraint. His aim was to induce the
natives to adopt the implements and arts of the Europeans, declaring
that "it is undeniably certain that to teach the shivering savage how to
clothe his body, and to shelter himself completely from the cold and
wet, and to put into the hands of men ready to perish for one-half of
the year with hunger the means of procuring constant and abundant
provision, must be to confer upon them benefits of the highest value and

This was certainly an ambition worthy of the humane governor who
entertained it. Phillip, in all his dealings with the natives, was moved
by the noblest impulses; and if his scheme for their physical and moral
regeneration could have been properly carried out, many of the sad
chapters of wrong and suffering and death in the history of the
Australian aborigines would certainly have never been written. But the
governor's philanthropic efforts on their behalf were rendered futile by
the actions of the wearers of the coats of red and blue and yellow, who
only saw in the black women objects upon which they could gratify their
insensate lust, and in the black men a sort of dangerous wild animal
whose speedy extermination was the best possible thing that could
happen. Before I have finished this story it will be seen how fully lust
and violence have accomplished their deadly work.

Not a little alarm was occasioned among the white population during
April of 1789, by the discovery that small-pox had broken out among the
aborigines, and was killing them off in numbers. The dead bodies of many
of the natives were discovered in various places about the shores of the
harbour and in the bush, and upon two sick children and an adult male
being brought, by the Governor's orders, to the camp, the medical
officer without hesitation pronounced the disease under which they were
suffering to be small-pox. The colonists were as much surprised as
alarmed at the appearance of this dreadful scourge so suddenly among the
natives; but the natives themselves showed they had had some previous
experience of a similar nature, as they called the disease "gal-gal la."
They could not have contracted the disease on this occasion from the
whites, seeing that it had not made its appearance among them, and
fortunately did not subsequently, although it raged with great virulence
among the natives, who had been prepared for pestilence by dearth of
food, and who fell easy victims to the spotted curse. The two black
children taken in hand by the Governor recovered, but the adult died;
and it was remarked as a most singular thing, that while all the whites
escaped the contagion, it seized a North American Indian who happened to
be employed on board the supply, and speedily carried him off. Hundreds
of the aborigines were carried off by the dreadful scourge, and the
remainder who had come in contact with the colonists without hesitancy
laid this extra calamity at the doors of the invaders, and became still
more bitter against them. It may be remarked, en passant, that more than
three quarters of a century after this a similarly disastrous visitation
fell upon the black race in one of the South Sea Islands--Fiji--and
depopulated whole villages.

One very pathetic story is related by Hunter, as occurring three months
after the outbreak, and when the Governor was on an expedition up the
Hawkesbury River. When at the south branch of Broken Bay "a native woman
was discovered concealing herself from our sight, in the long grass,
which was at this time very wet, and I should have thought very
uncomfortable for a poor naked creature. She had, before the arrival of
our boats at this beach, been with some of her friends, employed fishing
for their daily food, but were upon their approach alarmed, and they had
all made their escape except this miserable girl, who had just recovered
from the small-pox and was very weak, and unable, from a swelling in one
of her knees, to get off to any distance; she therefore crept off and
concealed herself in the best manner she could among the grass, not
twenty yards from the spot on which we had placed our tents. She
appeared to be about seventeen or eighteen years of age, and had covered
her debilitated and naked body with the wet grass, having no other means
of hiding herself. She was very much frightened upon our approaching
her, and shed many tears, with piteous lamentations; we soothed her
distress a little, and the sailors were immediately ordered to bring up
some fire, which we placed before her; we pulled some grass, dried it by
the fire, and spread it round her to keep her warm; then we shot some
birds, such as hawks, crows, and gulls, skinned them, and laid them out
on the fire to broil, together with some fish, which she ate; we then
gave her water, of which she seemed very much in want, for when the word
"baa-do" was mentioned, which was their expression for water, she put
her tongue out to shew how dry her mouth was. Before we retired for the
night we saw her again, and got some firewood laid within her reach with
which she might in the course of the night recruit her fire; we also cut
a large quantity of grass, dried it, covered her well, and left her to
her repose, which from her situation, I judge was not very comfortable
or refreshing. Next morning we visited her again; she had now got pretty
much the better of her fears, and frequently called to her friends, who
had left her, and who, we knew, could be at no great distance from her;
she repeated their names in a very loud and shrill voice, and with much
anxiety and concern for the little notice they took of her entreaties to
return; for we imagined, in all she said when calling on them, she was
informing them that the strangers were not enemies, but friends;
however, all her endeavours to bring them back were ineffectual while we
remained with her; but we were no sooner gone from the beach than we saw
some of them come out of the wood; and as there were two canoes on the
shore belonging to this party, they launched one into the water and went
away." On a subsequent visit the party found with the woman a
two-year-old female child, who had lost the two first joints of the
little finger of the left hand, the amputation having evidently been
made in some rite of the tribe.

The death from small-pox of the only adult male black who had become
attached to the vice regal establishment was considered a calamity, as
it was most necessary that some of the natives should be trained as
interpreters, in order that communication with their countrymen could be
carried on without difficulty. Early in 1790 Governor Phillip succeeded
after several fruitless attempts, in capturing two young men from one of
the coastal tribes. They were taken to the settlement where the two
children who had survived the small-pox assured them of kind treatment
and safety. Quarters were provided for them near the Governor's house,
and as they were very wild they were chained up until they should grow
accustomed to their new quarters; but chains were strange things to men
who all their life had been used to free roaming in the woods, and they
naturally kicked against the pricks. Ever on the look out for a chance
to escape, they at last saw one, and evading their keeper made off into
the bush with the fetters on their legs. Search for the runaways proved
fruitless, and the boy and girl, who had recovered from their illness,
declared that their countrymen would never return.

After the lapse of some time the Governor heard that they were at Manly
Beach with a large number of their tribe, and he proceeded thither in
hopes of inducing them to return. The company of blacks numbered several
hundred, but in order to gain their confidence his Excellency left the
boat and went amongst them quite unarmed. One of the runaways, named
Bennilong, promised to return in two days, and expressed a desire to
introduce the Governor to his friends in the usual formal manner. To
this his Excellency cheerfully assented, but his pacifying experiment
came near to costing him his life. At this time he was surrounded by 20
or 30 natives, and on Bennilong pointing out one of the number standing
near, the Governor thinking he wished to be introduced, stepped towards
him. Thinking that his own safety was endangered the black immediately
lifted a spear with his toes and fixing his throwing stick darted it at
the Governor, with the result thus described by Captain Hunter:--

"The spear entered the Governor's right shoulder, just above the
collar-bone, and came out about 3 inches lower down behind the shoulder
blade. Mr. Waterhouse, who was close beside the Governor at the time,
supposed that it must be mortal, for the spear appeared to him to be
much lower down than it really was, and supposed from the number of
armed men that it would be impossible for any of the party to escape to
the boat. He turned round immediately to return to the boat, calling to
the boat's crew to bring up the muskets; the Governor also attempted to
run towards the boat, holding up the spear with both hands to keep it
off the ground; but, owing to its great length, the end frequently
touched the ground and stopped him (it was about twelve feet long).
Governor Phillip, in this situation, desired Mr. Waterhouse to endeavour
if possible to take the spear out, which he immediately attempted, but
observing it to be barbed, and the barb quite through, he saw it would
be impossible to draw it quite out; he therefore endeavoured to break it
but could not. While he was making this attempt another spear was thrown
out of the wood, and took off the skin between Mr. Waterhouse's
forefinger and thumb, which alarmed him a good deal. By this time the
spears flew pretty thick, and while he was calling to the boat's crew
the Governor attempted to pull a pistol out of his pocket, but the
spears flew so thick that it was unsafe to stop; however, he got it out
and fired it on the supposition that their knowing he had some firearms
would deter them from any further hostility. The whole party got down to
the boat without any further accident, and in two hours they arrived at
the government house, when the surgeons were sent for. Mr. Balmain
extracted the point of the spear and dressed the wound, and in six weeks
the Governor was perfectly recovered."

And now the fruit of the Governor's previous kindness to Bennilong
appeared. The young savage, who seemed to occupy a prominent position in
the tribe, shortly after the occurrence made his way to headquarters and
by every means in his power sought to impress the Governor and his party
that the affair was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of the
man who had thrown the spear, whose name he said was Willomering, and to
whom he had administered a sound beating. The explanation was deemed
satisfactory, and confidence between the whites and that particular
tribe of blacks was for the time reestablished, the Governor making a
second visit to the spot where the incipient tragedy took place, and
distributed presents to the natives as a sign of his forgiveness and
good feeling towards them. Subsequently Bennilong attached himself to
the Governor's party, and together with another black named
Yemmerrawannie, voluntarily accompanied Phillip on the voyage to England
when he gave up his onerous Australian charge and returned thither.

When Governor Hunter arrived from England to assume the Governorship
(January, 1795) he brought Bennilong with him. The civilized savage had
learned--to use a later-day Australian term--to "put on side." On his
first appearance he conducted himself with polished familiarity towards
his sisters and other relations; but to his acquaintances he was distant
and quite the man of consequence. He declared, in a tone and with an air
that seemed to expect compliance, that he would no longer allow them to
fight and cut each other's throats as they had done, and that he would
introduce peace and brotherly love among them. He issued an order that
when his countrymen visited him at Government House they must be
somewhat more cleanly in their persons and less coarse in their manners;
and he was greatly put out at the indelicacy of his sister Carangarang,
who came in such haste from Botany Bay, with a little nephew on her
back, that she left all her habiliments behind her. Bennilong had kept
his eyes open in England, and had picked up not a few of the manners of
the people among whom he moved, and with the instinctive mimicry of his
race had come back to shew his countrymen how "white-fella behave it
like that." At table he conducted himself with marked propriety,
particularly when females were present. His dress appeared to be an
object of no small concern with him, and it was generally thought that
he had broken for ever with the primitive habits of his race. But, as
with many Europeans, so with Bennilong--a woman caused his downfall.
Shortly after his return he made enquiries for his wife,
Goroobarrooboollo, and found that she was living with a half-civilized
countryman who rejoiced in the patronymic of Carney. On producing a very
fashionable rose-colored petticoat made of coarse material, accompanied
with a gipsy bonnet of the same color, he induced her to desert Carney
and place herself again under his protection. To the surprise of
everyone, however, in a few days the dusky lady was seen walking about
unencumbered with clothing of any kind; and Bennilong was missing.
Inquiries were instituted and it was found that the husband and paramour
had fought at Rose Bay, and that the latter had been badly beaten in the
fight, Bennilong having chosen to follow his acquired English instincts
and used his fists in true pugilistic fashion, much to the discomfiture
and facial hurt of his opponent, who could not get a chance to use the
spear and club with which he was armed, so quickly did the blows from
Bennilong's bony fist rain upon his nose and eyes and ribs. Yet, after
all, Carney proved best man, if winning the prize for which the battle
was fought was the true test of prowess, for the fair and fickle
Goroobarrooboollo re-transferred her affections to him, and the
disconsolate husband was obliged to return to Government House alone. He
appears to have found solace in the reflection that he had given his
rival a full taste of British prize-ring physic, and was soon heard
hinting that he would rest satisfied for a time without a wife, and at
some future time make a better choice. But the domestic quarrel appears
to have made civilised life distasteful to him, and his absence from
headquarters became more frequent. When he went out to join his
countrymen he left his clothes behind him, although he carefully resumed
them on his return before paying his respects to the Governor.

CHAPTER IV.--The Racial War Begins.

But although at this time the aspect of affairs immediately surrounding
the settlement was peaceful, only a few individual instances of violence
occurring between the colonists and the natives, there were frequent
collisions between the opposing parties in the bush. One party of blacks
stole the signal colors used at the South Head station, and the flags
were afterwards seen at various times in use by the aborigines as aprons
or body cloths. At Rose Hill (or Parramatta, as the place was called)
several unpleasant encounters with the natives occurred, caused chiefly
by the wanton destruction by a white man of a canoe, the property of an
aboriginal named Ballooderry, who was one of the finest specimens of the
race known to the colonists, and who had evinced the best disposition
towards them. He had been very useful to the officers at Parramatta as a
fisherman, his canoe enabling him to ply his trade with tolerable
success. The destruction of his frail but useful little boat called
forth the worst passions of his savage nature, and he set himself to
work revenge by annoying and injuring the settlers whenever he could
make opportunity, or opportunity presented itself.

Writing of this period (1794) Collins says:--

"Some severe contests among the natives took place during the month of
August in and about the town of Sydney. In fact, the inhabitants still
knew very little of the manners and customs of these people,
notwithstanding the advantage which they possessed in the constant
residence of many of them, and the desire that they shewed of
cultivating their friendship. At the Hawkesbury they were not so
friendly; a settler there and his servant were nearly murdered in their
hut by some natives from the woods, who stole upon them with such
secrecy as to wound and overpower them before they could procure
assistance. A few days after this circumstance, a body of natives
attacked the settlers, and carried off their clothes, provisions, and
whatever else they could lay hands on. The sufferers collected what arms
they could and following them, seven or eight of the plunderers were
killed on the spot. This mode of treating them had become absolutely
necessary, from the frequency and evil effects of their visits; but
whatever the settlers at the river suffered was entirely brought on them
by their own misconduct; there was not a doubt but that many natives had
been wantonly fired upon; and when their children, after the fight of
the parents, have fallen into the settlers' hands, they have been
detained at their huts, notwithstanding the earnest entreaties of their
parents to have them restored..... Some accounts were received from the
Hawkesbury, which corroborated the opinion that the settlers there
merited the attacks which were from time to time made upon them by the
natives; it being now said that some of them had seized a native boy,
and, after tying him hand and foot, had dragged him several times
through a fire, until his back was dreadfully burnt, and in that state
had thrown him into the river, where they shot at and killed him."

As evidence that the natives were not inclined to deal harshly with the
whites, except by way of reprisal, the following case, contemporaneous
with this early time may be cited:--

In August 1795, the ship Providence from England, which was driven by
contrary winds to take shelter at Port Stephens, found there four white
men who were supposed at first to be shipwrecked seamen, but who turned
out to be runaway convicts who had been missing for nearly five years,
and were supposed to have perished. They were brought to Sydney, and
gave a most favourable account of the treatment they had met with from
the natives of that part of the coast. The blacks, they said, had given
them shelter and food, and supported them for years with the most
unvarying kindness, they considering, as the convicts discovered when
they had been there long enough to understand the language, that as
unfortunate strangers cast upon their shores the men were entitled to
assistance and protection.

They affirmed that the natives worshipped them, believing them to be the
spirits of their dead ancestors returned to earth in white skins, and
that they renamed them, alloted to each a wife, and treated them as
altogether superior beings.

But such instances of kind treatment by the blacks of the whites were
altogether unknown in those parts of the country which were being taken
up for cultivation, and the Hawkesbury settlers were subjected to
constant attacks, a kind of guerrilla warfare being kept up, in which
many of the natives were rubbed off the mess roll of their tribes. Early
in February an emancipated convict named Wilson, described by Bigge as a
"wild idle young man who preferred living among the natives in the
vicinity of the river to earning the wages of honest industry by working
for settlers," informed the authorities that some of the whites had
threatened to put to death three blacks against whom they had a
grievance, and they had, in fact, already attacked one party and wounded
several members of it. It is not surprising, therefore, that a
successful attempt was made to have Wilson removed from the district.
His sympathies were undoubtedly with the natives, whom he appears to
have found more congenial companions than his own countrymen, for he was
invariably in their company, and could speak their language with
tolerable ease and fluency. It was in their company, or under direction
from them, that he penetrated the fastnesses of the Blue Mountains, and
won the distinction of being the first white man to cross them,
although, being a convict, his story was disbelieved and no credit was
given him for the hardy and hazardous feat. A fear was always
entertained by the settlers that he would one day identify himself
altogether with the natives and their cause, and lead them in raids
against his own countrymen. Hence, he was compelled to vacate at once
the camp of the natives and the settlement of white invaders; and about
the same time a military guard was despatched to the Hawkesbury, with
regulations under which acts of violence on either side were to be

Collins gives several instances of the cruelty perpetrated by the
settlers of the Hawkesbury upon the natives. He says:--

"At that settlement an open war seemed about that time to have commenced
between the natives and the settlers; and word was received overland
that two of the latter had been killed by a party of the former. The
natives appeared in large bodies, men, woman, and children, provided
with blankets and nets to carry off the corn, and seemed determined to
take it whenever and wherever they could meet with opportunities. In
their attacks they conducted themselves with much art; but where that
failed they had recourse to violence, and on the least appearance of
resistance made use of their spears and clubs. To check at once if
possible these dangerous depredators, Captain Paterson directed a party
of corps to be sent from Parramatta with instructions to destroy as many
as they could meet with of the wood tribe (Bedi-gal); and in the hope of
striking terror, to erect gibbets in different places whereon the bodies
of all they might kill were to be hung. It was reported that several of
these people were killed in consequence of this order; but none of their
bodies were found (perhaps if any were killed they were carried off by
their companions); some prisoners, however, were taken, and sent to
Sydney--one man (apparently a cripple), five women and some children.
One of the women, with a child at her breast, had been shot through the
shoulder, and the same shot had wounded the babe; every care was taken
of them that humanity suggested. The cripple in a short time found means
to escape, and by swimming reached North Shore in safety, whence no
doubt he got back to his friends. Captain Paterson hoped that by
detaining the prisoners, and treating them well, some good effect might
result; but finding after some time that coercion, not attention, was
more likely to answer his ends, he sent the woman back. While she had
been at the settlement the wounded child died; and one of the other
women was delivered of a boy, who died immediately. On the soldiers
withdrawing, the natives attacked a farm nearly opposite Richmond Hill,
and put a settler and his son to death; the wife, after receiving
several wounds, crawled down the bank and concealed herself among some
reeds half immersed in the river, where she remained a considerable time
without assistance; being at length found, this poor creature, after
having seen her husband and her child slaughtered before her eyes, was
taken into the hospital at Parramatta, where she recovered, though
slowly, of her wounds. In consequence of this horrid circumstance,
another party of the corps was sent out, and while they were there the
natives kept at a distance. This duty now became permanent, and the
soldiers were distributed among the settlers for their protection--a
protection, however, that many of them did not merit."

The accounts of the years 1796-7 are full of stories of conflicts
between the settlers and the natives, in which very little mercy appears
to have been shewn on either side. It is impossible to arrive at
anything like a correct estimate of the number of settlers killed by the
blacks, but there is every reason to believe that it was scarcely a
tithe of the number of the aborigines whose lives were sacrificed in
return. The natives in many of their attacks evinced great daring, and
were often successful in carrying off large quantities of plunder. On
several occasions they boarded, from their canoes, the vessels employed
in bringing grain and other produce from the Hawkesbury. In one, at
least, of those piratical attacks they succeeded in overpowering and
killing the whole crew, and getting possession of the vessel and cargo.
In other attempts they were repulsed, with great loss, and ample
vengeance was exacted. They were believed to have been encouraged in
these crimes by runaway convicts, many of whom were living with them,
and were for the most part beyond the reach of law.

The following may be takes as a fair sample of the conflicts that
occurred about this time between the two races:--

The settlers at the Northern Farms (Kissing Point district) had been
repeatedly plundered of their provisions and clothing by a large body of
the natives, who had also recently killed a man and a woman. Exasperated
by these outrages the settlers armed themselves, and after pursuing the
marauders a whole night came up with a party about a hundred strong. The
natives fled as soon as they saw that their pursuers were armed, leaving
behind them a quantity of Indian corn and other articles which they had
stolen from the farms. The settlers followed, tracing the fugitives to
the outskirts of Parramatta. The latter were led by a troublesome
half-civilized savage named Pemulwy, who now threatened to spear the
first man that approached, at once throwing a spear at the foremost
European, whereupon the latter fired at and seriously wounded him. Then
followed a shower of spears, one of which passed through a settler's
arm, answered immediately by a musketry volley, which caused five of the
natives to bite the dust. The rest speedily scattered, and it was hoped
that the blacks would lay the lesson to heart and cease their raids.

"Unpleasant as it was to the Governor," writes Collins, "that the lives
of so many of these people should have been taken, no other course could
have been pursued with safety; for it was their custom, when they found
themselves more numerous than the white people, to demand with insolence
whatever they deemed proper, and, if refused, to have recourse to

The most frequent cause of trouble was the theft of growing maize by the
blacks, which was carried to such an extent on the more outlying farms
on the Hawkesbury in 1797, that some of the settlers were compelled to
abandon their lands, after they had devoted several years to the labor
of clearing and cultivation. But, as will be shown in a subsequent
chapter, the natives were almost compelled to steal the corn for food.
They were literally between "the devil and the deep sea." The firearms
of the whites had so thinned and frightened the game upon which the
unfortunate natives had been accustomed to rely for food, that they were
shut up to the single alternative--they must either starve or steal. And
it was one in the end. They died whether they stole or starved.

Pemulwy did not die just then. After the lapse of a month, having
recovered from his wounds, he gave proof of his intrepidity and daring
by escaping from the hospital with an iron about his leg.
Notwithstanding the example made at Parramatta, the blacks continued
troublesome throughout the entire year, attacking and wounding settlers
and their families, burning their houses and corn, and carrying away
such property as they found useful. The many gun-shot wounds from the
effects of which Pemulwy had recovered, led him and his countrymen to
adopt the idea that the arms of the European were powerless against him,
and as a result he was always prompt to head predatory attacks on the
settlers. It was these half-civilised natives who gave the most trouble
and committed the greatest outrages, the tribes beyond the boundaries of
settlement, and who had not fully recognised what the location of the
strangers on their grounds involved, being most friendly when
accidentally met with by exploring parties or wanderers. One instance is
recorded about the time which will serve to mark this difference of
conduct and disposition. While on a voyage from India to New South Wales
a ship called the "Sydney Cove" was wrecked at Furneux's Island near
Bass Straits. Mr Clark, the supercargo, with the chief officer and
fifteen men, endeavored to reach Sydney in the long boat, but were
driven ashore somewhere to the south of Cape Howe, from which point they
attempted to travel northward and so reach the settlement by land. The
distance was very great--nearly 400 miles--and the difficulties they had
to encounter were very formidable. They persevered manfully for a time,
but at length began to drop one by one, and lost each other daily. Their
number on reaching the Illawarra district was reduced to five. Most of
the tribes of natives they had met with before they arrived at this part
of the country were friendly, but now they had the misfortune to fall in
with two half-civilised blacks from Botany Bay. These scoundrels
attacked the party unawares and killed the chief mate, leaving only Mr.
Clark, one English sailor, and a lascar; and these three succeeded at
last, after undergoing most frightful sufferings, in reaching
Wattamolee, a little inlet on the coast about midway between Botany Bay
and Wollongong. Here the party were discovered by some fishermen, who
gave them a passage to Sydney, where they arrived on 17th April, having
been two months on their perilous and disastrous journey.

Returning to the Hawkesbury we find that the animosity between the
settlers and the aborigines during the two years ending the century had
pretty near reached its climax, and resulted in deeds of the darkest
cruelty on either side. One case is recorded of exceptional cruelty on
the part of the white settlers. The natives had murdered two white men
who had farms on the Hawkesbury, and a few of the settlers determined to
follow the aboriginal custom and revenge their death by retaliation,
selecting three innocent and unoffending black youths as their victims.
The lads, not dreaming of treachery accepted the invitation of the
settlers to come near, and were immediately driven into a barn, where
two of them were ruthlessly slaughtered. The third escaped by jumping
into the river, and although his hands were tied he succeeded in
swimming to the opposite bank, none of the shots fired at him when in
the water reaching him. Subsequently Governor Hunter heard of the
occurrence, and caused an inquiry. The bodies of the two murdered boys
were found buried in the garden, stabbed in several places, and the
hands tied. A formal trial of the men who had murdered the boys was
held, but nothing seems to have come of it, for although the men were
admitted to bail, after being found guilty, the usual sentence was not
passed, and no further mention is made of the case in the records.

Collins thus speaks of the activity of the natives in acts of

"When spoken to, or censured, for robbing the maize grounds, these
people, to be revenged, were accustomed to assemble in large bodies, and
burn the houses of the settlers if they stood in lonely situations,
frequently attempting to take their lives; yet they were seldom refused
a little corn when they would ask for it. It was imagined that they were
stimulated to this destructive conduct by some runaway convicts who were
known to be among them at the time of their committing these
depredations. In order to get possession of these pests, a proclamation
was issued, calling upon them by name to deliver themselves up within
fourteen days; declaring them outlaws if they refused; and requiring the
inhabitants as they valued the peace and good order of the settlement,
and their own security, to assist in apprehending and bringing them to
justice. The Governor also signified his determination, if any of the
natives were taken in the act of robbing the settlers to hang them in
chains near the spot as a warning to others. Could it have been foreseen
that this was their natural temper, it would have been wiser to have
kept them at a distance, and in fear; which might have been affected
without so much of that severity which their conduct had sometimes
caused to be exercised towards them. But the kindness which had been
shown them, and the familiar intercourse with white people in which they
had been indulged, tended only to make them acquainted with those
concerns in which they were the most vulnerable, and brought on all the
evils that they suffered from them."

Thus commenced the war which has proved so disastrous to the poor
wretches who doubtless thought that they were only acting within their
rights in stealing food from the white men who had destroyed their
natural food supplies, and in committing assaults upon those who had
assaulted them.

CHAPTER V.--Flinders' Account.

Hitherto I have dealt chiefly with the experiences of the settlers about
Sydney, on the Hawkesbury, and at Parramatta, but variety is found by
turning to the accounts given of the coastal tribes by some of the
earlier explorers of the coast. In the journal written by Flinders, when
he and Mr. Bass made their memorable voyage in the "Tom Thumb," a little
boat only eight feet in length, and which resulted in the discovery of
the Illawarra district, some very interesting particulars relating to
the natives are given, as also in the account of the excursions
subsequently made along the coast line in other directions.

The explorers came into contact with the natives on the first trip near
Wollongong, and were in some danger for a time, but they managed to win
the good graces of the natives who surrounded them by acting as bush
barbers. "We had clipped (says he) the hair and heads of the two Botany
Bay natives at Red Point, and they were showing themselves to the others
and persuading them to follow their example. Whilst, therefore, the
powder was drying, I began with a large pair of scissors to exercise my
new office upon the eldest of four or five chins presented to me; and as
great nicety was not required, the shearing of a dozen of them did not
occupy me long. Some of the more timid were alarmed at a formidable
instrument coming so near to their noses, and would scarcely be
persuaded by their shaven friends to allow the operation to be finished.
But when their chins were held up a second time their fear of the
instrument, the wild stare of their eyes, and the smile which they
forced formed a compound upon the rough savage countenances, not
unworthy the pencil of a Hogarth. I was almost tempted to try what
effect a little snip would produce, but our situation was too critical
to admit of such experiments. Everything being prepared for a retreat,
the natives became vociferous for the boat to go up to the lagoon; and
it was not without stratagem that we succeeded in getting down to the
entrance of the stream, where the depth of water placed us out of their
reach.. . The natives were in nothing, except language, different from
those at Port Jackson; but their dogs, which are of the same species,
seemed to be more numerous and familiar."

The two Botany Bay natives here referred to subsequently treacherously
killed the chief mate and carpenter of the ship "Sydney Cove" when the
latter had separated from their companions.

On his voyage in the sloop "Norfolk" to the northward from Port Jackson,
Flinders came into contact with several parties of natives inhabiting
the localities at which he touched. The third day after leaving port the
sloop sprung a leak, and the vessel was taken into a bay near at hand to
be examined and repaired. The first objects which met the view of the
explorers on landing were three huts of the aborigines, superior in
construction to those hitherto seen. They were circular in form, and
about eight feet in diameter, the frames being composed of the stronger
tendrils of vines crossing each other in all directions, and bound
together by strong grass. The covering was of bark of a soft texture so
compactly laid on as to keep out both wind and rain. The entrance was by
a small avenue, not leading directly into the hut, but turning
sufficiently to prevent the rain beating in. The interior of the roof
was covered with a coating of soot. One hut was double, comprising two
recesses with one entrance, and was large enough to hold ten or fifteen
persons. A small basket made of some kind of leaf, and capable of
containing five or six pints of water, was found in one of the huts.
Numerous aboriginals were observed on the land as they proceeded, and
these made antic gestures towards the vessel, waving a green branch--the
symbol of peace--and from time to time running into the water and
beating the surf with sticks, as though they "would chasten the railing
waves into making a passage for the boat, which they appeared to hope
would visit the shore." Flinders and a friendly black boy named Bungaree
landed, but as the natives appeared to be increasing in numbers, and to
be desirous of getting between the visitors and the boat, a hurried
retreat was made. At once a spear was thrown and nearly hit its mark,
upon which Flinders fired at the spear thrower and lodged a charge of
small shot in his back. The report from the gun and the howl of pain
from the wounded black, issuing almost simultaneously, produced a panic
among the blacks on the shore, and every man of them fell flat where he
stood, evidently never having heard a noise like it before. Recovering
from the shock they rose up and began to scramble to a place of safety
behind a hillock, some running on all fours and others in a stooping
attitude. Another shot was fired from the boat, and all the blacks again
fell on their faces, but getting up immediately they fled helter-skelter
into the bush, beyond the reach of further injury. The wounded man
followed at a slower pace, stooping very much as he tried to run, and
holding one hand behind him on his back. He frequently looked over his
shoulder as he went, as if expecting to see the weapon which had
inflicted the wound sticking out of his back like the shaft of a spear.

In one of the huts was found a fishing net or seine about fourteen
fathoms in length, the meshes being larger than those of any English
seine and the twine much stronger, a pointed stick being affixed to each
end. Upon a shoal near the hut there was more than one enclosure of a
semi-circular form, with sticks and branches so closely interwoven that
a fish could not pass between. The explorers conjectured that the seine
was connected with these enclosures. Subsequently they saw the natives
in the water splashing with sticks to drive the fish into the nets.

Flinders described their songs as melancholy and soothing, being
accompanied by slow and graceful motions of the body, the hands being
held up in a supplicating posture. On one occasion, observing the
attention that was paid to the song, each of the singers selected a
European, near to whose ear he placed his mouth, either with the view of
producing greater musical effect, or of teaching the visitor the song.
They appeared not to be so warlike as the Port Jackson tribes, their
weapons being inferior, and their habits being more peaceful. They were
remarkably skilful in fishing, using scoop nets as well as the seine
previously mentioned.

It was in the schooner "Norfolk" that Flinders circumnavigated Van
Diemen's Land. In giving an account of his experience with the natives
in making a survey of Twofold Bay, he says:--

"I was preparing the artificial horizon for observing the latitude when
a party of seven or eight natives broke out in exclamation upon the bank
above us, holding up their open hands to show they were unarmed. We were
three in number, and, besides a pocket pistol, had two muskets. These
they had no objection to our bringing, and we sat down in the midst of
the party. It consisted entirely of young men, who were better made and
cleaner in their persons than the natives of Port Jackson usually are;
and the countenances bespoke both good will and curiosity, though mixed
with some degree of apprehension. Their curiosity was mostly directed to
our persons and dress, and constantly drew off their alteration from our
little presents, which seemed to give but a momentary pleasure."

Referring to the discovery of the River Tamar, on the same voyage,
Flinders says:--

"There were many recent traces of natives on the shore, and after
returning to the sloop we saw, on the opposite of the arm, a man who
employed or amused himself by setting fire to the grass in different
places. He did not stay to receive us, and we rowed down to Middle
Island, where a smoke was rising. The natives shunned us there also, for
soon after landing I saw three of them walk up from the shoal which
joins Middle Island to the opposite low, sandy point. The party appeared
to consist of a man, a woman and a boy, and the two first had something
wrapped round them, which resembled cloaks of skins.. .. The land on
both sides (of the river Derwent) rises to hills of moderate elevation,
and the rather steep acclivities being well cloved with verdure, they
had an agreeable appearance. Our attention was suddenly called from
contemplating the country by the sound of a human voice coming from the
hills. There were three people, and as they would not comply with our
signs to come down, we landed and went up to them, taking with us a
black swan. Two women ran off, but a man, who had two or three spears in
his hands, stayed to receive us, and accepted the swan with rapture. He
seemed entirely innocent of muskets, nor did anything excite his
attention or desire except the swan and the red handkerchiefs about our
necks. He knew, however, that we came from the sloop, and where it was
lying. A little knowledge of the Port Jackson and of the South Sea
Island languages was of no use in making ourselves understood by this
man; but the quickness with which he comprehended our signs spoke in
favor of his intelligence. His appearance much resembled that of the
inhabitants of New South Wales; he had also marks raised upon the skin,
and his hair was blackened and his face was raddled, as is sometimes
practised by them. The hair was either close cropped or naturally short,
but it had not the appearance of being woolly. He acceded to our
proposition of going to his hut, but finding from his devious route and
frequent stoppages that he sought to tire our patience, we left him,
delighted with the certain possession of his swan, and returned to the
boat. This was the sole opportunity we had of communicating with any
natives of Van Diemen's Land."

When making his famous voyage of discovery in the "Investigator," to the
command of which he had been promoted before sailing from England, in
1801 (the celebrated Sir John Franklin commencing his professional
career as a midshipman with him), Flinders frequently came into contact
with the natives along the different parts of the coast which he
visited. He had several interviews with the natives of King George's
Sound, and this is what he says about them:--

"It was with some surprise that I saw the natives of the East Coast of
New South Wales so nearly portrayed in those of the south-western
extremity of New Holland. These do not, indeed, extract one of the front
teeth at the age of puberty, as is generally practised at Port Jackson,
nor do they make use of the woomerah, or throwing-stick; but their
color, the texture of their hair and personal appearance are the same;
their songs run in the same cadence; the manner of painting themselves
is similar; their belts and fillets of hair are made in the same way and
worn in the same manner. The short skin cloak, which is of kangaroo, and
worn over the shoulders, leaving the rest of the body naked, is more in
the manner of the wood natives living at the back of Port Jackson than
those who inhabit the sea coast; and everything we saw confirmed the
supposition of Captain Vancouver, that they live more by hunting than by

"None of the small islands had been visited, no canoes were seen, nor
was any tree found in the woods from which the bark had been taken for
making one. They were fearful of trusting themselves upon the water, and
we could never succeed in making them understand the use of the fish
hook, although they were intelligent in comprehending our signs upon
other subjects. The manners of these people are quick and vehement, and
their conversation vociferous, like that of most uncivilised people.
They seemed to have no idea of any superiority we possessed over them;
on the contrary, they left us after the first interview, with some
appearance of contempt for our pusillanimity, which was probably
inferred from the desire we showed to be friendly with them. This
opinion, however, seemed to be correct in their future visits."

In his narrative of the discovery of Port Phillip harbour, Flinders says
there were many marks of natives, such as deserted fire places and heaps
of oyster shells, but with the exception of a few parties of two or
three he did not fall in with any of them. After describing the chief
features of the land thereabouts, Flinders says:--

"Were a settlement to be made at Port Phillip, as doubtless there will
be some time hereafter, the entrance could be easily defended; and it
would not be difficult to establish a friendly intercourse with the
natives, for they are acquainted with the effects of firearms, and
desirous of possessing many of our conveniences. I thought them more
muscular than the men of King George's Sound; but, generally speaking,
they differ in no essential particular from the other inhabitants of the
South and East coasts, except in language, which is dissimilar, if not
altogether different to that of Port Jackson, and seemingly of King
George's Sound also. I am not certain whether they have canoes, but none
were seen." Could the famous navigator revisit the spot, the Melbourne
of to-day would astonish him.

The friendly black, Bungaree, whom Flinders took with him from Port
Jackson as an interpreter and land guide, proved most useful during the
several expeditions. Flinders declared that he was a "worthy and brave
fellow," and he became quite a notability in the colony at a later date.
He belonged to the Kamilory or Cammeroy tribe, and he it was who was
chosen by the Governor to take charge of a little settlement of his
people which was afterwards formed near George's Head, on the north
shore of Port Jackson. The estimation in which Bungaree was held by the
aborigines generally, as well as by his own tribe, and the position to
which he had been raised by the Governor, created self-conceit in his
dusky breast, and this grew to such large proportions that he at last
assumed the airs of aboriginal royalty. After the failure of the
settlement over which he ruled, he wandered round the more successful
settlement of the whites, and for years made it a practice to board
vessels entering Sydney harbor, and to demand contributions of the
foreign visitors in acknowledgment of his rights. Dressed in a cast off
cocked hat and a dilapidated military coat, which, no doubt, in its best
days adorned the person of one of the white "noble-savages" of the
British race, his sable majesty generally managed to extort a shilling
or a glass or two of rum from good-natured skippers or passengers. He
died in 1830, and was buried at Garden Island. His widow, Queen
Gooseberry, was a well-known character in Sydney streets twenty years
after her husband's death, and was generally believed to be the last of
the Port Jackson aborigines.

CHAPTER VI.--Governor Macquarie's System.

Although numbers of the convicts, from choice, consorted with the
natives, or from necessity, when fleeing from servitude to which they
had been condemned, made homes in their camps, very few cases of
continuous residence among the black are recorded.

From the few that have been handed down, the case of the runaway convict
Buckley is undoubtedly the most strange. While the expedition under
Colonel Collins remained at Port Phillip, a number of the convicts ran
away. Several returned to the settlement before it was finally
abandoned, after wandering in the bush for some days; but others delayed
their return too long, and when, worn out with fatigue and hunger, they
came back, intending to give themselves up, they found the place
deserted. Thus situated they had to choose between starvation or the
likelihood of being killed by the blacks, and one or other of these
events appears to have happened in the case of all of them, with the
exception of the one man referred to. Buckley, who was described as a
man of gigantic stature, again wandered into the interior, and fell in
with a tribe of blacks, who treated him kindly. With this tribe Buckley
remained for thirty-three years, living exactly as they lived, and
acquiring great influence over them. So long was he with them that he
forgot his native tongue. Once only during this long period did he see
white men--a boat's crew who had landed in order to bury a companion.
Buckley endeavoured to arrest their attention, but though they looked at
him earnestly, they did not recognise in his features a man of European
race. As he was dressed in kangaroo skins and armed with spears they
took him for a native. He appears to have used his influence with his
black friends in favor of the first settlers at Port Phillip, and was
probably the means of preventing bloodshed on more than one occasion.
The new colony of Port Phillip had made considerable progress before he
was restored to the society of civilised men, and after his restoration
he appeared to be unequal to the task of reasonable converse in the
English tongue, and was taciturn to a degree, appearing to the whites as
remarkably dull and stupid. He answered most questions with a simple yes
or no, and the impression he left on those who attempted to converse
with him was that his intellectual facilities were nearly obliterated,
and although he lived for nearly twenty years after his return to
civilised life, very few particulars could be obtained from him
concerning the aborigines, or his manner of life while amongst them. Yet
he is said not to have been at all deficient in intellect, and the
influence he exercised over the aborigines has been quoted as proof that
his dullness was simply the result of prolonged and exclusive
intercourse with those whose habits of life, in the natural condition,
are from year's end to year's end most mournfully monotonous. Nearly all
the Europeans who have been similarly situated, even for a much shorter
time, are said to have lost the mental activity which characterized them
before their close association with the blacks.

For six or seven years preceding 1814 there was a period of comparative
quiet between the colonist and the natives, but the year mentioned was
marked by the outbreak of fresh hostilities. The rapidly diminishing
natural food supply, for which the Europeans were chiefly responsible,
their encroachments on the one hand and their fishing and hunting
excursions on the other, making fish and animals either shy or scarce,
drove the natives to the verge of destitution and despair; and it was
very natural that their anger towards the usurpers should find vent in
deeds of robbery and violence. In the district of Appin a body of
natives marched into a field of ripe maize in the open day and began
carrying off the corn, when three of the military settlers advanced with
firearms to defend their fields. But the blacks were not to be thus
intimidated. Putting on a bold front, a party of them went to meet the
settlers and poised their spears in a threatening manner while their
companions continued to pluck the corn. The Europeans fired and the
blacks at once replied with a shower of spears, one of the settlers
falling mortally wounded, and the others beating a retreat. Next day the
settlers assembled in large force and pursued the aggressors into the
bush where a pitched battle was fought, lives being lost on both sides.
This was the commencement of a sanguinary warfare which raged along the
borders of the colony for several weeks. It is needless to say that the
superiority of the whites made itself manifest and that many natives
fell before the well organised forces that were arrayed against them.

Shortly after this Governor Macquarie, who recognized that the natives
were entitled to a little consideration, set apart a tract of land at
George's Head near Sydney, exclusively for the use of those of them who
resided in the neighbourhood. In order that they might be enabled to
follow to greater advantage their favourite pursuit of fishing, he
presented to them a boat with the necessary gear. The Governor and Lady
Macquarie attended personally at the founding of the settlement, an
caused to be distributed to the blacks a suit of clothes each, together
with an assortment of implements of industry. The little community, all
told, numbered only sixteen male adults, with their wives and families;
but the experiment was not so successful as the Governor expected it to
be, and after a little time the blacks got tired of the spot and
wandered off in search of variety and entertainment. The habits of a
lifetime could not so easily be changed by the adults, and it was not to
be expected that the younger members of the community would take kindly
to the spade and hoe without encouragement and example from their

Early in 1816 several organised raids were made by the blacks on the
settlers who had located on the banks of the Nepean. At Bringelly,
twenty or thirty of the natives suddenly came from their retreats in the
bush and plundered the farm of one of the wealthier settlers, carrying
off large quantities of corn, as well as other effects. On the day
following, seven white men, well armed, crossed the river hoping to
recover the stolen property and to punish the robbers; but the blacks,
in anticipation of such a movement, had prepared themselves. No sooner
had the Europeans crossed the water than the aborigines, rushing from
their lurking places, surrounded the party, and before they knew what
had happened every man of them was disarmed and powerless. Then
commenced the work of murder. Their own muskets, as well as the spears
and nulla-nullahs of the enemy were turned against the whites, and four
were killed outright, one was severely wounded, and two only escaped.
Emboldened by their success, next day the blacks assembled in superior
numbers, and again attacked the farms, carrying off anything they deemed
of any value, and destroying what they did not take away. At the first
alarm the settlers fled for their lives. In one of the farm houses the
mistress and a servant man alone remained, having no time to escape. The
two took shelter in the upper storey of the barn, fastening the door
inside; but the blacks were not to be foiled in the murderous
enterprise. They drove their spears through the crevices of the house,
and as they could not thus reach the inmates, they proceeded to unroof
the barn. The servant man now recognised one of the attacking party as a
former acquaintance, and ventured to open the window and make himself
known, at the same time urging the black to influence his companions is
the direction of mercy. Recognising the man as one who had been kind to
him in the past, the black complied and his companions conceded the
mercy sought, and desisted, saying they would not "kill um this time,"
and they went away after calling out in chorus "good-bye." But another
woman and her man servant were not so fortunate, for they were murdered
in cold blood by the natives, who further indulged their savage ferocity
by mangling the bodies of their victims after death. Large numbers of
blacks, never before seen within the limits of the settled districts,
came in from the mountains and reinforced the frontier tribes. At Cow
Pastures they were exceedingly troublesome, and on the newly-formed
Bathurst Road travellers on their way over the mountains to the new
country were stopped and their drays plundered and their cattle killed.
At Lane Cove, in the vicinity of Sydney Harbour, also, at least one raid
was made upon the settlers, a body of nearly a hundred aborigines making
their appearance suddenly and committing various depredations; the
Indian corn, which was then extensively grown, being the chief
attraction, that being with them a favourite article of food.

In order to intimidate the offending tribes, and check the outrages
which were becoming common, a detachment of the 46th Regiment, under
Captains Shaw and Wallis, was sent out to make a circuit round the
out-stations. At the same time a Government proclamation was issued,
prohibiting any aboriginal from appearing armed within one mile of any
town or village, and prohibiting even unarmed aboriginals from
assembling in larger numbers than six. To the well-disposed blacks who
cared to provide themselves with such protection passports were given by
the Government; and in the same proclamation, evidently moved by a
desire to show the natives that he was as anxious to promote their
welfare as to check their outrages, the Governor made known that he
would grant to such of them as desired to conform to the habits of
civilised life, allotments of land in suitable localities, with
provisions for six months for themselves and families, together with
agricultural implements and seed, and a suit of cloths and a blanket for
each person. In order to make this proclamation widely known, a congress
of the aborigines of the colony was invited to be held at Parramatta. At
this meeting some hundreds of blacks were induced to attend, and the
whole thing was explained to them. Shortly afterwards a school for young
natives was established in Parramatta, and a considerable number of the
children were handed over by their parents to be educated. This assembly
of the blacks at Parramatta resolved itself into an annual affair, and
was continued during a number of years. The school continued to be well
attended until the near tribes, from whom the fluctuating school roll
was kept up, had so far decayed that very few, either of young or old,
remained within the then settled districts of the colony.

The military detachment sent out for the protection of the remote
settlements returned after scouring the country, reporting that at a
place called Airds they had encountered a large tribe of blacks, gave
battle, and that they were not vanquished until fourteen of their number
had been killed and five taken prisoners. Numbers of others were also
arrested and marched in chains to Sydney, where they were imprisoned for
a time--as a warning to others not to disobey a proclamation, the terms
of which they could not understand, and the conditions of which they
could not possibly fulfil. Ten of the most troublesome of the blacks
were solemnly outlawed by name, and a reward of 10 each was offered by
the authorities for their capture, alive or dead.

The proclamations that were issued by the Governor are unique as
specimens of labored composition and grandiose sentences, and are well
worth preserving among the curiosities of the early days of Australia.
The preamble set out the various offences committed by the aborigines,
and the lenity, humanity, forbearance, protection, assistance and
indulgence shewn by His Excellency towards them in the effort to
conciliate them to the British Government, followed by the sending out
of a military force which had unavoidably killed and wounded several
natives, including some few innocent ones; and then the proclamation ran
as follows:--

"And whereas the more effectually to prevent a Recurrence of Murders,
Robberies, and Depredations by the Natives, as well as to Protect the
Lives and Properties of His Majesty's British Subjects residing in the
several Settlements of this territory, His Excellency the Governor deems
it his Indispensible duty to prescribe certain rules, Orders and
Regulations to be observed by the natives, and rigidly enforced and
carried into effect by all Magistrates and Police Officers in the Colony
of New South Wales, and which are as follows:

"First.--That from and after the Fourth Day of June next ensuing, that
being the birthday of His Most Gracious Majesty King George the Third,
no Black Native, or Body of Black Natives, shall ever appear at or
within one mile of any Town, Village, or Farm, occupied by or belonging
to any British Subject, armed with any Warlike or Offensive Weapon or
Weapons of any Description, such as Spears, Clubs or Waddies, on Pain of
being deemed and considered in a state of Aggression and Hostility and
treated accordingly.

"Second.--That no number of Natives exceeding in the whole six persons,
being entirely unarmed shall ever come to lurk or loiter about any Farm
in the Interior, on Pain of being considered Enemies and treated

"Third.--That the practice hitherto observed among the Native Tribes, of
assembling in large Bodies or Parties armed, and of fighting and
attacking each other on the plea of inflicting Punishment on
Transgressors of their own Customs and Manners, at or near Sydney, and
other Principal Towns and Settlements in the colony, shall be henceforth
wholly abolished as a barbarous custom, repugnant to the British Laws,
and strongly militating against the Civilisation of the Natives, which
is an Object of the Highest Importance to effect, if possible. Any armed
Body of Natives, therefore, who shall assemble for the foregoing
purposes, either at Sydney or any of the other Settlements of this
colony after the said Fourth Day of June next, shall be considered as
Disturbers of the Public Peace and shall be apprehended and Punished in
a summary manner accordingly. The Black Natives are therefore hereby
enjoined and commanded to discontinue this Barbarous Custom, not only at
or near British Settlements, but also in their own Wild and Remote
Places of Resort.

"Fourth.--Than such Natives as may wish to be considered under the
Protection of the British Government, and disposed to conduct themselves
in a peaceable, inoffensive and honest manner, shall be furnished with
Passports or Certificates to that Effect, signed by the Governor, on
their making application for the same at the Secretary's Office at
Sydney, on the First Monday of every succeeding month; which
Certificates they will find will protect them from being injured or
molested by any Person, so long as they conduct themselves peaceably,
inoffensively, and honestly, and do not carry or use offensive weapons
contrary to the Tenor of this Proclamation.

"The Governor, however, having thus fulfilled an imperious and necessary
Public Duty in prohibiting the Black Natives from carrying or using
offensive Weapons, at least in as far us relates to their usual
Intercourse with the British Inhabitants of these Settlements, considers
it equally Part of his Public Duty, as a Counter-Balance for the
Restriction of not allowing them to go about the country armed, to
afford the Black Natives such means as are within his power to enable
them to obtain an honest and comfortable Subsistence by their own Labour
and Industry. His Excellency therefore hereby proclaims and makes known
to them that he shall always be willing and ready to grant small
Portions of Land in suitable and convenient parts of the Colony, to such
of them as are inclined to become regular Settlers, and such occasional
Assistance from the Government as may enable them to cultivate their
Farms, Namely:--

"Firstly.--That they and their Families shall be victualled from the
King's Stores for Six Months, from the time of their going to reside
actually on their farms.

"Secondly.--That they shall be furnished with the necessary Agricultural
Tools, and also with Wheat, Maize and Potatoes for Seed;

"Thirdly.--To each person of a family, one Suit of Slops and one
Colonial Blanket from the King's stores shall be given. But these
indulgences will not be granted to any Native unless it shall appear
that he is really inclined and fully resolved to become a Settler, and
permanently to reside on such Farm as may be assigned to him for the
purpose of cultivating the same for the support of himself and his

"His Excellency the Governor therefore earnestly exhorts, and thus
publicly invites the Natives to relinquish their wandering, idle and
predatory Habits of Life, and to become industrious and useful Members
of a Community, where they will find Protection and Encouragement. To
such as do not like to cultivate Farms of their own, but would prefer
working as Laborers for those Persons who may be disposed to employ
them, there will always be found Masters among the Settlers who will
hire them as Servants of this Description. And the Governor strongly
recommends to the Settlers and other Persons to accept such services as
may be offered by the Industrious Natives desirous of engaging in their
employ. And the Governor desires it to be understood that he will be
happy to grant Land to the Natives in such Situations as may be
agreeable to themselves and according to their own particular Choice,
provided such lands are disposable, and belong to the Crown.

"And whereas His Excellency the Governor, from an anxious Wish to
civilise the Aborigines of this Country, so as to make them useful to
themselves and the Community, has established a Seminary or Institution
at Parramatta, for the purpose of educating the Male and Female Children
of those Natives who might be willing to place them in that Seminary;
His Excellency deems it expedient to invite a general, friendly Meeting
of all the Natives residing in the Colony, to take place at the Town of
Parramatta, on Saturday, the 28th December next, at Twelve O'Clock Noon,
at the Public Market Place there, for the purpose of more fully
explaining and pointing out to them the Objects of the Institution
referred to, as well as for Consulting with them on the best means of
improving their present Condition. On this occasion, and at this public
general meeting of the Natives, the Governor will feel happy to reward
such of them as have given proofs of Industry and an Inclination to be

"And the Governor, wishing that this General Meeting or Congress of the
friendly Natives should be held Annually, directs that the 28th Day of
December, in every succeeding year, shall be considered as fixed for
this Purpose, excepting when that day happens to fall on a Sunday, when
the following day is to be considered as fixed for holding the said

"And finally, His Excellency the Governor hereby orders and directs that
on the Occasions of any Natives coming armed, or in an Hostile Manner
without arms, or in unarmed parties exceeding Six in number, to any Farm
belonging to or occupied by British Subjects in the Interior, such
Natives are first to be desired in a civil manner to depart from the
said farm, and if they persist in remaining thereon, or attempt to
plunder, rob, or commit any kind of Depredation, they are then to be
driven away by Force of Arms by the Settlers themselves; and in Case
they are not able to do so, they are to apply to a Magistrate for aid
from the nearest Military Station; and the Troops stationed there are
hereby commanded to render Assistance when required.

"Given under my Hand at Government House, Sydney, &c.


"By Command of His Excellency,

"J. T. Campbell, Secretary."

God Save the King!

The other Proclamation was issued by the Governor in July of the same
year. It recited that the military parties had been sent to punish the
"Banditti," or Tribes of Black Natives, for their "sanguinary
disposition" and "wanton and barbarous murders"; and that an invitation
had been given them in a previous proclamation to become peaceable and
law-abiding citizens.

It then proceeded:--

"And whereas the natives whose names are hereunder mentioned are well
known to be the principal and most violent Instigators of the late
murders, namely:--

1 Murrah

2 Myles

3 Wallah, alias Warren

4 Carbone Jacky alias Kurringy

5 Narrang Jack

6 Bunduck

7 Kongate

8 Wottan

9 Rachel

10 Yallaman

"Now it is hereby publicly proclaimed and declared that the said ten
natives above-named, and each and every one of them are deemed and
considered to be in a State of Outlawry, and open and avowed enemies to
the Peace and Good Order of Society, and therefore unworthy to receive
any longer the Protection of the Government which they have so
flagrantly revolted against and abused.

"And all and every one of His Majesty's Subjects, whether Free Men's
Prisoners of the Crown, or Friendly Natives, are hereby authorised and
enjoined to seize upon and secure the said ten outlawed Natives, or any
of them, wheresoever they may be found, and to bring them up to the
nearest Magistrate to be dealt with according to Justice. And in case
the said Ten prescribed Hostile Natives cannot be apprehended and
secured for that purpose, then each of His Majesty's Subjects herein
before described are and shall be at liberty by such Means as may be
within their Power, to kill and utterly destroy them as Outlaws and
Murderers as aforesaid; and with this view, and to encourage all His
Majesty's said Subjects, whether White Man or Friendly Natives, to seize
upon, secure, or to destroy the said Outlaws, a Reward of Ten Pounds
sterling for each of the said ten proscribed Natives, will be paid by
Government to any person or persons, or who shall under the
circumstances bring in their persons, or produce satisfactory proof of
their having killed or destroyed them within a period of Three Months
from the Date hereof.

"And the Settlers are further hereby strictly enjoined and commanded, on
no Pretence whatever to receive, harbour, or conceal any of the outlawed
Banditti, or afford them any countenance or assistance whatever; nor are
they to furnish aid or provisions to any of the friendly natives who may
visit their farms, but upon the express Condition of their engaging and
promising to use their best endeavours to secure and bring in the said
Ten Outlaws and deliver them up to the nearest magistrate, or lodge them
in Prison; And these friendly Natives are to be given to understand that
if they faithfully and earnestly exert themselves in apprehending and
bringing in the said Outlaws, every reasonable Indulgence and
Encouragement will be afforded them by the Government; whilst, on the
contrary, until this Object is attained, no Peace or Amnesty with the
Natives at large in this Territory will be made or conceded.. .. .. With
a view to overawe the hostile Natives generally, in those parts of the
colony where they have committed the more flagrant and violent Acts of
Cruelty and Outrage, three separate Military Detachments will be
forthwith stationed at convenient distances on the river Nepean, Grose,
and Hawkesbury, to assist and afford protection to the Settlers whenever
Occasion may require it, each Detachment to be provided with a European
and also a Native guide."

A week later a notice appeared in the Gazette to the effect that several
of the natives who were suspected to be most atrocious actors in the
late barbarities had been apprehended and placed in confinement. One of
the natives, named Dewall, was banished by the Governor to a distant
settlement, in order to strike alarm into the minds of the tribe. It was
also stated that the proclamation prohibiting them travelling armed
about the Settlements had proved effectual in stopping attacks upon
travellers. Several of the ten natives named were either killed or
captured, and the proclamation of the outlawry was annulled; but the
natives were solemnly assured that if any further outrages occurred
measures "more strong and effective" would he resorted to for the
purpose of punishing the transgressors.

The first military "drive" was thus described in the Government Organ,
the Gazette of current date:--

"The three military detachments despatched on the 10th ultimo, under
Captains Schaw and Wallis, and Lieut. Dawe, of the 46th Regiment, in
pursuit of the hostile natives returned to Head Quarters on the 4th
instant. In the performance of this service the military encountered
many difficulties, and underwent considerable fatigue and privations,
having to traverse a widely extended range of country on both sides of
the river Nepean, from the banks of the Grose, and the second ridge of
the Blue Mountains on the North, to that track of country on the Eastern
Coast, called "The Five Islands." Captain Schaw, with his party, scoured
the country on the banks of the Hawkesbury, making digression East and
West, but observing a general course to the Southward; whilst Captain
Wallis, proceeding by Liverpool to the district of Aird and Appin, and
thence into the Cow Pastures, made his digression East and West of the
Nepean, taking his course generally Northwards, with a view either to
fall in with the Natives or, by forcing them to flight, to drive them
within the reach of the Central Party, under Lieutenant Dawe, stationed
at Mrs. Macarthur's farm in the Cow Pastures; or if they should elude
his vigilance that they might fall in with Captain Schaw, who was
advancing from the second ridge of the Blue Mountains, and the banks of
the Grose. It appears that the party under Captain Wallis fell in with a
number of the natives on the 17th ultimo, near Mr. Broughton's farm,
within Aird's district, and killed fourteen of them, taking two women
and three children prisoners. Amongst the killed were found the bodies
of two of the most hostile of the natives, called DURELLE and CONIBIGAL.
We are also informed that Lieutenant Dawe had on the 12th ultimo, nearly
surprised a small encampment, but having been discovered the natives
suddenly took to flight, leaving only a boy about 14 years old, whom he
took prisoner, and there is every reason to believe that two of them had
been mortally wounded. Without being able to trace more particularly the
progress of the military parties on this expedition, we learn generally
that several of the natives were taken prisoners and have since been
brought to Sydney and lodged in the gaol. The humanity with which this
necessary but unpleasant duty has been conducted throughout by the
officers appointed to this command claims our warmest commendations, and
although the result has been not altogether so successful as might have
been wished, yet there is little doubt but it will ultimately tend to
restrain similar outrages, and a recurrence of those barbarities which
the natives have of late so frequently committed on the unprotected
Settlers and their Families."

In a subsequent number of the Gazette, the editor, after stating that a
body of natives had stopped and robbed a cart belonging to Government
carrying provisions for the supply of the prisoners stationed on the
mountains, and that they demonstrated considerably less apprehension
than formerly from the effects of firearms, thus sought to shew the
natives how full of Christian charity he was. "In justice to those who
do not engage in these mischievous acts," said he, "we should be at all
times ready to receive CORRECTED STATEMENTS in favour of any whose names
may have been erroneously reported as present on such occasions." The
reader can imagine how gratified the innocent aborigines would have been
at this display of generosity--if they had been able to read and
understand the paragraph; and how many "corrected statements" they would
have sent in to the editor--if they had been able to write. But, alas,
for the darkness of their savage state, they were not able to do one or
the other.

CHAPTER VII.--First Experience with the Interior Tribes.

Up to about the year 1817, very little was known of the number and
character of the aborigines in the western interior; but the excursions
made by colonists in search of grass lands on the other side of the Blue
Mountain range, a passage over which had been opened under Governor
Macquarie's direction, and the more extended expeditions made by
explorers in their efforts to learn somewhat of the vast tract of new
country which had thus been tapped, partially dispelled the ignorance
existing concerning the interior tribes. When Surveyor-General Oxley was
despatched by Macquarie to make further explorations of the rivers in
the west to which the Governor had attached his name--the Lachlan and
the Macquarie--it was expected that he would come into contact with
aborigines who were as ignorant of Europeans as the Europeans were of
them; and this anticipation was fully realised. When Mr. Oxley and his
party touched the Lachlan, at about six days march from Bathurst, they
found large numbers of natives encamped on the banks, the prevalence of
game on the river and the adjoining lagoons evidently being the
attraction. The natives behaved throughout in a peaceable and friendly
manner, and the travellers were allowed to follow the course of the
river without molestation from them, and to travel the bush separating
the Lachlan from the Macquarie. In the following year Mr. Oxley entered
on another expedition in the same locality, intending to trace the
Macquarie to the inland sea into which it was supposed to cast its
waters, and returned eastward until he reached the sea at Port
Macquarie, whence he made his way to Newcastle. During this long journey
the exploring party came in contact with natives of different tribes,
but did not experience any difficulty in maintaining friendly relations
with them; and it was only on their touching the coast that they had any
trouble with the blacks. The coast natives they found to be exceedingly
treacherous, and while professing to be most friendly they attacked the
party on several occasions, and dangerously wounded some of the men.

About the same time an excursion was made by Governor Macquarie himself
and a party of friends into the newly settled country to the Southward.
On the Goulburn and Bredalbane plains the vice-regal party fell in with
some natives, but nothing of an eventful nature transpired. As it was
thought that Lake George and Lake Bathurst must be the sources of some
considerable river which entered the sea on the southern coast, shortly
after the Governor's trip in that direction, Lieutenant Johnson, R.N.,
was despatched, in the cutter "Snapper," to explore that portion of the
coast where it was thought the mouth of this imaginary river was likely
to be found. He was commissioned at the same time to inquire concerning
the fate of Captain Stewart's party, who had been sent by the Governor a
few months before to examine the coast in the neighbourhood of Twofold
Bay, and had not been heard of since. But the supposed river had no
existence. Johnson came across another river called by the natives
Bandoo, to which be gave the name of Clyde, and up this stream he sailed
for about thirty miles. On the way up he fell in with a tribe of natives
who entered freely into conversation with two native boys he had taken
with him as interpreters, and who elicited from their countrymen
information regarding Stewart's fate. They said that he and his boat's
crew lost their boat near Twofold Bay and were endeavouring to make
their way overland back to Sydney when they were cut off by the Twofold
Bay blacks and murdered. They also said that some convicts who had
escaped from Port Jackson in a whale-boat had been lost in the bay
through the boat upsetting; but Johnson saw some boat's gear in the
blacks' camp, together with some tomahawks and knives, and he came to
the conclusion that the runaways had also been massacred by the
natives--perhaps by the very men to whom he was speaking.

When Mr. Oxley went to examine Port Curtis, a harbour which nearly a
quarter of a century before had been entered and described by Captain
Flinders, he met with a surprise on the return journey. The "Mermaid,"
in which he was sailing, anchored in the mouth of Pumice-stone River,
Morton Bay, the very place where Flinders had anchored twenty two years
before, and which, as they believed, had not been visited by any
European in the interval. Scarcely had they landed when a number of men,
supposed to be natives, were seen approaching the vessel. When they got
near, however, the man who was foremost was observed to be of a much
lighter colour than the others, and having come within speaking distance
he hailed them in English. He was perfectly naked, and painted in the
native fashion, and appeared wild with delight at having discovered his
countrymen. "He was so bewildered with joy," says one of the party, in
his account of the meeting, "that we could make very little out of his
story that night; so, having distributed a few knives, handkerchiefs,
&c., amongst the friendly blacks, we returned on board, taking him with

The man said his name was Thomas Pamphlet, and that with three other men
he had left Sydney in a small coasting vessel eight months previously,
to procure a cargo of cedar at Illawarra. They experienced a very heavy
gale shortly after leaving port, and were driven out to sea with very
little water on board. They had no knowledge of their position, as they
were almost ignorant of navigation, but believed that during the storm
they had been driven far to the southward, and that when it abated they
were off Van Diemen's Land. They accordingly steered North, as well as
they could guess by the sun, with the hope of being able to reach Port
Jackson. Their water gave out, however, and on the thirteenth day one of
their number, an old man-of-war's man named Thomson, went raving mad,
and died a few days afterwards. A shower of rain at length partially
supplied their wants; and still steering north, on the 15th of
April--the twenty fourth day of their sufferings--they made for the
land; and in their eagerness to reach a small stream of water which they
perceived on reaching a sandy cove, they ran their boat on shore at a
place where in a few minutes it was dashed to pieces. "No sooner did my
foot touch the land," said Pamphlet, "than I ran to the fresh water, and
lying down by it, I drank like a horse. The eagerness of my companions
for fresh water exceeded mine. I had brought on shore a tin pint pot,
and Parsons emptied this thirteen times in succession, while Finnegan
lay down in the water and drank to such excess that his stomach could
not retain it, but threw it all up again. This he repeated several
times." They had stripped off their clothes for the purpose of swimming
to the land, and were all perfectly naked. On the breaking up of the
boat some bags of flour were washed ashore, and they secured from twenty
to thirty pounds each, being as much as in their exhausted state they
were able to carry. Being still under the impression that they were far
to the south of Sydney, they set out along the shore in a northerly
direction, and after travelling for a considerable distance, fell in
with a tribe of natives, by whom they were kindly treated. They
continued their journey towards the north for several days, and at
length found they were on an island. Subsequently crossing to the
mainland, they tried to fashion a canoe out of a tree with a small
hatchet which they had saved from the wreck; but after working at that
job for three months they found the little craft unsafe, and after a
trial abandoned it and continued their journey on foot, still pressing
north for Sydney, as they thought. All the native tribes they met with
treated them kindly, pressing them to stay and take part in their hunts
and fights. Pamphlet describes the rescue thus:--

"One evening, as I was sitting by the fire and the blacks were roasting
fish for me, I heard some natives shouting on the beach and calling me,
upon which I arose and walked slowly towards them; but what was my
astonishment and delight when I saw a cutter under full sail standing up
the bay, about three miles from where we stood! I instantly made towards
her with all the speed I could, followed by a number of the natives, but
before I had run half the distance she came to anchor within a half or a
quarter of a mile of the shore. On coming abreast the vessel I hailed
her, and was immediately answered; and shortly afterwards a boat pushed
off from her, from which landed Mr. Oxley, the Surveyor-General,
Lieutenant Stirling, of the Duffs, and Mr. Uniake. I now learned, to my
great surprise, that I was at least five hundred miles to the north-ward
of Port Jackson, instead of being, as we always imagined, to the
south-wards of Jervis Bay. I was taken on board of the vessel that
evening, where, after I was cleaned, I was decently clothed and humanely
treated; but my head and heart were so much affected by this unexpected
turn of fortune, that I was unable to answer any questions that were put
to me that night. The next morning, however, I became more collected;
and in the course of the day my satisfaction was greatly increased by
the return of Finnegan, who experienced the same kind of treatment that
I had previously done. I now found that upwards of eight months had
elapsed since I left Sydney; consequently, I had spent nearly five of
them with these hospitable natives of Morton Bay. Their behaviour to me
and my companions had been so invariably kind and generous, that,
notwithstanding the delight I felt at the idea of once more returning to
my home, I did not leave them without sincere regret."

Pamphlet and his companion, Finnegan, proved of great service to the
explorers, whom they guided to the river which they had run down, and
which they named the Brisbane, in honour of the Governor.

About twelve months after Oxley's return from the voyage just narrated,
another expedition was set on foot which turned out to be one of the
most remarkable and successful of the many venturesome expeditions
undertaken by the bold and hardy pioneers of the early days. Messrs
Hovell and Hume were the explorers, and having formed a party of six
men, prisoners of the Crown, after all preliminaries regarding outfit
and arms had been arranged, they started overland from Lake George to
make Western Port in Bass Straits.

The story of that adventurous trip is so interesting that one is almost
tempted to give other portions than those which relate to the
aborigines; but that cannot be. The party started from Appin early in
October, 1824. They passed the limits settlement, 165 miles from Sydney,
and soon after reached the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, which they
found in full flood. Turning the body of one of their carts into a boat
they managed to cross in safety and then plunged into the rugged and
mountainous country beyond what are now known as Tumut and Adelong,
finding great difficulty in scaling the precipitous cliffs, even after
abandoning their carts, and then following the paths made by the natives
or kangaroo tracks. Then from an eminence they caught sight of the
snow-capped mountains to which they gave the name of the South
Australian Alps, after which they turned Westward into more fertile and
favourable country, and struck the river which they name the Hume, but
which was afterwards called the Upper Murray. Crossing this by means of
a boat made of wickerwork and tarpaulin they came in turn to other
rivers--the Mitta Mitta, Ovens, the Broken River, and the Goulburn--and
then, after encountering more difficult mountain ranges, they passed
down into the coast country near Port Phillip, striking it not far from
Geelong, when they set their faces homeward. The journey had occupied
nearly three months from the time of starting, and the explorers
succeeded in traversing a vast tract of country which has since become
the feeding grounds of hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle, or the
location of thriving agricultural farms--thus bringing to nought the
learned predictions of early scientific colonists, that the whole of the
country in that direction was a barren, inhospitable desert.

Numerous natives were met with on the trip, but no very striking
experiences in this connection are recorded. The blacks were found
camped generally on the banks of the streams, and appeared to devote
much time to fishing and wild fowl snaring.

Writing of the Murray blacks the scribe of the party says:--

"From the flax-plant which flourishes on the banks the natives make
their fishing lines and the nets for carrying their travelling gear and
provisions. In the lagoons they caught a kind of bream or carp, of the
weight of about two pounds, and of the finest possible flavour. The
lagoons were literally crowded with wild ducks, and in their muddy beds
near the banks were plenty of large muscles, but inferior to those found
in salt water. The natives dived for them in the same manner as they
procured the mud oysters near Sydney, and these, with the fish caught in
the river, seemed to form the principal part of their subsistence. Their
method of fishing was as follows:--They selected the outlet from a
lagoon, which generally consists of a stream of about two feet deep, and
about five or six feet broad. Across this, at no great distance from its
junction with the river, they formed a palisade with small stakes, which
were driven firmly into the mud, and then carefully interwoven with
wattles. Beyond this palisade, at the distance of five or six feet
higher up the stream, they formed a similar palisade, but left an open
midway in its length, of about two feet wide. A weir being thus
prepared, the natives went into the lagoons, where it was sufficiently
shallow for its purpose, and beating the water with their waddies, and
disturbing it in every possible way, drove the fish before them into the

After crossing the Goulburn river when returning the party came across a
small company which had evidently previously came into contact with
Europeans, doubtless on the coast. The account of the meeting runs

"In the course of the day we came by surprise upon the body of natives,
consisting of eight men. They appeared much alarmed, and on perceiving
the bullocks fled through a small creek, and concealed themselves among
the reeds on its banks. In the evening, about a mile from the spot where
they had been seen, the natives again made their appearance, and
approached with marks of friendship. One of these men, dressed in an old
yellow jacket, spoke a few words of English, and had been at Lake
George. They had among them an iron axe and four tomahawks."

"The number afterwards received a considerable augmentation, amounting
altogether to not less than forty able-bodied men, all armed. The horses
having strayed, they assisted in bringing them in. When we were just
going to start they begged we would accompany them to their camp, about
a mile further up the creek, so that the women and children might have
an opportunity of seeing us. Mr. Hume, taking three of the men with him,
complied with their request, when he met with a party of about thirty
women, as many children, and some fine young men. They were extremely
pressing that he should stay, as they were going, they said, to have a
"corrobera;" and two of them promised, in the event of his compliance,
to accompany him the following day as far as the Murrumbidgee. The men
were the finest natives he had ever seen; one of them was about six feet
high, and another five feet nine inches and a half. They were all robust
and well proportioned, and possessed what is unusual among the native
tribes, well formed legs. Some of them had higher foreheads than are
generally observed among their people. Their weapons are like those of
the colony except the spears, which were made of strong knotty reeds,
about six feet long, to which was affixed a piece of hardwood about two
feet in length, with a rounded point barbed in some instances with
numerous small pieces of flints or agate. Each of these people was
furnished with a good ample cloak of opossum skin; many of them had
necklaces made of small pieces of yellow reeds, strung with the fibre of
the currajong, the flax plant, or the hair of the opossum. They appear
to be a kind and inoffensive people."

"The first appearance of white men caused a considerable stir in the
native camp among the women and children. The latter were engaged in
play, practising in mimic shapes the art of the adult males, one boy
rolling a piece of bark along the ground, while the others discharged
small spears at the inanimate ball. The women were engaged in spinning
flax. As soon as the strangers approached an old dame gave the alarm to
the rest, exclaiming "White man! white man! Minija! Minija! (make haste
make haste)" when the group at once disappeared in the scrub."

It will readily be understood from the particulars already given, that
among the many dangers which the early explorers had to encounter on
their hazardous journeys into the interior, attacks from hostile tribes
of blacks were not by any means the least to be apprehended or faced. In
order that the reader may fully understand the immense gravity of the
situation in which these brave men (for without exception the early
explorers were entitled to this designation) were placed, it will be
necessary for me to narrate at some length the particulars of some of
the more important expeditions, and this I shall now do without further

In November, 1831, Sir Thomas Mitchell, who had been previously
appointed Surveyor General, volunteered to lead a party in search of a
river which an escaped prisoner, who had lived for some time with the
blacks about Liverpool Plains, had reported existed in the north east.
The man said the river was called Kuidur (Gwydir) and that he had
followed it down to the sea. Having obtained permission, from the
Governor, Sir Thomas, with two other volunteers, Messrs. White and
Finch, and a party of fifteen convicts, started on the journey. On the
9th December they reached the Peel River, then the limit of exploration
in this direction, and on the 22nd the Namoi, or main stream, which
flows through the magnificent country of Liverpool Plains. Here canvas
boats were constructed and launched, the intention being to explore the
country by means of the water channel; but after encountering many
difficulties the project was abandoned. Up to this point the explorers
had not come into collision with the blacks, those they had met with
being friendly. Beside one water course in which they camped they fell
in with several aborigines afflicted with virulent kind of small pox,
and among these they distributed a portion of their stock of medicine,
which the blacks received with expressions of thankfulness. At one
station which they passed a black volunteered to guide them as far as
the Peel River, in consideration of receiving a tomahawk, and his
services were gladly accepted on those terms. The guide was accompanied
by his gin and boy, but after ten days' service he suddenly decamped,
the party having reached the territory of the "Myall" blacks, as the
remote and wilder aborigines were called. During their stay, however,
the guide and his companions taught the explorers a lesson which proved
to be of considerable value to them on succeeding expeditions. The water
met with on the route was generally so warm and muddy as to be almost
unfit for drinking. The blacks cooled it by digging near this main pool
a hole into which the water filtered, and cleared it by throwing in
tufts of grass, through which they drank, and which the explorers found
not only purified the draught but imparted to it an agreeable fragrance.

On the 26th one of the men was sent back to Sydney with a despatch for
the Government giving an account of the progress of the journey and
explaining the future intentions of the party. He was mounted on horse
back, armed with a pistol and provided with food for twelve days. The
man was never heard of or seen again. Resuming the journey on land after
the failure to navigate the stream, the party followed the course of the
river until they reached the head waters of the Upper Darling, called by
the natives Karaula (Macintyre). Here they found the aborigines sociable
and confiding. They sat down, and insisted that the whites also should
sit, talked much, and appeared merry. A disposition to steal, however,
robbed the interview of its pleasantness, and upon a gun being
discharged they left in a hurry, evidently being much terrified. At the
Peel, Mr. Finch had been sent back to the Hunter, with instructions to
procure as much provisions as he could pack on six bullocks, and then to
follow the Expedition along a line of trees marked for his guidance.
While the party were at the "Karaula" Mr. Finch returned with a most
dismal story. His two men had been treacherously killed by the blacks,
and all supplies, cattle, equipments, had fallen into the hand of the
assailants. When within two days journey of the Gwydir, the bullocks had
knocked up, and Finch deposited the stores in the vicinity of some
ponds, and leaving the men in charge, started forward alone in hopes of
coming up with the main party and obtaining assistance to bring on the
provisions. Finding, however, that the main party had made greater
headway than he anticipated, and were beyond reach, at the end of the
second day he returned, only to find the stores, trunks and harness
thrown in a heap, and beneath them the dead bodies of the two men. The
tents had been cut to pieces, the stores had been strewn about, and a
quantity of the flour had been carried away. Taking some pork and flour
in a haversack, Finch hastened forward, and travelling day and night
reached the main camp in safety.

The unexpected occurrence, and the setting in of the rainy season,
caused Sir Thomas Mitchell to decide upon returning, and after the carts
had been repaired he started on the homeward journey. In the course of
their journey they were much alarmed at finding that the former tracks
of the wheels had been obliterated by the prints of naked feet, made by
aboriginals who had followed them, and evidently in large numbers. While
encamped on the Gwydir, a party of 100 blacks, men and boys, approached,
and occasioned some annoyance by their boisterous and overbearing
demeanour. They went away on receiving a few presents. After journeying
five days a party came to within a short distance of the spot where
Finch's men had been murdered, and they naturally became more watchful.
For several days they had been followed by a large body of blacks, who
on one occasion endeavored to cut off one of the men who had fallen
behind. On approaching the plain they found that the blacks had erected
seven huts directly on their former line of march, between a lagoon and
creek, as if to intercept the carts. The huts were found to be of
substantial construction, and neatly thatched with grass and reeds. The
party passed the barriers in safety and encamped on the open plain, the
natives cautiously remaining within cover of the woods. A new course was
now taken, which shortened the journey by ten days. On the 14th they
were parallel with Finch's fatal camp, but were prevented from visiting
it for three days by excessive rains, which fell during that period.
When the sky cleared, Sir Thomas, accompanied by seven of the men, were
led by Finch to the scene of the massacre, first having formed a barrier
of the carts, with the remainder of the party in charge. After a journey
of seventeen miles the party reached the spot, when they found that
although the whole of the flour had been taken and the cattle had
disappeared, no change had been made in the appearance of the camp. The
first work was the burial of the bodies, and it was then seen that the
unfortunate men must have been surprised when asleep, as they wore no
other garments than their shirts. One side of the skull of each had been
so shattered that pieces of the bone fell away as the bodies were being
removed for burial. Having performed the sad ceremony the party gathered
up the scattered equipments and proceeded to return, and then became
aware that their movements were being watched by the natives, as signal
fires were started simultaneously on the islands immediately
surrounding. To render their situation still more difficult, night set
in when they were yet nine miles from camp, and one of the horses
knocked up. One of the men volunteered to remain behind until the horse
had recovered sufficiently to resume his journey, and he reached the
camp at 3 o'clock next morning, several hours after the others had
compassed the journey in safety. Resuming their journey on the 22nd the
party came up with a number of natives who endeavoured by every means in
their power to show their wish to be friendly. They placed their spears
and weapons in a heap across the track on which the carts were to pass,
and could not be prevailed upon to move them. When the whole of the
party had come together, the blacks called two of their gins, each of
them having two, the one elderly and plump and the other younger, and
these having come forward the whites were invited to take which they
choose. The females on their part evinced no disposition to spare their
favours, the wish of their proprietors being law; but the whites
rejected their advances, the spectacle presented by the mutilated bodies
of their former companions being too fresh in their recollection to
admit of anything like reciprocity. They would rather, much rather, that
the blacks had done something that would have given them an excuse for
making an onslaught, and thus avenging the dead; but as these natives
had evinced a peaceable and friendly disposition towards them on their
journey out, and as there was no evidence to show that they knew
anything of the murders, they were not molested. On the 28th the
explorers recrossed the Peel and on the following day Sir Thomas pushed
forward and reached the point from which he had started on the
unsatisfactory and disastrous expedition.

Sturt, the explorer, gives many interesting particulars of the natives
met with by him on his famous expedition into the south-west. His
description of the trip in a whale-boat down the Murray River, below its
junction with the Murrumbidgee, reads like a page from the "Wars of the
Ancients," and is so crowded with thrilling situations that I make no
apology for giving it in full. Says he:--

"As we sailed down the stream we observed a vast number of natives under
the trees, and on a nearer approach we not only heard their war-song, if
it may be so called, but remarked that they were painted and armed, as
they generally are prior to engaging in a deadly conflict.
Notwithstanding these outward signs of hostility, fancying that our four
friends were with them, I continued to steer directly in for the bank on
which they were collected. I found, however, when it was almost too late
to turn into the succeeding reach to our left, that an attempt to land
would only be attended with loss of life. The natives seemed determined
to resist it. We approached so near that they held their spears
quivering in their grasp ready to hurl. They were painted in various
ways; some who had marked their ribs and thighs and faces with a white
pigment, looked like skeletons; others were daubed with red and yellow
ochre, and their bodies shone with the grease with which they had
besmeared themselves. A dead silence prevailed amongst the front ranks,
but those in the background, as well as the women, who carried supplies
of darts, and who appeared to have had a bucket of whitewash capsized
over their heads, were extremely clamorous. As I did not wish a conflict
with these people, I lowered my sail, and putting the helm to starboard,
we passed quietly down the stream in mid-channel.. .. I now explained to
them that their only chance of escape depended, or would depend, on
their firmness. I desired that after the first volley had been fired,
Macleay and three of the men would attend to the defence of the boat
with bayonets only, while I, Hopkinson, and Harris would keep up the
fire, as being more used to it. I ordered, however, that no shot was to
be fired until after I had discharged both my barrels. I then delivered
their arms to the men, which had, as yet, been kept in the place
appropriated for them, and at the same time some rounds of loose
cartridge. The men assured me they would follow my instructions, and
thus prepared, having already lowered sail, we drifted on with the
current. As we neared the sandbank, I stood up, and made signs to the
natives to desist, but without success. I took up my gun, therefore, and
cocking it, had already brought it down to a level. A few seconds more
would have closed the life of the nearest of the savages. The distance
was too trifling for me to doubt the effectiveness of the discharge, for
I was determined to take deadly aim, in the hope that the fall of one
man might save the lives of many. But at the very moment when my hand
was on the trigger, and my eye was along the barrel, my purpose was
checked by Macleay, who called to me that another party of blacks had
made their appearance on the left bank of the river. Turning, I observed
four men at the top of their speed. The foremost of them, as soon as he
got ahead of the boat, threw himself from a considerable height into the
water. He struggled across the channel to the sandbank, and in an
incredibly short space of time stood in front of the savage against whom
my aim had been directed. Seizing him by the throat he pushed him
backwards, and forcing all who were in the water upon the bank, he trod
its margin with a vehemence and an agitation that were exceedingly
striking. At one moment pointing to the boat, at another shaking his
clenched hand in the faces of the most forward, and stamping with
passion on the sand; his voice, that at first was distinct and clear,
was lost in hoarse murmurs. Two of the four natives remained on the left
bank of the river, but the third followed his leader--who proved to be
the remarkable savage I had previously noticed--to the scene of action.
The reader will imagine my feelings on this occasion; it is impossible
to describe them. We were so wholly lost in interest in the scene that
the boat was allowed to drift at pleasure. For my own part, I was
overwhelmed with astonishment, and in truth stunned and confused; so
singular, so unexpected, and so strikingly providential had been our

Together the two parties of natives made up a crowd of about six
hundred. "And thus," adds Sturt, "in less than a quarter of an hour from
the moment when it appeared that all human intervention was at an end,
and we were on the point of commencing a bloody fray, which,
independently of its own disastrous consequences, would have blasted the
success of the expedition, we were peacefully surrounded by the hundreds
who had so lately threatened us with destruction; nor was it until we
had returned to the boat, and had surveyed the multitude from the
sloping bank above us, that we became fully aware of the extent of our
danger, and of the almost miraculous intervention of Providence in our

Shortly after this, and before they had sailed into the lake formed by
the waters before they passed into the sea at Encounter Bay, they passed
through a large tribe of inquisitive and troublesome natives, many of
whom were suffering from a loathsome disease. One or more of the members
of the tribe must have at some previous time come into contact with
Europeans--perhaps escaped convicts in the interior, or whalers on the

The reader will pardon me giving a short sketch of the remainder of this
remarkable voyage, even though it should not furnish much information
concerning the blacks. The object of the expedition had been
accomplished. The explorers had solved the hitherto unsolvable
geological question concerning the drainage of a large portion of the
Australian continent, and they were elated beyond measure. But in the
midst of their rejoicing a question forced itself forward which caused
them no little anxiety and trouble. Owing to shoals and breakers they
could not get their boat into the open sea, and they saw at once that
the relief that was arranged to meet them at the Gulf of St. Vincent, in
the shape of a small vessel, could not be availed of. They were too much
exhausted to think of reaching by land the point where succour was
awaiting them, and they had no alternative but to return by the way they
had come. The formidable and disheartening nature of the prospect before
them may be imagined. Their provisions were almost spent; the hard work
and exposure of the last month had weakened and dispirited them; the
current would be against them all the way back; and during the whole
course of the journey up the rivers and across the country intervening
they would be exposed to dangers even greater than those from which they
had escaped. It was a dark look-out, certainly; but having decided upon
their course of action, no time was lost in entering upon it, the
leaders resolving to take their turn at the oars with the men, and to
share all their labors and hardships.

From the first day of their return journey the explorers began to find
fulfilment of their very worst apprehensions. It was only by the most
desperate exertions with the oars that they could keep the boat moving
up the stream at speed sufficient to keep the natives (who appeared to
have anticipated their return) from crowding in upon them. They had to
pull sometimes for ten and eleven hours at a stretch without a moment's
rest, and so heavy was the strain that some of the men fainted, or
became delirious, or fell asleep at their oars. All the natives were not
hostile, however, and in places where the current was very rapid they
sometimes assisted by pulling the boat with a rope. On several occasions
the party were compelled in self defence to fire upon the blacks, but
Sturt would only resort to harsh measures as a last resource. When the
party reached the Murrumbidgee they were almost starving, but their
difficulties were not half over.

Here is Sturt's realistic picture of their work and sufferings:--

"For seven days we pulled against the stream with determined
perseverance, but human efforts, under privations such as ours, tended
to weaken themselves.. . Our journeys were short, and the head we made
against the stream but trifling. The men had lost the proper and
muscular jerk with which they had once made the waters foam and the oars
bend. Their whole bodies swung with awkward and labored motion. Their
arms appeared to be nerveless and their faces became haggard, their
persons emaciated, their spirits wholly sunk; nature was so completely
overcome that from mere exhaustion they frequently fell asleep during
their painful and almost sleepless exertions.. .. I became captious, and
found fault where there was no occasion, and lost the equilibrium of my
temper, in contemplating the condition of my companions. No murmur,
however, escaped them, nor did any complaint reach me that was intended
to indicate that they had done all they could no. I frequently heard
them in their tent, when they thought I had dropped asleep, complaining
of severe pains and great exhaustion. 'I must tell the captain
to-morrow,' some of them would say 'that I can pull no more.' To-morrow
came, and they pulled on, as if reluctant to yield to circumstances.
Macnamee at length lost his senses. We first observed this from his
incoherent conversation, but eventually from his manner. He related the
most extraordinary tales, and fidgetted about externally while in the

At length the crisis came. The men could pull no more, and then it was
resolved that two of them should start overland to a spot where
provisions had been secreted on the outward journey. The last modicum of
food was divided between them and they set off. A week of anxious
waiting and suffering passed at the camp. The last bit of food was
divided between them, and they were about to set forward in the
desperation of despair, preferring to starve moving than at rest, when
their hearts were cheered by the re-appearance of the two faithful
messengers, Mullholland and Hopkinson, who carried provisions with them.
The two men were in a deplorable condition, through the enforced
journey. Their ankles and knees were terribly swollen, and their limbs
so painful that as soon as they arrived at the camp they sank under
their efforts, although filled with joyous satisfaction that the relief
they brought was in time to save their companions in distress from
death. After resting a while the journey was resumed, and the party
arrived in Sydney after an absence of nearly seven months, having
accomplished one of the most difficult and hazardous journeys ever
undertaken by man. Most of the men made rapid recovery, but Captain
Sturt suffered for a long period, and eventually became quite blind; and
although his sight was subsequently restored he never quite recovered
from the effects of the hardships and deprivations to which he had
subjected himself in the interests of science. What does not Australia
owe to the brave pioneers of the days of old!

CHAPTER VIII.--The Darling Blacks.

Sir Thomas Mitchell's Expeditions.

Murder of Cunningham, The Botanist.

During the exploring expeditions made into the western interior by Sir
Thomas Mitchell in 1835, the object being to trace the course of the
River Darling, the aborigines in that distant part of the colony fully
established their reputation as treacherous, cunning, and cruel to the
last degree. On the 9th of March of that year the expedition set out
from Parramatta, the party comprising 23 men, besides the leader and
Messrs Cunningham (botanist) and Larmer (doctor and assistant surveyor).
Eight of the men had been in a party who had explored the country as far
as Karaula four years previously, their excellent conduct on that
occasion having led Sir Thomas to select them a second time, while their
own love of adventure made them willing servants. The cattle station at
Boree was the point from which they were to enter the unknown territory,
and having reached that station they set out on their hazardous journey.

The first party of natives was met on April 11th, and these proving
intelligent, friendly and communicative, the explorers obtained from
them valuable information concerning the names of the mountains and
streams near at hand, and the best course to pursue in the future. As
former experiences had taught the leader that organized attack by the
natives in number was likely to be one of the greatest dangers of such a
expedition, he decided to always so arrange the main camp that a
formidable resistance could be made in case they were subjected to such
attack. They had with them seven carts, in which the provisions, &c.,
were carried, a four wheel carriage containing two boats, and a large
number of pack horses. A suitable spot having been chosen for camping,
due regard being paid to the convenience of water and grass for the
stock, two of the heavily laden carts were drawn up in line, wheel to
wheel. Parallel with this line, and at the side opposite the shafts, the
four wheeled boat-carriage was placed, sufficient space being left
between for the movements of a line of men. Two high carts flanked the
extemporised fortress at one end, and at the other were the tents and
camp fires.

A small number of the friendly aborigines whom they had met accompanied
them some distance on the way, and proved useful in providing for the
party a goodly supply of wild honey, which abounded in that locality.
Their method of discovering the whereabouts of the sweet store was to
catch one of the wild bees, and attach to it by means of gum a small
particle of down or a very light feather, when they would release it and
the busy little body would at once make straight for its home in one of
the trees of the forest, perhaps several miles distant. Away would go
the quick-sighted trackers, who were as fleet of foot as they were keen
of vision, and would invariably trace the fugitive to the nest in which
the sweet stores were hidden. The blacks also did good service in
pointing out where water was to be found, and they were sadly missed on
this account very shortly after their departure, as the sequel will

On the evening of the 17th, Sir Thomas returned to camp after a long and
fruitless search for water, of which both men and cattle were in sore
need, and he was then informed that Mr. Cunningham, the botanist, had
wandered into the bush and could not be found. He had been in the habit
of taking long and solitary excursions in search of rare plants, &c.,
contrary to the advice of his leader, and as he did not return during
the night, the party resumed their march, blowing the bugle and firing
the guns in the hope of attracting his attention. That night they
encamped on the banks of the Bogan river, and as the botanist did not
return, on the following morning parties set out to scour the country in
different directions for a compass of ten or twelve miles, that being
the distance from the camp to the place where Cunningham had been last
seen. The search was continued for many days, but not a trace of the
missing man could be discovered until the 23rd, when one of the search
parties returned with intelligence that his tracks had been seen, but
lost again. Five days afterwards they found his horse, which had
evidently perished from thirst, but they could not find Cunningham,
although they followed his boot tracks for two days. They were then
informed by some blacks in the neighbourhood that they had seen a white
man with the Myall, or wild blacks, going Westward. On April 30th Sir
Thomas resumed his journey, following the course of the Bogan River, and
the party had not gone far before they again came across the tracks of
the missing man, where he had reached the river and quenched his thirst.
Here there were some natives, and an old man came forward with a boy,
the latter being so covered with green boughs that only his head and
legs were visible. It seemed that the costume was intended as an emblem
of peace, and as such it was received by the explorers. The old man
appeared to be the chief of the tribe, and comported himself with great
dignity. Some of the party were subsequently despatched along the river
in search of the botanist, his traces having again been seen and they
returned with the report that they had lost the tracks in the vicinity
of a black's camp, but had there discovered a piece of his coat, some
fragments of a map, and other articles which he was known to carry. When
the men returned with these things the blacks who had remained near the
camp evinced considerable alarm, and soon afterwards the majority of the
tribe disappeared, but the chief remained and forced one of his
countrymen to act as guide when the party, who now abandoned the search
for the missing botanist, proceeded to cross the river, the remainder of
the tribe following at a distance.

The party found the blacks very useful after they had left the river, as
they would indicate each morning the distance to the next water, and
would show the most direct route to a given point. Their caution when
approaching a waterhole was somewhat remarkable. They always cooeyed
from a considerable distance, so that if any of their friends happened
to be located there they would not be alarmed. When approaching a thick
scrub they requested the expedition to halt until they had satisfied
themselves that no hostile natives were concealed therein. Coming up
with another tribe, who joined in the march, the number of sable
camp-followers became alarmingly large, and the explorers were not sorry
when they went off in a body. But two days afterwards one of the party
had an experience which convinced Sir Thomas that it was not wise to
approach a river or lagoon without giving warning, after the manner of
their late followers. The camp was being formed for the night, when the
overseer, going toward the river to look for ducks, came suddenly upon a
black who was sitting beside a fire with his dog. As soon as he saw the
overseer, the black gave a yell, and running forward threw his firestick
and a boomerang, which struck the overseer, who thereupon raised his gun
and fired, wounding the black, who limped off shrieking with pain and
fear. Sir Thomas, seeing what had happened, at once went forward
carrying a green bough, and the wounded black fellow ceased his cries,
and throwing aside his weapons sat down on the ground. Sir Thomas saw
that he had received the shot in various parts of his unprotected body,
but chiefly on the left hand and wrist, which were covered with blood.
With some difficulty he was prevailed upon to go to the tents, where the
doctor dressed his wounds, the native staring meanwhile wildly round him
at the cattle, of which he was apparently very much afraid.

It was not until his return to Boree in September that Sir Thomas
learned anything more about poor Cunningham. The informant was a
civilized black who had gleaned particulars of his murder by the Myall
blacks from an eye-witness. In the following month Lieutenant Zouch, of
the Mounted Police, received instructions from headquarters to go to the
interior with a party of police and ascertain where and how the botanist
had died, taking with him from Boree as a guide the friendly black who
had given first information. This he did, and after a week's journey
reached a camp of the Myalls on the borders of a lake they called Budda.
The tribe acknowledged, in answer to questions, that a white man had
been killed on the Bogan by four of their number, three of whom they
delivered up. On searching the bags of the tribe Zouch found a knife,
cigar case and part of a glove, which had belonged to Cunningham.

The three murderers--named respectively, Wongadgerie, Boreeboomalie and
Bureemal--stated that when on the Bogan they had met the white man, who
made signs that he was hungry, and they took him to the camp and gave
him food; that during the night he kept getting up, which excited their
suspicions, and they determined to kill him next morning, which they did
by Wongadgerie going behind him and striking him on the head with a
nullah, the other three then rushing on him and completing the work.
Zouch then proceeded to the spot where the murder was committed, some
three day's journey, taking the prisoner Bureemal as a guide, ordering
Corporal Moore to take the other two prisoners to a station near
Wellington to await his return. Arrived at a place called Currindine the
black pointed out a spot where there were some human bones, and portion
of a coat and manilla hat, like those worn by Cunningham. Convinced then
of the truth of the story Zouch buried the remains and marked the spot
by erecting a mound and blazing the trees; after which he returned to
find that Wongadgerie and Boreeboomalie had escaped to the bush. Search
for the missing prisoners proved fruitless, and Zouch took the remaining
prisoner to Sydney, where he was doubtless made to learn, by dangling at
the end of a hempen cord from one of the many gallows trees at that time
among the "institutions" of the metropolis, that British justice in its
completion was not unlike aboriginal revenge, albeit the method of its
administration was somewhat different. In later years the Government had
a fence erected around the grave, with a headstone.

Writing to me on this subject so late as 1897, Rev. T. W. Harrison, who
use to labour in the Bogan district, says:--

"A slightly different account of Cunningham's death used to be given by
a blackfellow named Billy, on Messrs Hunt Brothers Burdenda station, on
one of the blocks of which--Upper Tabratong West--Cunningham's grave is
situated. Billy died about 1870. He stated that he was present as a boy
at the murder. His account was: 'Baal dat pfellar batter (eat). He bin
gry, gry, gry all day and eat 'im grass. Debbildebil sit down long a dat
pfellar, mine tink it. By-um-by put 'im down gun, pick um up grass, eat
'im. Blackfellar come up behind--huh!'--illustrating by a blow of a fist
on the back of his own head, and then by a quiver of his limbs, the
death agony of poor Cunningham. I visited the grave in 1878, and wrote a
letter to one of the Sydney papers urging that something should be done
to repair the dilapidated fence, &c.; but no notice was taken of the

The first natives seen on the River Darling by Mitchell were unarmed, of
small stature, and all pitted by the smallpox. It was conjected that
variola had ravaged the tribes on the banks of the river and that the
blacks there seen were only the remnants of a tribe. An attempt was made
to navigate the river, but after three days the voyage was abandoned and
the journey was resumed along the banks. A tribe was met with shortly
afterwards remarkable for having among the females a young gin of
considerable personal charms, "her womanly attractions being heightened
by a modest air." She was specially attended by an old dame, whose
ugliness tended to throw out more prominently the attractions of her
charge. The chief beauty of the latter consisted of a finely-shaped
mouth and an elegant set of teeth. Passing over extensive plains the
party were surprised at observing that all the grass had been pulled up
and piled in ricks, which extended for miles, and that poles had been
stuck at regular distances in the ground. They conjectured that the
arrangement was in some way connected with hunting. Some substantial
huts were here met with, capacious enough to hold a family of fifteen
persons. The tribe in this locality were very friendly, and proved to be
the last of kindly disposition met with on the river.

Towards the end of June, the party having encamped, one of the men was
sent out with the small flock of sheep, which accompanied the
expedition, but he had no sooner approached the river, than a native,
accompanied by a boy, approached and poised his spear. The European held
out a green bough in token of peace, when the black also seized a green
bough, and spitting on it, thrust it into the fire, "indicating his
contempt and enmity." Sir Thomas on being informed of the circumstance,
hastened to the spot, but in response to his signal of peace the black
defiantly flourished the bough, intimating that the strangers must go
back, at the same time picking up dust in his toes, and throwing it with
a violent kick in the direction of the Europeans. He continued these
hostile demonstrations until Sir Thomas and the man approached within a
few yards of him, when the black retreated, intimating by signs that he
was going for his tribe, and singing a war song as he went. In the
afternoon a large number of blacks made their appearance, all armed with
spears, and joining in a body to spit and throw dust. They approached to
within a short distance of the Europeans, when one of the latter made
bold to present a tomahawk to a leading black, who at once displayed his
knowledge of its use by cutting at a tree. Two stout fellows then rudely
demanded the pistols in Sir Thomas' belt, when sir Thomas drew out one
and fired at a tree. The result was astonishing. The blacks began to
dance and gesticulate and shout most furiously, and as they slowly
retired they spat and threw dust at the Europeans, keeping up a series
of facial contortions and howlings the whole of the time. The explorers
named these the "Spitting Tribe." Next day they returned, but although
they became more familiar they were not one whit more friendly. They
surrounded the blacksmith's forge, evidently very curiously concerning
the movements of the bellows; but while apparently intent only on
observance of the strange work that was being performed, they were
secretly trying to pilfer tools and iron, using their toes for lifting
them as dexterously as Europeans could use their fingers. Meanwhile the
"Coradje," or doctor of the tribe, an old man with a long beard and
bushy hair--went through a number of ceremonies, evidently intended to
exorcise the superhuman influence which the dreaded strangers were
supposed to possess. At length they retired, carrying away with them one
or two articles, which the Europeans were glad to sacrifice without
remonstrance as the price of peace. As the explorers moved forward on
the following day, the tribe again appeared, their numbers having been
augmented, and as their bodies were painted white it was understood that
they meant mischief. When one of the party offered a clasp-knife in
exchange for a large fish they presented the smallest fish they had, and
on this being declined they retired and ate all in sight of the
strangers. One of their chief men, evidently much exasperated, made
signs that the explorers should return the water they had taken from the
river, and made a hole in the earth into which he signified the buckets
should be emptied.

Shortly after leaving these "Spitters" the explorers fell in with
another tribe whose bearing was most friendly, and from whom they
received valuable aid in tracking some of the cattle that had strayed.
These men were the first aborigines they had seen who retained both
front teeth. Passing on the party came to a native village containing
several dwellings of larger dimensions than those usually seen. The huts
were all substantially constructed, and some of them were large enough
to hold twelve or fifteen persons. They were built in groups, ranged in
a semi-circle, the open side of the curve facing the east. On the side
of the hill, near several tombs, stood a solitary hut, larger than any
in the village, and which the explorers thought must have been used as a
hospital during the prevalence of small-pox, which had left its mark on
nearly all the Darling tribes. Passing the place, they encountered a
tribe which, although not hostile, were consummate thieves, not an
article they could lay their fingers or toes upon being safe. By loud
cooeys and other signals they attracted to the camp all their fellows,
and caused the party not a little trouble through their thievish
propensities. They were dominated by a good-humoured old man, who
received from the Europeans the appellation of "King Peter," and who
wore on his arm a bracelet of human hair. Another important personage
was a female member of the tribe, who was very animated, and introduced
some of the blacks to Sir Thomas with much show and long speeches. As
the cattle needed rest a camp was made, and leaving them with the main
body of the party the leader set out with a few mounted men to explore
the further course of the river, but subsequently abandoned that
expedition and returned. Large numbers of natives had followed the party
for several days, and as their forwardness increased with their numbers,
apprehension arose that mischief was brewing, and this was heightened
when a messenger was seen to be despatched across the river by the
blacks. Upon being questioned the chiefs said the messenger was sent to
summon other tribes to a dance, but the anxiety of the explorers was not
allayed, as it was almost impossible to keep all together, unless the
party remained stationary. At noon on the first day of camping, the
entire body of blacks proceeded to the river, with the exception of two
old chiefs or doctors, a third man, very tall and muscular, and two
gins. The two old men commenced a ceremony which led the Europeans to
conclude that an organised attempt to drive them from the territory was
about to be made. Moving slowly, in opposite directions, they made an
extensive circuit of the camp, one waving a burning brand over his head,
and the other a green bough, occasionally stopping to wave their brands
furiously in the direction of the camp, and to throw dust in the air.
Coming together in the circuit they would turn their backs to each
other, and again wave the brands, throw dust, and rub themselves with
clay, after which they retraced their steps and seated themselves by the
fire. It was thought that they performed these incantations believing
that they had thus placed the strangers within a charmed circle from
which they could not escape, Meanwhile, King Peter and his followers
were engaged in the peaceful occupation of fishing, apparently oblivious
of the proceedings near the camp. The method of fishing was as novel as
it was successful. The King stood erect in his bark canoe, while nine
young men armed with light spears went up the river, and another similar
party went down. At a given signal from the chief all dived into the
centre of the river, and as the afrighted fish sought to make their
escape they were transfixed by the spears and skilfully flung on the
bank on either side. Other blacks stood on the banks and speared the
fish as they passed them. When the young men were tired they were
relieved by fresh hands, and as they came out they warmed and dried
themselves at a circular fire, kept burning by the gins. In this way
large numbers of the finny tribe were caught, some of the cod-perch
transfixed being very large.

Next morning the messenger who had been sent across the river returned
at the head of another tribe, and these approached the tents without
ceremony, one of the old wizzards being recognised amongst the foremost,
although he had endeavored to disguise himself by coloring black his
grey head and beard. It then became evident that the blacks were only
restrained from violence by the number and compactness of the exploring
party, who had all returned to camp. The leader was in a difficulty,
fearing to further advance into the enemy's country, as he observed that
the numbers of the natives increased daily; and as the course of the
Darling had now been traced for upwards of 300 miles, he decided that
his wisest and safest course was to return, and this decision he at once
communicated to the party, who hailed it with evident satisfaction. But
scarcely an hour had elapsed since the announcement had been made when a
shot was heard at the river, where two water-carriers and the bullock
drivers were employed laying in stores. Other shots soon followed, and
it became evident that a collision had occurred with the fishing party.
Then one of the water-carriers ran wounded and bleeding into the camp.
His story was that King Peter when walking beside him had suddenly
turned and knocked him down by a blow with his waddy, whereupon one of
the other Europeans wounded Peter with a pistol shot, and the whole
tribe rushed forward in the attack. More firing followed, and one of the
gins with a picaninny strapped to her back fell wounded to the death,
as also did a strapping black who was swimming to the opposite bank.
Upon this the whole tribe took to the river, and the water-carriers,
with some of their companions who had run to their assistance, poured a
volley into the retreating swimmers, with what result they did not stop
to ascertain. During the night the loud wailing of the black women was
borne across the water to the camp, and made mournful music in the ears
of the Europeans, who, against their inclinations, had been thus
compelled to shed blood.

One party of blacks was met with, among whom a greater variety of
feature was observable than had been presented by any of the other
tribes. Some of them had straight brown hair, and others exhibited
Asiatic features, somewhat resembling those of the Hindoo, the hair
being woolly.

Six months afterwards Sir Thomas Mitchell undertook another expedition
designed to complete the survey of the Darling, his instructions being
to trace the river from the point where his last journey terminated to
its junction with the Murray, and then to follow the Murray upward,
returning by way of Yass Plains. The party consisted of 25 men, most of
whom had been engaged in the work of exploration previously. They took
with them a native guide named "Piper," who proved most useful as an
interpreter and a sentinel when the party met aborigines. Two days after
leaving the Canoblas, near Orange, the explorers were informed by some
friendly blacks that the Myall blacks were coming up, "murry coola"
(very angry) to meet the expedition, of the start of which they appeared
to have been apprised; but the explorers did not meet with any
opposition until they had reached the Murray. During their journey in
the Lachlan country "Piper" secured a wife from one of the friendly
tribes met with, and two intelligent native boys and a widowed gin with
a child attached themselves to the expedition. At one spot on the route
the party came across a peculiarly constructed tomb. Seen from a
distance, it presented the appearance of a hut, being formed by poles
and large sheets of bark. The structure stood in the centre of a cleared
space, and was enclosed by three ridges, of an elliptical shape, the
surface within the area having been made perfectly level and smooth. On
looking through a crevice, a bed made of rushes, which had recently been
occupied, was seen, and further observation proved that there was a
sepulchre below. The natives explained that the rushes were the brother
or near relative of the deceased, who nightly occupied the berth until
the body became quite decomposed; but it was afterwards ascertained that
only the graves of persons who had been murdered were thus guarded, the
hut being burned when the murder had been avenged.

When the party reached the Murray they found large numbers of natives on
the water in their bark canoes, and on the banks, and several of them
followed the party with green boughs. The old men, who seemed to have
undisputed authority, were remarkable on account of their flowing hair
and large, bushy whiskers. The confidence of the Europeans was by no
means increased, however, when they perceived that these blacks were
their old enemies, the tribes last seen on the Darling, and they at once
called to remembrance the statement made by the Canoblas blacks that the
Myall tribes were coming forward to meet the expedition. During the
afternoon several fresh parties of aborigines arrived, and in one of the
groups were noticed two girls and a boy, the children of the woman who
was killed in the encounter on the Darling during the former expedition.

The anxiety of the explorers increased with the increase in the number
of those whom they now naturally looked upon as foes, and as some of the
blacks manifested an inclination to act rudely it was resolved to treat
them to an exhibition of fisticuffs, in most approved British style, the
leader calling upon the blacksmith to act as exhibitor, choosing for his
subject a few of the most forward blacks. Baring his muscular arm the
blacksmith commenced to shape and then to strike, and a general stampede
of the nearest blacks, not a few of them with bloody noses, speedily
followed. Near nightfall the blacks sent away their gins--a sure sign of
coming trouble--and began to pilfer. A little later, the guide Piper,
who had received instructions to keep his eyes and ears well open,
reported that his wife had overheard the blacks arranging an attack upon
the tents. Upon this Sir Thomas had the men all drawn up in a line, and
a rocket having been fired off gave three cheers and advanced with a
rush in the direction of the blacks, who at once took to their heels in
a body, and offered no further molestation that night, although the
party could hear their voices in the bush. Shortly after daybreak they
were seen advancing, setting fire to the grass as they came, and before
the party could feel themselves free to breakfast they found it
necessary to make a "martial demonstration," and give sham chase at the
sound of the bugle.

Resuming their march the party again came to the Murray, and there found
the blacks assembled on the banks, the discovery also being made that a
portion of the tribe had taken up a position further on the route which
the explorers intended to follow. The position of the explorers now
became critical, and they were more than ever convinced that the Myalls
had organized to meet them, as some of the local blacks declared that
their hostile countrymen did not belong to that part, but had come there
to drive back the Europeans. As the march proceeded the explorers were
followed by vast numbers of warlike blacks, who shouted furiously, and
made the country resound with their defiant cries. Sir Thomas saw that
prompt measures to check the hostile advance were necessary, and
prepared to draw the party on a hill which they were approaching, when
shots at the rear announced that hostilities had commenced. The men who
were accompanying the carts at once seized their arms and ran back to
the support of their comrades in the rear, and the firing became general
and so effective that while a few of the blacks were made to bite the
dust, the remainder fled in great alarm to the river, a quarter of a
mile distant, and, plunging into the broad stream, swam to the other
side. But the temper of the Europeans had been aroused, and they
followed the retreating crowd and shot several of the blacks as they
were swimming across, including one who had been particularly noticeable
during the march for his forwardness. It appeared that the first shot
had been fired by one of the men, as he noticed a black poising his
spear for throwing.

Three days afterwards the explorers came within sight of the Darling,
and the first tribe they encountered there manifested considerable
alarm, shrieking and wringing their hands, until Piper and his gin
succeeded in getting into converse with them, after which they quieted
down and appeared to become very friendly, accompanying the party on the
march for some distance, one file at either side of the party. At this
time Sir Thomas was preceding the carts, and having turned round and
observed that the blacks were more numerous than was desirable he called
out to the men to be watchful and cautious. His sudden movement and loud
voice alarmed the blacks, who at once hurriedly retreated, and then the
interpreter and gin explained than an attack had been preconcerted, it
having been arranged that six or eight blacks should seize each white
man and overcome him, it being their impression that the clothes worn by
the strange visitors were proof against spear thrusts.

After leaving the Murray near its junction with the Darling, the party
struck a southerly course, crossing the dividing range in what is now
the state of Victoria, and touching the Glenelg, which they followed to
its mouth. Then the homeward journey commenced, and they returned to
Sydney after an absence of eight months, having accomplished a journey
of 3,500 miles. An investigation was held after the return concerning
the affray on the Darling, and the party were adjudged guiltless of
wrong-doing, it being clearly shown that they had acted only in self
defence. The tribes met with after leaving the Darling all proved
peaceful, even timid, and Sir Thomas experienced some difficulty in
opening communication with them.

In 1845, the Sydney Legislation voted 2000 to defray the expenses of an
expedition led by Sir Thomas Mitchell to open up an overland route from
Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The party consisted of twenty-eight
persons, the majority of them being prisoners of the Crown in different
stages of probation, with quite an elaborate equipment of drays, carts,
boats, bullocks, horses, and provisions to last twelve months, including
a flock of 250 sheep.

The route of the party at first lay in the direction pursued by the
expedition of 1835, and at the close of the first month's march a number
of the Bogan blacks were encountered, who at once recognised Sir Thomas,
and who, as was subsequently ascertained, had been sent forward to watch
the movements of the explorers. On the 4th January, 1846, the party
crossed the neutral ground between the western squatters and the
aborigines, and here, in the shape of burnt and broken buildings, ruined
stockyards, and highways grown with grass, they received abundant proofs
that the whites had been compelled to give way before the blacks, and
the no less formidable foe of drought. The explorers themselves at this
point suffered greatly from want of water, and advance couriers had to
return to the drays with small barrels of the precious fluid, which they
had discovered in some small ponds far ahead, the barrels being carried
before them on their horses. It was fortunate for the expedition that
the natives in the locality were not hostile, for had they disputed the
passage across the country they could have held the party at their
mercy. After this experience the leader decided not to move from one
watering place until another had been found within comparatively easy
distance; and finding that there was not sufficient water in the farther
reaches of the Bogan to justify the party in proceeding along its banks,
the leader changed the route. At a stream called by the blacks Cannonbar
(which name has been retained) a halt was made for a fortnight as many
of the men were suffering from opthalmia, and the drays were much
damaged by the heat, while the cattle were suffering considerably from
the same cause. The discovery of several kettles, a spade, a Roman
balance, and other articles, lying at the bottom of one of the
waterholes, proved that some adventurous spirit had attempted to "squat"
on this spot, but had not been proof against the prowess of the blacks.
An old woman of the tribe located near informed the interpreter that
three white men had been killed when the station had been abandoned.

One morning three blacks approached the camp and for some time stood
among the carts and tents, gazing with astonishment at the different
strange things they saw. They had no weapons, and were neither covetous
nor troublesome, possessing "a manly openness of countenance, and a look
of good sense." A lake they called Turanimga; a river, lagoon and a
neighbouring hill Tolumba. This territory received the name of the
Fitzroy Downs, and before leaving it the party was joined by eight
aborigines, who gave them the names of the hills and creeks surrounding.
These men were all members of the same family--father and seven
sons--and were all colored with red ochre, wore the feathers of a white
cockatoo in their hair and beards, and were possessed of remarkably fine
rows of teeth, which they shewed off to advantage in their laughter and
animated conversation.

One day while camped on the Maranoa, the leader being absent, the party
received a visit from two natives, painted white, who boldly entered the
camp, each carrying several spears and boomerangs and followed by two
females, similarly loaded with weapons. The men, somewhat alarmed by
this display of weapons, formed a line in front of the tent, and one of
them called upon the blacks to halt. The latter then pointed in the
direction in which Sir Thomas had gone and motioned to the men to go off
in the same direction; but the men remained firm and in turn motioned to
the blacks to go, when the latter became angry and poised their spears,
but as this did not appear to intimidate the travellers, one of them
turned round and hurled contempt upon them, in true civilized fashion,
by "scornfully slapping his posterior." This form of attack proved more
forceful than spear pointing, for there was a British soldier in the
ranks of the Europeans, and he could not suffer the indignity of such an
insult without remonstrance. He discharged his musket over the head of
the insulting black, who forthwith sprang several feet into the air and
then speedily made off, followed by his companions. So runs the record;
but if the truth were known it might be found that the shot from the gun
did not all go over the head of the dusky savage; hence the spring.
Subsequently the same party returned, and one of them having advanced to
the front of the tents, where the men were standing with their firearms
in their hands, commenced to vociferate very loudly and with much
gesticulation, evidently wishing the strangers to understand that his
people were sole possessors of the soil and that the whites were
intruding upon territory to which they had no claim. A gin (woman)
standing near frequently prompted the orator and pointed to certain
landmarks as the boundary of their territory; but finding that their
oratory produced no impression upon the Europeans, the spokesman stuck a
spear in the ground and indicated by words and gesture that on the one
side the ground should be occupied by the whites and on the other by his
tribe. The explorers gave them to understand that they would agree to
this agreement, and the aborigines at once took their departure,
evidently quite satisfied. When the leader returned and heard what had
transpired he issued instructions that the larger of the two reaches
near the camp should be held sacred to the blacks, that no white should
visit the river banks in that direction, and that the cattle should not
be allowed to feed in the vicinity.

At the junction of the Claude and a tributary from the south-west the
party found the blacks rather troublesome. On one occasion seventeen of
them, all very strong, tall men, entered the camp, and the two leaders
began to lay hands upon everything within their reach. Each of the
seventeen carried several clubs, and gave the explorers to understand
that the whole of the surrounding country belonged to them. At this time
Sir Thomas and the surgeon were absent, and the men in charge treated
the blacks civilly and induced them to sit down, thinking Sir Thomas on
his return might be able to glean some information from them concerning
the nature of the country. After a while, however, a sharp altercation
ensued between the old chief and a younger black who appeared to be his
colleague, and seeing the latter rise and approach the tents, beckoning
to other of his companions to follow him, an invitation which some of
them accepted, the Europeans seized their muskets and fell into line.
Seeing the compact order of this small force, and the strange-looking
weapons which they held, the advancing blacks stood still, evidently
afraid of the kind of reception they would meet with if they ventured
any nearer. At this moment the explorers' dogs rushed at the blacks, who
immediately turned and fled, loudly laughed at by the Europeans and the
rest of the tribe, who stood at some distance watching the proceedings.

Having arrived at the conclusion that the river which he had been
following did not, as he at first supposed, lead to the Gulf of
Carpentaria, Sir Thomas resolved to return by the tracks made in the
journey onwards, branching off before coming to the main camp to explore
the country to the westward, in order to find the division between the
eastern and western waters. Shortly afterwards the party returned to
Sydney by easy stages, having been absent for over twelve months.
Although this formed one of the most important journeys into the
interior of all Sir Thomas Mitchell's expeditions, it was remarkable
that no serious collision took place with the aborigines, and that no
loss of life or property occurred during this passage occupied by a
people who had good reason to look upon the party as invaders.

CHAPTER IX.--Dr. Leichhardt's Experiences.

The intrepid German botanist and explorer, Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt, the
mystery of whose fate in the wilds of Australia is not ever likely to be
satisfactorily solved, had some strange experiences among the aboriginal
tribes whose territory he invaded in the interests of science.

His first exploring expedition (with six Europeans and two native
guides) the object of which was to obtain reliable information of the
country between Moreton Bay and Port Essington, set out in September
1844, and the first interview with the blacks occurred on the far side
of Condamine Plains, two months after starting. The natives behaved in a
friendly manner, pointing out where honey was to be obtained and
assisting the explorers in cutting the sweet stores out of the trees.
They particularly admired the red blankets of the Europeans, but were
terror-stricken at the sight of a naked sword, which they tremblingly
begged might be returned into its sheath. Coming upon the dry channel of
a river, three months later, the party saw that the blacks were not
inexperienced in the art of water conservation, for around the edges of
the ponds branches were thickly and regularly planted to prevent the
sand and clay from entering, and inside the fence were dug several small
wells, evidently intended for the reception of the purer and colder
water obtained by filtration.

About this time a tribe of blacks approached the explorers, and made
them presents of feathers, boomerangs, and other articles, receiving in
return a medal, with which they appeared much pleased. They had
evidently never before seen white men, as they expressed much curiosity
concerning the white skins of the party, and frequently patted their
cheeks in admiration. Shortly after this a tribe was met with who were
extraordinarily shy. They conversed freely with the guides, but as soon
as one of the Europeans approached they would avert their faces, turn
their backs, or run away. Up to this time the blacks had not manifested
any hostile disposition, but now the party were destined to meet with
opposition both formidable and dangerous. A party of blacks attempted
stealthily to drive away the whole of the cattle, but the attempt was
frustrated by the watchfulness of the men in charge; and then followed
an organized attack upon the camp. On 28th June--nine months after
starting on their expedition--the explorers encamped near a small pool,
surrounded by a narrow belt of tea-trees, Robert and Calvert pitching
their tents within the belt, Gilbert and Murphy placing theirs among the
trees, while Phillips settled down at a spot on the opposite side of the
pool. Having partaken of their evening meal the party went to their
several tents, Leichhardt, according to custom, stretching himself on
the ground near the fire, where he soon slept. A loud noise and a call
for help in a short time roused him from his slumbers, and he at once
discovered that the natives had attacked the camp in a body. They had
watched the party during the afternoon and as soon as it was dark hurled
a shower of spears at the several tents. The native guides were the
first to spring forward in defence of the party, but as caps had not
been left on the muskets, some time elapsed before any answering charge
could be made, and in the meanwhile the assailants were busy at their
sanguinary work.

At the first report of the firearms the blacks all fled, and it was then
discovered that Roper and Calvert had been pierced with several spears,
while Gilbert lay dead with a spear sticking through his body. It
appeared that at the first alarm he had sprung up and rushed out of his
tent with a gun in hand and was preparing to fire when he received his
death wound. The utmost difficulty was experienced in extracting the
spear points, which were barbed, from the persons of Calvert and Roper,
one having to be forced right through the latter's arm, and one having
to be cut out of Calvert's groin. It was not ascertained how much the
blacks suffered from the fire of the Europeans, but it was known that at
the least one of the number had been wounded, as the wailing of the
woman mourners was heard during the night. The explorers extinguished
their fires and watched during the remainder of the night, anticipating
another assault. When morning dawned the wounds of the unfortunate men
were properly dressed by Leichhardt, and further precaution against
attack having been taken, the dead body of the slaughtered man was
buried, the Church of England Service being read by the leader. A large
fire was subsequently kindled over the grave to prevent the aborigines
from discovering and disinterring the remains. The party tarried at this
camp for several days to admit of the wounded men taking rest.

Seven days subsequently, having reached entirely different country, a
rather strange encounter took place. After the party had made their
arrangements for the night, a fine, strapping blackfellow walked
leisurely into the camp towards one of the camp fires, which he had
evidently mistaken as belonging to his own tribe. The man who first saw
the strange visitor called out in alarm. "A blackfellow! a blackfellow!"
and in an instant every gun was ready, but as it at once became apparent
that the stranger was unconscious of his position, no shot was fired. As
soon as the black discovered his mistake he ran at top speed to a tree,
and with remarkable agility climbed high into the branches, where he
remained motionless and silent, despite the calls and signs of the
explorers; nor had the discharge of a gun the desired effect of making
him speak or stir. One of the guides then climbed into a neighboring
tree, to show the savage that he was not beyond reach, and upon this he
began to "pooh," and hiss and cooey, making such unearthly noises, that
caused the horses to break from their tethers in affright. One of the
guides tried hard to prevail upon Leichhardt to shoot the savage,
asserting that if he did not the whole party would be killed; but the
leader was averse to the needless shedding of blood, and ordered the
party to retire several paces so that the black could see that he had a
clean way of escape; and this movement proved effective, for the cries
ceased, and a rustling in the scrub told that the terror-stricken black
had escaped from what he evidently considered a most awkward and
dangerous predicament. Next day, a well armed tribe were observed
watching the explorers from a distance, but they did not evince any
desire to offer molestation.

On the banks of the Van Dieman River the party found the huts of the
natives of superior construction, and heaps of chaff lying around showed
that certain grass seed was used as a substitute for corn. Some of the
blacks appeared to be very much afraid of the horses, the guide having
told them that they would bite like dogs; and the explorers seeing this
always tethered three of the horses near the tents when they retired to
rest, while a fourth was kept bridled in the camp with a bell on his
neck. When near the sea-coast some tribes were met with who caused the
party not a little anxiety and trouble, for they surrounded them on all
sides and became unduly familiar. On one occasion, while the men were
preparing some beef, they hovered round in considerable numbers, and
climbed the trees near the camp to watch more critically what was going
on. As the afternoon progressed the numbers increased, and approaching
the explorers in a body they vociferated fiercely and shook their spears
and clubs, as though about to make an attack in a body; but on some of
the men advancing towards them on horseback, and firing several shots in
the air, the blacks beat a precipitate retreat.

Here again the explorers came across shallow wells, which had been
scooped out by the aborigines to preserve a supply of fresh water in dry
seasons; and at these wells, which were sometimes only separated from
the salt water of the rivers (the party was near the coast) by a narrow
wall of clay, the explorers sometimes pitched their camp. On the
Macarthur River they had an interview with a most friendly and civil
tribe. The blacks ran after the Europeans for a considerable distance,
calling loudly, and when the leader halted and came to a parley, he was
met by an old man and three or four of the younger males of the tribe.
As soon as the chief saw that Leichhardt intended to give him a present,
he prepared to give him one in return; he offered some of the ornaments
which he wore on his person in exchange for the rings and buckles which
he received. These blacks were well-made and good-looking, one of them
being described as "even handsome." All the males appeared to have been
circumcised. Beyond the Roper River also friendly blacks were met with.
Three of the number coming boldly forward, presents were exchanged, and
they gave a pressing invitation to the leader to visit their camp. When
they visited the explorers a second time, they announced their approach
by whistling, and would not enter the camp till invited by the leader.
They accompanied the party for a considerable distance, and when hunger
at length compelled them to return, they again invited the white men to
accompany them, indicating at the same time that they had an abundance
of food at their camp. These men were also circumcised. A few days
later, however, a tribes of a different character was encountered. The
blacks hovered round the camp for some time, and at nightfall were
observed stealing towards the tents evidently bent on attack, when a few
shots put them to flight.

As they neared Port Essington, the explorers were met by a tribe who
possessed a shawl and other articles of English manufacture, and the
weary travellers, who had been about sixteen months in the pathless
bush, began to realise that they were drawing towards the end of their
journey. The blacks said they had got the shawl at a place "north-west
by north." A few days later they were surrounded by a tribe who
understood the use of firearms, and soon thereafter a still more hopeful
sign of the nearness of civilised haunts was afforded. A fine looking
native stepped out of the bush and approached the camp with a smiling
countenance, and with the confidence of a man to whom white faces were
familiar objects, and a second black coming up the explorers heard with
joy the first uttered English words from a stranger that had fallen upon
their ears since leaving the outskirts of colonisation at Morton Bay.
The first black to arrive addressed the leader as "commandant," asked
"What name?" and said "Very good."

The joy of the party at hearing their own language thus spoken may be
imagined. They could almost have embraced the semi-civilized savages,
and the two men observing their tokens of delight joined in the
merriment by hearty laughter. These blacks had acquired their knowledge
of English talk from people at Port Essington, and called the Europeans
there Ballanda, which meant Hollandas, a name which they had received
from the Malays. They guided the party for a considerable distance,
leading them by shady paths, and pointing out good camping places at
wells which they had previously formed. A few days later the party were
met by a tribe, many of whom spoke really good English, and a hunchback,
who was the chief, volunteered to act as guide. This tribe knew everyone
in the settlement, and gave the explorers all the recent news of their
countrymen; they also sought to cheer the weary company with songs,
which they accompanied with a "choro," a long tube of bamboo. On the
17th of December, 1845, Leichhardt and his brave band saw the welcome
sight of a garden and a row of thatched cottages which formed the
settlement, and making all haste to Government House they were received
with kindness by Captain Macarthur, the commandant, at whose instance
all their necessities were at once supplied. After a short stay at the
Port the explorers were conveyed in a passing schooner to Sydney, where
they met with a reception as hearty as it was well-merited.

The name of the Leichhardt will ever occupy a foremost place on the list
of those whose best years were spent in the arduous and hazardous work
of early exploration; but more than ordinary interest attaches to it on
account of the mystery which enshrouds the brave explorer's fate. The
last expedition which he started was undertaken with the intention of
crossing the continent to Swan River. The party consisted of seven men,
besides the leader and his brother-in-law, named Classan. They were
provisioned for a journey which was calculated to extend over three
years. The live stock taken consisted of 108 sheep, 270 goats, 40
bullocks, 15 horses, and 13 mules, and a start was made in October,
1847. Leichhardt intended to follow Mitchell's track as far as the
Victoria (Barcoo), and then turn westward. He seems to have fallen into
the track near Mount Abundance, in the neighbourhood of the present town
of Roma, in Queensland; but the course of the party had never been
traced much further; for they were never again heard of after passing
McPherson's station, on the Cogoon, from which place the leader dated
his last letter--3rd April 1848. He closed that letter thus hopefully:
"Seeing how much I have been favoured on my present progress, I am full
of hopes that our Almighty Protector will allow me to bring my darling
scheme to a successful termination." This last hopeful letter really
proved his farewell to the people on whose behalf he had entered upon
his dangerous task. His route from that point is a matter of pure
conjecture, for no information at all reliable has ever been obtained
concerning it, although not a few men of like spirit with Leichhardt
have endangered their lives in the fruitless efforts to follow it up.
Nothing was ever more heard of the party, and not even the buckle of a
saddle-strap belonging to them has ever been found, although numerous
search parties have endeavoured to pick up the track. Writing of
Leichhardt's effort in the cause of science, Flanagan, in his "History
of New South Wales," indulges in this well-deserved panegyric:--
"Chivalry in its most enthusiastic dreams could conceive no more daring
project, nor could the spirit of utility devise anything more calculated
to advance science, and benefit a people; and whether the project fell
beneath the treacherous spear of the aborigines, or yielded up his life
a prey to hunger and thirst, or fretted out his existence a captive of a
savage tribe, the merit of his undertaking will ever remain unabated,
and will, combined with those undertakings of a similar character which
he carried to a successful issue, form a monument for the gaze of future
generations as brilliant as it will be lasting."


Another sad chapter in the history of Australian exploration, in which
the aborigines figure very prominently is that relating to the
expedition led by Mr. Kennedy in 1848, to explore the York Peninsula.
The story is remarkable for its narration of aboriginal treachery and
cruelty on the one hand, and of aboriginal fidelity and heroism on the

Kennedy, who was an officer in the Survey Department in Sydney, had
formed one of Sir Thomas Mitchell's party in his last futile expedition
in search of an overland route to the Gulf of Carpentaria, when the
river Victoria was discovered; and in the year following he headed an
expedition to complete his former leader's work, but found that the
river lost itself in barren, sandy ground, instead of emptying, as Sir
Thomas conjectured, into the Gulf. After his return from this journey he
was commissioned by the Government to lead a party by sea as far as
Rockingham Bay, and thence by land to Princess Charlotte's Bay and Cape
York. At the very commencement of the journey almost insuperable
difficulties confronted the party, in the shape of wide marshes and
dense thickets, necessitating a five weeks' deviation from the route
marked out and shortening their supply of provisions. While thus
situated a more serious difficulty presented itself. The local tribes of
blacks who had observed the advent of the strangers into their
territory, mustered in large numbers, and harrassed the party from
daylight till dark on their toilsome march. They were painted and armed
for fight and suddenly the explorers found themselves being made the
target for flying spears. Kennedy rather intemperately at once accepted
the challenge and ordered his men to load and fire. Four or five blacks
fell before the volley, and the remainder retreated only to nurse their
wrath till a favorable opportunity for fully exercising it arose.

It had been arranged that a vessel should meet them at Princess
Charlotte's Bay with a fresh stock of provisions, but that point was not
reached until eight weeks after the time fixed upon, and when they had
got there the vessel had gone. With heavy hearts and weak to the point
of exhaustion, Kennedy and his party of twelve men again set their faces
in the direction of Cape York, knowing that if they could not reach that
haven they must leave their bones to bleach in the wilderness. Their
difficulties increased and starvation seemed inevitable, when Kennedy
divided his party, leaving eight men at Weymouth Bay with their share of
the few provisions left, while he and the four others pushed on in
search of relief at Port. On the way the party was again divided, and
Kennedy and a faithful black boy named Jacky-Jacky alone continued the
journey. They had reached a point from which they could sight the sea,
when suddenly they found themselves surrounded by natives, who had
dogged their steps for days.

What followed is best told as nearly as possible in Jacky-Jacky's own
words when giving evidence at a judicial inquiry held some time

"I and Mr. Kennedy watched them that night, taking it in turns every
hour. By-and-bye I saw the blackfellows; it was a moonlight night; and I
walked up to Mr. Kennedy and said 'There is plenty of blackfellows now.'
This was in the middle of the night, Mr. Kennedy told me to get my gun
ready. The blacks did not know where we slept, for we made no fire. We
both sat up all night. After this daylight came, and I fetched the
horses and saddled them, then we went on a good way up the river, and
then we sat down a little while, and we saw three blackfellows coming
along our tracks, and they saw us, and one fellow ran back as hard as he
could run, and fetched up plenty more, like a flock of sheep almost. I
told Mr. Kennedy to put the saddles on the two horses and to go on; and
the blacks came up, and they followed us all day, and all along it was
raining; and I now told him to leave the horses and come on without
them, that the horses make too much track. Mr. Kennedy was too weak, and
would not leave the horses. We went on this day till towards evening,
raining hard, and the blacks followed us all the day, some behind and
some planted before; in fact, blacks all around and following us. Now we
went into a little bit of a scrub, and I told Mr. Kennedy to look behind
always. Sometimes he would do so, and sometimes he would not look behind
to look for the blacks. Then a good many blackfellows came up behind the
scrub and threw plenty of spears and hit Mr. Kennedy in the back first.
Mr. Kennedy said to me 'Oh, Jacky-Jacky, shoot 'em; shoot 'em!' Then I
pulled out my gun and hit one fellow over the face with a buckshot. He
tumbled down and got up again and again, and wheeled round, and two
blackfellows picked him up and carried him away. They went away a little
way, and came back again, throwing spears all round more than they did
before--very large spears.

"I pulled out the spear at once from Mr Kennedy's back, and cut out the
jag with his knife. Then Mr Kennedy got his gun and snapped, but it
would not go off. The blacks sneaked all along by the trees, and speared
Mr Kennedy again in the right leg, above the knee a little, and I got
speared over the eye; and the blacks were now throwing their spears all
ways, never giving over, and shortly again speared Mr. Kennedy in the
right side. There were large jags to the spears, and I cut them out and
put them into my pocket. I now told Mr. Kennedy to sit down while I
looked after the saddle bags, which I did, and when I came back again I
saw blacks along with Mr. Kennedy. I then asked him if he saw the blacks
with him; he was stupid with the spear wounds, and said 'No!' Then I
asked him where was his watch? I saw the blacks taking away his watch
and hat as I was returning; then I carried Mr. Kennedy into the scrub;
he said 'Don't carry me a good way.' Then Mr. Kennedy looked this
way--very bad (Jacky rolling his eyes). I said to him 'Don't look far
away,' as I thought he would be frightened. I asked him often 'Are you
well now?' and he said 'I don't care for the spear wound in my leg,
Jacky, but for the other two spear wounds in my side and back,' he said
'I am very bad inside, Jacky!' I told him blackfellow always die when he
got spear in there (in the back.) He said 'I am out of wind, Jacky.' I
asked him 'Mr. Kennedy, are you going to leave me?' He said 'Yes, my
boy, I am going to leave.' He said, 'I am very bad, Jacky, you take the
books to the Captain, but not the big ones; the Governor will give
anything for them.' I then tied up the papers. He then said, 'Give me
paper, and I will write.' I gave him paper and pencil and he tried to
write, and then he fell back and died, and I caught him as he fell back
and held him. I then turned round myself and cried. I was crying a good
deal till I got well. That was about an hour, and then I buried him. I
digged up the ground with a tomahawk and covered him over with logs,
then grass, and my shirt and trousers. That night I left him near dark.
I would go through the scrub and the blacks threw spears at me, a good
many, and I went back again into the scrub. Then I went down the creek,
and I walked along the water in the creek very easy, with head only
above the water, to avoid the blacks and get out of their way. In this
way I went half a mile; then I got out of the creek and got clear of
them, and walked all the night nearly, and slept in the bush without
fire. I went on next morning and felt very bad, and I spelled here for
two days.... I now got into the ridges (the fourth day) and went up into
a tree and saw Albany Island. I went on a little and saw the ship and
boat, and when I was on the rock cooeying I was murrey, murrey (very,
very) glad when the boat came for me."

Can the reader point to any instance in history, profane or sacred, of
greater courage, stronger love, or fidelity more unswerving than that
furnished by this dusky child of the desert in his unaided efforts to
save his master from the murderous attacks of his savage countrymen,
and, this failing, to carry the cry for succour from the men in
extremity in the desert to the relief party at Port Albany--the
principal messenger having died in his arms and received rude burial at
his hands? It was within two days of Christmas and those in charge of
the ship were debating whether it was worth while waiting longer for the
appearance of the expedition, almost six months having lapsed since the
party of thirteen had disembarked at Rockingham Bay, when they caught
sight of a poor, emaciated creature dragging himself from the bush and
making signs to them. The boat which made faithful Jacky "murrey, murrey
glad" was then dispatched from the vessel, and the brave fellow was
taken aboard, more dead than alive.

Jacky-Jacky told his story, and immediate steps were taken to convey
relief to the men who had been left in extremity in the bush. The three
who had last parted with Kennedy could not be found, and when the camp
at Weymouth Bay was reached two only of the eight men left there were
found alive. Six had died from starvation, and the two survivors were so
emaciated and weak that they had to be carried by the sailors by slow
stages to the vessel. After the relief vessel reached Sydney,
Jacky-Jacky was presented by Governor Fitzroy with a massive silver
breastplate upon which was inscribed a record of his brave deeds done.
Forty years afterwards that plate came into the writer's possession, it
having been found in the bush near Bathurst, where Jacky-Jacky had
doubtless lost it when on a visit to the remnant of the tribe residing

Some of the explorers were more fortunate than others in their dealings
with the blacks, but in the main the experience of all of them goes to
show that the aborigines did not differ greatly from other savage tribes
in their reception of invaders in whose presence in their territory they
realised danger of the direst kind. The outline (for it is only that) of
their record experiences which I have given shows with tolerable
clearness the character of the aborigines in their native wilds. More
particular description of individual and tribal habits and customs must
be reserved for subsequent chapters.

CHAPTER XI.--A Few Massacres.

The Wreck Of The Maria.

One of the most atrocious massacres by the aborigines that has been
brought to light was that of the crew and passengers of a vessel called
the Maria, which was wrecked at Lacepede Bay, on the South Australian
coast, in the year 1840. After the vessel had struck the rocks the crew
and passengers escaped to the shore, carrying with them a large number
of articles of value. A portion of the cargo appears to have been
landed, and, as was at the time believed, a large amount in gold coins,
the belief being subsequently strengthened by the statement of the
natives that they got a large sum of money and gave it to some white men
for blankets. Soon after the party landed the natives (the Narrinyeri
tribe) gathered round them and the Europeans indicated by signs and a
few English words which the natives appeared to understand, that they
wished to be conducted to the whaling settlement at Encounter Bay, about
120 miles distant. The blacks consented to show them the way, and the
whole party, which included several women and children from the wrecked
vessel, started off down the Coorong--a long, narrow, sheet of salt
water, running out of the lower part of Lake Alexandria towards the
south-east, and separated from the ocean by a peninsula of sand-hills
about two miles wide. The Europeans carried with them their most
portable articles of value. As they proceeded the number of Narrinyeri
greatly increased, and, as the sequel proved, although they appeared to
be very friendly, they entertained dark and bloody designs concerning
the helpless people--about 25 in all--who had committed themselves to
their charge. When they came to a spot on the Coorong parallel with the
head of Lake Albert, the natives began to make preparations for carrying
out their fiendish plot, the moving course of which was no doubt the
desire to possess themselves of the goods and clothing of the Europeans.
They told the whites that they must now cross the Coorong, and forthwith
they commenced to convey the party across in their canoes. Having
carried half the number over they told them to march on, and the
remainder were not brought over until the first portion had gone a
considerable distance. Then the natives quietly placed one of their
number behind each of the victims as they walked, and at a given signal
every one of them was knocked down with a heavy club, and then beaten
until dead. The murderers then stripped off their clothes and proceeded
to hide the bodies, thrusting some of them into wombat holes and
covering others with sand. Before being thus stricken down the poor
victims had trudged eighty weary miles from the scene of the wreck, each
day's march bringing them, as they thought nearer the spot where they
knew they would receive succour from their own countrymen.

News of the wreck and massacre having reach Encounter Bay word was sent
on to Adelaide and the Government at once dispatched a whale boat up the
Coorong to ascertain the truth. One of the Encounter Bay tribe
volunteered to show the party where some of the whites had been
murdered, and that spot having been reached a sickening sight presented

Scattered over the spot, partially covered with sand, lay legs, arms,
and other portions of several human bodies. These were shudderingly
collected, and when all had been gathered it was found that they were
the bodies of two men and three women, a little girl, two boys aged
about 15 and 10 years and a female infant. The body of one of the women
was almost denuded of flesh, except on the hands and feet, but on the
fingers of each of them there was the wedding ring, which spoke of days
of happiness and security in the past. Having removed the rings, the
mournful party gathered the whole of the remains and reverently buried
them on the spot, the task occupying them until late in the evening.

Continuing the voyage up the Coorong several natives were seen, with
whom communication could only be opened up with difficulty, as they
evaded the Europeans. Then it was discovered that others of the wrecked
people had been murdered along the route and many natives were seen with
portions of European clothing. Tracks also were seen in the mud,
indicating a struggling march, during which the children had been
carried occasionally by the elders in their efforts to reach a point of
safety. This search party then returned to Adelaide, under the
impression that some of the Europeans must have escaped; and the
Government sent out a strong body of troopers under Major O'Halloran to
make further investigation. Three days after starting they reached the
scene of the murders, and after much galloping succeeded in capturing
thirteen blackfellows, two lads and about fifty gins and children. On
almost all these natives they found odd articles of European clothing,
in some instances the garments being stained with blood. They also had
in their possession a silver watch and some silver spoons. The troopers
now had no doubt that they had found the actual murderers or their
companions, and they still continued to make captives, completely
routing the tribes, which was said to be the most ferocious and warlike
of the Murray tribes, and to number fully 800 fighting men. They also
noticed large numbers of fierce-looking natives on the outskirts of the
scrub, and all of them had articles of European's clothing in their
possession. At last they came to some native huts, and here they found
many articles of male and female attire which had literally been
drenched with blood. Here were also found newspapers and letters, the
leaves of a Bible, and a part of the log of the Maria. Aided by some of
the Encounter Bay natives who accompanied the expedition, Major
O'Halloran made enquiries among the captives as to the actual
perpetrators of the murders, and four fierce-looking wretches having
been pointed out they were at once pursued, two of them being captured
and two shot down during the pursuit. Major O'Halloran then determined
to show the natives that murder would not be allowed to be committed
with impunity and forming a court of justice on the spot the two
prisoners said to be the actual murderers were formally changed with the
crime, such evidence as was obtainable being produced against them.

A verdict of guilty was pronounced, and the two blacks, who could not
possibly have understood the proceedings were solemnly sentenced to
death by the Major, who held a commission from the Government with full
power to act. The two blacks were hanged next morning from the branches
of a tree near the spot where the remains of their victims had been
buried, the remainder of the captured tribe being compelled to witness
the execution. The bodies were left to hang suspended from the tree,
nude and ghastly witnesses of the power of British justice, until, under
the action of the weather, they fell to pieces. As soon as the act of
retributive justice had been performed the remainder of the tribe were
allowed to depart, which they did with great precipitancy.

On their return to the Coorong, the expedition discovered other bodies
of the murdered whites, and near the bodies several books. Some native
women near gave the party to understand that when the white people had
been separated the blacks rushed upon them, while some beat out their
brains with their nulla-nullahs. Having reverently buried the bodies
found here the party proceeded to scour the country, with the object of
discovering any of the whites who might have escaped massacre, but no
traces of any escapees could be found, and shortly afterwards the party
returned home.

The wisdom and legality of Major O'Halloran's action in hanging the two
natives was warmly discussed in the Adelaide papers, but Governor Gawler
supported it, and issued a Minute of Council vindicating the Commission.
The rings, watches, clothing, &c., that were brought back by the
expedition served to fully establish the identity of the unfortunate
men, women and children who had escaped from the merciless waves only to
fall beneath the clubs of more merciless savages.

There were twenty six persons all told in the ill-fated vessel, which
was on the return journey from Port Adelaide to Hobart when wrecked; and
not one of the unfortunates escaped.

Settler Greig--His Murderers and Avengers.

About the year 1826 a tribe on the Hunter River committed an atrocious
murder. A settler named Greig had located himself upon that river, and
business having called him to Sydney he left his cousin, the son of a
clergyman in Fife, to take charge of the place during his absence,
having as companion a convict servant lately arrived. The isolated
condition of the men thus left led the blacks to think of murder and
plunder, and it was not long before thought gave way to action.

They approached the place one day while the cousin referred to was
sitting upon a log stool, near the door of the hut, reading Burn's
Poems, and a tall, lame, villainous-looking member of the tribe named
Nullan-nullan (or the beater) crept behind him and dealt him a crushing
blow on the head with his club; plastering the walls and floor of the
hut with his brains. They then attacked the servant man, who had not
witnessed the assault upon his master, and having killed him, proceeded
to plunder the place. Two days elapsed before the murder was discovered.
Subsequently the blacks perpetrated another double murder at a stock hut
near their old haunts. They paid a visit to the hut, which was occupied
by three free men, to whom many of the blacks were known and while the
men were separated they felled two of them, the first victim being
clubbed while listening to one of the gins of the tribe endeavouring to
sing "Johnny stays long at the fair." The third man escaped to Richmond
and gave the alarm, and a party of constables and soldiers started in
pursuit of the murderers. Following the tracks from the scene of the
crime, they fell in with a number of blacks in a small valley. They
presented their pieces and called upon the blacks to surrender, upon
which they all jumped up and made for the woods, with the exception of
one old warrior, who brandished his spear and shouted "Come on, white
fellow--blackfellow no jirrand" (afraid). He was immediately shot down,
and chase being given to the others, a gin with a child on her shoulders
was signalled out for capture alive, in order that information as to the
actual perpetrators of the crime might be obtained. And here a striking
instance of parental affection was displayed. Although the woman must
have expected to be shot every moment, she ran on with her infant,
screaming to the father for help. At length, exhausted by her efforts,
she sank with her load in the soft marsh, and just then the infant's
father made his appearance on a brow of a hill near at hand, and rushed
forward, shouting loudly. On seeing succour near, the woman pushed the
child along towards its father, who encouraged it by clapping his hands
and cheering shouts to approach him; the picaninny then, as if aware of
the danger near, clambered up the face of the hill with amazing rapidity
and mounted its father's shoulders, when both vanished in the adjoining
bush. It afterwards turned out that the tribe the soldiers had chased
and routed were friendly blacks, and had not been concerned in outrage,
although those guilty of it had been with them for some time after the
deed had been done.


For several years proceeding 1837, when the work of interior settlement
was at its height, the explorers having opened the way for those
colonists with flocks and herds to locate themselves on the hitherto
unknown and unused pasture lands, massacres of blacks were very
frequent, and they began to fall in large numbers before the bullets of
the soldiers and settlers, and the poison of the invading army of white
men--for cases came to light in which stockmen and hut-keepers who were
desirous of ridding the stations of the presence of the black visitors,
had mixed strychnine or arsenic with the "damper" which they handed out
to the aborigines as food, and wholesale slaughter by poison was the

It was the duty of the Governor to report progress regularly to the Home
authorities, and as Governor Bourke was not the sort of man to hide any
recorded acts of cruelty, the Home Office was duly apprised of the
attacks made by either party upon the other. In 1837, the British
Government forwarded a dispatch to Governor Bourke which indicated that
the authorities at Home did not agree with the too speedy demolition of
the aborigines that was going on, and which contained instructions that
the blacks must not be regarded as aliens, but as subjects of the Queen
and within Her Majesty's allegiance. The Governor was further instructed
to cause an inquest to be held when any of the natives met death at the
hands of the soldiers, such a proceeding being important, not only as a
direct protection to society at large as against lawless outrage, but as
it impresses on the public a just estimate of the value of human life.

Two months after the receipt of this dispatch a case of blacks being
killed by the police was reported, and a meeting of the executive
Council was held, at which Governor Gipps (who had succeeded Bourke)
produced the official report of the occurrence. The Council formally
heard the case and then decided that all such inquests should in future
be held before the police magistrate and ordinary bench of justices in
the district in which the death occurred.

The particulars of one case of slaughter by the police (for such it
really was) furnished at the time of the inquiry, may be summarised as

Mr. Patterson, Commissioner for Crown Lands in the Liverpool Plains
district officially reported in December 1837 that a number of outrages
had been committed on stock stations in the district, many sheep and
cattle having been killed and four convict stockmen murdered--two of Mr.
Bowman's, about 60 miles from the Namoi River. In fact, the natives were
so numerous and had become so daring that the men had all quitted Sir
John Jamison's and Mr. Loder's stations through fear of their lives. Mr.
Patterson partly attributed the boldness of the natives to their having
been barbered at the stations, but through the main course was the
presence of three white men (escaped convicts, probably) in the tribe,
who incited the blacks to commit the outrages. The black boy who traced
the marauders after the murder declared that there were three white men
with them painted like blacks, and he led the pursuers to a hut in the
mountains which had evidently been erected by Europeans, the wall-plates
having been morticed, the bark put on with green-hide, the door hung
with green-hide hinges, and berths for sleeping in erected.

Major Nunn was at once ordered by the acting Governor to proceed from
Sydney to Liverpool Plains with a strong body of mounted Police, his
instructions being:--

"You must lose no time in proceeding; you are to act according to your
own judgment, and use your utmost exertion to suppress these outrages.
There are a 1000 blacks there, and if they are not stopped we may have
them presently within the boundaries."

And Major Nunn did not lose any time, and did not forget his own
judgment and "utmost exertion." The result was: With his party he routed
the blacks and left dead bodies on the Plains--how many will never be
known. The slaughter of the natives on that occasion appears to have
been so abnormally large that an inquiry was deemed necessary, but that
inquiry was not held until April, 1839--more than 12 months after the
occurrence--and then only upon a demand of the British Government
through Lord Glenelg. The only witnesses called to give evidence were
Major Nunn and two of his subordinates, although his attacking party
consists of twenty-three troopers and a large number of stockmen from
the stations in the district. As the three witnesses were directly
concerned in the bloody work it was not to be expected that they would
give evidence to criminate themselves, but they said sufficient to shew
that a very large number of blacks fell before the bullets of the
attacking party.

Reaching the Namoi the party ascertained that the blacks were encamped
on its banks and determined to make a night surprise. Dividing, one
section crossed the river to prevent escape should the enemy swim the
stream when attacked, and the larger body proceeded quietly until the
whole camp had been surrounded. Then a rush was made, but the natives
could not make fight, for the troopers had taken care to get between
them and their weapons, which were stacked near a convenient tree,
although one of them who had retained a spear threw it and wounded one
of the troopers. This was the signal for wholesale slaughter. One of the
witnesses declared to the court:--

"The firing was then taken up by the rest of the men, and continued for
some time; the blacks fled from their camp and we pursued them; they
were overtaken in about an hour, when some more were shot; Mr. Cobban
was with the party when the last were shot. Major Nunn was not with us
at the time; I did not see him until I returned to the place where
Hannan was wounded; the confusion was so great and the scrub so thick
that I had enough to do to take care of myself and horse and I could not
see all that was done. It was impossible for the party to act in a body;
every man had in fact to act for himself; the men had to spread out so,
that it was impossible for any man to put a stop to the firing at once.
From what I saw myself, I should say that from 40 or 50 blacks were
killed when the second firing took place. There was no remission of the
pursuit from the time the firing commenced until it ceased altogether.
We followed them about a mile and a half from where it began." The
probability is that more than twice the fifty seen by this witness fell
before the carnage ceased.

When the depositions were sent to the Attorney-General (Mr. J. H.
Plunkett), that gentleman declined to pronounce definitely on the case,
and said it rested with the Executive Council to advise his Excellency
as to whether any further proceedings should be taken in the case; but
he expressed himself very strongly concerning the delay which had taken
place in the holding of the inquiry, and upon the fact that only four
witnesses had been examined (and they the principals), when there were
so many persons engaged in the slaughter.

Subsequently the Executive Council held a meeting, and among other
things reported and advised as follows:--

"Having given the most attentive and impartial consideration to the
entire question under every aspect in which they conceive it can
possibly be regarded, the Council are now enabled to advise his
Excellency that there are not sufficient grounds for preferring a charge
of wilful misconduct against any of the parties engaged against the
natives in this lamentable casualty; and that accordingly all
proceedings connected with it should now be allowed to terminate."

His Excellency made the report and advised the authorities in Downing
Street as desired, and in December, 1839, he received a despatch from
Lord John Russel deploring the occurrence, and voicing the sentiments of
the British Government in the manner following:--

"You cannot overrate the solicitude of Her Majesty's Government on the
subject of the aborigines of New Holland. It is impossible to overrate
the conditions and prospects of that unfortunate race without the
deepest commiseration. I am well aware of the many difficulties which
oppose themselves to the effectual protection of these people, and
especially those which must originate from the exasperation of the
settlers, on account of aggressions on their property, which are not
less irritating because they are nothing else but the natural results of
the pernicious examples set to the aborigines, and of the many wrongs of
which they have been the victims. Still it is impossible that the
Government should forget that the original aggression was our own; and
that we have never yet performed the sacred duty of making any
systematic or considerable attempt to impart to the former occupiers of
New South Wales the blessings of Christianity, or the knowledge of the
arts and advantages of civilized life. It is, I know, superfluous to
stimulate your zeal in this service; yet I cannot be satisfied to quit
the subject without commending it to your renewed attention. I am
convinced that you may confidently reckon on the advice and cooperation
of the ministers of religion of every Christian denomination; and you
may calculate with the utmost confidence on the cordial support of the
Ministers of the Crown in every well-directed effort for securing to the
aboriginal race of New Holland protection against injustice, and the
enjoyment of every social advantage which our superior wealth and
knowledge at once confer on us the power, and impose on us the duty, of
imparting to them. For this purpose you will use every effort to afford
instruction to their children and young men; and you will seek out
persons whose humanity leads them to be kind to the native races; and
you will take means to reward the missionaries who may engage in this
good work."

Apart from the actual killing we see how stern was this act of
retribution of the white man, inasmuch as the tribes were deprived, not
only of many of their men (and perhaps a few gins and picaninnies), but
of their "spears and other weapons of warfare," which also happened to
be the "only means whereby they could obtain a sufficiency of food"; so
that those who were left had to fight a relentless foe after the white
foe with rifles had left them--that foe being hunger!

Sir George Gipps replied that the instructions given would be carried
out, and closed his letter by saying that the blacks in the north and
south were becoming exceedingly, troublesome. To the north, and in the
neighbourhood of Major Nunn's late operations, a man in charge of
Fitzgerald's cattle station had been barbarously murdered, and also two
other men belonging to a surveying party under Mr. Finch. In the south a
large convoy of sheep and cattle belonging to Mr. Faithful had been
attacked on their way to Port Phillip, and eight men killed out of the
eighteen who formed the droving party.

In September of the same year the first Board for the "Protectors of the
Aborigines" were appointed, and their duties were thus set forth in a
Government order:--

(1) "To cultivate at all times an amicable intercourse with the natives,
to assist them in procuring redress for any wrong to which they may have
been subjected, and particularly to prevent any interference on the part
of white men with their women.

(2) "To make known to the natives the penalties to which they will
become liable by any act of aggression upon the persons or property of
the colonists; endeavour to induce the chiefs in their respective
districts to make themselves responsible for the good conduct of their
tribes; use every means in their power to acquire such personal
acquaintance with individuals, and influence of them, as may ensure
either the suppression of aggression or the immediate surrender of the
guilty parties; and in the latter case to take such steps as may appear
to them necessary." The new officials doubtless performed their duties
to the best of their ability, but still the work of decimation went
steadily on.


The massacre of the 28 aborigines at Mr. Dangar's station, on the Myall
Creek, some 350 miles from Sydney, was one of the most horrible deeds of
blood that has ever been recorded. The first account of the affair
reached Sydney about the end of June, 1838, and Governor Gipps
immediately dispatched a Magistrate and a party of mounted police in
search of the murderers, and they succeeded in arresting 11 out of the
12 whites who were known to have been concerned in the massacre.

It appears that there were several stations on the Big River, besides
Mr. Dangar's and for some time a party of about 50 blacks, of all ages,
had been living between the stations in a perfect tranquility, being
very peaceable and honest. They mostly camped near Mr. Dangar's station.
On the afternoon of Sunday the 10th June, however, a number of white
men, assigned convict servants, living on the stations, met together and
surrounded the place where more than 30 of the blacks were camped. They
tied the whole of the blacks to a rope, and marched them to a convenient
spot, about a quarter of a mile distant, where they deliberately put
them all to death, with the exception of one woman and four or five
children. The following day the blood-thirsty crew scoured the country
for more "game," knowing that the remainder of the tribe, some ten or
twelve, were still in the bush. These blacks were never afterwards heard
of, and it was concluded that they also had been captured and put to

When the troopers reached the scene of the murder some few scattered
bones only were visible, great pains having been taken to destroy the
whole remains of the slaughtered blacks by fire; but undeniable evidence
was procured by more than 20 human heads having been counted on the spot
a few days after the massacres, and the conviction was forced upon the
authorities that no less than 28 blacks, of all ages and both sexes, had
been killed. The eleven men who were arrested, were, or had been
convicts, were named Charles Kilmeister, William Hawkins, John
Johnstone, Charles Tolouse, James Lamb, Edward Foley, James Parry, James
Oates, George Palliser, John Russel and John Blake. The twelfth man, who
escaped, was a native of the colony named John Fleming.

The following extracts from portions of the evidence given at the trial
will serve to show what a cold-blooded affair this was. The men were
first indicted for the murder of one of the blacks, named "Daddy," as it
was understood his body had been identified amongst the slain.

William Hopps, superintendent for Mr. Dangar at Peel River and the Big
River, deposed that he was superintending at the Myall station at the
time of this occurrence, but on 7th June had gone to another station
lower down the river, leaving Kilmeister and Anderson in charge. When he
left there were forty or fifty blacks at the station, including about
twenty women and young children. They had been at his station several
times and were very quiet, otherwise he would not have allowed them to
remain. When he returned Kilmeister was absent, but he appeared shortly
afterwards, and he then asked him where the blacks had gone, to which
Kilmeister replied he did not know. Witness told him he had heard they
were murdered, but Kilmeister said he knew nothing about it, and had no
hand in it. Next day witness went with the station black boy to a spot
half a mile distant, and there saw tracks of horses, and between them
tracks of natives' naked feet. What else he saw he thus described:--

"These tracks led to where I found a number of dead bodies lying. There
were a great number of bodies, but the stench was so great that I could
not count them accurately, although I endeavoured to do so. I made more
sometimes than at others; the most I made was 28 with the heads and
frames. Some of the sculls had been burnt, but the frames remained to
show what they had been; I can swear there were the remains of above 20
human beings. I saw some bodies with flesh remaining; they were terribly
disfigured; I could not tell how many. I knew "Daddy," the blackfellow,
very well; he was an elderly man, very large--the largest man I ever saw
in my life, black or white. I saw a large body there, but it had no head
on; from the size I should imagine it was his. "Daddy" was at the
station with the other blacks when I left. I saw the children's heads
quite distinct--from ten to twelve small heads that I took to be the
children's, also some of their bodies; some of the bodies were so
disfigured that I could not swear whether they were male or female. I am
perfectly satisfied the large body was that of "Daddy"; it was on its
back, the head off, but the breast remaining. I saw several heads with
the flesh on, but knew none of the features. I saw male heads with the
hair not scorched, and these could be distinguished; the heads must have
been taken off, or cut off, by what means I cannot say; I should say not
burnt off, as they were not lying convenient to the bodies. On the
morning of the 16th Mr. Foster went with me; I tracked the feet of
horses from Ruderson's hut 100 yards up to the spot where the fire was,
and the tracks are to be seen to this day. The fire covered a space half
as large as the enclosed part of the court; there were the remains of a
large log which had been set fire to and gone out; I saw several places
all round where the ground had been stained with blood. I endeavored to
ascertain the number of children's skulls, but the stench would not
allow me to do it correctly; I cannot say I saw any difference in the
place when I went with Mr. Foster, but the parts of the bodies were more
scattered; the native dogs would lessen the remains every hour; there
were a great many birds of prey at the bodies--eagles, hawks, and crows.
When I went back the second day after parting with Foster I spoke to
Kilmeister on the subject; I told him I thought it a cruel thing for him
to sanction the murder of these people, as he appeared to be on such
friendly terms with them when I left; I told him that it was entirely
through him the blacks were allowed to come to the station at all; he
was a confidential servant, and it was through his suggestions that they
had been allowed to come; I told him I considered it my duty to report
it to the Government. He said he hoped I would not--not that he had
anything to do with it, but as he had been a long time with us it would
cause him to be removed and sent in to Government. He appeared very
uneasy about it, and begged me not to report it; I told him I would
certainly report it to Mr. Dangar, and wrote a letter to that effect.
When I had written the letter I sent my servant to bring the men down
from the hut, to tell them what I had stated; Kilmeister, Burrows and
Anderson came down; I read the letter to Kilmeister, and he appeared to
be very uneasy about it, and said, "I hope for the Lord Jesus Christ's
sake you do not report this;" he kept on saying that. He said while I
was down the river these blacks had been out spearing his cattle. He did
not tell me this at first; when I returned I said--"Now, you have told
me that the blacks had speared the cattle, and that there were some on
the run with spears in them, you will go with me and show me those
cattle;" this was about the 20th of the month; I was out on the run four
or five days with Kilmeister, but I saw no signs of the cattle having
been disturbed; I was not satisfied that he was telling me the truth,
and I then told him I should certainly report it, as he had been telling
me this to prevent me doing so. At this time I had satisfied myself that
there were no cattle speared. Kilmeister had brought the blacks to the
station contrary to my orders. They conducted themselves quietly and
were not offensive in any way that I saw; I had a good deal of
conversation with Kilmeister at different times as to the cruelty of the
murder and the manner they left their remains, and Kilmeister said,
"That was too bad; if you like I will go and bury their remains"; I told
him as he had stated he had nothing to do with it, it would do him a
great injury in going to the place, as I was certain there would be an
inquiry into the matter, and it would come out in evidence that he meant
to conceal these remains, to prevent the parties from being brought to
justice. He always denied to me that he had anything to do with it, and
I always thought him innocent, until I heard the evidence of the
witnesses, he being so familiar with the blacks; not a day he returned
from his run that he was not dancing, laughing, joking, and playing with
these blacks; he used to get the children to dance and the women to
sing, I have never seen any of the forty blacks alive since. I forwarded
my communication to Mr. Day, the Police Magistrate at Muswellbrook, and
he came there in July or the beginning of August to investigate the

Police Magistrate Day deposed that when he went to the spot with Hobbs
there was a spot 14 yards in circumference where a fire had been
kindled. There were a number of small fragments of bones. The place
appeared as if it had been swept, the large cinders having been removed.
He found some fragments of bodies, and produced some teeth, the ribs of
a young child, and a human jawbone.

How the wholesale murder had been arranged and carried out was told by
George Anderson, assigned servant of the station. Here is his story:--

"When Mr. Hobbs left the station there were some native blacks there; I
will not swear there were not 40. Some men came on the Saturday, about
ten of them, with muskets, swords and pistols; they were all armed; I
was sitting with Kilmeister, the storekeeper, in the hut when they came;
they came up galloping, with guns and pistols pointing to the hut. They
were talking to Kilmeister outside, and I did not attend to what they
said; I know Russell, Tolouse, Foley, Johnstone, Hawkins, Kilmeister,
Palliser, Lamb, and Oates; Blake and Parry I do not know; I never saw
any of them before except Kilmeister. The blacks were all camped ready
for the night, not more than twenty yards from the hut; this was about
an hour and half before sundown. There were plenty of women and children
amongst them. The blacks when they saw the men coming ran into our huts,
and the men then, all of them, got off their horses; and Russell had a
rope for tethering a horse in the field and began to undo it while the
blacks were in the hut; while he was undoing it I asked what they were
going to do with the blacks, and Russell said, "We are going to take
them over the range to frighten them." Russell and some one or two then
went into the hut; I remained outside, and heard the crying of the
blacks to Kilmeister and me for assistance; they were moaning the same
as a mother and children would cry. There were small things that could
not walk; there were a good many small boys and girls. After they were
tied I saw Russell bring the end of the rope out they were tied with,
and give it to one of the men on the horses. The party then went away
with the blacks; the man that took the rope from Russell went in front
and the others behind; all the blacks were tied together, and this rope
tied them all fast. They brought out the whole except two, who made
their escape as the men were coming up; they were two little boys, and
they jumped into a dry creek close to the hut. One black gin was left
with me in the hut because she was very good-looking, they said; another
black gin was left with Davy, the blackfellow, who was with me. There
was a little child at the back of the hut when they were tying this
party, and when they were going away this little child, I thought, was
going to follow its mother, when I took hold of it in the hut and
stopped it from going. There was an old man named Daddy, the oldest of
the lot; he was an old, big, tall man; this Daddy and another old man
named Joey they never tied along with the rest; they were crying and did
not want to go, but made no resistance. Some of the children were not
tied; others were; they followed those that were tied; the small ones,
two or three, were not able to walk, and the women carried them on their
backs in opossum skins; they were crying, in and out of the hut, till
they got out of my hearing. They went up towards the west, the road way.
Kilmeister got his horse ready after he had been talking to them, and
just before they were going to start; he went with them and took the
pistols with him; he was talking to them five or ten minutes; I did not
take notice what he said, I was frightened; Foley had a pistol in his
hand, standing at the door while the blacks were inside; I did not take
any notice of swords at first, but while they were galloping away I saw
swords and pistols. About a quarter of an hour after they had left I
heard shots fired. Just before sundown the next night the men came down
to the hut, and Kilmeister came in about twenty minutes after them. They
all stopped that night and were talking, but I cannot recollect what was
said. Next morning after breakfast three of them took firesticks out of
the hut, and all except Foley went in the direction of where they had
taken the blacks. Kilmeister took the leg-rope from the cow-yard with
him. During their absence I asked Foley if any of the blacks had made
their escape, and he said none that he saw--that all were killed except
one black gin. He was left at the hut to guard the firearms; I counted
fifteen pistols, besides two swords and muskets. Foley pulled one of the
swords out of the case and showed it to me; it was all over blood. In
about an hour the other men came back to the hut. I saw smoke in the
direction they went with the firesticks soon after they left. When they
came back they got up on their horses, and Fleming told Kilmeister to go
up by-and-bye and put the logs of wood together, and be sure that all
was consumed. Kilmeister, directly after the party left the station,
went in the direction and brought back the horse he had left behind.
During that morning and the middle of the day Kilmeister was away again,
and I saw the smoke pretty well all day. When the police came Kilmeister
said "For God's sake mind what you say, and not to say I went with them,
but in a quarter of an hour after them." I told Hobbs they had taken the
blacks away and I could not help it."

The jury acquitted the prisoners on the ground that the evidence was not
conclusive as to the identity of Daddy; and they were then placed upon
their trial for the murder of a particular child. The story as told to
the court was a most pitiful one. The child was a fine boy of seven
years of age, and being a great favourite with one of the stockmen was
not tied to the rope with the others, although he followed his people
who were being led to slaughter, sobbing as he realized that some
terrible thing was about to happen. The stockman who had formed a sort
of attachment for the little fellow, even while his heart was filled
with murderous intent, ceased for a moment from the work of driving the
helpless victims to the scene of slaughter, and snatching the boy up
placed him behind a tree, telling him to remain there until he return
for him. "No!" cried the little black, true to the instinct of nature,
"I will go with my mammie!" and running forward he rejoined the line of
weeping captives, and with his "mammie" perished.

Seven of the prisoners were convicted under this indictment--Kilmeister,
Oates, Foley, Parry, Russell, Hawkins and Johnstone, and they were all
hanged in Sydney on December 18th, 1838. When in goal awaiting execution
they all admitted that they were guilty, but protested that, according
to the gaoler's report, they were not aware that in destroying the
aboriginals they were violating the law, or that it could take
cognizance of their having done so, as it had (according to their
belief) been so frequently done in the colony before.

The master of the men, and other squatters, contributed liberally for
their defence at the trial, three of the principal barristers in the
colony being engaged for that purpose. This proceeding was, no doubt,
regular and defensible, but they did not stop there. Evidently they
thought with their stockmen, that the law had no right to count the life
of a blackfellow, or the lives of any number of blackfellows of any
value, and looked upon the prosecution as a cruel thing. One of the
masters, an extensive stock holder and magistrate, visited the prisoners
in the goal previous to the trial and harangued them, telling them, "not
to fear; that they were in no danger if they were but true to one
another,"--a term which they fully understood. It is satisfactory to
know that this gentleman's name was subsequently removed from the
commission of the peace--his zealous interference in this case being the

There is no doubt that the example thus set and the stern warning thus
given had some effect in checking the disposition for indiscriminate
slaughter of the blacks on the part of the Europeans--both "superiors"
and "subalterns"; but the unfortunate natives were "put away,"
nevertheless, and every year their numbers grew less, despite the
efforts which the authorities now considered obligatory to put forth for
their protection. The press of the day--whose chief supporters were the
stock-owners--railed against the Attorney-General for putting the men to
trial a second time for what was virtually the one offence, and at the
same time denounced the orders issued by Sir George Gipps for the just
and human treatment of the blacks as "drawling philanthropy and mawkish
sentimentality." But the advocates of ruthless and indiscriminate
slaughter were fully answered by voice and pen by Judge Therry, who had
a good grip of the position and knew the lengths to which many
stock-owners and their convict servants would go.

"It has not fallen to my lot to try many of the aborigines; but one
singular case of that class did come before me at Brisbane on the
Moreton Bay Circuit, in which the criminal (subsequently executed) was a
man of most savage ferocity, his crime of the deepest dye, yet whose
intelligence betrayed a sad and pitiful inferiority to the European
mind. He was the largest man I ever looked upon. In truth, he was a
giant, and so formidable was his ferocious strength that the sheriff was
obliged to bring him from his cell in the goal with his hands tied with
ropes, and in that state he was placed in the dock. His very able
counsel, Mr. Faucett, remonstrated against his trial being proceeded
with in this manacled condition. I yielded to the objection and directed
him to be released from the ropes that bound him. On the assurance,
however, of the sheriff and the small force of six constables in
attendance on the court that if he was loose from his bonds he would
perpetrate an outbreak which their united strength could not restrain,
the objection was withdrawn; an arrangement was made to guard against
the apprehended outbreak, and the dreaded exercise of his gigantic
strength, and the trial proceeded. The evidence against him was
irresistibly strong. He was the ringleader of a party of blacks who had
murdered three persons, the family of a respectable settler named
Gregson. The object of these murders was merely to obtain possession of
some bags of sugar and such provisions as settlers keep in their stores.
The prisoner spoke English and understood it better than they usually
do. He had been domesticated for several months on the stations of the
settlers. The treacherous murders he perpetrated were the less excusable
as the family that he and his party destroyed had been signally kind to
him. Yet in the course of the trial it was very distressing to notice
the indications of marked inferiority of mind that his whole conduct
evinced. He beckoned in the middle of the trial to a settler whom he
recognised in court, and said he wanted to speak to him. On approaching
the dock the prisoner whispered to the settler in a tone sufficiently
loud, however, to be heard by me, "he would row me down to Sydney for
nothing"--a distance of about 700 miles of the Pacific Ocean."

It was not always, however, that aboriginal criminals behaved in the
dock as did the man referred to by Judge Therry. They were not always
"civilised" sufficiently to speak English or understand it when it was
spoken, and certainly not sufficiently to understand the law of
civilisation which they had broken, and which was so contrary to their
own unwritten code, the highest morality of which consisted in
extracting an eye for an eye, exacting a life for a life, or proving
that the strongest, stealthiest and most nimble had a right to do
whatever he pleased in every case. I once witnessed (it was in the
"sixties") a pitiable sight in the Criminal Court in Bathurst. An
aboriginal, similar in stature and ferocity to the one referred to by
the learned judge just quoted, was brought into court guarded by six
policemen, to stand his trial for the murder of one of his own tribe in
the far distant country on the borders of Queensland.

He had been arrested hundreds of miles from the scene of his trial and
had been brought those hundreds of miles under strong escort, tied on
the back of a horse. Never shall I forget the appearance of this poor
wild child of nature as, with unkempt hair, scanty clothing and bare
feet, he was jostled into the dock. His eyes gleamed like coals of fire,
and rolled with motion as rapid as would balls of quicksilver in an
unsteady glass, never resting a moment as he cast fierce glances, half
of terror, half of defiance, upon his strange surroundings. He could not
speak a word of English, but as his captor stated that he believed he
could understand a little of what was said to him, his trial proceeded
to conviction, and sentence of death was pronounced, although that
sentence was not carried into effect. It was one of the saddest scenes
in a terrible tragedy was this formal trial of a creature who was no
more responsible for his actions than a confirmed lunatic. I have not
the inclination to pursue the subject further. The reader may, if he so
desire, indulge in mental speculation concerning proprieties and rights
in cases such as this, where Christian laws and savage customs do not
and cannot harmonise.


Let me mention other cases in which no plea of right or propriety could
be urged as justification.

Not only before the bullets of the white man did the aborigines fall;
for there are among the old official records, several reports concerning
the wilful poisoning of whole camps, by men on the stations to which
they had resorted for the purpose of obtaining provisions. Flour was the
article of food most prized by them, and it was considered an easy
method of getting rid of troublesome beggars--to mix a quantity of
arsenic with the flour handed to them.

Towards the end of 1842, two cases of wholesale poisoning were
reported--one from the Port Phillip district, and the other from Moreton
Bay; but in neither case did the authorities succeed in discovering the
perpetrators of the crime, although they appear to have put forth some
little effort in that direction.

The following letters will show all that was done in the case first

(Letter from Dr. Watton, officer in charge of Mount Rouse aboriginal
establishment, to the Chief Protector, in Melbourne).

"Koloe, Dec. 10th, 1842.

"Sir,--I have the honour of reporting to you that our bullock driver, on
his return from Port Fairy, mentioned that a considerable number of
aborigines had been poisoned at the station of Dr. Kilgour. Mr. French,
with whom I communicated on the subject, advised that some inquiry
should be immediately instituted, and I therefore proceeded to the
station for that purpose. I found that the circumstance was said to have
occurred about six weeks ago, and that all the men then on the station
had left; but from the report of the men now there, and also from some
of the natives at Port Fairy, it appears that the then overseer, Mr.
Robinson (now in Melbourne), had sent away into the bush to some
natives, by a man of the name of John Lyons (known by the name of
Forkey, now also supposed to be in Melbourne), a quantity of what was
supposed to be flour. Of this they partook, and were immediately seized
with burning pains in the throat, excruciating pains in the stomach,
vomiting, sinking of the abdomen and intense thirst (which are the
symptoms usually produced by arsenic); and on the following morning
three men, three women, and three children were dead. I cannot find that
they were seen by any white person, as the bodies were immediately
buried. Two men, Irishmen, known as Paddy and Jack, but whose names I
cannot discover, were on the station at the time, and are supposed to be
now in Melbourne or the neighbourhood, and who could, doubtless, give
some information on the subject. I also find that a few months ago, Mr.
Robinson received from Port Fairy, two pounds of arsenic, of which one
pound and a half only was made over to Mr. Chamberlaine, now managing
the station. The woman who took a small portion of the compound is still
very ill from the effects, and I have directed that she be brought by
the dray to Mount Rose.

I have, etc.,


(Letter from the Chief Protector to the Superintendent at Port Phillip).

"Chief Protector's office, Melbourne, Feb. 20th, 1843.

"Sir,--I beg to acquaint you that the papers on the supposed poisoning
case, at Dr. Kilgour's, western district, have been found so very
unsatisfactory as to render in necessary to refer to Dr. Watton for
definite information. At present there is no evidence to prove that a
homicide had been committed. Every endeavour has been made by the police
magistrate, at Melbourne, and by this department, to find two men,
designated in Dr. Watton's communication as Paddy and Jack, and who were
said to belong to the station at the time of the transaction. It is
probable had their real names been given, these two might have been met
with; yet it is doubtful how far they could furnish evidence relating to
this matter. Robinson, a resident of Melbourne, is forthcoming when
required; but at present, in the opinion of the magistrates, there is no
evidence against him.


Subsequently, Mr. La Trobe reported to the Governor that every attempt
to bring the crime home to the parties who perpetrated it had proved
ineffectual, and that, although there might be strong grounds for
suspicion that such a deed had been committed, and that certain known
parties in the district were the perpetrators, it seemed impossible to
obtain any legal proof to bear on one point or the other. And this was
the end of it. The ashes of the bodies of the natives were scattered by
the winds, and the "certain known parties" were free to mix more arsenic
with more flour, and thus get rid of more blacks.

Thus the process of "civilisation" went on. The blacks who were still
alive saw the district over which Mr. La Trobe had control emerge into a
colony, thickly populated by Europeans whose numbers increased with more
rapid strides than even the numbers of blacks decreased; for the work of
decimation was vigorously carried on, until all that remained of the
once numerous race were a few restless members in Protectorate reserves
and a few drink-sodden habitues of the country hotel yard or hangers-on
at remote cattle stations.

The case reported from Moreton Bay was apparently surrounded by similar
difficulties, so far as tracing the poisoning was concerned. The German
missionaries at Moreton Bay first report the occurrence, boldly stating
that between 50 and 60 natives of the Gigabarah tribe had been poisoned
on one of the squatter's stations, and that the neighbouring tribes had
determined to kill the whites when they met with any of them. They
appeared to have received their information from some friendly blacks,
who had been serving as guides for them on an exploring expedition, but
who refused to proceed further in a certain direction because the tribe
to which the poisoned blacks belonged were so incensed. The Governor
tried to obtain more definite information on the subject, and a letter
was sent to the Commissioner of Crown Lands, at Moreton Bay, instructing
him to make inquiries. This gentleman interviewed the chief German
missionary, Mr. Schmidt, and gave it as his impression that the
missionaries were disinclined to state the whole of the facts in their
possession, from fear of offending the squatters generally. The
Commissioner subsequently made inquiries from the blacks when on an
exploring expedition, and gave the results in a letter to the Colonial
Secretary, thus:--

"A report of the kind certainly exists among the tribes I fell in with,
namely, the Dallambarah and Coccombraral tribes, but as neither of them
were present at the time, they could give me no circumstantial
information whatever on the subject. The Giggabarah tribe, the one said
to have suffered, I was unable to meet with. Upon inquiry at the
stations to the north, I could learn nothing further than that they had
been using arsenic very extensively for the cure of the scab, in which
operation sheep are occasionally destroyed by some of the fluid getting
down their throats; and as the men employed frequently neglect to bury
the carcases, it is very possible that the aborigines may have devoured
them, particularly the entrails, which they are very fond of, and that
hence some accident of the kind alluded to may have occurred without
their knowledge."

Two or three cases of murder by poisoning, though on a smaller scale,
were known to have occurred in the western districts of New South Wales
about the same time, but none of the principals in the diabolical work
were ever brought to justice. In one case the men made a large damper,
using a liberal sprinkling of arsenic in place of salt, and then made a
present of the damper to the blacks, who devoured it greedily. It was
the last meal to which they ever sat down, and shortly afterwards there
was a "burning off" of dead blackfellows on that run.

One case of poisoning in New South Wales is on record which certainly
presents features less repulsive than others, the prisoners being two
men in dire extremity, from which no other means of escape seemed open.
The narrator was "J.C.W." who certainly did not lavish affection on the
aborigines, and he told his story in the following words:--

"It was early in the thirties. I was on a large station where operations
were somewhat confined owing to the great increase of stock, and it was
deemed advisable to form a new cattle-station. The locality decided upon
was at a place called "Gangat," the name of a mountain range between
Gloucester and the Manning Fiver. A large mob of cattle was dispatched
to the locality, a rough stockyard and a hut for the men erected, and
with the assistance of the drovers the cattle were tailed and duly
bedded down. When the mob was perfectly accustomed to their new quarters
the drovers returned to head-quarters, and the station was left in
charge of two men, both convicts, but who had been selected on account
of being steady and trustworthy. Their names were Bill Taylor and Jack
McGrath. Taylor was a taxidermist, and very fond of making collections
of birds, animals and snakes, the skins of which were cured with
arsenical soap. White women were scarce in those days, and these men
took as help mates a couple of black gins from a tribe belonging to the
head-quarters they started from. The aborigines or native blacks were
very troublesome in those days, especially in the vicinity of Cape
Hawke, not far from the Manning River entrance, and being aware that a
supply of rations had been recently brought to Gangat, and that there
were only two men in charge, they decided to stick the station up and
help themselves. One or two of the Cape Hawke blacks were in the habit
of visiting the station occasionally on their marauding excursions, and
unwittingly, apparently, made the gins acquainted with their designs,
probably in the hope of satisfying them in the event of success. The
gins were honest enough to apprise their mates of the threatened danger,
and suitable precautions were adopted. Slits were cut in the slab walls
so that guns could be protruded to cover the approach of their
assailants. Everything useful and portable was brought into the humpy
and doors and windows barricaded. On the morning of the attack two
blacks came to the hut as usual and were at once ordered to leave and
keep away or they would be fired upon. The day wore on and towards the
afternoon a mob of blacks numbering from 50 to 60 came down to the
station, fully armed for hostilities with spears, boomerangs and
nulla-nullas, and demanded grub. These also were cautioned to keep off
under penalty of being fired upon, and seeing the muzzles of two guns
sticking out of a slit in a slab in front of them, they retired a few
yards off, made their fires and camped for the night. Their intention
evidently was to attack the station as soon as it was dark, and probably
set the hut on fire and murder the men.

"Taylor and McGrath were in a serious fix. Miles from any help, their
horses in the bush unavailable for flight, they felt that with the
approach of night their doom was sealed, and to make matters worse, on
examination they found they had only a couple of charges of powder.
Taylor fortunately had a good supply of arsenical soap, so the men went
to work and made up a lot of Johnny cakes, well mixing the dough up with
the soap; and in the evening they opened the door of the hut and pitched
out the cakes, and drew the attention of the blacks to the grub supplied
for their gratification. There was a regular scramble for the cakes,
while the door was closed and the inmates awaited the result. The effect
of the arsenic soon told upon the blacks, many of whom rushed to the
water and drank to repletion to allay the burning inside. Some of the
most gluttonous dropped dead, and such a scare was produced upon the
tribe that they bolted, being perfectly satisfied that the grub they had
so daringly demanded was not exactly the kind of grub they desired.

"This, I believe, was the first act of poisoning the native cannibals in
the colony, and I don't believe there are many of the present generation
who will blame Taylor and McGrath for their action in self defence. The
men next morning left for head-quarters, and the cattle were scattered
in every direction, causing a heavy loss to the company. Many took to
the scrubs about Bundobah and Boolaydeelah, and the destruction of the
bulls years after afforded many a day's sport to crack pistol shot from

One more case only, out of scores of others I could give, to shew how
small a value was placed upon aboriginal life in the remoter regions of
Australia. It happened not so many years ago in the Northern territory.
A man named Spencer was engaged in buffalo hunting in the neighbourhood
of Port Essington, and had in his employ several natives, including one
named Manialucum. After a time Manialucum ran away, and subsequently
some bags of rice were missing from the camp, the theft of which was
attributed to the absent blackfellow. Months elapsed, but the loss of
the rice was not forgotten, and when a considerable time afterwards and
in a another locality Manialucum joined the camp again, Spencer seems to
have remembered his grievance against him. The black used to stay in the
camp with the other aboriginals only at night, and run into the bush
during the day time, as if he feared ill-treatment. When Spencer learned
that he had been there he told the other blackfellows to catch him,
threatening if they did not they would be shot, the whole of them.
Accordingly, when Manialucum came into camp in the evening, and after
smoking a pipe rose to depart, the others held him, and called out for
Spencer. What happened then is told by one of the assisting
aborigines:--"Spencer was about 100 yards away when he called and sang
out, 'Hold him, my boy.' He then ran up, caught hold of deceased by the
hair of the head, put his revolver to his head and fired, saying 'Good
by, old man.' When he was shot deceased fell, and never moved again.
After he had fallen down Spencer shot him through the back, saying, 'He
will steal no more rice.'" These facts having later on come to the ears
of the authorities, Spencer was placed upon his trial, convicted and
sentenced to death.

The defence of the prisoner was that he went in fear of his life from
the deceased, and if he had not shot the black, the black would have
killed him; but this hypothesis was not supported by evidence, and was
discredited by the judge. The jury, under judicial guidance, found the
prisoner guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy; but after the
sentence was passed they signed a letter stating that had they known
they could have returned a verdict of man-slaughter they would have done
so. The actions of the prisoner, and the regrets of the jury over their
Rhadamanthine seventy were in accordance with the view expressed as to
the small sanctity attaching to human life when the victim was a
blackfellow. Subsequently, Adelaide was stirred to its centre in the
effort to have the capital sentence set aside.

Concerning all the colonies it may be said that the guilt of
unjustifiable slaughter in greater or less degree rests upon their
skirts. The dust of every settlement, every run, every homestead in the
interior when the land was "new," has been stained with the blood of
black mortals slain--oft times out of sheer devilry and blood
thirstiness--slain when sleeping in their gunyahs in camp; slain when
hunting their natural food; slain while pursuing their way through the
silent home-wood; slain, butchered--men women and children, singly or in
numbers, when patriarchs of the tribe with hoary heads were made to fall
in company with suckling babes and their nursing mothers--victims in
many cases, to the insensate cruelty of an alien race professing to be
Christian! From the wave-washed rocks of the sea coast, from the heart
of the waterless waste in the interior, from every mountain-side, from
every open plain, from every river bank in this vast continent, there
has swelled up to Heaven--louder than the slayer's laugh or the victor's
song of triumph--the low, sad wail of a slaughtered race!

CHAPTER XII.--The Border Police.

The reader will have gathered from facts already recorded that the first
occupation of new district in the progressive march of Australian
colonisation was frequently the occasion of hostile encounters with the
tribes inhabiting the localities invaded by the white man in his search
for "fresh fields and pastures new." For reasons already stated--chiefly
on account of the disappearance of the animals which formed their
principal source of food supply--the aborigines generally were by no
means favourable to the permanent inroads made by the colonists, and
repeatedly attacked the flocks and herds of the settlers, spearing the
cattle and driving off the sheep, occasionally breaking the legs of the
latter to prevent their return to their accustomed pasturage. In not a
few cases the shepherds and stockmen also fell victims to the
blackfellows' spears and waddies. Then followed reprisals. Singly or in
company the settlers attacked the blacks, and by the summary process of
the rifle shot, sought to at once avenge their losses and rid themselves
of their enemies. In almost every district in the new territory the same
track of blood is seen, and it would be impossible to give in connected
form the story of the outrages committed on either side.

It was during the administration of Governor Gipps, when the Western
Interior and Australia Felix--now known as Victoria--was being actively
settled, that the evil appears to have attained its greatest magnitude,
and the worthy Governor was at his wits' end to discover some method
which would at once protect the whites from the blacks and the blacks
from the whites. At last he hit upon the idea of forming what was known
as the "Border Police"--a force for active service beyond the settled
districts of the colony. He called an extraordinary meeting of the
Legislative Council early in 1839, and submitted to them a Bill which
subsequently received the force of law, being known as the "Act further
to restrain the unauthorised Occupation of Crown Lands, and to provide
the means for defraying the expenses of a Border Police." Under this Act
penalties were imposed upon persons settling upon Crown Lands, either
within or beyond the limits alloted for location to settlers, without
first obtaining a license or lease for such purpose.

The Act also provided for the formation of nine districts and the
appointment of one Commissioner for each district, to whom should be
attached as many mounted police as might be deemed necessary for
"repressing the predatory attacks of the natives, and to keep order
among all"; the expense of such border police to be met by an assessment
on the live stock of the settlers in each district at the irate of a 1d
per sheep and 1d per head of cattle.

The following extracts from the Act will show the extent of the
Commissioners' powers and privileges:--

IX.--It shall be the duty of every commissioner of a district to be
constantly within his district, except by the permission of the
Governor, when unavoidably absent therefrom for temporary and necessary
purposes in the performance of his duty under this Act, or under process
of any competent court in this colony; and he shall keep the peace in
his district, and protect all persons being therein, in their persons
and properties, and in their just rights and privileges; and for that
purpose he shall make perambulations of his district, and visit the
several stations therein as occasion may require; and as often as any
complaint shall be made to him, by any person licensed to occupy Crown
Lands as aforesaid, that any dispute has arisen, he shall, being
required to do so, visit such stations and inquire into the matter of
the said complaint, and shall, being thereto required by the parties in
dispute, or either of them, so to do, by writing under their or either
of their hands, hear and finally determine the matter of the said
complaint; and said commissioner shall and may appoint fix and determine
the boundaries between parties occupying lands as aforesaid, where it
can be conveniently done; and he shall enregister every determination
made by him, and may and shall carry into effect and enforce such
determination by removing, or causing to be removed, the cattle and
sheep, and servants of any licensed persons so found and determined by
the said commissioner to be encroaching as aforesaid, from one place to
another in the said district; and the said commissioner shall and may
remove and drive away the sheep and cattle of unlicensed persons within
his district, and impound the same within the pound of the nearest

X.--It shall and may be lawful for the commissioner of any district, at
any time when he shall in his discretion consider the circumstances of
any emergency to enquire it, to summon and call to his assistance,
verbally or in writing, under his hand, such and so many persons within
his district, and mounted and armed in such manner as he shall desire,
to attend upon and aid the said commissioner for so long as he shall
require them in the suppression and prevention of any attack or
aggression which he shall have reasonable grounds for believing to be
contemplated or intended, or which shall be in course of commission by
or against any person whatsoever, in or near to his district, and for
the purpose of pursuing or apprehending and bringing to justice any
person or persons whom he shall have reasonable cause to believe have
committed any felony; and every person so summoned and attending shall
be paid and allowed the sum of 5s a day for his maintenance during the
time he shall be necessarily in attendance upon the said commissioners;
and if any person being so summoned or called to the assistance of the
commissioner shall wilfully neglect or refuse to do or preform any act
which the said commissioner shall require him to do or perform, such
person being free, shall forfeit and pay for every such offence the sum
of 10... And being the servant of another shall also forfeit any wages
which may accrue or be due to him for the time he shall be absent from
his employment, in and about his trial for such offence; and being a
felon or offender under sentence of transportation, shall be deemed
thereby to have committed a misdemeanour, and shall be punished

XI.--Every commissioner and policeman, whilst absent from their fixed
station, and all persons acting in their aid, shall be entitled to
demand and receive from the person in charge of any station, beef or
mutton, flour, tea, and sugar, as rations, upon paying for the same such
price as shall be assessed annually by the justices of the peace nearest
to their district; and if any settler or person in charge of any
station, having such articles or supplies on his establishment beyond
the immediate wants of himself, his family and servants, shall wilfully
refuse to supply such rations as aforesaid, upon the same being demanded
and payment offered at and after the price assessed, he shall forfeit
and pay for every such offence the sum of 5.

The regulations, under the Act, gave any justice of the peace power to
cancel any license, on the following grounds:--

"If the person holding the same be convicted on the oath of any one or
more credible witness or witnesses of any felony, or of illegally
selling fermented or spirituous liquors, or of wilfully harbouring, any
convict or felon at large, or of any malicious injury committed upon or
against any aboriginal native or other person, or of any offence which
shall actually endanger the peace and good order of any district, or
tend to obstruct the due execution of this Act; subject, however, to a
right of appeal to the nearest court of petty sessions within one month.
And the superintendent, overseer, manager, or servant, resident on any
station, will be subject to a penalty of a sum not less than 5 nor more
than 30, on conviction of any offence which would render a licensed
person liable to have his or her license cancelled."

The Commissioners were also instructed not to recommend the renewal of
the license of any person who had not kept a sufficient number of
servants at his station, or whose servants had misbehaved in any way, or
at whose stations native women had been harboured, or where spirits in
improper quantities were kept, or who had in any way infringed the
regulations of the Government, or where the residents refused to furnish
the Commissioner with such particulars as he might require for the
information of the Government in the due performance of his duties.

The standing orders for the border police were very stringent, and read
as follows:--

1. Every individual employed by the border police is expected to pay
implicit obedience to the Commissioner, in the same way as troopers of
the mounted police, or soldiers in any regiment of the line, are bound
to obey the orders of the commanding officer.

2. Non-commissioned officers and troopers of the mounted police are in
equal degree bound to pay implicit obedience to the Crown Commissioner
during the time they are placed under his orders.

3. The Commissioner for each district will keep a very active register
of the conduct of every man who is attached to him, and will report
monthly the behaviour of each individual, for the Governor's

4. The Governor will consider good conduct in the border police to
constitute the greatest recommendation which any man can have in this
country to his favourable notice, and he will be happy to grant the
highest rewards which it is in his power to bestow, and at the earliest
periods which he is empowered by law to grant them.

5. On the other hand, the Governor desires it to be distinctly
understood that he will instantly remove from the border police any man
of whom he may receive an unfavourable report; and that any person
removed for his misconduct will be retained in Hyde Park Barrack, or in
Government employment in some other station, for the whole of the term
he may have to serve in the colony.

6. The means by which every border policeman will have it in his power
to obtain the approval and favourable consideration of the Governor,
will be by behaving in a kind and humane manner to the natives, and by
endeavouring to gain their confidence and esteem, as well as to civilize
and improve them.

7. The offences, on the other hand, which the Governor will never
overlook or forgive, are, any harsh or unkind treatment, or ill-usage of
the natives; any attempt to teach them bad language, or to lead them
into vicious practices, or to mock or laugh at them.

8. Any person whatsoever giving or offering to give spirits to a native,
or encouraging in any way a native to drink spirits, will be immediately

9. Any person whatsoever having improper intercourse, or attempting to
have improper intercourse with a female native, even with her own
consent, or the consent of her friends, will in like manner be
immediately dismissed, and otherwise punished to the extent of the
Governor's power.

10. The troopers of the mounted police attached to the border police
will, for the first three months, act as non-commissioned officers.

11. The commissioners will subsequently recommended the best behaved men
to succeed them, and should there be none whom they can recommend they
will report the circumstance, in order that deserving men from other
districts may be sent to them.

12. These orders are to be read at least once a month to every man in
the border police by the Commissioner of the district.

With a view to distinguish between the men and horses of the different
districts it was arranged that they should carry a distinctive badge,
each district having its particular letters, thus:--P.M. for Port
Macquarie; N.E. for New England; B. for Bligh; W. for Wellington; P.P.
for Port Phillip; and so on. Each man and horse was also numbered,
commencing with a new arithmetical number of each district; each man
having sewn into his cap and the right arm of his coat the letter of his
division and his particular number; while the horses were each named,
branded with a Crown on the right shoulder, and the letters of the
district and its own number on the left shoulder.

In the nature of things, perhaps, it was reasonable that the border
police should take the part of their countrymen. Anyhow, they were
generally found hunting blacks who had committed outrages upon the
settlers, and very seldom proceeding against settlers and their men who
had "put away" one, or a dozen, or a score of the dark skinned children
of the soil.

Their operations were chiefly confined to the Port Phillip side of the
colony, and as the story progresses we shall learn that; whatever view
the blacks may have taken of the force, the settlers certainly did not
look upon them with an unfavourable eye.


Early in 1840, a memorial, signed by about 50 of the earlier settlers,
in the district of Port Phillip (now Victoria) was sent to Governor
Gipps, in which the troubles and dangers of their position were fully
set out, the aborigines being the cause. The memorial set forth that
many outrages were being committed, that sheep were being driven away
and destroyed, that servants were so frightened as to be unfit to
discharge their duties, that several murders had been committed, and
that the numbers of the blacks were rapidly diminishing, their final and
utter extinction being threatened. The memorialists asserted that they
had no protection or safeguard against the repetition of outrages by the
natives, and that the presence of protectors of aborigines had rather
encouraged the natives in their aggressions, without rendering them any
service in defending their rights, or protecting them from the lower
classes of the white population. They further stated that the border
police had been equally inoffensive in protecting either one side or the
other, as they were never present when outrages occurred, and seemed
unable to elicit the truth concerning any reported collisions between
the natives and the Europeans. They asked that some alteration should be
made in the law respecting aborigines, and that provision should be made
for the summary treatment by the local magistracy, who should be
empowered to punish offenders on the spot, for the purpose of deterring
others from similar crimes.

That the memorialists were sincere in their desire to compass the good
of both parties, may be gathered from the wording of the latter part of
their petition. They declared that they were not insensible to the
claims of the aborigines to humane and kindly treatment, and were
anxious to see proper measures adopted for the amelioration of their
condition; that as original occupants of the soil they had an
irresistible claim upon the Government inasmuch as the land seized by
the Crown from them supplied the Treasury with very large sums; that
suitable reserves of land should be set apart for the different tribes,
with a view of weaning them from erratic habits, and a general interest
be taken in their welfare by the establishment of depots for supplying
provisions and clothing under the charge of men of exemplary moral
character; that religious instruction should be imparted by
missionaries, that being the only means of effectually civilizing them.
In conclusion the memorialists earnestly implored His Excellency to
adopt the efficient measures pointed out to protect the colonists from
native outrages, prevent the utter extermination of the face, and
improve their condition generally.

The spirit of benevolence and justice which breathed through this
document did the memorialists--all of whom have long since passed into
the land where distinctions between races are not made--infinite credit.
And the spirit of the Governor's reply was quite in keeping with that of
the memorial. He greatly regretted to hear that insecurity still
prevailed in the district in consequence of the depredations of the
aboriginals and of collisions between them and the servants of the
settlers, but was glad that the duty of the Government to protect and
civilize the former was distinctly recognised. He reminded the
memorialists that the Government had recently made strenuous efforts to
perform that duty, and that three distinct systems had been brought into
operation to that end--the appointment of protectors, the establishment
of a border police, and the reservation of districts for the exclusive
use of aborigines. He pointed out that it was too early to pronounce
upon those schemes, although the reserving experiment at Wellington
Valley had not proved as successful as was anticipated. In reply to that
part of the memorial in which more summary jurisdiction was sought to be
placed in the hands of magistrates, His Excellency said that the subject
was a very grave one, and he very much doubted whether the enactment of
such a law could be permitted "unless its provisions were extended to
white men as well as black, and especially in cases in which men of
European origin may be found to interfere with black women."

So far, there was an appearance of doing things decently and in order.
But the facts in many cases was opposed to the appearance, and the very
men who could preach about reclaiming and preserving the aborigines when
addressing the Governor, could also be found foremost in the ranks of
those who sent leaden bullets on voyages of exploration through head or
body of aboriginal men, women, and children. The age was one of
contradictions, like many another that has preceded and followed it.

Apropos to the subject of seizing the lands from the aborigines, touched
upon by the memorialists, brief mention may be made of the attempt made
by Batman, one of the pioneer settlers from Launceston, to exploit a
huge slice of territory on his own and friends' behalf. And through his
action the aborigines of the Port Phillip district were the only
Australian natives to officially climb into history.

The story is well-known to all readers of early Australian history.
Batman and his Launceston friends having effected a landing on the
western shore of Port Phillip proceeded to open up negotiations of a
character altogether new to colonists. His intention was to communicate
with the aborigines of the new country, with the view of securing a
large tract of country for the use of himself and his friends, and in
order to facilitate matters he took with him, from Launceston, seven
civilized natives of New South Wales, to act as interpreters. Several of
the original owners of the soil were encountered the day after the
arrival of the party, and an amicable intercourse was commenced, the
natives being described as a comparatively stout, well made, intelligent
race of men, who appeared to "comprehend the object in view." Mr. Batman
having explained that for the future he intended to reside with his
family on the land, stayed a month as an earnest of his intention,
making good use of his time in viewing the country and giving the blacks
to understand that he wanted the land for his cattle and sheep, and that
he would make payment for it. On 14th June he re-embarked for
Launceston, proposing to make a speedy return and complete the purchase
leaving behind him three Europeans and five of the civilized natives who
had accompanied him, with instructions to lay out a piece of ground and
erect a house for himself and family.

On his return to Van Diemen's Land, Batman made a report which created a
great sensation, and proceeding to Hobart Town, he formed an association
of sixteen persons, who subscribed a small sum as capital, and appointed
Batman as their agent, to proceed to Port Phillip and purchase the land
from the natives. He at once entered upon his return journey, taking
with him a supply of articles which were to serve as purchase money, and
certain legal documents, which it was considered would make the
transaction valid.

Having rejoined his companions at Port Phillip, Batman proceeded to
collect as many of the chiefs or old men of the tribe as could be
brought together; and in the presence of three principal and five
subordinate rulers, the covenants were entered into with all due
solemnity. Everything was done decently and in order. The blacks
answered Batman's winning smile with a grin, attached their "marks" to
the deeds, and thus, no doubt in blissful ignorance of the import of the
act--for it is ridiculous to suppose they understand the
transaction--signed away to the association represented by Batman two
extensive tracts of country, comprehending in all about 600,000 acres.
The stipulated consideration for this "slice" of territory consisted of
a certain quantity of flour, knives, blankets, and other articles of
European manufacture, to be paid as an annual tribute, amounting in
value to about 200, an earnest of the purchase-money being given to the
worthy chiefs, who for the first time and the last had made a "mark"
with ink upon parchment.

The following is a copy of the remarkable conveyance from the aborigines
of one of the two tracts of land:--

"Known all persons, that we, three brothers, Jagajaga, Jagajaga,
Jagajaga, being the principal chiefs, and also Cooloolock, Bungarie,
Mayman, Moorwhip, Momormala, being the chiefs of a certain native tribe
called Dutigallar, situated at or near Port Phillip, called by us, the
above mentioned chiefs, Iransnoo and Geeling, being possessed of the
track of land herein mentioned, for and in consideration of 20 pairs of
blankets, 30 knives, 12 tomahawks, 10 looking-glasses, 12 pairs of
scissors, 50 handkerchiefs, 12 red shirt, 4 flannel jackets, 4 suits of
clothes, and 50lbs of flour, delivered to us by John Batman, Esq., do
give, grant, &c., all that tract of country about 100,000 acres, in
consideration of the yearly tribute of 50 pairs of blankets, 50 knives,
50 tomahawks, 50 pairs of scissors, 50 looking glasses, 20 suits of
slops or clothing, and two tons of flour."

Under another similar deed, Batman secured a second "slice" of
territory, comprising 500,000 acres, for 20 pairs of blankets, 30
tomahawks, 100 knives, 30 pairs of scissors, 30 looking-glasses, 200
handkerchiefs, 100lbs. of flour, and 6 shirts, with a yearly tribute
similar to the preceding.

The land, the purchase of which had been thus effected lay chiefly
around the southern and western shores of the harbour of Geelong and
around the lower part of the Yarra and bay of Port Phillip, afterwards
known as adjacent rivers and the upper part of the Hobson's Bay. Batman
selected the central position of Indented Head as his own residence, as
it commanded a beautiful and extensive prospect.

But Batman and his friends were not quite satisfied concerning the
legality of the transaction, and in hopes of establishing their rights
they made a formal report to Lieutenant-Governor Arthur, who duly sent
the same to the Home authorities with a favourable recommendation, but
saying that he could not hold out any hope that the British Government
would sanction the bargain that had been made. The case was also
referred for opinion to eminent counsel in England. The replies received
were distinctly unfavourable, that from the British Government being to
the effect that the wandering aborigines could not be regarded as having
any property in land which they had never cultivated or settled on, and
that, further, the locality was included within the boundaries of New
South Wales and was therefore subject, in regard to its lands, to the
same regulations as prevailed in the northern part of the territory.

The whole transaction was therefore declared to be null and void, and
the speculative Port Phillip "squatters," as occupants of the territory
of New South Wales, were afterwards required to take out annual
depasturing licenses in terms of the colonial act passed in Sydney,
which came into operation early in 1837. The claim of the association
was afterwards disposed of by a compensation allowance to the extent of
7,000, to be given by way of remission in the purchase of lands; and
the once magnificent estate of the Derwent Company, limited to the
one-hundredth part, was afterwards represented only by the grassy valley
of the Moorabool, near the junction of that river with the Barwon, a few
miles to the north west of the town of Geelong.

While Batman was back in Tasmania seeking to legalise his action,
another party of settlers, headed by John P. Fawkner, landed on the
present site of the Victorian capital, which Batman claimed as a portion
of his purchase, and friction arose between the parties; but all were
alike barred by the voiding of such illegal squatting.

Thus cupidity overreached itself. The transaction was a cute piece of
business, however, and the compensation allowance must have been granted
more out of regard for the smartness of these early agrarian hucksters
than from any recognition of the claims of justice. Batman and his
friends would not have had any just cause for complaint if they had been
compelled to give up the lands without one farthing by way of a
compensation allowance.

As other adventurous spirits followed Batman and Fawkner into the new
Port Phillip country they necessarily came into frequent collision with
the blacks, and the old order of attacks and reprisals on either side
which had obtained in the earlier days of the first settlement of Port
Jackson and the country nearer to that point of location was repeated in
the country now being won to civilization. Five years after the little
swindle which Batman and his companions sought to have legalised had
been attempted, the stream of settlers from Tasmania and Sydney had
fully set in, the sites of Melbourne, Williamstown, and Geelong had been
laid out by the Governor of New South Wales, the social, judicial, and
commercial institutions common to a pushing people with civilized and
civilizing instincts had their foundations laid, and there was an
outreach towards independence corresponding with that which had
characterised the years when the aspirations after freedom from the
"stain" of convictism found full vocal expression.

Shortly after his arrival in New South Wales, in 1839, Governor Gipps
nominated His Honor Charles J. La Trobe as Superintendent of Port
Phillip, and on its erection into the province of Victoria that
gentleman became its first Lieutenant-Governor. Gipps also appointed a
chief protector of aborigines for the Port Phillip tribes, and shortly
afterwards a Wesleyan Aboriginal Mission was established at Buntingdale.
But neither protectors, nor missions, nor the border police, whose
operations extended over the newly formed district, were able to stay
the work of decimation to which the blacks became subject, or to prevent
the blacks from committing outrages upon the flocks and persons of the
white invaders.

In their official reports the Commissioners for Crown Lands described
the conduct of the blacks as "decidedly hostile and treacherous,"
especially at out-stations. Three men had been murdered in the district
during the preceding four months; one at Mr. Jennings' station, on the
Campaspe, the other two at Mr. Waugh's station. These two men had been
left in charge of a flock of sheep, about six miles from the nearest
station. A few days afterwards both men and sheep were missing from the
station; the bodies of the men were never found, although the hat of one
of them was picked up, and a very few of the sheep were recovered. About
600 were lost, and the outrage created great indignation, as both Mr.
Waugh and his men were known to have always acted with kindness and
forbearance to the natives. Mr. Waugh estimated his direct loss at
1,200, and applied to the Government for compensation, but the
authorities could not entertain his application, informing him that "the
risk of loss, from the attack of blacks, was one to which every person
who goes beyond the boundaries of location in this colony knows he is
exposed, and it is quite out of His Excellency's power to make you any
compensation." Shortly afterwards the same tribe speared some cattle,
the property of Mr. Cockburn, among them being a valuable bull, recently
imported from England. Amongst other attacks reported was one upon a
station at Broken River, some of the natives being armed with guns,
which they had stolen on a previous raid, but these they were not able
to use with any effect. Mr. Codd, the book-keeper, had been murdered at
Mr. Cox's station at Mount Rouse, by a tribe to whom he was in the act
of distributing roast beef and bread; and Mr. Brock, the man in charge,
was nearly killed at the same time, while a servant man was left for
dead, lying close to Mr. Codd, his jaw broken and his scull fractured.
At a neighbouring station shortly afterwards, eight natives attacked the
shepherd at Killembeet, and beat him to death, and they then pursued the
hut-keeper, who, although wounded by a blow from a "deanquil" managed to
stagger into the hut and close the door. In addition to these specific
cases, numerous others were cited, and the statement made that nearly
every establishment in that district had been molested by the natives,
and that serious loss of property had ensued. Mr. Commissioner Fyans
gave his candid opinion that no good could be done by kind treatment of
the natives, and that the only means of bringing them to a "fit and
proper state" was to give to the "gentlemen in the country" power "to
deal with these useless savages on the spot."

He complained that the natives were encouraged in their acts of
lawlessness by Mr. Sievewright, one of the assistant protectors, who had
threatened certain of the settlers with "gaol" if they took the
punishment of the natives into their own hands, at the same time giving
the natives to understand that the Government would not allow them to be
molested. Evidently the natives would have had "short shrift" if they
had been left to the tender mercies of that Commissioner.

It is just possible that the attack upon Mr. Cox's station had some
connection with a previous affair at the same place, when a swivel gun
loaded with musket balls was fired among the blacks by Mr. Codd. It goes
without saying that the settlers again retaliated, and that many blacks
"bit the dust" after Codd's death.

In his report to the Governor at Sydney, Mr. La Trobe mentioned these
outrages, and affirmed that it was impossible for the Commissioners and
the border police to prevent collisions between settlers and natives. At
the same time, he charged the Protectors with failure to assist in
establishing friendly relations between the parties, echoing the
complaint of the Commissioners. It is not far to seek the cause of the
strained relations between La Trobe and the Protectors. The former
favoured only the class who were qualified to sip wine and crack walnuts
at the Government establishment with him, and, with them, doubtless
considered that the "troublesome vermin" had no right to consideration
if they came between the wind and his nobility. The Protectors, on the
other hand, had good reason to look upon many of the settlers with
suspicion and distrust, and thus they were found endeavouring to keep
the two opposing forces separated. Hence the friction, and La Trobe's
unfavourable report concerning the Protectors.

To the communication sent him the Governor caused a reply to be sent
from Sydney, in which appeared the following paragraphs:--

"His Excellency instructs me to say that it is impossible for him to
prescribe to you the measures which ought to be taken to repress these
lamentable acts of violence and the equally lamentable acts of reprisals
to which they give occasion. His Excellency looks to your Honor to take
the most energetic measure in your power; assuring you, at the same
time, that he will readily sanction any expenditure that you may
consider necessary in order to repress such lawless proceedings. In
reading over the numerous accounts of outrage forming the appendix to
your letter, the Governor is unable to discover whether they, or most of
them, were committed at stations licensed by the Commissioners of Crown
lands, or at stations which had been formed without the knowledge or
license of the Commissioners. The distinction is important, and His
Excellency begs to request your attention to it, and also to request you
to make it known in your district that a person is entitled to no
protection from Government who may form a station without a license from
the Commissioner; and that if no other way of restoring peace to the
district can be devised, it will be necessary to direct the Crown
Commissioners to restrict their licenses to stations which they can
protect, and thus to render illegal the formation of any establishment
where collisions with the district blacks is likely to occur."

In May, 1840, a large body of natives attacked Mr. Mackay's station on
the Ovens River, looted the stores, killed cattle, horses and sheep,
fired the hut, and murdered the hut-keeper. The settlers gathered and
hunted the tribe, shot one dead, wounded several, and arrested two, who
were duly tried and dealt with "according to law." But a complaint was
lodged against Mr. Mackay for illegally arresting and shooting
half-civilized blacks, the complainant being a neighbouring settler and
clergyman, Rev. Joseph Docker.

He informed the Governor that he had tried the experiment of employing
aboriginals as shepherds and watchmen, and said:--

"I found them to be excellent shepherds, faithful and honest, and I now
have the pleasure to report that they have sole charge of my sheep,
consisting of between 6,000 and 7,000, young and old. Thus engaged,
fourteen men receive regular supplies of food and clothing, and eight or
ten more are occasionally employed and fed. It is painful to me to have
to inform your Excellency that the retaliatory proceedings in which Mr.
Mackay has been recently so warmly engaged have almost destroyed those
sanguine hopes I had entertained of introducing, on an extensive scale,
a species of labour never before contemplated; parties of the mounted
police, sometimes alone and sometimes headed by Mr. Mackay, are
constantly scouring this river; as soon as the natives got a glimpse of
them they fled to the hills for safety, and thus are my sheep scattered
and left in the bush without shepherds."

Entering into details, Mr. Docker mentions the capture by Mr. Mackay of
five blacks, who afterwards escaped and were fired upon, two of them
being wounded. This was followed next day by the arrest of two blacks by
the police, who fired three times at one of them; and several days
afterwards a policeman, in company with Mackay's blacksmith and
stockman, both of whom were intoxicated, seized a black named Joe, who
had been serving Mr. Docker faithfully as shepherd and overseer, and
after using him very roughly ended by forwarding him to Melbourne for
trial. All of these men Mr. Docker believed to be innocent, and he
complained that Mr. Mackay had expressed his intention of repeating his
visits until not a black was left on the spot. He pointed out that, as
the ringleaders of the attack at Mackay's station--Merriman and
Harlequin--had been captured, there was no necessity for such
molestation of the natives, and he concluded his letter by
saying:--"There exists, unfortunately, among most of the settlers around
me, a most inveterate and deadly hatred of the aborigines, which I
cannot account for. For my own part, I dread the visits of the police
more than I do those of the wildest savages in the bush."

The complaints made by Mr. Docker were enquired into on the spot by Mr.
Robinson (Chief Protector of the Aborigines), and he reported to the
effect that there was nothing to show that the natives arrested at Mr.
Docker's station were concerned in the attack on Mr. Mackay's station,
and that the stockman (Reid) was a dangerous man, an implacable foe of
the natives, many of whom had, according to report, fallen in his
collisions with them. He recommended that Reid's ticket-of-leave should
be withdrawn, and that he be removed to some other district.

Concerning the blacks in the district, Mr. Robinson said:--

"I found on my arrival at Mr Docker's and the immediate neighborhood
about 200 blacks. I personally conferred with 95. Mr. Docker is on very
friendly terms with the natives, and several are engaged in shepherding
and other employment. The entire of his sheep (7000) are under the care
of native shepherds. Mr. Docker states that the natives washed 3000 of
his sheep; that the sheep graze and thrive better under their management
than that of white shepherds. He has found the natives generally honest;
in proof, he mentions as a striking fact the circumstance of the native
shepherds bringing the whole of his sheep to the head station and
delivering them up to him when, through fear of the police, they were
induced to go away."

The reverend squatter's experiment, which proved so successful until the
disturbing element of police interference crept in, furnished sufficient
evidence that under proper treatment the natives could be brought into
peaceful subjection, and at the same time made fellow-workers with the
whites in the cause of colonisation.

Counter accusations by the police authorities and the Protectors, such
as those referred to, induced the Governor to send Major Lettsom, of the
80th Regiment, from Sydney, to make independent inquiry. The Major took
with him a corporal and three police and an interpreter, specific
instructions being given that the blacks must be considered in every
respect as subjects of the Queen, and not as aliens, and that proved
white and black offenders should both be committed to gaol.

The first formal inquiry held related to the charges brought by Mr.
Docker against Mr. Mackay, and at once trouble arose between the
Protectors and the Major, through the latter apparently leaning to the
side of the settlers. Led by his military instincts he also exceeded his
instructions, and himself led a party of about forty soldiers and police
against a tribe of blacks. The latter were surrounded and arrested
without any show of resistance, the whole of the tribe, to the number of
400--men, women, and children--being marched into Melbourne by the
Major. But, by some extraordinary fatality, one of the more prominent
members of the captured tribe happened to get in front of the gun held
by one of the police. The gun "went off accidentally," and a dead black
was taken to Melbourne with the live ones. In his report to the
Governor, the Major sought to justify his departure from instructions
and apologised for the "accident" which caused the blackfellow's death.
Thirty of the 400 were kept in Melbourne gaol for a length of time,
when, the Attorney-General having stated that he did not consider there
was any case to bring before a court of justice, they were released.
Inquests were held upon the body of two other blacks who had been
"accidentally" shot, and the shooters were exonerated from blame.

His Excellency wrote Major Lettsom expressing approval of the steps he
had taken, and forwarded a despatch on the subject to Lord John Russell,
enclosing all correspondence and papers bearing thereupon; and ten
months afterwards a reply was received from Downing-street, in which
Lord John plainly intimated to the Governor that he was not pleased with
the proceeding adopted by Major Lettsom, which was altogether too
arbitrary and high-handed. But nothing further was done. The authorities
rested satisfied with the reports of their military officers, based upon
information supplied by the settlers themselves, and not a question was
raised concerning the wrong being all on the side of the blacks and the
right all on the side of the whites, or concerning the justice of the
punishment meted out to the wrong-doers. The only persons to raise voice
on behalf of the aborigines were the Protectors, but these were at once
reported upon as being partizans, who encouraged the blacks in their
wrong-doing by siding with them, and protesting against the methods of
punishing them adopted by the authorities. And thus the method of
destruction went on--dead sheep and dead blacks being a weekly
record--although there is every reason to believe the count of the
former was taken more correctly than that of the latter.

It cannot be denied, however, that the position of the settlers was a
very difficult and dangerous one. Anxious to secure the best positions
in the new country proved suitable as grazing grounds for cattle and
sheep, they would push away out with their flocks and herds and locate
on some spot beyond the boundaries fixed by the Government as those of
the land surveyed and open to purchase. Far removed from their fellows
and comparatively defenceless, what more natural than that the
aborigines whose hunting grounds had been thus usurped should turn upon
the invader, and spoil his living goods, if not himself? These
"out-settlers" literally carried their lives in their hands, and one can
hardly wonder they should hold cheap the lives of the blacks who were so
troublesome and dangerous.

Writing to his uncle in London, Mr. Chas. Wedge, who had a station on
the Gerange, threw a little light upon this subject. He said:--

"I am very sorry to tell you that the natives here are very troublesome.
They took your horse "Rattler" off the tether and killed and eat him;
they also took at one haul, 70 ewes and 100 lambs, and have taken about
25 more; they killed a cow and calf, and wounded another, and scattered
them terribly. We have, however, collected them again. One of my
shepherds was severely wounded in the hand; he is, however, now well.
You may depend I do not allow these things to be done with impunity. The
value of the stock destroyed by these savages amounts to 300; and,
although we have been compelled to pay the following taxes--namely,
license to graze, 10; for every sheep 1d. per head, for cattle 3d., and
for horses 6d. per head annually, with the promise held out of
establishing a border police, we have, as yet, received no protection
whatever. I have made no complaints to the authorities, as when they
have been made no notice has been taken of them, except to threaten with
the severity of the law in cases of retaliation." In a subsequent letter
to his father in Van Diemen's Land, the same writer says: "They (the
squatters) are determined, as they pay for protection and receive none,
to exterminate this hostile tribe, without such protection is given to
them as will enable them to live in comparative security."

This charge of failure on the part of the authorities to protect the
squatters was met by the superintendent at Port Phillip by a lengthy
official statement, from which I cull the following sentences:--

"The great extent of country overrun by settlers and the impossibility
of anticipating from which of the surrounding tribes the attack may be
expected, render the prevention of these aggressions, under present
circumstances, a moral impossibility. It can unhesitatingly be asserted
that wherever protection could be afforded to settlers of the above
description, it has been withheld in no instance since an officer was
placed in charge of the district; but when unforeseen aggressions take
place at such a distance from the seat of Government, and weeks,
sometimes even months, elapse before intelligence is given, as has been
frequently the case, little can be done by the local authorities but to
institute, as far as possible, an investigation into the attendant
circumstances. When intelligence is not conveyed to the local government
the parties can scarcely wonder that no notice is taken of their losses.
I am ready to believe that many acts of aggression, and of subsequent
retaliation have been, and perhaps are, completely hidden from the
Government. In scarcely a single instance have the parties implicated in
these acts of violence, whether native or European, been brought to
trial; and in not a single instance has conviction taken place. The more
sanguinary the affray, the less were the chances of conviction. Were the
murder committed by the blacks, there were no witnesses, or no chance of
identifying the parties; and were the native sufferers, the settlers and
their servants, who were the principals in the first or second degree,
were the only persons from whom evidence could be obtained. Aboriginal
evidence brought forward, in the existing state of the law, could not be

In subsequent report the Superintendent gives an instance of the
difficulty referred to by him of proving the case against the white
aggressors. Brothers named Whyte, who had settled on the River Wando,
about 300 miles from Melbourne, came into collision with a body of
natives in March, 1840. The natives having made a raid upon the station
and driven off a flock of sheep, the Messrs. Whyte, five in number, and
their four men servants, all armed, pursued the natives and came up with
them at about a distance of six miles from the station, some of the
sheep being still in their possession. The natives stood upon the
defensive, and one of the white men was wounded in the leg with a spear,
but he was amply revenged by the slaughter of many of the blacks, whose
wooden shields afforded a poor protection against the leaden bullets
fired by their opponents. The fight, if it can be called a fight, lasted
for about an hour, and the natives were driven off, leaving at least
sixty dead upon the plain. Information was not sent to the authorities
in Melbourne until a month after the occurrence, and only one side was
represented at the inquiry conducted by the Assistant Protector. After
lengthy correspondence with the Chief Protector, the Crown Prosecutor
gave it as his opinion that the natives were the aggressors, and that it
would be useless to proceed against the Whyte party, as the only
evidence against them was their own admissions at the inquiry, and these
could not be used against them as they had been made on oath, and were
not free and voluntary.

Shortly after this a recommendation was forwarded to the Governor by the
Home Government that the best means of civilizing the aborigines would
be to attach them to the stations of the settlers, and thus educate them
into habits of industry and settlement; but this drew forth an emphatic
protest from Rev. B. Hurst, one of the missionaries connected with the
Wesleyan Mission at Port Phillip. He pointed out that the natives would
have constantly before them on the stations the bad examples of the
Europeans, and that the white population themselves were in such a
morally degraded condition that numbers would be found "ready on all
occasions to instill evil principles into the minds of the heathen." And
he continued: "In connection with this subject it ought also to be
mentioned the awful and alarming extent to which the women are
prostituted. I am persuaded that no one but he who has occasion to mix
frequently with the natives can form a correct opinion on the subject. I
would not rashly come to conclusions upon a point in which my countrymen
are so deeply and disgracefully concerned; but I have for my guidance in
forming an opinion--first, the statements of the natives as to who the
persons are who are accustomed to descend to this abominable practice;
secondly, the almost universal prevalence amongst them of a loathsome
disease, which brings many of them to an untimely death; and thirdly,
the testimony of medical men as to the extent to which the same disease
prevails amongst Europeans. I have no hesitation in informing you that
there is every reason to believe that the prostitution of the native
women is not only confined to the lower orders of Europeans. From these
sources of information I am driven to the conclusion that an attempt to
civilize these people, by attaching them to the stations of settlers,
would not only fail, but would be inflicting one of the greatest
possible evils upon a people who are already sinking under the hand of

Rev. Mr. Hurst also wrote a letter to head-quarters in which he pointed
out that outrages upon the natives were allowed to go unpunished, and
that in some of the districts it was the custom for the servant men to
assemble with guns on the Sunday and go forth, ostensibly to shoot
kangaroos, but really to shoot the "niggers." An inquiry was instituted,
and the evidence of several settlers and their superintendents was taken
on the subject, with the result, no doubt already anticipated by the
reader, that the settlers were "exonerated from all blame." It was not
in the nature of things reasonable to suppose that they would give
evidence criminating themselves. One of the witnesses went so far as to
hint that the decadence of the race was due to the cannibal propensities
of several of the tribes. He wished the Commissioner to believe that the
blacks divided their attention between attacking the settlers' sheep and
eating each other.

One little fact came out during the inquiry, however, which showed the
cruelty of the tender mercies of some of the men. One of the settlers
said he had found a little black child in the water and had taken it to
the camp fire, intending "to bring it up," but the little fellow tried
to bite him, and he then handed it over to one of the men. This man put
the picaninny near the fire, and it squatted on its heels, after the
fashion of the race, but the man becoming angry at something it did,
gave it a sudden kick and sent it among the burning logs. "I do not
know," said this humane employer, "whether the child ever rose
afterwards, as I walked away in disgust. I censured the man afterwards,
on our way home, and he said, "Why did the child strike me?" I never
made any inquiry afterwards about the child; I have never contradicted
the report that the child was murdered; it was about 9 or 10 years of
age! Yet the Commissioner reported:--"From the evidence I have been able
to collect, I should not feel justified in proceeding against the
man--even for a common assault!"


The cold-blooded massacre by white men of an inoffensive tribe of
natives at Dangar's Station was repeated in the Portland district
(Victoria), though on a smaller scale, in 1842.

La Trobe appears to have made a great deal of the fact that the evidence
given by the settlers did not support the charge laid by Missionary
Hurst, and he soundly rated the latter in a letter which he sent him,
for his readiness to accept as true, reports which could not be
substantiated. In forwarding the report of the inquiry to Governor
Gipps, he assured him that the conduct of the whites towards the blacks
in the Port Phillip district, although at one time open to condemnation,
was now "most exemplary." Yet the ink on these official documents was
scarcely dry before he had to send another report to the Governor
concerning a most brutal murder of black women and children, committed
by Europeans in the district named.

The facts connected with that outrage may be briefly stated thus:--

In February, 1842, Mr. Seivewright, assistant protector at the Western
Aboriginal Establishment, reported to the Crown Prosecutor at Melbourne
that two days before, two aboriginal natives, named Piu-bin-gan-nai and
Calangamite had returned to the station and told him the following
story:--On the 22nd of the month they had left the station with their
families on a bush excursion, and on the evening of the second day, when
they, with their wives, two other females and two children, were asleep,
a party of eight white people surrounded them, dismounted, and fired
upon them with pistols. So deadly was their aim that three of the women
and one child were killed outright, and the fourth woman was so severely
wounded as to be unable to rise. The two men escaped with one of the
children and ran in terror to the encampment to tell the horrible tale.
The assistant protector proceeded to the spot, where he found the three
slaughtered women and the child lying where they had been shot, while
the fourth woman lay dangerously wounded in the back and unable to move.
The scene of this brutal murder was within 700 yards of a station owned
by two settlers named Osprey and Smith, and these settlers were
requested by the assistant protector to go to the spot and view the
bodies. They went, and having seen the bloody sight, attached their
names to a document drawn up by Seivewright, and giving the following
description of the slain:--

No. 1. Recognised by the assistant protector as "Wooi-goring," wife of
aboriginal native, Piu-bin-gan-nai, one gunshot wound through the chest
(a ball), and right thigh broken by a gunshot wound (a ball).

No. 2. Child (male); one gunshot wound through the chest (a ball), left
thigh lacerated by some animal.

No. 3. Woman big with child; one gunshot wound through the chest (a
bullet), left side scorched.

No. 4. Woman; one gunshot wound through abdomen (a bullet), by right
hip, gunshot wound, left arm broken (a bullet).

No. 5. Woman "Wonigoniber," wounded; gunshot wound in back (a ball),
gunshot through right hand (a ball)

All knowledge of the barbarous transaction was denied by the
proprietors, overseer, and servants, at the home station, near to where
the bodies were found, although the discharge of the firearms, one would
think, must have made itself heard for a greater distance than 700
yards. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear!

Mr. Sievewright immediately sent messengers to report the occurrence to
the superintendent at Port Phillip, who at once sent to the Chief
Protector and the Crown Commissioner, and also publicly offered, in His
Excellency's name, a reward of 50, to any free person giving
information that would lead to the conviction of the guilty parties, and
promising to apply for a conditional pardon for any convict who might
give the information. The reward was subsequently increased to 100, by
Governor Gibbs, and a free pardon, with a passage back to England, was
substituted for the offered conditional pardon to any convict giving
information; but neither free man nor bond, having knowledge of the
murders, uttered a sound for more than a year afterwards, and the
cold-blooded white wretches, whose crime exceeded in ferocity any crime
ever committed by the aborigines, were like to remain undiscovered. The
truth of the old saying that "murder will out," was however, exemplified
in this case, although from the erratic movements of the wheels of
judicial machinery, punishment did not follow discovery and the
murderers were allowed to go "scot free."

The murders had almost been forgotten by the public when keen interest
in the affair was aroused by the arrest of three well-known residents of
the district, as principals in the outrage. Their arrest was brought
about by information supplied to the Chief Protector, and how gross was
the miscarriage of justice, resulting in their release, may be gathered
from the following condensed report of of the Court proceedings:--

The men--named Betts, Hill and Beswicke--had been employed at Osprey and
Smith's station, and there were at the station at the time several
"visitors!" The trial took place before Judge Jeffcott and a jury of
twelve, and the accused were defended by two of the ablest members of
the bar in the colony.

Mr. Sievewright was the first witness called, and he described the visit
of the blacks and the subsequent discovery of the dead bodies in the

Christopher McGuinness, bush carpenter at Osprey and Smith's station,
deposed that on the afternoon of the murder Betts rode up to the
master's hut and held a conversation with Hill, afterwards going to the
men's hut and getting a gun, saying he was going to shoot kangaroos.

The other men at the place, to the number of six or seven, then saddled
their horses and rode off with Betts, witness following with the dogs.
He had gone about three-quarters of a mile when he heard shots fired
from guns and pistols, and stopped, expecting to see kangaroos.

There was a hill between, him and the party ahead, and after mounting
the hill he saw Betts at the bottom in the act of firing again, in the
direction of a small scrub, and at the same time he saw a black gin
fall, shrieking. Other blacks then ran out, and were fired at and fell.
Beyond the shrieking he heard no more of the blacks' voices; but Hill
called out: "Look out! Here they come!" After which there was some more
firing. Witness then went back to the hut, and in the course of
half-an-hour the firing party returned, bringing with them boomerangs
and other black's weapons.

Afterwards heard Betts say that some lubras and a child had been shot in
the hollow. Mr. Osprey, witness, and another man were the only persons,
other than those actually engaged, who knew about the murders, and he
was afraid to report it as he was afraid of one of the parties who had
an adjoining station. Thus he told the Protector and the police, when
they came to make inquiries, that he knew nothing of the murders. The
party appeared to be in great glee as they rode along to shoot the

Thomas Osprey, one of the owners of the station, remembered Betts riding
up to one station when all were at dinner, and saying that there was a
mob of blacks near, upon which the men of the station and visitors went
out on horseback armed, and were away two or three hours. They did not
mention on their return what they had been doing--they might have talked
about the blacks, but witness could not remember. Subsequently he went
with Sievewright and saw the dead bodies; but he did not give any
information then or subsequently. He had written one statement to the
Government, in which he said be was afraid of threats, but he did not
mean from the prisoners, and as that statement was not sworn to, and
furthermore, was made in a hurry--he was sure it contained several
erroneous statements.

Another of the station hands, named Arabin, gave corroborative evidence
concerning the expedition and its results. He did not leave the station
while the others were away. He had told the Protector that he knew
nothing about the affair, and that Beswick was at his own station from
early morning till late in the afternoon on the day of the murders.

After hearing the evidence, the jury intimated that they did not wish
his Honor to charge them, as they had made up their minds, and being
called upon in the usual manner, they returned a verdict of "Not
Guilty," and the prisoners were discharged!

CHAPTER XIV.--The South Australian Tribes.

So far as the aborigines were concerned the work of colonization in
South Australia was simply a repetition of that which has been recorded
of the New South Settlement by the whites meant the destruction of the
blacks; either by organised wars, "chastisements" upon tribes for
murders of the whites, of attacks upon their property, wholesale
shooting by settlers--sometimes in self-defence but more often without
adequate provocation, disease--induced by contact with the whites or by
the withdrawal of their natural food supplies and a score of other
causes. In South Australia there was no organized war; yet within forty
years after first settlement of the colony fully 67 per cent of the
black population, with all that belonged to them, had disappeared. They
dwindled in the settled districts from about 12,000 to 1000 and to-day
the pure aboriginals are so few as to have almost reached the vanishing

Those who had much intercourse with the natives declared that before the
Europeans came to the country, and before they could have had any
influence over them, the aboriginals were decreasing in number--habits
and practices, religious and otherwise, helping to cut the race down;
and infanticide as well as cannibalism partly did their part in
accelerating the work of decadence and death. The native women,
according to Dr. Moorehouse, were not less fruitful than those of other
countries and races; yet on the average the black mother did not rare
(rear) more than two of her offspring.

Eyere (Eyre) says on the subject:--

"First there is polygamy and the illicit and almost unlimited
intercourse between the sexes, habits which are well known to check the
progress of population wherever they prevail. Secondly, infanticide,
which is very general, and practised to a great extent, especially
amongst the younger and favourite women. Thirdly, diseases to which in a
savage state young children are particularly liable, such as dysentry,
colds, and their consequences." And he adds this note:--"Huic accedit,
ex quo illis sunt immisti Europaei, lues veneria. Morbum infantibus
affiant, et ingens multitudo quotannis inde perit." Others, however,
have questioned Eyere's correctness on this point, and have asserted
that the ailment to which he refers was never so widely disseminated as
his note would indicate. But no one who has come into personal contact
with the different tribes can doubt for a moment that it was one of the
chief secondary, if not primary causes of their dying out. The natives
of some parts suffered from a sort of leprous or scrofulous disease.
Garon, speaking of the Dieyerie tribe, describes a disease which
produced large boils under the arms, in the groin and on the breast and
thighs, varying in size from that of a hen's egg to that of an emu's;
and speaking of this, one gentleman describes what he considered a
certain cure for it. He was present at Canowie (S.A.) when a flock of
sheep were being dipped for scab. A number of blacks, as usual,
assembled to witness the progress of the work, and to get tobacco and
whatever else they could from the station hands. One of them was in a
deplorable condition from this disease, and by way of a joke, it was
suggested that the blackfellow should be dipped like a sheep. The
dipping mixture used consisted of water, soft soap, tobacco, and
arsenic; the last in the proportion of one ounce to the gallon of water.
No sooner said than done. The scabby black was put in the vat, and after
his bath left with his companions.

In a short time he became so ill that it was feared he would not
recover, and lost his hair, toe nails, and finger nails; but in time an
improvement was observable. His skin peeled off and he was described as
a magpie when moulting. Eventually he quite recovered, his hair grew
again, and his skin became as smooth, and as glossy as marble. When this
became known among the tribes others having the same complaint presented
themselves at Canowie and begged to be "jipped like it other pfeller";
but the experiment was considered too hazardous, and no one cared to
risk a trial for murder or manslaughter, if, as was by no means
unlikely, a patient should die under the treatment. Eyere also mentions
other diseases, such as gout, rheumatism, inflammation of the bronchiae,
lungs and pleuro, and a disease not unlike small pox, although it was
not considered to be the true variola. In some of the tribes more than
half of the children born were killed by the parents. And one
intelligent native woman is reported to have said in later years that if
the Europeans had waited a few more years they would have found the
country without inhabitants. Pity, is it not, that the Europeans did not
wait! They would then have less innocent blood upon their hands.

The part of the colony most exposed to the attacks of the natives at the
time when proper official records were kept was the line of route
between Adelaide and Moorundi. The natives from the Murray were in the
habit of frequently visiting Adelaide and travelled in groups far more
numerous than could be supplied with native food; they were therefore
compelled to beg, but the settlers could not meet the demands of such
numbers, and when they were denied food they did not hesitate to procure
it by threats and intimidation. These tribes were guilty of several
outrages, and pressed the Adelaide tribes to encounter them in battle,
being desirous of exterminating them and taking their place. But the
Governor checked this sort of thing by issuing instructions that the
spear of all natives "intending to disturb peace" should be taken from

In 1841 several more than ordinarily serious outrages were reported to
the Adelaide authorities, as having been committed by the Murray River
Blacks. In one case the natives had attacked the station of Messrs.
Field and Inmam, and driven off 5000 sheep, and Captain O'Halloran,
Commissioner of Police, started on an expedition with a detachment of
troopers and volunteers, for the purpose of trying to recover some of
the stolen property.

But the excursion was futile, although timely assistance was rendered by
the police to another party in the same locality. The report furnished
to Governor Grey by that Commissioner, is a most interesting document,
and as it covers the whole ground relating to this period, I make no
apology for quoting from it extensively.

It is dated "Fortified Camp,--The Hornets' Nest--240 miles from
Adelaide, 27th June, 1861," and reads as follows:--

"The detachment of police and volunteers, with bullock drivers, cooks,
etc., (in all sixty eight men including officers), left Adelaide on the
31st May, and arrived at the "Pound," on the Murray, by the 4th instant.
Between this point and the Fossil Cliffs, near Lake Bonney, a distance
of about 60 miles, we halted no less than seven days in all waiting for
the two boats that were to join us from the sea mouth of the river; but
finding that our supplies would not admit of any further delay, and
knowing that it would be dangerous for the boats to proceed further up
the river without our escort, I blazed some trees close to the river
side, ordering the boats to proceed back to the North-west Bend, and
await our return there; and also left a letter in a bottle, under one of
the trees blazed giving further instructions to the officer in charge of
the boats. On our way from the "Pound" to the Fossil Cliffs, we induced
some natives to communicate with us, two of whom promised to act as
interpreters, to accompany us to the hostile tribe, and show us where
the sheep were. They however, left suddenly, but we were joined by two
other blacks, at the last encampments, before making Lake Bonney. These
men seemed very intelligent and confiding, and evinced great hatred to
the hostile tribe, all of whom they requested us to kill, stating at the
same time that plenty of Mr. Inman's sheep were still alive, and had a
few days before then been seen by one of them. On approaching the spot
where the sheep were said to be and within a short distance of where Mr.
Inman was attacked and Lieutenant Field's party had been engaged, our
interpreters according to promise, went in advance considerably of the
detachment, with a message from us to the hostile tribe, stating that if
the remaining sheep were given up they should not be molested, and they
promised to bring several of the tribe back with them to meet us on our
approach. Before encamping, this promise was in part fulfilled for the
interpreters met us, but only with one of the hostile tribe, a large and
powerful man, who had lately received a gun shot wound through the
thigh, and which he pointed out to us.

"This fellow's manner was quite unembarrassed, and he remained in camp
all night, and was made much of. He stated that the sheep were very
numerous, one only having been killed, by a man who should be given up,
that they were yet some miles north, and that we must make another
half-day's march before we could get to the place where the sheep were
folded, under charge of an overland party, who had arrived a few days
before, with three drays and large herd of cattle. In the morning
therefore we started, with our blacks in company, who however, sneaked
away notifying to our Adelaide native to keep on the beaten road, and
they would again meet us, as by crossing the creek they would save a
considerable distance. After marching eight miles I encamped, where we
now are (which is the very heart of this "Hornet's Nest"), and then
pushed on with the mounted men six miles further, to ascertain if any
reliance could be placed on the information so frankly given.

"When we had proceeded the above distance, on Tuesday last, the 22nd
inst., we suddenly fell in with Mr. C. Langhorne's long-expected
overland party, and who had been attacked by the same tribe that we are
now amongst, two days before, having had four men killed and two
wounded, out of sixteen individuals; twenty head of cattle dispersed,
others having been killed, and nearly all their property and supplies
taken from them. They were in the most wretched and deplorable state
imaginable, and appeared on seeing us as men would do who were
unexpectedly reprieved from apparently certain death. All had given
themselves up for lost, and expected to be murdered that very night, on
the spot I now write from. The scene then witnessed will never be
forgotten by any present. The enclosed letter from Mr. C. Langhorne,
with the information taken on oath by myself and brother magistrate, Mr.
Moorhouse, from others of the party, given full particulars of the

"On Wednesday morning the 23rd inst. (our blacks not having returned,
and who were, doubtless, spies sent against us), I left our camp here
(fortified) with a strong foot party, under command of Captain Ferguson;
and with the remainder of the detachment scoured the country around for
miles in all directions, with the hope of making prisoners and
recovering some of the sheep, but we returned before dark unsuccessful
in both objects, for we found that the whole of the sheep had long
before been slaughtered, as we saw their carcases and bones thrown about
in vast heaps in various places where the blacks had formed large
encampments, and had followed the sheep; and though we saw and chased
thirteen natives (the only number seen on our side of the river, though
numerous enough on the other), they were ever too close to the water's
edge to admit of our securing them, for they took to the river when
driven through the high reeds on its banks, and which rose above our
heads when on horseback, and thus, from the want of boats, escaped us,
though only a few yards distant. They might all with certainty have been
shot, but when they found we could not fire, the villains laughed at and
mocked us, roaring out "plenty sheep," "plenty jumbuck"--another name of
theirs for sheep.

"Considering myself now fully justified in rendering Mr. Langhorne all
the assistance in my power, and hoping yet to make some prisoners, I
left my fortified camp again, leaving the entire foot party under
command of Mr. Inman, and about half-past three p.m., 24th instant, with
the mounted detachment, got to Langhorne's Ferry, on the Rufus, where
his party were attacked, and there found the body of one of his murdered
men lying up on the bank, guarded by his faithful bulldog, that had been
speared in two places by the blacks, for he had fiercely attacked them.
The noble animal, on seeing us, set up a piteous and heart-rending howl,
swam across to the opposite side, and has not since been seen. Martin's
body was covered with wounds, his head and face frightfully battered
with waddies, and his entrails and thighbones taken out; part of a dray,
flour in heaps, broken muskets and other articles lay strewed about; and
also many waddies and jagged and pointed spears, with flesh, blood and
hair upon them; also several dead calves. The sight was altogether
horrifying; but as the day was far spent, and it would require
considerable time to cross a party with horses over the Rufus, I retired
for the night to a flat five miles distant, where there was good feed
for our horses, and early next morning (Friday, 25th instant) was again
at Langhorne's Ferry. A grave was then dug for the remains of poor
Martin, and I had the melancholy satisfaction of giving him a Christian
burial, and reading the funeral service over the corpse--a large fire
being afterwards lit over the grave, to prevent the blacks from
recognising it. These wretches had taken the body out of the water to
extract the thigh bones; but what they have done with the other three
men we could not discover, though the river was traced to Lake Victoria,
into which it now empties itself (though in summer time into the
Murray), with the hope of recovering the relics of the murdered men.

"Before twelve o'clock, Inspector Tolmer, with eighteen mounted men, was
sent across the Rufus, with instructions to sweep a little inland
towards the lake, whilst my party of men scoured this side of the river.
A scout soon testified to me that 30 blacks were running along the edge
of the lake, and we pushed along rapidly after them, crossed the river
on horseback at the junction of the Rufus for a lake along which we rode
for some miles, but had the mortification to find that those pursued
were far beyond our reach and already across the lake, when we counted
no less than eight canoes together. We now recrossed, opened out, and
watched the banks of the Rufus for a considerable distance, hoping that
Inspector Tolmer's detachment might drive some blacks before him towards
us, but they were as unsuccessful as ourselves; and now finding that the
whole country was alarmed by beacon fires, we recruited, and after
blazing some trees near the river at Langhorne's Ferry, notifying to
overland parties to beware of the blacks, we retired to the same flat
occupied the night before. Yesterday we returned to our fortified camp,
and are resting to-day to recruit our poor jaded horses. I have the
satisfaction of adding that we have recovered fifty-three out of seventy
head of cattle, and have been the happy means, under Providence, of
rescuing twelve of our countrymen from inevitable death, and 710 head of
cattle, the number now here, from being lost to the owner and the

"Unfortunately, after great exertion and anxiety, we have failed in
making any prisoners; but this has been owing solely to the boats not
joining, and for which I cannot account.

"In a country such as we have gone over, intersected by rivers, lagoons,
and creeks, and thick polygonum scrub and high reeds, it is next to
impossible to surprise any blacks, for all know the approach of any
party from the time they make the river, into which they plunge, and, at
once escape to the opposite side, and are thus secure from all danger.

"The cruel tribe we are now surrounded by are very numerous, and have
doubtless became emboldened by having defeated 5 successive parties of
Europeans and having also escaped punishment from any detachment. Along
the Lake Rufus and Murray the property of Messrs Inman and Langhorne has
been found, and a gentleman has only now come in from a trip to examine
the ground on which Lieutenant Field encountered the blacks, two and a
half miles from this and has brought with him a hymn-book that belonged
to one of Mr. Langhorne's party. Mr. Inman was attacked three and a half
miles from this, and which clearly proves that this tribe only in the
last three instance are the murderers of our countrymen, and the
plunderers of their property.

"We commence our march homeward to-morrow, having been on the extreme
frontier of the colony, and I propose sending this report to town by
express after passing Lake Bonney, before which it would not be safe to
do so. As the roads are bad and the cattle party who require our
protection travel slowly, I do not think the police can make Adelaide
before 12th or 14 proximo; but I hope to reach town a few days after
this letter, when my journal will furnish your Excellency with any
further information you may require.

I have the honor, etc.,


Commissioner for Police.

In commenting upon this report an Adelaide paper advocated the
establishment of a military outpost in the neighborhood of the spot
where these outrages occurred, and the transmission of a caution to the
overland parties then en route concerning the dangers of the road. The
severe punishment meted out to the aborigines nearer the settlement for
outrages committed by them appeared to have had a salutary effect.

They learned to distinguish between degrees of crime and would stop
short of murder, knowing that the taking of the life of a European
brought severest punishment, either under "town law," where the
offenders were tried by a regularly constituted court, or under "bush
law," where the avengers who carried the rifles were in the habit of
executing offenders and their companions without reference to judge of
jury. They would visit the huts in the daytime, while the shepherds were
absent, and strip them of provisions, blankets, firearms and ammunition,
and anything else handy. In one instance, a hut-keeper had his hands and
feet made fast whilst the property was taken away, and was then
liberated, the natives using no unnecessary violence and promising
repeatedly, whilst they bound the man, that they would not beat or kill

After the return of Major----, a party of volunteers was formed under a
command of Lieutenant Field, R.N., to endeavour to recover some of the
stolen property. An arduous journey of nine days brought them upon a
body of natives between 200 and 300 strong. The natives immediately
attacked them, advancing in a sort of half-moon, and trying to surround
the small party. The white people got away with difficulty, but first
"potted" about eight blacks; three of their horses were, however,
wounded with spears, and one was killed outright. A third expedition was
then organised from Adelaide, consisting of mounted police and
volunteers, the latter being sworn in as special constables by the
Governor, Captain Grey, and the leader were instructed "not to levy war,
nor exercise any belligerent action" against the offenders. After the
party had travelled about three weeks they were met by a white man, one
of the survivors of another party of travellers, which had been attacked
and their cattle, 700, stolen. Three of this man's companions had been
killed and the person in charge badly wounded. Shortly afterwards the
bodies of the murdered men were found, one of them being horribly
mutilated--the head battered in, the body opened, and all the viscera,
with the kidney fat, taken away. For some reason which no one could
explain, small bits of green branches had been placed in the dead man's
hands. All attempts to capture the natives failed but the majority of
the stolen cattle were recovered and the party returned to Adelaide.

From the reports which reached Adelaide regarding the attitude of the
tribes who had proved so hostile, and which rendered the position of
persons travelling with stock dangerous in the extreme, another
expedition, consisting of twenty nine men under Sub inspector Shaw, was
sent out to protect parties who were known to be coming overland with
cattle. They met the travellers in the country of the hostile tribes,
and found that they had already been attacked, but had defeated their
assailants with a loss of about fifteen. A few days afterwards the
expedition fell in with the natives and were themselves attacked. The
blacks had refused all overtures of friendship, and an engagement ensued
in which thirty of the natives were killed and ten wounded. When the
expedition returned an official investigation was held, and the party
was exonerated from all blame; and subsequently a Protector of
Aborigines and Police Magistrate was appointed for the protection of
persons travelling with stock. The overland journey between the colonies
was thereafter conducted without much danger.

Vigorous efforts were made about this time by the Government to better
the lot of the blacks, by the establishment of protectorates, supplying
needy tribes with food, establishing a school for educating the
children, etc.; but although these offers were well sustained and gave
promise for a time of being fairly successful, like all schemes of the
kind, they proved in the end simply waste labour.

The following extracts from a report by Mr. Moorehouse, Protector of
Aborigines, for districts near Adelaide, will show the condition of
things existing in 1845.

"The school had been the object of chief consideration and has had
improvements made in its arrangements. The system previously adopted was
to instruct the children during the day, supply them with food, and
allow them to take the supply to their huts in the evening, where they
slept with their parents. On the 20th June a kind of boarding school was
commenced, sleeping and mess rooms were fitted up and the attendance of
boys and girls was required in the night as well as the daytime. Boys
and girls are now supplied with separate sleeping rooms. A matron has
also been appointed to superintend the arrangements, and the girls are
required to sleep at her house. As an improved system of education has
now been adopted, I may state over what extent of territory the
influence of the former has reached; there is not a child between the
age of 5 and 10 years, 60 miles to the north or 60 miles to the south,
with an average breadth from the east to west of 10 miles, that does not
know the alphabet, and some are advanced in reading, writing and
arithmetic, as given in my report upon education in March last. It is
our intention to progress with those who are so far advanced to the
other rules of simple arithmetic, and at the same time offer to branches
of knowledge as opportunely as the exercise of its powers will suggest.
There have been many attempts at domesticating the children, but few
have been tried as domestic servants; one was taken into Government
House in March, 1841, and is still there fulfilling her duties as
punctually and as effectually as any European could of the same age. I
took two into my own house, occupying them in the day as domestic
servants, and in the evening as scholars, but they were compelled to
leave after being ten months with me--they were affianced in their
infancy, and were commanded by parents, husbands, and older married
women to live with their husbands. The poor girls would have remained a
few years longer had they dared to do so, but they were threatened with
death by the sorcerers if they continued to live with Europeans. The
girl taken into Government House has not been absent a single day, but
if she had listened to the advice of her parents she would have returned
to the bush.

"Trials with the boys have been more frequent than with the girls, and
the success somewhat greater. Mr. Horrock, on the Hutt River, took an
orphan about four years old in February, 1840, and he is still there; he
has entirely forgotten his native language, and this will certainly
prevent his living with natives again. A boy from Lake Alexander was
taken by Mr. James Poole, assistant surveyor, in 1840; after living two
years with Mr. Poole he was transferred to the care of James Hamilton
and Co., but he was persuaded to adopt his wandering habits by his
friends, who were visiting Adelaide in April last. Another boy, named
Peter, from the Murray, was living with a survey party for about 14
months, and during this time he acquired many European habits; he became
expert in using firearms and since he returned to the bush has proved a
dangerous character; in June, 1842, he and two associates were
accompanying a party overland to Port Phillip, and about 3 o'clock one
morning they rose and attempted to kill the three Europeans by attacking
them while asleep with clubs. One European named McGrath was killed on
the spot, but the other two escaped although severely beaten about the
head. The native, Peter, secured the gun and ammunition and amused
himself by shooting game on the Murray; he, at the present time is on
the banks of the Murray, living chiefly on supplies procured by
fowling-pieces taken from settlers. He has evaded all efforts of the
police to capture him, although the efforts have been very considerable.

"Domestication has succeeded better with boys than the girls and will
certainly continue to do so, as long as their laws of marriage continue
as they are now. The old natives, whether male or female, are opposed to
girls above the age of 10 or 12 living with any person except the
husbands, and so completely have the husbands their betrothed wives
under their control, that the girls dare not refuse to accompany them,
lest death or some other fearful calamity befall them. But on the other
hand, the young men and boys are persuaded by the older men to live with
Europeans in order that the wives of the latter may not be brought into
their society."

Touching the attempts to educate the adults in civilised labour the same
writer mentions a few facts worth attention. "There is one house in
town," says he, "where the natives have delivered nearly five tons of
mimosa bark, which has been collected on the plains near Adelaide by the
Murray natives. There are from 10 to 14 young men regularly employed as
porters to the various storekeepers in town and attend about two thirds
of their time, but native labour has been most felt in assisting to
gather the harvest. At Encounter Bay they have reaped from 70 to 100
acres of wheat, oats, and barley; in the neighbourhood of Adelaide they
have reaped from 50 to 60 acres, and at Lyndock Valley there were
several tribes located during the harvest, and assisted Mr. Emmett in
cutting nearly 200 acres of wheat. About Adelaide there has been less
assistance rendered towards the harvest than in any other part, in
proportion to the number of natives. During the month of December the
average number in town was 80 men, 72 women, and 72 children, a total of
224, whilst at Encounter Bay the average for the same time was a total
of 50 or 60 and they performed the most work. The country settlers adopt
the plan of having an equivalent in labour for all they give to the
natives, whilst in Adelaide food is too frequently given without any
labour being required in return, and idleness and begging thereby

It is interesting to note that the South Australian Government was most
liberal in the distribution of food to the natives but occasionally this
had its drawbacks, as will be gathered from the report furnished by Mr.
Eyer, one of the resident magistrates charged with the duty of
distributing it. In 1884, Mr. Eyer wrote thus:--"During the past year I
have been obliged to make some considerable deviation from my former
system of issuing flour at the full of every moon, to all natives
indiscriminately who chose to assemble to receive it. The necessity for
this change arose from two causes; the first and most important one was,
that the natives began to assemble at these periodical musters in such
very great numbers that I deemed it necessary to curtail in some way or
other what would otherwise have proved a very heavy source of expense to
the Government, since all the flour issued had to be purchased at
Adelaide, and carted a distance of 85 miles by hired drays. At the
monthly issues of flour in the early part of 1843 the number of natives
generally attending were from 300 to 400; thus half a ton of flour would
be consumed in a single issue and I have no doubt that if no alteration
had been made this quantity even would occasionally have been greatly
exceeded. A second reason for my curtailing the periodical issue of
flour arose from the fact that his Excellency the Governor had given me
instructions to use my influence in preventing the tribes of my
neighbourhood from visiting Adelaide, where they were very troublesome
to Europeans, and greatly interfered with the Adelaide natives.

"In disregard of all my requests and injunctions to the contrary,
several of the tribes still persisted in deserting their own district
and crowding into town; upon their return again to the Murray it became
necessary to fulfil the threat I had held out to them, and stop the
monthly issue of flour which hitherto they had regularly received; but I
still continued the usual issue to those who had been well behaved and
had attended to my requests. It appears to me that unless the Government
can afford to supply a sufficient quantity of flour for all natives who
may come, and which would amount at least to six tons annually; that it
would be better to present it only to the more distant tribes when they
visit us, and to such of our own immediate families as may be deserving
of it for their good conduct; or for quietly residing in their own

These extracts are fair samples of the reports which were issued from
this forth, quarter by quarter, by the protectors of Aborigines, and
resident magistrates, until there were few natives left to protect or
feed, and the establishments near the centre were broken up.

But the country was large and the tribes were scattered, and as the
settlers reached out into the interior the old story of rapine and
bloodshed, fights between settlers and blacks and blacks and settlers,
and fruitless attempts to civilize the natives, was repeated year after
year. The few still remaining are out on the boundaries, and just one
short narrative will suffice to show that there is no change in the
order of their decimation. The white man's lust and blood-thirstiness
remain the same, whether the nature of those the white man is still
pleased to call "niggers" be capable of improvement or not.

So late as the year 1888 an aboriginal prisoner named Jacky was
condemned to death in Adelaide for the murder of a drover Marrack, but
there was palliating circumstances connected with the crime which led to
his case being fully discussed in public, and during that discussion
statements were made in the press and on platforms regarding the
cruelties practiced on the natives in the interior.

At one public meeting held to consider the condition and treatment of
the aborigines, the Rev. F. Schwartz of Finke Mission station, made some
startling revelations. He said that some time ago the missionaries tried
to get one of the worst blackfellows arrested. A policeman, with three
assistants, went and captured three other blacks who were not guilty.
They were chained together, and a few days later found shot dead and
still chained. When the policeman was asked why he had done this he
simply replied that if the missionary had acted, as the blacks had done,
he would have shot him too. The matter was reported to the Government at
the time, but they said they could do nothing as the policeman denied
having shot the blacks. Mr. Schwartz said he was of the opinion that the
policeman had given the blacks a chance to run away in order to shoot
them, and thus save himself the trouble of bringing them to Port
Augusta. As to the treatment of the aborigines in the interior, boys who
were useful, were fairly treated, but men were maltreated. On almost all
the stations a number of girls were kept, and were well treated, the
motive, of course, being an immoral one. As many as ten or fifteen girls
were kept on a single station, and the girls were even known as Mrs. So
and so, according to the names of the whites with whom they lived. He
admitted that the women consented to this life because they were well
treated and got good clothes. There was a Policeman who was sent out to
arrest some blacks but he shot them instead and brought in two girls
with whom he lived, and one of whom he believed had come to Adelaide
with the trooper. These girls at all events were unwilling victims.
Half-castes were to be seen on nearly every station, and some were
treated fairly, but others were not. Fourteen years ago he saw one
half-caste, but now they were very numerous. There were some on Finke
Mission Station, and they were more intelligent than the pure blacks,
but they were nearly all affected with a bad disease.

The disease was very prevalent in the far north, but there was some
doubt as to whether it originated with the aborigines or with the
whites. One of the most serious complaints was that whenever they had
black girls at the mission station who behaved themselves properly they
were seduced by whites. Only recently three ran away, and were now
living with the policeman to whom he had previously referred as having
captured two girls. Whenever a black fellow disappeared, others said
that he had been shot; and he heard of one case where a youth's throat
had been found cut.

In view of this terrible state of affairs the meeting decided to at once
bring the matter under the notice of the Aborigines' Friendly
Association for them to take action. But Friendly Associations could not
check the steady work of destruction, although they certainly did
mitigate some of the most glaring evils.

Extinction was written over the whole race when first the white man
landed on the shores of Australia, and the South Australian tribes were
included in the doom.


Reports similar to those published in the other colonies concerning the
blacks are to be found among the earlier records of Western Australia,
although the conditions of that colony being somewhat different from the
neighboring colonies gave a variety to the experiences of the
comparatively few settlers there, not enjoyed by their brethren on the
other side of the dividing water and land lines. But splashes of
European and aboriginal blood, chiefly the latter, are to be found on
almost every page of the scant history that was written by official
pens, which history, unfortunately, is the only one relating to the
earlier days available to me.

In the matter of disciplining the blacks, the authorities of Western
Australia held very pronounced views, and as the convict element was
wanting, the disciplinarians in the service of the British Government,
all of whom were naval and military officers, sought to exercise their
powers, for correction or destruction, upon the classes who required
subjugating. A penal settlement for offending aboriginals was
established at the Island of Rottnest, and the punishment of flogging
black transgressors was legalised. But if they sought to correct wrong
living on the part of the aborigines by imprisonment and flogging, the
authorities also attempted to lure them into decent living by means less
harsh; establishing schools for the juvenile, offering premiums to those
who should lead the adults into habits of industry, and making the
evidence of aborigines legal in the court of law.

The Act constituting the Island of Rottnest a legal prison was passed by
the Legislative Council at Perth, in July, 1840. The preamble set forth
the grounds of the enactment in the following terms:--

"Whereas it has been deemed expedient to provide some place within the
limits of the colony of Western Australia, in which such of the
aboriginal race as are sentenced to transportation or imprisonment, or
in any other manner committed to custody, may be conveniently kept in
order that they may be instructed in useful knowledge and gradually
trained in the habits of civilized life: And whereas all the ordinary
modes of restraint have been found insufficient to ensure their safe
keeping in any gaol, and a continued close confinement is particularly
prejudical to their health, as being so uncongenial with their habits.
And whereas the Island of Rottnest appears particularly suitable for
their detention, inasmuch as a greater degree of personal liberty may be
allowed consistently with their safe custody, on account of the isolated
situation of that place, and the consequent difficulty of escape
therefrom: Be it therefore enacted by the Governor of Western Australia
and its dependencies, by and with the advice and consent of the
Legislative Council thereof: That the Island of Rottnest shall be
constituted, and is hereby declared to be a gaol or legal place of
imprisonment for the purposes and under the provisions of this Act, to
which any person so committed as aforesaid may be sent: Provided always,
that no person shall be sent to the Island except by the order and
direction of the Governor or other officers administering the Government
of the colony."

Note--The first colonists were all farmers or squatters, and as it was
found impossible to attract free labourers, owing to the funds for
immigration purposes being restricted to the money received from the
sale of Crown lands, which at that date amounted to very little, the
minds of these settlers naturally turned to the thought of using
convicts, as in the eastern colonies. The first experiment was made with
boys from the Parkhurst Reformatory, and it proved so successful that
the offer of Earl Grey, in----, to send out convicts was readily

As indicated above, the Island was separated from the mainland, and the
prisoners confined there were cut off from communication with the
outside world. No boats were permitted to land there without a
Government order, and very strict discipline was maintained, although
those rigid coercive measures necessarily incidental to other colonial
prisons were not carried out. Under the ordinary regulations the
prisoners breakfasted at 8 o'clock, commenced work at 9 o'clock, and
generally completed their tasks by 2 o'clock, although the work could be
continued until 3 o'clock if the superintendent thought necessary. After
their morning's labour the prisoners had dinner, and were then allowed
to roam in freedom over the island in search of game, fish, reptile,
etc. At sunset they were again mustered and locked up in a large
apartment, not cells, until the following morning. Their daily diet,
exclusive of fish, grubs, etc., which they might obtain during their
hours of ease, consisted of 1lb flour and an unlimited quantity of
vegetables and a half pound pork per man on every alternate day. The
grain grown on the island (wheat, barley, and Indian corn) was reaped
and made into meal by the natives themselves, and, after the Institution
had been well established, proved sufficient to meet internal

The labour of the prisoners consisted in cultivating the soil,
collecting salt from the lakes on the Island, and in erecting the
outbuildings required; the latter work being referred to in one official
report as "executed in a style most creditable even to a European
mechanic." The prisoners also erected a stone lighthouse, which was
spoken of as "a proud memorial of the capabilities of the Australian
savage when called forth and duly directed." The majority of the
prisoners were under sentence for periods ranging from six months to six
years, but there were a few who were condemned to remain on the Island
"for the term of their natural lives." Alas! poor wretches; not a few of
them filled the measure of their "natural lives" on the Island, although
they were only short-sentenced criminals. A little confinement even as
easy as that of Rottnest was sufficient to break the heart of men who
until the white man invaded their country did not know what even a days
deprivation of freedom was; and they quickly fretted out their lives
under the restraint which Europeans would have looked upon as enjoyable.
The number of prisoners confined at the Island at one time ranged from
20 to 50.

It is worthy of remark here that on the same day that the Act to
constitute the Island of Rottnest a prison was passed, the Legislative
Council also passed an Act to allow the aborigines to give evidence in
criminal cases on information, and on oath, and giving power to
magistrates to order aboriginal offenders to be flogged, the number of
lashes not to exceed two dozen. The authorities of Western Australia
were more advanced than those of New South Wales!

Speaking of the Rottnest prison after it had been established eighteen
months, Governor Hutt says:--

"The last report made personally to me by the superintendent was that he
found the prisoners very docile and steady at their work, and that he
had scarcely found it necessary to punish one of them for
insubordination since he had been left in charge. Indeed this may claim
for itself the high merit of being a penal establishment which gives
every promise of answering most completely the ends proposed by the far
sighted policy of the founder."

Mr. Symonds, Protector of Natives, and official prison visitor, also
spoke well of the establishment. Here is an extract from his report:--

"It is gratifying to remark that the number of prisoners is gradually
decreasing, and that from the influence of its name, it will probably
henceforth serve rather as a preventive than a punisher of crime."

"On the minds of these natives who have been released from Rottnest the
discipline of the prison has produced a most salutary effect. In but one
instance since the formation of the establishment has a native, once a
prisoner, rendered himself again amenable to the laws, while the
exaggerated narrations of the aborigines to each other of the rigour of
the gaol regulations, has greatly aided in deterring the bush natives
from the commission of acts of aggression."

But, like all other documents of their kind, official reports concerning
this aboriginal prison could only be taken for what they were worth.
They were just what they ought to be, viewed from the official pedestal;
but there was at least one outsider who had a different story to tell
about the prison and its management. This outsider was a solicitor named
Clark, who appears to have greatly interested himself in the native
question. He lived in Perth, and had more than one writing duel with the
Governor and the aborigines protectors. On 28th December, 1842, he wrote
direct to the Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society in London,
and the following is an extract from his letter: "You have very likely
heard that a Native Penitentiary has been established on the Island of
Rottnest, about sixteen miles from the mainland. To this place natives
who have been found guilty of spearing sheep, pigs, etc., because white
men kill their kangaroos, or who commit other offences against laws
which they do not understand, are transported for such a number of years
as each case may warrant under the plentitude of authority assumed by
the local Government. A superintendent of the name of------, manages the
establishment. Several of the native criminals have died on this island,
and speculation has been busy regarding the cause of their deaths. It
now appears that------- forced the prisoners to perform harder work than
they could bear, and when their work did not please him, he, like the
overseer of a West Indian planter, lashed them repeatedly on their bare
backs, and one native died from the effects of such brutal punishment.
He likewise cut their hair very close, and pulled out their beards by
the roots by means of pincers. When it is known that the long hair of
the native, which they bedaub with grease, is a wise ordinance of nature
to protect their heads from the fervid rays of the sun, and that the
mere touching of the beard with whites is an offence which they never
forgive, the extreme cruelty of this Western Australian overseer must be
apparent, and may be attended with very dangerous consequences to the
whites, from an exasperated black population smarting under conceived
wrongs. Such facts have been related to Governor Hutt for some time, but
he has neglected to notice them, until roused from his apathy by the
voice of public indignation. If he attempts to screen this------, I hope
he may meet with his reward. You are at perfect liberty to make this
letter as public as possible, as it contains nothing but the truth; and
with regard to myself, they know me too well in this colony to attempt
an answer."

The same writer in a subsequent letter to the Secretary says: "The
investigation before a few magistrates ended, as was anticipated, in an
acquittal on all charges enumerated." He complains that the enquiry was
not an impartial one, and that two witnesses who could have sworn to the
death of a native named Gundaberg by severe lashing on the bare back and
belly were not examined.

Mr. Clark appears to have been a thorn in the side of the colonial
authorities of the colony, and he was repeatedly reporting them for
harsh treatment of the natives and for neglect of duty. He complained
that the two protectors were only diligent in drawing their salaries,
and that they did not take any action except when some glaring case of
outrage was reported although they should have sojourned in the bush for
the purpose of reclaiming the wild savage. "Mr.------," said he, "has a
large flock of sheep and a splendid estate to which his attention is
devoted, and receives his allowance of 250 a year as Protector for
doing absolutely nothing, except an annual visit to King George's Sound
(from York) with his wife and family, professedly on the business of his
office, may be stretched into doing something. Such were not the
Protectors contemplated by the British Government when the Imperial
House of Parliament was called upon for 500 per annum to defray the
expense of these men to office in the South: Another complaint was made
by him as follows: "A Mr.------, at the Vasse, suspected a native girl
of stealing some flour from him. He taxed her with the fact, but she
steadfastly denied it. He then took up a percussion lock gun which he
thought was unloaded, and snapped it repeatedly at her, threatening to
shoot her if she would not confess, and putting a percussion cap on the
nipple each time. The poor girl still denied the theft. At last the gun
went off, the contents were lodged in the girls body, and she died on
the spot. Such a glaring instance of wanton mischief could not be
overlooked and Mr.----- was accordingly tried, pleaded guilty, but to
the surprise of all was merely fined a shilling by Mr. Mackie, the judge
of the colony, and immediately discharged from his recognisance. I
venture to say that if the native had stood in the white-man's shoes the
punishment would have been very severe."

Governor Hutt replied at length to these complaints, and the home
authorities accepted his explanation as satisfactory--the easiest way
out of the difficulty certainly. He stated that Mr. Protector------,
although a large station holder, as mentioned by Mr. Clark, did not live
at his station, but had rented it in order that he might assume the
office to which the salary was attached, and that he did his work well.
As a reply to the charge of inadequate punishment of a woman slayer,
brought by Mr. Clark against Judge Mackie, the Governor, quoted the
statement of Mr. Protector Symmons, who had reported as follows:--

"In February last the tranquility of the Vasse district was partially
disturbed by a robbery of the flour mill of Messrs------, and the
shooting, ostensibly in self defence (!) of one of the ringleaders by a
party in pursuit. A magisterial inquiry was immediately instituted, and
the act pronounced justifiable homicide. On the 11th March ensuing, a
deeply to be deplored catastrophe occurred in the same district. A
native girl, implicated in the above robbery, having been apprehended,
Mr. Charles------, finding all attempts to extort from her a confession
of her accomplices ineffectual, took a fowling-piece, which he had that
morning unloaded. One of his brothers, had, however, in the interim
substituted a loaded weapon, and, the trigger being pulled, with the
intention of intimidating by the click of the lock, the ball passed
through the unfortunate girl's body, who expired shortly afterwards. For
this offence Mr.----- pleaded guilty of manslaughter, at the July
sessions, but the act, however illegal, being on the clearest evidence
proved to have been unintentional, that gentleman was discharged with a
fine and a severe caution from the Bench."

Supplementing this report, the Governor said: "I felt as much pained as
Mr. Clark could on hearing of the girl's death; the Advocate General
received my personal instructions to prosecute for the offence; the
trial came on at the Quarter Sessions, and Mr.----- having pleaded
guilty to an indictment for manslaughter, the court, taking into
consideration all the circumstances of the case, imposed a fine of one
shilling upon Mr.------, and discharged him. I am not aware that
anything else could have been done; but your Lordship will observe the
difference between the two accounts given severally by Mr. Symmons and
Mr. Clark of the termination of the trial. Mr. Symmons says that
Mr.----- was discharged with a severe caution from the Bench." Mr.
Clark, "that he was mildly told to be more circumspect in future." I
have endeavoured to ascertain which of these statements is correct, and
I have now lying before me a note from Mr. Mackie, the chairman of the
Quarter Sessions, in which he says, "I distinctly recollect that, on my
delivering the judgement of the court on Mr. Charles----- for the
manslaughter of a native, I commented, in terms of strong reprehension
on the illegality of displaying firearms in a menacing manner though
without designing any actual injury towards a native, for the purpose of
intimidating him."

Referring to the charges of cruelty preferred against the Superintendent
of Rottnest prison--that of flogging a prisoner so as to cause his
death, the Governor said: "The punishment of flogging, though absolutely
necessary at times when dealing with savages fresh from the bush, unused
to any kind of restraint, and therefore peculiarly unwilling to submit
to prison discipline, would have been quite sufficient to condemn the
Superintendent as unfit for the responsible office he holds, could it
have been shown that he inflicted it unduly or unmercifully. But this,
as it came out on the public examination before the magistrates was not
the case. The death of Gundaberg, the man whom Mr Clark accuses the
Superintendent of having so barbarously treated, took place in Oct.,
1840, two years before any idea was entertained of a criminal
investigation being gone into of the Superintendent's conduct, and it
was occasioned by inflammation of the bowels. This I satisfied myself
of, having occasion at the very time of Gundaberg's decease to send over
the colonial surgeon to attend another person, who had been taken
suddenly ill through eating poisonous fish." He also explained that,
although the hair of the natives was cut close, they were provided with
Scotch caps to protect them from the sun. "But when Mr Clark speaks,"
says the Governor, "of the Superintendent having pulled out their beards
by the roots by the means of pincers, he gives easy credence and
circulation to reports as false as they are malicious."

This exhaustive gubernatorial despatch was, of course, satisfactory to
the Home authorities, and Lord Stanley, in replying to it, informed
Governor Hutt that it afforded "a conclusive answer to the complaints of
Mr. Clark."

This prison was used until there was no further use for it, but while in
active occupation it stood out in bold relief as one of the most curious
of all curious means adopted by the white Christians to civilize the
dusky heathen of the Southern land.

Concerning outrages by and upon the aborigines of Western Australia, it
would weary the reader to have to peruse a series of officially reported
cases, all having a colour imparted to them which made the blacks look
blacker and the whites whiter than was really the case. I will content
myself with quoting one or two instances serving to show that the
experiences in Western Australia--that of the blacks, at any rate--were
similar to those of the other colonies.

The cases to which I shall refer were made the ground of complaint from
a humane colonist named Dr. Giustiniani, whose righteous soul was vexed
at the cruelties perpetrated by certain settlers being allowed to go
unpunished. One of the cases reported by him was to the effect that some
natives had been entrapped into a barn and there deliberately shot. Some
wheat had been placed in the barn, which belonged to Messrs------
and--------, and which the natives had been in the habit of visiting,
and a servant named Gallop was ordered to get among the rafters with
instructions to fire at the legs (so it was said) of two natives who
were expected to enter. The man seated himself in the rafters, and the
unsuspecting natives entered the building, and at once received the
contents of the gun fired from above--not in the legs, but in the head
and arm. The black whose head formed the target fell dead upon the spot,
but the one who was shot in the arm escaped. Next day a white man,
resident at the station, was speared by the brothers of the murdered
man, and the Government Resident, after having justified the shooting of
the black on the ground that he had no right to be in the shed, thus
referred to the spearing of the white man. "I should be glad to know
what is to be done with the two natives who speared Knot. If I may be
allowed to give an opinion that if this first murder of an inoffensive
man in this district goes unpunished, they will attribute it to fear on
our parts, which will embolden them to commit greater acts of violence
towards the settlers and their property." This Government Resident was
one of the owners of the station where the shooting of the blacks had
taken place, and the order for the shooting was given by his partner.
The authorities must have been easily satisfied when they could take
this gentleman's report as a full and satisfactory explanation of the
occurrence, but being himself an officer under Government, his testimony
was, of course, of more value than that of all accusers whose only
witnesses, if they had been brought forward, must have been aborigines.

The other case referred to by Dr. Giustiniani appears to have arisen out
of that just mentioned. Mr------- having sought to secure one of the
blacks said to be concerned in the shooting of the man Knot, and having
secured him, handed him over to the soldiers at the barracks, by whom he
was shot when endeavouring to make his escape. A Mr. Souper appears to
have acted as his right hand man, and he it was who made the arrest of
the native, whose name was Wynapwert. When Souper was hunting for the
native, other members of the tribe warned him that they would be
revenged if any harm happened to Wynapwert, and after the shooting by
the soldiers, they sought to avenge his death by killing Souper, when
the latter fired and shot one of the women. Dr. Giustiniani considered
that the------and-----party had, through Souper, committed an
additional wrong by shooting the woman, and what was called an "inquiry
into the circumstances" was made by the authorities. But here again the
only evidence obtained was from the offender himself and the evidence
given by the offender was again accepted as a full and satisfactory
explanation of the occurrence. Here is the summary which the Advocate
General furnished to the Colonial Secretary of Souper's evidence:--

"Mr. Souper in substance states that he has been active in assisting
Mr.------ to secure a native called Wynapwert, who was one of those who
murdered Knot; that he was told frequently by the natives that if any
harm should come to Wynapwert he, Mr. Souper, would be speared by the
natives; that Wynapwert was given into charge of the soldiers at the
barracks, and was shot by one of them when in the act of making his
escape, that consequently he was very much on his guard and very much
alarmed by these threats; that on the next day after Wynapwert was shot
a native commonly called "Ben," came and delivered a message from him as
if from the boy who was out in charge of the bullocks, wanting him to go
and assist him; that he did not go because he had orders not to leave
the place in Mr.-------'s absence; that on the boy returning in the
evening, he, Mr. Souper, had asked him why he had sent for him by the
native, when the boy said he had not sent for him, nor had he seen any
native that day; that on the next day after, the boy had seen some
natives in the bush, who told him to tell Mr. Souper that if he would
come out they would show him some kangaroos. That on the next day he did
not go out with the black boy, who is a native of Port Phillip, and fell
in with two natives, a man and a woman, who offered to show him some
kangaroos, and he accompanied them for some distance without seeing any
kangaroos, until he heard other natives some way off, when he remarked
to the boy who was with him "Bob, I am afraid we are in another trap, we
must be on our guard against it"; that he wanted the native to go off in
a different direction to that where the voices came from; he did so at
first; but afterwards led them round gradually in the same direction
again, when on ascending a hill there was a shout of native voices
suddenly from a thicket close by; just at this moment, on looking at the
man, he found he was in the act of raising his spear at him, and at this
moment the boy came running past him as if in alarm, and saying
something which Mr. Souper did not distinctly hear, on which he turned
round and fired at the first object that presented itself, which,
unfortunately, proved to be the woman, he, Mr. Souper, being in great
alarm and agitation at the time; that the whole thing occurred in a
moment; that after the woman fell they saw nothing more of the natives,
and they hurried home as fast as they could; that when he reached the
house he saw Mr. McLeod, who, accompanied by a policeman, was going to
join Mr. Bumbury's party, in looking after some natives, to try and
apprehend them; that there was a sort of war against the natives at that
time, as it was shortly after the murder of Jones and Chidlow and Knot
and Green, and the attempt on the life of Sewell on Mr. Leonard's farm.
That on the same evening this occurred he went to Mr. Brockman's, a
distance of 10 or 12 miles, and remained there two or three days, and
never saw the body of the woman afterwards; and he distinctly denies
having committed any barbarity or mutilation on the body, this also had
been charged against him; that he has frequently since seen the man, the
husband of the woman that was killed, who, as well as all the other
natives of that district, is now and has ever since been on friendly
terms with the settlers. "Mr. Souper desires to add to the above
statement that the day after Wynapwert was taken prisoner, Diram, who
calls himself the governor of the natives, had told him in the presence
of several others, that if Wynapwert were shot they would kill him when
out hunting, that they would dodge round the trees till he had fired his
gun, then they would rush in and spear him; it was this that made him so
much alarmed, as he thought this was the plan they had laid to kill him
when he was out; he also adds that having suffered severely from a wound
inflicted upon him by a native shortly after his coming into the colony,
he had ever since felt a quick suspicion, and a great dread of any
hostile collision with them."

This was Souper's story, and one marvels that a man subject to such
quick suspicion and in such "dread," and having withal been warned what
the consequences of Wynapwert being hurt would be, should have so
innocently gone out on a shooting expedition at the invitation of the
very natives who had threatened him. But perhaps Mr. Souper's story was
not true, although it appears to have answered its purpose, for no
further action was taken in the matter, although Lord John Russell, in
reply to the Governor's despatch, containing Souper's statement as an
enclosure, expressed surprise that no notice was taken by the Colonial
authorities of the "murder committed on the native by Mr. Souper." It
may be mentioned just here that the "Ben" referred to in the statement
quoted was afterwards shot by the police for refusing to lead them to
the spot where other natives of whom they were in search, were supposed
to be located.

With the Rottnest prison on one side as an instrument of civilization,
and the firearms of the police and settlers on the other, to say nothing
of the dire diseases and scarcity of food which contact with the
civilizing strangers involved--it must be confessed that the lot of the
Western Australian blacks was not by any means a happy one. They have
not been killed off so quickly there, however, as in the other colonies,
owing to the comparatively slow occupation of the land "out back," which
events of recent years have proved are more suitable for mining than

CHAPTER XVI.--The Queensland Tribes.

Much that has been written concerning the conduct and treatment of the
aborigines of New South Wales in the early days of settlement, is
applicable to Queensland, which up to 1859 formed part of New South
Wales territory. All the parts taken up by settlers were occupied by the
tribes, who were naturally more numerous where abundant water and grass
made "game" plentiful, and the pioneers were not in the habit of
locating on barren plains, or stoney ridges. There was war from the
start between the two races, and the result never varied. Many or few,
the aborigines had to go, and in the ordinary course the settled
districts were freed from the presence of all the blacks, save those who
had developed into harmless and miserable "hangers on" at the several

Captain Bremer, who was charged with the duty of forming a settlement
off the Queensland coast in 1825, gives a few interesting particulars of
the natives with whom he came in contact. One afternoon, two of his men
who were cutting timber and reeds were suddenly pounced upon by a party
of natives who seized them, but offered no further violence than
wresting their axes from them. The blacks had doubtless been watching,
and correctly estimated the value of the axe as a "chopper." As soon as
they were released the men rushed back to the fort and gave the alarm,
but as the soldiers turned out the natives retreated. Captain Bremer
then went into the bush with a solitary companion, and coming up with
the natives managed to establish communication by signs. The blacks, who
were about twenty in number, then threw down their spears and went
forward, although some of the young men stood by the weapons, so that
they could be speedily handed out if necessary. The blacks threw away
buttons, handkerchiefs, etc., that were handed to them, but made signs
indicating that they desired the axes.

These were promised on condition that they came to the fort, but no
inducement could get them into the clear ground or inside the line of
cottages. No notice was taken of the previous theft of axes and three
others were given them, with a view to establish friendly relations. But
the gift created an appetite for more, and when Captain Bremer met their
demand for additional axes with a stern refusal they grew angry, and
threatened an attack, when one of the soldiers fired his musket over
their heads to frighten them. A day or two afterwards they attempted to
cut off two of the European party and the leader was shot as he ran
forward, after which the blacks retired and were no more troublesome
while the Europeans were on shore. But Captain Bremer fell in with
others, and he gives the following account of what he saw:--

"These people were above the middle height, their limbs straight, and
well formed, possessing wonderful elasticity; not strongly made, the
stoutest had but little muscle, their activity was astonishing; their
colour nearly black, their hair course but not woolly, tied occasionally
in a knot behind, and some had daubed their heads and bodies with a red
or yellow pigment. They were almost all marked with a kind of tattoo,
generally in three lines, the centre one going directly down the body,
from the neck to the navel, the others drawn from the outside of the
breast and approaching the perpendicular line at the bottom. The skin
appeared to have been cut in order to admit some substance into it and
then bound down until it healed, leaving small raised marks on the
surface. The men were entirely naked, but we saw two women at a little
distance who had small mats of plaited grass or rushes round the body.
Their arms were the spear, and waddy. The former is a straight shaft,
well hardened by fire, about 9 or 10 feet long; those we saw generally
had a smooth sharp point, but they have others which are barbed--deadly
weapons. One of them was thrown at us and I have preserved it; it is
very ingeniously made, barbs being cut out of the solid wood; they are
17 in number, the edges and points exceedingly sharp; they are on one
side of the spear only. As they have no iron implements or tools it is
wonderful that they can contrive to produce such a weapon. We saw but
few of these barbed spears, and it is probable that they cost so much
labour in making that they are preserved for close combat or
extraordinary occasions. They did not use the wommera or throwing stick,
so general in New South Wales. The waddy or short pointed stick was
smaller than those seen in the neighbourhood of Sydney and was evidently
used in close fight, as well as for bringing down birds and animals for
food. They throw this stick with such wonderful precision that they
never fail to strike a bird on the highest tree with as much certainty
as we could with our fowling pieces. In their habits they much resemble
the people of New South Wales, but they are superior in person, and if
the covering of the women is general it is a mark of decency and a step
towards civilization perfectly unknown to the inhabitants of the east

       *       *       *       *       *

"We found the tomb of a native. The situation was one of such perfect
retirement and repose that it displayed considerable feeling in the
survivors who placed it there, and the simple order which pervaded the
spot would not have disgraced a civilized people. It was an oblong
square opened at the foot, the remaining ends and sides being railed
round with trees seven or eight feet high, some of which were carved
with a stone or shell, and further ornamented by rings of wood also
carved. On the top of these posts were placed the waddies of the
deceased; the grave was raised above the level of the earth, but the
raised part was not more than three feet long. At the head was placed a
piece of canoe and little baskets made of the palm leaf, which from
their small size we thought had been placed there by the children of the
departed. Nothing could exceed the neatness of the whole; the sand and
the earth were cleared away from its sides, and not a scrub or weed was
suffered to grow with in the area."

In its relation to Queensland, the story of the blacks is invested with
special interest by reason of the fact that it furnishes two peculiar
cases of European women being rescued from wild tribes, after an
enforced residence amongst them for some time.

The first case was that of a woman whose maiden name was Barbara
Crawford, daughter of a Scotch tinman, an immigrant, residing in Sydney;
but who had married a man named Thompson, at Moreton Bay. She had
accompanied her husband and some other men in a small cutter in a short
voyage along the coast, when the vessel was wrecked, all but the woman
were drowned, she being cast upon Prince Edward Island. Falling in with
the natives, she was cared for, and for five years lived amongst them
completely cut off from her kind. Although the natives treated her with
great kindness, they refused to allow her to communicate with any
passing vessel until the 'Rattlesnake' anchored at Cape York, when she
induced them to take her on board, saying she wished to shake hands with
her countrymen. Upon coming on board, she could scarcely make it
understood that she wished to be rescued from the blacks, as she had
almost forgotten the English language. The captain willingly gave her a
berth on board and liberally rewarded the natives for their kindness to
her. What became of the woman afterwards is not recorded.

The other case presented some very remarkable features, and created not
a little sensation in England, as well as in the colonies. The story is
a many-sided one, and contains points for the building up of a romance,
than which the most skilful fiction-monger could not desire any more
thrilling. I give it here partly in illustration of the risks which the
earlier voyagers along the Australian coast had to run, and partly as an
illustration of the lengths to which even a woman may go when drunken
with the excitement born of notoriety.

On Sunday, May 15th., 1836, the brig 'Stirling Castle,' James Frazer
commander, sailed out of Sydney harbour bound for Singapore. There were
eighteen men on board, two boys, and a woman, Mrs. Frazer, wife of the
captain. Everything went well until the following Saturday night, when
the vessel struck upon a reef and stove in her bottom, and broke her
back in two places. Those on board remained with the brig for two days
and then took to the long boat, and the pinnance--the captain and his
wife, the two boys, the chief and second mate, and portion of the crew
in the former; and the remainder of the crew, the captain's nephew, and
a man named Hodge in the latter. The boats kept together for some time,
but one night they lost each other, and one of the occupants of each,
thereafter had their own story to tell.

The first news of the wreck to reach Sydney was brought by Hodge, one of
the men from the pinnance, and his story was to the effect that after
vainly looking for the long boat after the separation, he and his
companions prosecuted their course to the southward, running before the
wind night and day. Making the land at a point they did not know, the
pinnance was stove, and the men sought to pursue their way by land
through the bush, subsisting upon grass and wild herbs. One of the crew
was burned to death while sleeping by a fire that had been kindled;
another was drowned in attempting to cross a river; the boatswain and
carpenter were left on an island in the middle of the Big River,
(Clarence) to the northward of the Macleay, in consequence of the blacks
refusing to put them over; the cook sank exhausted when about fifteen
miles from the Macleay River; but Hodge managed to keep on until he
reached the Macleay, and found succour. As speedily as possible he was
sent on to Sydney and there it was he made known the fate of the
'Stirling Castle,' the happenings to himself and companions of the
pinnance and the uncertainty surrounding the movements of the long boat.

Immediately upon the receipt of this news the revenue cutter 'Prince
George'--Roach, Captain--went out to search the coast northward in hope
of discovering the crew of the long boat, and the two men who had been
in the long boat with her, but the captain reported that he had failed
to discover the two men on the island, although he had traced their
footsteps for some distance, and found their deserted camp, and he
supposed they had started off in hopes of reaching Port Macquarie.
Calling at Moreton Bay he found the survivors of the long boat. They had
been rescued by Lieutenant Otter and his surveying party, who had gone
out in search of them when news of the wreck reached Moreton Bay, and
had found them living with a tribe of blacks on the mainland.

But the story of the manner of Mrs. Frazer's escape from the blacks was
told in so many different ways, that doubts arose concerning it, and
these have never been set at rest, although they were subsequently in
great measure removed by revelations coming from an unexpected quarter.
The first doubts were created by the contradictory statements made by
Mrs. Frazer herself. One statement made by her to the Sydney 'Gazette'
is thus related by the editor:--

"Mrs. Frazer called at our office on Saturday afternoon and gave us the
following particulars: The long boat's company consisted of Captain
Frazer, Brown, the chief officer, Baxter, the second mate, and herself.
After they had been ashore a great number of natives were observed, and
her husband suggested giving themselves up quietly as they were entirely
defenceless. They had scarcely time to make the suggestion when several
tribes came down upon them, one of whom immediately captured her
husband; another tribe took Brown, and a third Baxter. They would not
allow Mrs. Frazer to go with either of them, and left her alone upon a
sandy bank the whole of that day; and the day following, a number of old
women came down to the beach with some children.

"They gave her to understand that she must go with them, and carry one
of the children upon her shoulders, which she of necessity complied
with. Mrs. Frazer states that she travelled many miles into the bush
with these women and the child, and was frequently exhausted. She
remained about three weeks with these people when she fell in with her
husband, who was dragging a load of wood for the natives, in which he
had been principally engaged since he had parted with his wife. Captain
Frazer was so dreadfully fatigued that he could not move a load that had
been consigned to him, and implored his wife to assist him. Mrs. Frazer
states she had neither strength nor liberty to do so, she herself being
employed in the same manner, and the natives keeping a sharp lookout
after her. She was under the necessity of leaving him, and when she
returned afterwards found that he was speared in the back of the
shoulders, which had been inflicted upon him for not making any progress
with the wood. Mrs. Frazer remained with her husband until sundown when
he expired of his wounds. His last words were. "Eliza, I'm gone."

"The savages immediately dragged her away from the body and buried it.
In eight days from this brutal affair the same cannibals also killed
Brown, by holding fire brands to his legs, and so burning him upwards.
The cause of their destroying Brown, was in consequence of his shewing
signs of dissatisfaction at the death of his chief. The party now
consisted of only two prisoners--Mrs. Frazer and Baxter--but they were
separated from each other at many miles distance, a large river running
between them. These two unfortunate creatures remained with the natives
about two months before they were rescued, enduring the greatest
miseries from hunger, Mrs. Frazer being employed cutting down and
carrying wood, and fishing for the natives; and Baxter was engaged in
the same manner on the other side of the river. The steward of the
brig--Joseph--had walked overland to Moreton Bay, and gave information
of the situation of Mrs. Frazer and her unfortunate companions, when a
man named Graham, who was well acquainted with the bush, volunteered to
head a party to the shipwrecked people, and pledged himself to rescue
them from the blacks. Lieutenant Otter and a party were immediately
despatched, and with Graham went in search of the unfortunate people.
Mrs. Frazer says that Graham went into the midst of the natives, and at
the risk of his life, snatched her up, and ran away to his party with
her, and afterwards recovered the second officer in the same courageous

And here for a time the matter rested. Mrs. Frazer was 'assisted' to
London and was the 'lioness' of the hour, but the story she told there
was somewhat different in its essential features from that which she had
poured into the ear of the 'Gazette' editor, and when that story was
made public in the old world, and floated over to the new, not a little
surprise was created. Twelve months had elapsed since the appearance in
the 'Sydney Gazette' of the extract which I have given above, when there
appeared the following, the date being February 1st, 1838:--

"The statement made by Mrs. Frazer and other regarding the loss of the
'Sterling Castle,' on her voyage from Sydney to Singapore, differ so
materially in detail from the statements made by the same parties here,
that we have been induced, by the request of several of our readers, to
publish them."

And then follows this account from the 'East India and Colonial
Magazine,' for September, 1837:--

"The attention of the chief magistrate in the city has been, during the
last month, occupied in examining the deplorable case of Mrs. Frazer and
others, who have miraculously survived an awful shipwreck, and the
cruelties practised upon them by the savages of N.S. Wales, amongst whom
they were thrown, and by whom the majority of his ship's crew have been
enslaved in lowest bondage, and, in short, tortured to death by means
which the inquisition of Spain might blush.

"Mrs Frazer's story is as follows:--

"Accordingly the wreck having been described, having worked with most
desperate energy until 4 o'clock on Sunday, they disembarked from the
vessel and took to the boats. The ship's carpenter, the cook, the cook's
mate John Frazer (the captain's nephew), the boatswain, Edward Stone,
and Bill Lorton (a seaman) took to the pinnance, while the captain, his
wife, the chief mate (Brown), and the second mate (Baxter), the two
boys, and the rest of the crew, took to the long-boat. Four days after
they had committed themselves to the care of Providence, Mrs. Fraser was
delivered of a child whilst up to her waist in water in the long boat.
The infant was born alive, but after a few gasps was drowned, and the
first mate wrapped up the body in a part of his shirt which he tore from
his back for the purpose, and let it go with the tide. The poor mother
could not account for the extra-ordinary vigour with which she was able
to bear up against this calamity, added to the other calamities to which
she was doomed to be exposed. Fortunately she was for some time in a
state of insensibility, and it was not for a considerable time after the
child was consigned to the deep, that she was aware that it was brought
into the world, from which it was rapidly hurried away. For a great many
days they endeavoured in vain to reach Moreton Bay, being all the time
without any food, except a small quantity of the lees of hops, which
they found in a cask. They suffered dreadfully from thirst, as well as
hunger, whilst in this awful situation. At last they reached a large
rock, to which they fastened their boats, and then went in quest of
oysters and water; but their disappointments multiplied upon them and
they stretched themselves along in expectation of a speedy release from
their sufferings by the interposition of another tempest. On the morning
those who had belonged to the long boat were surprised to find that the
pinnance, and the men who had accompanied her had altogether
disappeared. These unfortunate fellows were never heard of more, and
their comrades could not conjecture what their motive could be for
making an experiment by themselves, without the aid of the experience of
the captain and his mates, whom they left behind.

"The Captain's view was all along, after they had been obliged to quit
the ship, to reach Moreton Bay, but, finding that the wind and current
were dead against his object, and his companions being reduced to the
extremity of lying on their backs in the boat with their tongues out to
catch the damp of the dew that fell, he resolved to make for the nearest
land. It was a choice of most awful evils, for he knew that the shore
which it was probable they would reach was visited by tribes or savages.

"They bore away before the wind prepared to meet death in whatever shape
it might present itself, and so exhausted with suffering as to be
careless whether they were to die by the hands of the natives or be
overwhelmed by the waves. At last they came within sight of land, and
soon afterwards their boat ran into and landed in a place called Wide
Bay. Just as they reached the land they caught sight of a vast crowd of
naked savages, who soon approached the beach, evidently delighted with
the prize that presented itself. The savages surrounded the boat, and
running it up carried it from the beach to the bush, with its crew just
as they were. The moment they laid the boat on the ground they began to
strip the men of their clothes, commencing with the captain and the
chief officers. John Baxter, the second mate endeavoured to hide a shirt
ornament in which his aunt's hair was contained, having willingly
yielded up everything else; but the savages became infuriated at the
attempt at concealment, and beat him dreadfully. It is unnecessary to
say that they tore the trinket from him. They broke in pieces the
watches and chronometers, each took a portion of the machinery to stick
in their noses and ears; and after having divided amongst themselves a
portion of the apparel of which they had stripped their captives, they
threw them (to appease their hunger) the heads and guts of the fish upon
which they had lately been taking their meals. The savages, after having
detained them two days, took them further into the bush and drove them
onward, that they might, as they soon ascertained, fall into the hands
of the other tribes, by whom an ingenious variety was to be given to
their sufferings. The captain endeavoured to prevail upon them to accept
the services of the crew for a longer time, being apprehensive that any
change amongst the natives would be for the worse; but they beat all the
now naked whites on before them, until fresh tribes came up and took
each of them a prisoner, and set him to work carrying pieces of trees,
and toiling in other exhaustive ways.

"Mrs. Fraser, being the only woman, was not selected by any of the
tribes, but was left by herself while they went onwards. During that
night she lay in a cleft of the rock, and in the morning, after looking
about without seeing a creature, she determined to follow some
footmarks, and, after having proceeded some distance, she saw a crowd of
black women approaching. These woman belonged to the tribe of savages by
whom her husband had been taken up in the bush on the preceding day, and
they set her to trailing wood and lighting fires. Being quite naked, and
presenting a contrast in her skin which the natives did not like, she
was compelled by them to rub herself all over with gum and herbs, which
had the effect of making her nearly as dark as themselves. They likewise
tattooed her all over, and having pulled her hair out, covered her head
with a sort of gum, and stuck the feathers of parrots and other birds
all over it. One of the women, having two children, obliged her to nurse
one of them, notwithstanding the severe labour she had to perform; and
if the child was out of temper the nurse was kicked and scratched and
thumped for its peevishness."

"At the expiration of four days Mrs. Frazer saw her husband for the
first time since her separation. He was dragging along a tree and was
greatly fatigued; she had just begun to inquire how it happened that he
did not manage to let her know where he was, to which he was replying
that he dare not look for her, when his tribe suddenly appeared. One of
them having seen them together, made a push at the Captain with a spear,
and pierced him right through the body and he was a corpse in an
instant. Mrs. Frazer ran to her husband, and cried out "Jesus of
Nazareth! I can endure this no longer," and pulled the spear out of the
body, but the life was gone for ever! She then fell senseless, and
remained so a considerable time; and when she recovered her senses she
found herself away with the tribe which she was obliged to serve; what
became of the body of Captain Frazer, she never could learn. Shortly
after this catastrophe the first officer (Brown) of the ship, having
been informed that the captain had been murdered by one of the tribes,
formed in a fit of desperation a plan of revenge fettered and exhausted
as he was. His intention was however, discovered, and horrible was his
punishment. Mrs. Frazer had just lighted a fire, by order of her tribe,
and the the unfortunate man's legs were thrown into it and consumed,
while he, by the violence of his contortions actually worked for the
rest of his body a grave in the sand, in which it was embedded. Two days
after this event a fine looking young man, named James Major, was
disposed of. Captain Frazer who knew a good deal of the character, and
habits of the savages on the coast, had mentioned to Major that the
savages would take off his head for a figure bust for one of their
canoes. It seemed too, that it was usual for the savage who contemplated
that sort of execution, to smile in the face of the victim immediately
before he struck him to the earth. While Major was at work the chief of
the tribe approached him smiling, and tapped him on the shoulder. At
that instant the poor fellow received a blow on the back of the neck
from a waddie or crooked stick, which stunned him. He fell to the ground
and a couple of savages set to work, and by means of sharpened shells
severed the head from the body with frightful lacerations. They then ate
part of the body and preserved the head with certain gums of
extraordinary efficacy, and affixed it as a figure bust to one of their

"Two of the seamen, Doyle, and Big Ben, contrived to steal a canoe, and
endeavoured to cross an inland lake, but were drowned in the attempt to
escape from, perhaps, a more painful death.

"There was a black man, who had been steward on board the 'Stirling
Castle'; when the savages had seized the long-boat they stripped Joseph
as well as the rest, but as he was of their own colour they inflicted no
punishment upon him, and he had the privilege of going about, which was
denied to any other of the wretched strangers. This man, who was
constantly watching for an opportunity to escape, had assured Mr. Frazer
that if he could get away, the first life he should think of saving
would be that of his mistress. He succeeded in stealing a canoe, in
which he rowed off and in six weeks he reached Moreton Bay when he
informed the commandant of the penal settlement of the horrible
circumstances which had taken place at Wide Bay, and of the servitude in
which the survivors of the crew were detained.

"The Moreton Bay commandant, immediately upon hearing it, inquired in
the barracks whether any of the military would volunteer to save a lady
and several of the crew of a wrecked vessel from the savages, in the
bush, and a number offered themselves at a moment's notice.

"By a system of manoeuvring, entered into by a convict who had been for
some years in the bush among the savages, the object was effected. All
the survivors were, to the best of Mrs. Frazer's belief, rescued from
the savages. The convict to whose extraordinary exertions Mrs. Frazer
owed her escape, obtained a free pardon from the Government there, and a
reward of fifty guineas."

Not even a Rougement could serve up to the British public a dish more
highly seasoned than the story told by this rescued lady, when the
"fish-pound" lay between her and the scene of her former sufferings. No
wonder the Sydney editor should feel annoyed! Compared with this the
story she had told him was tame as dish-water. What could he, on the
spot, as it were, have made of some of the situations--the birth at sea
in an open boat more than half submerged, for instance; or the tongue
stretching to catch the falling dew! or the blacks struggling with the
shirt ornament containing the aunt's hair! or the transformation of
watch wheels into nose and ear ornaments! or Mrs. Fraser being plucked
and tattooed! or the decapitation of poor Major in order to make of his
head the figure-bust for a canoe! or a dozen other hair-raising points.
But the reader will please take note of what follows.

In his "Genesis of Queensland," Mr. Henry Stuart Russell tells us
something that shows that Mrs. Fraser was not averse to making coppers
out of the curiosity of a London crowd. He says he was walking down
Oxford-street, when he saw a man carrying a show advertisement--a large
wooden frame nailed to the end of a long pole--on the calico covering
which was a bright colored daub representing savages with bows and
arrows, some dead bodies of white men and women which other savages were
cutting up, while another squad was holding "spits" to a large fire. The
writing on the picture was--"Stirling Castle, wrecked on the coast of
New Holland, Botany Bay! All killed and eaten by savages! Only survivor
a woman, to be seen! 6d admission!"

Five years afterwards Mr. Russell came to Australia and found himself
near the spot where the tragedy took place, and a fact more remarkable
still, he there heard from the lips of an eye-witness the true details
of the whole terrible affair. Falling in with a large tribe of blacks
near the coast, Mr. Russell and his party learned from them that a white
man had been for a long time living with the aborigines at a spot about
two days' journey distant. One of the party gave the blacks a note, and
promised them unlimited quantities of "bacca" and blankets if they would
carry it to the white man, to apprise him of the fact that fellow
countrymen were at hand--which purpose the note would serve, even if the
unfortunate fellow could not read. For three days the party waited
patiently for the return of the messengers, and were then rewarded with
a sight which astonished them beyond measure.

During the afternoon, two or three blacks were seen running along the
beach, and by the glass Mr. Russell was able to make out that one of
those approaching was not an aboriginal, although savage looking enough.
This man carried a spear, and two of the party went to meet him, the
others remaining at the camp in case other blacks not then visible
should appear and make a demonstration. Sure enough, here was the
mysterious white man. He knew his name--Bracefell--but had almost
forgotten the English language. His story, learned bit by bit as he
became more familiar with his surroundings, and things forgotten came
back to him, was a thrilling one. He had managed to escape from the
chain during the darker, and bloodier days of the penal settlement, and
had sought and found refuge in the blacks, with whom he had thereafter
lived, learning their language, adopting their habits, and in time
becoming a leader in the tribe which had sheltered him. The natives had
given him the name of "Waudi"--a great talker--he having learned the
dialects of four different tribes. He was with Edmundy's tribe at the
time of the wreck of the 'Stirling Castle' on Great Sandy Cape, and
after his rescue described the occurrence.

And here it is that we get the facts concerning the rescue of Mrs.
Frazer. Briefly put, his account ran as follows:--

"The casting away of the vessel was the signal for a general gathering
of all the tribes within reach of the coast. They came in hundreds and
held a grand corroboree, tribal quarrels being set aside for the time,
being in order that all might take part in what, to them, was a great
event. Edmundy's tribe came with the other visitors, and Bracefell
discovered that Captain Frazer and some of the crew had been killed for
some cause not explained, that Brown (the mate) had been reserved for
delivery, and that Mrs. Frazer's life had been spared and she became
domesticated, a special hut having been erected for her accommodation.
Otherwise she was treated as one of the ordinary "gins" of the tribe,
gathering wood for the camp fires, fetching water, etc. Bracefell was
never allowed to speak with her, and they were religiously kept apart,
but seeing her sufferings he said he was always thinking of some way of
escape for her.

"The opportunity sought for came at last. Tribal feuds sprang up, and
there were frequent fights between the different tribes, until each of
the visiting tribes in turn disappeared, Edmundy's alone remaining as
visitors. Then food became scarce, and each one had to forage for
himself and herself in parts of the bush, at a distance from the main
camp. Now Bracefell found opportunity to interview Mrs. Frazer, who was
in a condition of utter misery. Together, one day they set out
ostensibly in search of the honey of wild bees. Through devious ways
they pushed forward, Bracefell's bushcraft being turned to good account
in securing roots and grubs for food, wading in the running water in
order that their tracks could not be followed, and preserving the
straight line leading to the habitation of white men. On the way, Mrs.
Frazer in turn cheered her companion and guide by promising to intercede
with the authorities on his behalf, assuring him that they must grant
him a pardon in return for his efforts on her behalf. Step by step they
drew nearer their asylum, until, after many days' weary plodding, they
reached a road well known to the desperate runaway convict of a few
years before.

"Then came revulsion, disappointment, despair--to one, at least, of the
escapees. "What!" said Bracefell, to Mr. Russell. "As soon as we got on
that path; as soon as she could see the horse's tracks, and trees cut
down and lying about, she knew she was at "Meginchen" (the natives' name
for Brisbane.) I told her of all she said she would do when we got in,
and told her I should like to hear all of it over again. She wouldn't
speak; when she did, as we went on, she said she would complain of me. I
turned round, and ran back for my life!"

"Well do I even now recollect," writes Mr. Russell, "the look of
vindictive savagedom which accompanied this part of Bracefell's story.
Speaking to him, as I did day by day, watching for contradiction--not on
this matter only--I became impressed with the persuasion that he had not
made up a story in this, nor any other instance where I was seeking the
truth. I believed him. In the episode just told his excitement, manner,
words, were too natural to be ashamed for any concealment's sake--had
there been anything to conceal. Under whatever impulse it was--he went
back; seven years afterwards, or thereabouts, we found him with his
tribe again. By a feigned condition--incredible as it may be to common
sense--I know that she (Mrs. Frazer) imposed upon the credulity of
London, not far from a year afterwards."

"Were you not afraid to return after taking her away?"

"I was at first," answered Bracefell, when he had told me some of the
above; "not so much, though, as I was of the settlement. After I got
away there was a fight, too; but the woman didn't belong to us, so they
didn't care about her bolting, and I've been with them ever since."

Before leaving the locality, Bracefell pointed out the spot where Brown
had been killed and eaten, and also where the round, low-roofed
habitation of Mrs. Frazer had stood.

In the accounts given of the wreck of the 'Stirling Castle', in the
'Sydney Gazette' the reader will see that no mention is made of
Bracefell; neither did Mrs. Frazer when on exhibition in London, mention
his name--her reason for silence on this point being apparent. The
discrepancies in the accounts which she gave of her rescue, the absence
of any corroborative evidence of her story, and directly opposite story
told by Bracefell six years afterwards--although if he had not been with
the blacks at the time, he could not have known anything of the
occurrence--all point to the fact that the version published officially,
and from hearsay, was incorrect, and that given by Bracefell to Mr.
Russell, while yet the savage instincts of the tribe among whom he had
lived so long were strong upon him, was the true one. What the rescued
woman's reason was for withholding the real facts of the case, it is
difficult to say; and certainly the rescued convict could have had no
motive for concocting the story he told.

It is only right that further reference should be made to Bracefell
before this part of the story closes. For a long time he remained with
Mr. Russell, and accompanied him in the journeys he made into the then
unexplored parts of Queensland, in search for "fresh fields and pastures
new." On one of these excursions he became instrumental in rescuing from
the wild blacks a man named Davis, who, like himself, had been a
convict, but had run away and been allowed to remain with the tribe.
Both Bracefell and Davis received manumission from the Government
shortly after their return to Brisbane. The convict records proved them
to be the men they represented, and, save among those with whom they
were afterwards associated, their recovery was soon a forgotten
coincidence. Bracefell met his death at the Land Commissioner's station,
by the falling of a tree; but Davis lived to do some useful work as
explorer's assistant in the unknown country where the greater part of
his wild life had been spent.

Further reference to the tribes of Queensland is reserved for a
subsequent chapter--in which the native police are dealt with.


The story of the blacks in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) is perhaps
more full of horrors than that of any of the other colonies. Long before
the occupancy of the land by the British Government as a penal
settlement, the natives had been brought into contact with Europeans,
Captain Cook (in 1757) having touched here after Tasman had discovered
the southern Isle (in 1642) and the French ships, the "Recherche" and
"Esperance" (in 1792), and the "Geographe" and "Naturaliste" (in 1802),
also having made acquaintance with the aboriginals. From the accounts
given by the historians who were attached to those vessels, we learn
something of the character of the aboriginal Van Demonians. Two or three
extracts from their narratives will serve to show that the coastal
tribes met with were neither very shy nor very ferocious.

The surgeon with Captain Cook described the natives as having little of
that "fierce or wild appearance common to people in their situation; but
on the contrary seemed mild and cheerful, without reserve or jealousy of

Speaking of one tribe with whom communication was sought, M.
Tabiliardiere, the naturalist attached to the French expedition, thus
narrates what took place:--

"We got ready a few cartridges as fast as we could, and set out towards
the place where we had seen the natives. We had gone only a few steps
before we met them. The men and youths were ranged in front, nearly in a
semi-circle; the women, children and girls were a few paces behind. As
their manner did not indicate any hostile design, I hesitated not to go
up to the oldest, who accepted with a very good grace a piece of biscuit
which I offered him, of which he had seen me eat. I then held out my
hand to him as a sign of friendship, and had the pleasure to perceive
that he comprehended my meaning very well. He gave me his, inclining
himself a little, and raising at the same time his left foot, which he
carried backward in proportion as he bent his body forward. The motions
were accompanied by a pleasing smile. The women were very desirous of
coming nearer to us; and though the men made signs to them to keep at a
distance, their curiosity was ready every moment to break through all
other considerations. The gradual increase of confidence, however, that
took place, obtained them permission to approach. It appeared to us very
astonishing that in so high a latitude where we experienced the cold at
night to be pretty severe, these people did not feel the necessity of
clothing themselves. Even the women were, for the most part, entirely
naked, as well as the men. Some of them had only the shoulders, or part
of the back covered with kangaroo's skin, worn with the hair next the
body; and amongst these we saw two, each of whom had an infant at the
breast. The sole garment of one was a strip of kangaroo skin, about two
inches broad, which was wrapped six or seven times round the waist.
Another had a collar of skin round the neck, and some had a slender cord
bound several times round the head. I had given them several things
without requiring anything in return; but I wished to get a kangaroo
skin, when, among the savages about us, there happened to be only a
young girl who had one. When I proposed to her to give it to me in
exchange for a pair of pantaloons, she ran away to hide herself in the
woods. The other natives appeared truly hurt at her refusal, and called
to her several times. At length she yielded to their entreaties, and to
bring me the skin. Perhaps it was from timidity only she could not
prevail on herself to part with this kind of garment in return for which
she received a pair of pantaloons, less useful to her, according to the
custom of ladies in this country, than the skin, which served to cover
the shoulders. We showed her the manner of wearing them; but,
notwithstanding, it was necessary for us to put them on for her
ourselves. To this she yielded with the best grace in the world, resting
both her hands on our shoulders, to support herself, while she lifted
first one leg, then the other, to put them in this new garment. Two of
the young girls followed the different windings of the shore, without
mistrust, at a distance from the other natives, with three of our
sailors, when these took the opportunity to treat them with a degree of
freedom which was received in a very different manner from what they had
hoped. The young women immediately fled to the rocks most advanced into
the sea and appeared ready to leap into it and swim away if our men had
followed them. They presently repaired to the place where we were
assembled with the other savages, but it seems they did not disclose
this adventure, for the most perfect harmony continued to prevail
between us."

M. Peron, the other French historian, bears similar testimony to the
friendliness of the men and the attractiveness of the woman, to whom, as
polished Parisians, they appeared to address themselves with extreme
politeness. He describes the males as of apparently strong constitution,
having no other defect than a slenderness of legs and arms; physiognomy
neither austere, nor ferocious; eyes quick and sparkling, with looks
expressing at once benevolence and surprise. One of the younger gins had
an interesting physiognomy; her eyes had expression, and something of
the "spirituel," which surprised us. She appeared also to cherish her
child much, and her care for it had that affectionate and genteel
character which is exhibited among all races as the particular attribute
of maternal tenderness.

The same writer gives the following account of meeting between the
French officers and a company of black damsels whose escorts had, for
the time, left them alone. Espying them while walking in the bush, the
French Officers gallantly waved their handkerchiefs to them, and this is
what followed:--

"At these demonstrations of friendship, the troop hesitated an instant,
then stopped, and resolved to wait for us. It was then that we
recognised that we had the company of women--there was not a male
individual with them. We were disposed to join them nearer, when one of
the oldest among them, disengaging herself from her companions, made
signs for us to stop and sit down, crying out loudly to us, "medi medi"
(sit down, sit down). She seemed also to ask us to lay down our arms,
the view of which alarmed her. These preliminary conditions having been
complied with, the women squatted upon their heels, and from that moment
abandoned themselves without reserve to the vivacity of their
character--speaking all together, questioning us all at once, making, in
a word, a thousand gestures, a thousands contortions--as singular as
varied. M. Bellefin (the doctor) began to sing, accompanying himself
with very lively and animated gestures. The women kept silence,
observing with much attention the gestures of M. Bellefin as if by them
to interpret his singing. Hardly had our couplet been completed when
some of them applauded with loud cries, others laughed to the echo,
whilst young girls, more timid, without doubt, kept silence, evidencing,
nevertheless, by their movements and by the expression of their
physiognomy, their surprise and their satisfaction. All the women, with
the exception of kangaroo skins, which some of them carried upon their
shoulders, were perfectly naked; but, without appearing to think
anything of their nudity, they so varied their attitude and their
postures that it would be difficult to describe the "bizarre" and the
picturesque effects produced to us by that meeting. Their skin, black
and disgusting with the fat of seals; their hair, short, crisp, black,
and dirty, reddened in some with the dust of ochre; their figures, all
bedaubed with charcoal; their forms, generally thin and faded; their
breasts, long and pendant--in a word all the details of their physical
constitution were repulsive. We must always exempt from this general
tableau two or three young girls, of from 15 to 16 years, in whom we
distinguished forms agreeable enough, and contours sufficiently
graceful. These young girls had also something in the expression of
their features, the most ingenious, the most affectionate, and the most
gentle, as if the better qualities of the soul could exist even in the
midst of the savage hordes of the human species, the more particular
gift of youth, of grace, and of beauty.

"Among the more ancient females, some had a gross and ignoble figure;
others, much fewer in number, had a fierce and sombre look; but, in
general, one remarked in all I know not what of inquietude and
depression, which misfortune and slavery imprint on the features of all
beings who bear the yoke. Almost all were covered with scars, sad fruits
of ill-treatment from their savage husbands. After M. Bellefin had ended
his song, one woman began to mimic with her gestures and tone of voice
in a very original and pleasant manner, which much diverted her
companions. Then she began to sing herself, in so rapid a way that it
would be difficult to apply such music to the ordinary principles of our
own.----- Excited, so to speak, by her own singing, which we had not
failed to applaud with warmth, and wishing, without doubt, to deserve
our suffrages on other accounts, our jovial Diamense commenced to
execute various dance movements, some of which would have been regarded
as excessively indecent, if that state of human society were not foreign
to all that delicacy of sentiment and action which is for us but a
fortunate product of the perfection of social order.

"But nothing could induce them to allow themselves to be approached
nearer. The least movement which we made, or appeared to make, to pass
the prescribed line, caused them to spring from their heels, and take
flight. Any longer to enjoy their presence we were constrained to
conform ourselves entirely to their wishes. Accompanied by this numerous
and singular escort, we arrived at the place of embarkation, near which,
by an accident no one could foresee, all the husbands of these poor
women had been gathered together for some time. In spite of the least
equivocal evidence of benevolence and generosity of our countrymen, they
exhibited a restless and sombre physiognomy, and their look was
ferocious and threatening, and in their attitude we distinguished a
constraint, malevolence, and perfidy which they sought to dissemble in
vain. At this inauspicious meeting, all the women who followed us
appeared much concerned. Their furious husbands cast upon them glances
of anger and rage, which were not likely to comfort them. After having
laid their products of their fishing at the feet of these men who
partook of them immediately, without offering them any, they retired
behind their husbands, and seated themselves upon the other side of a
large sand-hill, and there during the rest of our interview, these
unfortunate creatures dared neither raise their eyes, nor speak, nor

Closing his journal this gallant French man says:--

"Thus ended our interview with the inhabitants of Van Diemen's
Land...... This gentle confidence of the people in us, these
affectionate evidences of benevolence which they never ceased to
manifest towards us, of sincerity of the manners, the touching
ingenuousness of their caresses, all concurred to excite within us
sentiments of the tenderest interest. The intimate union of the
different individuals of a family, the sort of patriarchal life of which
we had been spectators, had strongly moved us. I saw with an
inexpressible pleasure the realization of those brilliant descriptions
of the happiness and simplicity of the state of nature of which I had so
many times in reading felt the seductive charm."

Well had it been for the Tasmanian tribes if the Europeans with whom
they came in contract subsequently, or even a small proportion of them,
had been possessed of the kindly nature of M. Peron. That they were not,
let the sad story following bear testimony.

Little more than a year had elapsed after the departure of the French
explorers when fresh invaders landed on the soil, which the Tasmanians,
by right of undisputed possession for many generations, held to be
theirs. In the latter part of 1803, the Governor of New South Wales,
moved by the glowing reports furnished by the maritime explorers, Messrs
Bass and Flinders, of the wonderful country they had discovered near the
Derwent River, arranged to send thither a small military party and a
company of convicts to form a new penal settlement, as a relief to the
crowded settlement of Port Jackson. Accordingly his party, with
Lieutenant John Bowen, started in charge of H. M. ship 'Glatton,'
proceeded to Van Diemen's Land and encamped on the banks of the Derwent,
near the site which Hobart now stands. On this spot the new arrivals
began the work of forming a settlement, erecting huts and making rude
attempts to cultivate the ground; and many weeks did not elapse before
the natives were made acquainted with their presence and their power,
and in a manner which was not likely ever to be forgotten by them. The
full particulars of the occurrence do not appear to have been recorded,
and a degree of mystery envelops the transaction; but sufficient detail
has been collected to prove that a most cruel and unprovoked attack was
made by the military upon a party of innocent blacks----an attack as
bloodthirsty as it was uncalled for. Gathering up the different threads,
Captain Holman, the blind traveller, has left on record what may be
taken as a correct narrative of this deed of darkness; and here is his

"The massacre is said to have originated in the following manner. A
small stone house had been erected for a gardener (convict), and he was
commencing the cultivation of the ground immediately around it. In the
midst of his work one day he was surprised at the appearance of some
natives advancing towards him, and ran off much frightened to the camp
to give the alarm. Lieutenant Moore, who commanded a party of the 102nd,
drew up his men to resist the expected attack; and on the approach of
the natives, the soldiers were ordered to fire upon them. The execution
this volley did among them, and their ignorance of the nature of
firearms, terrified them to such a degree that they fled, without
attempting the slightest defence. From this moment a deep-rooted hatred
for the strangers sprang up among them, and all endeavours to subdue it
have hitherto proved ineffectual."

This was written fully thirty years after the occurrence, and the full
significance of the concluding sentence will make itself apparent before
the reader gets to the end of this, perhaps the darkest chapter in this
story of dark deeds.

A few more particulars are to be gathered from the evidence taken before
an Aborigines' Committee, which had been formed by the Governor of Van
Diemen's Land, some years after the occurrence, when a witness,
evidently the man referred to by Captain Holman, was examined. He said
that he was engaged hoeing the ground near the hut which had been
erected for Lieutenant Bowen, when he heard shouting, and saw a crowd of
about 300 natives come down the Tiers in a circle--men, women, and
children, with a flock of kangaroos between them. "They looked at me,"
he said, "with all their eyes. I went down to the creek and reported
them to the soldiers, and then went back to my work. The natives did not
threaten me. I was not afraid of them. Clarke's house was near where I
was at work, and Bourke's house near Clarke's house. The natives did not
attack the soldiers. They could not have molested them. The firing
commenced about 11 o'clock. There were many of the natives slaughtered
and wounded; I don't know how many. Some of their bones were sent in two
casks to Port Jackson by Dr. Mountgarrett. A boy was taken from them.
This was three or four months after we landed. They never came so close

Another witness corroborated this story although he was not an actual
eye-witness of the attack. He said that when he returned the men told
him that the natives came down in a body, bringing a great number of
kangaroos with them for a corroboree, and did not make any attack; that
as soon as they appeared they were fired upon, although he could not say
who gave the order for the soldiers to fire; that there were many men,
women, and children in the crowd, that some were killed, but he could
not say how many, and that some of the children were taken captive.

Is it any wonder that no official record of this event is to be found?
Men did not generally write their own condemnation even in despatches
bearing the official seal; and doubtless the military officer
responsible for the slaughter of these innocent blacks--the man who gave
the order to the soldiery to fire--considered that in having them shot
down like so many dogs he was simply "clearing the bush of vermin." The
reader will perhaps, not feel greatly surprised at this unprovoked
slaughter, however, when he learns that the 102nd regiment, of which the
soldiers on the Derwent River formed a detachment, were originally known
as the New South Wales Corps, whose character has been limned in lurid
lines by more than one writer of early Australian history. That the
slaughter was unprovoked, is very clear. The staring "with all their
eyes" at the man who was hoeing; the absence of their fighting spears,
the presence of the women and children; and the fact that they were
driving kangaroos in the semi-circle which they formed--all these things
point conclusively to the absence, on their part, of any warlike
intention. In the excitement of the chase they had failed to note the
fact that they were running into the white man's settlement, which
proved a veritable valley of death to them.

Abundant evidence is furnished by the scant reports in the official
organ, the 'Gazette,' of that period, of the correctness of the
statement, that until the massacre took place the blacks had maintained
a friendly disposition towards the whites. In other parts of Van
Diemen's Land, which were being colonised at about the same time, the
natives were frequently met with and their conduct on all occasions was
mild and peaceable. But the exhibition of savagery made by the soldiers
of the 102nd was destined to work a complete change. The news of the
slaughter must have spread from tribe to tribe, and as the convicts who
had taken to the bush, or who were allowed to roam at will from the
settlement, did not scruple to maltreat the women, and shoot down the
men of the tribes with whom they came into contact, the blacks soon came
to look upon the white invaders as their worst enemies, and to treat
them accordingly. Hence we find that the records are full of reports of

In 1813 a Government order was published denouncing the "murders and
cruelties" of which the blacks were the victims, and declaring that "any
person whomsoever who shall offer any violence to a native, or who shall
in cold blood, murder, or cause any of them to be murdered, shall, on
proof being made of the same, be dealt with and proceeded against as if
such violence had been offered, or murder committed, on a civilized
person." But not a solitary instance is recorded of the punishment
threatened being enforced, although the "murders and cruelties" did not
in any wise decrease in number.

The attention of the authorities was divided shortly after this between
bushrangers and blacks, the former having established quite a reign of
terror in Van Diemen's Land; and at the hands of these men, the poor
natives suffered outrage and indignity beyond description. How could it
be expected that a Government who could neither restrain nor repress the
violence and lawlessness against its own people of those of whom it was
supposed to keep in chains, could make provision for the safety of
unprotected blacks? The Sydney 'Gazette' fairly indicated the condition
of affairs in 1813, when, in speaking of the bellicose attitude of the
blacks, it attributed their "inimical conduct" to their frequent
ill-treatment by the convict bushrangers who had broken away and taken
to the woods, "there miserably to exist on the adventitious succours
which those wilds afford." "Acts of cruelty," remarked the Government
organ, "are reported of these desperadoes against the natives; and the
latter seldom suffer an opportunity to escape of wreaking vengeance upon
all persons of the same color as the lawless wanderers, without

And thus it went on for years, the outrages and reprisals being repeated
in fresh districts as the new parts were opened up to settlement. There
is no need for me to enter into particulars. The mode of warfare on
either side was similar to that which I have already described when
dealing with the settlement of New South Wales and Victoria, although
the results appear to have been more speedily disastrous to the natives
of Van Diemen's Land. In 1819 Governor Sorrell issued an elaborate order
bearing upon the attitude of the settlers, and stock-keepers, towards
the natives. He deprecated the prevailing antagonism which manifested
itself in outrages "repugnant to humanity and disgraceful to the British
character," and which took the form of setting fire to and killing the
men, and stealing the children for use on their stations. He instructed
the magistrates and district constables to take account of all native
youths and children found with the Europeans, and to report regularly to
head quarters; and amongst other things said:--"From the conduct of the
native people, when free from any feeling of injury, toward those who
have sought intercourse with them, there is a strong reason to hope that
they might be conciliated. On the northeast coast, where boats
occasionally touch, and at Macquarie Harbour, where the natives have
been lately seen, they have been found unsuspicious and peaceable,
manifesting no disposition to injure; and they are known to be equally
inoffensive in other places where the stock-owners treat them with
mildness and forbearance."

Orders and proclamations of a like character followed this, but they
produced no good effect. They read well, looked well on paper, sounded
full of high sentiment and pure philanthropy and benevolence; but that
was all. Men read them and passed out to shoot a "nigger," outrage a
nigger's "gin," or steal a "picanniny," knowing from past experience
that gubernational fulminations were so much "sound and fury, signifying

Two years pass away, and still the whites kill the blacks and the blacks
kill the whites. The aborigines could not read the Orders and
Proclamations, and if they had been able to do so they would not have
considered them of any greater value than did the whites. Outrage and
murder continued, and the blacks, gaining experience in the warfare,
showed little mercy to any of the alien race. Then came a Government
Notice which clearly sounded the harsh note of war against both
individuals and tribes.

Here are a few extracts from that document:--

"The series of outrages which have lately been perpetrated by the
aborigines of the Colony, and the wanton barbarity in which they have
indulged by the commission of murder, in "return for the kindness" shown
to them by the settlers and their servants, have occasioned the greatest
pain to the Lieutenant-Governor, and called for his most anxious
consideration of the means to be applied for preventing the repetition
of these treacherous and sanguinary acts.

"And his Excellency deems it necessary to promulgate, for general
information, but especially for the guidance of the magistrates,
constables, and military:--

1. If it shall be apparent that there is a determination on the part of
one or more of the native tribes to attack, rob, or murder the whole
inhabitants generally any person may arm, and joining themselves to the
military, drive them by force to a safe distance, treating them as open

2. If they are found actually attempting to commit a felony, they may be
resisted by any person in like manner.

3. When they appear assembled in unusual numbers, or with unusual arms,
or although neither be unusual, if they evidently indicate such
intention of employing force as is calculated to excite fear, for the
purpose of doing any harm, short of felony, to the persons or property
of anyone, they may be treated as rioters, and resisted, if they persist
in their attempt.

4. If they be found merely assembled for such purpose, the neighbours
and soldiers armed may, with a peace officer, or magistrate, endeavour
to apprehend them, and, if resisted, use force.

5. If any of the natives have actually committed felonies, the
magistrates should make such diligent enquiries as to lead to certainty
of the persons or the principals and issue warrants for the apprehension
of such principals. The officer executing a warrant may take to his
assistance such persons as he may think necessary, and if the offenders
cannot otherwise be taken, the officer and his assistants will be
justified in resorting to force, both against the principals and others
who may, by any acts of violence, even of intimidation, endeavour to
prevent the arrest of the principals.

6. When a felony has been committed any person who witnesses it may
immediately raise his neighbours and pursue the felons and the pursuers
may justify the use of all such means as a constable might use. If they
overtake the parties they should bid, or otherwise signify to them to
surrender; if they resist, or attempt to escape, the persons pursuing
may use such force as is necessary, and if the pursued fly and cannot
otherwise be taken the pursuers then may use similar means."

No declaration of war could be more explicit. It was fully understood
and acted upon by the whites, who doubtless interpreted it as a sort of
gubernatorial command, "Up guards, and at them." Hitherto they had
"pursued" and "resorted to force" with a constant fear over them of
being prosecuted as murderers; but here was relief, here was liberty!
Under sanction of the Lieutenant-Governor they could "hunt" the "black

Shortly after the issue of this Government notice two natives were
captured and charged with the murder of a stock-keeper--the crime had
doubtless been committed out of revenge; a sort of retaliatory stroke
for outrage committed upon some of their fellows. Poor Jack and Dick,
the culprits, were tried together and publicly hanged together, although
the latter declared when questioned in the dock, "I no kill him; I no
want to hurt him; Jack spear him." And one of the poor wretches was so
prostrated with disease (called bush scab), that the hangmen were
compelled to carry him to the place of execution. But the execution had
an opposite effect upon the tribes from what was intended. They began to
realize that the Government also was against them, and their hostility

Yet another step forward towards extermination! In 1828 Governor Arthur
sought to shut the natives up to one district, and issued an edict
accordingly to drive them from the settled districts--the central and
eastern portions of the colony--and confine them to the swamps and
scrubs and tiers of the west; a locality graphically described by that
popular historian, James Bonwick, as a cheerless clime of everlasting
rain or frost; a region of vast mountains, dreary morasses, and almost
lifeless solitudes, nearly deserted by fowl and quadruped---"There were
the tribes to dwell, banished from their sunnier homes, their richer
hunting grounds, their recognised borders, and the graves of their

Here are two or three paragraphs from this extraordinary "Demarkation
Order" which is too lengthy to give in full:--

"Now, therefore, I, the Lieut Governor aforesaid, in pursuance and in
exercise of the powers and authorities in me vested in this behalf, do
hereby notify, that for the purpose of effecting the separation required
a line of military posts forthwith stationed and established along the
confines of the settled districts, within which the aborigines shall and
may not, until further orders made, penetrate, in any manner or for any
purpose, save as hereinafter specially permitted;--and I do hereby
strictly command and order all aborigines immediately to retire and
depart from and for no reason or on no pretence, save as hereinafter
provided, to re-enter such settled districts, or any portion of land
cultivated and occupied by any person whomsoever, under the authority of
His Majesty's Government, on pain of forcible expulsion there from, and
such consequences as may be necessarily attendant upon it.

"All practicable methods are to be employed for communicating, and
making known the provisions of this Proclamation to the aborigines, and
they are to be "persuaded" to retire beyond the prescribed limits, if
that is possible."

"Nothing herein contained shall prevent the aborigines from travelling
annually (according to their custom) until their habits shall have been
more regular and settled, through the cultivated or occupied parts of
the island to the sea coast, in quest of shell fish for sustenance, on
condition of their respective leaders being provided with a general
passport under my hand and seal--arrangements for which form a part of
the intended negotiations."

In reading this precious document one's admiration is divided between
its legal formality and its sublime simplicity. Had the unfortunate
aborigines been able to decipher the Proclamation it is questionable
whether they would have been able to understand it; and if they had
understood it, does any sane man think they would have fallen in with
its provisions? Fancy one of the chief men of the tribes which had been
hunted and harassed, shot at and starved, applying for a general
passport! Ignorant and degraded as they were the aborigines possessed
sufficient intelligence to know that they were not the trespassers,
although everything around them indicated, in language than which none
could be more forcible, that they must go. The poor wretches were shut
up between two fierce fires--the spears and womeras of other tribes if
they crossed backward upon the territory occupied by them, or the
bullets of the whites if they remained where they were. They chose to
remain and face the bullets.

Finding after the lapse of six months that this carefully-drawn
"Demarkation Order" had not produced the desired effect--except in the
provisions which gave power to the Europeans to use force in effecting
the retirement or expulsion of the troublesome "black cattle," and which
provisions, we may be sure, were religiously observed--the sapient
Governor issued yet another proclamation, in which, after setting forth
in words most plain, if they were not truthful, that every practical
means having been used to peacefully remove the aborigines from the
settled districts, he advanced one step further along the exterminating
line. "I, the said Lieutenant Governor," the wording ran, "do by these
presents declare and proclaim, that from and after the date of this my
proclamation, and until the cessation of hostilities shall be by me
hereafter proclaimed and directed, Martial Law is, and shall continue to
be in force against the several black or aboriginal natives within the
several districts of this island; excepting always the places and
portions of the island next mentioned." And here follows a definition of
boundaries of settled districts, as vague as it is possible to be.

Shortly after the proclamation of martial law, an order was issued in
which the capture of natives was made pecuniarily profitable. 50 was
the bonus given for capture of an adult; 2 for the capture of a child;
and the reader will not therefore be surprised to learn that hunting
parties were formed, the members of which added to their annual income,
as do bushmen of the present day, by destroying noxious animals.

The proclamation was plain enough to the Europeans, who for the most
part had been nurtured in military rule, and no doubt many of them
accepted it as a general license to "pot" the blacks indiscriminately;
but to the persons most interested in it, the awful declaration, even if
they had heard it read, must have been as void of meaning as were all
other gubernatorial documents. And it must have been the recognition of
this fact that induced Governor Arthur to hit upon an expedient which
must render his fame as a man of many parts imperishable. He caused huge
boards to be affixed to trees in the bush, and an artist was employed to
paint thereon a pictorial interpretation of the Proclamation. On the
upper portion was a picture intended to represent the blessings of
civilization and peace. A white man and a black, military dressed, stood
lovingly arm in arm, each holding a dog by a string; near them stood two
children, also similarly dressed, one black the other white; on the same
level stood two women, black and white, also similarly dressed, the
white woman nursing a black child, and the black woman a white child.
Beneath this was a picture representing the Governor in full official
dress, attended by two soldiers, unarmed, and a mild looking civilian,
shaking hands with a chief, who was attended by some men and women and a
child of his tribe, all in undress and weaponless. Beneath these
pictures were other two--one representing a blackfellow in the act of
spearing a white man, and a blackfellow (supposed to be the assailant)
being strung up by the neck to a tree, while his dead victim lay prone
in his blood at the foot of the tree, the other representing a white man
in the act of shooting an aboriginal and afterwards being suspended in
similar manner. In each of these cases was to be seen the Governor
directing the rope pulling operations. It would be interesting, indeed,
to know the ideas conveyed to the outlawed aborigines by these unique
specimens of the painter's art. One, at least, of these pictorial
proclamations exists at the present day, carefully preserved as a relic
of the days when Colonial Governors possessed and exerted quite kingly

There is no record in existence to show that this proclamation had a
civilizing effect upon the aboriginals, but there are records proving
that the operation of the Martial Law proclaimed worked disastrously for
both whites and blacks. Settlers on the outskirts of the proclaimed
districts were harrassed beyond measure by the hunted men who sought to
revenge themselves by in turn hunting the isolated stock-keepers and
their herds and flocks. Many outrages were committed, and the Governor
at last arrived at the conclusion that nothing short of extermination
would ensure quiet and the safety of his white subjects; so in the
latter part of 1830, we find him issuing another Proclamation, which
advanced the campaign another step. That Proclamation, after reciting
the chief provisions of the "Demarkation Order," declared amongst other

"It hath now become necessary, and because it is scarcely possible to
distinguish the particular tribe or tribes, by whom such outrages have
been in any particular instance committed, to adopt immediately, for the
purpose of effecting their capture if possible, an active and extended
system of military operations against the natives generally, throughout
the island, and every portion thereof, whether actually settled or not .
. . . and until the cessation of hostilities in this behalf shall be by
me hereafter proclaimed and directed Martial Law is and shall continue
to be in force against all the black or aboriginal natives, within every
part of this island; and for the purposes, aforesaid, all soldiers and
others, His Majesty's subjects, civil and military, are hereby required
and commanded to obey and assist their lawful superiors in the execution
of such measures as shall from time to time be in this behalf directed
to be taken."

Close following this came a notice to all parties in the settled
districts where no quarters had been erected for the accommodation of
the troops that they were to accommodate the King's servants free of
charge upon the public revenue, and volunteers were called for to engage
with the military in catching or driving from the settled country "those
natives who seize every occasion to perpetrate murders, and to plunder
and destroy the property of the inhabitants."

It was in vain to expect, said His Excellency, that the country could be
freed from the incursions of the savage tribes which infested it unless
the settlers themselves came forward and zealously united their best
energies with those of the Government in making a general and
simultaneous effort. He therefore called upon every settler who was not
prevented by "some overruling necessity" cheerfully to render
assistance, and place himself under the direction of the police
magistrate of his district; and he expressed confidence that by this
means they would have a good prospect of either capturing the whole of
the hostile tribes, or of permanently expelling them from the settled
districts. He cautioned those who felt disposed to comply with the
request that the work would not be one of amusement or recreation.

And then followed one of the most extraordinary attempts at forming what
was called a "Line" that was ever made, in old world or in new. This
"Line" has been fittingly styled the most formidable part of the Black
War, the object being to drive the aborigines into one corner of the
colony, and then make wholesale captures of the natives, although no
definite plan of dealing with them after capture appears to have been
decided upon.

The Order then proceeded to give an outline of the scheme, showing where
the military forces were to be stationed so as to cover the whole of the
districts of the colony. The time for the general movement to commence
was fixed, and every settler was enjoined to state the number of men he
could furnish equipped for the service. The existing roving
parties--known as the "Five Pounds Catchers"--were at the same time to
be augmented to the greatest possible extent, and for this purpose every
ticket-of-leave prisoner was required to report himself to the nearest
police magistrate in order that he might be properly enrolled.

But just here public opinion began to work. The press was beginning to
exercise its power, and after it had been pointed out that it would be
folly to make war at so many different points, between which the natives
would be able to pass, and revenge themselves upon the women and others
found on the defenceless farms, a public meeting was held. The result of
this meeting was to cause the Governor to concentrate the forces in
order to make one grand efforts to capture two of the more warlike
tribes--the Oyster Bay and Big River tribes. This he proposed to do by
drawing a line from Waterloo point on the east, to Lake Echo on the
West, and drive the blacks into Tasman's Peninsula, from which the few
settlers who had located there were compelled to withdraw. It was a big
scheme, and the arrangement of the details displayed not a little
military skill; but, as it turned out, the scheme proved simply a
vexatious and ridiculous failure.

In a carefully prepared official document, the length of which precludes
its insertion here, the Governor outlined the arrangements determined
upon. First, to surround the hostile native tribes; secondly, to capture
them in the county of Buckingham, progressively driving them upon
Tasman's Peninsula; and, thirdly, to prevent their escape into the
remote unsettled districts to the westward and eastward. Chains of posts
were formed under the command of the military officers, who with the
forces for the nonce composed of constables, settlers and convicts, as
well as soldiers, marched from defined points to one common centre. The
line extended from St. Marys to Deloraine, and then south past Lake
Echo, along the Dee and Derwent--the country invested including the
territory occupied by the most important and troublesome tribes.

When this "Army of Extinguishers" was complete it numbered about three
thousand men. Of military there were two field-officers, eight captains,
seventeen subalterns, four staff officers, forty-two sergeants,
thirty-two corporals, eleven drummers, and seven hundred and eleven
privates. Besides these there were hundreds of constables. The
volunteers and pressed men formed the largest number in the rank and
file. There were about one thousand assigned servants, and
ticket-of-leave men; and these, with the civilians, were under the
leadership of settlers to the number of about 120, each of the parties
led by them having also a guide. Every detail of the campaign was
carried out on strict military lines, and as nearly as possible the
conditions of the document already quoted were faithfully observed. The
provisions were conveyed by drays and pack horses to the different
depots, and in addition, each man carried several days' allowance. Of
firearms and ammunition there was abundant supply, although every man
did not carry a weapon; and in case of emergency a central depot was
established, at which were placed 1000 stand of arms, 30,000 rounds of
cartridges, and 300 handcuffs!

The reader will not forget that Van Diemen's Land was at this time still
a convict penal settlement, and that great risk attended this experiment
of placing fire-arms in the hands of so large a number of convicts, and
placing them for the time being on an equality with their custodians;
but, fortunately, the men did not betray the trust which Governor Arthur
reposed in them. The withdrawal of the military from Hobart Town
necessitated the appointment of civilian guardians and a "Town Guard"
was formed among the free citizens, who in divisions of seven men each,
paraded the streets day and night during the absence of the soldiers.

The Governor was a man of many parts, and evidently of a religious turn
of mind, for he issued orders that prayers should be offered up in
churches for the success of the expedition, on the Sunday preceding the
day of starting. The reader is at liberty to make his own comments upon
this peculiar proceeding, in accordance with the lights in which he
views it.

At last a start was made, and this is what one of the local prints said
about the contingent that started from Hobart Town:--

"Of all the banditti we ever recollect as coming before our eyes on the
stage, none have equalled the mob which left Hobart Town on Tuesday
last, in pursuance of the proposed operations in the interior; their
very appearance brought to mind the former bush-ranging times, and happy
it is for us that our present situation will prevent the likelihood of
danger arising from placing arms and ammunition in the hands of such a
set of men." And the appearance of this party was no doubt a fair sample
of the others. The march along the courses marked out appears to have
been the reverse of pleasant to the Tasmanian warriors. Provisions ran
short, boots and clothing gave way in their contact with rocks and scrub
and we find one captain writing to his superior officer: "I have worn
out two new pairs of boots since I left Oatlands, and in a few more days
I shall, I fear, be as naked as the men," while the Governor himself
wrote to the Colonial Secretary in Hobart Town ordering a fresh supply,
and saying that the men in the roving parties were almost destitute of
clothing. And to add to their misery, wet weather set in, and--a fact
more damping than rain to the ardent spirits on the war path--they
couldn't find any natives upon whom to put the handcuffs!

Still the "Line" operations proceeded, the Governor proving most active
in controlling the army by dispatches, which (said one of the local
papers) "equalled in number those forwarded by the allied armies during
the last European war; in fact, everything was carture." And so it was,
but a war marked by more dismal failure than any of which record had
ever before or has ever since been taken.

To the surprise of everybody engaged in the "Line," and to none more
than the Governor, none of the "savage tribes" were to be found.
Frequent stories were circulated, and all of them were religiously
forwarded to the Governor, of parties of blacks having been seen at a
distance, but the anticipation of engagements which these stories raised
was never realized. What had become of these children of the bush? The
"Line" was thought to be so complete as to prevent all possibility of
escape through it, and surely if the enemy were before the pursuers some
traces would be found by one or the other of the three thousand men who
were beating the bush! Day after day, in increasing anxiety, his
Excellency waited for news from one or other parties that would indicate
the ultimate success of the movement, but he waited in vain.

Still the marched proceeded. The laughter and song, which the novelty
and the bush freedom at first inspired, gave way to gloomy thoughts and
frequent sightings as the rain set in, and reports of desertions from
the ranks became somewhat frequent. The month was drawing to a close,
and the centre to which the parties were converging was being reached;
yet no capture had been made. At last one of the civilian leaders caught
sight of some natives and managed to secure an old man and a boy,
besides shooting two of the tribe when making an effort to escape.

At last the closing-in point was reached and the "final and decisive
movement" fixed for the morrow, the Governor issuing special
instructions concerning it. All details having been arranged, and front
rank and rear rank having fallen into proper place, the "Line" extended
for a distance of 30 miles, giving a space of forty five yards between
the men composing it. The word "march!" was given, and the march
commenced, each individual in the line keeping ears and eyes open for
sound or sight of the dark-skinned game, and literally walking on the
tip-toe of expectation. At last East Bay Neck was crossed and the
Peninsula entered, but, wonder of wonders, not a native was to be seen!
The gubernatorial mountain had been in labour for more than a month, and
had not brought forth so much as a mouse. These wise white men had been
outwitted by the ignorant blacks, who had escaped the living net that
had been spread for them without even showing the hunters their heels.
Never was failure more complete. The Governor and his captains,
lieutenants, and fighting men were certainly left masters of the field;
but the field was bare, and the warriors looked about in vain for
something in the shape of spoil. It must have been with something like
humiliation that his Excellency gave the order to right-about face and
turn, but we may be sure that the men were not sorry to hear it nor slow
to obey it.

Rev. Mr. West graphically describes the home-coming thus:--

"The settler soldiers returned to their homes, their shoes worn out,
their garments tattered, their hair long and shaggy, with beards
unshaven, their arms tarnished, but neither bloodstained nor disgraced."

The cost of this unique expedition was between 30,000 and
40,000--rather a heavy price to pay for the capture of a harmless old
man and boy!

Returned to head quarters, the Governor now issued an order, in which
the following paragraph appeared:--

"The circumstances of the late military movements not having been
attended with the expected success, will not, it is hoped, cast any
despondency on the public mind, for the activity and cordiality of
feeling which has been recently shown by the community afforded
sufficient earnest that the evil which has afflicted the colony must, in
the course of the summer, be removed. The most active measures will be
vigorously continued for pursuing the object in view; but as the
Lieutenant Governor feels a strong persuasion that there are white men
among the natives, His Excellency does not consider it prudent to direct
any future operations in public."

A year elapsed and the active measures promised by the Governor had not
been taken. Then another expedition on a smaller scale was sent out to
capture the tribes which it was known had gathered secretly at the
Schanter Peninsula for the purpose of gathering swan's eggs; but that
also failed, and then the Governor issued an order annulling the martial
law proclamation, and thereafter his Excellency gave countenance, and
support to the efforts of a few men who sought to obtain a moral victory
over the hunted, degraded, and literally homeless race. As a result of
those efforts, the prime mover in which was Mr. G. A. Robinson, a
working bricklayer, within four years the remnant of the race--the
numbers were found to have been very much exaggerated--was brought in
and deported to Flinder's Island, in the north east of the colony,
where, despite the kind attention of their protectors, most of them
rapidly died off from sheer home-sickness. In 1847 a feeble remnant of
forty four was removed to Oyster Cove, a little below Hobart. In 1876
the last of the race, in the person of Truganini, gathered up her feet
and found rest in the silence of the grave. She had been one of the
first friendly aboriginals to attach herself to Mr. Robinson when he
started out on his mission work, and many of those who had been
civilized off the face of the earth at Flinder's Island and Oyster Cove
had been directly induced by her to leave the bush and seek refuge with
the mission party. It was fitting that she should bring up the rear in
this tragic march of racial death and extinction.

The poison of contact with the European race had done its work more
quickly in Tasmania than in the Australian colonies--that was all. There
is a moral in this story of the black war in Tasmania for any of my
readers who choose to search for it.


During the early years of the settlement the minds of the judges and
leaders of the bar were considerably exercised over the points raised
concerning the accountability of the aborigines to the British law for
offence's committed amongst themselves, and the narration of one or two
of the cases which evoked discussion among the few legal luminaries of
the southern hemisphere at that time may not prove uninteresting to lay
readers at the present day.

In 1828, when Judge Dowling arrived in the colony, the opinion prevailed
that the Supreme Court could not take cognisance of offences committed
amongst the aborigines, and in one or two instances the Court, from the
difficulty of administering justice between them, according to the rules
of English law, forbore trying those individual cases. In April, 1836,
however, the question was raised before the Supreme Court of Sydney, in
the case of an aboriginal named Jack Congo Murral, arraigned for the
murder of another aboriginal named Jabinguy, and it formed one of the
most peculiar cases in the annals of Colonial criminal jurisprudence.
The court having assigned counsel and attorney for the defence, a plea
to the jurisdiction was put on the record, to the following effect:--

"That the prisoner was not bound to answer the information, for that the
territory of New South Wales before, and until the occupation thereof by
George III., was inhabited by tribes of native blacks, who were governed
by usages and customs of their own from time immemorial practised and
recognised amongst them, and not by the laws of Great Britain, and that
ever since the occupation aforesaid, the said tribes had continued to
be, and were still governed by such usages and customs, and not by the
laws of Great Britain; that the prisoner was a native black, belonging
to one of such tribes as aforesaid, and not a subject of the King of
Great Britain.

"That the deceased Jabinguy, was at the time of the supposed murder a
native black belonging to one of the such tribes, as aforesaid, and not
a subject of the King of Great Britain, nor subject to any of the laws
of Great Britain, or under the protection of the same. Averring that
agreeably to the usages and customs of this tribe, if suspected of
murder, prisoner could be made to stand punishment for the same, and
could be exposed to such and so many spears as the friends and relatives
of the said Jabinguy, with the murder of whom he stood charged, might
think proper to hurl and throw against his body, whereby the life of
prisoner might be endangered and brought into jeopardy for the said
supposed murder. And prisoner further averred that no proceeding which
might be had against him in the Supreme Court, nor any verdict of
acquittal for the supposed murder would be a bar to any proceedings
which might be had against him by the relatives and friends of the
deceased for the supposed murder." To this plea the Attorney-General
demurred, which brought the question before the full court, and it was
fully argued before Sir Francis Forbes, then Chief Justice, and the
pusine, Judges Dowling and Burton. The court took time to advise on the
case, and on a subsequent day the united opinion of the judges was
publicly delivered in full court by Mr. Burton, by which the plea to the
jurisdiction was overruled, obliging the prisoner to plead to the
charge. On the 13th of the following month the trial took place before
the Chief Justice and jury of twelve, but from the difficulty of proving
that the prisoner struck the fatal blow, he was acquitted.

In 1838 another aboriginal named Long Jack was tried in the Supreme
Court for the murder of an aboriginal woman named Mary, but under the
peculiar circumstances of the case the death sentence was only recorded,
and he was transported to one of the penal settlements for life. The
question of jurisdiction was not raised in this case, and the decision
of the full court in Murral's case was looked upon as a final decision
on the point, until 1841, when a blackfellow named Bonjou was arranged
in Melbourne for the murder of another aboriginal, and the presiding
Judge, John Walpole Willis, delivered a very strong opinion that the
aborigines were not amenable to the law of the colony for offences
committed amongst themselves. The prisoner was discharged, although at a
subsequent date the decision of the Judge was overruled, and an
authoritative minute from the Secretary of State declared that until the
decision of the Full Court had been overruled the aborigines must be
held amenable to British law for offences committed amongst themselves
as they were amenable in cases where they committed offences against the

There was never any hesitancy, however, on the part of the authorities
in proceeding against aborigines who offended against Europeans, and not
a few of the dusky sons of the soil were formally tried, convicted, and
imprisoned or executed. One case will serve as an example of the many.

At the Criminal Sessions in Sydney in August, 1840, an aboriginal
native, named Tolbay, alias Jackey, was indicted before Mr. Justice
Stephen, (afterwards Sir. Alfred) for the murder of a European named
Harrington. The murder was alleged to have been committed in June, 1837,
at a place called "Yernan," a station belonging to Rev. F. Marsden.
Through a Welshman who understood the black's language, the accused
pleaded not guilty, saying that the man had been killed by two other
blacks, he being away at the time. Only one witness was called, a
stockman named Nobbes, employed at Yernan, and his evidence was to this
effect: Harrington was employed at a neighbouring station, and had paid
witness a visit, there being at the time a party of six or eight
friendly blacks camped near the place, accused being one of them.
Witness and Harrington went out one morning to catch a horse, leaving a
hut-keeper named "Big Bill" in the hut, and as they left the accused was
at the door. The horse having been caught, witness rode away on
business, but before leaving he saw Harrington return to within a few
yards of the hut, although he did not see him enter. Three hours
afterwards witness returned, and as he approached he saw the accused and
three or four other blacks come out of the hut. Accused advanced towards
him, having in his left hand a pistol and tomahawk, and in his right a
spear; the left hand had blood upon it; as witness was looking at it,
accused suddenly stepped back and hurled the spear, which stuck in his
forehead; witness at once turned and galloped away. He reached an
adjoining station some miles distant, where he found "Big Bill," and
next day the two returned to the hut, to find the place stripped and
Harrington's dead body on the floor; the head had deep gashes in it, as
though done by a tomahawk, but witness could not say whether cuts had
been inflicted before or after death. Next day accused was seen at
another station with a knife that belonged to deceased, and one of the
other blacks had on a pair of witness' trousers, which had been taken
from the hut. Accused was not seen again until two and a half years had
elapsed, and he was then arrested.

With no other evidence before them the jury found Tolbay guilty, and he
was sentenced to death. The judge, however, was not quite satisfied with
the proofs offered, although he said he had no moral doubt concerning
the prisoner's guilt. He pointed out to the jury that there was no
evidence that deceased's body was in the hut when the prisoner was seen
coming from it; that deceased had entered the hut had not even been
proved: that prisoner might have robbed the hut and taken deceased's
knife, and the murder yet have been done by another, without his
knowledge, and at another time, either before or afterwards; and that
this defect in the proof was the more important when they bore in mind
that "Big Bill," who was left in the hut when deceased and Nobbes went
to catch the horse, and who should have been able to tell when
Harrington entered the hut and what happened afterwards, was neither
called as a witness, nor was it shown by the crown that efforts had been
made to find him.

Clearly, no European would have been convicted on evidence as
inconclusive as this; and on the judge's recommendation, the Royal
prerogative of mercy was exercised, and the sentence was commuted to
imprisonment for life on Cockatoo Island, the chief penal establishment
near Sydney, with a promise of further indulgence, should the prisoner
prove himself worthy.

Whether Tolbay ever earned the "further indulgence" so graciously
authorised or whether he fretted out his life on the Island (a not by
any means unlikely thing), I cannot say, for the records are silent as
to his fate.

All the colonies furnished their quota of such cases, and the machinery
of all the criminal courts was "many a time and oft" set in motion to
decide the guilt or innocence of aboriginals charged with the murder of
white men. In many instances the trial was nothing more nor less than a
simple farce--the prisoner not understanding a word of what the
witnesses were saying, and being unable to offer any defence. The
administrators of justice were, no doubt, desirous of preserving the
equal balance of the justice which they were called upon to administer,
and would not willingly have perpetrated any act of injustice; but how
could they help themselves? Under the most favourable circumstances, the
prisoners, being wild, or only half-tamed blacks, were perforce subject
to a one-sided trial; and it is pleasing to think that in not a few
instances the higher authorities exercised their prerogative and stayed
the hangman's hand, after sentence of death had been passed--the
peculiarity of the position of the criminal adjudged, as a man condemned
without proper defence, having doubtless induced this extension of


The Australian type of aboriginal is regarded by many of those who have
studied the subject from a naturalist's point of view as exhibiting the
lowest samples of the human race and they have advanced various reasons
for its inferior position, chief among these being climatic and
geographical conditions. It is not my purpose to venture on speculation
which would of necessity be thoroughly unscientific; but, while not
questioning the correctness of the statements made the description I
have heard from those who were brought into frequent contact with
different tribes at the time when they could be seen at their native
best, and from personal observation of individual subjects, I am not
disposed to accept all that has been said on this point without
question. Undoubtedly the majority of the natives upon which judgment
has been passed exhibited an impoverished appearance, but not a few of
them were physically well-proportioned and not by any means inferior in
stature and physical conformation to the race by whom they have been
almost exterminated.

Where the environments of the tribe were congenial to physical
development, the male members were as a rule, tall and well-made,
measuring in many instances six feet and upwards in height. But any
pleasing qualities perceptible were generally confined to the period of
early manhood. As children they were generally disfigured by a
remarkable abdominal projection, the youngsters of both sexes being
invariably "pot bellied"; and the better proportions attained by the
more favourable growth of early adult life were rudely shaken by the
hardships and exposure attendant upon their nomadic existence, the
majority of them falling into premature old age.

The females were much inferior in stature and general appearance to the
males, and very rarely exhibited the dignity and grace of carriage for
which their "masters" were remarkable. Even at the middle age, when her
European sisters are rejoicing in the glory of full womanhood, she
carried a stooping form on legs bent outwards, with depressed ankles and
feet bent inwards--the result of the unceasing domestic drudgery to
which she is subjected. The shape of the mammae was pyriform, becoming
flaccid and elongated after childbearing; and although in her earlier
life she may have been lively and vivacious, and not at all ungainly or
ill-favoured, when years accumulated she became one of the most wretched
and disgusting objects that the eye could rest upon--a broken burden
carrier, repulsive, and repellant.

As a rule the forehead of both male and female was low, the eyes large
and far apart--glinting like black diamonds in a white setting--the nose
broad and flat, the mouth wide, with thick lips, and large but
remarkably white teeth. In youth, the head appeared large, owing to the
mass of wiry black, and glossy hair which generally covered it, and
which formed a sound protection against the fierce rays of the sun. The
weakest point in a blackfellow was the legs, and Europeans soon came to
the knowledge that while he would stand unshaken by a heavy blow upon
the head the slightest tap with the toe of the boot or stick upon the
skin would bring him instantly to the ground. No matter how well-chested
and shouldered, there was a marked disproportionate slightness below the
knee. This was the case with the largest men, and even "Old Bull," the
chief of one of the tribes near Bathurst, New South Wales, had
"pipe-stem" legs, although he was fully six feet two inches in height
weighed fifteen stone and was a man of prodigious strength, with a chest
so deep and broad that a spear laid across the top of his breast, would
remain there as on a shelf.

There was variety in the different tribes and in individuals of every
tribe. As in European and other communities, long and short, lean and
stout, broad shouldered and weak chested, slow-moving and agile, all
were represented; but in their primitive state the physical
characteristics of the members were perhaps more uniformly regular than
is the case with many other races of men.

The senses of hearing, taste, smell, and sight in the aboriginal were
particularly keen, and both male and female were remarkably hardy, being
able to withstand great privation of heat, cold, hunger, and thirst. The
skin when free from the grease and pigments with which they invariably
smeared their bodies, was almost of a velvety softness, but it emitted
an odour which no amount of soap and water could overcome, and which was
always more on less offensive.

Whatever their origin, the tribes throughout the Australian continent,
were so much alike in physical characteristics, customs, arms, and
language, that all the writers agree in making them out to be of one
common stock. On this point there seems to be no reasonable doubt. In
colour, physique, and general mode of life there was little difference
between aboriginals of the topics and the aboriginals of the temperate
regions of Australia. The tropical savage was less clothed, fiercer, and
more addicted to cannibalism than the southern tribes, but the race was
essentially the same all over the continent.

The Australian native, though called a black, was not sooty, but rather
of a dark copper colour. His average height was less than that of the
Englishman--occasionally he attained magnificent proportions. As a rule,
he was more lightly built and less muscular than the Englishman; he was
more active than a European, and his sight was more keen. The nose was
usually short, and depressed in the centre, though sometimes aquiline;
the mouth wide, and the lips thicker than those of Europeans, but less
thick than those of Africans; the teeth large, white and strong; the
hair abundant, long, and generally wavy, though occasionally quite
straight, sometimes tinged with auburn, particularly about the
moustache, beard, and whiskers, which were generally luxuriant. Of erect
and graceful carriage, his movements were light and easy, and in his
savage state he showed great endurance, recovering quickly from injuries
which would prove fatal to most Europeans; but when he took to the ways
of civilization he lost his hardiness, and became susceptible to
complaints from which in the wild state he was free, particularly lung
disease, which proved very deadly.

CHAPTER XX.--Marriage Customs.

Not a few of those who have written on the subject have broadly stated
that marriage among the aborigines consisted simply in the forcible
abduction of a female by the male, the only ceremony connected with the
transaction being a blow delivered by the bridegroom upon the head of
the unhappy bride, and the dragging of her insensible form by the hair
of the head to the gunyah or humpy of bark or boughs of which her future
"lord and master" was the possessor. That this practice prevailed in
some of the tribes was, no doubt, true enough but the statement that it
was a general custom is very far from the truth. The majority of the
tribes appear to have observed set ceremonies more or less founded on
the principle of mutual exchange, and the consent of the female in many
cases was certainly considered desirable, although it may not have been
esteemed a matter of primary importance. And if those who have written
on the subject of marriage in certain aristocratic quarters in some
highly civilized nations are to be believed the aborigines were not so
very far removed in this respect from their more cultivated fellows. As
in other matters, however, so it was in the matter of
marriage--different tribes had different rules; but it is sheer nonsense
for anyone to say that the procuring of a wife was simply an act of
robbery and violence.

In some tribes there was a well established marriage market, and on this
point a gentleman who resided with the aborigines in South Australia,
before they had much intercourse with Europeans (Rev. H. E. Meyer)
speaks very plainly. He says:--

"They are given in marriage at a very early age, (ten and twelve years).
The ceremony is very simple, and with great propriety may be considered
an exchange, for no one can obtain a wife unless he can promise to give
his sister or other relative in exchange. The marriages are always
between persons of different tribes, and never in the same tribe. Should
the father be living he may give his daughter away, but generally she is
the gift of the brother. The person who wishes to obtain a wife never
applies directly, but to some friend of the one who has the disposal of
her, and should the latter also wish for a wife the bargain is soon
made; thus the girls have no choice in the matter, and frequently the
parties have never seen each other before. At the time appointed for the
marriage the relatives come and encamp about a quarter of a mile from
each other. In the night the men of one tribe arise and each takes a
fire-stick in his hand. The bride is taken by the hand and conducted in
the midst, and appears generally to go very unwillingly; the brother or
relation who gave her away walks silently and with downcast looks by
himself. As soon as they approach the camp of the other tribe the women
and children must quit the hut, which on this occasion is built larger
than their huts usually are. When they arrive at the hut, one of the men
invites them to take their places, but before they sit down the bride
and bridegroom are placed next each other, and also the brother and his
intended wife, if it is a double marriage. The friends and relations
then take their places on each side of the principal parties. They sit
in this manner silent for a considerable time until most of them fall
asleep. At daybreak the brides leave the hut and go to their nearest
relatives and remain with them until the evening, when they are
conducted to their husbands by their female friends, and the tribes then
separate and go to their own districts.

"When married very young, the girl is frequently away from her husband
upon a visit to her relations for several months at a time, but should
she remain the man is under obligation to provide her with animal food
(providing vegetable food is always the duty of the females), and if she
pleases him he shews his affection by frequently rubbing her with grease
to improve her personal appearance and with the idea that it will make
her grow rapidly, and become fat. If a man has several girls at his
disposal, he speedily obtains several wives, who seldom, however, agree
with each other, but are continually quarrelling, each endeavouring to
be the favourite. The man regarding them more as slaves than in any
other light, employs them in every possible way to his own advantage."

In tribes where this practice was followed it was considered by the
females a disgrace not to be given away in exchange for another. A young
gin who, having run through her teens without having been thus
exchanged, went away with a man and lived with him without the consent
of her relatives, was regarded as very little better than a prostitute,
and was always exposed to the taunt that she had had nothing given for
her. When a man had a sister or a daughter whom it was his right to give
away, he would sometimes sell that right to one of his tribe who wanted
a wife, for skins or food, or weapons, and then the purchaser would take
one woman to another tribe and give her away in exchange for a wife for
himself. A woman was supposed to signify her consent by carrying fire to
her husband's hut or wurley, and making his fire for him. In cases where
the husband had secured two wives the elder was always regarded as the
mistress of the wurley. The marriage invariably took place after dark,
and was generally celebrated by dancing and singing, in some cases the
whole of the two tribes indulging in revelry of a decidedly licentious

The wife was the absolute property of the husband. The only "woman's
right" possessed by her was the right to keep silence---which she did
not always observe, although her husband would occasionally force it
upon her by a stroke on the head with a "waddy," on which occasion she
could not speak if she would. She could be given away, exchanged, or
lent, as her "master" pleased.

If the wife were stolen by any gay Lothario of an adjoining tribe, war
was immediately declared and there would be no formal declaration of
peace until the stolen chattel was restored, or--happy
arrangement--another female handed over to the disconsolate swain as a

Polygamy was very generally practised, the desire to multiply wives
growing with the husband's years. In their primitive state the husbands
were very jealous of exhibiting their wives to strangers, and thus the
women were always kept in the background until a friendship had been
"struck up."

Betrothment took place when the girls were very young, and they often
became wives at ten years, and mothers at 12 and 13 years of age.

When a couple were fond of each other, they could generally manage to
bring about an agreeable exchange and get married, provided they were
not too nearly related; for there were strict rules concerning
intermarrying, the union of even second cousins being considered with
great aversion in many tribes. The first inquiry generally concerned the
kindred between the parties, and if such were found to exist the
marriage was prevented. Their laws of pedigree and marriage prescribed a
complete classification, distinguished by family names, and only at
great peril could any member of a tribe marry out of the "caste." The
infraction of these rules of marriage was made a capital crime, death
being the penalty if a man married sister, aunt, niece, or such first
cousins as were the daughters either of his father's brother or of his
mother's sister. This was one of the means adopted for the regulation of
population, to the end that the narrow food field available for the
different tribes should not become over crowded.

In some of the Darling tribes New South Wales, with the object of
preventing consanguineous marriages, the tribe would be divided into
several classes, each called after some animal, as emu, snake, opossum,
etc.; and no male of one class could marry a female of the same class,
it being necessary that the snake should mate with the emu, and so on,
when marrying in or out of the tribe, for adjoining tribes would have
similar organisations.

A singular custom--and one which will commend itself to many Europeans,
if all they affirm of the third party concerned be true--prevailed
almost universally throughout the continent; and that was, the mutual
avoidance of son-in-law and mother-in-law. When a girl had been promised
to a man in marriage, or when the marriage had been celebrated, the man
and the mother of his wife, or betrothed, scrupulously avoided each
other. Should the mother-in-law require to pass within even a hundred
yards of her son-in-law, she would cover herself with her rug or cloak,
if the tribe wore such; and when unavoidably brought into contact with
each other they would not, if it could be at all avoided, exchange

No explanation of this extraordinary custom has been given by students
of the customs and habits of the blacks, but that there must have been
some good reason for it who can doubt? Some may be disposed to conclude
that in very early days an unfortunate European son-in-law had sought
refuge among the blacks when driven from his home by an irate mother
in-law, and that he had successfully preached to the tribes the gospel
of hate which must have consumed him. Among the tribes of Central
Australia one of teeth knocked out when a young man was being initiated
into manhood, was preserved, and after his marriage was pounded up, the
powder being given to the mother-in-law, who was compelled to swallow

The males were free to possess wives after they had attained the status
of "young men", which they did generally when about eighteen years of
age, through a process hereafter to be described.

The husband was absolute owner of his wife or wives, and could do as he
pleased with her--treat her well or ill, change her for another, or give
her away to any male of the same class as himself. It was not often,
however, that the husband (naugaramartanya)--the term signifying owner
or proprietor--proceeded to any of these extreme courses when the events
of tribal life ran smoothly, although contact with vicious whites
invariably resulted in more or less bartering, in which the unfortunate
"gin" was made a victim.

But the marriage customs of the natives as were their other customs,
were rendered nugatory very shortly after the sound of the white man's
voice was heard in their camps. Indiscriminate and inordinate sensuality
followed the mixing of the two races. Then came disease--widespread and
horrible in many of the colonised districts. Then came death, and the
bones which had not rotted while yet the vitiated blood pumped through
the swollen veins of the aborigines' system, were left to bleach beneath
some scrubby bush on the plain, or to the crunching of the wild dog's
teeth. Let not the fair daughters of the highly civilized race who have
occupied the country once held by the aborigines think with loathing in
which there is no pity of the degraded wretches of whom I write. Were
they not their sisters? And were not those their brothers who compassed
first their degradation and then their death?


There is a foul blot on the opening page of Australian life, which to
the European eye appears the clearest token of the savagery of the
native race. That blot is infanticide, a practice which was undoubtedly
extensively prevalent throughout the whole of the country between the
tribal boundaries, although in some localities it was not indulged in to
so large an extent as in others. Students of the phenomena of aboriginal
life have variously estimated the motives which led to the barbarous
practice, but there can be little doubt that it had its origin in the
precarious food supply and the wandering habits of the tribes, the
trouble of rearing the children and the inability of the mother, when
thus hampered, to follow the movements of her tribe and "fetch and
carry" as required by her husband, rendering an infant's presence a
drawback which even parental affection could not ignore. But other
causes also operated to extend the practice, and one of the most active
and powerful was the encroachments made by the European colonists upon
the black man's territorial and other rights. One of the early assistant
aboriginal protectors of the Port Phillip District, when bewailing the
increasing prevalence of the crime, stated that one old chief
acknowledged to him that he had no power to check the practice, the
blacks asserting that as they now had no territory of their own there
was no need for them to keep their children.

In the natural state of the tribes, according to Mr. Eyre, one of the
most reliable authorities on the habits and customs of the Australian
blacks, each aboriginal wife might bear an average of five children, but
in most localities she reared only an average of two as she considered
that the attention which she would have to devote to them would
interfere with what she regarded as the duty to her husband in searching
for roots, etc. The remainder disappeared either by infanticide or
natural death. Instances have occurred where one female has had as many
as nine children, but these were very rare, as also were the cases of
twins, and one of the latter was invariably destroyed. The female
infants appeared to be much more frequently despatched than the males,
in some localities they being the only victims of infanticide; in other
cases the first born, if a female, was destroyed; or all the females
were disposed of until a male infant appeared.

The fate of the child appears generally to have been settled by the
father before it was born, and if death was decided upon its life was
taken as soon as it was brought into the world. There were different
methods of infant killing, the one most followed being both cruel and
effective. A small red-hot ember from the camp fire was stuffed into
each of the infant's ears as far as it could be thrust, and then the
orifice was closed by filling it with sand. A few sharp cries of agony;
a few spasmodic jerkings of the limbs; then silence for ever. The young
life having been quenched, a large fire was prepared and the body of the
infant was thrown into it and consumed--almost before parental love
could assert its power in the mother's breast. At other times death was
compassed by strangulation, or a short, sharp blow upon the little head
with a waddy. One case is recorded by Captain Fyans, of Geelong, where a
man took the child by the legs and dashed its head in pieces against a

Instances have been recorded of the murdered offspring being eaten by
the parents or the tribe. Rev. Mr. Wilson, of Port Fairy, declares that
there were many cases in which the father had devoured the infant after
it had been killed; and Mr. Parker, one of the assistant protectors of
Port Phillip district, has recorded a case in which an infant was killed
and then deliberately eaten by its mother and her other children. Yet
the reader must not suppose that parental affection had no existence in
the breast of the aboriginal gin, for she was not unusually a careful
and affectionate mother.

In addition to the infants of the women who had more than two children
living, those that were weak or deformed, or illegitimate, were put to
death, as also was the child whose father had died before it was born;
and after the advent of the Europeans, in many tribes all half-caste
children were subject to the same fate. At birth, native children were
nearly as white as the infants of Europeans, and it was difficult for an
experienced person to tell whether they were half-caste or not. In cases
of doubt the form of the nose generally decided; but there was another
sign which, if present, was accepted by the natives as a sure proof of
pure blood. This was a smutty appearance on the upper part of the
forehead, as if a smutty hand had been placed there and left its mark.
Before the tribes had dwindled to the position of a few broken families
the children who had not this mark were either condemned at birth or put
out of the way a few weeks thereafter, but in later years, a half-caste
child in the arms or at the heels of a native woman was a more common
sight than a pure "picaninny." In some tribes there appeared to be an
apprehension that if allowed to live the mulatto offspring would
develop into an intermediate race that would eventually prove dangerous
to the tribe, and hence it was that all mulatto males were destroyed,
although the females were occasionally spared.

The wandering habits of the tribe compelled the mother to a long and
burdensome carriage of the child whose life had been spared, and she was
generally to be seen during the tramp from one camping ground to
another, trudging along with the little one swung upon her back, wrapped
in the fold of her blanket, or opossum rug. The long pendant mammae of
the females were conveniently available for suckling the infant over the
shoulder. The females were in the fullest sense of the term the drudges
of the males--the "beasts of burden" of the tribe.

It was their task when the tribe was journeying to carry the rude
household utensils, the children not able to walk, and the weapons not
in use; to prepare the wurleys or huts when choice had been made of a
site for the camp; to make the fire and cook the game brought in by the
males, or the roots collected by themselves; and then to retire to the
background while their "lords and masters" feasted, thankful if they
were made the recipients of a half-gnawed bone which would be either
thrown to them while the meal was progressing or left on the ground when
the meal was finished.


Notwithstanding the murderous instincts of the aborigines, and the
prevalence of the crime of infanticide, the children formed not the
least interesting feature of tribal life. The infants who were permitted
to live were generally well cared for, and the attentions that were
lavished upon the "small fry" on the march, or in the camp favoured the
assumption that the outflow of parental affection really became greater
in proportion as the limit of its operation was contracted. The hand
that would without shrinking force the hot cinder into the ear of the
infant whose death at birth had been decided upon, would be unstinting
and lavish in its distribution of gifts to the favoured offspring who
had come in the proper time.

Children were suckled by their mothers generally for a length of time,
sometimes to the age of five or six years, and it was no uncommon thing
to see a little pot-bellied urchin suddenly leave the companions with
whom he had been playing, and run to his mother's side to refresh
himself with a draught of milk. Having been weaned, the boys would
accompany their fathers upon short excursions, and be instructed in the
art of procuring food in the easiest way, and as soon as they were old
enough, and strong enough to look out for themselves they were supposed
to provide sufficient for their own sustenance. Catching fish and
hunting birds was generally their sole occupation until they had reached
their fourteenth or fifteenth year, and the habits of self dependence
thus early instilled and enforced, resulted in both individual and
communal good. The boys were also early inducted in the traditions and
superstitions of their tribes, and although free to come and go at will
they were made to conform to family and tribal customs. They learned at
a very early age that certain kinds of food were prohibited at certain
seasons, persons of different ages having different kinds, and they
would not think of breaking through the superstitions relating thereto.
The roes of fishes, they were taught, was food only fitting for the old
men, as if young men or women partook thereof, prematurely old age would
come upon them. On the coastal districts at certain seasons of the year,
when a particular kind of fish was abundant, the men would sometimes
declare it to be "rambe," or holy; and when this was done, all the fish
of that kind caught had to be brought to the men, who themselves
undertook the cooking, the women and children not being permitted even
to approach the fires until the cooking was over; but after the men had
regaled themselves they were allowed to appropriate the remains of the
feast to their own use.

Having got well into their teens, the boys were instructed in the use of
the spear and other weapons, and were even allowed to take part in
tribal wars. The course of training through which they were put, and the
life of constant activity which they were forced to lead, tended to make
them vigorous and strong, and if they could not stand the strain they
naturally "went under." Hence, under favourable conditions, there was
either speedy advance towards full development, or a correspondingly
speedy sinking into the grave.

When the boy was four or five years old he would be supplied by his
father with miniature weapons--generally a shield, spear, and
womera--and with these he amused himself as European children do with
their toys, but in his case the play was educational, for he was during
the whole time learning the use of implements and weapons upon which he
had to depend in after life for food getting and defence. As he grew
older he would manufacture these articles for himself, and use them at
every available opportunity. At the age of eight or ten his troubles
would commence. He would have to leave the parental wurley, and share
one in common with other youngsters of his own age, eating only the food
prescribed, and passing through the varied rites observed by his tribe
for youth, graduating in a very painful school, until he emerged as a
young man, when he entered upon a freer and less painful state.


When sixteen or eighteen years of age, according to the growth of the
beard, the boys were admitted into the ranks of the men, but not until
they had been made "rambe," or sacred, by a process as peculiar as it
must have been painful.

The proceedings at one of these man making ceremonies may thus be

In the summer time, when the nights were warm, several tribes would meet
together for the purpose of fighting (generally bloodless), and
afterwards amusing themselves with dancing and singing. Immediately
after the fight some of the leading men of the different tribes, who had
previously consulted together, would meet, and agree to make, say, two
of the boys into men. For this purpose they would provide themselves
with a quantity of grease and red ochre, which were required for use in
the ceremony. In the midst of the singing and dancing, the men would
suddenly give a shout, and all turn towards the two young men, who were
suddenly seized and carried away by the operators, while the females
ceased their singing and began to scold, for from this time they must
not receive any food from the hands of the young men. As soon as the
latter have been brought to the place appointed for the ceremony, two
fires were lighted, and the victims placed between them, and several of
the men at once proceeded to remove all the hair from their body, except
that of the head and beard, either by singeing, or plucking it out,
after which the body was smeared all over with a thick compound of
grease and ochre. Thus anointed, the young men were compelled to sit or
stand the night through, without sleeping, the operators watching them
from a distance, and returning to them at daybreak next morning. The two
were then sent away into the bush, where they remained until sundown,
when they returned to their male relations, who supplied them with food,
of which they had not partaken since the commencement of the mystic
rite; but they were not allowed to go near females, neither were females
to go near them. They were then considered "rambe," and henceforward no
female, not even a sister, was allowed to take food from them until such
time as they were permitted to ask for a wife. For a period of about
twelve months the two young men assisted each other in keeping down the
crop of hair and rubbing in the grease and ochre; and after this for
another similar term they plucked out each other's beards, and applied
the grease and ochre to the face (which hitherto had been kept free) as
well as other parts of the body. The beard having again grown, it was
plucked out a second time, and then the "full stature of a perfect man"
was supposed to have been reached, the right to ask for a wife coming
with the completed growth. In exceptional cases, however, when the tribe
had been thinned by death, for instance, the probationary period of
bachelorhood would be shortened, and after one year of hair plucking and
greasing, they would be allowed to enter the married state.

But the proceedings above described were by no means uniformly the same,
the aborigines living in different localities having different methods
of initiating their youth into the mysteries and elevating them into the
position in which they could enjoy the privileges of manhood. In every
tribe, however, some mystic ceremony was observed, and in view of the
solemnity and mystery which surrounded the proceedings, it is not to be
wondered at that the youths invariably shewed considerable deference to
the men. In some of the tribes youths had to pass through three distinct
initial processes before attaining to the dignity of manhood, and one
could almost fancy that the aborigines were perpetuating a series of
masonic rites, as barbarous as they were strange.

These ceremonies were performed with much secrecy, and the natives
attached so much importance to them that very few Europeans have been
privileged to witness them. One of three processes was circumcision and
another was blood spreading and tattooing. In the latter case the backs
of the novitiates were covered with blood, drawn from the arms of young
men who had been fully initiated, and when the blood had coagulated,
marks for incisions would be made on the backs, and the painful work of
tattooing would be performed. Generally one incision was made in the
middle of the neck, and two rows from the shoulders down to the hips, at
intervals of about a third of an inch between each cut. Each incision
required several cuts with the blunt chips of quartz to make them deep
enough, and the edges were carefully drawn apart. In commemoration of
the ordeal gone through, the wilyalkings were presented with some
badges, such as a new girdle round the waist, spun of human hair, a
tight bandage round each upper arm, a string of opossum hair around
neck, the end of which descends down the back, where it was fastened to
the girdle, a bunch of green leaves over the pubes, and at last their
faces, arms and breasts were painted black.

The second "degree" has thus been described by one who was privileged to
witness it in South Australia:--

"A circumsizer having been appointed, a tree of moderate height is
divested of its branches and one of the men takes his place in the fork
of it, while the rest crowd round it, placing their hands and heads
against its stern, so that their backs assume a horizontal position, and
present a kind of platform. As soon as it is announced that the
candidate (pardnapa) is brought back from his hiding place, which is
always done blindfolded, the whole mass utter an unearthly sound which
bears some resemblance to a distant moaning, and during the performance
of the operation keep grinding their teeth. The pardnapa is placed
backwards on the altar, or platform formed by the backs of the men, his
arms and legs are stretched out and held fast, and the man sitting in
the fork of the tree descends and sits down on his chest, so that he is
utterly unable to move one limb of his body. The circumciser then makes
the first incision, and a person well acquainted with the operation
completes the business very deliberately with a chip of quartz; while
some charm, supposed to have the power of allaying pain, is rapidly
pronounced by a few of the lookers on. The men then draw up in a line
left foot forward, and both hands filled with dust, and gradually move
towards the pardnapa, who is now allowed to open his eyes. They do not
place one foot before the other in moving, but set their feet only
alternately a few inches further, so that the left foot always remains
foremost. At each movement, which is performed simultaneously by all,
each man throws a little dust in the air, and all of them have, during
this parade, their beards in their mouths. In conclusion, everyone
thumps and beats the poor native to his heart's desire, enjoining him
with regard to his newly acquired mysterious knowledge, but all the
while assuring him that they mean no harm. On the completion of the
ceremony the men conclude the festive day by another wallaby hunt. The
pardnapa, whose hair previously has been allowed to grow a great length,
now has it secured on the crown of his head in a cap of net-work
manufactured of opossum's hair; and over the pubes he wears a fringe or
tassel made of the same material; these sacred badges are worn for many
months after the operation, and when the cap is laid aside, the hair is
still preserved, and suffered to fall down in long matted locks."

It is a rather remarkable fact that in no other race have such stringent
regulations existed concerning conduct and treatment during the
progressive passage of the males from youth to manhood; certainly in no
other race could customs more painful to the subject or more disgusting
to the observer be followed. Cruelty and filthiness were undoubtedly
closely yoked with ignorance in the case of the aborigines of the

Two other operations performed during childhood may be mentioned here,
although they cannot be said to be connected with man-making, as
children of both sexes were operated upon. The first was called
Moodlawillpa (hole in the nose), and the latter Chirrinchirrie
(extraction of the two front teeth); and both were generally performed
when the child was between the ages of five and eight years, although
the latter would sometimes be deferred, in the case of males, until the
initiation into manhood.


Owing to the wandering habits of the aborigines they never formed
anything like regular settlements or villages. Their dwellings were of
the rudest description, and were rarely occupied for more than a few
days at the time; hence they were fittingly described as camps. The
huts, or wurleys, or gunyahs, were seldom more than breakwinds, made of
a few sheets of bark or of a few boughs, either fixed against a
tree-trunk, or against a fastened upright, and the task of erecting them
always devolved upon the men. If the weather was cold or wet bark was
used, but should the camp be fixed upon a site where bark was not
readily obtainable, reeds, grass, or whatever else was available, were
used as a covering to sticks placed on the ground. When bark was used,
one end of the sheet as it was stripped from the tree (and in the work
of stripping the natives were very expert, using their stone
axes--readily abandoned for the iron tomahawks of the whites after their
appearance--with remarkable dexterity) the ends of the sheets would be
placed on the ground, and leaning well toward the bulk would be
supported by sticks stuck in the ground and leaning the opposite way to
meet them. These sheets would be about 3ft wide and 7ft long and four of
them nicely placed would make a hut 9ft long and 4ft deep, one side
being open to the fire, which was lighted on the ground near this mouth
or entrance. In each hut four or five blacks live very comfortably. The
form of huts of this character inclined to the semi-circular.

A group of these on some timber sheltered "flat" near the bank of a
stream, lake, or water-hole would constitute the camp in which the
tribe, if a small one, or a portion of the tribe, if a large one, slept
and lounged; endured the pangs of hunger or the pangs of surfeit from
gorging; performed the rights peculiar to them; "yabbered" in communal
friendliness or yelled in communal strife; made merry or were sad;
celebrated marriages or mourned for their dead, fashioned their weapons
or shaped their ornaments; plotted against their enemies or arranged
plans of escape from them. But never for long at one stay. Shiftless as
shifting, they could only rob nature of present supplies, and then
wander to some spot not yet exhausted of the stores of animal and
vegetable food, upon which they subsisted.

Among a race which, although separated into tribes, did not recognise
such distinctions of rank or executive power as would necessitate
authoritative heads, it naturally followed that within territorial
limits the male members of the tribe were free to act on their own
inclinations or impulses. Apart from certain ceremonies and tribal
customs which could not properly be classed under the head of
"government," authoritative power rested only with the married man; his
authority was exercised only over the wife or wives or younger members
of his family. Hence, the camps did not necessarily contain the whole of
the members of the tribes, and family parties would come and go as their
inclinations led them. When the whole tribe was represented in the camp
and the natural supplies had run short or were more difficult of
collection, there would be a general march to new ground, and in this
march the social rule and order of the aborigines would be conspicuously
displayed. First would come the warriors, painted, greased, and adorned
with any trophies of their valour, carrying nothing but their weapons,
and attended by a pack of gaunt and mangy hounds. Next a group of
half-grown boys, lean, naked, wide-eyed, gaping for something to eat,
and perhaps tightly girthed to restrain the pangs of hunger. Behind
these the women, packed with meat, skins, waterbuckets, nets, puppy
dogs, and babies, bending under their burdens, with a crowd of children
of all sizes round them. Following these, but somewhat apart, would come
two notable small groups. The first numbered seven or eight grey-headed
elders, sorcerers or "medicine men," walking really with an evident
consciousness of authority and dignity, as was natural, for they
represented whatever functions of government, law, and diplomacy
existed. The second group, and which closed the procession, consisted of
four or five old crones, the witches and sybils of the tribe. These old
women carried little, for they had little to carry, but their influence
was enormous by reason of the venom of their tongues and the vindictive
cunning which had been bred in them, through life subject to slavery,
degradation, and cruelty. No boy would willingly go near their camp fire
at night, and the stoutest warrior quailed before their screeching
voices and the pointing of their skinny fingers. It was firmly believed,
by the younger members of the tribe, at least, that they would kill
those they hated by unseen terrors, and the respect born of fear was
cheerfully accorded them. Proceeding slowly as before described and
gathering as they walked, before nightfall the tribe made a fresh camp
about ten miles from where they had started in the morning, and this
would be their home for the next four or five weeks. The warriors would
clear the neighbourhood of everything furred and feathered; the women
and children would search the scrubs and swamps for roots, eggs, and
berries, then when the time came, setting fire to the grass and leaving
the camp, they would set out afresh for new quarters, thus eating their
way by degrees through their enormous unfilled domain. As a rule the
march was conducted in silence, as any noise would disturb the game, and
destroy the chances of procuring a store of food for the camp.

Reference has been made to the shipwrecked cedar-getter, Pamphlet, who
with three others had been driven by a gale on to Moreton Island, and
who after a lengthy sojourn among the natives was rescued by Oxley in
the "Mermaid." His experience may serve to illustrate some of the phases
of aboriginal camp life, and I will therefore quote a passage or two
from his narrative. He said that nothing could exceed the kindness of
the natives to himself and fellow unfortunates; they lodged them, hunted
and fished for them, and the women and children gathered fern roots for
them, painted them twice a day, and would have assuredly tattooed them
and bored their noses but for their dislike to the process. He gives
some information concerning their habits and customs which is not
uninteresting. On one occasion he proceeded to boil some water in a tin
pannikin which he had saved from the wreck, and the astonished natives
took to their heels as soon as the water began to boil, shouting and
screaming, nor would they return until he had poured away the "debil
debil" liquid. Each of these aboriginals had the cartilege of his nose
pierced, many of them wearing pieces of bone or stick thrust through it
(in latter days these ornaments were supplanted by the white man's
tobacco pipe, the hole serving the place of vest pocket or belt pouch).
The women had all lost the two joints of their little finger of the left
hand, but their front teeth had been left in their sockets. The women
were engaged daily in getting fern root (dingowa), for sustenance, and
in making network bags from rushes. The men made the fishing and
kangaroo nets from the bark of the kurrajong. The fishing stations and
grounds of the tribes were several miles apart, and they would change
from one to the other as the fishing or game began to fail. Their huts
were of wattle bent into an arch, interwoven with boughs, covered with
the bark of the teatree, and were impervious to rain, some of them being
large enough to hold twelve persons. The men were kind to the women, and
Pamphlet declared that during his sojourn of 7 months with them he never
saw a women struck or ill-used; but there were frequent quarrels among
the males, same of them terminating fatally.

Territorial rights were fully recognised throughout the continent, and
well defined tribal boundaries were fixed, although surveyors were
unknown. All told, a well-conditioned tribe would number from 250 to 300
souls, the women and children forming the major part, and the territory
held would vary in extent in accordance with its locality and
capacities. Some fifty grown men or warriors would hold a tract of
country measuring about 50 miles each way, and the boundaries would be
as well known and accurately defined as if surveyed and registered, a
certain point of a range, a belt of scrub or jungle, the watershed of a
river or creek forming the legal marks; and any trespasser from another
tribe intruding, whether in search of game, or in order to steal a wife,
if caught, would pay the penalty of death. The territory was used in
common by the tribe, although in some of the tribes there existed a
private ownership of land, the area being divided into portions, each of
which became the personal property of an individual male; but there does
not appear to have been any fixed rule regarding this.

There was no pretence of anything like home life in the camp, beyond the
bare eating and sleeping of the small families together. The women, when
not out searching for roots or other edibles, would employ themselves in
making skin cloaks and network bags from rushes and bark, while the men
would get to work fashioning spears, boomerangs and other weapons, and
the youngsters would amuse themselves with anything or nothing, as all
children can, or would engage in mock warfare with their toy weapons.


The spear was undoubtedly the principal weapon of the Aborigines,
whether they lived on the sea coast or far back in the "desert," among
the mountains, or on the banks of lakes or rivers. There were spears of
various kinds, each tribe having different sorts and patterns from
others, but they could generally be classified under two distinct
headings--those for war and those for the chase.

The spears used in fighting were heavy weapons, eight or nine feet in
length, weighing about four pounds, and being either plain or barbed.
The barbs in some cases would be cut out of the solid and extend about a
foot from the point, but in others they were made of sharp pieces of
flint or quartz, fastened by means of gum into two grooves, and
extending upwards from the point of the spear for a distance of about
fourteen inches. Other spears would have heads of jagged stone, firmly
fixed, and forming most deadly weapons in the hands of these unerring
marksmen. Many of them were more like lances, and when throwing them the
natives would balance them in the centre and hurl them direct from the
hand, with a force more or less great in proportion to the strength of
the arm propelling. A strong native in full practice could propel one of
these heavy spears with such force as to render an opponent's life of
little value if he chanced to be off his guard or unskilful in the use
of his shield, but, except in such cases, they were not very effective
at a distance of more than sixty or seventy feet.

For the purposes of hunting, spears of a lighter make and more easily
wielded, were used. They were smooth and sharp pointed, about seven feet
in length, made out of a light branch or sapling, or strong reeds, where
these were obtainable. Grass tree was a favourite wood for finishing off
the shafts, but the points were invariably made of wood, tough, hard,
and heavy. These weapons were very effective in hunting, and a skilful
thrower could bring down his game from a long distance. In fighting as
well as hunting they were also made to do good service, being handy and
of a longer flight than the lances. Another kind of lance, weighing
about five pounds, and barbed, was used by some of the tribes for
spearing the emu, the hunter being concealed in the boughs of a tree
near the water's edge, at a spot which the luckless bird was in the
habit of frequenting. There were also fishing spears, the length of
which ranged from four to six feet, and which were generally pointed and
barbed with a flat piece of pointed bone, neatly spliced to the wood and
one end of which formed the point by over lapping. The making of these
spears, particularly the heavier ones, involved a large amount of
patience and trouble, especially when they were cut out of a tree with
the stone tomahawk, and required fining down to a regular roundness and
smoothness. The fighting spears of the Upper Murray and Darling natives
were highly valued, being made of the hard and elastic myall wood. The
commonest spear was that made from reed, and although the point was only
a piece of hard, heavy wood, it would penetrate far enough into the wood
of a tree, when thrown from a distance, to require a heavy pull to
extract it. The light spears were generally thrown by means of a
throwing-stick (wommera), and the accuracy and force with which they
would find their way to the mark aimed at was truly wonderful.

This throwing stick was a piece of wood varying in length from two to
three feet, three quarters of an inch thick, two or three inches broad
in the centre, but tapering off at one end into a long rough handle, and
at the other end into a hook or projection in front. At the blunt end of
the spear there was a slight hollow, and the tooth, or projection, of
the wommera would be inserted into this hollow with marvellous dexterity
by the black about to throw. Holding the wommera with the tooth upwards,
using the finger and thumb of his right hand, and grasping the centre of
the spear with his left, while keeping his eye fixed upon the game or
the enemy, he would deftly run the hollow of his right hand upward along
the spear until he reached the end, and the tooth would slip over and
into the hollow. He would then gradually slide his hand back to the
handle of the wommera, holding it loosely between the first and second
fingers of the right hand, and the spear still between the thumb and the
first finger, and having reached the handle of the wommera he would
double his little finger tightly over it, and in this position be ready
for throwing. He would do this as quickly and as mechanically as a
European would cock his gun, or an archer of the olden time fix his
arrow in the cross-bow, and raising his arm well over the shoulder would
send the light and quivering weapon on its deadly mission. The wommera
answered the purpose of an extra section to the arm, and giving
additional leverage, increased the power of propulsion to a wonderful

Some of the light spears thrown by the wommera were made of thin gum
scrub saplings straightened in hot ashes, the root end, about as thick
as a man's thumb being hardened by the same means and then pointed. The
hole in the taper end made for the tooth of the wommera was bored by
means of a sharp kangaroo bone, and to prevent the edge of the hole
splitting or breaking away, a thin kangaroo sinew was firmly tied round
it. Of the bundle of spears that each man would carry about with him,
two or three were generally barbed, and many of the men would have
ready-made barbs handy to be fixed on the spears without them, should
they be required. Although these barbs were fixed to the spear only by a
thin thread or sinew, yet they never slip, and it is impossible to draw
the spear thus headed out of the body of the man or animal it entered;
it would either have to be pushed through and broken off or cut out of
the flesh, as it answered the purpose of a fishhook or harpoon. In some
tribes the handle end of the wommera had a sharp-edged piece of quartz
attached to it with gum, which answered the double purpose of pointing
the spears and of preventing the instrument from slipping through the

Clubs or "waddies" were, of course, very common, and were of all sorts
and sizes. They could be used either in hand to hand conflicts or
throwing at the larger game when the hunter had stalked it closely. Some
of the waddies were fashioned with great care, and were, for the
aborigines, elaborately carved; others were formed of hardwood saplings
which had been pulled up by the roots and cut to a size convenient for
handling; the root forming the knob or business end--and a very
effective business end it was. Some of the clubs had a sharp point at
the end of the knob, and could be used as a sort of blunt dagger. The
"leangle" or pick-headed club, was perhaps the most dangerous weapon in
use for close quarter fighting. It was formed of heavy hardwood,
straight for about two or two and a half feet and then curved for about
nine inches at almost a right angle to the shaft or handle. It tapered
to a convenient thickness for holding and had a small knob at the end to
prevent it slipping through the hand of the wielder. In appearance it
was something like a wooden pick. The Port Lincoln tribe used lighter
waddies made of gum sapling; they were about eighteen inches in length,
and barely one inch in diameter, the thin end being notched in order to
afford a firm hold for the hand, while towards the other end there was a
slight gradual bend like that of a sword. The natives used this weapon
chiefly for throwing at kangaroo rats or other small animals, and also
at the commencement of a fight before they took to their spears.

The most curious of all the weapons used by the aborigines was, however,
the boomerang. It was distinctly Australian, no similar weapon having
been found in use in any other part of the world, although a weapon
fashioned similarly has recently been discovered in the Egyptian
excavations. Yet no more simple or useful weapon was to be found in the
whole of the native armoury. It was simply a blade of tough-grained
wood, in shape like a scimitar without handle or point, but wider in
proportion to its length. In shape it varied from somewhat like a
crescent-shaped leaf to the outline of an obtuse angle. The more common
sort was used for throwing at flights of birds, or as a toy. It was
bluntly edged all round, of irregular thickness, one side flat the other
rounded. In extreme length it was about two feet, about 20 inches in
direct line from end to end, and had an average breadth of two and a
quarter inches. It was twisted throughout its entire length as though
strong hands had taken the ends and turned in opposite directions. In
the hands of one skilled in its use (and every male black could use it)
the instrument after having been projected horizontally 50 or 100 yards,
would suddenly rise high into the air, and revolving on its axis with
great speed, return and fall to the ground near the feet of the thrower.
Other boomerangs were longer and heavier, not having this peculiar
twist, did not return when thrown, and were used as effective
projectiles in war or hunting. The weapon after skimming breast high
nearly out of sight, would suddenly rise high into the air, and
returning with amazing velocity towards its owner bury itself six inches
in the turf within a few yards of his feet. The emu or kangaroo was
stunned or disabled; amongst a flight of ducks just rising from the
water, or a flock of pigeons on the ground this weapon would commit
great havoc. At close quarters it became no bad substitute for a
cutlass. Sir Thomas Mitchell, on observing the motion of the boomerang
in the air whirling round a hollow centre of gravity, was struck with
the idea of adopting its principle to the propulsion of ships, and he
received in 1848 a patent for his invention. "The London Times," 29th
September, 1825 contains an extract from a Sydney journal stating that
the "boomerang propeller" had been fitted to a small steamer, and
obtained a speed of twelve knots against a head wind.

White men found it very difficult to master the art of throwing the
boomerang, yet by constant practise under the teaching of a friendly
black the feat could be accomplished. How the aborigines hit upon the
secret of putting the "come back"--as the white boys called it--into
these simple implements is a mystery that has never yet been solved.
Whatever other weapon or implement would be wanting, the boomerang was
sure to be found in use in every tribe.

Various kinds of shields were used as a means of warding off the spears
and other missiles thrown during combat, but the two in most common use
were made, one for defence when fighting with the spear, and the other
for defence when clubs were brought into the fray. The former was light,
and was made of a thin piece of wood, or bark, with a handle at the back
in the centre; the latter was thick and strong, made of hard wood, and
having the handle cut out of the solid. With either of these shields the
black could ward off a spear or parry a blow with marvellous dexterity,
turning the points of the spears to the ground at his side, no matter
how swiftly or in what numbers they came. Some of the shields were very
elaborately carved on the surface intended to receive the spear, the
roughness no doubt being intended to prevent the entry of the spear

The stone tomahawk, or hatchet, was another indispensable implement in a
blackfellow's camp. These also varied in size and make, but all
indicated that the aborigines had reached the second stage of
advancement in the stone age, as the tomahawks were fashioned by rubbing
or grinding down the stones to a proper shape and to an obtuse cutting
edge, and not by simply striking splinters from a lump of stone, as was
the habit in the more primitive time. The making or possession of stone
hatchets indicated that some advance in the arts and commerce had been
made and prove that an intercourse took place between distant tribes.

The stone fit for hatchets was only to be found in certain localities,
and the stones required as rubbers or grinders were even more rare; and
negotiations had to be entered into with the tribes in whose territory
the necessary material was to be found, or through whose territory the
tribes seeking stone had to pass. Some of the tribes would have to
travel hundreds of miles to obtain suitable stones, and to grind the
stones when found. The handle was made of a supple branch of any sort,
or part of a creeper, made flat on one side by means of a quartz chisel,
and then bent round the head of the stone after being heated in hot
ashes. The creeper or branch was then secured to the stone with thongs
of fibres of bark, or tendons of the kangaroo or some other animal, and
a strong coating of cement made of gum and powdered shells was applied
over the tie and the stone where the wood encircled it. The amount and
variety of work which a native would perform with this rude implement
was really astonishing. It was always in his hand, and with it he would
cut his shields, clubs and sometimes spears out of the solid tree, and
roughly dress them down; he would strip the bark for his gunyah, or lop
off the large boughs to make the breakwind; he would cut holes to get at
opossums or bees' nests; and occasionally, if his club was not handy, he
would use the tomahawk in battle, but none of the tribes appeared to
favour it as a weapon of offence. Rude as was the manufacture of the
tomahawk, it required more persevering labor than any other implement
used by the natives, and was of more general utility; hence it was very
highly prized by them, although when they discovered the superiority of
the white man's iron "tommy" they were not slow to abandon their own in
favour of the imported implement.

What the tomahawk was to the male aborigines, the grubbing-stick
(kiatta) was to the female. It was generally made of a gum or she-oak
sapling, five feet long and about two inches in diameter, the thick end
hardened in the fire and cut down to a broad, sharp edge. It was chiefly
used to dig up roots, or ferret out the smaller animals which made their
home in mother earth. The gin and her stick were inseparable companions,
and as it was the work of the women to furnish the vegetable food for
the camp, the usefulness of the grubbing-stick may be readily imagined.

The chisel was another implement in very common use. It was made by
fixing on to the end of a short stick, by means of twine or gum, a sharp
piece of flint or quartz, and used in much the same way as a carpenter
would use a chisel in pointing a soft piece of wood. It was of great
utility in sharpening spear heads, scooping grooves in shields and
clubs, and fashioning vessels for holding water. It was sometimes also
used in carving on the shields and other weapons, but that work was
generally done by means of sharp shells and bones.

A very singular implement was in use in the Port Lincoln (S.A.) tribe.
It was called "yuta," and was a large piece of bark about four feet
long, eight to ten inches wide, and presenting the form of an open,
round water spout. It was used in cleaning the grubs of a large species
of ant found in the locality, and which was esteemed a great delicacy by
the natives. When an ant-hill was opened it was found to contain, among
a mass of rubbish and innumerable small red insects, here and there a
large white grub. Gathering the whole mass of rubbish, or as much of it
as the yuta would hold, the natives would throw it up and catch it again
repeatedly--holding the yuta in such a position that the heavier
substances would separate and fall out at the lower end, while the
lighter particles would be caught in the upper end, and the eatable
grubs be left in the middle. A great deal of dexterity was required to
properly handle this peculiar kind of food cleaner and Europeans could
not manage it at all, although it was used with effect by little
picaninnies five or six years old. The live grubs having been thus
sifted were wrapped up in a piece of clean dry grass, which the natives
chewed or sucked with great gusto until there was very little grub

Among those tribes which subsisted on fish, nets of various makes and
patterns were in common use, and in others elaborately worked snares,
twisted bark, tough grass, creepers, chewed and twisted fibre, etc.,
forming the material of which they were made. Bags of similar
construction were also in common use, for carrying small game, roots,
the smaller implements, and nick-nacks esteemed of value in the camp.
The awls or needles used by the gins in stitching or boring, were
generally made up of the fibula of the kangaroo or emu. Calabashes
neatly cut out of wood were used for holding or carrying water, and
among some of the tribes cleaned skulls would be used as water vessels,
the previous owner of the skull being generally a relative of the family
who thus utilised it; water-bags made of skins were also sometimes used.
But where water was required in small quantities only, the gins found no
difficulty in carrying it a short distance. A woman would go to a pool
or stream a short distance off, fill her mouth with water, and returning
to the camp, squirt it into the mouth of her thirsty picaninni, at once
quenching its thirst and checking its squalling. In mixing a "damper"
after having learned how to mix the flour from the Europeans they would
sometimes apply the water to the flour in the same way. I was amused one
day by seeing in a street in Bathurst a very ready application of water
to the face of a gin who had fainted. One of her female companions ran
to a bucket standing in a verandah near, and having filled her mouth
with water rushed back to the fainting sister and squirted the liquid in
her face, with remarkable precision and good effect.

Knapsacks, or wallets, were made by drawing a small kangaroo skin
together by a string like a purse, or consisted of a coarse net
manufactured of the fibres of rushes. When travelling, these knapsacks
would be brought into use by the natives. The inside of the net would be
lined with dry grass, and various articles would be placed therein, such
as a large, flat shell for drinking purposes, a round smooth stone for
breaking the bones of animals, one or more kinds of paint, a wooden
scoop used in roasting roots, some pieces of sharp quartz, and the whole
skin of some small animal in which the minuter articles could be kept,
such as kangaroo sinews and pointed bones (needles and thread), sharp
edged thin bones to peel roots with, tufts of feathers, tips for beards,
strings, spear-barbs, etc. All the weapons and implements not carried in
hand would be packed in the wallet, which would be carried under the
left arm, suspended by one or more strings slung over the right
shoulder, or, when specially heavy, on the back, by a breast band across
the chest. It goes without saying that the heavier wallets were
invariably carried by the women.

It will thus be seen that the paraphernalia of a fully-equipped camp was
both useful and varied, and quite as valuable to the tribe as the
articles of merchandise or domestic appliances were to the members of
communities civilized.

CHAPTER XXVI.--Food, and Their Methods of Procuring It.

The native Australians were peculiarly a race of wandering hunters,
fishermen and gatherers of the spontaneous products of nature; and this
fact has properly been accepted as one of the strongest of the many
proofs of their absolute isolation from races more advanced in
civilization until the Europeans came. They have never been known to sow
or plant in any instance, and in their savage state never dreamed of
replenishing or preserving their food supply by artificial means, even
of the most primitive kind.

Being characteristically ceaseless rovers, never remaining in the one
place for any length of time, it was not to be expected that the blacks
would ever think of tilling the ground or endeavouring to supplement
nature's supplies of herb, root, or grain. In no instance has any tribe
in its wild state been known to do this, and not even after the natives
had seen the results of the European labour in the shape of cereals,
vegetables and fruit, did they seek to add to their provisions by
tillage, although they would work for the white man at harvest time for
pay poor enough. Hunting and fishing, digging roots, collecting grass
seed and grinding it, was what their fathers did for centuries, and they
could not reach out to any attempt more scientific. Nature had been kind
to them and had supplied sufficient for all their wants until the white
man came to rob them of their inheritance, and they could not "settle"
on the soil as the white man did. But besides all this, cultivation
involved labour and it was almost as difficult for the aborigines to
engage in anything requiring unexcited effort as to get away from the
"perfume" that always hung around their persons.

To enumerate the different articles used for food by the aborigines
would be a difficult task. Nearly everything natural to the country that
had life, animal and vegetable, was placed under contribution. Fish,
insects, reptiles, were, perhaps, their chief luxuries, and white men
who have been compelled to partake of the latter when misfortune of
travel or flight from punishment had driven them to herd with the
natives, have declared that they were appetising morsels, although under
other conditions they might have continued to look upon them with
absolute loathing.

The modes in which animals, birds and fishes were taken differed as the
localities differed, the natives adapting themselves to circumstances.
The spear was the principal messenger of death to the moving prey, but
in some districts even the larger game, such as kangaroo and emu, would
be taken with the nets. The boomerang was the chief bird killer, but
nets and nooses of most ingenious make were also used.

One of the articles of food most sought after by some of the interior
tribes was the white ant, which in certain localities was abundant in
the spring. The females only were eaten, and at a time just before
depositing their eggs. This formed a favourite and extensive repast.

The opossum formed one of the regular meals, whether the tribes were
stationary or travelling, and the method of procuring the animal was
reduced almost to a science in some districts; yet every tribe did not
eat the opossum. In searching for the opossum every gum tree was
examined in the line of march or out of it; if the animal had ascended
the tree the marks of its claws were observable on the bark, and the
experienced native could tell at a glance whether the marks had been
made the previous night or at a more remote period. Having climbed the
tree, the hunter would tap the hollow branch in which the animal was
sleeping to ascertain where the hollow terminated, If it were of small
depth he would put down his hand and draw the animal out by the tail,
strike its head two or three times against the tree and throw it down to
his companions; but if the hollow were deep a hole would be made at the
bottom and the animal would be smoked out.

In climbing the tree a notch was cut in the bark with the wadna (sharp
stick) or stone hatchet, and in this notch the small toes of the left
foot were placed. The left arm clasped the trunk, leaving the right free
to cut a second notch for the toes of the right foot higher up, and when
this was done the sharp end of the wadna was struck in to the bark and
served as a means of support to raise the body for the second step to be
taken, the ball of the great toe of the right foot being placed in the
notch. And so on until the lower branches were reached. The rapidity
with which the ascent and descent could be made appeared marvellous to
those who looked upon the performance for the first time. In parts of
Queensland, the strong tough vine there abounding would be utilized as
ropes for the ascending climber to draw himself up.

The smaller birds were killed on the wing with the waddy, or whilst
resting on the ground or in the branches of trees, the aim of the
natives whether striking or throwing being unerring. The devices for
snaring fowl were various and most ingenious. One snare used was a long
wand with a noose at the end, made to look like a reed amongst the
others growing at the water's edge. With this wand in hand a native
would lurk silently among the reeds, and whenever an unsuspecting duck
or other bird came near enough, the noose would be slipped over its
head, and never more would it float, or fly, or swim. The reed spear was
also used with effect upon flocks of pigeon which abounded in some of
the lakes, the spear being thrown so as to secure a string of birds on
the one journey.

In capturing the bustard, or wild turkey, not a little patience and
cunning were needed, as the bird was remarkably sensitive and shy.
Having sighted a flock of turkeys and noted the direction in which the
birds were heading, a large bush moth would be secured, and with this
the native would stealthily and noiselessly make his way to some grass
tussocks in the supposed line of the turkeys' march, and fixing the live
moth on the point of one of the waving grass stems he would seek cover
near with his stick and noose in hand ready for action. Stalking along,
one of the turkeys would catch sight of the moth as it struggled to get
its liberty, and would suddenly make up its mind to set the fluttering
insect free only to find its own head in a noose which the native had
deftly thrown at the proper moment. A few short struggles on its part,
and a sudden stampede on the part of its companions, was the prelude to
a turkey dinner in the camp or on the hunting field. Generally, however,
the death of the turkey was compassed by the more direct means of the
boomerang or spear.

The natives of Cooper's Creek were said to make dwellings more nearly
approaching settled villages than others of the interior tribes, were
very skilful hunters, and it was when the dry summers set in that their
skill was put to the greatest test. They would make one of the
water-holes not yet dry a centre of their operations, and secure both
ducks and pigeons in one "take" sufficient to last them for a
considerable time. For effective pigeon hunting they would surround the
hole with a rough brush fence, leaving open one portion where the
approach was hardened ground (for the birds were careful in choosing
such approaches) and they would then conceal themselves behind the
bushes with a light net spread out ready to throw. The birds would come
in flocks, and a large flock having alighted, the natives would start up
simultaneously and throw their nets over and before the opening with
marvellous dexterity, and a good haul would invariably be the result.

One successful method of hunting the emu was for the hunter to procure a
bushy bramble sufficiently large to conceal his crouching figure, and
with this to screen himself as he advanced he would creep nearer and
nearer to the birds as they walked with their long and stately strides
about the plain in search of food, or squatted beneath the shade of a
spreading gum tree. Pausing every now and then he would gradually draw
sufficiently near to hurl his weapon, and shortly after there would be
one or more birds lying prone, if not lifeless, on the plain.

Various artifices were adopted for successfully hunting the kangaroo,
emu and dingo (wild dog). Regular chases would sometimes be organised in
the winter, when the ground was soft and boggy, and the game could not
travel fast; the kangaroo would then be fairly run down by the blacks,
who for the time being would appear as though transformed into leaping,
yelling demons. In some parts of Western Australia, kangaroos were taken
in pits dug around the places at which they went for water, or after
heavy rains, were walked or run down by the men while the ground is

To start the smaller game, such as kangaroo rats, wallabies, etc., from
their lairs in the scrub, a wide stretch of country would sometimes be
set on fire, before which the hunters would also run, finding in the
scared animals an easy prey.

Various modes of fishing were employed by the different interior tribes.
In the absence of canoes, some of them would stand upon a favourable
spot on the bank with their fishing spears (a heavier weapon than the
ordinary throwing spear) ready poised, while others would enter the
stream above or below, and by shouting and splashing drive the fish
towards this spot, passing which the largest would be transfixed by the
spears darted from the bank with unerring aim. For catching the smaller
fish in the waterholes boughs would be cast into one end, towards which
the fish would be driven by splashing in the centre and at the sides,
and the boughs would then be hastily withdrawn and cast upon the sand,
not a few fish being generally found entangled in the fine branches.
Sometimes a strong bark, which had the effect of stupefying the fish
would be placed in the water, and the drunken inhabitants would fall an
easy prey to the fishers. Net fishing was also followed in some places,
the nets being made from the fibre of rushes or roots, chewed and then
twisted into twine stout or fine, as required.

The articles used for food by the blacks were innumerable, and Mr. Curr,
one of the best authorities on the subject, says that in the matter of
animals, birds, fishes, reptiles and eggs he was not aware of one which
was rejected. Restrictions were, however, placed upon indiscriminate
eating, certain animals being barred from use as food by the females and
the boys, the laws bearing thereupon being very strictly enforced.

Small birds, fish, opossums, and all the lighter animals and reptiles
would be roasted upon the fire; roots, tubers, shellfish, eggs, etc.,
would be roasted in the ashes; but the larger game would be baked in
ovens in the well established camps. A large fire would be made, and
into it would be thrown a number of thick, flat stones. Then a hole
would be made in the ground and a fire kindled in it, which would be
allowed to burn down to glowing embers. Upon the embers would be placed
the heated stones in such a way as to secure a fairly level surface,
upon which surface clean green grass would be laid. This would form the
cooking dish for the animal to be cooked, and a cover of a similar kind
would then be spread on the meat, after which more hot stones, and then
over all a quantity of earth and sand. After a time a smooth pointed
stick would be thrust down from the top to the bottom layer of the
stones, care being taken not to touch the meat, and then withdrawn,
leaving a hole into which a little water would be poured to increase the
steam. When the meat was thought to be cooked--and the natives could hit
the time without the aid of any cookery book--the top earth would be
carefully removed, then the stones and grass, and the dish would be
ready for serving "piping hot" to the members of the family. In the
absence of knowledge of more scientific methods of cooking and of proper
utensils, what better plan could have been adopted?

Although the continent is destitute of indigenous fruits of any value to
Europeans, the root and fruit supply were of great value of the
aborigines. In some parts these roots were abundant, and in their
seasons the natives of the district would be strangers to hunger. Very
few of them were eaten raw, the majority being roasted and peeled before
being used. Berries and pods which Europeans would pass by as insipid
and altogether too "woody" for relish, formed in their season in certain
districts one of the best "dishes" of the aborigines. In some parts of
the continent there were several kinds of bean which were much prized by
the natives, and many tribes would congregate in the districts where
they grew to partake in the gathering, friendship subsisting between
them for the time being. Some of these beans and the seeds of the large
plants would be ground by the women between two stones, and the powder
made into flat cakes and baked. The ill-fated explorers Burke, Wills and
King, subsisted for a time upon the seeds of the nardoo plant, following
the example of the blacks in the desert when they had lost their way.

In one part of Queensland there was a food supply which assumed almost a
national character, although only occasionally available. The bunya-bunya
fruit was much sought after by the natives, but as the district in which
the tree came to fruitage was very restricted, and as the tree only bore
in profusion about once in three years, a concentration of the tribes
took place which was not always unattended with tribal disturbances. The
fruit was of a richly farinaceous character, and the blacks quickly
fattened upon it. When the fruit season proper set in the tribes from
all quarters would move towards the district, some of them coming from
great distances, and during the three weeks of plenty the visitors were
allowed to consume as much as they desired, as the local tribe could not
ultilise more than a small portion of it. For a time there was great
feasting, but the aboriginals from a distance would shortly grow tired
of this exclusively vegetable diet, and being prohibited from touching
the kangaroo or other game within the domains in which they were
entertained, they would resort to cannibalism to satisfy the strong
craving for meat that came upon them. This fact has been used by some
writers to illustrate the strictness of aboriginal laws, and the fact
that there was great pressure upon the means of existence under ordinary

The natives indulged in an intoxicant, in the shape of a plant called
pitcheree, and long journeys were made periodically to the localities
where it grew in order to procure it. It was said to be a mild narcotic,
and was used sometimes by the women as well as the men. It was a kind of
scrub with stems similar to rye grass. The natives chewed the stalks of
this plant into a mass, and then mixed it with the ashes of gum leaves,
and then made a sort of paste ball, which when kept in the mouth for
some time had a highly stimulating effect. White men who have smoked it
when their tobacco has run out have declared that it has quite a
soporific effect, and quickly sent them to sleep.

CHAPTER XXVII.--The Practice Of Cannibalism.

Reference has been made in preceding chapters to the fact that
cannibalism was indulged in by many of the tribes. From the particulars
gathered by those who have written on the subject, very little doubt
remains concerning the prevalence of the horrible custom among the whole
race, although it was more pronounced in those tribes where flesh food
was difficult to obtain. In some of the localities where game was
abundant it was resorted to but seldom, but even when there was no
necessity for resorting to it on account of the scarcity of meat, it was
practiced as a final act of triumph over a fallen foe, although in such
cases the only part eaten would be the kidney fat--the idea of the
feasters being, as some have asserted, that the strength and courage of
the foe would be imparted by that means to them; but this point has been
satisfactorily proved, and there is reason to believe that the choice
was confined to that portion of the body simply from motives similar to
those which prompt the epicure to reject the rough and insipid and
favour the delicate and nutritious portions of the dish set before him.

The statement that the Australian aborigines were addicted to
cannibalism has been more than once questioned, but the testimony of men
who have had much to do with them--either as explorers or pioneer
settlers, or as missionaries or protectors--and upon whose word absolute
reliance can be placed, removes the matter beyond the region of dispute,
and the facts narrated leave very little room for doubt that, although
the practice was not a general one throughout the continent, it was very
extensively indulged in by certain tribes, not as a usage based upon
superstitious notions, but as a means of gratifying an appetite for
varied animal food. Among their unwritten laws there were some bearing
upon this subject, and they were evidently made for convenience, so that
the inclination might wait upon the duty, or vice versa, whenever the
opportunity arose of fulfilling the one or gratifying the other.

In the "Port Phillip Herald", of 26th November, 1846, there appeared an
account of an expedition undertaken from Melbourne to attempt the
recovery of a white woman who had fallen among the Gippsland blacks, and
Sergeant Winderedge, who was with the expedition declared that it was
ascertained that the aborigines in that part of the country were in the
habit of devouring the bodies of deceased gins, which they would roast
or bake after their own fashion; and that they thus disposed of the
bodies instead of burying them.

Mr. Simpson remarks of the aborigines of the northern part of New South
Wales that, notwithstanding a great affection for their children, they
are known in some localities to eat them when they died from natural
causes; and it was the custom of the natives of the Colac district, on
the occasion of the natural death of young persons, to deliver over the
bodies to be eaten by the young women of the tribe.

The testimony of Mr. Seivewright, assistant protector in the Port Philip
district for several years, is conclusive on this point. In one of his
letters, a copy of which is before me, he gives a graphic description of
a cannibalistic orgie at the camp of the Targurt tribe, of which he was
an eye witness, and in which he was invited to become a participant.
There had been a fight between the Targurt and Bolagher tribes, during
which a young gin received a fatal spear wound. Despite the efforts at
restoration made by Mr. Seivewright the gin died. About an hour after
her death the tribe removed the body as if for burial, Mr. Seivewright
following the procession, refusing to return to his hut when requested
by the relatives of the dead gin. They then made signs to him indicating
that they intended to eat the body, and despite his remonstrances they
proceeded to cut up and divide it "without the slightest process of
cooking." He describes the revolting scene in detail, and says that one
woman cut off a portion and offered it to him, and that next day the
relatives sent another portion to the hut for his acceptance.

Mr. Samuel Gason supplies an account of the rites connected with
cannibalism as he saw them performed by the Dieyere tribe in South
Australia, the relatives of the deceased in this case also being the
honored guests at the disgusting feast.

In some of the Queensland tribes given to cannibalism, the slain in
battle were always cooked and eaten, the bodies having been first
"carefully skinned." The "hides" of the dead men were stretched on
spears and dried in the smoke, after which process they were usually cut
into strips, laid up in rolls, and given as souvenirs to the nearest
surviving relatives, who always carried them in the grass bag over the
shoulder. The bones were also preserved after being "picked" clean, but
these were generally planted in a hollow tree with the skull.

In the early days of Bathurst, when it was a convict settlement, an
event occurred which furnished clear evidence of the cannibalistic
propensities of the aborigines of the Western district of New South
Wales. An attempt had been made by one of the more adventurous of the
pioneers who had crossed the mountains to establish a "station" about
twenty-five miles further westward, near the site of the now rising
township of Blayney, then called King's Plains. As was usual in those
days, three assigned servants were sent up to the spot to erect a hut
and yards, preparatory to occupation with stock, but shortly after
commencing work two of them fell victims to the savagery of the blacks,
a united party of the Bathurst and Canoblas tribes being the assailants.
The third man escaped the fate of his comrades by being temporarily
absent from the camp, and he received a great shock upon his return,
when he discovered the dead bodies of his two "mates" lying near the
yard which they had been erecting--or what remained of the bodies, for
the flesh had been in many places clean stripped from the bones of the
arms, breast and legs, the bodies presenting a horribly mutilated

Three days afterwards some of the soldiers at the Bathurst barracks
noticed that something unusual was going on at the blacks' camp near the
river bank, and proceeding to the spot they surprised the blacks in the
act of cooking human flesh. The gins had brought the flesh of the men
who had been murdered at King's Plains down to Bathurst in their gunny
bags, and the whole tribe were preparing for a cannibal feast. There
were a few dead aboriginals in the neighbourhood of Bathurst shortly
after, when the news of the outrage at King's Plains reached the
settlement. I had this story some years ago from the lips of one of the
oldest "hands," who had crossed the mountains when but a boy as a
convict, and I have no reason whatever to doubt the correctness.

I could multiply instances from the material gathered, but I have, I
think, given facts sufficient to satisfy any reasonable enquirer that
cannibalism was practiced by the aborigines. Whether the custom had been
handed down through generations, or whether it was the outcome of the
failure of animal food supply, is a question which I do not feel
disposed to discuss. I record the fact, and support it with testimony of
the most reliable kind. Others may speculate upon the subject if they
feel so inclined. The presence of Europeans in the neighbourhood of the
tribes given to the practice appears to have led to its abandonment, as
was the case with that other horrible practice of infanticide.

CHAPTER XXVIII.--Clothing And Ornaments.

The only articles of clothing, if such it could be called--covering
would be the proper word--used by the natives were formed of the skins
of the animals slain by them--kangaroos, wallabies, opossums, natives
bears, and native cats, although the last named were very rarely used,
being very thin and tender. Among the most fashionable circles, male and
female wore the same covering, there being but one article in their
wardrobe--a cloak or rug. For the most part these were made of opossum
skins, sewn together with the sinews of the animals from which they had
been taken, or of the kangaroo, a sharp bone answering for the needle.

It has been observed by travellers that the tribes who used coverings
were more decent in their habits generally than the tribes who went
naked. They would retire out of sight to bathe, and the married men were
careful that no curious youngster intruded upon their privacy. The men,
however, were very seldom moved by any instinct of decency on their own

The aboriginals have generally been pictured as wearing opossum cloaks
and kangaroo skins, but even in the cold country many of them, whole
tribes, were more lightly clothed than were Adam and Eve in the Garden.
Sir George Grey states that during his travels in the northwest he never
saw a cloak or covering worn north of latitude 29deg. In those tribes
where coverings were common, some really well wrought rugs or cloaks
made from the skins of opossum, kangaroo, and native cat were to be
found. The rugs were worn fastened at the top across the chest, the
right arm being left free for exercise, and would reach as low as the
knees, greater length no doubt being undesirable, as walking or running
would be hampered. The furry side would be worn next to the body in cold
weather, and the bare side at other times. Some of the rugs were
ornamented with patterns worked on the flesh side by means of a
mussel-shell or sharp piece of flint, and red ochre was almost
invariably used as a dressing, serving to make the article thicker and
also to preserve it from the weather.

In most of the southern tribes the unmarried females above the age of
mere children wore girdles around the waist, in addition to the rugs,
from which hung fringes made of skin or string or feathers, the pendant
before and behind being about 12 inches long by 8 inches wide. In some
tribes the rugs were only used at night as coverings during sleep.

Whether in the habit of using rugs or not, however, every tribe was
given to body ornamentation. Head ornaments were made of kangaroo teeth,
neatly and firmly strung together. Necklaces made of short pieces of
reeds or grass stems threaded, or spun opossum fur, either twisted by
hand on the bare thigh by the women, or spun into yarn by means of a
primitive spindle, were very common, old and young being given to wear
them. The tips of wild dogs' tails were also worn in some tribes by the
children as tassels, being fastened in the hair with gum. Armlets were
worn over the shoulder, and were made of strips of skin twisted with the
fur outside, and head-bands made of string, coloured with red ochre,
round the forehead. Those who had the septum of the nose pierced
generally wore a bone or a reed or feather stuck through the
perforation, and others would wear a shell hanging on the chest from the

Tattooing was very common among the tribes, the raised scars being made
by deep incision with a sharp piece of flint or shell, and kept powdered
with ashes or charcoal. After the wounds had been made they would be
kept open for several months, and when the skin had hardened long ridges
of considerable thickness would remain on the surface, in regular rows
on the chest, arms, thighs, stomach or back, according to the fashion
most favoured by the tribe. The male would be more marked than the
female, but both sexes would exhibit scars to a greater or less extent.
The operation, as may be supposed, was of a painful character, and from
the extent of the incisions the ground would be drenched with the blood
of the sufferer. The males submitted to the operation with the stoicism
peculiar to the race, but the females would often exhibit a miserable
spectacle, shrieking piteously under the ruthless hands of the operator.

The Warrigals, a Gipps' Land tribe were in the habit of wearing the
hands of their deceased friends as ornaments about their necks, the same
being nicely preserved and worn as a token of affection.

The choice of cosmetics for purposes of ornamentation was not large, and
was generally confined to red ochre, chalk or pipeclay, charcoal and
grease, the latter always forming the groundwork of the artistic streaks
and smudges with which the natives adorned their persons. If the tribe
had an abundance of grease they would annoint the whole body, the
dirtier and ranker the stuff the better; but if that article was scarce,
as happened occasionally--the fat of the animals killed having been
thoughtfully taken internally instead of being reserved for external
use--they confined themselves to the face. As a protection against the
cold in winter, and against the stings of mosquitoes, scrub ants and
other insects, in the summer, the grease was no doubt found very useful,
and they appeared to derive comfort from its application in very hot
weather. When mourning the women would paint their foreheads with their
favorite pigment, draw rings round the eyes, and a perpendicular stripe
on the stomach; but the men would confine it to their foreheads, or
their breasts, in lines or dots, which were said to indicate the
nearness of the relative for whom they mourned.

For the corroboree the ornamentation would take a different form. The
men would paint two white lines on each side from the shoulders down to
the breast, a circle round each eye, a broad streak down the nose, two
or three pairs of stripes across each upper arm, finishing up by tying a
bunch of green boughs inclining downward round each leg a little above
the knee. Sometimes they would paste the white down of birds across the
forehead and along the margin of the hair from one ear to another.

In many of the tribes the males were as fond of ornaments as the
females, and these generally consisted of necklaces and armlets,
feathers in the head, or a bone through the septum of the nose, while
occasionally one of the ears would have a pendant. The necklaces were
made of various material, according to the locality of the tribes. In
some places shells were, strung together, in others quandong stones, in
others bright seeds set in gum, in others kangaroo teeth, but generally
sections of strong grass stems threaded were used.

In some tribes the men would wear a quantity of yarn, spun of opossum
fur or human hair, on their heads, wound several times round so as to
have the crown only uncovered; but this was evidently more for ornament
than use. And occasionally the head dress would be made more imposing by
bunches of emu feathers being struck in it, above the forehead.

Some of the tribes were altogether indifferent to adornments, however,
even the young "belles" having no greater fancy in this direction than
could be gratified by a streak or two of red ochre or pipe clay down
each arm or on the upper part of the stomach. Other young gins would
display a surprising degree of resource in making reed necklaces, and
ornaments of shells, feathers, etc., with which they would adorn their

Extravagance in the matter of dress was a crime of which the aborigines
were not guilty. In many cases the only article of attire would be a
bunch of feathers tied with a bark cord at the waist and hanging around
the loins in form of a skirt, while that of the men would consist of
furred skin, or woven fur, attached to a belt of skin or bark, and
forming an apron before and behind.

After contact with Europeans the blacks speedily became impressed with
the virtue of the blanket, and the colonial governments found in the
regular distribution of such articles a means of satisfying the official
conscience that something was being done to atone for the deprivation to
the race whose birthright had been taken from them. For many years the
yearly dole was made on 24th May, the anniversary of Queen Victoria, and
for weeks before that date the broken tribes would gather round the
police barracks or court house in the towns and settlements to receive
their gifts--which not infrequently would be bartered to the keeper of a
low "public" for a glass of rum before the day was dead.

CHAPTER XXIX.--The Corroboree or National Song Dance.

If there was one thing the natives observed in common more than another,
that thing was the "Corroboree." It was an entertainment peculiar to the
Australian blacks. Europeans have endeavoured in vain to fully solve the
significance of this national entertainment, and have been content to
look upon it as one of the most common and yet most mysterious
"institutions" of the race. Nothing like it has been observed in any
other part of the world, and yet the most scattered and insignificant
tribe in Australia indulged in it as a national fete. One peculiarity
was observable, however, and that was, that two tribes would never join
in the same celebration, although they might alternately take part in
it. These grand tribal song dance festivals might either be held to
celebrate a great event or small one, but whatever the cause of their
being held, they proved a source of the keenest enjoyment to every man,
woman, and child who took part in them or watched them as spectators.
When several friendly disposed tribes came together, the corroboree was
seen at its best, for each tribe would seek to make the best
presentation possible, and would sometimes rehearse the entertainment
before the full display took place. On the occasions of these friendly
meetings a party from each tribe would take it in turn nightly to give
the corroboree, the other tribes forming the audience, for no mixture of
tribes was ever allowed among the performers.

Night was the time always chosen for these national entertainments, the
light being supplied by the moon or by large fires, and the place of
holding was always a level piece of ground, free from trees and shrubs,
and from which all loose sticks, stones, etc., had been carefully
removed. Two immense heaps of dry bushes and twigs were piled up near
the centre of this theatre, and reserve heaps for replenishing the fires
were placed outside the cleared circle. For the most part the men were
the actual performers, although in certain cases some of the younger
women would also join; but the task of the latter was to supply the
music, the while being seated, as only aboriginal women could sit, with
tightly rolled up opossum rugs stretched across their knees or between
their legs. Upon these tightened skins they would beat with two short
drumsticks, at the same time singing, with a strong nasal accent, the
songs peculiar to the figure of the dance, occasionally being led by an
old man, who gave them the cue and sang the first bars of the song in
its changes, accompanying himself by striking two boomerangs or waddies
together. This orchestra would generally be seated on the outer edge of
the circle, away from the fires, but just within the shadow--always so
placed as to have the dancers in full view, although the dancers might
not be able to see them.

While the women were preparing the drums and clearing the place for the
fires the men who were to take part in the dance were engaged in
dressing, with as much assiduity as any European would display when
equipping himself for a fancy dress ball. But the dress of these dancers
was always undress. It would have been considered a gross breach of
etiquette for a dancer to enter the ring with any of his ordinary
trappings about him; but although the men were invariably naked, their
skins had been so fully ornamented with various pigments that the black
could only be seen in narrow streaks or spots. The ground work used by
all was generally grease and red ochre, and variety was furnished by
pipeclay of different colours. They would artistically apply these
pigments, making careful marks along the ribs, round the eyes, and down
the legs and arms, until in the fitful firelight they presented the
appearance of animated skeletons. Others would ornament themselves with
simple daubs, sticking bunches of feathers in their head bands, putting
on necklaces formed of kangaroo teeth or of pieces of reed, etc. But
invariably the dancers would have anklets made of leafy twigs, which
made a rustling sound during their dancing and generally each would
carry two sticks, with which they beat time during the performance--thus
described in detail by an eye-witness:--

Darkness having set in, and everything being in readiness, the women
took their places with drums and sticks, and the audience gathered in a
group or circle near, and facing the piles of wood, to which a firestick
had been applied. As the flames leaped upwards, the darkness of the
forest background appeared to take a darker shade, producing an
excellent scenic effect, which was heightened by the movements
succeeding. The signal being given, the women would commence a low,
plaintive chant, beating time with light strokes upon their primitive
drums. Presently from the forest gloom beyond, the leading dancer would
glide within the circle of light, and, with arms extended at right
angles to his body, would give a series of short, fantastic jumps. Then
another and another would follow in the same way, each falling into
position as he entered the circle, and still keeping up the spasmodic
jerking and leaping, until the whole of the actors were extended in one
quivering line. The singing and drumming meanwhile would be increasing
in volume, and as the last dancer fell into place and the whole body
began to move, the full blast of the orchestra would be heard, no more
to cease until that number was ended. Frequent retirements in line into
the shadow would take place, and each reappearance would produce some
fresh evolution, the dancers appearing as if made of india-rubber, or
the most flexible steel, so rapid were their movements.

At last the sign was given for the grandest burst and the excitement
reached the highest pitch as the leaping line grew more and more
convulsive and wildly regular in its marvellous contortions. Nothing
could exceed the earnestness with which they pursued this business.
Beating the sticks or boomerangs which they held in their hands in time
with the beats and shouts of the orchestra, the dancers would keep up a
series of such quickly successive leaps that the air would appear filled
with convulsive arms and legs; but through the whole performance there
was a marvellous uniformity of movement. A stranger to the performance
coming suddenly upon the scene would imagine that he had fallen across a
company of demons engaged in dance inferno. The wildness of expression
assumed by the dancers, as, carried away by excitement, their eyes
dilated, their chests expanded, their nostrils and cheeks inflated,
their white teeth glistening in the fire light, they sought to excel
each other in the wild, weird dance, is indescribable. The attitudes
assumed cannot possibly be set forth in words, but through them all
there was a regular individual position--feet kept widely apart, knees a
little bent, hands extended on a level with the shoulders, head thrown
back, thighs quivering in a manner most peculiar, each individual
preserving a condition of rigidity and elasticity that no professional
acrobat of ancient or modern days could effectively copy.

At the height of the dance the lines or ranks would form and reform with
a rapidity and precision that would put to shame a company of the
best-drilled soldiers in the British Army, and so straight would be the
line that the reed ornaments stuck through the septum of the nose of the
dancers (in those tribes where this ornament was used) would appear at
times as if they were one long continuous skewer. A series of contorted
jumps would follow the line formation, one division going to the right
and another to the left, and then the action would be changed, new
formations following, until in one grand climax of fierce shouting,
beating of drums, clashing of sticks, and extraordinary evolutions, the
performance would be brought to a close; and amidst mutual
congratulations the dancers, singers, and audience would seek their
wurleys or surround the camp fires to talk away the excitement into
which they had worked themselves.

Mr. Gedeon S. Lang, who had great facilities for observing the habits
and customs of the aborigines about Port Phillip, thus describes one of
these national entertainments witnessed by him in the Fifties:--

"There were over 500 natives in the assemblage. The stage consisted of
an open glade surrounded by a belt of rather thick timber, about 200
yards in length and breadth, narrowing towards the south end, across
which sat the orchestra consisting of nearly a hundred women, led by
Eaglehawk himself. (This Eaglehawk, or Old Billy, as he was known to the
whites, is described by Mr. Lang as having been a man of great ability
and influence, who succeeded in inducing five tribes to combine in
opposing the progress of the whites in the occupation of his district.)
The leader chanted a description of scenes as they passed, accompanied
by the women, their voices continuously repeating what seemed to be the
same words, while they beat time by striking with a stick a quantity of
earth, tightly rolled up in a piece of cloth or opossum rug. The moon
shone brightly, lighting up the stage and the tops of the trees, but
casting a deep shadow below. This shadow however, was again relieved by
several large fires on each side of the stage behind which stood the
spectators, the whites being in the centre. The first act of the
corroboree was the representation of a herd of cattle feeding out of the
forest and camping on the plain, the black performers being painted
accordingly. The imitation was most skilful, the action and attitude of
every individual member of the entire herd being ludicrously exact. Some
lay down and chewed the cud, others stood scratching themselves with
their hind feet or horns, licking themselves or their calves; several
continued rubbing their heads against each other. This having lasted for
some time, scene the second commenced. A party of blacks was seen
creeping towards the cattle, taking all the usual precautions, such as
keeping to the windward, in order to prevent the herd from being

"They got up close to the cattle at last and speared two head, to the
intense delight of the black spectators. Scene third commenced with the
sound of horses galloping through the timber, followed by the appearance
of a party of whites on horseback, remarkably well got up. The face was
painted whitey-brown, with an imitation of the cabbage-tree hat; the
bodies were painted, some blue and others red, to represent the shirt;
below the waist was a resemblance of the moleskin trousers. These
manufactured whites at once wheeled to the right, fired, and drove the
blacks before them; the latter soon rallied and a desperate fight
ensued, the blacks extending their flanks and driving back the whites.
The native spectators groaned whenever a blackfellow fell, but cheered
lustily when a white bit the dust; and at length, after the ground had
been fought and fought over again, the whites were ignominiously driven
from the field, amidst the frantic delight of the natives."

A corroboree lasted generally at least two hours, and sometimes four or
five hours. Its uses and abuses have been tersely set forth by Mr. Curr,
as follows:--

"Savage and objectionable as the corroboree is, it has played an
important part in the past of the Australian race, for it tended
strongly to keep up communication between the tribes. The renewal of
friendly relations between tribes is always marked by a corroboree. When
tribes corroboree, it is a gauge of peace; and this peace is, so far as
I know, ratified in no other way. A quarrel between two associated
tribes is usually brought to an end by an invitation to fight which
invariably ends in a corroboree. A great point in it, as a medium of
reconciliation, is that it excludes for the most part explanations,
questions, and reflections. Two tribes at variance meet, a fight ensues,
in which generally not much harm is done and then a corroboree takes
place, and every point of honour is satisfied ipso facto. On the other
hand, ill feelings, and eventually war, not infrequently originate at
these meetings, and almost invariably as the result of outrages on
women. Though advantages of some sorts have certainly resulted from the
corroboree it was undoubtedly, especially when several tribes were
present, often an occasion of licentiousness and violence."

The general features of the corroboree were similar throughout the
continent, but different tribes made different entertainments, and, no
doubt the playwrights of each found abundant exercise in composing songs
and dances on new and exciting themes.

There was nothing of worship connected with the corroboree as some
persons have imagined. The songs as a rule were harmless, and the dances
not indecent; but occasionally the ceremony would take the form of a
disgustingly obscene display. Not infrequently the corroboree was the
preliminary to a big fight with an unfriendly tribe, and sometimes when
the fight was over and the difference adjusted there would be another
song-dance in which the erstwhile antagonists would alternately engage.

CHAPTER XXX.--Signs And Signals. Barter, Mimicry, &c.

The different parties of one tribe were accustomed to communicate with
each other on certain occasions by signs, such as raising one or more
columns of smoke, the significance of which would be understood, having
been pre-arranged. When leaving a camp, one party would sometimes plant
a stick in the ground with a bunch of grass tied on the end, and
slightly leaning, as a sign of the direction in which they had gone.
Message sticks were also very commonly used between tribes. Every tribe
had its messenger, whose life was held sacred by the neighbouring tribe
when in the performance of his duties, which were the conveyance of
messages from the tribe to its neighbours concerning arrangements for
places of meeting, either for fight or corroboree. And most of these
messengers would carry with them message sticks--carved pieces of wood,
flat or round, from four to six inches long, an inch wide, and a third
of an inch thick. The edges of a flat stick carried by a messenger would
be notched, and the surface covered with indented lines or squares, and
coloured with red ochre. For a long time the whites thought that the
notches and carvings themselves formed the message, but it was
subsequently discovered that the sticks were simply passports ensuring
the messenger's safety through territory perhaps of hostile tribes
across which he would have to pass before reaching the tribes to whom he
was carrying the message. The messenger would generally carry the stick
in his head-band, and kept note of the time occupied by the journey by
marking one of his arms with a stripe of clay for each day, another man
in the tribe also keeping tally in a similar manner. On arriving at his
destination, the messenger would deliver his message to the most
important men of the tribe, who listened with great interest, and
ordered the women to supply the messenger with food, after which he
would retire to the quarters occupied by the single men, and silently
await the answer to his message, upon receiving which he would return.

Messengers were sometimes sent to absent friends bearing a string
saturated with the blood of the sender, as an intimation to come to him

Some writers have asserted that the Australian aborigines did not engage
in barter, and have mentioned this as one of the proofs that they were
of a lower scale than any other known savages on the face of the globe.
But these persons could not have been well acquainted with aboriginal
life. The fact is that it was a common thing for one tribe to barter
articles with another tribe, each giving in exchange that which was not
produced naturally within their boundaries, and of which they had
abundance and which the other tribe did not possess. Those, for
instance, whose territory contained stone that could be made into
tomahawks would exchange with others whose territory contained red ochre
and other pigments; those having the most suitable wood for making fire
by friction--the grass tree--would exchange pieces of it for wattle gum
or pitcherie for chewing; and in some cases long journeys have been
undertaken by one tribe to the territory of another for this very
purpose. But not infrequently after the parties had traded something
would arise to create a disturbance, and commerce would be succeeded by
war, in which not a few of the traders would get more than they
bargained for, exchange of blows and spear thrusts being the only
business transacted then. In no case, however, would the practice of
barter be extensively carried on, for the visiting tribe were
necessarily restricted in their supplies, having no means of carrying
any large quantity of the "goods" for trading, and the distance being
generally too great to admit of frequent visits. Mr. Curr thinks that
the spread of small pox and syphilis was attributable to this practice,
those diseases being carried by tribes who had come into contract with
the whites into the camps of other blacks far distant.


The powers of mimicry in the aborigines were very great. They had a
language of signs; and could strike the comparative value of a wink and
a nod better than any blind horse. One writer tells a remarkable
instance of their partiality for the exhibition of incantation scenes,
and their power of reproducing what they have seen. "About nine years
ago," he says (writing in 1863), "a gentleman well acquainted with their
language and habits took a party of Jervis Bay and Illawarra blacks to
the Sydney theatre, to witness the opera of "Der Freischutz" chiefly
with the view of observing what effect the incantation scene would have
upon them. The scene in the Wolf's Garden riveted their attention. They
exhibited great excitement at the circle of skulls in the glen; the
mystic casting of the seven bullets; Zamiel, the red man, with long
fingers; the toads and frogs, and other reptiles on the ground; the
firing of the gun, the fall of the bird, etc. Six or seven years
afterwards this gentleman visited Jervis Bay, and was surprised to
witness the remarkable accuracy with which these passages of the opera
were imitated at one of their moonlight entertainments. Though not
understanding our language, they used in their own vocabulary terms to
express the ideas impressed by the scene they had witnessed. They
painted their bodies red and various other colours to represent the
characters in the opera; with boughs of trees they constructed the glen;
iguanas, frogs, and other animals were supplied by their native forests.
The firing of the gun and bringing down the bird, and, in short, all the
principal scenic incidents of the opera, were imitated with amusing
mimicry. That which was most missing was a few good singing voices to
relieve the monotonous cadence of the native chant."

They were born mimics, and seemed to take great delight in "taking off"
and reproducing to the life the words, look, gestures, walk of any
individual who spoke or looked or acted in any way differently from his

Speaking of their historic abilities Mr. Wesgarth says:--

"A short time before I left Australia, I was visiting at a friend's
house and some natives (two men and three women) were camped at about
forty yards distance. We were making our beds ready and getting
everything comfortable for the night, when one of the black men opened
the door and asked the master of the station to lend him a gun, as some
wild blacks were prowling about with the intention of attacking them.
The gun was accordingly brought out, and we sallied forth to see what
would happen. It was nearly full moon, and the sky unclouded, every
object being seen with distinctness almost to as great a distance as in
the day time. No sound broke the stillness except the distant lowing of
cattle, and the unearthly sound made by the bronze-winged pigeons. In
front of the hut was a large meadow covered with high grass, and in this
had our natives seen and heard the crawling enemy, but whom we searched
for in vain; for they were nowhere to been seen, although every tree and
brush were examined."

"This was a hard disappointment, for we had longed to witness a night
attack, and when we had again collected our forces and were returning to
the hut asked the blacks to show us how they manage in such cases,
supposing one man to be sleeping out and to be beset. One instantly
replied: "Berry well; me sleep Jacky kill me if he can, but me no let
him. Me lay down here sleep. Me put um waddy so"--placing it on the
ground to his head within easy reach. Jacky then went off a little
distance, and instantly seemed to discover the sleeping form. Putting
his hand so as to keep the gleam of the moon from his eyes, he
noiselessly sank down on the ground, taking a firm hold of his club,
crawled along upon his hands and knees, holding his breath; and whenever
he made the least noise, by breaking a dry stick or rustling the grass,
he crouched down to the earth and there remained without motion until he
thought that all was right; and then he again advanced, now and then
raising his head to narrowly watch the sleeper. When within about thirty
feet, Ned heard him coming, and slowly raised his head about a couple of
inches, and only partially opening one eye, that the glistening of the
eyes in the moonlight might not betray him, he saw what was intended,
and slightly rising moved the handle of his club so as the sooner to get
a good grip of it. No person could now tell that he was awake, for the
position was thoroughly easy and natural and the loud breathing exactly
done. Jacky continued to advance until within about ten feet, and then,
after a long rest and anxious survey, he layed down at full length on
the grass and pushed forward like a snake, though how he made way as he
did I cannot tell, for his limbs were almost motionless. It must have
been difficult even to a practiced hand, for the big drops of
perspiration rolled down his body, and he seemed nearly exhausted with
the amazing effort. He had now reached his victim, and raising his body,
so that he knelt upon one knee, he prepared to strike the blow, first
measuring the exact spot where he intended to strike and then raising
the waddy, down it came, but quick as lightening was parried by the
other, who had sprung up and dealt poor Jacky, who was evidently taken
off his guard, such an imaginary blow upon his head, that had it been
real, he would have repented disturbing Ned's slumbers. The two men now
had a good laugh and expressed their admiration of each other's action,
but evidently considered that we should pay for our fun, for they asked
for tobacco, and that, being given them, wanted some supper, which they
also obtained, and then went cheerfully to their wurleys.

As there were remarkable good mimics among the natives, so also there
were some natural wits. There was a "funny man" in every tribe--the
counterpart of that "joker" to be found in every community of Europeans.
They had a fashion of applying nick-names to any of their white
acquaintances who manifested any peculiarity in feature, gait or talk,
such nick-names being occasionally remarkably appropriate. One gentleman
who had a peculiar guttural growl, which years of "bossing" had rendered
habitual, was known among the blacks around the settlement as "ole
coorakabundy," (a frog); and another, who was afflicted with a wry
mouth, they called among themselves "Wally nally,"--the name given to a
local native fruit, peculiar for its twisted appearance. This gentleman
was commandant at a settlement in the west, and the blacks evidently
looked upon the drawn under lip as a royal mark,--an evidence that the
wearer had taken his degrees in the mystic rights of his countrymen.
When they found that the governor of the colony did not carry a similar
sign on his face they expressed their astonishment that the "cobwan
(big) gobernor had not mout so (screwing theirs into the appropriate
shape,) like it narang (little) gobernor."

Speaking of the black mimics at Sydney in the Fifties, Surgeon
Cunningham says:--

"The most comically skilful of our Australian Matthewses at 'taking off
to the life' the various 'eminent men' among us, is Bidjee Bidjee, an
entertaining 'droll,' residing, at Kissing Point, on the Parramatta
River. The powers of mimicry possessed by this person are most
exquisitely graphic. Among the 'distinguished characters' who have
visited our shores, none afforded greater conversational amusement than
Beau V------ the son of 'a far-famed and far-noted London tailor, who,
deeming his education incomplete without a finishing trip to the
fashionable shores of Botany Bay, had furnished himself with every
requisite to enable him to appear with eclat among our 'first circles.'
His ultra-dandyism of speech, dress and manner made his presence a sort
of sine qua non in every merry meeting, as the amusing lion of the day;
and to a party of this description assembled at the beautiful Chinese
mansion of our excellent naval officer, Captain Piper, the soul of
Australian conviviality, the Beau, (as he was commonly designated)
received the usual pressing summons to honour it with his presence.
Never was this personification of bodkin chivalry seen in a higher pitch
of pride and glee than on the eventful night when skimming round and
round in the magic mazes of the waltz with one of our pretty currency
belles, his head twirling awry, now this way, now that, in languishing
dandy perfection, and his body bent stiffly forward into that twisted
lumbago-like stoop unattainable except by exquisites of the highest
caste. But while revelling in the joyous consciousness that all the fair
and fond eyes in the room were riveted upon the attractive graces of his
person and movements, a sudden and boisterous peal of laughter from the
crowded circle of gazers caused him to cast his eyes around in
circumvolutionary unison with his heels, when, to his inexpressible
horror, what should present itself at his very elbow but a sort of
goblin facsimile of his own person, in every particular except that of a
white face, skimming round and round, in exact imitative concord with
his own manner and movements. This was no other than the facetious
Bidjee, who, while enjoying a delighted peep through some secret
crevice, was seized, on beholding the fantastic twirlings and twistings
of the tailor, with as strong an imitative dancing mania as if he had
been bit with a tarantula, and being fitted with vestments suitable to
the personification of the character by the wags in the room had skipped
thus unexpectedly into the centre of the company, and commenced waltzing
about, in exact conformity to the movements of the dandy."

From Binalong, the aboriginal native chief, who in the viceroyalty of
the first Governor, Phillip, was sent to England at an early age to be
educated, but who after his return again sought delight in the freedom
and nudity of his own race, down to the last adopted "picanniny" on the
back-blocks of Queensland, the "reclaimed" savages (using the term
simply as the opposite of civilized beings, for the aborigines were not
savages in the ordinary acceptation of the term) have all manifested an
incurable love for roaming; and it is questionable whether there has
been one case of real and permanent civilization. Schools have been
formed and men and women with hearts for the work have been liberally
paid to impart to them secular and religious teaching; but the education
appears to have been only operative during the age of early youth.
Sooner or later they have thrown off their "white-pfellar" habits with
their cloths, and have found their way back to their comrades in colour
and feeling, or to the lowest depths of degradation in the streets of
the towns nearest tribal haunts.

Judge Therry gives an instance of this tendency to prefer a savage to a
civilized life, even in the case of half-caste children. "I once
witnessed," he says, "on my return from circuit a sad specimen of this
preference. I met a group of some twenty natives on the Goulburn road.
Amongst them was a young half-caste comely woman, with an infant, called
a "pic-a-niny," in a small bag, upon her back, the strings of the bag
tied round her neck, and the copper coloured face of the little urchin
peeping out of the mouth of the bag. Her husband--so she called him--a
coal-black brute covered with hair, held a large stick, called a
"waddy," in his hand, with which he gave her now and then a blow to
hurry her on. I stopped to speak to the party, especially to this young
female. She told me in fluent English that she had been for two years a
housemaid in the service of Mr. Throsby, of Throsby Park, but that the
black monster who accompanied her had enticed her away. On asking her if
she wished to return to her former respectable service, she burst into
tears and said she did not care. They were tears of a powerful struggle
for a moment between the civilized home she had left and the wandering
life she was leading, but her monster guardian came up, and with a sharp
crack of his waddy on her head, interrupted our parley, and, made her
move on."

Numerous instances might be given of the roaming tendency of the
aborigines, male and female, who had been brought within the pale of
civilization. Even those of them who had been taken from the tribe when
almost infants would in after life break away from comfortable homes and
seek the company of the abandoned remnant of their tribes, should such
chance to come near--at once casting off their clothes and their
acquired refinement, and taking naturally to the roughness and dirt of
camp existence.

CHAPTER XXXI.--The Natives As Trackers.

From the earliest years of settlement extraordinary stories have been
told concerning the marvellous powers possessed by aborigines in
tracking, and those who have not had opportunities of personally
witnessing their performances in this direction may well be excused for
believing that many of the stories were mythical. One excursion behind a
native, however, when running a track through the bush, would be
sufficient to convince the most sceptical. Born hunters, as they were
dependent upon the capture or slaughter of wary and fleet-footed game
for sustenance, and with weapons of most primitive kind, it is a most
natural thing that they should have cultivated the art of tracking to
the point of perfection, and be able to detect and follow with unerring
accuracy signs which would be unnoticed by those whose vision was less
keen and whose powers of observation were not so highly trained. The
book of nature being the only book available, they thoroughly mastered
its contents and were thus able to interpret every sign, animate or
inanimate, that presented itself as they moved along, ever alert, in
search of something to replenish their larder. In every division of
their simple lives this art was called into active exercise, and
whatever their condition the talent was in constant requisition. Did
they require to follow a friend or escape from an enemy, sneak upon a
kangaroo or snare a wild-turkey, they lost no time in vain imaginings,
but went straight to the mark desired.

One who was well versed in their ways thus refers to their peculiar
characteristic--one of the few things in which they excelled:--

"You may see a blackfellow marching along, with his easy, swinging,
loose steps, his body and head erect, carrying his spear and wommera in
his right hand, and his cooloman in the left, his eyes directed on the
ground some little distance in front of him--perhaps not seeming to take
much notice of anything, and yet all the time not a single track on the
ground within his range escaping him. He could tell you that a certain
kind of lizard crossed here some time ago; that there a snake had
passed, going in such a direction; in another place that an emu had gone
by the day before; and perhaps further on that two kangaroos are not far
off. Again that some members of his tribe had passed, consisting of so
many men, women, and children, or that there are strange blacks about,
who may possibly be enemies; so he must be very careful. And as he walks
along, reading the book of nature that lies open before him, it may be
truly said of him that he finds tongues in trees, books in running
brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. There he has a full
record of the days doings; all the movements of the various animals and
the other natives are known to him with as much certainty as if they had
left a written account behind saying when and where they were going. And
indeed it amounts pretty much to the same thing--the record is there,
but we are unable to read it because we do not know the alphabet or
understand the signs and symbols; and to a native appears just as
wonderful the easy way we can read letters at a glance and understand
their meaning."

Sign readers from childhood, they could interpret with wonderful
accuracy, instinctively reasoning from cause to affect, being led to
conclusions from the simplest and most insignificant indication, more
rapid and certain than the most skilled detective could hope to do.

Take one simple illustration furnished by Mr Leech, one of the members
of the Elder expedition:--

"On one occasion," says he, "in Central Australia, I was returning to
camp from a flying trip. I had been away one month, and had with me
three camels and one blackboy 'Jacky.' When we came a few miles from the
camp we saw our horses' tracks where they had been feeding. The tracks
twisted in and out in all directions; but 'Jacky,' without the slightest
hesitation or difficulty, could pick out the track of each horse and
tell his name--there were 16 altogether. Suddenly he burst into a fit of
laughter and seemed so delighted at something--so much that he almost
rolled out of the saddle. On my inquiring what the dickens he was making
such a row about, he exclaimed, 'My word, that a good one! Teddy been
ride um Little Jack; Little Jack jump about, chuck um Teddy; Teddy no
ride um Little Jack along a camp; he ride um poddy mare.' All the
evidence of this was there before my eyes, but I could not see it. Like
the tic-tic of the telegraph to the blacks, the language was strange to
me. When we arrived in camp I enquired from Teddy, who admitted the
truth of Jacky's translation. In this instance Jacky had seen Teddy's
tracks where he came to drive the horses to camp; he noticed his tracks
besides Little Jack's where they disappeared; hence Teddy had vaulted on
Little Jack and was riding him. A little further on he saw from Little
Jack's tracks that he had been jumping about; and a totally different
kind of track--a large round, smooth place--showed him where Teddy had
come to grass. Then he saw that Teddy's tracks went over to the poddy
mare and disappeared, from which he inferred that Teddy had ridden her
back to camp."

Another instance of a somewhat similar kind is recorded. A farmer had a
dog shot, of which he thought a good deal; and, being very indignant, he
determined to find out who did it. With this object he engaged a black
who had the reputation of being a wonderful tracker, told him what he
wanted and indicated where the body of the dog was lying, promising to
pay him well if he discovered the delinquent, and giving him a new pipe
and a stick of tobacco as a retaining fee. Not very long afterwards the
tracker came back with a report that a little man had shot the dog; that
he had on a grey woollen coat; that he had with him a long gun and a
little stumpy-tailed dog; that he had waited at the spot a long time,
first leaning against the tree and then sitting down. Questioned by the
farmer as to how he had found out so much the black replied that he knew
the man was little because when loading his gun he had to place the butt
a long way from him to ram home the charge, as shewn by the man's tracks
where he stood and the mark of the butt of the gun. He knew that the man
had on a grey woollen coat because he had left some of the fluff on the
bark of the tree where he had been leaning against it. That the dog was
little and had a stumpy tail was proved by the tracks made by it when
walking, and that the tail also made a mark where the dog sat down. And
he knew that the man had been there a long time because the tracks made
by him when coming to the spot were much older than those made when he
was going away. Surely, the art of correct deduction could not have been
carried much further by a Sherlock Holmes of the more modern school.

As I have said, the white settlers and the police soon learned the value
of the blacks as trackers, and on every sheep and cattle run, and at
every police station one or more "boys" were always to be found serving
in the capacity of trackers--in the former case to trace stray animals
and in the latter to follow criminals. The older blacks began to teach
the young ones in the camp as soon as they were able to understand by
getting them to copy in the sand or dust the tracks of the animals that
were fit for food, but which were not so common in the district. They
thus learned to distinguish the tracks of young and old, and also the
length of time that had elapsed since they were made, passing on to more
advanced lessons in the chase itself--examining the tops of the grass
cropped by the animal as it passed along to see if it had been freshly
nibbled; taking note of any disturbed stone or twig as furnishing
evidence of the course being taken, the rate of speed, the size and age
of the animal, and whether it were fresh or weary. And so skilful did
they become that when mounted they could run the tracks while keeping
the horse going at a hand-gallop, although their European employers or
companions riding with them might not be able to detect any of the signs
which were being read so quickly and clearly. In the bushranging days
they were simply invaluable to the police, and many a criminal who had
baffled his European pursuers would have got clean away but for the
assistance rendered by the unlearned and despised blackfellows attached
to the station as trackers. Yet they were not seen at best even in this
particular when associated with the whites, although tracking of any
kind and under any conditions came quite natural to them--even boys
brought up amongst Europeans from infancy, and without having had the
benefit of camp instruction or hunting experience, proving expert and
efficient, the result doubtless of hereditary transmission through
generations of skilled hunters.

CHAPTER XXXII.--Their Superstitions And Traditions.

Religion, in the sense in which it is understood by civilized nations,
was a thing altogether unknown to the Australian aborigine. Of
superstitions and traditions they had many, but nothing approaching
worship has been observed in any of their rites and ceremonies, although
some of these were deeply mysterious. Almost every tribe had names for
imaginary beings to whom various attributes were ascribed; but they had
no knowledge whatever of or belief in the existence of an intelligent
Creator and Ruler of the universe.

Some persons have supposed that traces existed of the worship of the sun
under the name of Baal, the god of fire; others have contended that the
blacks were serpent worshippers; others that their corroboree or
national dance was a remnant of the worship of the moon, as Astarte the
queen of heaven. Those who contended for the worship of Baal grounded
their theory upon the names which some of the tribes gave an imaginary
being, called Binbeal, Punnyil, or Bunjill, and which, they held, were
different forms of the name Baal.

But all this mere conjecture. The missionaries at the different early
schools and stations established in the different colonies, all unite in
saying that they had no conception of a Divine Being, and most of the
energy put forth to teach them higher things was wasted. I shall deal
briefly with the efforts made by the Europeans to Christianise them
later on. At present I must confine myself to a description of some of
their moist prominent superstitions and traditions, which were no doubt
handed down to them from a very remote age.

Belief in the existence of an evil spirit or spirits appears to have
been universal among both coastal and interior tribes; but the
impressions entertained concerning the character and work of those
spirits were as varied in their form as were the habits and customs of
the different tribes. The Devil of the blacks was generally supposed to
possess the voice of a mysterious night bird, and was invisible, yet
that some of the aborigines had an idea of his personality is evidenced
by the fact that in some of the caves and rockholes used as water
reservoirs and for shelter, among the other rude drawings of
footprints--chiefly those of animals, birds and reptiles and
occasionally those of men and women have been found a gigantic footmark,
having six toes, which mark was supposed to be the print of the devil. A
monster designated Kuinyo,--a gigantic black--was said to have the power
of flying through the air, and of passing subterraneously from one place
to another. His approach was generally in the night, when fires had gone
out, and to guard against him the fires were frequently stirred.

The good and evil spirits in which the aborigines believed were called
among certain tribes, Koyan and Potoyan respectively. The former, they
said, watched over and protected them from the machinations of the
latter. If a child was lost, it was supposed Potoyan had decoyed it away
with evil intent, and an offering of spears was made to Koyan before
search was made.

If the child were found Koyan received the credit, but if the quest were
unsuccessful the searchers inferred that something had been done by the
parents to incur his displeasure. Potoyan was said to stroll about after
dark, seeking for his prey, but would never approach a fire; hence, the
blacks were always averse to travelling after dark, or to sleeping
without a fire. But although Potoyan would not approach fire, if fire
stick were brandished he was provoked, his approach being known by a
low, continuous whistle among the trees. A settler living near Newcastle
in the first days of the settlement is said to have made use of this
circumstance to clear his verandah of a company of blacks who annoyed
him by making it a camping ground at night. While the blacks were coiled
about the floor, preventing sleep by incessant jabbering, he quietly
opened the window and gave vent to a series of low whistles which so
alarmed the troublesome crew that they at once hurriedly decamped, and
never troubled him again.

Most of the natives believed that a spirit inhabited the waters, and
this was an object of dread. He was represented as a curious being, half
man, half fish, with a matted crop of reeds on his head instead of hair.
When he rose to the surface he made a boomering sound, and those who
heard it were smitten with rheumatism.

Every tribe had its ngaitye--some animal which the natives regarded as a
sort of good genius, which took an interest in their welfare. A snake, a
wild dog, a bird or some insect was generally the venerated object. No
man or woman would kill his or her ngaitye, unless it happened to be
good for food, in which case the greatest care was taken to destroy all
that remained after the meal, lest an enemy might get hold of it, and
cause the ngaitye to grow in the stomach of the eater and thus cause
death. Those who chose snakes of a particular kind for their ngaitye
would catch them when they came across them, pull out their teeth or sew
up their mouths, and keep them as pets.

In some tribes the sun was looked upon as a woman, and was said to have
several sisters all of whom shed a malevolent influence upon the black
fellows. One of these evils was a very painful cough which frequently
resulted fatally. Hence, when very ill with the complaint, the suffering
native would expectorate into the palm of his hand and hold the sputa
out to the sun as a propitiatory offering. If the sun was favourably
inclined the cough disappeared, and the sufferer recovered; if otherwise
she would say to the sufferer "Go away! quickly dead you!" (NOOENTE

Port Lincoln aborigines entertained a belief in the existence of a
fiendish monster named Marralye which assumed the shape of a bird and
could fly through the air. This supposed monster was most feared during
the night-time, when he was supposed to pounce down upon his sleeping
victims, killing them by either eating their hearts out, or by some
other means, taking care, however, not to leave any traces of his
handy-work, so that it was only from the effects, either pain or wasting,
that the sufferers knew that Marralye was visiting them. The death of a
child or the loss of sight was usually ascribed to the evil monster, who
had no individual or permanent existence, but was considered to be the
disguise assumed by wicked men to enable them to execute mischief of the
worst kind. The same tribe believed in the existence of a family of
fabulous beings called Puskabidnis, who were represented as black men of
enormous size, quite naked and armed only with waddies, but who could be
conquered if bravely met.

Among the many fabulous traditions which were said to have been handed
down through generations of aborigines to those living at the time the
white men had gained acquaintance with them sufficient to lead them to
talk on such matters, were the following, which will serve as samples of
the whole:--

In the early days, when the great great grandfathers were young, there
lived a mighty man named Pulyallana, who gave names to all localities
belonging to certain tribes. But the great man had the misfortune to
lose both his wives, who ran away, and the loss affected him as it
appears to affect ordinary mortals--it soured his temper. He searched
for the absconders for a long time without result, but eventually coming
upon their track he followed it until he overtook them and remorselessly
slew them both. They were then converted into stone, together with their
children, and the same could be seen in the shape of rocks and islands,
whilst their breathing and groaning could be heard whenever the storm
raged. Subsequently Pulyallana was taken up into the sky, and was in the
habit of raving and storming about among the clouds, especially just
before heavy rain-storms in summer. He was armed with waddies, which he
was in the habit of throwing about promiscuously and destroying the
favourite trees of the tribes; while the lightening was caused by his
furious dancing and jerking of his legs.

There was also a legendary kangaroo--a red animal of stupendous size,
which had devoured all who had endeavoured to spear it. Its appearance
filled the beholder with terror and took away his presence of mind and
strength. At last, however, the monster met its match in the persons of
two renowned hunters, who followed up its tracks and managed to kill it.
On opening the monster they found in its stomach the dead bodies of
comrades who had previously disappeared, but as they were skilful
medicine men they managed to resuscitate the dead, and then all turned
to eat the destroyer that had been destroyed. Having finished their
repast the conquerors greased themselves with the fat of the slain
kangaroo, and returned to their wives and families, who had mourned them
as dead, to recount their wonderful experiences. The two champions were
afterwards metamorphosised into an opossum and native cat. The furrow
down the nose of the former and the white spots on the skin of the
latter being pointed out as the marks which had been received by them
when quarrelling at the time of the assault upon the red monster.

Weln was a fierce warrior and immoderate lover, and being foiled in his
amours by a certain tribe determined to destroy them. He succeeded in
spearing all the males of the tribe except two young and active men who
climbed for safety to the top of a tall tree. Weln climbed after them,
but came down more quickly than he went up; for the young men broke a
branch on which he was standing and he fell headlong to the ground,
where a tame native dog seized and killed him. He was then changed into
the bird called by his name (the curlew), and the young men were turned
into hawks.

A small kind of lizard was said to have divided the sexes in the human
species, and was the subject of enmity on that account, the females
being always destroyed by the men and the males by the gins, whenever
they chanced to come across them.

The Dieyerie tribe, in South Australia, had some peculiar traditions
concerning the origin of man. They said that in the beginning a Good
Spirit (Mooramoora) made a number of small black lizards, and being
pleased with them he promised that they should have power over all other
creeping things. The Mooramoora then divided their feet into toes and
fingers, and placing his forefinger in the centre of face created a
nose, and so in like manner afterwards eyes, mouth, and ears. He then
placed one of them in a standing position which it could not however,
retain, and he at once cut off its tail and the lizard walked erect. He
then made them male and female, so as to perpetuate the race. Surely
there are Darwins amongst the blacks.

In common with those of other heathen natives, the mythology and
traditions of the aborigines of Australia were more or less immoral or
obscene. Some of their customs--particularly those supposed to promote
plentiful supplies of food, to give strength to young men, etc.,--were
indescribably obscene and disgusting. Some tribes appear to be more
given to superstitious observances than others, but all were to be found
occasionally indulging in practices which had their foundation in some
traditionary belief.

The encounter Bay tribe considered the sun to be a female. When set she
was supposed to be passing the dwelling places of the dead, the men
there at her approach divided into two bodies, leaving her a road to
pass, and vainly besought her to stay with them, a request which she had
to decline, as she must get ready for the next day's journey. Before
leaving, however, some of those upon whom she had conferred benefits
presented her with the skin of a red kangaroo, and when she appeared in
the morning to the living she generally wore this red dress. The moon
was also a woman but not particularly chaste, and hence not held in
great esteem. Her changes were the result of unchastity. By staying long
with the men she became very thin and waisted away to a mere skeleton,
and when in this state Nurrunduri ordered her to be driven away, and she
disappeared, remaining secreted for some time feeding upon most
nourishing roots. When she reappeared her condition began to improve and
she filled out rapidly and became fat, but dissoluteness again brought
about leanness, and another period of seclusion became necessary. The
stars were formerly men, who came out from their huts in the evening to
go through the employments they followed while on earth.

Peculiar stones and some kinds of animals the aborigines supposed to
have been famed in ancient time for their prowess. Steep hills and large
ponds were supposed to have been produced during the corroboree of their
forefathers, in manners following:--Having no fire the dancers were
compelled to hold their corroboree in the daytime, and the sun being
very powerful, they perspired so freely as to turn the dancing ground
into a pond; while the beating of their feet upon the ground produced
the irregularities of hills and valleys. Having sent messengers towards
the east, to a powerful man who possessed fire, they received a visit
from him, but he hid the fire on account of which he had alone been
invited, and the entertainers determined to obtain the fire from him by
force. One of the party threw a spear and wounded the fire-holder in the
neck, and immediately the whole of them became transformed into
different animals, the fire-holder himself becoming a whale and taking
to the sea, ever after blowing the water out of the hole which the spear
had made in his neck. Some of the party became fish, and stayed in the
ponds, others became opossums and took to the trees; the young men who
were ornamented with feathers became cockatoos, the feathers forming the
crest. The fire went into the grass-tree, where it ever afterwards
remained, but could always be brought out by rubbing.

The origin of rain was thus accounted for:--

An old man and two young men lived together, and the latter went out
fishing. They caught two kinds of fish, but ate the best and put aside
the entrails for the old man, who began a song which had the effect of
causing rain to fall, after which he went into his hut and closed up the
entrance with bushes, so that the two young men could not enter. The
three were then transformed into birds, and ever afterwards when the old
man sang his song the rain would fall.

Language was said to have originated with an ill-tempered woman (what
wonderful students of human nature these tradition-mongers must have
been!), who lived towards the east, was named Wurruri, and generally
walked with a large stick in her hand to scatter the fires around while
others were sleeping. But Wurruri was mortal and died, and all tribes
from far and near gathered together to rejoice over the advent. Some of
the visitors fell upon the corpse and began eating the flesh, and at
once commenced to speak intelligibly. Other tribes who lived farther
east arrived later and had to be satisfied with the contents of the
intestines, which caused them to speak a language slightly different.
The tribes that came last had to eat the intestines and whatever other
offal remained, and they immediately spoke a language differing still

Some of these stories varied in detail, however. Some of the South
Australian tribes believed that all things were made by a being called
Nurundere or Matummere, and that he gave to men their weapons of war and
hunting, besides instituting all the tribal rites and ceremonies. This
being they declared was at one time an inhabitant of the earth and was a
great hunter, there being two other great hunters named Nepelle and
Wyungare contemporaneous with him. They pointed to the large salt
lagoons as places where these great hunters pegged out the skins of the
animals slain by them, the ground being thus worn sufficiently to hold
the water; and a mound, on the Peninsula was pointed out as the hut in
which Wyungare used to reside. Their story ran:--

Once upon a time, away back in the distant past, Nurundere and his sons
chased an enormous fish down the Darling and the Murray rivers to Lake
Alexandrina, where they caught it and having torn it to pieces cast the
fragments into the water, when each piece became a different kind of
fish. Thus all fish except the bream (tinuwarre) had their origin; the
bream being the product of a large flat stone which Nurundere had cast
into the water. Nurundere had two wives who bore him four children. On
one occasion two of the children strayed into the scrub and were lost,
and shortly afterwards his two wives ran away. He pursued them with his
remaining two children, and catching sight of them from a distance at
Encounter Bay he called upon the waters to arise and drown them. Then a
great flood arose which swept over the hills with great fury, and
overtaking the fugitives they were swallowed up. So great was the flood
that Nepelle was obliged to pull his canoe to the top of one of the
hills, and the dense part of the "milky, way" was pointed out as the
canoe floating in the heavens (Wyirrewarre). The other great hunter
(Wyungare) had no father, but only a mother, and was Narumbe (sacred)
from his infancy. On one occasion he was drinking at the lake when
Nepelle's two wives saw him and fell in love with him. They met him with
shouts and laughter, and throwing their arms around him begged him to
take them for his wives to which he willingly consented, and took them
to his hut (the mound already mentioned). The deserted husband, Nepelle,
was very wrath, and sought them at the hut, but they were all absent and
he then put fire in the hut and told it to wait until Wyungare and the
two women slept, and then flame out and consume them. In the evening the
unfaithful women and their lover returned from hunting and lay down in
the hut and slept, but were soon awakened by the roaring of the flames
and the heat. They rushed out of the hut, but the flames pursued them
for miles and they were compelled to plunge into mud of a swamp to
escape the vengeful pursuer. This display of power on the part of
Nepelle made Wyungare afraid, and he sought means of escape to
Wyirrewarre. So he tied a line to a spear and hurled it at the heavens.
The spear stuck, and he proceeded to haul himself up by means of the
line, but the spear being unbarbed came out. He then threw a barbed
spear which held firmly in the sky, and he was able to pull himself up,
and the two women also. Three of the more brilliant stars were pointed
out as Wyungare and his wives. Here he was said to carry on his hunting,
fishing for men with his spear; and when the aborigines started in their
sleep it was thought to be because Wyungare had touched them with the
point of his spear.

Before his ascent Wyungare seized a large kangaroo, and having torn it
in pieces scattered the bits through the scrub, and they became the
kangaroos of the future, which were very much smaller than those
existing in his day. Nurandere also subsequently ascended to
Wyirrewarre, and the thunder was his voice when angry, and the rainbow
his path to the waters.

Nearly all the animals were supposed to have been blacks who had
performed great feats of valor, and then been transformed. Rocks and
stones having any peculiarity of shape were considered to have been
great hunters; while fishes, birds and animals were transformations of
earlier tribes, brought about either by voluntary effort or as
punishment for some offence.

Other evil genii besides those mentioned were much dreaded by the
natives for the mischief they brought by killing men, women and children
in the night. One of these destroyers was supposed to alight upon the
sleeping native and by pressing upon his liver produce excruciating
pains, from which death ensued. Another was said to kill his victims by
thrusting a sharp, thin stick or bone into the neck under the collar
bone and them closing the wound by pressure with the fingers and thumb
of the left hand when the bone had been withdrawn, so that the cause of
death could not be discovered, no wound or blood being seen. In 1838 a
colonist named Peglar was killed by two blacks, and examination proved
that death had been caused by the method above described; but the
superstition did not serve to hide the crime, where the life of a white
man had been taken.

In general the aborigines did not appear to have had any definite idea
of the immateriality or immortality of the soul, although occasionally
indistinct references have been made by them to an existence after
death. They described the soul as a very small thing, so minute that it
could pass through the smallest crack or crevice, and it went to an
island afar off when a man died, being accompanied on the journey by a
peculiar bird noted for its shrill cries during the night, and
subsisting on the island without food. Others appeared to believe in a
spirit distinct from the body, which after death went away to a large
pit, where all spirits gathered. One Adelaide tribe, according to Dr.
Moorhouse, entertained a belief that when all the men in the world were
dead their souls would return to the scenes of their former lives, visit
the graves where their bodies had been buried, and ask whether those
were the bodies they formerly occupied, when the bodies would reply "We
are not dead, but still living." They considered that there would be no
reunion of souls and body, but that the former would live in trees
during the day and at night come down and feed on grubs, lizards, frogs
and kangaroo rats, but would not touch any vegetable matter; that they
would never die again but remain on the earth about the size of a boy
eight years old. After the advent of Europeans a general idea seemed to
prevail among the natives that their souls would at a future period
become white men, and the white men were generally looked upon as the
incorporated souls of their forefathers. Numerous cases have been known
of natives having claimed individual white men with whom they have came
into contract as their relatives returned from the grave; and there was
no sign of levity in the countenances of even the civilized natives as
they declared that "black pfellar tumble down, jump up white pfellar."

In parts of Queensland and South Australia the natives believed the
"milky way" to be a sort of celestial place for disembodied spirits.
They said it was the smoke proceeding from celestial grass which had
been set on fire by their departed women, the signal being intended to
guide the ghosts of the deceased to the eternal camp fires of the tribe.
The natives of the Hamilton and Georgians Rivers called the star Venus
mumungooma, or big-eye, and believed that it was a fertile country
covered with bappa, or grass, the seeds of which were converted into
flour, and that it was inhabited by blacks. There was no water in the
star, however, but there were ropes hanging from its surface by means of
which the earth could be visited from time to time and thirst assuaged.

Concerning the moon, some of the tribes in Northern Queensland believed
that it was a human being, who came down to earth periodically. They
said one tribe threw it up and it gradually rose higher and higher, when
it came down again and another tribe would catch it to save it from
hurting itself, and then throw it up again; and thus it kept coming and
going. They believed they had control over all the heavenly bodies, and
during an eclipse of the sun they would chew grass, looking fixedly at
the phenomenon and mumbling as they watched, until it had passed. The
rainbow they considered to be the clouds in the act of spewing fish into
the lagoons, or edible roots on the hills, where the terminal points

The "Yahoo" (Anglisized name) was one of the most formidable of the
terror-creating goblins of the bush. To the black, particularly the
mountain tribes, the mere mention of the name inspired fear, causing
scared looks and frightened ejaculations. It was said to be an animal
resembling a man of large proportions whose body was covered with masses
of long hair, and whose feet were reversed, the toes being where the
heel should be. There can be no doubt concerning the belief of the
aborigines in the existence of this creature, and one of the very few
old blacks still remaining on the Blue Mountains--off shoots of the old
Mulgoa and Burragorang tribes, and who are themselves not pure
bloods--declared just recently that there was a "Yahoo" still living in
the neighbourhood of the "Devil's Hole," a point about two miles from
Katoomba. He even volunteered to take a European acquaintance (from whom
I learn the fact) to the exact place, and there leave him to interview
the monster at his leisure; but the offer was declined. A story was
current amongst the Burragorang blacks to the effect that in the far
past, one of the mountain men caught a "Yahoo" woman and took her to
wife; that children were born and reared; but that after a time the
tribe quarrelled over the strangers and both mother and offspring were
killed. Not one of the thousands of sightseers who periodically resort
to Katoomba, to drink in the invigorating mountain air and wander
through the many chambers of Nature's great Art Gallery there, has
returned with report of having seen the "Yahoo." Its voice has been
heard by one European, however, if the story locally told is true. It is
said that a gentleman (whether tourist or resident is not stated) on one
occasion was out walking on the Narrow Neck, in the neighbourhood of
Devil's Hole. The shades of evening were gathering as he turned his face
homewards and before he emerged from the rocky fastness darkness had set
in. He reached home at a late hour exhausted with fatigue and terror,
and told his friends that his steps through the silent bush had been
dogged by some great animal which he could not see, although he could
hear the ponderous footsteps all the way and the constant cry of "Yahoo!
Yahoo!" The result of the night's experience was, so the story runs,
that he took to his bed and died. The way is open for any enterprising
tourists to visit the Narrow Neck for the purpose of ascertaining
whether the night there will reveal anything that can be taken as a base
for the tradition that the blacks have handed down. I can promise that
if he does not see or hear the "Yahoo" he will hear voices of the night
rising up from the deep, rock-girt gorges, intensifying the silence so
peculiar to the Australian bush, that will cause a creepy sensation at
the roots of his hair and create a desire to get back quickly to where
gas-lights flare and silence is broken by the more familiar sound of
human voices.

And concerning the deep gorges and valleys of the Blue Mountains, whose
precipitous sides of rock, smooth-faced as though cut by the chisel and
maul in the hand of a master mason, add so much to the beauty of the
scenery, the blacks had a tradition. In the years long since dead two
mighty men were travelling through the country and amused themselves by
throwing their boomerangs. Those fell with great velocity as they
carried back, and striking into the earth with their edges scooped out
the valleys as we see them to day. They continued their journey towards
the north and travelled until they reached the very cold country. To
mark the end of their journey they each drove a spear into the ground,
and the spears may still be seen standing there, although the land is
too cold for habitation.

The Mudgee blacks had a story of a journey to the moon long before Jules
Verne began to think of taking mental voyages and aerial trips. It ran
in this wise:--

A long while ago a 'gin' of the tribe was stolen by a gay Lothario of a
distant tribe and carried away to his far-off wurley; but she was not
contented in her new home and seized the first opportunity that
presented itself of escape. In seeking to make her way back across the
mountains to her own tribe a peculiar adventure befell her. She wandered
on and on through the bush, not certain as to the direction in which her
steps were leading her; but always climbing higher she at last reached
the moon. She was fortunate in coming to a part of it that was thickly
inhabited, not by men, of whom she was afraid, but by kangaroo rats,
opossums, bandicoots, etc., of which she was particularly fond. It did
not take her long to secure a few of these, and having put them in her
empty 'gunny bag' she resumed her march. One morning as she was trudging
along she quite suddenly came across the camp of the man in the moon. He
was awake and as soon as he saw her he rose and gave chase; but she was
too fleet of foot for a heavy man who spent most of his time sitting
down, and seeing that she was escaping he called his dogs and set them
after her. She thought her end had come and in her fright let fall the
'gunny bag' when out jumped the imprisoned rats and opossums. This
proved her salvation. Finding themselves free, the rats scampered off in
all directions, and no sooner did the dogs see them than they forgot the
woman and chased the rats. By good fortune the terrified 'gin' ran
downwards in a straight line for her home, which she reached, footsore
and weary, but full of her wonderful story, which she soon told the
tribe. Henceforth speculation concerning the man in the moon ceased and
everyone has believed since then that he is a black man, and that the
dark spots at his back are his dogs.

The belief in sorcery and witchcraft may be said to have been universal
amongst the race, and in all tribes, and the principal object to which
it was applied was the destruction of enemies. The "doctors" of the
tribes, small and great, were supposed to possess the power of charming
away the lives of individuals to whom they or their friends were
opposed, and this was done by obtaining some object belonging, or which
once belonged to, the individual whose death was sought; and chanting
over it certain songs and manipulating it in different ways. If the
doctors could obtain a portion of the hair of the intended victim or
some refuse of his food, or a portion of anything he had worn, he was
supposed to have full power to work the death spell. The object of the
spell was invariably a male, females not coming under the ban, yet the
latter were quite as fearful of its operation as any of the male members
of the tribe. The doctors of one tribe were supposed to possess the
power of nullifying the witchcraft of the doctors of another by counter
incantations, and the magicians themselves were sometimes made to suffer
when evil came upon distinguished individuals, as it was considered that
they had been neglectful of their counteracting duties. Death resulting
from any other cause than old age or actual warfare was always
attributable to sorcery, the idea being that the illness preceding death
was caused by the melting of the kidney fat, upon which the spell
directly acted. It is worthy of remark, however, that although they were
each firm believers in the powers of sorcery to work evil, the blacks
did not act as fatalists, but adopted every precaution to guard
themselves against it, and avenge themselves of the enemies whom they
supposed had put it in motion.

Amongst the tribes of more importance many of the elaborate customs and
mystic ceremonies to which they adhered favoured the assumption that
they had descended from a more civilized state of society, particularly
the one ceremony of offering sacrifice, which obtained in the Narrinyer,
the largest and most important of the South Australian tribes. When
going upon a great kangaroo hunt, the first wallaby to fall before the
stroke of a boomerang or waddy was made an offering, a fire being
kindled and the wallaby placed upon it. As the smoke ascended the
hunters would chant a song as they stamped upon the ground and lifted up
their weapons towards heaven. This was done to secure success for the

Among the Darling tribes there was a tradition concerning their origin
which might lead one to suppose that they had heard the story of Adam
and Eve. It was to the effect that long back in the past a solitary
blackfellow and his two wives arrived on the banks of the Darling which
then knew no inhabitants of the human species. The two wives were named
respectively Keelpara and Mookwara, and these bore their Adam children.
In the course of time the daughters of Keelpara were taken to wife by
the sons of Mookwarra, and the daughters of Mookwarra were wedded to the
sons of Keelpara, the children of each bearing the male class-name.
Eventually the two classes were divided, the Keelparas into emus and
ducks, and the Mookwarras into kangaroos and opossums; and thenceforth
no male of the emu class could marry any female descended from
Mookwarra, but only such as belonged to the proper sub-class. And thus
the law of association and division regulated itself long after the
original settler had disappeared.

There was more than one kind of disease-maker, and each kind exercised a
remarkable influence in the tribe where he manipulated his spells. One
practice has been thus described:--

When a man has obtained a bone--for instance, the leg-bone of a duck--he
supposes that he possesses the power of life and death over the man,
woman, or child who ate its flesh. The bone is prepared by being scraped
with something like a skewer; a small round hump is then made by mixing
a little fish-oil and red ochre into a paste, and enclosing it in the
eye of a fish or in a small piece of the flesh of a dead human body.
This hump is stuck on the top of the bone and a covering tied over it,
and it is put in the bosom of a corpse in order that it may derive
deadly potency by contact with corruption. After it has remained there
for some time it is considered fit for use, and is put away until its
assistance is required. Should circumstances arise calculated to arouse
the resentment of the disease-maker towards the person who ate the flesh
of the animal from which the bone was taken, he immediately sticks the
bone in the ground near the fire, so that the lump aforesaid may melt
away gradually, firmly believing that as it dissolves it will produce
disease in the person for whom it was designed, however distant he may
be. The entire melting and dropping off of the lump is supposed to cause
death. This custom and belief made the aborigines remarkably careful of
the "scraps" left after eating, and to prevent the bones which they had
picked from falling into the hands of an enemy they would religiously
burn them. This sort of sorcery was generally credited with any sickness
that occurred, and the person stricken sought to discover the
disease-maker. When he thought he had discovered him he would use a
counter "spell" of a similar kind, provided he was possessed of a bone
from which his supposed enemy had eaten.

Writing on this subject Mr. Taplin says:--"I have seen as many as a
dozen 'ngadhungi' (the name given to the prepared bone by the
Narrinyeri) in a man's basket and have been told that one was for a boy
and so on mentioning the parties for whom they were intended. I also
heard the man who had them say that when he died he should tell his
relations to put them all to the fire so as to be revenged on the people
who may have accomplished his death; for no native regards death as
natural, but always as the result of sorcery. Frequently when a man has
got the 'ngadhungi' of another he will go to him and say--"I have your
'ngadhungi;' what will you give me for it?" Perhaps the other man will
say that he has one belonging to the man who asks him the question, and
in that case they will make an exchange, and each destroy the
'ngadhungi'. If, however, this is not the case, the man will endeavour
to make a bargain with the person who has the 'ngadhungi,' and obtain it
from him by purchase. Sometimes he will give money, or spears or nets,
or the price of it, and when he has obtained it he destroys it
immediately. I believe there are many of the Narrinyeri who make it
their business to look out for anything in the shape of 'ngadhungi,' in
order to sell it in the manner above mentioned. Of course, a great deal
of imposture is practised by such parties."

Another superstitious practice of a similar kind was followed by tribes
in the far north of South Australia. They would take the bone of some
defunct friend, and after it had been chewed by two or three of the old
men they would put it in the hot ashes, and call it by the name of some
enemy, believing that when the bone was consumed that enemy would die.

The bone strike was held by many of the tribes to be the principal spell
by which death was brought about in the camp; and thus when anyone fell
sick a council was held solely to ascertain who had given him the bone.
Should the sick one remain a considerable time without a change, or his
malady increase, his wife or the wife of his nearest relative was
ordered to proceed to the person who was supposed to have caused the
sickness. Going to the suspected person she would make him a few
presents, without making any accusation, but simply informing him that
her relative was ill and not expected to recover, whereupon he would
sympathise with her and express a hope that the invalid would soon get
well again. All the time, however, he knew that he was suspected of
having caused the malady, and acquainted the woman subsequently that she
could return joyfully, as he would draw all power away from the bone by
steeping it in water. This message the woman takes back, and if the
invalid recovered all was well, but in the event of his dying, another
death followed, the man who acknowledged to having the bone being
murdered by the relatives of the dead man at the first opportunity.

Men would exercise complete terrorism over their wives by threatening
them with "the bone," although this was hardly necessary among a race
where the wives were recognised as chattels. The bone in question was
one of the small bones of the human leg which had been taken from a body
after a death, and every second man in the tribe was supposed to have
one, as it was supposed to be a "charm," not only to work evil upon
individuals, but upon hostile tribes. If one tribe desired to compass
the death of some influential man of another tribe at a distance they
would get the old men together with their strike-bones, and those after
having wrapped the bones in fat and emu feathers, would chant and
incantation, and then point towards the place where their intended
victim was supposed to live, at the same time cursing him and stating
the peculiar manner of death they wished him to die. This ceremony would
last about an hour, and all the actors in it would be bound to secrecy.
Learning after a few weeks had elapsed that the man was still alive,
they decided that some member of his tribe had stopped the power of the
bone, and there the matter would end.

A settler on the Lachlan, referring to their belief in sorcery, says:--

"I had once an opportunity of observing a curious instance of
superstition upon the part of the blacks. I saw smoke at a little
distance from my station, and going to ascertain the cause I found that
the body of a child who had died the previous night had been laid in a
hole, and covered with dry combustible matter to which they had set
fire. They carefully watched the direction in which the smoke went, and
then started in the same direction, having made up their minds to kill
the first black they might meet belonging to the tribe that caused this
child's death; and when upon this journey of revenge they met a black
boy, they killed him on the spot, thereby as they thought avenging the

I have already said that death was invariably considered to be other
than natural, the conjecture being that the deceased native had been
killed, either by one of a neighbouring tribe or of his own; and the
death was supposed to be the result of a "spell," so that men, women,
and children were alike in constant terror of some one who might wreak
vengeance upon them. The superstition was as general as it was strong,
and yet the aborigines did not attempt to exercise the "strike" upon
Europeans, saying when questioned why they did not do so, that the white
man was too powerful and wise to be affected by it.

The natives (like the McCarthys of modern days) believed they had the
power of producing rain, and in the arid parts of the continent they
sought to exercise this power in ceremony involving mysterious
movements. The ceremonies varied with the tribes, although some of the
details indicated that the superstition had one common origin. Of
course, to a race subsisting only upon the natural growths of animal and
vegetable life of the country, a dry season meant great suffering, and
the ceremony of rainmaking was looked upon as one of the grandest and
most important of all ceremonies. It was invariably associated with
blood letting, and occasionally assumed a very disgusting and obscene
character, the "doctors" of the tribes chanting incantations during its

Mr. Gason thus describes the course pursued by the natives in the
Dieyerie country:--

"Women, generally accompanied by their paramours (each married woman is
permitted a paramour) are despatched to the various camps to assemble
the natives together at a given place. After the tribe is gathered they
dig a hole, about two feet deep, twelve feet long, and from eight to ten
feet broad. Over this they build a hut, by placing logs about three feet
apart, filling the base of the erection wider than its apex--then the
stakes are covered with boughs. This hut is only sufficiently large to
contain the old men, the young ones sit at the entrance or outside. Thus
completed the women are called to look at the hut, which they approach
from the rear, then dividing, some one way, and some the other, go round
and reach the entrance each looking inside, but passing no remark. They
then return to their camp, distance about 500 yards. Two men supposed to
have received a special inspiration from Mooramoora (the good spirit)
are selected for lancing, their arms being bound tightly with string
near the shoulders to hinder too profuse an effusion of blood. When this
is done all the men huddle together, and an old man, generally the most
influential of the tribe, takes a sharp flint and bleeds the two men
inside the arm below the elbow on one of the leading arteries, the blood
being made to flow on the men sitting around, during which the two men
throw handfuls of down, some of which adheres to the blood, the rest
floating in the air. This custom has in it a certain poetry, the blood
being supposed to symbolise the rain, and the down the clouds. During
the preceding acts two large stones are placed in the centre of the hut;
these stones representing gathering clouds presaging rain. At this
period the women are again called to visit the hut and its inmates but
shortly after return to the camp. The main part of the ceremony being
now concluded the men who were bled carry the stones away for about 15
miles and place them as high as they can in the largest tree about. In
the meantime the men remaining gather gypsum, pound it fine and throw it
into a waterhole. This the Mooramoora is supposed to see, and
immediately he causes the clouds to appear in the heavens. Should they
not show as soon as anticipated they account for it by saying that
Mooramoora is cross with them, and should there be no rain for weeks or
months after the ceremony, they are ready with the usual explanation
that some other tribe has stopped their power. The ceremony being
finished there yet remains one observance to be fulfilled. The men,
young and old, encircle the hut, band their bodies and charge, like so
many rams, with their heads against it, forcing thus an entrance,
reappearing on the other side repeating this act, and continuing it
until nought remains of their handiwork but the heavy logs, too solid
even for their thick heads to encounter. Their hands and arms must not
be used at this stage of the performance, but afterwards they employ
them by pulling simultaneously at the bottom of the logs, which thus
drawn outwards, causes the top of the hut to fall in, so making it a
total wreck. The piercing of the hut with their heads symbolises the
piercing of the clouds; the fall of the hut the fall of the rain."

In the Paroo, when rain was much needed, the men plucked out their
whiskers, bled themselves, an abstained from cohabitation with women for
about ten days.

Other ceremonies, some of them of a very obscene and disgusting
character, were observed with the object of increasing the supply of
wild fowl and their eggs, iguanas etc., when these necessaries of native
life were scarce. Concerning the iguana, there was a superstition that
it conducted the lightening and during a thunderstorm if there were any
of these reptiles about the camp they were buried in the sand.

Another ceremony observed with the object of procuring rain was to place
a particular kind of stone at the edge of a dry waterhole, the doctors
meanwhile chanting incantations.

I have many other notes gathered from various sources concerning the
superstitions and traditions of the natives, but the foregoing will
serve to show that even in these matters they were below many of the
other races of humans, and that yet, like other savages, where any
feeling of veneration existed in them, in was a veneration born of fear
of evil. Even in that which served for religion for them, there was a
good deal of the human and not a little of the diabolical.

Some persons have endeavoured to make it appear that the rude cave
paintings found in different parts of the continent were indicative of
the existence of a species of idolatry among the natives. Caves with
figures bearing a very close resemblance to each other, painted red of
very vivid shades, have been found in different localities, particularly
in the north-western part of the continent. In 1838 Sir George Grey
(then captain) found several of these caves when governor of South

Here is his description of them:--

"March 26, 1848.--Approaching some sandstone rocks I suddenly saw from
one of them a most extraordinary large figure peering down upon me,
which, upon examination, proved to be a drawing at the entrance to a
cave, which on entering I found also to contain many remarkable
paintings. This cave was a hollow in the sandstone rocks; its floor was
elevated about five feet from the ground and numerous flat pieces of
stone looked like steps leading up to the cave, which was thirty-five
feet wide at the entrance and sixteen feet deep, running back beyond
this into several branches or avenues. Its height in front was eight
feet, the roof being formed of solid sandstone, about nine feet thick,
which inclined towards the back of the cave, and was not there more than
five feet high. On this sloping roof the principal figure was drawn, and
in order to produce the greater effect the rock about it was painted
black, and the figure itself colored with most vivid red and white; thus
appearing to be standing out on the rock and to be looking down on me.
It would be impossible to give an adequate idea of this savage and
uncouth figure; its head was encircled with bright red rays, inside this
came a broad stripe of very brilliant red, crossed by lines of white,
and inside and outside this red space were narrow stripes of a still
deeper red; the face was painted white and the eyes black, being
surmounted by red and yellow lines; the body, hands and arms were
outlined--the body being curiously painted with red stripes and bars. On
the left hand side of the cave was a singular painting vividly coloured,
and representing four heads together, one having a necklace, the other a
girdle. With the exception of not having mouths, they were good looking,
and with a marked difference in each countenance. The dimensions of the
painting, which was executed on a white ground, were--total length of
painting three feet six and three-quarter inches; breadth across the two
upper heads two feet six inches; breadth across the two lower ones,
three feet one and a half inches. There were several other paintings of
a singular character--one of a figure wearing the disk, carrying a
kangaroo as an offering to figure No. 1 as well as spears thrown
apparently at some unseen object, with other figures. In the gloomy
cavities beyond the cave, the sides were painted white, and the impress
of a hand and arm by some process transferred to the wall in black, so
as to appear as if extended towards anyone in the cave, with a view to
invite or draw them in to more concealed mysteries."

On the following day Captain Grey crossed the Glenelg and carried on his
explorations, with a view to discovering other caves with paintings, and
finding one thus records what he observed:--

"The entrance to the cave was elevated several feet above the level of
the ground, and approached by a flight of sandstone steps. These steps
were continued through the body of the cave, quite to the end, where
there was a central slab more elevated than the others, and on each side
two large ones reaching to the top, and serving to support the great
sandstone slab which supported the roof. This cave was about 20 feet
deep, 7 feet high at the entrance, and 40 feet wide; as in the former
cave, the roof inclined towards the back of it--at the extremity was a
raised seat. The principal figure in this cave was a man ten feet six
inches in length, clothed from the chin downward in a red garment,
reaching to the feet and ankles; his hands and feet being painted of a
still deeper red; the face and head were enveloped in a succession of
circular bandages, or what appeared to be painted to represent such.
These bandages were vividly coloured red, yellow, and white, and the
eyes were the only features represented on the face; upon the highest
bandages and rollers a series of lines were painted in red, so regularly
done as evidently to indicate some meaning. This figure was so drawn on
the roof that its feet were just in front of the natural seat, while its
head and face stared grimly down on any one within the cavern, but was
totally invisible from the outside. There were various paintings of
kangaroos, emus, turtles, snakes, etc, on the sides of the cave."

From the appearance of grease on the roof of this cave, just over the
seat, Captain Grey conjectured that at certain times some "doctor" sat
there and was resorted to by the natives in cases of sickness or
witchcraft. There were footprints about the place, and other marks
denoting the proximity of natives, but he did not see any. The singular
fact that all these figures were destitute of mouths has been adduced to
support the theory that they were representations of the Egyptian
Harpocrates--the god of silence, and certain ciphers or o's at the side
of one of them has been taken as corroborative of that idea.

In other parts of Australia the figure of a human hand or arm, often
colored of the same brilliant red, but more frequently white on a black
ground, has been found to be a general symbol--if these things were
symbols--depicted on the roof of caves. These aborigines manifested the
greatest reluctance to communicate their ideas and impressions about
them to the whites, and although many theories have been set up it has
been impossible to connect them with any particular superstition. Rude
carvings on the face of the rocks have also been found, particularly on
the coast. The versatile Frank Fowler, one of the earlier Bohemians of
the early Australian press, and who wrote and published one of the
smartest sketches of Australian life under the title of "Southern Lights
and Shadows," has a few words to say on the subject of aboriginal
painting. After stating that on one occasion he had bought from an
aborigine a red hand painting for five shillings he says:--"That red
hand requires a word of explanation. Catlin, Stephens and others have
noticed that the American races marked their edifices, gunyahs, and even
personal ornaments, with the red hand. The European will hardly credit
it, but in Australia the same strange mark has been frequently
discovered, especially in caverns near the sea. Judging from the one I
was fortunate enough to obtain, the colouring matter must have possessed
some power of eating into the stone, for it was impossible to erase any
part of it. It was a large hand--brick red--with the fingers widely
extended. The piece of rock on which it had been stamped was quite level
on the surface, as if it had been smoothed to receive the impression.
The oldest inhabitants know nothing about the origin of these strange
relics; they always tell you they are the work of the "old people".

One writer, in his efforts to solve the enigma of the pictured caverns,
suggests that they were the earliest buddings of idolatry and
superstition--the germs of such structures as the magnificent rock
temples of India, and he asks the question: "Were they the faint and
feeble attempts of lost Asiatic wanderers, drifted on Australian shores,
to reproduce, for the purpose of practising their religious rites, rude
imitations of structures like those of Elephanta and Ellora, where they
had been accustomed to worship in in their far off native land!" Others
may speculate and theorise to their heart's content on this subject. It
is my task simply to record facts. And it is a fact that these paintings
and carvings were work of aboriginal hands, and that the aborigines
generally looked upon the representations with something akin to fear.

CHAPTER XXXIII.--Diseases And Their Treatment.

The ailments most common to the natives in their natural state were
rheumatism, diarrhoea, dysentry, opthalmia, scrofula, hydatids, tumours,
and inflammation of the bowels, liver, kidneys, lungs, throat and eyes.
Fevers were only known in comparatively few districts, but skin diseases
were very common.

"Blackfellows' itch" was a very common complaint, and was as troublesome
and offensive as common. It was of pustular character and attacked the
whole of the body of nearly everyone in the tribe, and occasionally
there would be a scratching season in every camp. The victims used
shells as scratchers, and would sometimes open the pustules with a small
wooden needle. The disease was similar to that which attacked the dogs,
and many persons have held that it was in reality the "mange." The itch
was undoubtedly a penalty of nature visited upon dirt. It prevailed
mostly in the winter.

Reference has been already made to the outbreak of small pox among the
natives shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet, and there can be
very little doubt that the disease was introduced to Australia by the
new arrivals. The number of natives that were swept off by it, by their
own account, was incredible, and Captain Collins in his account says
that at Port Jackson the excavations in the rocks were filled with the
putrid bodies of those who had fallen victims to the disorder, while the
same condition of things existed at Broken Bay. From Port Jackson the
disease appears to have spread all through the continent, for in latter
years the tribes in far-distant and widely separated places showed the
marks; and in all parts over which it swept, if we are to believe the
traditions of the natives, more than half the aboriginal inhabitants
died under it. The natives called the disease gal-gal-la.

Other epidemics, such as scarlet fever and measles, which wrought much
havoc among the native tribes, also appear to have been unknown amongst
them prior to the advent of Europeans; and the same may be said with
regard to syphilis and consumption--the two diseases which have perhaps
proved more effective in the decimation of the race than any others.

The aborigines had no medicines peculiar to themselves, for they
regarded, as I have already intimated, all diseases and most injuries to
the person as the direct result of sorcery. Hence they used "charms,"
chanting and dancing round the stricken one. The few cures they
attempted were simple and effective. Wounds made by metal or stone
implements or weapons healed about as speedily as similar wounds would
do in Europeans. Those made by the wooden spear healed very quickly and
were considered as trifling. Blows on the head produced very little
effect, owing to the thickness of the fatty tissue between the scalp and
the skull, which formed a sort of pad; and some of those who profess to
have studied the subject assert that the aboriginal skull was really
thicker than that of a European. This may be so, but not a few Europeans
have been known to possess skulls quite impervious to impressions from

Rheumatism and a few other kindred complaints were treated by a rude
kind of vapour bath. The patient was lifted on to a platform made with
sticks, beneath which were placed red-hot stones or a few live coals; an
opossum rug was then wrapped round the patient, and wet leaves or weeds
were placed on the hot stones, and the steam allowed to ascend around
the naked body; by which means perspiration was produced and relief not
infrequently obtained. Another mode of treatment was scarifying the
affected part with a sharpened shell, to produce relief by bleeding.

For the more simple diseases and injuries the aborigines possessed
remedies which were applied with, in some cases, marvellous effect, and
the cures affected were speedy and thorough. But their medicine-chest,
although as large as the land over which they roamed, was very limited
as to its consents. The bark of acacia and other trees and shrubs was
used for the cure of cutaneous affections--to which they were prone.
Bandages and bleeding were commonly resorted to for pains in the head or
side, and cupping was performed by the application and pressure of the
lips. They also knew the value of partial or total abstinence from food
and of embrocations. In cases of broken limbs the applications were
primitive and effectual.

Diseases of all kinds were supposed to be possible of remedy by
incantations, but the aborigines were not destitute of resources for
curing complaints. They frequently resorted to bleeding, especially in
cases of severe headache, and made use of friction and kneading, which
they would conduct with as much diligence as though they had been
instructed in the art of "massage."

In cases of headache where bleeding was resorted to, the operation was
performed by opening a vein in the arm with a piece of sharp rock
crystal or shell. This remedy was generally confined to the males, and
was greatly in fashion during the hot season, even when the health was
good. None of the blood was allowed to drop on the ground, but was
carefully made to run on another man's body in such a manner as to form
a number of thin transverse lines, representing regular network. It was
thought that this process promoted the growth of young people and
preserved the vigour of the older men. The women were not allowed to
bleed, or even to see the men when bled, and the warning was sounded to
let the women and uninitiated young people know that they must keep at a
distance, when the process was being carried out as a rite.

In some localities fractures were treated with splints and bandages, and
in others the injured limb would be encased in clay after being
straightened, and the clay hardening kept the limb in position until the
bones knit; and generally no traces of lameness or disfigurement
remained after the casing was removed. Clay was also sometimes used to
keep the air from cuts and wounds, and under this dressing they healed
very rapidly. Ulcers were sprinkled with alkaline, wood ashes, and the
astringent juices of the bark of trees and grasses.

In some of the tribes whenever one of their number became a burthen he
was abandoned by his fellows and left to die; but in other cases the
aborigines have been known to treat their aged and helpless with great

During partruition the aboriginal women suffered less than their white
sisters, their primitive style living and the non-use of civilized
articles of dress, such as corsets, etc, no doubt having something to do
with the ease of child birth. The women assisted each other in their
trouble, and many of them made very skilful midwives. Many a poor white
woman, wife of a hut-keeper or shepherd in the lonely wilds of the bush,
and far away from her own kind, has been the recipient of the good
offices of the motherly "gin."

One rather amusing instance of midwifery by a black woman is, however,
on record. The wife of a settler on Lake Albert (S.A.) being unable to
get the help of one of her own countrywomen called in an intelligent
half-caste named Emily. The infant being born, Emily proceeded to wash
it, but after a time the mother's attention was attracted by hearing the
click of a pair of scissors, and on looking at the nurse saw a spot of
blood on her hand. "What are you doing to my baby?" she anxiously
inquired. "Oh, missus," answered the nurse, "baby got too many fingers,
and I only been cut one off; me cut 'um off the other directly and make
him all right." It turned out that the infant had been born with five
fingers on each hand and Emily had clipped off one of the superfluous
members and would have treated the extra little finger on the other hand
similarly if the mother had not stopped her.

This is given as an illustration of what would have been probably done
by the aborigines in case of similar deformity although it was the
invariable practise amongst most of the tribes to kill a deformed child
immediately after birth.

Every tribe had its "doctors" or medicine men who, although very
important personages were not necessarily old, as was generally
supposed. They took their "degrees" in childhood very often, but did not
practice until they became men. In some localities the doctor was one
who was supposed to have seen the devil when a child and to have
received from him power to heal the sick. In other places if a young
person had a nightmare or troublesome dream (which, no doubt, often
happened after a "gorge") and related it to the camp, the members of the
tribe came to the conclusion that he or she had been visited by the evil
spirit. When one of the tribe fell ill the doctor would be called to see
him. With that look of all-knowingness which all professional men put on
at times, even among civilised savages, this doctor would walk up to the
patient, and feel the parts affected, and then rub until he declared
that he had got hold of something, when he would, unseen, pick up a chip
of wood and keep it concealed in the palm of his hand as he returned to
his patient. From the camp fire he would then select a live coal, which
he would throw from hand to hand to make them warm, after which he would
again feel the disordered parts, and suddenly produce the chip of wood,
making believe that he had extracted it from the patient's body, and
asserting that it was the cause of the complaint. This would be repeated
two or three times, something different being produced on each
trial--sometimes a piece of charcoal or a small bone, the other natives
meanwhile watching the operation with apparent wonder. If the patient
did not obtain relief under the treatment, the doctor declared that some
other doctor, possessing more skill, had stopped his power; and then
other doctors were called in to endeavour to effect a cure.

The method of curing sunstroke adopted by the aborigines is thus
described by an early squatter who was smitten near to death when
travelling along the coast of Queensland in search of a run:--

"My head, from having no decent covering for it from the sun's heat (he
had the previous day lost his hat), had been splitting for some hours,
and pains intolerable were creeping through my limbs, and I longed to
lie uncramped on the sands. As we entered the bay, a large mob of blacks
appeared from the low brush bordering the beach; they were unarmed, and
ran to meet us. There being too much surf for running our boat through
and ashore, we dropped the kedge in as shallow water as we could, while
the natives came through the breakers to us. An ugly looking scoundrel,
seeing me helpless, manned and bore me to the beach. The others followed
somehow, but I suffered too much to care to take note; there were enough
to see to what was needful, and to see to our safety, without me. I
suppose I was in some sort tortured by sunstroke; that night was a
horrible seal upon my recollections thereof. One of the men was trying
to make me a head covering out of some canvas; but why should my limbs
torment me? . . . My friends were alarmed, but could do nothing. With
the sun's return came that of the natives. After much gesticulation to
the party, an old man squatted on his hams on the hot sand and, with a
queer croone, began to scoop out a hole with his hands alongside of me.
I took little heed, until it had assumed, under his vigorous and
odoriferous exertions, almost the appearance of a shallow grave. . . I
believe I must have been fast becoming unconscious. What happened I can
tell, however, now. When all was ready, I learnt that two younger
natives had lifted me into the grave, divested of every rag on my back.
Our own blacks had assured Petrie that the old man could put me on my
legs again; he was too anxious about me to repel their proffered service
so long as there were no unreasonable means resorted to. Some large
leaves of a water plant had been brought and placed over my head to
protect it, and that again was raised upon the roll of my clothes. Well
I remember, the queer sensation of hot sand being shovelled by their
wooden implements--eelamairs--over me up to the very chin. After that I
knew nothing until I came to the sense of where I was. In fact, I seemed
to wake up from a painful dream. I could move nothing but my head. The
leaves were lifted from my face, and the assemblage at first puzzled me.
Arms had been packed in with the rest, and I was in a strait-jacket of
hot sand, pressed in a solid heap upon my carcase. But I felt no pain.
The perspiration was still (for I was told it had been doing so for the
past quarter of an hour) running in tiny rivulets from my head over my
face into my eyes and ears. I was in a vapour furnace! Quickly I was
unearthed, covered with blankets, or anything that caught the eye, and
fell fast asleep. When I woke--in about six hours--I was well! Weak, but
terribly thirsty. I could have hugged the whole tribe in my
gratitude--but they were all gone!"

Snake bite was treated by putting ligatures some distance above and
below the wound, and then opening the largest artery in the vicinity of
the bite with a stone shell, or other sharp instrument, several
incisions being made until copious bleeding resulted. The ligatures
would not be removed for two or three days, when the patient would be
all right. An observant inspector of police, in a paper read before the
Royal Society of Adelaide, asserted that he had never heard of a native
dying from snake-bite; but he must have resided in a district where
venomous snakes were very scarce.

CHAPTER XXXIV.--Burials And Mourning.

The methods of disposing of their dead were as diversified as other
customs, different methods being adopted by different tribes. Burial was
the most general form, but an effort was invariably made to prevent the
corpse from coming into contact with the earth, and the dead body was
therefore wrapped in bark or other suitable material. The graves were
usually shallow, the foot being towards the rising sun. In some parts of
Queensland two sticks were erected near the grave, having fastened on
the tops feathers of the white cockatoo. In other cases, generally in
the neighbourhood of a tribal burial ground--loam or sand hills being
chosen as a rule, doubtless owing to the soft nature of the soil,
rendering digging operations easy--a large tree was "scored," but the
true meaning of the hieroglyphics cut into the bark has never been fully
explained. In some cases the body was buried in a sitting posture, and
cases have been known where the corpse has been buried standing, and a
mound built over the grave. Branches of trees, broken the required
length, were generally used for filling the grave to the surface of the
ground, and a layer of earth was then sprinkled on the top.

Although some of the tribes buried their dead in places set apart for
that purpose, similiar to the cemeteries of Europeans, many had no
recognised burial place, the deceased being interred near the spot where
death took place. In these tribes, when an adult male drew near his end,
he would be carried by relations or friends outside his wurley and laid
upon the grass without regard to weather conditions prevailing. One
relative would squat on the ground and hold the dying man in his arms,
supporting his head and shoulders, while by his side would be placed a
fibre-made cord, his "possum" rugs and some favourite weapon. These
preparations were made within full view of the sick one, who manifested
no fear, but who discussed the vital matter calmly, until the end came.
When the attendant saw that the man had ceased to breathe he raised the
body, covered the head with the rug and fastened it tightly round the
neck. The knees were then brought up to the breast, the arms fixed along
the trunk with the hands raised and pressed against the chest, and thus
doubled, the body was bound with cords, and ready for interment. The
grass was cleared from the spot by burning, the centre of a circle was
carefully swept with bushes, the mourners gathered round the circle,
sometimes two and three deep, the women wailing monotonously from a
distance of fifty or a hundred yards, the dogs having first been muffled
in rugs to prevent them joining in the chorus. The wailing having ceased
a grave about five feet deep was dug, a piece of bark being made to fit,
and placed in the bottom, with fresh leaves spread upon it, and some of
the articles which belonged to the deceased having been also cast in,
the body was carefully lowered, and the grave filled in, not
infrequently a mound of earth being raised above it. Sometimes a fence
of boughs was placed around the grave and fire was made at the eastern
end; after which the tribe left the locality. If the fresh encampment
was not too far removed the widow of the dead man paid periodical visits
to the grave, there to weep out her sorrow as do women of whiter skin,
more tender rearing, and higher education.

In some tribes the old warriors after death were placed on platforms of
crossed sticks, raised some distance from the ground, above the reach of
dingoes, or wild dogs, the ceremony being accompanied by a great
display, in which howling and wailing formed the music. The deceased was
as a rule laid upon his back with his knees up, like the females, and
the grass was cleared away from the ground surrounding the raised
resting place, doubtless to prevent fire from reaching the body. For a
long time the tribe kept away from the spot, but when the form had
shrivelled the bones of the dead man were removed from the platform and
put in the hollow of a tree.

Young children dying a natural death were put into similar resting
places, although sometimes the mother would carry the dead infant about
with her for months in the net or basket on her back before depositing
the remains, and would count the offensive burden more precious than if
it had been alive. The bodies of full-grown men, who during life had won
distinction, have also been carried about by the tribe, after having
been mummified by the application of heat and smoked. One writer
describes how warriors in some parts of Australia were carefully skinned
at death, and after the relatives had made a meal of the flesh, the
bones were cleaned and packed into the skin, and were thus carried about
for years. In one, at least, of the Colonial museums there is a mummy of
this kind. Sometimes the still-born children, and those that had been
killed immediately after birth, were burned, but those who died
naturally were generally carried about as above stated in the tribes
where the custom prevailed.

Young and middle-aged persons were in some parts of South Australia
buried in the following manner:--As soon as the person was dead, the
knees were drawn up towards the head and the hands placed between the
thighs. Two fires were then kindled and the corpse placed between them,
to expedite the process of drying. After a few days the skin became
loose and was taken off. After this all the openings of the body were
sewn up and the whole surface was rubbed with grease and red ochre, and
thus prepared, the corpse was placed upon a platform so that the head
and arms could be tied. It was then placed with the face to the east and
the arms extended, and a fire was kept constantly burning beneath. When
quite dry it was taken by the relatives and packed up in mats and
carried about from one place to another--the scenes of deceased's former
life--after which it was placed upon another platform and left until
quite decayed. The skull was then taken by the next of kin and used as a
drinking cup.

One of the earlier missionaries to the blacks in South Australia gives
the following account of an experience through which he passed during
the course of his ministrations among one tribe:--

"The first death after our arrival occurred in a few months. It was a
man in the prime of life, who died of consumption. The blacks performed
the usual disgusting funeral rites, and set the body up in a large
native hut, one side open at the top. There sat on a stage, tied to
posts stuck in the ground, the disgusting object, filling the air with
its dreadful stench, the form distended with purification. Around it
were wailing women, smeared with filth and ashes, and horrible old men,
basting it with bunches of feathers tied to the end of long sticks,
until it dripped with grease and red ochre. At intervals in the course
of the day parties of men from a distance would come in sight. As soon
as they saw the camp they marched with the spears erect towards it. As
they came near, women rushed towards them, and threw themselves on the
ground and cast dust in the air wailing and crying out (in their own
language) "Your friend is gone; he will speak to you no more," and so
on. Then a simultaneous wail would rise from the advancing party until
they reached the spot and stood around the corpse. Many such scenes have
I witnessed since. On that first occasion I went to the camp and,
pointing to the body, I told them that the dead would rise again. They
all started, and looking incredulously at me said, "No!" I then took the
opportunity of preaching to them the doctrine of the resurrection of the
dead, and my words evidently produced an impression. While dead bodies
were being thus dried, it was very trying to one's stomach to have
divine worship on Sabbaths. We had to have it in our own house. The
little room would be crammed with forty or fifty blacks. They crowded
the room as full as it would pack and thronged about the open door and
window. As they had been living and sleeping in the wurley with a
putrefying body, the smell seemed to have been absorbed by their skins,
and the odour which arose from the congregation was excessively

If a prominent man were killed in battle or died from wounds received,
he was supposed to have been charmed with the "plongge," and a kind of
inquest was held over the body to ascertain the party responsible for
his death. One of the relatives would sleep near the corpse, and if in
his dreams the name of this enemy or that occurred to him the corpse
would be questioned if that were the name of his slayer, and any fancied
movement would be taken as an affirmative reply, and an avenger be set
upon the track, after which the body would be skinned and dried over a

The burial of an ordinary aged person was not conducted with so much
ceremony as those described, the body being merely wrapped in mats and
placed upon a platform until the flesh decayed, when the bones were
removed and burned. The very old were ordinarily buried straight off, as
soon as the breath had left their bodies.

Notwithstanding their cannibal propensities, most of them had a
reverential fear of the dead, and quarrels between friends have ceased
upon a suggestion by the onlookers that a certain dead relative might be
offended at witnessing such strife.

In some cases the hair of the dead was spun into a cord, which was made
into a head-band and commonly worn by the men. They asserted that
thereby they could smell the dead, and that it made their eyes large and
their sight keen, so that in fight they were able to see the spears
coming, and either parry or avoid them.

Mr. L. E. Threlkeld described in a letter to the Sydney "Gazette" in
September, 1862, what he had seen at the interment of a blackwoman in
the bush, near the settlement. He said:--

"The blacks asked me to go and see an interment of a woman who died
yesterday. They borrowed spades to dig the grave, and when completed,
put some sticks at the bottom to raise the head, and covered the whole
with boughs very neatly. Three men stood in the grave, and an old woman
stooped down to the corpse, which was wrapped in sheets of bark; she
opened the part over the ear, and spoke to the dead body, saying,
"boang-ka, leah, boang-ka-leah, weah-lah, ngaahrun; buhn buhn, buhn,
wonnun ngaan, bah unte kaploah;" which rendered into English is, "stand
up, stand up, speak to us, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, whenever we pass this
place." The corpse was then put into the hands of the three men in the
grave, who deposited it carefully on the green boughs amidst the howl
that was instantaneously set up when the body was received by them; this
cry continued until the grave was filled, when a man swept it carefully
with a branch. A stick with which she used to walk was stuck upright on
the grave, just over the head, which concluded the ceremony. The stick
is put there for her use when she rises from the dead, but when that
will be, they do not as yet know. Many, no doubt, are buried alive, for
they were binding her up in bark yesterday, making great lamentations;
perceiving a pulsation in the neck, I requested them to desist, and
pouring a few spoonfuls of wine down her throat, she so far recovered as
to be able to speak, but nature was too much exhausted; she appeared
starved, and in the afternoon she expired."

Among some of the tribes near Port Darwin the dead were disposed of as

"The bodies of women and children were disposed of shortly after death
without ceremony. The corpse of the adult male was first rolled in grass
and there left until the flesh had disappeared, when the bones were
collected, painted red, and tied in a bundle. In this state they were
carried about for some weeks, and even months, until the relatives were
tired of them, when they were taken to the birth place of the deceased,
and buried. During this period a good deal of lamentation and cutting of
heads would go on in the tribe. When the bones had been placed in their
final resting place, all would return to the camp, the females to paint
themselves yellow, and the males to blacken their copper-coloured skins
with the ashes of a bush called allapanja, when they would again renew
their tears and lamentations. It was the belief that when the flesh had
separated from the bones the deceased came to life again, and went into
the bush, where he rejoined his previously deceased kinsfolk in
continual indulgence in ill-conditioned tricks upon their companions who
still remained in the flesh."

Mr. Wyatt, at one time protector of the aborigines in South Australia,
says the funeral ceremony of the Adelaide tribe was of a very
complicated nature, the actual interment being preceded by several
extraordinary rites. He gives the following description:--

"When a man dies his legs are bent up, so that the knees are brought
nearly close to the chin, and the arms are folded together in a similiar
manner. This done, the body is enveloped in old clothing, tied with
cords or pieces of netting. A rude bier is prepared by fastening
together ten or twelve branches so as to form the radii of a circle; and,
when the body is lifted upon this bier, the ground upon which the man
died is dug up by his wives, or woman related to him, with their long
sticks, occasionally assisted by the men. A little heap of earth is thus
formed, supposed to contain the "wingko," or breath that has left the
body, and which the digging is intended to set free. While this is being
done the bier is raised upon the shoulders of several men, each one
taking a branch, and some facing one way others another. They move
slowly off from the spot stopping at intervals and performing a quick
rotatory motion in one direction, and, when they can do so no longer, in
the opposite one. All this while a man stands under the centre of the
bier assisting to support it with his head; and, after each act of
rotation he addresses the deceased, asking him how and why he died, who
killed him, etc. The group of men surrounding the bier and its
supporters are all armed with their spears and other weapons, and the
women carry their long sticks and bags. Sometimes the bearers move
forward as if by a consentaneous impulse, and, at others, one of the
bystanders beckons to a spot to which the body is immediately borne and
the rotations are repeated. Even the presence of a feather will attract
their attention to that particular place, and the circumvolutions will
be renewed with increased energy. If there happen to be large trees in
the neighbourhood, they walk quickly up to one and then another, resting
the bier against them; and on every such occasion, the deceased is
interrogated as before. Between every act of rotation their march is
more extended; so that they thus by degrees proceed further from the
place where the death occurred, until at last they walk off altogether
to a distant locality, in which it is resolved to bury the body; the
ceremony occasionally continuing more than one day. The place of burial
being fixed upon, the earth or sand is loosened by the digging sticks
and thrown out by the hands; the body is laid in the grave on one side,
and the hole being filled up again, is usually covered with branches and
bark of trees."

If a woman died having a young baby, it was either buried alive in the
grave with her body, or burnt with her, if the ground near where the
camp was situated was not suitable for the purpose of burial.

The most common way amongst all tribes of disposing of the dead was as I
have said, by burial, and more attention was paid to the grave than
would be imagined amongst a people of habit so rude as the aborigines.
Shortly after the death of a male, the body would be rolled up as nearly
as possible into the shape of a ball, the knees being forced up on
either side of the neck and firmly tied to it, the heels pressed against
the hams, the arms made to take the shape of the rounded corpse on
either side, and secured by cords made of chewed fibre or marsupial
tendons, the whole being then wrapped in a rug or strips of bark and
placed in a hole three or four feet deep. The grave having been filled
in, a mound of sticks and earth would be raised above it, sometimes to
the height of four and even five feet, and this would be covered with
logs to prevent the dingoes, or wild dogs, from getting at the remains.
In some cases a rude hut would be erected over the grave, and the trees
near scored with rude cuts, the bark having been stripped for the
purpose. Paths would be cleared around the place, which would be
regularly visited and the grave kept in order for several years. It has
been thought that the object of thus securely tying up the corpse was to
prevent the deceased from escaping from the grave, and disturbing the
quietude of the survivors.

In one of the interior tribes four modes of disposing of the dead
obtained. Old persons would be buried. The middle-aged were placed in a
tree, the hands and knees being brought nearly to the chin, and all the
openings of the body--as mouth, nose, ears, etc.--were sewn up, the
corpse being covered with mats, pieces of nets, etc. A fire was then
made beneath the tree and around this the friends and relatives sat and
made lamentations. It this position the body remained, unless removed by
some hostile tribe, until the flesh had all wasted, after which one of
the nearest relatives would secure the skull and use it as a drinking
vessel. The third plan was to place the corpse in a sitting posture,
facing the east, until dried by the sun, after which it was lifted into
a tree; but only distinguished members of the tribe were so honoured.
The last mode adopted was cremation. The bodies of all still-born
children, or those who died shortly after birth, were burned.

Still another form:--When a man died his heart, bowels, liver, etc.,
were taken out and buried in the ground, the corpse being buried
separately. After a lapse of weeks the corpse was disinterred, and any
flesh that might be left cleaned from the bones, the skull and bones
being then broken, tied up in bark and after being wept over for several
nights, placed on a platform made in a tree, where they remained for
three or four months. The bones were then taken down and carried about
by the female relatives of the deceased. Immediately after the first
ceremonies attendant upon the death, the camp would be shifted for fear
of ghosts, believing as they did, that the dead revisited the earth at
night chiefly for the purpose of injuring their enemies, it will be
readily understood that the aborigines were terribly afraid of ghosts,
and none of them would venture into the scrub after dark fearing to
encounter the spirits roaming there.

The power of the dead man's spirit to disturb the tribe from which death
had released it, being gauged by the influence exerted by the man when
living, regulated the respect paid to his dead body. Hence, as women and
children were not accounted of much worth in life, and their spirits
therefore not to be feared greatly after death, their bodies were
interred with scant ceremony. Generally the remains would be rolled up
in a rug or placed between two large sheets of bark, without any
wrapping or binding, and then placed in the ground; in other cases
burning took the place of interment.

On the Murray River, the ceremony performed was very peculiar. The body
was carried from the gunyah upon a bier and placed near the grave. The
mourners then crowded round it, and the men, women and children wept and
howled for about an hour, the female relatives making numberless
superficial incisions upon their thighs, from six to twelve inches long.
The men then proceeded to inquire into the cause of death, whether it
was natural or the result of violence. The abdomen of the dead body was
uncovered, and an incision from three to four inches long made in the
hypogastric region; the bowels and omentum were turned out and a portion
of the latter cut away and placed in a bunch of green leaves. If the
individual had been killed by an adverse tribe they stated that a
cicatrix was found in the omentum, but if he had died naturally the
omentum presented a natural appearance. The intestines were then
replaced, and the body deposited in the grave, with the head lying to
the west. Two relatives then jumped upon the body, and as if in
paroxyism of frenzy, seized each other by the hair of the head, and
unmercifully dragged and pulled each other about. The grave was filled
up with branches and earth and a tumulus was left to remind the living
where their friends and relatives were laid. Upon these tumult clothes
and branches were put from time to time, and were visited by the women
for several months afterwards and the lamentations and cuttings repeated
as at time of burial.

The natives felt great repugnance at speaking of a person who had lately
died, and especially avoided mentioning his name. This was carried to so
great an extent that persons having the same name were called by others
temporarily given, or by any remaining names that might belong to them.

The manner and extent of the mourning which followed the death of
individuals varied with the character and station of the deceased. In
some tribes, as soon as a member died there was a general lamentation,
the relatives indulging in loud and continuous crying.

It was the practice of the women of the Darling and Murray tribes, on
the death of a husband, to put on a widow's cap of make and fashion
different from that wore in the walks of civilised life. A net was
placed on the head and then covered with mortar made of gypsum or
pipeclay one or two inches in thickness. This cap was worn for several
days, until it became solid, and being then removed whole by means of
the net upon which it had been built, it was baked in the fire and laid
on the tomb of the "dear departed." Even up to a recent period these
kopi could be found on some of the deserted burial grounds on the

Other signs of mourning were cutting off the hair, blackening the face,
smearing filth upon the forehead (this practice was exclusively confined
to women) and inflicting cuts upon the body. The male relatives
sometimes gashed themselves horribly and smeared their faces with a
pigment made up of manganese and grease. Mourning was also indicated in
some of the tribes by the hair and beard of the men being cut off as
well as the hair of the women. In some instances they put hot ashes upon
the head and thus singed the hair to the very roots--weeping literally
"in dust and ashes."

Mr. Schurrnan, the German missionary, gives a very good description of
the tribal wailing in which the Port Lincoln blacks indulged as
mourning. He says:--

"The loud lamentations simultaneously poured forth by them at such time
may be looked upon as an hereditary custom, since they always cry
together and make use of external means, such as rubbing the eyes or
scratching the nose, to produce tears, if the mournful disposition of
the mind should not be sufficiently affected by the example of others.
The cries or sobs are also, at the commencement of the wail, rather
formal and apparently forced, leading one strongly to suspect that their
desire for a mournful frame of mind is greater than their feelings
warrant. Still I am persuaded that the natives feel keenly and regret
sincerely the loss of their friends, for these reasons: They lament
their decease for weeks and even months after the event; very
frequently, in the evening, on arriving at their resting places when
they are tired and supposed to be in a mood suitable for recollection
and reflection, one person will suddenly break out in slow and sorrowful
cadences, gradually inducing all others to follow his example; after a
wail, they preserve for a while a demure silence, and exhibit every
other symptoms of persons in affliction. Never upon any account, is the
name of the deceased mentioned again for many years after, not from any
superstition, but for the professed reason that their mournful feelings
may not be excited, or, to use their own expression, "that it may not
make them cry too much."

CHAPTER XXXV.--Tribal Wars.

Between individuals and sometimes families in the same camp fights would
arise suddenly and from most trivial causes, on which occasions the
courtesy and good nature usually subsisting would be rudely thrown aside
for what a stranger to aboriginal customs might consider the deadliest
hatred and malignity. An angry word, or insulting expression or action,
arising perhaps out of children quarrelling or some distribution of
food, would result in a rush for waddies and spears by the two or more
persons involved in the quarrel and amidst much crying amongst the
women, and attempts on the part of friends to restrain, the bellicose
individuals would jabber and gesticulate at each other until suddenly
one would strike a blow or fling a waddy. At first the combatants would
"fire" at each other from a distance, but if by agility and skilful use
of the shields each party should parry the blows of the other they would
come to closer quarters, and then there would be some skull-cracking
which to any other humans than the Australian blacks would mean serious
injury and perhaps death. But as soon as any of the combatants had
received a hurt an attempt would be made by the friends to stop the
fight, and this done the parties who had quarrelled would be greater
friends than they were before.

The tribal distinctions and boundaries were so numerous, and their
observance so rigidly adhered to, that causes of war were very frequent;
but the most common casus belli was the supposed operation of sorcery,
where a member of one tribe died through the "spell" wrought by a member
of another tribe. The fight having been arranged upon, the warriors of
the tribes would come to a testing ground, generally on an open plain,
and face each other in single files, each man standing about 30 yards
from his companion, and having his shield and spears, boomerangs and
clubs, as the nature of the fight demanded. To an onlooker, viewing the
combat from a safe distance, it would seem as though the place of strife
must become a "field of blood" at once, as the spears fly in crowds
through the air, and the boomerangs almost shriek as they wend their way
across the intervening space between the fighters; but so skilful are
the fighting men on either side in the use of their shields that very
few of the missiles hit the mark at which they are aimed, one after the
other in rapid succession being turned aside as if by magic. The closer
fight with the clubs, however, was more effective, but this was not
allowed free course, as when one warrior had fallen or several had been
compelled to retire, disabled, the women and non-fighters on either
side, who had been watching the fight from the rear, would raise a
shout, and simultaneously rush in to separate the combatants, who were
generally nothing loath to desist. Should one man be killed outright the
parties would generally draw off, and the strife would cease for the
time being, but if wounds only were the result, peace would be made, and
the erstwhile enemies would be found later on engaged in celebrating the
event by friendly corroborees.

Other common causes of war were stealing women, and hunting on the
territory of a neighbouring tribe. Before the fighting tribe set out to
avenge an injury of any sort, a herald was despatched to the enemy to
declare war, and his life was held sacred.

The following account of a pitched battle between two tribes of
aborigines on the Lachlan is given by one of the pioneer squatters, the
occurrence taking place on a new run, which he had taking up during the
dry season, about 1837:--

"These continued droughts had also the effect of bringing the natives
down to the river for water, and I saw, upon one occasion, tribes from
the east and the west assemble within a mile from my station, and
witness a pitched battle fought between them to settle some dispute. The
number was nearly equal--about 400 on each side--with the wives and
children of each tribe encamped at the rear. Several old, grey-headed
chiefs advanced from each side, armed with spears and boomerangs, to
within 50 yards of each other, and commenced what appeared to be a very
angry discussion; at length they became so excited, after a long parley,
that they threw their spears at each other, which was a signal for a
general attack from both sides. The reed spears were thrown in such
numbers and with such rapidity that they filled the air for about
fifteen minutes, and had the appearance of a shower of spears. Some of
the spears were warded off very dexterously by the combatants on both
sides by shields of strong bark borne on the left arm. Several, however,
on each side were killed and wounded, when the eastern tribe evidently
became alarmed and retreated, allowing several of their wives to be
captured by the western tribe."

Mr. Curr, in his excellent work on "The Australian Race," speaks of
another phrase of war, the grounds of which were different and results
more serious. He says:--

"Before describing it, it is necessary to impress on the reader the
indubitable fact that the Australian black, without exception, nurtures,
one might almost say from the cradle to the grave, an intense hatred of
every male at least of his race who is a stranger to him. The reason
they themselves assign for what I must term this diabolical feeling is,
that all strangers are in league to take their lives by sorcery. The
result of this belief is that whenever they can, the blacks in their
wild state never neglect to massacre all male strangers who fall into
their power. Females are ravished and often slain afterwards if they
cannot be conveniently carried off. Such being the normal state of
things amongst the Australian blacks, the cause of war, of which I am
now treating is generally set down to the sorcery of some hostile or
little-known tribe. In such cases a party will set out after the burial,
mad for bloodshed; march by night in the most stealthy manner, perhaps
fifty or a hundred and fifty miles, into a country inhabited by tribes
the very names of which they may be ignorant of. On discovering a party
of such people they will hide themselves, and then creep up to their
camp during the night, when the inmates are asleep, butcher the men and
children as they lie and the women after further atrocities. If the
parties discovered be too large to slaughter wholesale, one or two will
be disposed of by sudden onslaught or otherwise, and the invading party
will quickly retire, to be followed in due course by warriors seeking
their revenge. In melees of this sort it sometimes happens that a man or
woman belonging to a tribe associated with the one whose members made
the onslaught is killed in the darkness and confusion unrecognised the
result of which is further complications and bloodshed. Should a man
under any circumstances accidently kill one of his own tribe he has to
undergo certain penalties. Though the custom of carrying on war in this
manner is general throughout Australia, under no circumstances, I
believe, is a sentinel ever posted. I have known a whole tribe pretty
near, when apprehensive, watch until perhaps eleven o'clock and then all
go to sleep. Onslaughts of this kind are usually made a couple of hours
before daylight. Should blacks at any time come on a man with whom they
are unacquainted they invariably kill him, if possible. Strange children
are killed in a like manner. A black hates intensely those of his own
race with whom he is unacquainted, always excepting the females. To one
of these he will become attached, if he succeeds in carrying her off,
otherwise, he will kill the women out of mere savageness and hatred of
their husbands. I have never heard of a tribe yielding to another, for
no quarter would be given; nor of a strong tribe attempting to possess
itself of the territory of a weak one, as so commonly happens in Africa.
No idea of conquest exists, nor properly speaking of battle, for their
fights do not lead to slaughter or spoils, and are devoid of the
ordinary consequences which follow battles and victories in civilized
countries. This sort of warfare is favourable to the weak. As a token of
peace, the Australians hold up green boughs."

Although the aborigines did not poison their weapons after the fashion
of some other savages, the use of poison as a deadly agent of revenge
was not unknown amongst them. On the Upper Murray the natives practised
what they called Neilyeri. Taking a piece of bone, a spear head, the
native would sharpen it at the point, and form a short probe about six
or eight inches in length. This he would stick in the fleshy part of a
putrid body and allow it to remain there for a length of time. He would
then supply himself with a bunch of spun hair or feathers and soak them
in the fat of a corpse extracted for this purpose. In this bunch he
would wrap up the poisoned dart and carry it about with him in readiness
for use upon his enemy. Watching for an opportunity when his intended
victim was asleep he would prick him in the foot with the neilyeri and
inoculate him with the virus of death, the victim thinking at first if
disturbed by the process, that he had merely been stung by some insect.
It has been thought that the old men of the tribes objected to the
corpses being buried until putridity had set in for the sole purpose of
refurnishing their poison barbs.

In comparison with those in which civilized people engaged, however, the
tribal wars of the aborigines were very small and insignificant affairs.
There was no fighting "to the bitter end" when army met army, although
there was a continual "cutting off" of individuals of one tribe by
another, every period of camp shifting furnishing opportunities.

CHAPTER XXXVI.--Black Bloodhounds--The Native Police.

It did not take long for the early settlers who were fortunate enough to
establish friendly relations with the aborigines to discover that if
they were not useful for anything else the blacks were most valuable as
"trackers" of stray animals, and after the tribe in the locality of the
station had been "subdued" one or more of the black boys would be found
employed among the regular station hands. They made splendid riders and
would mount a horse whose "buck jumping" proclivities had made him a
terror even to the European stockman; and their marvellous keenness of
vision and knowledge of bush lore rendered them far and away superior to
their white conquerors in following the trail of the station stock that
had wandered or been driven into the fastnesses of the mountains or the
scrubby plains. They were hunters born, and the white man was not slow,
as I have already shown, to turn their inherited powers to his own use.

Then all at once it dawned upon the minds of the authorities that they
could be utilized in the Government service, as aids to the police in
hunting runaway convicts, or bushrangers. The experiment was tried on a
small scale at first and it proved so successful that a regular corps of
native trackers was formed to act as the bush sleuth hounds of the
Government. After a little time this corps became associated with the
border police and they were employed as hunters of their dark-skinned
fellows who had made themselves obnoxious to the settlers in the more
remote districts of Port Phillip. They were officered, mounted on good
horses, uniformed and furnished with firearms bearing the Government
stamp, and soon made themselves known and feared throughout the land.
The blacks who were living in their natural state near the confines of
settlement, or who hovered about the stations feared them more than all
their foes, and with good reason, for none of those whose hands were
raised against them were so merciless and cruel and bloodthirsty as
these "black devils" of the mounted police.

From old documents in my possession I find that the first attempt at the
formation of this corps was made in 1836 or 1837, soon after the opening
of Port Phillip, by an officer named De Villers, but it led to no
satisfactory result and the project was abandoned, or rather remained in
abeyance, until the beginning of 1842, when Mr. La Trobe revived it, and
placed at the head of the establishment an officer named Dana, by whom,
according to Governor Gipps the experiment was very "satisfactorily
conducted." The establishment of the "native police," distinct from
either the mounted or border police, first appeared on the Port Phillip
estimates for the year 1843, when the sum of 2,675 5s was voted for the
support of it; and in 1844 the sum of 2,420 was voted by the Council in
Sydney for the like purpose.

In his first report Mr. Dana mentions that he had travelled a distance
of over 1200 miles in his first excursion with the native police, going
to Portland Bay to "correct" some of the wild tribes who had been
proving troublesome to the settlers in that district. He speaks of the
half dozen mounted blacks under him as "faithful and true on every
occasion, and sometimes under very trying circumstances; especially when
driving 200 or 300 natives from Lake Boloke and the River Hopkins the
men showed the greatest patience and forbearance; and at another time
when following the tracks of a number of blacks who had committed
depredations on Mr. Rickett's station on the Glenelg, they ran down the
tracks for three days with the greatest perseverance for a distance of
60 miles, and were disconcerted when I determined to return in
consequence of want of provisions and the wetness of the weather."

The corps first formed was twenty-five strong, and after about six weeks
daily drill a camp was formed about five miles from Melbourne, and here
the men were brought under full police regulation, their first work
being assisting in running down bushrangers. Then a section of them was
drafted off to "disperse" wild tribes in the unsettled parts. Beyond
clothing and rations they at first received no payment for their
services; and although their service was supposed to be voluntary they
were subjected to very severe drilling, and occasionally kept up to the
mark by solitary confinement and short allowance of food, occasionally
varied by a dozen or twenty-five strokes with the "cat-o-nine tails."
Their uniform was distinctive--green jacket, with opossum skin facings,
black or green trousers, with red stripe; green stripe with red band.
They were armed with a short carbine and bayonet.

That the native police did good service in running down bushrangers,
capturing offending blacks, and recovering stock that had been driven
away by the wild tribes in the Port Phillip district, there can be no
doubt, neither can there be any doubt about their efficiency as
instruments of vengeance against their comparatively defenceless
countrymen, whose extermination was the one thing above all others for
which the majority of the settlers at that time prayed. But the men in
command were studiously reticent concerning the slaughter of individual
blacks or companies of blacks which resulted during the collisions that
took place between the native police and their wild countrymen, although
they regularly furnished reports to head quarters of the movements of
the corps.

The following extracts from a report by Mr. Dana will serve as a sample
of those usually sent concerning the operations of the force, and
reading between the lines one can mentally calculate the number of
aboriginal slain that might have been given opposite the record of sheep

"On my arrival in that district, last June, I stationed a part of the
troop at the Grange, under the orders of the police magistrate, and
proceeded with the remainder to the station appointed for us at Mount
Eckersley. About that time several outrages had been committed by the
natives at various stations, and I lost no time in going round that part
of the country, and I found the presence of my force had a very decided
check on their movements, but as soon as removed, the natives commenced
their depredations with renewed audacity; to prevent this, I found it
necessary to detach as many men as I could spare, in small parties, to
those stations in most danger, with written instructions how to act, and
to show them to any settlers that may have required their services for
recovering their property; this I found to answer very well, for during
my absence in other parts of the district, a great many sheep were
brought back, which otherwise would have been totally lost, and my
orders were on every occasion strictly and faithfully obeyed; four men I
kept constantly with myself patrolling the district, and ready to
proceed at a moment's notice to any station where information has been
brought to me of outrages being committed, and on every occasion the
party went in pursuit, even after many days had elapsed, it was
completely successful.

"The first serious collision with the natives took place at the
Grampians. On that occasion the men evinced the greatest sagacity and
perseverance in following up for days the tracks of sheep, over rocky
mountains and scrubs, and after securing the sheep from the natives, and
when ordered to fire on them, they showed none of their savage
inclination to revenge and slaughter that many suppose is their
disposition, but displayed the greatest coolness and courage, and obeyed
every order I gave them with alacrity and cheerfulness. I must remark
for the men that joined my detachment, that when engaged with the other
natives, I have never known them to be guilty of any unnecessary
harshness or cruelty, and never attempted to strike a blow or lift a
carbine unless when commanded."

For a length of time the force was maintained as it existed under
Commandant Dana, but it was allowed gradually to fall to pieces, chiefly
through the demand for its services growing less as the wild blacks were
either killed off or tamed, leaving the bush to hang around the
outskirts of the towns as wandering beggars. But at every police station
of importance throughout the country there is still to be found one or
more of the keen-eyed race, whose services as trackers are frequently
called into request.

Speaking on this subject Dr. Garran in the "Picturesque Atlas of
Australia," says:--

"There were always plenty of justices of the peace among the squatters,
so that if an officer of the native police ever went patrolling without
having provided himself with a warrant or two for the arrest of 'one
Bungaree,' or 'Milbong Jimmy' or 'a male aboriginal supposed to bear the
name of Barraboorlong,' the omission was attributed to his own unwise
negligence, and not to any scrupulous reluctance on the part of the
magistrate to grant the legal instrument. Thus furnished with regular
authority, it was still necessary to punctiliously adhere to ceremonial
observances. But, of course, it was not always possible to impress the
untrained minds of the native troopers themselves. Consequently if it
happened that they acquired the habit of shooting down a 'myall' at
sight and then impressively commanding the corpse to 'stand in the
Kaween's name' the fact was to be deplored, but was scarcely
preventable. As for what else took place in the scrubs, it is merely
necessary to remark that the lieutenants always made it a standing order
that 'gins' were not to be shot, but admittedly it was not always
possible to distinguish sex at a glance. And if the dusky beauties were
at times so smitten with the prowess of the troopers as to follow them
out of the scrub after the shooting was over, human nature is the same
in all ages and in all races. The conquest of the affections of a black
'gin' by the trooper, who had just killed her husband before her eyes,
is a small variation from that successful wooing of Lady Anne beside the
bier of her father by the humpbacked Richard Plantagenet. Humorous
narratives used to circulate in the bachelors' quarters on frontier
stations a score of years ago respecting the perfect legality occasionally
imparted to rather extensive proceedings against mobs of aboriginals by
the squatter magistrates, who accompanied the executive in person, and
on coming to a camp, or approaching a scrub which sheltered the
offenders and family, read the Riot Act to the scrub or the ridge
overlooking the camp, and, attention being paid to that proclamation,
ordered the troops to 'act.'"

But it is in Queensland that the black as a trooper, combining his
acquired skill in the saddle and with the rifle, with his natural
keen-sightedness and bushcraft has found his highest exercise. When
enterprising settlers followed the explorers into the Burnett, Upper
Dawson, and Maranoa districts, and endeavoured to establish stations
there, they discovered that they had plunged into a country which
literally swarmed with hostile natives who appeared determined to drive
the white invaders back whence they had come. They so harassed the herds
and flocks by spearing, tomahawking, hamstringing, and rushing, that
they drove them wild with fright; and they killed so many shepherds and
stockmen that the offer of even extraordinary sums as wages was not
sufficient to induce men to take up their work. The run-owners were in
despair, for they saw ruin staring them in the face, and their own guns,
which were emptied pretty frequently, were powerless to keep the natives
in check. It was at this juncture that Mr Fred. Walker, whose name has a
place among the successful explorers of the time, appeared upon the
scene, with two or three black boys from the older settled districts of
northern New South Wales. He was looking for a "billet" as overseer of a
station, and seeing how matters stood he suggested that a native troop
should be raised for the purpose of protecting the squatters and
punishing the marauding blacks.

Before very long he was found at the head of a band of New South Wales
blacks, all well mounted and fully equipped, and the fight was taken
into the enemies camp. Hitherto the blacks who had committed the
outrages had been able to escape their pursuers in the fastness of the
bush, but with the black troopers on their heels the thickest scrub did
not afford a refuge. Frequently the troop would be upon them before they
had finished their feast which they had secured from the scattered herd
of affrighted bovines; at other times they would find themselves being
tracked when miles away from the scene of their latest outrage, and
would then realise how inexorable were the foes that pursued them. If
they kept the open they were shot down as they ran; and if they sought
the cover of the thick scrub they would soon hear their relentless
enemies behind them, and see the flash and feel the sting of the
well-handled carbine or revolver. Having chased the quarry to cover, the
black boys would leap from their horses, hand the reins to the
lieutenant or white sergeant, and at once strip off their uniform,
peaked cap excepted, and follow the fugitives, gliding and writhing
through the bushes with firearm ready to present and fire. Shots and
shrieks would soon thereafter tell of carnage, and should any of the
blacks again break cover it was only to meet death at the hands of the
whites who had accompanied the black boys on the expedition. The force
under Walker was at first supported by funds subscribed by the
squatters, but subsequently Walker assumed the regular roll of a
commandant, and executed judgment under official sanction.

The regulations governing the operation of the native police in
Queensland were similar to those which obtained at Port Phillip. The men
were supposed generally to act upon a warrant signed by a justice of the
peace, and they were as a rule provided with warrants under the shelter
of which they could carry on their work; but as they were allowed to act
on emergency without orders in certain cases they could, without fear of
consequences, "disperse" the blacks to their heart's content, and forget
to render an account of their proceedings.

The superintendent was apparently as powerless to prevent his "boys"
from indiscriminate shooting when once their blood was up as he was to
prevent them appropriating a few of the young "gins" whose lives they
had spared, and who proved choice companions, despite their tears,
during the time the corps remained in that locality--after which they
might be turned over to the station hands as "civilized."

After the establishment of the black police, when the settlers' stock
had been interfered with, or an outrage committed by the natives whose
territory he had invaded, the Government was appealed to for aid, and
half a dozen of the armed and mounted blacks, under the charge of a
Sub-Inspector of Police, would be despatched to the spot, well mounted,
well armed, and eager for the chase. Then would follow the careful
tracking of the offending tribe; the surprise in camp, perhaps while
feasting on the beef or mutton from settler's herds; the sudden volley
from a distance beyond reach of spears; the silent falling of half a
dozen men of the tribe; the panic; the rush for shelter; the chase and
slaughter of men and children; the capture of the women, who are made
the victims of their captors' lust; the return to the stations, and the
sub-inspector's official report that the tribe has been "dispersed."

A few sorties of this kind were sufficient to render the tribe
marvellously tractable, for the simple reason that most of its fighting
men had been shot down; and then the remnant of the men, with the women
and children, were "let in," or allowed to come about the homestead,
where they could feed upon the offal, and the latter receive the
embraces of the station hands, which proved in the end less merciful
than the rifle bullet, as they not infrequently resulted in death from
one of the most horrible forms of disease. Thus gradually would they
disappear and the white man be left in undisputed possession of the

The formation of this body of police was considered to be one of the
most effective steps taken by the Government to check the outrages of
the aborigines and punish the tribes engaged, or supposed to be engaged,
therein. It has been well said that the habits of the natives, the
nature of the service, and the character of some of the officers,
contributed to make this corps a mere machine for murder. Under the name
of justice, most foul and bloody deeds were perpetrated upon their
fellows by the blacks who rode Government horses, wore Government
clothes, handled Government rifles, and drank in the spirit of the
blood-thirsty officers who were told off to command them.

The corps was formed before Queensland had been severed from New South
Wales, and it fell under the control of the Government established in
the new colony about the close of the year 1859, or the beginning of
1860. If the records of the dark deeds performed by these native police
could be gathered up, they would form a tale as horrible as any that has
yet been told--a tale of cold blooded brutality and wrong that would
make the reader shudder. But the sub-inspectors who led these black
demons in uniform were very careful in the preparation of reports, and
the butchery of one or one hundred of the "vermin" whom it was their
work to destroy as promptly and with as little ceremony as possible was
not of such moment as to need report, and very few accounts of the
bloody work have been handed down. Occasionally, however, a report would
reach the authorities from outside sources, and public opinion demanded
that there should be an inquiry.

In 1876 a sub-inspector of police in connection with the corps
named------ set himself the task of indiscriminate slaughter, and made a
vow that he would kill every black that chanced to come in his way. But
he killed one too many, that one being a half civilised aboriginal boy
named Jemmy: Having captured his prey the sub-inspector bound him hand
and foot and dragged him to the police barracks verandah at Belyando,
where he first kicked the unfortunate boy about the stomach until he
grew tired, and then varied the entertainments by tying the victim's
hands to a rafter in the verandah high over his head and playing with a
whip upon his back until the whip broke, after which a leather saddle
girth was brought into use. On the following day poor Jemmy was found by
a station hand lying on the edge of a lagoon near at hand, where he had
crawled for water. His body was covered with wounds which "ran into each
other" and the station hand sought to comfort him with the assurance
that he would soon be all right again; but the stricken boy slowly shook
his head, and in broken English between groans declared that he was
"done for." "Baal get up again," said he to the kindly man who had taken
pity on him; "my belly all broke," at the same time holding his stomach.

The blucher boot of the sub-inspector had done more damage than the whip
or the leather girth, and Jimmy was "broken" as he said. The kindly
station hand had him carried by other black boys to his hut and tended
him carefully, but after four days of great suffering the black boy
died. Then the station hand told his employer what had taken place, and
his employer reported the brutal proceedings to the authorities, who
ordered an inquest. The sub-inspector was adjudged guilty of wilful
murder and committed for trial at the Rockhampton Assize court to be
held six months thereafter, the prisoner being released on bail. It is
needless to say that------ did not appear when his case was called, the
records stating that his "bail was forfeited."

Many years before this,------ had been concerned in acts which elsewhere
would have been called atrocities. One of these, narrated before a
Parliamentary commission, will serve to show that poor Jemmy was not the
only victim of this officer's intense thirst for blood. A black near
Maryborough had done something which brought him within the pale of the
law, and Lieutenant------ and his detachment of black boys were charged
with the duty of arresting him. Obtaining information that the offender
was with a tribe of half civilized blacks encamped near the township,
they at once made a cavalry charge upon the encampment. At the sudden
appearance of their enemies the blacks scattered in every direction
seeking shelter,------ and his "boys" galloping after them and shooting
as they rode. One poor wretch rushed through the verandah of the
residence of the Collector of Customs, and made for the river, the
hunters following him. Reaching the stream the blackfellow plunged in,
and sought to get to the opposite shore, but the "officers of the law"
procured a boat and continued the chase, firing at the fugitive until
their "mission" had been accomplished. Although these natives were known
to be inoffensive, the townspeople evidently were rather pleased than
otherwise at their "dispersal," for they actually presented the
blood-thirsty leader of the troop with what they were pleased to call a
sword of honour, as a mark of their appreciation of his bravery! From
what we know of the man we may be sure that he subsequently used that
sword to some purpose whenever a black man's skull came within reach of
his arm.

So late as 1880 the "Queenslander" newspaper thus referred to the
atrocities committed by settlers and the native police:--

"We are determined that the public shall understand what they are doing;
and that if no attempt is made at reform, the refusal shall come from
people who thoroughly comprehend their responsibility. As far as we are
able we shall tear away the veil with which those who know what our
system is have hitherto kept it covered and remove the ignorance in
which a considerable portion of the public have been content to remain.
This in plain language is how we deal with the aborigines. On occupying
new territory they are treated in exactly the same way as the wild
beasts or birds the settlers may find there. . . . . Their goods are
taken, their children forcibly stolen, their women taken away entirely
at the caprice of the white men. The least show of resistance is
answered by a rifle bullet; in fact the first introduction between
blacks and whites is often marked by the unprovoked murder of some of
the former--in order to make a commencement of the work of civilising
them. Little difference is made between the treatment of blacks at first
disposed to be friendly and those who from the very outset assume a
hostile attitude. As a rule the blacks have been friendly at first, and
the longer they have endured provocation without retaliation the worse
they have fared, for the more ferocious savages have inspired some fear,
and have therefore been comparatively unmolested. In regard to these
cowardly outrages, the majority of settlers have been apparently
influenced by the same sort of feeling as that which guides men in their
treatment of the brute creation. Many, perhaps the majority, have stood
aside in silent disgust . . . and a few have always protested in the
name of humanity against such treatment of human beings, however
degraded. But the protests of the minority have been disregarded by the
people of the settled districts; the majority of the outsiders have been
either apathetic or inclined to shield their companions, and the while
brutes who fancied the amusement have murdered, ravished and robbed the
blacks without let or hindrance. Not only have they been unchecked, but
the Government of the colony has been always at hand to save them, from
the consequences of their crime. . . . It is enough to say that the
native police, organised and paid by us, and sent to work with officers
are forbidden to report in detail, and that a true record of its
proceedings would shame us before our countrymen in every part of the
British Empire. . . . When the blacks, stung to retaliation by outrages
committed on their tribe, . . . have shed white blood, or speared white
men's stock, the native police have been sent to "disperse" them. What
"disperse" means is well enough known. The word has been adopted into
bush slang as a convenient euphemism for wholesale massacre."

Actual occurrences making good the contention which the "Queenslander"
had raised were subsequently given in its columns. The following is one
instance of the civilizing efforts of the settlers there:--

"A black boy named Toby was employed at a station the overseer of which
was a heartless scoundrel. Toby had offended him by some slight act of
'larking,' and had run away to escape the flogging which he knew would
follow. After the lapse of a few days the superintendent saw Toby at the
black's camp and allayed his fears by making no threatening movement,
simply telling him not to offend in like manner again and 'go and fetch
up the horses.' Toby went with alacrity, joyful at his easy 'let off;'
but the poor fellow little imagined the foul crime that was brewing in
the 'super's' heart. Mounting their horses the superintendent, the
station storekeeper, and Toby set off together, chatting merrily. When
out some distance, the superintendent said quietly to Toby 'I'm going to
shoot you.' The boy turned round smiling, thinking what had been said
was a joke; but when he saw the superintendent cooly pulling out his
revolver he realized that the devil of murder was raging near him.
Crouching down in his saddle and putting out his hand, in agonized tones
he cried 'Don't shoot! don't shoot!' but ere the words had left his lips
the revolver gave out its sound and a bullet went crashing through the
poor boy's brain. Leaving the dead body of the boy in the bush for the
crows to bury, they returned to the station leading the riderless horse.
The affair was spoken of at the station and elsewhere as a 'neat' way of
disposing of 'niggers,' and no effort was made to call the
superintendent to account."

Another case is recorded of the brutal butchery of a friendly tribe by
the native police, who had been sent for to hunt some wild blacks "out
back." The friendly blacks had been of use to the station holder in
keeping him posted in the movements of the wild tribe, and they were
therefore allowed to visit the station freely, themselves being afraid
of their "myall" brethren. When the sub-inspector of police with his
black "boys" reached the station, they obtained directions concerning
the locality of the troublesome tribe, and at once set out in pursuit,
being accompanied by a young man who was learning "colonial experience"
at the station. Coming upon tracks the troopers ran the line and came
across a number of the tame blacks who were at once recognised by the
station hand. The horsemen were about to fire when the young man called
out to the sub-inspector, "Why Mr.------, these are our blacks." The
answer he received was a loud and angry "Stoop down, damn you!" for he
was in the range of the sub-inspector's musket, which was levelled at a
wretched creature, who was making frantic efforts to escape by
clambering up the naked rock. The black was soon lying at the foot of
the rock writhing in death agony, in company with two others who had
been brought down by shots fired by their mounted countrymen.

A case of wholesale slaughter was reported from the same district. The
station-holders--partners--obtained assistance and went out on a
shooting expedition. Before night they had shot, when seeking shelter in
trees, no less than twenty-two blacks. Having camped that night at a
waterhole near, next morning one of the men remarked "We ought to see
that we have made an end of those------;" and thereupon went carefully
over the scene. Most of the blacks were dead, but others were groaning
in their last agonies, while a few lay on the ground not mortally
wounded. The man inspecting, carefully examined each case. Those who
were dying he left to die; but those who showed signs of recovering he
cooly battered to death, using one of the murdered men's clubs in order
to save his own ammunition.

One writer referring to the native police about this time says:--

"I, too, have lived among blacks in a newly settled district. If it is
advisable that as a colony we should indulge in wholesale murder of the
race we are dispossessing, let us have the courage of our opinions and
murder openly and deliberately, calling it murder, and not dispersal. .
. . How many among us understand the euphemistic word dispersal? Can
they know that it means this? A white man, an officer and a gentleman,
at the head of some half dozen black murderers watches a camp of blacks
all night. . . . The unsuspecting blacks wake to prepare their meal.
Suddenly a shrill whistle, then the sharp rattle of Sniders, shriek on
shriek . . . carnage . . . hewing down men, women and children before
them. How long shall these things be?----for that they exist no dweller
in outside country can deny. . . . Do those of us who have lived in
outside districts know of no outrages committed by whites? No black boys
(servants who get no wages) brutally flogged and ill-used? No young
women forcibly abducted from the tribe for purposes I dare not mention
here? When I think of the nameless deeds of horror that I have heard
discussed openly by many a camp fire, I can scarcely control my
indignation and write calmly. . . I hope I have said enough to attract
attention to the loathsome and horrible system of dealing with our
blacks that we, as a colony, have hitherto sanctioned."

The same writer declares that there were homesteads within which some of
the native police officers (Europeans) who were most notorious were not
admitted, and his statement was supported by the testimony of a
station-holder in the district where the sub-inspector kicked the black
boy to death. He said the native police used to visit his station
regularly in 1868 and the result was that shepherds were killed, and
sheep, cattle and other property destroyed. He requested the police to
keep away and not interfere with the blacks there, and in their absence
the blacks did not molest him or interfere with his property.

Mr. Rusden, in his "History of Australia," speaks of a massacre in the
Barcoo country. An officer of police rode up to the station, and in
conversation asked the squatter how the blacks were getting on. "Oh,
very well; they are quite friendly. They are at camp down the creek
now," was the reply. A few hours afterwards the officer returned, having
killed all--men, women and children--whom he could find--numbering more
than twenty. "God bless me," said the squatter, when the red-handed
inspector informed him of what he had done, "I told you they were
friendly!" "Oh, it's all the same," was the cold-blooded answer; "they
can do no mischief now!" Yet the squatter made no complaint to the

As soon as the "Queenslander" opened its columns to the exposure of the
native police system, numbers of letters were sent in narrating
instances of savage cruelty on the part of the mounted black boys. One
correspondent described four massacres of peaceful natives by order of
officers, and others wrote telling of whole camps being murdered in cold
blood. Yet there was one man to be found outside the police who could
boldly and publicly justify the outrages committed in the name of
justice. The following extracts from his letter (he sheltered himself
under the nom de plume of "Never, Never," else I would give his name)
will show the sort of stuff the man was made of:--

"I cannot see why it is more sinful to knock them (the blacks) on the
head than shoot them. If pistol cartridges were scarce, as often they
are in outside country, it was a very sensible thing to do. I should
feel just as much horror (just as little he meant, of course) if I read
that they were shot. . . . Having captured the offender what are our
white police to do with him; Follow the example of South Australian
Government, and have him taken, at great expense to the country, to the
metropolis, confined in comfortable quarters in the gaol, and at the
expiration of his twelve months, present him with a new suit of clothes
and tomahawk, and send him on his way rejoicing ready for more crime; Or
tie him up and flog him; Or give him a short and easy shift with a
pistol bullet; . . . As for the cowardice of shooting blacks as a
punishment, it would be as just to call the judge, who passes sentence
of death, a coward, or the members of a firing party, at a military
execution, cowards. I maintain that the blacks require shooting, and it
is better to get the work done by the blacks than by whites. . . Anyone
who has had experience knows that in many places whites are useless at
black hunting; if the writer of the article had ever tried following
them through mangroves, he would say so too. That a better plan could be
worked out than that at present in vogue I admit, but I do not think any
of us see a way as yet; the question is too knotty, and by the time it
is solved the blackfellow will be a thing of the past--and a good job

"My experience pretty well comprises the boundaries of Queensland.
Furthermore, I am what would be called 'a white murderer,' for I have
had to 'disperse' and assist to disperse, blacks on several occasions. .
. If, as the 'Queenslander' says the native police are an exterminating
force, it is a pity that the work is not more thoroughly and effectually
done. Is there room for both of us here; No. Then the sooner the weaker
is wiped out the better, as we may save some valuable lives by the
process. We are all savages: look beneath the thin veneer of our
civilization, and we are very identical with the blacks; but we have
this one thing not in common--we, the invading race, have a principle
hard to define and harder to name; it is innate in us, and it is the
restlessness of culture if I dare call it so. . . We must go the whole
length, and I say that the sooner we clear away the weak useless race,
the better. And being a useless race, what does it matter what they
suffer, any more than the distinguished philanthropist who writes in his
behalf cares for the wounded, half dead pigeon he tortures at his pigeon
matches. The recital of all the atrocities going on, all the shooting
and slaying by the native police, never alters the fact that once we are
here we are committed as accessories, and that to prove the fidelity of
our opinions we should leave the country."

The publication of the articles and letters in the "Queenslander" caused
some discussion in the Queensland Parliament, and an attempt was made to
have a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the matter; but it was
resisted by the majority of members, some of whom made speeches almost
similar in tone to the letter of "Never, Never," from which quotations
have been given.

The force still has existence in Queensland, but is under better control
than was exercised at the time of which I have been writing. Even when
all the blacks in the colony have been "dispersed" there will still
remain "horse-lifters," "cattle duffers," and bushrangers, in tracing
whom they will be able to do good service. Those who have read my work
on "Australian Bushranging" will remember what a terror the black police
from Queensland were to the Kelly gang.

CHAPTER XXXVII.--Attempts To Civilize And Christianise.

And now we turn to a somewhat brighter and more pleasant phase of the

It must not be supposed that the authorities, either in the colony or in
England were altogether heedless of their obligations to do something to
ameliorate the sad condition of the aborigines, whose whole patrimony
had been taken away from them; and the reference made during the course
of this narrative to the working of the aborigines Protectorates, and
the reports of the Crown Lands Commissioners, the former established and
the latter appointed by the Government, will have made the reader
acquainted with that fact. It will have been seen, however, that each of
the systems referred to were ineffective, and beyond preventing a few
outrages upon the natives, and bringing to justice a few of the settlers
or their servants who engaged therein, the work accomplished was not of
lasting benefit to the aborigines. The efforts made to wean the blacks
into habits of industry and thrift were absolute failures in every
instance, and all along the lines that one word "failure" made the
official record. Those who were brought within the range of the
"stations" established could not be induced to remain for any lengthened
period, or just died when hope began to dawn that they were learning
some of the more useful lessons of civilization. In the earlier days the
most that could be accomplished was the temporary withdrawal of a few
old men and women or a few young children of the tribe, but while the
former gradually dropped off into the grave the latter grew impatient of
restraint as they grew in stature, and at last cast off their clothes
and their civilization to wander in the woods as their fathers had done
before them.

But the efforts of the authorities to make some return to the blacks for
the loss of their natural heritage were not confined to the attempts
civilise merely. They sought to bring within their reach the blessings
of Christianity, and then within the reach of the blessings, by
establishing mission stations in localities on the outskirts, or near
the outskirts, of European settlement. But the word "failure" describes
the result of these efforts also. As a race the aborigines were as
unimpressionable to Christian teaching as they were to the practical
lessons in agriculture, and if individuals did happen to learn, very few
of them retained their knowledge for any length of time of put it to
permanent practical use.

Each of the earlier Governors, from Phillip downwards, manifested a
desire, and made a few attempts to wean the blacks from their savage
state and to protect them from outrage by the whites, but in each
direction their efforts were futile. In 1814 Governor Macquarie made an
attempt to bring education within the reach of the younger aborigines of
the coastal tribes, or, rather, to bring them within reach of education,
and he established a school at Parramatta under a committee of prominent
colonists. That school was kept up for about nine years at an annual
expense of 365, and it was then removed to Blacktown. The largest
number of children in attendance at one time was 25, but very little
permanent benefit resulted to the scholars from the education imparted.
In her evidence before the committee some years after the removal of the
school from Parramatta, the lady who had been in charge with her husband
(Mrs. Shelly) said that some of the children had learned to read and
write and cipher fairly well, particularly the half-castes, but as the
older blacks were about they were always very unsettled. Most of the
girls she said had turned out very badly, had gone away with black men,
and had relapsed into all the bad habits of untaught natives. At
Blacktown the attendance at once dwindled until the place became simply
a resort for wandering aboriginals, doubtless ex-students and their
friends, when the fortnightly rations were issued by the Government. In
1828 the institution was broken up and the settlement abandoned, but the
care of the aborigines in the locality still remained a charge upon the
Government, as I find from a report made to the Legislative Council of
Sydney in 1843 mention was made of the fact that the annual amount
disbursed on account of the Institution from 1821 to 1833 was 3,364 9s
10, the sum spent each year ranging from 6 5s. to 962. Thus ended the
first attempt.

In 1824, while the Parramatta Institution was struggling towards
destruction, an attempt was made with an establishment at Lake
Macquarie, the Government reserving 10,000 acres of land there and
establishing a mission under the auspices of the London Missionary
Society with Rev. L. E. Threlkeld as superintendent. But at the end of
six years the Society gave up the mission finding the expense of its
maintenance too great. Mr Threlkeld, however, who had become fairly
proficient in the aboriginal language was disinclined to give up the
work, and Governor Darling made him a grant of land in the same place
for the purpose of continuing the mission. The establishment was kept up
for several years, but every report sent in by the superintendent spoke
of discouragement and non-success, and in 1841, owing to the almost
total extinction of the Lake Macquarie tribes, he received notice from
the Government that his services would be no longer required. Thus ended
effort number two.

But in the meantime a mission had been established at Wellington Valley,
the place having formerly been a penal settlement. Ten thousand acres
were reserved, and two missionaries (Messrs. Watson and Handt) were sent
out from England by the Missionary Society, at the request of the
Secretary for the Colonies to take charge. The opening in 1832 appeared
full of promise, no less than sixty blacks having joined within a few
days of the starting. During the first year a school was opened and some
twenty children were brought under instruction, while a good deal of
attention was paid to cultivating the ground and raising stock. But here
again the story of non-success had to be repeated. The children were apt
to learn, but did not remain for any length of time, while the men and
women attached to the establishment, demoralized through previous
contact with vicious whites, periodically returned to their tribes, and
at last drifted back altogether into the wild life which seemed more
congenial to them, only using the mission as a place of call for
provisions when food in the bush became scarce, Another missionary--Mr.
Gunther--was sent out by the Society to assist, and then the
missionaries themselves "fell out," and the few scholars were divided.
After struggling on for some time longer the mission was broken up (in
1843), having been in existence for eleven years. Mr. Gunther was
removed to Mudgee, and Mr. Handt went to Moreton Bay, where another
mission had been started, while Mr. Watson remained at Wellington
farming some land which he had taken upon his own account.

In 1837, Rev. Dr. Lang projected a mission among the aborigines at
Moreton Bay, but failing to find missionaries in his own country, he
went to Berlin, and there enlisted the services of a number of persons
belonging to a body specially trained as missionaries to the heathen.
The object sought was twofold--first, to christianise the blacks; and,
secondly, to afford some security to seamen who might happen to be
wrecked on the coasts adjacent to Moreton Bay, one ship's company having
been mercilessly murdered there. In the following year two clergymen and
eighteen lay missionaries arrived in Sydney, and at once set out for the
scene of their labors. They succeeded in establishing a small community
of aborigines, whom they instructed in the first principles of the
Christian religion, teaching the younger blacks the rudiments of
letters, and employing the adults in cultivating maize, which formed
their chief food. The mission was supported partly by funds granted by
the Imperial Government, and partly by private donations collected in
the colony and in Europe. It was afterwards admitted, however, that the
amount of success which attended this effort to evangelise and civilize
the aborigines was inconsiderable. The subsidy was withdrawn and the
mission was broken up.

In 1842 the Secretary for the Colonies, Lord John Russell, in a despatch
to the Governor, recommended that fifteen per cent of the land fund
should be applied exclusively to their civilization and protection,
leaving to the Colonial authorities the details of the expenditure, but
requiring that a yearly report should be laid before the Governor of the
Colony, showing, by statistical and other data the progress made in
improving the condition of the black population. But it was one thing to
instruct, and another thing for instructions to be carried out; and in
the increasing pressure of colonizing work the unfortunate natives of
the soil were either greatly neglected or only remembered to be killed

During the following year (1843) a Committee of the Council was
appointed to inquire into the condition of the aborigines, being moved
thereto by the despatch above mentioned. In the report which they
prepared they recommended the abolition of the Protectorate, as having
failed in the object for which it was established, and being, at this
time, altogether useless; but they could not suggest any substitute.
They advised the House that it was useless to form reserves, as
recommended by the Secretary for State; the education of the adults they
thought to be hopeless, and the young could be educated only by a
compulsory sequestration from their relatives and tribes. They concluded
by expressing the opinion that, without under-rating the philanthropic
motives of Her Majesty's Government in attempting the improvement of the
aborigines, much more real good would be accomplished by similar
exortions to promote the interests of religion and education among the
white population in the interior of the colony, the improvement of whose
condition in these respects would doubtless tend to benefit the
aborigines. What a poor compliment was this to the white population of
the interior!

It would serve no good purpose to give details concerning the working of
other missions that were started--the history of one was the history,
with more or less variations, of all. A Government Mission was
established in Victoria, and also a Wesleyan Mission, but European
licentiousness and lead, and native indifference and love of wandering,
proved all powerful as opposing forces there also. Missions (Roman
Catholic as well as Protestant) were likewise established in South
Australia, but the same record attaches to each. Captain Sadlier, who
was appointed by the Government to inquire into the state and number of
aborigines, writing in 1883, naturally asked what is the reason of these
failures in the attempts which have been made in various portions of New
South Wales, Victoria, etc. The answer is in the constant encroachment
and pressure of the whites, and their rapid settlement in an open
country, coupled with the helplessness of the natives when brought
within their influences, dependent as they are on gratuitous support,
and the vices and diseases of the white population which are so fatal to

Laudable as were the efforts made by the Colonial Government to assist
missionary enterprise amongst the aborigines those efforts were too
spasmodic for success, even had the powerful repellant and destructive
forces referred to been absent. And I will not be the one to say that
success would have attended even the best-directed efforts to civilize
and Christianise a race whose instincts were all so contrary to those of
the European with which they were sought to be amalgamated.

In northern Queensland and the few other localities where a remnant of
the race remains in its wild state, the old line of subjugation under
the bullet is being followed; but in the older settlements of this and
neighbouring colonies, attempts are being made to ease the passage of
the broken few to the grave by means of food and clothing from
Government stores and such spiritual sustenance as can be imparted to
individuals who can be brought within range of the teacher's voice. It
is the least that the conquerors can do to atone for the wrongs that
have been perpetrated. The Board for the Protection of Aborigines in New
South Wales gives attention to the subject, and sees that the few
full-bloods and half-castes are not left to perish uncared for; but in a
few more years the funeral dirge of the last aboriginal must be chanted,
and in all the land once peopled by them there will not be found a
solitary member of the race. "Gone! All gone!" will be the record.

The Government of West Australia some years ago struck out in a new line
in dealing with the aborigines who had come into touch with the white
settlers, an Act being passed through Parliament under which settlers
were empowered to contract with aboriginals to work for them, the
payment for services rendered under the "indenture" being rations,
clothing and medicine--such contract to be properly signed before a
magistrate or member of the board. Subsequently an amendment of this Act
was passed providing that a magistrate or justice alone could order
floggings to natives for unspecified offences, 25 lashes being fixed as
the limit. If the object of the Legislature in passing such a law was
not attained, for abundant evidence has been produced to show that under
the operation of the Act the natives have been subjected to most
shameful treatment by many of the men who were legally recognised as
their masters, and who benefited largely by the cheap labour thus
provided for them.

Writing on this system Bishop Riley says:--

"This is only a form of slavery. As soon as a man is indentured he is
absolutely under the power of his master. The natives, for the most
part, do not know what indenture means, and for the rest do not dare to
refuse to sign the agreement." And slavery this service truly is. Some
of the cases of ill-treatment of natives thus indentured in the
north-west of that State have been simply appalling, and form most
hideous examples of "man's inhumanity to man."

Take one case as an illustration of this fact:--

Two brothers named Anderson had a station upon which a number of
blacks--men, women, and children--were engaged under "indenture"
shepherding. One day, having lost some sheep in their charge, and
fearing the wrath of their masters, they absconded, leaving the
remainder of the sheep to scatter. The two brothers discovered the loss
and at once set out on horseback to find the fugitive blacks, with a
view to punishing them for the offence. They found them at a neighboring
station forty miles distance. Chained together, the end of the chain
fastened to one of the captor's saddles, the runaways were compelled to
trot in pace with the horses, to the music of the stock-whip. The
brothers made a forced march in the sweltering heat of a tropical
climate, denying even a drink of water to the poor wretches whom they
were dragging along, and the homestead reached, the prisoners were
secured to trees while the owners had dinner, doubtless knowing they
would require a good supply of physical energy for the accomplishment of
the task that was before them.

Dinner over, once again, white and black are in contact, and this time
with results more tragic. The latter were in turn chained to a
convenient post, and heedless of their piteous cries for mercy the
brothers stood over them wielding in turn a knotted rope upon their bare
backs. Two black men and one black woman died beneath the heavy strokes
from the fearful instrument of torture, and still the hellish work went
on, until each of the prisoners received their "dose." Those who had not
died were turned adrift after the flagellators had done with them, their
furrowed backs a mass of clotted blood. The bodies of the three who had
been slaughtered were thrown into a hole and covered up. Subsequently
the brothers made known to a neighbouring squatter what they had done.
He, sympathising with them in the trouble they had with their "niggers,"
advised them to report to some magistrate that the three natives were
dead. This they did, and as the law required that some notice should be
taken of an occurrence involving such serious issues to the natives, a
formal summons was issued against them and they appeared at the nearest
court. Again the offenders found sympathisers, the magistrates
themselves doubtless having experienced losses in sheep through the
negligence of native shepherds, who, of course, could only be kept in
subjection by the use of knotted rope.

They solved the problem "How much better is a man than a sheep?" in
their own way and to their own satisfaction and satisfied their judicial
consciences by committing the murderers for trial before a higher court?
Oh, no; but by imposing a fine of 2, and telling the offenders not to
be so severe in dealing with their black servants in future! The
sentence was as gross an outrage upon the administration of justice as
the offence had been upon humanity. But the triumph over right of the
brothers was short lived. A police sergeant deemed it his duty to
forward a report of the case to the authorities at Perth, and a doctor
was instructed to proceed to the station and make fuller inquiries. From
both living and dead he obtained overwhelming evidence that a crime most
foul and bloody had been perpetrated. The doctor thereafter reported
that he found the natives had been flogged to death, that the shoulder
blades of two had been smashed to pieces.

The Government then intervened and ordered the arrest of the brothers,
but one of the brothers died in Fremantle gaol while awaiting
trial--called to appear before a higher tribunal than an earthly court.
The surviving brother was duly indicted and tried, but the jury would
not agree and were dismissed, although the Judge, Sir Alexander Onslow,
in summing up, declared that the case was "the worst he had ever heard
of, and nothing but a brutal, cold-blooded murder." Trial number two
resulted in a verdict of manslaughter, and thus the slayer of blacks was
saved the ignominy of a death on the scaffold: but the Judge marked his
sense of the enormity of the offence by passing a sentence of twenty
years imprisonment.

This case will enable the reader to see what estimate was put upon the
lives of "niggers" by West Australian magnates only a few short years
ago; and it may not surprise them to learn that there are living to-day
those (some holding high positions in the State) who openly defend the
conduct of the Andersons and other employers of black labor who freely
used the knotted rope on their stations. The case also furnishes an
illustration of the makeshift character of the legislation passed in
West Australia ostensibly in the interests of the aborigines, but which
in reality operates to their hurt, the only persons deriving benefit
therefrom being the run-owners whose sheep are tended and shorn by the
cheapest of cheap labor.

Under this law the black serfs who offended by absconding, or losing
sheep, or perhaps by killing one to stay the pangs of hunger, are dealt
with most rigorously, being either marched to prison or sent to labor in
chains on the public roads. One gentleman who had been living for some
time in the northwest recently wrote:--

"As regards the Roeburn-Cossack tram line, it is usual to see about
thirty aboriginals and perhaps two or three white prisoners at work on
this line. They keep it entirely; about eight miles are open. A
considerable number of these natives are chained in pairs round their
necks. The chain is about 15 feet long, and is like a very light trace
chain; the portion round their necks is covered with leather (through
the kindness of the West Australian Government) to prevent chafing."

Another gentleman, following up the statements quoted above, says:--"I
speak of facts and facts are stubborn things. In Broome, in 1897, there
were about 90 prisoners in Broome gaol, whose only crime was running
away from their masters, to whom they have been signed on by the Western
Australian Government. These natives were assigned to the squatter (who
was the local J.P.) for all time. After the shearing was finished the
natives were driven away by cruel treatment and starvation, until
compelled by the pangs of hunger to kill a sheep for food, and then not
only the real culprit, but the whole tribe, was hoisted on to the
authorities for sheep killing. The local J.P., who was perhaps the party
interested, would sentence the niggers to six months in gaol, to be kept
by the Government until mustering or shearing came round again. These
prisoners are kept in gaol and do all the necessary work around the
township for those who are favored by the resident magistrate. I have
seen the prisoners with a warder standing with a guard over them digging
the garden of the resident magistrate, and the next day removing rubbish
from the local pub. The prisoners are chained round the neck with a
chain that is strong enough to hold a bullock. These chains are not
covered with leather, but are just plain, cold iron. They are padlocked
to each other, and their padlocks are inspected by the warder each
morning and evening."

Thus, between the slave driving master on the station on the one hand,
and the prison authorities on the other, the life of the aboriginal
black in West Australia is by no means a happy one. A few only come
within reach of the missions that have been established, and another few
reap some benefit from Protectorate work. The majority only touch
civilization, to suffer and pine and die, either under conditions of
life that are uncongenial because unnatural to them, or from contact
with directly antagonistic forces, where the bullet or the rum bottle or
the opium pill does its deadly work. Thus it has been from the beginning
of European settlement; and thus it will be until the full bloods all
die out, and there will remain only the half-castes and quarter-breeds
who appear to find civilization a less destructive foe.

In the States of Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland there are
Protectors of Aborigines, whose duty it is to endeavor to protect the
few remaining blacks from outrage, and arrange for the supply of their
necessities; but the most they can hope to do is to ease the passage of
their charges to the grave. In New South Wales an Aborigines Protection
Board supervises the expenditure of a very large sum annually, voted by
the Government for the maintenance of "stations" which have been
established on lands reserved on several outlying portions of the State
for the use of the remnant of the race therein located and for the
upkeep of houses and schools for the education of the full-blooded and
half-caste children. Needless to say, the latter largely predominate in
all these establishments. In the course of a few years, all the
full-bloods will have disappeared, and the race will only be represented
by an inconsiderable number of half and quarter breeds, who are now
being taught to read and write like the children of the white men who so
roughly shouldered their ancestors out of the way.

It will be observed that in writing this somewhat imperfect narrative I
have used the past tense. This I have done for the simple reason that
throughout the larger portion of the continent, including the whole of
the immense area of country now occupied by the whites, the occurrences
related pertain to the past, the few natives remaining having under
compulsion abandoned the habits and customs peculiar to the race when
living in a state of nature. In the territory not yet occupied by the
whites in the outlying portions of Queensland, West Australia, and the
Northern Territory only are a few tribes now to be found existing as did
their ancestors, observing the rites and ceremonies and following the
customs which I have described.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.--Decimation And Extinction.

"The white race seems destined to exterminate the blacks." Thus wrote
Mr. Curr, one of the closest students of this subject in Australia, when
dealing with the aboriginal race some years ago; and never a truer word
was uttered. The simple record will soon be written that the last of the
natives who peopled in such numbers the "Great South Land" when it was
first sighted by Captain Cook, and when subsequently the first Europeans
landed on its shores to find a "settlement," has passed into the "Land
of Shadows." Already the race has reached the vanishing point. The story
of European settlement is the story of aboriginal decay, decimation and
death, for the first chapters were written together, and each section as
written up to the present has revealed marvellous progress running on
contemporaneously with lamentable deterioration, rapid decay, and fast
following death--the black man falling as the white man rose. Nearly
forty years have passed since the last individual of the Tasmanian
tribe--once so numerous and strong--passed away; the poison of contact
with the invading Europeans having done its work more quickly there than
in the other colonial centres. But the work has proceeded quite as
surely, if more slowly, by reason of their wider territory, throughout
those other centres, until to-day there is comparatively but a very
small remnant left in all the land.

To generalise the circumstances connected with this piteous and pitiable
work of extinction, is not a very difficult task for one who has closely
observed the passage of events. The meeting of the aborigines and the
white pioneers, in the first place, whether on the coast where the
latter first landed and to which they were confined for some years, or
in the wide stretches of land back in the interior, invariably led to
war, which lasted for a longer or shorter period, according to the
nature of the country, the rapidity of the settlement, and the character
of the natives whose territory was being invaded. In cases where several
settlers took up new country together and formed "squattages" adjoining
each other, and the natives had no near fastness to which they could
retreat, the struggle was not very protracted; but in the districts not
easily traversible, in which the white settlers were few in number and
scattered, and in which the blacks could find food away from the
squattages, the fighting was at times fierce and extended over a lengthy
period. Where the natives succeeded in killing one white man the white
men killed scores of natives, and organised slaughters of the blacks in
disturbed districts were not infrequent, the whites being assisted by
the police.

It was an unequal war; and as I have said, the issue is not far off. The
history of Tasmania is fast being repeated in all the other States.
Where any of the ancient owners of land remain, tribal distinctions have
been almost, if not quite obliterated, as a prelude to the blotting out
of the individual. Solitary fractions of once powerful and numerous
tribes and families are still to be found in some localities, but they
are drifting towards extinction--wandering without aim, without energy,
because without hope, in filth and wretchedness, and darkness and

No sadder story was ever written; and in whatever spheres of effort in
colonisation Great Britain has won laurels--and they are many--in this
sphere she had earned not a little reproach through long years of
indifference to the claims of the aborigines whose heritage she had
forcibly seized--taking it for granted, evidently, that nothing could be
done to prevent their extermination.

My task, now ended, has been to gather up a few of the more interesting
facts concerning this now nearly extinct race--a task entered upon in
the strong belief that the record must prove both interesting and
instructive to the reader, who perchance, has never before given thought
to the subject.


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