Lot 178

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Original copy of the Official Government Report "presented to both Houses of Parliament by His Excellency's Command."

  • Paper Items, General
  • Literature:
  • Ephemera, Cards & Documents
  • Medium:
  • 520
  • Circa:
  • Collectibles
  • Notes:
  • There is probably no more ongoing and divisive subject in Australia than the treatment of its original inhabitants and, this document from 1864 sheds some light on the actions and thoughts of the “Honorary Correspondents” or so-called “Protectors” appointed by the Central Board to monitor their welfare. The Board Document begins with a eulogy to its recently deceased President, the Honorable Richard Heales, who is praised for his “wise counsel, and his earnest advocacy of the interests of the Aborigines in Parliament, (that) helped largely to effect those changes which have resulted in the improvement of the black population throughout the colony.” Of course, everything is reported from a very English perspective and details the various Station outposts listing the average number of Aborigines encountered and their general activities. There is mention of occasional tribal conflicts where “severe wounds are not infrequently inflicted, though wars between tribes, formerly so common, are now rarely heard of”, as well as education and health issues such as drunkenness. The report mentions “that the police, have succeeded in bringing to punishment a great many publicans during the past year” who were caught exchanging liquors for the clothes the Aborigines had been given by the Board. The inculcation of English values on the Aborigines extended to its vices also and at Lake Wellington it was mentioned that “gambling is not uncommon among the Aborigines; they use cards almost as skilfully as Europeans, and their little properties are lost and won with the same rapidity and ease as amongst the whites”. To counter this vice their “Protector" Mr Hagenauer very wisely encourages every kind of health-giving amusement, and it is pleasing to know that the natives at Lake Wellington “not infrequently spend their hours of recreation in playing cricket, and other games: and that, in their camps at evening, they sing good old English songs” and in joy of their circumstances spontaneously “giving three hearty cheers for the Queen.” Echoes of the “Stolen Generation” can be found at Coranderrk where the Aborigines were asked to surrender to the Central Board any neglected children so that they could be maintained and educated. “On enquiry it was found that the blacks are reluctant to give up their children. They are, usually very kind to their offspring, and they are jealous of any interference with them by whites: so that, up to the present time, the Board have not removed any of the younger members.” Forebodingly, it was noted that "already there are a great many children at Coranderrk receiving instruction, but arrangements could easily be made to provide for the education of a larger number if the Board had authority to take them away from the tribes with which they are living.” Even "the Lady with the Lamp", Florence Nightingale, is mentioned in the Report as having unsuccessfully sought “careful statistics” concerning diseases and sanitary conditions of “the Aboriginal inhabitants of Her Majesty’s colonies.” It is noted that a comparison of numbers of the native population from earlier reports to the Board “would lead to the conclusion that the aborigines are very rapidly decreasing.” However, this is explained away as statistical errors and that “having regard to the past circumstances of the blacks, the decrease is not startling.” There was obviously a concerted effort to discourage the Aborigines from visiting white dominated towns and settlements “which they would do very frequently if they were left to follow their inclinations.” Whether this was to protect them from the worst “vices of the whites” or simply to hide them away from public gaze is open to debate. The various appendices to the report contain many interesting insights including the locations and the costs of distribution of stores to the various Aboriginal stations as well as convictions and sentences of aborigines for their crimes against white society.Suffice to say that this report compiled and written in a virtuous fashion by Theo, J. Sumner, Vice-President of the Central Board for the benefit of Sir Charles Darling the Governor-in-Chief of the Colony of Victoria seeks to justify the actions of the Board in its role as “Protector” of the native population. It is an interesting document to review as an historical benchmark, and in some respects, it may be argued that not much has moved on in 150 years.

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April 4, 2021 12:00 PM AEST
Paddington, Sydney, Australia

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