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Virtual Sourcebook for Aboriginal Studies in the Hunter Region Guide:  1846 NSW

A guide to materials from the collections relating to Aboriginal people throughout Newcastle and the wider Hunter Region.

Sourcebook for Aboriginal studies : Replies to a Circular Letter

1846 New South Wales

Aborigines. Replies to a Circular Letter, addressed to the Clergy, of all Denominations, By Order of The Select Committee on the Condition of the Aborigines. Ordered, By the Council, To be Printed 31st October 1846. Sydney: Printed by W.W. Davies, At the Government Printing Office.

Replies to a Circular Letter, addressed to the Clergy, of all Denominations, residing at too great a distance from Sydney to expect the favor of their personal attendance.

Legislation Council Chamber,
Sydney 17th February 1846

No. 45-5 (Circular.)

Reverend Sir,

I have the honor to request, that you will be pleased, at your earliest convenience, not later than the 15th of April next, about which the Council will meet, and the consideration of the subject be resumed, to favor the Committee appointed to enquire into the report upon the condition of the Aborigines, and the best means of promoting their welfare, with replies to the following queries, addressed to the Clerk of the Legislative Council.

I have the honor to be,
Your obedient humble Servant,

Wm. Macpherson,
Clerk of the Legislative Council.

To –

  1. What is the probable number of Aborigines in your district; distinguishing males, females, and children?

  2. Has the number diminished or increased, and if so, to what extent, within the last five or ten years?

  3. Has the decrease been among the children or adults?

  4. To what causes do you attribute the decrease in your district?

  5. What is their actual condition and means of subsistence?

  6. Has their ordinary means of subsistence diminished, and if so, what part of it, and from the causes; if it has increased, what part, and from what causes?

  7. Have blankets been issued to the Aborigines in your district heretofore, and for what period? What was the effect of giving them? Has the giving of blankets ceased? When did it cease; and what has been the effect of its cessation? Would it be advisable to resume the distribution?

  8. Have they been allowed or refused Hospital or Medical treatment in case of need; and in what manner; and, if allowed, at whose expense?

  9. What proportion of them are either regularly or occasionally employed by the settlers, and in what way? In what manner are they remunerated?

  10. What habits have they bearing upon the aptitude for employment?

  11. Are there any, and how many, half castes in your district? Are they living with, or after the manner of the Aborigines?

  12. Is there any disposition on behalf of the white labouring population, to amalgamate so as to form families.

  13. Are the Aborigines in friendly or hostile relations with the settlers in your district; if hostile, how has the hostility arisen, and what conditions have taken place between the two races; what loss of life has there been; and in what manner has it taken place on either side?

  14. What destruction of property has been occasioned by Aborigines?

  15. What are the relations, hostile or otherwise, of the Aborigines among themselves in your district?

  16. Are their numbers directly or indirectly affected by their hostilities, and to what extent?

  17. Is infanticide known among them?

  18. Will you be good enough to state any facts relative to the Aborigines that would assist the Committee in its endeavour to promote their welfare?

The following replies relating to the local region were transcribed by Margaret Fryer and Gionni di Gravio October 2002:


From the Reverend C.P.N. Wilton, M.A., Minister of the Church of England, Newcastle, 1st May, 1846.

  1. The number of Aborigines in my district consists of male adults 20, boys 2 ; female adults 5, girls 2 ; total 29. There are no children belonging to the Newcastle Tribe under eleven years of age ; and of the adult females, four out of the five are becoming old and infirm.

  2. The number has diminished within the last ten years, certainly by one-half.

  3. The decrease has been among the adults. McGill, the Aboriginal Chief of this tribe, by whose assistance the Rev. L.E. Threlkeld compiled his grammar of its dialect, on my speaking to him lately, but a few days before his death, upon this subject, remarked that "they died off like sheep."

  4. I attribute the decrease of the Aborigines in this district to their own customs, which tend to their depopulation - to drunkenness, debauchery, and disease, especially among the females, induced by their connexion with the white population, as well in the town of Newcastle, as upon the neighbouring farms, and by the introduction of small pox and measles, a few years ago, which carried off many of them.
    May not the Christian discover also, another reason for the decrease of the Aboriginal population of New Holland, as well as of that of other islands in this southern hemisphere, open to missions, where no personal violence is offered to them by the European residents? May he not find it in the prophecy of Noah, in Genesis, chap. IX, and 27 verse, "God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem?"

  5. They are dependent upon the towns-people and settlers for any old clothing they can get. They will work occasionally about a house, especially if that house be an inn, where they may meet with opportunities of obtaining money or ardent spirits from those who frequent it ; and on a farm, in pulling maize or burning off, for money or rations.

  6. Their ordinary means of subsistence has greatly diminished ; the Emu, Kangaroo, Wallibi, and Opossum, having almost disappeared from their hunting grounds. Fish, and a Zoophyte which they call "Kon-je-voi,"and which they obtain on the sea coast, are the only kinds of animal food, yet left to them in any abundance. Of vegetable food they still procure, when they can get nothing else to satisfy the cravings of hunger, a native root of a kind of yam called by them, "Ko-ka-baia"and the seeds of the Zamia, which they eat, first soaking them in water, then roasting them, and subsequently beating them to a fine powder. They also suck the "Mi-mal," or the honey in the blossoms of the Honeysuckle tree, and that of the Grass tree, where it can be now met with, and in the season, when ripe, the fruit of the "Mesembryanthemum aquilaterall"or "Pigs"faces"

  7. Blankets had been issued to the Aborigines in my district, from the commencement of the administration of His Excellency Sir R. Bourke, until the last two years. The effect of giving them was manifest in the satisfaction expressed by the blacks at the kindness of the Europeans, in thus providing for their comfort.

    No blankets have been issued to the Aborigines of this tribe for the last two winters ; they would be very thankful if the issue of them were renewed. When the distribution of blankets ceased, "M’Gill," the late chief, told me "they all cursed the Governor.” They were indeed much dissatisfied. They now depend upon obtaining any old blanket, or coat that may be offered them by the settlers ; while of getting these, they are by no means certain, and failing in obtaining such, they would have to betake themselves to the shelter of bark.

    I am decidedly of opinion that it would be desirable to resume the distribution of blankets to these people ; the least indeed, that can be done for them on the part of those who have deprived them of the animals, from the fur of which, they were wont to make themselves cloaks. Several individuals of this tribe have lately enquired of me, why "the Governor does not give them blankets to wear in winter, when it is murry cold." Public decency moreover, would be consulted, by continuing their distribution.

  8. The sick Aborigines of this tribe have in every instance, been admitted into H.M. General Hospital, whenever they were willing to be admitted. The expenses consequent upon their medical treatment being defrayed by the Colonial Government. But there is an almost general abhorrence amongst these Aborigines of entering a public hospital ; for what reason, I have not been able to ascertain. Probably, however, it may be from their extreme dislike at being watched by the whites, and being kept under hospital restraint - a mode of treatment so much opposed to their own ideas, and habits of freedom. It has indeed come to my knowledge, that although offers have been made to the blacks, to erect huts outside the walls of the General Hospital for their use, yet they could not be induced to go near them, choosing rather to run the risk of a cure at the hands of their own "Ka-ra-kal," - doctor, or sorcerer.

  9. The greater part of the Aborigines are occasionally employed by the inhabitants of the town, and the settlers, either about the house, in going upon errands, or on the farms, in gathering in the maize in the season, and in burning off. They receive payment for their work, either by a ration, or by money, as may be agreed upon. Generally, they work for their food, and any old clothing.

  10. They are expert in catching fish, and quick in going upon errands, if they be sure of receiving payment ; but in general they are inactive, and lazy. An exception, however, is to be found in ";Brown," who, to the honor of Newcastle, (or Munibinba - its aboriginal name) belongs to this tribe, and who accompanied Dr. Leichhardt on his late expedition from Moreton Bay to Port Essington. This "Brown" is a most intelligent Aborigine, and had previously to his accompanying that intrepid explorer, been employed as a seaman in a whaler, and had, some few years before, acted as a servant about a house in Newcastle, approving himself in activity and honesty equal to any European of his own age. Another black, also belonging to this tribe, now about twenty years of age, makes a most useful and trustworthy servant, having charge of his master's horses ; and a lad, about fifteen years old, shews himself very expert in riding about on horseback after cattle, the property of his employer, a settler in this district - exceptions these to the general habits of the black population.

  11. There are two half-castes belonging to this tribe, one lad, and one girl. The boy is employed about a farm ; the girl, as a nursemaid in a family in Newcastle.

  12. There is none whatever.

  13. The Aborigines in this district are on perfectly friendly relations with the settlers.

  14. None, to my knowledge.

  15. The Aborigines in my district are quite peaceable among themselves.

  16. Their numbers are neither directly nor indirectly affected by any hostilities among themselves, being (as I have before stated) on good terms with each other.

  17. "M'Gill" has told me that it was usual to destroy the half-caste male infants, but he could recollect only two cases in which infant blacks had been killed - one by strangling, and the other by throwing it into the surf of the sea, and then beating it to death with a waddy ; when I put the question to him upon this subject, he replied " "they used to do it, but no kill infants now."

  18. From what I have seen of the Aborigines during the fifteen years in which I have been resident in Newcastle, I am convinced, that any good to be done amongst them in a moral and civilizing point of view, must be commenced with the children. With the adults in this tribe, as in others with which it has been my lot to fall in during my clerical tours in the different parts of the Hunter, contaminated by the debauchery of the white population - drunken with their ardent spirits ; added to this, naturally filthy, and indolent in their habits, very little good, humanly speaking, can be expected to be accomplished. "M'Gill" although for a long time domesticated at the Mission House, Lake Macquarie, presents a melancholy instance of the failure of Christian philanthropy exerted on behalf of this degraded race ; every since the breaking up of that Mission, like the less-instructed adults of his tribe, he was seldom to be found sober, whenever the means of obtaining intoxicating liquors came in his way. The opinion respecting the Aborigines near Parramatta, which I formed as far back as the year 1828, and which I published in the "Australian Quarterly Journal"of that year, experience has fully confirmed, in regard to any moral good to be looked for from any tribe of Aborigines having intercourse with Europeans. Speaking of the School for the Aborigines at Black Town, near Parramatta, a long time since broken up, I said, "Children from three to six years of age should, if possible, be obtained from their parents, and admitted into the school.” No coercive measures, however, should be exercised ; but the motives which lead to their being taken away, and the sincerity of those who undertake their instruction, should be carefully explained to their parts or friends. These children, placed under the charge of a master and mistress of well-known morality of conduct and zeal, tempered with discretion, should be watched with the greatest strictness - be taught to speak and read the English language - be duly instructed in the nature of any guilt committed, and punished according to its magnitude ; and as they grew up to years of maturity, the advantages of domestic comfort should be constantly set before them. By adopting such a method, we are of opinion that one favourable point at least will have been obtained. That these little ones would not, at so early an age, have imbibed the bad principles and conduct of their parents, and that consequently the Teacher would have to contend merely with the natural disposition, independent of the acquired and increasing habit. By the adoption of such a plan, with the addition of what I had before stated, viz., that they should be instructed in "the nature of the Christian Religion - the being of a God - the atonement of a Saviour, & c., & c.,"many of the natives, especially the females, might be rescued from their degraded mode of living, and eventually become moral and useful members of society. I would here also add, that the Aborigines, to whom I have alluded in my reply to query 10, received instruction when children - hence their present adherence to the service of their respective employers, and their comparatively sober and industrious habits.

  19. I would here again repeat what I have already stated in my reply to the 7th query. I would strongly recommend the renewal of the issue of blankets to the Aborigines, for the reasons I have therein assigned. And further, to prevent in future the disposal to the whites of such blankets thus issued, I would suggest, that each blanket should be branded with some distinguishing mark, not the broad arrow alone, in several places, and that a law should be passed enacting it a misdemeanour for any white person to have such in his possession. This would in some measure have a tendency towards checking the hitherto too common practice, among some of the blacks, of selling or exchanging these articles, given them for their own personal comfort.

From the Reverend George K. Rusden, M.A., Minister of the Church of England, East Maitland, 3rd April 1846:

Living in a town where the Aborigines seldom, or never come, I have it not in my power to give you the information you require. I do not presume to offer an opinion without a knowledge of the facts of the case; but it has always appeared to me a pity that the Government did not recognise a head of each tribe, and support his authority for the punishment of misdemeanors committed by members of it. Our present process of law is unintelligible to them, and therefore can produce no moral or social effect; but habits of self-regulation, and an interval government among themselves, might lead to improvement, and a safer intercourse. By such a system, the Aborigines would, in most cases, be tried by their peers, which is the pride and privilege of our English law and liberties.


From the Reverend George Augustus Middleton, Minister of the Church of England, Morpeth, 10th April, 1846:

  1. The number amounts to twenty-three, comprising fifteen adult males, five adult females, and three children, (males.)

  2. The number of Aborigines at the present time, I consider, does not embrace more than one-third of what they were ten years ago.

  3. The decrease has been principally among the adults; a birth is now of very rare occurrence.

  4. I attribute the great decrease to several causes; first, hostilities among the tribes; secondly, the native pock; and thirdly, the influenza, the effects of which are now very seriously aggravated by want of necessary shelter, under such circumstances, during the night.

  5. 5. Their condition is one neither of independence or dependence. The rivers, lagoons, and forests, continue to afford a portion of what is necessary to their support; the settlers supply, in remuneration for occasional trifling services, the deficiency.

  6. Their ordinary means of subsistence has seriously diminished, and is daily diminishing; this is attributable to two causes, first, a general clearance of the brushes; secondly, the draining of the lagoons. Kangaroos, long since, sought the protection of the neighbouring mountains.

  7. I understand the annual distribution of blankets, which had been regularly for several years, (the exact number I do not know) ceased in the year 1844, thereby depriving the Aborigines of what they regarded, as much contributing to their personal comfort. I would most earnestly and most respectfully recommend the annual issue, to each of the Aborigines, of one frock, one shirt, and one pair of trousers; as also, the revival of the distribution of blankets as the acceptable and useful presents; I believe the Aborigines, generally speaking, are little disposed to part with those articles now become essential to their comfort and health.

  8. I am not aware that medical provision has been made to meet their necessities, but can bear personal testimony to the readiness with which they are disposed to take medicine, from the hands of any one in whom they repose confidence. The appointment of a medical gentlemen, in different localities, for the purpose of providing the Aborigines with medicine, and necessary support during illness would, I think, prove highly beneficial; should this suggestion be carried out, an instruction might be given to the police generally, to conduct the Aborigines, so afflicted, to any neighbouring hospital, or to the residence of the medical gentleman engaged as above suggested.

  9. During the year perhaps every adult has occasionally been of some trifling service to the settlers, in husking maize, cutting wood, or carrying water; their remuneration consists in a supply of food, while so engaged, to an extent far beyond the value of the assistance afforded.

  10. Not any perceptible one.

  11. There are two half-castes living with the Aborigines.

  12. Not any.

  13. The Aborigines have long been, and continue to be, on a very friendly footing with the settlers; their scarcity of numbers has great influence on their behaviour.

  14. Not any.

  15. Very Friendly.

  16. Numbers of the natives are now very little affected by hostilities; when labouring under the influence of spirituous liquors, there is ever serious danger of fatal result.

  17. Infanticide I believe to be very common among them; when I first arrived at Newcastle, in 1822, every male half-caste was destroyed as soon as born; in one or two instances only, were female infants spared.

  18. I have ever evinced a lively interest in the welfare of the Aborigines, and studied their dispositions and habits to the best of my ability, as opportunity presented, during the long period of twenty-four years.

The result is a well matured conviction, that at no very distant period, annihilation, (at least in the densely settled portions of the Colony) is their destiny.

I, with great pain admit, an utter inability to assist the Honorable the Committee of the Legislative Council, to carry out their benevolent intentions farther, than in again suggesting, that provision of medical aid, in case of need, should be secured in every possible instance - that a suit of clothing, adapted to the two sexes, should be annually distributed; and that the issue of a large warm blanket (much required during the present very cold season) to each of the Aboriginal adults, should take place at the earliest moment possible, and be repeated annually; an arrangement of the above description would, I feel assured, be gratefully appreciated, and tend, very materially, to mitigate those severe sufferings to which the Aborigines are now unhappily subjected.


From the Reverend Robert Thorley Bolton, Minister of the Church of England, Hexham, April 15th, 1846:

  1. On this head it is impossible to give certain data, and to ascertain with correctness to which tribe the individual Aborigines belong, as long as they are at peace with each other. The tribe in the immediate neighbourhood of Hexham, I should designate, in compliance with their custom, as belonging to swamps; "Guacumba," "Tirto,"etc, which are some of the native names of the places they frequent. They have a chief, but he is in certain respects subordinate to the chief of the Newcastle Tribe, of which they form a portion. They visit Maitland, but do not venture further west. They usually are on friendly terms with the Raymond Terrace, Port Stephens, Brisbane Water, and Newcastle blacks, with whom they have frequent intercourse, and trade by barter, forming a kind of “brotherhood.” Those strictly belonging to the Swamp I should compute at about twenty; they have not above three or four women amongst them, and no young children. The other Aboriginal tribes in my District are the Elalong and Wollombi tribes, entirely distinct, and generally at variance with each other. The former is considered a warlike and powerful tribe, but I have no means of estimating their numbers. The Wollombi tribe I should compute at about forty; most of the men have wives - "gins" the children under twelve amount to one-third of this number.

  2. As far as my observation extends, it has diminished; it is impossible to ascertain to what extent.

  3. The adults die without an equal number of children supplying their place; but we never hear of the deaths of Aborigines, except peculiar circumstances attend them, or upon inquiry, after missing any of them for some time.

  4. To the small proportionate number of women, few of whom have children.

  5. They are, in most respects, savages. On the river, they partly support themselves by fishing; they also eat a particular kind of grub, opossums, guanas, and kangaroos. Where the land is cleared, the latter are, of course, much diminished in number; but the occasional supplies of food obtained from the white population, chiefly as a return for labour, in a manner compensates for this loss. Their labour is, however, little valued, except after rain, when they are useful in stripping bark, or in the winter in cutting wood.

  6. I should say not; for they have more opportunities of rendering their labour acceptable, since the fear of them, and the prejudice against them are diminishing.

  7. Yes, they have the adjoining Police Offices, I cannot say for what period. The effect of it was most beneficial in a charitable, social, and moral point of view. They regarded them as one of their greatest comforts - they accepted them as a boon, and the use they made of them has taught many the first lessons of modesty, and the use of clothes. It ceased in May, 1845, to the best of my recollection. I consider the cessation has lessened their friendly dispositions towards us, and is looked upon by them as an act of meanness. To resume the distribution would be most advisable, and save the lives of many individuals. It would also assist in forming a more correct estimate of their number, and in retaining some hold over them.

  8. I am not aware that they have been refused hospital or medical assistance when applied for; but for want of knowing where to apply, they have frequently suffered from the want of it. I have myself given them medicine, and found them grateful for it, but have not been able to induce them to apply for it to any medical practitioner, or at the dispensary. They would, however, of themselves apply to any one whom they once looked upon as their friend, and who had gained their confidence. I think care of the sick would be the most effectual means of conciliating with them. An aged blackfellow, belonging to the Swamps, has been received into the Maitland Hospital, where he died of a severe and old age; he was quite superannuated.

  9. Perhaps one in twenty, regularly; most of them occasionally; they strip bark, and cut wood; they sometimes reap, and husk maize; they are employed as stockmen, and they are useful in going errands. For their labour, they seldom have more than broken victuals, flour, sugar, tea, and tobacco; sometimes they have old clothes given them, but seldom new slop shirts or other clothing. The relation between labour and profit is, in a few instances, sufficiently defined, and in due proportion, being regarded rather in the light of a free gift, than the wages of labour. In very few instances are they paid in money; they know the value of it, and prefer receiving it to any kind of payment. In some instances they make a good use of it, but generally they spend it (particularly small sums) in drink.

  10. They are active, clever, and capable of exertion, but not continued exertion. They are lazy when their immediate wants are supplied, having no adequate inducement for labour.

  11. There are several; I cannot state their numbers; they all live after the manner of the Aborigines. Many, who I believe are not so, pretend to be half-castes, and seem proud of it.

  12. No.

  13. Friendly.

  14. None of property.

  15. They seem to be very peaceable ; though occasionally we hear of ancient existing enmities leading to collision between hostile tribes. The Wollombi blacks, I am told, are frequently at war with the Bulga and Elalong blacks; their allies being the Port Stephens, Newcastle, and Brisbane Water blacks, & c., all too distant to afford them sufficient support, and the tribe is therefore considerably reduced.

  16. The foregoing cause has affected directly the numbers of that tribe, as to its decrease ; and its increase indirectly more care having been taken in rearing their children.

  17. We have reason to suspect it. But I think miscarriages, either proceeding from some natural causes, as want of food, disease, and frequent over-exertion, or abortion, are more frequently the causes of this failure of issue. My reason for suspecting infanticide, at least of girls, is, that boys, who add to the strength of a tribe, are to be met with in greater numbers than girls, who add to its weakness, by rendering them objects of attack. For the women do not marry in their tribes, and are fought for. Another reason why I suspect it is, that I have also observed the greatest number of children in the weakest tribes.

  18. They might be employed in clearing and fencing land for Her Majesty's Government, by task-work. Such lands being of good quality, might be sold in small lots at an advanced minimum price, for agricultural purposes, to cover the expense of it. The children being provided for an clothed in infant schools, whilst the parents are so employed. But they must have power to leave and to come, "walk," whenever they like, or they will become suspicious. They might also be entitled to the protection of a civil marriage law, where they are not Christians, or where only one of them, after cohabiting as husband or wife, had embraced Christianity, upon the principles laid down in the 7th chapter of St.Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians. This would remove a great obstacle to their embracing Christianity. There is, in my opinion, no inherent deficiency of intellect, which renders them incapable of comprehending the doctrines of Christianity, but every difficulty in the circumstances in which they are placed, to arrest their attention to them, or in bringing them under their wholesome influence. All the children which to my knowledge have received instruction, and frequented places of worship, have been rather intelligent, well behaved, and attentive, during divine service.

From the Reverend John Jennings Smith, M. A., Minister of the Church of England, Paterson, 6th April, 1846:

  1. Twenty to thirty, of whom perhaps seven or eight are children ; more males than females.

  2. The number has diminished very considerably in seven years.

  3. Chiefly adults, and of consequence children.

  4. Some may have absconded, but the chief cause of decrease is excess and dissipation.

  5. Their condition is wretched, their subsistence precarious.

  6. Ordinary means of subsistence decrease as civilization and cultivation increase.

  7. Blankets were formerly issued for several years. The effect was a partial good when not sold to obtain drink; they have not been distributed for the last two years. The few Aborigines in this district could and would be clothed if they would use the clothing; blankets are therefore like clothing scarcely necessary, from an unwillingness to wear them.

  8. I am not aware of any want of attention, when required.

  9. Very few are employed, scarcely one-sixth, and then, for the occasional performance of the lowest domestic offices, remunerated by food.

  10. Habits of indolence and unsteadiness render their services of little value, and not to be depended on.

  11. Half-castes are chiefly children, living with and in the habits of the Aborigines.

  12. I knew of two instances of white men cohabiting with aboriginal women and living always together ; in one case they had children, but generally the aversion appears to be reciprocal.

  13. The Aborigines are all friendly with the settlers. Collision between the races is extremely rare ; loss of life has only occurred in cases of premeditated murder.

  14. No destruction of property has been occasioned by the Aborigines.

  15. Occasional encounters between the tribes of this and other districts ; the results are generally concealed. After a late encounter a woman was missing, reported to have been murdered by the other tribe.

  16. Answer No. 15 applies to this question.

  17. Infanticide is reported to be common, but not certainly known but amongst the tribe or tribes.

  18. The Aborigines retire or decrease where civilization advances, so that they furnish only a few facts of their capabilities. I at this time know one instance of successful cultivation in this district, and one in another district ; when the boys have attained information they are useful and good servants ; I also know of a man and woman who are very good servants, clothed, and susceptible of teaching.

From these examples and others I hear of, I am of opinion that if children born of Aborigines were taken from their parents before bush habits were contracted, and were kept from the contamination of servants, and their natural connexions, i.e., if abstracted from such associations at the age of three years, I think they would be found susceptible of good and useful impressions ; would become good servants, and receive Christian instruction with advantage.

I am also of opinion that, wherever such attempts are made to improve their condition, the persons employed in such undertaking, should not be permitted to follow any other pursuit.

Such a measure would be calculated to form fixed habits, and entirely remodel the character of the rising generation, after which, the work of moral reformation would become comparatively easy ; when old enough the girls could work at the needle, make straw hats, &c., the boys as tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, and any other kind of employment calculated to bring the powers of the mind into exercise, more than farm labour ; at the same time, let the children have mutual instruction upon the plan of the late Duchess of Bridgewater, under whom the same instructors attended the poor children in all their avocations.


From the Reverend Joseph Cooper, Minister of the Church of England for the districts of Falbrook and Jerry's Plains. Wollombi Bridge, 30th March, 1846:

  1. Uncertain; I have no means of ascertaining.

  2. So far as I can learn, the number has diminished very considerably.

  3. A number of adults have died, and but few children born.

  4. Dissipation and its consequences.

  5. In this district there is no scarcity of the means of subsistence.

  6. The country around has not been very much cleared, and their opportunities of obtaining food have been increased rather than otherwise.

  7. I came to the district in January, 1844, since which time, no blankets have been issued.

  8. There is no Hospital in this district.

  9. They are seldom employed by the settlers, but at such times are well paid ; they cannot be induced to form permanent engagements.

  10. None.

  11. I have no means of ascertaining.

  12. Not in this district.

  13. Friendly.

  14. None recently.

  15. From personal knowledge, inoffensive.

  16. No hostilities have occurred since my residence here.

  17. I have no knowledge on this subject.

  18. I have resided in the district two years, and regret that I cannot state any facts relative to the Aborigines, that could assist the Committee in its endeavours to promote their welfare.

I am sorry that my limited knowledge of the Aborigines, their customs, and habits, prevent my giving more explicit or conclusive replies ; I have, however, added below some few facts, ascertained by members of my family, that may perhaps slightly assist the humane deliberations of the Committee.

The number of the Aborigines, has, without question, during late years, very sensibly diminished ; they appear so totally unable to assimilate with Europeans, or to adopt their usages, that it is scarcely more than reasonable to suppose, after the lapse of a few more years, they must certainly disappear from amongst them ; this decrease, undoubtedly, does not arise from the unkind treatment or cruelty of the settlers, (speaking of those within my own knowledge) but, as I image, from their too readily yielding to habits of debauchery and dissipation, which, unfortunately, they very quickly acquire, without as a class, exhibiting the slightest aptitude for useful employments. Some few youths are engaged as stock keepers, the inducement being, the permitted use of a horse, which they seem to enjoy ; beyond this, few, if any, can be mentioned as servants of the settlers.

The aggregate number of blacks in this district being so small, the half-castes amount to but few ; such are living after the manner of the Aborigines. In this particular district, the relations of the blacks towards each other are decidedly friendly, although the general characteristic of different tribes, is that of hostility, and though disease, dissipation, &c, consequent upon the renunciation of their native habits, have caused a diminution of their number, still, actual warfare has very materially assisted ; where the tribes are so numerous, that the number constituting each must be very small, the destruction of eight men amounts to a very positive decrease ; yet it has occurred, within the observation of persons living near me, that such a number were surprised in their camp, by an opposing tribe, and at once destroyed. This, of course, is but a solitary instance, yet, nevertheless, a proof of their actual habits. Infanticide has been known amongst them, but not generally ; cases have been observed in which they have evidently, for some unknown cause, slain their children when but young ; in one instance, more particularly alluded to as having been witnessed, the means employed for destroying the infant (a half-caste) were most singular, favouring the idea that they were in observance of an appointed ceremonial, and one which they dared not shun. As a race, they appear affectionate and kind to their offspring, and are invariably delighted by any attention paid to them ; they evince an extreme reluctance to separation, and seldom or ever propose that they should yield their services to the whites for shelter or reward.


From the Reverend William Ross, Minister of the Church of Scotland, Paterson, 5th May, 1846.

  1. The probable number of Aborigines in this district is about one hundred and fifty. The males are the most numerous ; there is however a fair proportion of females ; the number of children is comparatively small.

  2. The number has greatly diminished ; within the last seven years the decrease has certainly been one-third of the number. About seven years ago I have seen eighty and ninety Aborigines encamped in the township of Paterson ; the greatest number at the present never exceeds twenty or twenty-five.

  3. The decrease appears to me to have taken place mainly among the adults. The number of children observed among them by me at any time, was so small, that the decrease could not arise from deaths or casualties among them. I may here remark, that many of the finest young men, existing even three or four years ago, have now disappeared.

  4. The causes are in my opinion two - The vice of drunkenness, to which they are, both male and female, very much addicted; and disease contracted through the intercourse of their women with the whites. There may be other causes but these are the principal.

  5. Their condition is very wretched ; their means of subsistence is lessened to a very great extent.

  6. Their means of subsistence has greatly diminished. There are few or no kangaroo ; they have either been destroyed, or they have retired far back from the haunts of men. The kangaroo was the chief food of the natives. They still have abundance of opossum, of fish, and cobbera.

  7. Blankets have been issued in this district for many years previous to 1845, when the issue of them was stopped. I know of no bad effects arising from giving the unfortunate Aborigines blankets ; we have, in a great measure, been the means of depriving them of the source from which they formerly derived their warm clothing in abundance, and it seems cruel to withhold the blankets ; I certainly think it would be highly advisable, both on the ground of principle and charity, to resume the distribution.

  8. I am not aware of any instance in which they have been refused hospital or medical treatment in case of need.

  9. Very few of them are employed, for they will not work ; the settlers would willingly employ them in various ways if they would only work ; when any of them does work, the remuneration is given in flour and beef, tea, sugar, tobacco, and articles of clothing ; money may sometimes be given, but rarely, for it is the very worst remuneration that can be given.

  10. Their habits are well known ; whatever may be their "aptitude for employment" their habits have no tendency in that direction.

  11. The majority of the children seem to be half-castes ; they live after the manner of the Aborigines ; I cannot state the number of half-castes.

  12. There is not.

  13. They are friendly; no collision or loss of life has occurred since I came to the district; except the two children murdered by the notorious Melville and his brother at Stanhope and two at Butterwyck near Hinton, by a black named "Flash Jemmy" ; but provocation, it is believed, was given by the parents of the unfortunate children.

  14. I have never heard of any wilful destruction of property by the Aborigines in this district.

  15. They are friendly among themselves.

  16. Their number has been affected neither directly or indirectly by their hostilities since I arrived in the district.

  17. I have never known an instance of infanticide ; I have heard of its having been practised among them formerly; they seem to be very much attached to their children.

  18. In answer to this question I have only to say that I do not well know how the Committee will be able to promote the welfare of the adult Aborigines; the Committee may succeed in devising some method of ameliorating the present condition of the blacks, by supplying their most pressing wants and necessities. To bring them within even the most extreme limit of civilization, would, I fear, from their habits, be impossible.

A fairer prospect however opens in regard to the children, to whom the Committee should chiefly direct their measures ; it might be possible to form a small establishment in the district, into which, with the aid of the Legislature and of the benevolent, these youthful wanderers of the forest might be gathered, and taught the principles of religion, and brought up in habits of industry. This would make them useful members of the community ; while it would be a small atonement for the neglect of the past.

If however something be not speedily done, the opportunity will be lost in these parts ; the poor neglected Aborigines are fast hastening out of the land of the living ; so that it is the duty of the Legislature to preserve the rising generation from that ignorance and degradation in which their fathers have lived and died. The children are few, but still their claims are very great, and though but a miserable remnant, they ought to have a name and a place in the land of their ancestors.


From the Reverend Robert Stewart, A.M., Minister of the Church of Scotland, Newcastle, 23rd February, 1846:

Sir, Some of the Aborigines are occasionally to be seen in Newcastle ; I regret, however, that I do not know enough of them to be able to return answers to the questions you have sent me.

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