Tag Archives: Australian Aborigines

This most tremendous journey

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)

At last the day came, Friday 12 April 1822, when it was time for the Hawkins family to move off on their journey over the Blue Mountains. There was some final loading to do, and many things had to be left behind because they could not fit in all their luggage as well as the provisions required – food for the family and for nine men who accompanied them, and corn for the cattle as there was not enough grass on the Mountains. They had two drays pulled by five bullocks each, another dray pulled by four horses, and a cart with two horses; there were no more carts available. Government officers did as much as they could, says Elizabeth, to make the family comfortable. Sir John Jamison came to see them off and gave them ‘a quarter of mutton, a couple of fowls, and some butter.’ They left with the good wishes of all, ‘not excepting a party of natives who had come to bid us welcome.’

They had not gone far before progress was temporarily halted. No more than a quarter of a mile along the road, still within sight of Emu Island, the second bullock dray became bogged in the sandy bed of a stream that ran across their way. The store-keeper superintendent and overseer at Emu saw them in distress and came to help, and stayed till nightfall. It took an hour to get the dray out, with the horses pulling as well as the bullocks.

After another quarter of a mile of slow progress, they were well and truly confronted with the challenge of the climb ahead.

… and now, my dear sister, imagine me at the foot of a tremendous mountain, the difficulty of passing which is as great or greater, I suppose, than any known road in the world, not from the road’s being bad, as it has been made, and is hard all the way, but because of the extreme steepness of the road, the hollow places and the large and rugged pieces of rock.

The Hawkins were the first family of free settlers to attempt to cross the mountains, and Elizabeth had been left in no doubt about the difficulties to be expected.

I had now before me this most tremendous journey. I was told I deserved to be immortalised for the attempt, and that Government could not do too much for us for taking such a family to a settlement where none had ever gone before.

The day they set off from Emu Island to climb the Mountains was the day that Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins’ appointment as Commissariat storekeeper at Bathurst was announced in the Sydney Gazette.

Quotations are from ‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, I’, Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13; other sources should be checked to clarify the original wording.

Weather conditions: Friday 12 April 1822: Emu Island, apparently fine. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13.

Three Native men and six children

Friction with the Aboriginal population of Sydney and surrounding areas was (despite his best efforts) a feature of Lachlan Macquarie’s tenure as Governor. However, references to Aborigines in his report of 8 July 1815 (discussed yesterday) indicate harmony and co-operation. Relations deteriorated as the expansion of settlement increasingly intruded on traditional use of the land.

According to this report (supplementary to that of 10 June 1815) there was in the exploring party ‘a Native who attended the Governor from this side of the Mountains’ (that is, from the Sydney side), who attempted to communicate with a group of Aborigines at Bathurst.

Macquarie’s comments on Aborigines are limited in this report to episodes in the Bathurst area. The Governor arrived there on 4 May and found ‘three Native men and six children, standing with the working party.’ They were initially alarmed, especially by the horses, but they calmed down and readily accepted food and items of clothing. During the Governor’s stay, ‘small parties of men and boys came in,’ but no females. They were given meat, ‘slop clothing’ and tomahawks, and were particularly appreciative of the latter.

In appearance Macquarie found them ‘better looking and stronger made’ than those of Sydney, though they were generally similar. Some were blind in one eye, and though there did not seem a consistent pattern to this, some being blind on one side and some on the other, the Governor surmised that it was probably connected with an established custom among them. Their language was different from that of the Aboriginal who accompanied Macquarie; they seemed to have no words in common. They wore animal skins, with the fur side to their bodies, neatly sewn and carefully decorated with devices. This apparel suggested some ‘advance to civilization and comfort’ beyond what was usual in the Sydney area.

In other respects they seem to be perfectly harmless and inoffensive, and by no means warlike or savage, few of them having any weapons whatever with them but merely a stone axe, which they use for cutting steps for themselves to climb up trees by, in pursuit of the little animals which they live upon.

‘These Natives never brought any of their females with them on their visits to Bathurst,’ the Governor observed. The only one he saw was during an excursion from Bathurst, and she was blind in one eye, had no teeth, and was ‘merely skin and bone.’ But perhaps it is possible that there were girls among the ‘boys’ the party encountered, a possibility within the experience of the Rev. Joseph Simmondsen in Ernest Favenc’s story, ‘The Parson’s Blackboy.’

Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s supplementary report: Supplement to the Sydney Gazette 8/7/1815, p. 1.

The loss of a constable

After Governor Macquarie’s tour of inspection across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst in April-May 1815, his report published in the Sydney Gazette of 10 June 1815 reviewed the experiences of the trip and suggested future possibilities for exploiting the potential of the regions beyond the mountains.

One of the peculiarities of the report is the absence of reference to the Aboriginal population. Surely the party had encountered Aborigines, or at least traces of their campsites? Were there reasons to avoid mentioning these encounters? Had something happened which the Governor would prefer not to advertise to inhabitants of the colony whom he might want to encourage to develop the new districts for grazing and agriculture?

The Governor was himself conscious of the omission, as we learn from a Supplement to the Sydney Gazette a month later. The one-page sheet supplementary to the issue of 8 July contains two continuations of earlier travel narratives, the first of Surveyor Evans, adding to the report published in the Sydney Gazette over a year earlier (12 February 1814), and the second of the Governor himself, an addendum to his report of 10 June 1815. After the section which refers to Mr. Evans, the Governor adds:

Before closing the present Account, the Governor desires to observe, that having accidentally omitted some particulars in his own Tour which he had meant to remark on, he avails himself of the present occasion to notice them.

Four paragraphs follow, three dealing with observations of the ‘Natives’ and the fourth describing an impressive ‘Cataract’ which was seen falling nearly 1,000 feet from the King’s Table Land down to the Prince Regent’s Glen and was named ‘The Campbell Cataract’ after one of the four gentlemen who had observed this phenomenon, ‘one of the most stupendous and grand sights that perhaps the world can afford.’

It was perhaps additionally important to include comment on the native population because the account of Mr. Evans’ explorations refers to them; it would surely have seemed a strange contrast if the Governor had maintained a steady silence in this regard in reporting the experiences of his own party.

Furthermore, there was another circumstance which would have been in people’s minds. A week after the Governor’s original report of his tour, the following notice appeared in the Sydney Gazette:

We are sorry to conjecture the more than probable loss of William Green, a constable of Windsor, of long established character as a useful member of the Police.—The day following that of His Excellency the Governor’s departure from Bathurst, he unfortunately left his remaining companions, and went away with some natives towards their encampment, and has not since been heard of; from which we must unwillingly conjecture, that he had lost his way and perished from want, or that he has fallen a victim to his own rashness in venturing among natives with whom we are so little acquainted.

This paragraph disclosed that there had been contact with Aborigines during the tour of inspection. It was an admission not only of the loss of a constable but of a failure to engage successfully with the original inhabitants of the countryside.

Report of the Governor’s tour: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 10/6/1815, pp. 1-2. Addendum to the report: Supplement to the Sydney Gazette 8/7/1815, p. 1. William Green missing: Sydney Gazette 17/6/1815, p. 2.

Inheritors of the consequences

When the British Government took possession of territory on the continent of Australia, it did so confident in its strength of arms and documentation. These were capabilities which the Aborigines lacked. The battle was very uneven and the outcome predictable. The newcomers, believing that they had the superior and stronger culture and resources, were not minded to negotiate a general agreement with the Aborigines over matters of ownership and government of the land and its peoples.

A notable exception to this attitude was the attempt by John Batman to establish a form of treaty with Aborigines in the Port Phillip area, where he wanted to take up grazing lands. The treaty document survives, with its symbols supposed to represent marks of agreement by Aboriginal chiefs. The treaty was a device designed partly to demonstrate peaceful co-existence with the Aboriginal population, but partly also to assert private rights over land not granted by the Crown.

Batman’s treaty with the Aborigines is dated 6 June 1835. On 26 August His Excellency Major-General Sir Richard Bourke, K. C. B., Commanding His Majesty’s Forces, Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of the Territory of New South Wales and its Dependencies, and Vice-Admiral of the same, &c. &c. &c., issued a Proclamation to make clear that he was having none of John Batman’s stratagems:

Whereas, it has been represented to me, that divers of His Majesty’s Subjects have taken possession of vacant Lands of the Crown, within the limits of this Colony, under the pretence of a treaty, bargain, or contract, for the purchase thereof, with the Aboriginal Natives; Now therefore, I, the Governor, in virtue and in exercise of the power and authority in me vested, do hereby proclaim and notify to all His Majesty’s Subjects, and others whom it may concern, that every such treaty, bargain, and contract with the Aboriginal Natives, as aforesaid, for the possession, title, or claim to any Lands lying and being within the limits of the Government of the Colony of New South Wales, as the same are laid down and defined by His Majesty’s Commission; … is void and of no effect against the rights of the Crown; and that all Persons who shall be found in possession of any such Lands as aforesaid, without the license or authority of His Majesty’s Government, for such purpose, first had and obtained, will be considered as trespassers, and liable to be dealt with in like manner as other intruders upon the vacant Lands of the Crown within the said Colony.

This was a unilateral assertion of rights which took no account of the Aboriginal view of the matter. The concept of ‘vacant lands of the Crown’ ignored the very existence of Aborigines, let alone their needs and rights. In these respects Governor Bourke’s Proclamation arguably had even less moral authority than Batman’s treaty, particularly if Batman had indeed managed to secure a meaningful expression of good-will and co-operation from the Aborigines with whom he sought to deal.

To what extent might Aborigines of that time be amenable to letting the newcomers use the land over which they had roamed for thousands of years? Robert Dawson, in his Present State of Australia (page 12), offers some interesting evidence, which reflects the psychology of the Aboriginal who guided him from Newcastle to Port Stephens and whom he named Ben. He had promised Ben rewards for his efforts and Ben was delighted with the gifts, so much so that, in uplifted and expansive mood, he offered Dawson a great deal in return:

On the following morning I went on board the schooner, and ordered on shore a tomahawk and a suit of slop clothes, which I had promised to my friend Ben, and in which he was immediately dressed. They consisted of a short blue jacket, a checked shirt, and a pair of dark trowsers. He strutted about in them with an air of good-natured importance, declaring that all the harbour and country adjoining belonged to him. “I tumble down pickaninny here,” he said, meaning that he was born there. “Belonging to me all about, massa; pose you tit down here, I gib it to you.” “Very well,” I said: “I shall sit down here.” “Budgeree,” (very good,) he replied, “I gib it to you;” and we shook hands in ratification of the friendly treaty.

Dawson does not represent this as a legal transaction, as Batman might have. He would have been less than honest to do so, given the naïveté of the Aboriginal inhabitants, ignorant as they necessarily were of European habits of mind and techniques of diplomacy. But he was no doubt encouraged by the level of good-will which had been generated.

However, whether there was good-will or ill-will, the fact remained that the newcomers were not going to relinquish their plans for possession and use of the land, whatever the Aborigines might think; and the Aborigines were not equipped to develop the sort of strategies needed to beat the British at their own game.

Robert Kenny has argued that Batman’s treaty need not be interpreted (as it usually is) as a mere ruse. Batman’s dialogue with the Aborigines raises the question of whether the usurpers of the land could have entered into genuine negotiations with the traditional occupants, as Batman did to an extent, so as to make the outcome fair. What was actually done, Kenny argues (p. 38.10), poses moral problems for all concerned then and now, since we are all ‘inheritors of the consequences.’

State Library of Victoria, Batman’s treaty (including images). National Archives of Australia, Documenting a Democracy, Governor Bourke’s Proclamation 1835 (UK) (including images and transcription). Cf. ‘Government Gazette’, Australian 8/9/1835, p. 3. Robert Dawson, The Present State of Australia, London, 1830, p. 12. Robert Kenny, ‘Tricks or Treats? A Case for Kulin Knowing in Batman’s Treaty’, History Australia 5 (2), 2008, 38.1 to 38.14.

Robert Dawson and Port Stephens

The Australian Agricultural Company was formed in London in 1824 and was to take up a million acres in New South Wales, mainly for sheep farming. The work was to be guided by a local committee, in which the Macarthur family was influential. Robert Dawson (1782-1866) was appointed the Company’s first agent.

The committee was able to choose where to take up land. John Oxley, Surveyor-General and explorer, recommended in order of preference the Liverpool Plains (in northern New South Wales), or alternatively the head of the Hastings River, or the area between Port Stephens and the Manning River. The committee at first declined to follow Oxley’s advice regarding the suitability of the Liverpool Plains, and sent Robert Dawson to examine the area around Port Stephens, which had the advantage of being nearer the coast.

In 1826 Dawson inspected the area and established the Company’s headquarters on the northern shores of Port Stephens, where Carrington and Tahlee stand now. From the Company’s point of view it turned out to be an unfortunate decision, as the area did not prove suitable for sheep farming. In 1830 the Company was able to give up portion of its grant in that area in exchange for a similar acreage at the Liverpool Plains, where as Oxley had predicted the conditions were favourable.

Oxley had explored the Liverpool Plains in 1818 and had discovered the Peel River on 2 September. On the occasion of the centenary of that event, an article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald recalling Oxley’s achievements and the role of the Australian Agricultural Company in opening up the Tamworth area to farming and settlement. The writer commented:

In these days of land hunger and Government resumptions it is hard to look upon any huge land monopoly with feelings of reverence or gratitude; but in those days the outlook was vastly different, and what would to-day be denounced by many people was 90 years ago considered to be a blessing. The colony was then a wilderness. Many parts of it had not been explored. There was no settlement outside the fringe round Sydney. The prospect of opening up the trackless forest and raising “fine wool, and cultivating the vine, olive, flax, and other productions” was too appalling for ordinary settlers to contemplate.

Dawson had to bear some of the blame for directing the Company’s time and resources towards an area that proved unsuitable, and he was recalled. Conscious of having his reputation unjustly blackened, he undertook newspaper publication of some relevant correspondence, and wrote a book, published in London in 1829, explaining matters from his point of view.

In 1830 appeared another book by him on The Present State of Australia. This book is especially interesting in its sensitive insights into the lives and attitudes of Aborigines whom Dawson encountered in the course of his travels and work. Early in the book he gives a detailed narrative of his journey overland from Newcastle to Port Stephens, describing the country and the assistance rendered by local Aborigines. He comments (p. 11) on a meeting between their guide ‘Ben’ and another aboriginal:

I was much amused at this meeting, and above all delighted at the prompt and generous manner in which this wild and untutored man conducted himself towards his wandering brother. If they be savages, thought I, they are very civil ones; and with kind treatment we have not only nothing to fear, but a good deal to gain from them. I felt an ardent desire to cultivate their acquaintance, and also much satisfaction from the idea that my situation would afford me ample opportunities and means for doing so.

Centenary of Oxley’s discovery of the Peel: V.T., ‘The old A.A. Company’, Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1918, p. 11. E. Flowers, ‘Dawson, Robert (1782-1866)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 298-300; and online. Correspondence: ‘The Australian Agricultural Company and Mr. Dawson’, Australian 27/6/1828, p. 4. Robert Dawson, Statement of the Services of Mr Dawson, as Chief Agent of the Australian Agricultural Company, with a Narrative of the Treatment He Has Experienced from the Late Committee at Sydney, and the Board of Directors in London, London, Smith, Elder and Co., 1829; idem, The Present State of Australia: A Description of the Country, Its Advantages and Prospects with Reference to Emigration; and a Particular Account of Its Aboriginal Inhabitants, London, Smith, Elder and Co., 1830.

Nelson Bay or Nelson’s Bay?

Whatever may have been the original form of the name of this bay at Port Stephens, ‘Nelson’s Bay’ seems to have been usual in the late 1820s and 1830s.

In 1829 the Australian newspaper refers to Nelson’s Bay in reporting a near-disaster that overtook the New South Wales Attorney-General Alexander Baxter in the course of an attempted voyage from Newcastle to Sydney on the schooner Samuel. After departure from Newcastle, heavy squalls blew up at night, sails had to be taken in, and by 9 o’clock there were two feet of water in the hold. The pumps were inadequate, and passengers and all hands had to bale with buckets. The ship managed to limp into Port Stephens (spelled Port Stevens in the newspaper account) and came to rest in Nelson’s Bay, with 4 feet 7 inches of water in the hold. Some of the coal on board was taken off, the ship was reprovisioned and the pumps re-rigged, and finally the Samuel was able to make it safely to Sydney; but Mr. Baxter, who had helped with the baling, remained behind. ‘His exertions and fatigues … left him, by the latest accounts, in rather a feverish state.’

A shipboard adventure of quite another type was reported by the Sydney Gazette in 1835. Nine convicts, five of them assigned servants of William Charles Wentworth, escaped from Sydney on Wentworth’s ketch Alice, which had been lying in Vaucluse Bay, taking with them some provisions, wine and plate stolen from a house belonging to him at Vaucluse. One of the convicts was already among Wentworth’s men on the vessel, which was under the command of Hamilton Ross and the Mate John House. The boat sailed past Newcastle and entered Port Stephens, coming to anchor in Nelson’s Bay or Salamander Bay. It was dark by then. The next morning one of the convicts and House, who knew the harbour, were put ashore to get water. The convict came back with an aboriginal who wanted to sell some fish. House remained on shore, and Ross was allowed to go ashore as well after he refused to join the convicts. One of the convicts, Joseph Kay, gave Ross a written discharge and an order on Mr. Wentworth for his pay, which Kay signed as commander of the Alice. (According to evidence, he had a grudge against Mr. Wentworth for punishment dealt out some six weeks before, and was threatening to murder him, a threat Mr. Wentworth took seriously, especially as he discovered some poison hidden away.) Ross and House came across a camp of aborigines and persuaded one of them to guide them to Newcastle. Three days after seizure of the vessel the Revenue Cutter Prince George under Captain Roach went in pursuit. The ketch had been seen passing Newcastle and Roach, proceeding towards Port Stephens, saw a sail at sea and gave chase. The vessel put off a boat and ran into shore itself, the convicts escaping into the bush. The cutter put into a bay and some of the men walked round to the Alice and threw the provisions into the sea to deprive the convicts of them. Roach and six of his men tracked the pirates for four or five miles but then lost the trail. They returned to the Alice and dismasted her, then sailed on the cutter back to Port Stephens, where they alerted the Police Magistrate and joined a party of police in pursuit. Some aborigines were able to point out the location of the escapees, about fifty miles from Port Stephens. Meanwhile the cutter proceeded up the ‘Miaul River’, and the crew took the captured pirates on board for the return trip to Sydney.

Over the next few years we find a number of reports of land sales which refer to Nelson’s Bay. There is also the incident of the Daniel O’Connell, reported ‘high and dry on the beach at Nelson’s Bay’ in 1836. Finally in 1839 we encounter the Sophia Jane on a voyage from Moreton Bay to Sydney, anchoring in Nelson’s Bay for supplies.

Then in January 1840 comes news of another maritime incident and a change in terminology. On 23 December the cutter Water-Witch, putting out from Port Stephens, failed to cross the bar, went broadside to the breakers, and came to grief ‘on the rocks off Nelson Bay.’ Her cargo of maize and cedar was saved; but the possessive ‘s’ and its attendant apostrophe had gone.

Samuel: Australian 16/9/1829, p. 3. Alice: Sydney Herald 2/11/1835, p. 2. Daniel O’Connell: Australian 17/6/1836, p. 3. Sophia Jane: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/5/1839, p. 2. Water-Witch: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 4/1/1840, p. 2. ‘Baxter, Alexander Macduff (1798-1836?)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 74-75, and online.

Sydney in 1841: a directory [instalment 4]

The ‘Directory of the Public Institutions and Government Offices in Sydney’ published in the Sydney Herald on 5 July 1841 (see the entries of 17/11/2010, 18/11/2010 and 19/11/2010 for further details) includes (9) Religious, scientific and charitable institutions.

(9) Among religious organisations the first mentioned are the Societies for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Propagating the Gospel. These societies have an Australian Auxiliary, and the Diocesan Committee of this Auxiliary has offices under St. James’s Church. They also have a ‘depository’ there for selling their publications.

There are also depositories in King Street (near Castlereagh Street) for the Bible Society and the Religious Tract Society.

A number of religious organisations are listed which do not have particular offices but meet in locations, whether places of worship or school houses, associated with their respective denominations. These are the Church Missionary Society, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, the German Mission to the Aborigines, and the Roman Catholic Institute.

Several organisations are listed which can be classed under the heading of charitable institutions: the Temperance Society, the Total Abstinence Society, the Scottish Society, the Union Benefit Society, and the Floral Society.

Under the heading of scientific organisations comes the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts in Pitt Street (near Park Street).

Also mentioned is a library, the Australian Subscription and Reading Rooms, in Macquarie Place (next to St. James’s Parsonage).

A note on the religious organisations mentioned:

The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was a major publisher of religious materials. The organisation was already old by the nineteenth century, having been founded in 1698. It had a significant role in education and missionary work. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was also long established, having been founded in 1701. It sent out missionaries to America, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, and had a particular interest in indigenous peoples. Both of these societies began in England. They had their origins within the Church of England but came to have ecumenical connections as well. The British and Foreign Bible Society was founded in 1804. It was non-denominational and willing (controversially) to cater for a variety of theologies and to include in Bibles books regarded by many as apocryphal. The Religious Tract Society, founded in 1799, published tracts and books for evangelistic purposes. The Evangelical Revival in England and elsewhere was a significant energising force in the formation and development of these and other societies.

Three of the missionary societies mentioned were founded in London. The first-mentioned in the Directory is the Church Missionary Society, a Protestant organisation founded in 1799. In February 1825 the Sydney Gazette reported the recent formation of an Auxiliary Church Missionary Society for Australasia, in union with the Church Missionary Society in London. The first quarterly meeting of the committee of the Church Missionary Society for Australasia was held at the residence of its Secretary in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, on 8/4/1825. The Wesleyan Missionary Society was founded in 1786 and began work in Australia in 1815. In 1818 the British Methodist Conference formed the General Wesleyan Missionary Society. The London Missionary Society, Evangelical and non-denominational, was founded as the Missionary Society in 1795 and renamed the London Missionary Society in 1818.

The German Mission to the Aborigines in the Moreton Bay area (the ‘Zion Hill Mission’) began in 1837 on the initiative of John Dunmore Lang. In the year in which this Directory was published, a sixteen-page statement concerning the mission, written by one of the missionaries and revised by Lang, was published in Sydney by James Reading, whose offices were in ‘King-street, East’.

The Roman Catholic Institute was formed in Sydney in 1840. The Colonist newspaper reported a meeting held on 10/9/1840 ‘for the purpose of forming a Roman Catholic Institute, for the purpose of procuring money to enable them to spread the tenets of the Roman Catholic religion, and defend themselves from the attacks of other religious persuasions.’ The Colonist was not a sympathetic observer, nor was the Sydney Herald, which reported the formation, at a ‘numerously attended’ meeting, of a branch of the Roman Catholic Institute of London and also ‘an association for propagating the Roman Catholic Faith.’ The report added: ‘We shall not regret the formation of these societies if they have the effect, which they ought to have, of shewing the Protestants how necessary it is to unite and be strenuous in their exertions, to promote the Protestant religion, and thus neutralize the exertions of the Romanists. If the Protestants are firm to their duty they have so much of the wealth and intelligence of the Colony, and such a large numerical majority that they need be under no fear of the result of any trial of strength.’

The very next column of the Sydney Herald provides an example of the dual role of church and missionary organisations in Sydney in that era. On the day before the Sydney branch of the Catholic Institute was formed, the Bishop of Australia laid the foundation stone of a new Church of England at Ashfield, on land given to the church by Mrs. Underwood, who placed an inscribed brazen plate in the cavity before laying of the stone. The church was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, whose feast day it was. The service was taken by Rev. J.K. Walpole, a missionary sent to the colony by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; he had been working in the district for some time. The Bishop gave an address ‘in which he enforced the duty incumbent on all to support the practice of protestantism.’

A snapshot of the activities of missionary organisations in Australia and New Zealand in the 1830s is provided by the Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, vol. 15, London, Knight, 1839, under an entry for ‘Missions’ (pp. 266-277), at p. 276. The article cites as some of its sources the Missionary Map of the World; Wyld, Map of Missions; the Missionary Register; The Missionary Vine; and Rev. C. Williams, Missionary Gazetteer.

There is a ‘List of Protestant missionary societies (1691–1900)’ in Wikipedia. A list of missionary societies with their dates of foundation was published in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/8/1822, p. 3. Church Missionary Society: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 3/2/1825, p. 3; The Australian 7/4/1825, p. 1. German Mission: J.D. Lang, Appeal to the Friends of Missions, on Behalf of the German Mission to the Aborigines of New South Wales, London, 1839; Rev. Christopher Eipper, Statement of the Origin, Conditions, and Prospects of the German Mission to the Aborigines at Moreton Bay, conducted under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales, Sydney, James Reading, 1841 (revised for the press by John Dunmore Lang, who added a Postscript, p. 16); accessible on the University of Queensland website (pdf). Cf. Catherine Langbridge, Robert Sloan and Regina Ganter, ‘Zion Hill Mission (1838-1848)’, in ‘German Missionaries in Queensland: a web-directory of intercultural encounters’, on the Griffith University website. Roman Catholic Institute: The Colonist 12/9/1840, p. 2; Sydney Herald 14/9/1840, p. 3.

The cause of liberty

In June 1887 came news that Sir Henry Parkes on behalf of the New South Wales Government had ordered that no meetings, concerts or theatre entertainments be held on Sunday evenings. This created a sensation. On the evening of Sunday 12 June a large crowd assembled in Macquarie Street, Sydney, next to St. James’ Church, to hear speakers condemn the order of prohibition. The Sydney Morning Herald estimated that some six thousand people were present. One of the speakers, Mr. J. Norton, seconding a motion which condemned the action of Sir Henry as a ‘tyrannous usurpation of power’, said that he was there as a Christian, that Christians and secularists had to combine to fight some things, and that this was a crisis when ‘liberty of opinion, speech, and action were threatened.’ He believed the occasion would be ‘the democratic awakening of this country’ and that ‘The people would remind those men who were casting their eyes back to the days of the convict chain and the prison gang that the principle of democracy had developed, and the old order of things had passed away.’

Prison chains were a particularly powerful symbol in a colony founded on convictism, representing a loss of liberty and dignity and arousing feelings of shame and resentment. When a photograph of aborigines in chains appeared in the Herald in 1927, there was a quick response from J.W. Ferrier, General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, condemning the police practice of chaining aborigines, even innocent ones brought in for questioning. The method had been described in an article which appeared earlier that year entitled ‘Cattle spearing: How natives are captured’. The writer explained that, after a long and difficult chase in the desert, ‘The police arrest the men, chain them together, neck to neck, about six feet apart, with a dog chain, and take them to the nearest magistrate.’

Mr. Ferrier referred to two books by the nineteenth-century missionary Rev. J.B. Gribble (1847-1893), Black but Comely, or, Glimpses of Aboriginal Life in Australia (1884) and Dark Deeds in a Sunny Land, or, Blacks and Whites in North-west Australia (1886). Gribble had been furious in his condemnation of white treatment of the native population, but he had come to grief through launching an unsuccessful court case against some of his detractors (June – July 1887). The case and its outcome emboldened those who were unsympathetic towards the indigenous population, and influenced debate for decades.  In 1896, for example, a letter-writer to the West Australian (the newspaper Gribble had taken to court) discussed the case and argued that reducing aborigines to semi-slavery was a matter of practicality and taking away their country was ‘merely another instance of the survival of the fittest.’

Indigenous inhabitants were thus faced with a population from abroad that could rejoice in its own rights to liberty and democracy while failing to extend these rights fully to those whom it found inconvenient. The ‘crisis’ of June 1887 was a shocking moment to those who valued the freedom to spend Sunday evenings the way they wanted. But out of sight, away from the concerts and theatres, there was a far more tragic and long-lasting crisis in the affairs of inhabitants whose cause was easily forgotten and repeatedly neglected.

Prohibition protest: Sydney Morning Herald 13/6/1887, p. 4. Photo of two aboriginal men in chains: Sydney Morning Herald 12/3/1927, p. 13. Letter of J.W. Ferrier: Sydney Morning Herald 19/3/1927, p. 11. ‘Cattle spearing’: Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 12/2/1927, p. 11. Gribble case: cf. ‘Anglican history in Australia’, sub-section ‘A white church’, Anglican Diocese of Perth website. Enslavement: West Australian 27/10/1896, p. 10.