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Title: Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia and Overland from Adelaide to King George's Sound in the Years 1840-1: Sent By the Colonists of South Australia, with the Sanction and Support of the Government: Including an Account of the Manners and Customs of the Aborigines and the State of Their Relations with Europeans — Volume 02
Author: Eyre, Edward John, 1815-1901
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia and Overland from Adelaide to King George's Sound in the Years 1840-1: Sent By the Colonists of South Australia, with the Sanction and Support of the Government: Including an Account of the Manners and Customs of the Aborigines and the State of Their Relations with Europeans — Volume 02" ***

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by EYRE, EDWARD JOHN (1815-1901)



In offering to the public an account of Expeditions of Discovery in
Australia, undertaken in the years 1840-1, and completed in July of the
latter year, some apology may be deemed necessary for this narrative not
having sooner appeared, or perhaps even for its being now published at

With respect to the first, the author would remark that soon after his
return to South Australia upon the close of the Expeditions, and when
contemplating an immediate return to England, he was invited by the
Governor of the Colony to remain, and undertake the task of
re-establishing peace and amicable relations with the numerous native
tribes of the Murray River, and its neighbourhood, whose daring and
successful outrages in 1841, had caused very great losses to, and created
serious apprehensions among the Colonists.

Hoping that his personal knowledge of and extensive practical experience
among the Aborigines might prove serviceable in an employment of this
nature, the author consented to undertake it; and from the close of
September 1841, until December 1844, was unremittingly occupied with the
duties it entailed. It was consequently not in his power to attend to the
publication of his travels earlier, nor indeed can he regret a delay,
which by the facilities it afforded him of acquiring a more intimate
knowledge of the character and habits of the Aborigines, has enabled him
to render that portion of his work which relates to them more
comprehensive and satisfactory than it otherwise would have been.

With respect to the second point, or the reasons which have led to this
work being published at all, the author would observe that he has been
led to engage in it rather from a sense of duty, and at the instance of
many of his friends, than from any wish of his own. The greater portion
of the country he explored was of so sterile and worthless a description,
and the circumstances which an attempt to cross such a desert region led
to, were of so distressing a character, that he would not willingly have
revived associations, so unsatisfactory and so painful.

It has been his fate, however, to cross, during the course of his
explorations, a far greater extent of country than any Australian
traveller had ever done previously, and as a very large portion of this
had never before been trodden by the foot of civilized man, and from its
nature is never likely to be so invaded again, it became a duty to record
the knowledge which was thus obtained, for the information of future
travellers and as a guide to the scientific world in their inquiries into
the character and formation of so singular and interesting a country.

To enable the reader to judge of the author's capabilities for the task
he undertook, and of the degree of confidence that may be due to his
impressions or opinions, it may not be out of place to state, that the
Expeditions of 1840--1 were not entered upon without a sufficient
previous and practical experience in exploring.

For eight years the author had been resident in Australia, during which
he had visited many of the located parts of New South Wales, Port
Phillip, South Australia, Western Australia, and Van Diemen's Land. In
the years 1836, 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1840 he had conducted expeditions
across from Liverpool Plains in New South Wales to the county of Murray,
from Sydney to Port Phillip, from Port Phillip to Adelaide, and from King
George's Sound to Swan River, besides undertaking several explorations
towards the interior, both from Port Lincoln and from Adelaide.

To the knowledge and experience which were thus acquired, the author must
ascribe the confidence and good opinion of his fellow-colonists, which
led them in 1840 to place under his command an undertaking of such
importance, interest, and responsibility; and to these advantages he
feels that he is in a great measure indebted, under God's blessing, for
having been enabled successfully to struggle through the difficulties and
dangers which beset him, in crossing from Adelaide to King George's

With this explanation for obtruding upon the public, the author would
also solicit their indulgence, for the manner in which the task has been
performed. The only merit to which he can lay claim, is that of having
faithfully described what he saw, and the impressions which were produced
upon him at the time. In other respects it is feared that a work, which
was entirely (and consequently very hastily) prepared for the press from
the original notes, whilst voyaging from Australia to England, must
necessarily be crude and imperfect. Where the principal object, however,
was rather to record with accuracy than indulge in theory or conjecture,
and where a simple statement of occurrences has been more attended to
than the language in which they are narrated, plainness and fidelity
will, it is hoped, be considered as some compensation for the absence of
the embellishments of a more finished style, or a studied composition,
and especially as the uncertainty attending the duration of the author's
visit to England made it a matter of anxious consideration to hurry these
volumes through the press as rapidly as possible. There is one
circumstance to which he wishes particularly to allude, as accounting for
the very scanty notices he is now able to give of the geology or botany
of the country through which he travelled; it is the loss of all the
specimens that were collected during the earlier part of the Expedition,
which occurred after they had been sent to Adelaide; this loss has been
irreparable, and has not only prevented him from ascertaining points
about which he was dubious, but has entirely precluded him from having
the subjects considered, or the specimens classified and arranged by
gentlemen of scientific acquirements in those departments of knowledge,
in which the author is conscious he is himself defective. In the latter
part of the Expedition, or from Fowler's Bay to King George's Sound, the
dreadful nature of the country, and the difficulties and disasters to
which this led, made it quite impossible either to make collections of
any kind, or to examine the country beyond the immediate line of route;
still it is hoped that the passing notices which are made in the journal,
and the knowledge of the similarity of appearance and uniform character,
prevalent throughout the greater portion of the country passed through,
will be quite sufficient to give a general and correct impression of the

To Mr. Gray of the British Museum, the author is particularly indebted
for his valuable contribution on the Natural History of the Southern
coast of Australia, and to Mr. Gould, the celebrated Ornithologist, his
thanks are equally due, for a classified and most interesting list of the
birds belonging to the same portion of the continent.

To Mr. Adam White, of the British Museum, he is also indebted for an
account of some new insects, and to Dr. Richardson, for a scientific and
classified arrangement of fish caught on the Southern coast, near King
George's Sound. The plates to which the numbers refer in the
last-mentioned paper, are the admirable drawings made from life, by J.
Neill, Esq. of King George's Sound, and now lodged at the British Museum.
They are, however, both too numerous and too large to give in a work of
this description, and will probably be published at some future time by
their talented author.

For the account given of the Aborigines the author deems it unnecessary
to offer any apology; a long experience among them, and an intimate
knowledge of their character, habits, and position with regard to
Europeans, have induced in him a deep interest on behalf of a people, who
are fast fading away before the progress of a civilization, which ought
only to have added to their improvement and prosperity. Gladly would the
author wish to see attention awakened on their behalf, and an effort at
least made to stay the torrent which is overwhelming them.

It is most lamentable to think that the progress and prosperity of one
race should conduce to the downfal and decay of another; it is still more
so to observe the apathy and indifference with which this result is
contemplated by mankind in general, and which either leads to no
investigation being made as to the cause of this desolating influence, or
if it is, terminates, to use the language of the Count Strzelecki, "in
the inquiry, like an inquest of the one race upon the corpse of the
other, ending for the most part with the verdict of 'died by the
visitation of God.'"

In his attempt to delineate the actual circumstances and position of the
natives, and the just claims they have upon public sympathy and
benevolence, he has been necessitated to refer largely to the testimony
of others, but in doing this he has endeavoured as far as practicable, to
support the views he has taken by the writings or opinions of those who
are, or who have been resident in the Colonies, and who might therefore
be supposed from a practical acquaintance with the subject, to be most
competent to arrive at just conclusions.

In suggesting the only remedy which appears at all calculated to mitigate
the evil complained of, it has studiously been kept in view that there
are the interests of two classes to be provided for, those of the
Settlers, and those of the Aborigines, it is thought that these interests
cannot with advantage be separated, and it is hoped that it may be found
practicable to blend them together.

The Aborigines of New Holland are not on the whole a numerous people;
they are generally of a very inoffensive and tractable character, and it
is believed that they may, under ordinary circumstances, almost always be
rendered peaceable and well-disposed by kind and consistent treatment.
Should this, in reality, prove to be the case, it may be found perhaps,
that they could be more easily managed, and in the long run at a less
expense, by some such system as is recommended, than by any other
requiring means of a more retaliatory or coercive character. The system
proposed is at least one which by removing in a great measure temptation
from the native, and thereby affording comparative security to the
settlers, will have a powerful effect in inducing the latter to unite
with the Government in any efforts made to ameliorate the condition of
the Aborigines; a union which under present or past systems has not ever
taken place, but one which it is very essential should be effected, if
any permanent good is hoped for.

To Mr. Moorhouse the author returns his best thanks for his valuable
notes on the Aborigines, to which he is indebted for the opportunity of
giving an account of many of the customs and habits of the Adelaide

To Anthony Forster, Esq. he offers his warmest acknowledgments for his
assistance in overlooking the manuscripts during the voyage from
Australia, and correcting many errors which necessarily resulted from the
hurried manner in which they were prepared; it is to this kind
supervision must be ascribed the merit--negative though it may be--of
there not being more errors than there are.














FOOD, etc.




* * * * *



Distribution of flour at Moorunde, G. Hamilton
Arrival at King George's Sound, J. Neill
Plate I.--Native Ornaments
Kangaroo Dance of King George's Sound, J. Neill
Woodcut of a Standard used in the Dances performed by day
Plate II. Native Weapons
Plate III. Native Weapons
Plate IV. Native Implements
Plate V. Native Works of Industry
Mode of disposing of the Dead of the Lower Murray
Murray River at Moorunde
Plate VI. Miscellaneous Native Articles
1. Head of war spear of the North Coast, barbed for 3 feet, total length
9 1/2 feet.
2. Head of fish spear of the North Coast, barbed for 18 inches, total
length 8 3/4 feet.
2. Head of spear of the North Coast, barbed for 18 inches, total length
8 3/4 feet.
4. Head of war spear of the North Coast, with head of quartz, 6 inches,
total length 9 1/2 feet.
5. Head of war spear of the North Coast, with head of slate, 6 inches,
total length 9 1/2 feet.
6. Two handed sword of hard wood, North Coast, 3 1/2 feet.
7. Throwing stick of North Coast, 3 feet 1 inch.
8. Throwing stick of North Coast, very pliant, 3-16ths of an inch only
thick, 3 feet 6 inches.
9. Broad short throwing stick, 2 feet 2 inches.
10. An ornament of feathers for the neck.
11. Five Kangaroo teeth in a bunch, worn round the neck.
12. A net waistband or belt, from Murray River, 8 feet long 6 inches
13. Plume of feathers tied to thin wand, and stuck in the hair at
dances--New South Wales.
14. War club.
15. War club.
16. Bag of close net work.
17. Band for forehead of Swan's down.
18. Root end of a kind of grass, used as pins for pegging out skins.
19. Sorcerer's stick.
20. Sorcerer's stick.



Chapter I.


Glancing hastily around the camp I found it deserted by the two younger
native boys, whilst the scattered fragments of our baggage, which I left
carefully piled under the oilskin, lay thrown about in wild disorder, and
at once revealed the cause of the harrowing scene before me.

Upon raising the body of my faithful, but illfated follower, I found that
he was beyond all human aid; he had been shot through the left breast
with a ball, the last convulsions of death were upon him, and he expired
almost immediately after our arrival. The frightful, the appalling truth
now burst upon me, that I was alone in the desert. He who had faithfully
served me for many years, who had followed my fortunes in adversity and
in prosperity, who had accompanied me in all my wanderings, and whose
attachment to me had been his sole inducement to remain with me in this
last, and to him alas, fatal journey, was now no more. For an instant, I
was almost tempted to wish that it had been my own fate instead of his.
The horrors of my situation glared upon me in such startling reality, as
for an instant almost to paralyse the mind. At the dead hour of night, in
the wildest and most inhospitable wastes of Australia, with the fierce
wind raging in unison with the scene of violence before me, I was left,
with a single native, whose fidelity I could not rely upon, and who for
aught I knew might be in league with the other two, who perhaps were even
now, lurking about with the view of taking away my life as they had done
that of the overseer. Three days had passed away since we left the last
water, and it was very doubtful when we might find any more. Six hundred
miles of country had to be traversed, before I could hope to obtain the
slightest aid or assistance of any kind, whilst I knew not that a single
drop of water or an ounce of flour had been left by these murderers, from
a stock that had previously been so small.

With such thoughts rapidly passing through my mind, I turned to search
for my double-barelled gun, which I had left covered with an oilskin at
the head of my own break wind. It was gone, as was also the
double-barelled gun that had belonged to the overseer. These were the
only weapons at the time that were in serviceable condition, for though
there were a brace of pistols they had been packed away, as there were no
cartridges for them, and my rifle was useless, from having a ball
sticking fast in the breech, and which we had in vain endeavoured to
extract. A few days' previous to our leaving the last water, the overseer
had attempted to wash out the rifle not knowing it was loaded, and the
consequence was, that the powder became wetted and partly washed away, so
that we could neither fire it off, nor get out the ball; I was,
therefore, temporarily defenceless, and quite at the mercy of the
natives, had they at this time come upon me. Having hastily ripped open
the bag in which the pistols had been sewn up, I got them out, together
with my powder flask, and a bag containing a little shot and some large
balls. The rifle I found where it had been left, but the ramrod had been
taken out by the boys to load my double-barelled gun with, its own ramrod
being too short for that purpose; I found it, however, together with
several loose cartridges, lying about near the place where the boys had
slept, so that it was evident they had deliberately loaded the fire-arms
before they tried to move away with the things they had stolen; one
barrel only of my gun had been previously loaded, and I believe neither
barrels in that of the overseer.

After obtaining possession of all the remaining arms, useless as they
were at the moment, with some ammunition, I made no further examination
then, but hurried away from the fearful scene, accompanied by the King
George's Sound native, to search for the horses, knowing that if they got
away now, no chance whatever would remain of saving our lives. Already
the wretched animals had wandered to a considerable distance; and
although the night was moonlight, yet the belts of scrub, intersecting
the plains, were so numerous and dense, that for a long time we could not
find them; having succeeded in doing so at last, Wylie and I remained
with them, watching them during the remainder of the night; but they were
very restless, and gave us a great deal of trouble. With an aching heart,
and in most painful reflections, I passed this dreadful night. Every
moment appeared to be protracted to an hour, and it seemed as if the
daylight would never appear. About midnight the wind ceased, and the
weather became bitterly cold and frosty. I had nothing on but a shirt and
a pair of trowsers, and suffered most acutely from the cold; to mental
anguish was now added intense bodily pain. Suffering and distress had
well nigh overwhelmed me, and life seemed hardly worth the effort
necessary to prolong it. Ages can never efface the horrors of this single
night, nor would the wealth of the world ever tempt me to go through
similar ones again.

April 30.--At last, by God's blessing, daylight dawned once more, but sad
and heart-rending was the scene it presented to my view, upon driving the
horses to what had been our last night's camp. The corpse of my poor
companion lay extended on the ground, with the eyes open, but cold and
glazed in death. The same stern resolution, and fearless open look, which
had characterized him when living, stamped the expression of his
countenance even now. He had fallen upon his breast four or five yards
from where he had been sleeping, and was dressed only in his shirt. In
all probability, the noise made by the natives, in plundering the camp,
had awoke him; and upon his jumping up, with a view of stopping them,
they had fired upon and killed him.

Around the camp lay scattered the harness of the horses, and the remains
of the stores that had been the temptation to this fatal deed.

As soon as the horses were caught, and secured, I left Wylie to make a
fire, whilst I proceeded to examine into the state of our baggage, that I
might decide upon our future proceedings. Among the principal things
carried off by the natives, were, the whole of our baked bread, amounting
to twenty pounds weight, some mutton, tea and sugar, the overseer's
tobacco and pipes, a one gallon keg full of water, some clothes, two
double-barrelled guns, some ammunition, and a few other small articles.

There were still left forty pounds of flour, a little tea and sugar, and
four gallons of water, besides the arms and ammunition I had secured last

From the state of our horses, and the dreadful circumstances we were
placed in, I was now obliged to abandon every thing but the bare
necessaries of life. The few books and instruments I had still left, with
many of the specimens I had collected, a saddle, and some other things,
were thrown aside to lighten somewhat more the trifling loads our animals
had to carry. A little bread was then baked, and I endeavoured once more
to put the rifle in serviceable condition, as it was the only weapon we
should have to depend upon in any dangers that might beset us. Unable in
any way to take out the breech, or to extract the ball, I determined to
melt it out, and for that purpose took the barrel off the stock, and put
the breech in the fire, holding the muzzle in my hand. Whilst thus
engaged, the rifle went off, the ball whizzing close past my head; the
fire, it seems, had dried the powder, which had been wetted, not washed
out; and when the barrel was sufficiently heated, the piece had gone off,
to the imminent danger of my life, from the incautious way in which I
held it. The gun, however, was again serviceable; and after carefully
loading it, I felt a degree of confidence and security I had before been
a stranger to.

At eight o'clock we were ready to proceed; there remained but to perform
the last sad offices of humanity towards him, whose career had been cut
short in so untimely a manner. This duty was rendered even more than
ordinarily painful, by the nature of the country, where we happened to
have been encamped. One vast unbroken surface of sheet rock extended for
miles in every direction, and rendered it impossible to make a grave. We
were some miles away from the sea-shore, and even had we been nearer,
could not have got down the cliffs to bury the corpse in the sand. I
could only, therefore, wrap a blanket around the body of the overseer,
and leaving it enshrouded where he fell, escape from the melancholy
scene, accompanied by Wylie, under the influence of feelings which
neither time nor circumstances will ever obliterate. Though years have
now passed away since the enactment of this tragedy, the dreadful horrors
of that time and scene, are recalled before me with frightful vividness,
and make me shudder even now, when I think of them. A life time was
crowded into those few short hours, and death alone may blot out the
impressions they produced.

For some time we travelled slowly and silently onwards. Wylie preceding,
leading one of the horses, myself following behind and driving the others
after him, through a country consisting still of the same alternations of
scrub and open intervals as before. The day became very warm, and at
eleven, after travelling ten miles to the west, I determined to halt
until the cool of the evening. After baking some bread and getting our
dinners, I questioned Wylie as to what he knew of the sad occurrence of
yesterday. He positively denied all knowledge of it--said he had been
asleep, and was awoke by the report of the gun, and that upon seeing the
overseer lying on the ground he ran off to meet me. He admitted, however,
that, after the unsuccessful attempt to leave us, and proceed alone to
King George's Sound, the elder of the other two natives had proposed to
him again to quit the party, and try to go back to Fowler's Bay, to the
provisions buried there. But he had heard or knew nothing, he said, of
either robbery or murder being first contemplated.

My own impression was, that Wylie had agreed with the other two to rob
the camp and leave us;--that he had been cognisant of all their
proceedings and preparations, but that when, upon the eve of their
departure, the overseer had unexpectedly awoke and been murdered, he was
shocked and frightened at the deed, and instead of accompanying them, had
run down to meet me. My opinion upon this point received additional
confirmation from the subsequent events of this day; but I never could
get Wylie to admit even the slightest knowledge of the fatal occurrence,
or that he had even intended to have united with them in plundering the
camp and deserting. He had now become truly alarmed; and independently of
the fear of the consequences which would attach to the crime, should we
ever reach a civilized community again, he had become very apprehensive
that the other natives, who belonged to quite a different part of
Australia to himself, and who spoke a totally different language, would
murder him as unhesitatingly as they had done the white man.

We remained in camp until four o'clock, and were again preparing to
advance, when my attention was called by Wylie to two white objects among
the scrub, at no great distance from us, and I at once recognized the
native boys, covered with their blankets only, and advancing towards us.
From Wylie's account of their proposal to go back towards Fowler's Bay, I
fully hoped that they had taken that direction, and left us to pursue our
way to the Sound unmolested. I was therefore surprised, and somewhat
alarmed, at finding them so near us. With my rifle and pistols I felt
myself sufficiently a match for them in an open country, or by daylight.
Yet I knew that as long as they followed like bloodhounds on our tracks
our lives would be in their power at any moment that they chose to take
them, whilst we were passing through a scrubby country, or by night.
Whatever their intention might be, I knew, that if we travelled in the
same direction with them, our lives could only be safe by their
destruction. Although they had taken fully one-third of the whole stock
of our provisions, their appetites were so ravenous, and their habits so
improvident, that this would soon be consumed, and then they must either
starve or plunder us; for they had already tried to subsist themselves in
the bush, and had failed.

As these impressions rapidly passed through my mind, there appeared to me
but one resource left, to save my own life and that of the native with
me: that was, to shoot the elder of the two. Painful as this would be, I
saw no other alternative, if they still persisted in following us. After
packing up our few things, and putting them upon the horses, I gave the
bridles to Wylie to hold, whilst I advanced alone with my rifle towards
the two natives. They were now tolerably near, each carrying a
double-barrelled gun, which was pointed towards me, elevated across the
left arm and held by the right hand. As I attempted to approach nearer
they gradually retreated.

Finding that I was not likely to gain ground upon them in this way, I
threw down my weapons, and advanced unarmed, hoping that if they let me
near them I might suddenly close with the eldest and wrest his gun from
him. After advancing about sixty or seventy yards towards them, I found
that they again began to retreat, evidently determined not to let me
approach any nearer, either armed or unarmed. Upon this I halted, and
endeavoured to enter into parley with them, with a view to persuading
them to return towards Fowler's Bay, and thus obviate the painful
necessity I should have been under of endeavouring, for my own security,
to take away the life of the eldest whenever I met with him, should they
still persist in going the same road as myself. The distance we were
apart was almost too great for parley, and I know not whether they heard
me or not; though they halted, and appeared to listen, they did not reply
to what I said, and plainly wished to avoid all closer contact. They now
began to call incessantly to Wylie, and in answer to my repeated efforts
to get them to speak to me, only would say, "Oh massa, we don't want you,
we want Wylie." Thus fully confirming me in the opinion I had formed,
that Wylie had agreed to go with them before the deed of violence was
committed. It was now apparent to me that their only present object in
following us had been to look for Wylie, and get him to join them. In
this they were unsuccessful; for he still remained quietly where I left
him holding the horses, and evidently afraid to go near them. There was
no use wasting further time, as I could not get them to listen to me. The
sun, too, was fast sinking in the horizon, we had been four days without
finding water, and the probability was we had very far still to go before
we could hope to procure any; every moment, therefore, was precious.

Having returned to Wylie, I made him lead one of the horses in advance,
and I followed behind, driving the rest after him, according to the
system of march I had adopted in the morning. As soon as the two natives
saw us moving on, and found Wylie did not join them, they set up a wild
and plaintive cry, still following along the brush parallel to our line
of route, and never ceasing in their importunities to Wylie, until the
denseness of the scrub, and the closing in of night, concealed us from
each other.

I was now resolved to make the most of the opportunity afforded me, and
by travelling steadily onwards, to gain so much distance in advance of
the two natives as to preclude the possibility of their again overtaking
us until we had reached the water, if indeed we were ever destined to
reach water again. I knew that they would never travel more than a few
miles before lying down, especially if carrying all the bread they had
taken, the keg of water, guns, and other articles. We had, however, seen
none of these things with them, except the fire-arms.

Our road was over scrubby and stony undulations, with patches of dry
grass here and there; in other parts, we passed over a very sandy soil of
a red colour, and overrun by immense tufts of prickly grass (spinifex),
many of which were three and four yards in diameter. After pushing on for
eighteen miles, I felt satisfied we had left the natives far behind, and
finding a patch of grass for the horses, halted for the remainder of the
night. It was quite impossible, after all we had gone through, to think
of watching the horses, and my only means of preventing from them
straying, was to close the chains of their hobbles so tight, that they
could not go far; having thus secured them, we lay down, and for a few
hours enjoyed uninterrupted and refreshing sleep.

Moving on again on the 1st of May, as the sun was above the horizon, we
passed through a continuation of the same kind of country, for sixteen
miles, and then halted for a few hours during the heat of the day. We had
passed many recent traces of natives both yesterday and to-day, who
appeared to be travelling to the westward. After dividing a pot of tea
between us, we again pushed on for twelve miles, completing a stage of
twenty-eight miles, and halting, with a little dry grass for the horses.

It was impossible they could endure this much longer, they had already
been five days without water, and I did not expect to meet with any for
two days more, a period which I did not think they could survive. As yet
no very great change had taken place in the country; it was still scrubby
and rocky, but the surface stone now consisted of a cream-coloured
limestone of a fine compact character, and full of shells. The cliffs,
parallel with which we were travelling, were still of about the same
height, appearance, and formation as before, whilst the inland country
increased in elevation, forming scrubby ridges to the back, with a few
open grassy patches here and there. One circumstance in our route to-day
cheered me greatly, and led me shortly to expect some important and
decisive change in the character and formation of the country. It was the
appearance for the first time of the Banksia, a shrub which I had never
before found to the westward of Spencer's Gulf, but which I knew to
abound in the vicinity of King George's Sound, and that description of
country generally. Those only who have looked out with the eagerness and
anxiety of a person in my situation, to note any change in the vegetation
or physical appearance of a country, can appreciate the degree of
satisfaction with which I recognised and welcomed the first appearance of
the Banksia. Isolated as it was amidst the scrub, and insignificant as
the stunted specimens were that I first met with, they led to an
inference that I could not be mistaken in, and added, in a tenfold
degree, to the interest and expectation with which every mile of our
route had now become invested. During the day the weather had been again
cloudy, with the appearance of rain; but the night turned out cold and
frosty, and both I and the native suffered extremely. We had little to
protect us from the severity of the season, never being able to procure
firewood of a description that would keep burning long at once, so that
between cold and fatigue, we were rarely able to get more than a few
moments rest at a time; and were always glad when daylight dawned to
cheer us, although it only aroused us to the renewal of our unceasing

May 2.--We again moved away at dawn, through a country which gradually
become more scrubby, hilly, and sandy. The horses crawled on for
twenty-one miles, when I halted for an hour to rest, and to have a little
tea from our now scanty stock of water. The change which I had noticed
yesterday in the vegetation of the country, was greater and more cheering
every mile we went, although as yet the country itself was as desolate
and inhospitable as ever. The smaller Banksias now abounded, whilst the
Banksia grandis, and many other shrubs common at King George's Sound,
were frequently met with. The natives, whose tracks we had so frequently
met with, taking the same course as ourselves to the westward, seemed now
to be behind us; during the morning we had passed many freshly lit fires,
but the people themselves remained concealed; we had now lost all traces
of them, and the country seemed untrodden and untenanted. In the course
of our journey this morning, we met with many holes in the sheets of
limestone, which occasionally coated the surface of the ground; in these
holes the natives appeared to procure an abundance of water after rains,
but it was so long since any had fallen, that all were dry and empty now.
In one deep hole only, did we find the least trace of moisture; this had
at the bottom of it, perhaps a couple of wine glasses full of mud and
water, and was most carefully blocked up from the birds with huge stones:
it had evidently been visited by natives, not an hour before we arrived
at it, but I suspect they were as much disappointed as we were, upon
rolling away all the stones to find nothing in it.

After our scanty meal, we again moved onwards, but the road became so
scrubby and rocky, or so sandy and hilly, that we could make no progress
at all by night, and at eight miles from where we dined, we were
compelled to halt, after a day's journey of twenty-nine miles; but
without a blade even of withered grass for our horses, which was the more
grievous, because for the first time since we left the last water, a very
heavy dew fell, and would have enabled them to feed a little, had there
been grass. We had now traversed 138 miles of country from the last
water, and according to my estimate of the distance we had to go, ought
to be within a few miles of the termination of the cliffs of the Great

May 3.--The seventh day's dawn found us early commencing our journey. The
poor horses still crawled on, though slowly. I was surprised that they
were still alive, after the continued sufferings and privations they had
been subject to. As for ourselves, we were both getting very weak and
worn out, as well as lame, and it was with the greatest difficulty I
could get Wylie to move, if he once sat down. I had myself the same kind
of apathetic feeling, and would gladly have laid down and slept for ever.
Nothing but a strong sense of duty prevented me from giving way to this
pleasing but fatal indulgence.

The road to-day became worse than ever, being one continued succession of
sandy, scrubby and rocky ridges, and hollows formed on the top of the
cliffs along which our course lay. After travelling two and a half miles,
however, we were cheered and encouraged by the sight of sandy hills, and
a low coast stretching beyond the cliffs to the south-west, though they
were still some distance from us. At ten miles from where we had slept, a
native road led us down a very steep part of the cliffs, and we descended
to the beach. The wretched horses could scarcely move, it was with the
greatest difficulty we got them down the hill, and now, although within
sight of our goal, I feared two of them would never reach it. By
perseverance we still got them slowly along, for two miles from the base
of the cliffs, and then turning in among the sand-drifts, to our great
joy and relief, found a place where the natives had dug for water; thus
at twelve o'clock on the seventh day since leaving the last depot, we
were again encamped at water, after having crossed 150 miles of a rocky,
barren, and scrubby table land.

Chapter II.


Having at last got fairly beyond all the cliffs bounding the Great Bight,
I fully trusted that we had now overcome the greatest difficulties of the
undertaking, and confidently hoped that there would be no more of those
fearful long journeys through the desert without water, but that the
character of the country would be changed, and so far improved as to
enable us to procure it, once at least every thirty or forty miles, if
not more frequently.

Relieved from the pressure of immediate toil, and from the anxiety and
suspense I had been in on the subject of water, my mind wandered to the
gap created in my little party since we had last been at water; more than
ever, almost, did I feel the loss of my overseer, now that the last and
most difficult of our forced marches had been successfully accomplished,
and that there was every hope of our progress for the future, being both
less difficult and more expeditious. How delighted he would have been had
he been with us to participate in the successful termination of a stage,
which he had ever dreaded more than any other during the whole of our
journey, and with what confidence and cheerfulness he would have gone on
for the future. Out of five two only were now present; our little band
had been severed never to be reunited; and I could not but blame myself
for yielding to the overseer's solicitation to halt on the evening of the
29th April, instead of travelling on all night as I had originally
intended: had I adhered to my own judgment all might yet have been well.
Vain and bootless, however, now were all regrets for the irrecoverable
past; but the present was so fraught with circumstances calculated to
recal and to make me feel more bitterly the loss I had sustained, that
painful as the subject was, the mind could not help reverting to and
dwelling upon it.

Having given each of the horses a bucket of water, Wylie watched them
whilst I cooked our dinner and made some tea, after getting which we
again gave the horses another bucket of water a-piece, hobbled them out
for the night, and then lay down ourselves, feeling perfectly secure from
being overtaken by the native boys. We were obliged to place ourselves
close to the hole of water to keep the horses from getting into it, as
they were thirsty and restless, and kept walking round the well nearly
the whole night, and feeding very little. We ourselves, too, although
dreadfully tired and weak, were so cold and restless, that we slept but
little. I had also a large swelling on two of the joints of the second
finger of the right hand, which gave me very great pain.

May 4.--After an early breakfast we gave the horses as much water as they
chose to drink, and removing their hobbles gave them full liberty to
range where they liked. I then left Wylie to continue his slumbers, and
taking my rifle, walked about three miles among the sand-drifts to search
for grass, but could find none, except the coarse vegetation that grew
amongst the sand-drifts. I found two other places where the natives got
water by digging, and have no doubt that it may be procured almost
anywhere in these drifts, which extend for some miles, along the coast.
Some black cockatoos made their appearance near the sand-hills,
indicating, in connection with the change I had noticed in the
vegetation, that we were now about entering a different and less
difficult country than any we had yet traversed. These birds I knew never
inhabited that description of country we had been so long travelling
through. We had not seen one before, during our whole journey, and poor
Wylie was quite delighted at the idea of our vicinity to a better region.

During the day a strict look out was kept for the other two natives, and
at night, after watering the horses and concealing the saddles, we took
our provisions and arms up among the sand-hills, and slept there at some
distance from the water: that if they travelled onwards by moon-light,
they might not come upon us unawares whilst sleeping. If they had
continued their route to the westward, they would, I knew, both have a
severe task to reach the water, and be unable to go to it without our
knowledge; the youngest boy I did not think would prove equal to so
arduous a task, but the elder one I thought might, if his courage and
perseverance did not fail him in travelling so far, without any
indications to lead him to hope for final success, save the fact of our
having gone on before. Upon the whole, however, I thought it more than
probable that on finding they could not get Wylie to join them, and that
they could not keep pace with us, they would turn back, and endeavour to
put in practice their original intention of trying to reach Fowler's Bay.
Still it was necessary to be cautious and vigilant. A few days at most
would decide whether they were advancing this way or not, and until
satisfied upon this point, I determined to take every precaution in my
power to guard against a surprise. My hand was dreadfully painful at
night, and quite deprived me of all rest.

May 5.--Up before day-break, and moved down to the water to breakfast,
then examined carefully round the wells, and between the sand-drifts and
the sea, to see if any foot-prints had been made during the night, but
none had. There were many pigeons about, and as I had still some
ammunition left, I felt the loss of my gun severely. During the morning a
very large eagle came and settled near us, and I sent Wylie with the
rifle to try to shoot it; he crept within a very few yards of it, and
being a good shot, I felt sure of a hearty meal, but unfortunately the
rifle missed fire, having got damp during the heavy fall of dew a few
evenings before. We lost our dinner, but I received a useful lesson on
the necessity of taking better care of the only gun I had left, and being
always certain that it was in a fit and serviceable state; I immediately
set to work, cleaned and oiled it, and in the afternoon made some
oil-skin covers for the lock and muzzle to keep the damp from it at
nights. For the last day or two I had been far from well, whilst my
inflamed hand, which was daily getting worse, caused me most excruciating
pain, and quite destroyed my rest at nights. In the evening we again
retired among the sand-hills to sleep.

May 6.--After breakfast we carefully examined the sand-drifts and the
sea-shore, to see if the two boys had passed, but there were no traces of
them to be found, and I now felt that we were secure from all further
interruption from them. Three days we had been in camp at the water,
making altogether a period of six since we last saw them. Had they
continued their course to the westward, they must have arrived long
before this, and I now felt satisfied that they had turned back to
Fowler's Bay for the sake of the provisions buried there, or else they
had fallen in with the natives, whose traces we had so repeatedly seen,
and either joined them, or been killed by them.

It was now apparent to me beyond all doubt, that in following us on the
30th of April, so far out of the direction they ought to have taken if
they intended to go to the eastward, their only object had been to get
Wylie to accompany them. As he was the eldest of the three, and a strong
full grown man, they would have found him a protection to them from his
superior age, strength and skill. As it was they had but little chance of
making their way safely either to the east or west. At the time I last
saw them they were sixty-three miles from the nearest water in the former
direction, and eighty-seven miles from that in the latter. They were
tired and exhausted from previous walking, and in this state would have
to carry the guns, the provisions, and other things they had taken. This
would necessarily retard their progress, and lengthen out the period
which must elapse before they could obtain water in any direction. On the
night of the 29th April they must have had one gallon of water with them,
but when we saw them on the 30th, I have no doubt, that with their usual
improvidence, they had consumed the whole, and would thus have to undergo
the fatigue of carrying heavy weights, as well as walking for a
protracted period, without any thing to relieve their thirst. Their
difficulties and distress would gradually but certainly increase upon
them, and they would then, in all likelihood, throw away their guns or
their provisions, and be left in the desert unarmed, without food or
water, and without skill or energy to direct them successfully to search
for either. A dreadful and lingering death would in all probability
terminate the scene, aggravated in all its horrors by the consciousness
that they had brought it entirely upon themselves. Painfully as I had
felt the loss of my unfortunate overseer, and shocked as I was at the
ruthless deed having been committed by these two boys, yet I could not
help feeling for their sad condition, the miseries and sufferings they
would have to encounter, and the probable fate that awaited them.

The youngest of the two had been with me for four years, the eldest for
two years and a half, and both had accompanied me in all my travels
during these respective periods. Now that the first and strong
impressions naturally resulting from a shock so sudden and violent as
that produced by the occurrences of the 29th April, had yielded, in some
measure, to calmer reflections, I was able maturely to weigh the whole of
what had taken place, and to indulge in some considerations in
extenuation of their offence. The two boys knew themselves to be as far
from King George's Sound, as they had already travelled from Fowler's
Bay. They were hungry, thirsty, and tired, and without the prospect of
satisfying fully their appetites, or obtaining rest for a long period of
time, they probably thought, that bad and inhospitable as had been the
country we had already traversed, we were daily advancing into one still
more so, and that we never could succeed in forcing a passage through it;
and they might have been strengthened in this belief by the unlucky and
incautiously-expressed opinions of the overseer. It was natural enough,
under such circumstances, that they should wish to leave the party.
Having come to that determination, and knowing from previous experience,
that they could not subsist upon what they could procure for themselves
in the bush, they had resolved to take with them a portion of the
provisions we had remaining, and which they might look upon, perhaps, as
their share by right. Nor would Europeans, perhaps, have acted better. In
desperate circumstances men are ever apt to become discontented and
impatient of restraint, each throwing off the discipline and control he
had been subject to before, and each conceiving himself to have a right
to act independently when the question becomes one of life and death.

Having decided upon leaving the party, and stealing a portion of the
provisions, their object would be to accomplish this as effectually and
as safely as they could; and in doing this, they might, without having
had the slightest intention originally, of injuring either myself or the
overseer, have taken such precautions, and made such previous
arrangements as led to the fatal tragedy which occurred. All three of the
natives were well aware, that as long as they were willing to accompany
us, they would share with us whatever we had left; or that, if resolutely
bent upon leaving us, no restriction, save that of friendly advice, would
be imposed to prevent their doing so; but at the same time they were
aware that we would not have consented to divide our little stock of food
for the purpose of enabling any one portion of the party to separate from
the other, but rather that we would forcibly resist any attempts to
effect such a division, either openly or by stealth. They knew that they
never could succeed in their plans openly, and that to do so by stealth
effectually and safely, it would first be necessary to secure all the
fire-arms, that they might incur no risk from our being alarmed before
their purpose was completed. No opportunity had occurred to bring their
intentions into operation until the evening in question, when the scrubby
nature of the country, the wildness of the night, the overseer's sound
sleeping, and my own protracted absence, at a distance with the horses,
had all conspired to favour them. I have no doubt, that they first
extinguished the fires, and then possessing themselves of the fire-arms,
proceeded to plunder the baggage and select such things as they required.
In doing this they must have come across the ammunition, and loaded the
guns preparatory to their departure, but this might have been without any
premeditated intention of making use of them in the way they did. At this
unhappy juncture it would seem that the overseer must have awoke, and
advanced towards them to see what was the matter, or to put a stop to
their proceedings, when they fired on him, to save themselves from being
caught in their act of plunder. That either of the two should have
contemplated the committal of a wilful, barbarous, cold-blooded murder, I
cannot bring myself to believe--no object was to be attained by it; and
the fact of the overseer having been pierced through the breast, and many
yards in advance of where he had been sleeping, in a direction towards
the sleeping-place of the natives, clearly indicated that it was not
until he had arisen from his sleep, and had been closely pressing upon
them, that they had fired the fatal shot. Such appeared to me to be the
most plausible and rational explanation of this melancholy affair--I
would willingly believe it to be the true one.

Wylie and I moved on in the evening, with the horses for two miles, and
again pitched our camp among the sand-drifts, at a place where the
natives were in the habit of digging wells for water, and where we
procured it at a very moderate depth below the surface. Pigeons were here
in great numbers, and Wylie tried several times with the rifle to shoot
them, but only killed one, the grooved barrel not being adapted for
throwing shot with effect.

At midnight we arose and moved onwards, following along the beach. I
intended to have made a long stage, as I no longer had any fears about
not finding water; but at nine miles one of the horses knocked up, and
could proceed no farther, I was compelled, therefore, to turn in among
the sand-drifts, and halt at five in the morning of the 7th. We were
again fortunate in procuring water by digging only two feet under the
sand-hills, which were here very high, and were a continuation of those
in which we had first found water on the 3rd. In the afternoon, I again
tried to advance upon our journey, but after proceeding only four miles,
the jaded horse was again unable to move further, and there was no
alternative but to halt and search for water. This was found among the
sand-hills, but we could procure nothing but the coarse grass growing
upon the drifts for the animals to eat.

May 8.--About two hours before daylight, rain began to fall, and
continued steadily though lightly for three hours, so that enough had
fallen to deposit water in the ledges or holes of the rocks. The day was
wild and stormy, and we did not start until late. Even then we could only
get the tired horse along for three miles, and were again compelled to
halt. Water was still procured, by digging under the sand-hills, but we
had to sink much deeper than we had lately found occasion to do. It was
now plain, that the tired horse would never be able to keep pace with the
others, and that we must either abandon him, or proceed at a rate too
slow for the present state of our commissariat. Taking all things into
consideration, it appeared to me that it would be better to kill him at
once for food, and then remain here in camp for a time, living upon the
flesh, whilst the other horses were recruiting, after which I hoped we
might again be able to advance more expeditiously. Upon making this
proposal to Wylie, he was quite delighted at the idea, and told me
emphatically that he would sit up and eat the whole night. Our decision
arrived at, the sentence was soon executed. The poor animal was shot, and
Wylie and myself were soon busily employed in skinning him. Leaving me to
continue this operation, Wylie made a fire close to the carcase, and as
soon as he could get at a piece of the flesh he commenced roasting some,
and continued alternately, eating, working and cooking. After cutting off
about 100 pounds of the best of the meat, and hanging it in strips upon
the trees until our departure, I handed over to Wylie the residue of the
carcase, feet, entrails, flesh, skeleton, and all, to cook and consume as
he pleased, whilst we were in the neighbourhood. Before dark he had made
an oven, and roasted about twenty pounds, to feast upon during the night.
The evening set in stormy, and threatened heavy rain, but a few drops
only fell. The wind then rose very high, and raged fiercely from the
south-west. At midnight it lulled, and the night became intensely cold
and frosty, and both Wylie and myself suffered severely, we could only
get small sticks for our fire, which burned out in a few minutes, and
required so frequently renewing, that we were obliged to give it up in
despair, and bear the cold in the best way we could. Wylie, during the
night, made a sad and dismal groaning, and complained of being very ill,
from pain in his throat, the effect he said of having to work too hard. I
did not find that his indisposition interfered very greatly with his
appetite, for nearly every time I awoke during the night, I found him up
and gnawing away at his meat, he was literally fulfilling the promise he
had made me in the evening, "By and bye, you see, Massa, me 'pta' (eat)
all night."

May 9.--The day was cold and cloudy, and we remained in camp to rest the
horses, and diminish the weight of meat, which was greater than our
horses could well carry in their present state. On getting up the horses
to water them at noon, I was grieved to find the foal of my favourite
mare (which died on the 28th March) missing; how we had lost it I could
not make out, but as its tracks were not any where visible near the camp,
it was evident that it had never come there at all. In leaving our last
halting place my time and attention had been so taken up with getting the
weak horse along, that I had left it entirely to Wylie to bring up the
others, and had neglected my usual precaution of counting to see if all
were there before we moved away. The little creature must have been lying
down behind the sand-hills asleep, when we left, or otherwise it would
never have remained behind the others. Being very desirous not to lose
this foal, which had now accompanied me so far and got through all the
worst difficulties, I saddled the strongest of the horses, and mounting
Wylie, I set off myself on foot with him to search for it. We had not
gone far from the camp, when Wylie wished me to go back, offering to go
on by himself; and as I was loth to leave our provisions and ammunition
to the mercy of any native that might chance to go that way, I acceded to
his request, and delivering to him the rifle, returned to the encampment.
Wylie had pledged himself to the due execution of this errand, and I had
some confidence that he would not deceive me. Hour after hour passed away
without his return, and I began to be uneasy at his long delay, and half
repented that I had been so foolish as to trust the rifle in his hands.
At last, a little after dark, I was delighted to see him return, followed
by the foal, which he had found six miles away and still travelling
backwards in search of the horses. Having given him an extra allowance of
bread as a reward for his good conduct, we took our tea and lay down for
the night.

During the day, whilst Wylie was absent, I had employed my time in
collecting firewood from the back of the sand-hills. In this occupation I
was pleased to meet with the silver-bark tea-tree, another change in the
vegetation, which still further convinced me that we were rapidly
advancing into a more practicable country.

May 10.--The morning was spent in washing my clothes, cooking meat, and
preparing to move on in the afternoon. Wylie, who knew that this was his
last opportunity, was busy with the skeleton of the horse, and never
ceased eating until we moved on in the afternoon. As we took away with us
nearly a hundred pounds of the flesh, the poor horses were heavily laden
for the condition they were in. The scrubby and swampy nature of the
country behind the shore compelled us too to keep the beach, where the
sands were loose and heavy. Our progress was slow, and at eight miles I
halted. Here we found a little dry grass not far from the sea, and as the
horses did not require water, they fared tolerably well. This was the
first grass we had met with since we descended the cliffs on the 3rd
instant. The horses having entirely subsisted since then on the wiry
vegetation which binds the sand-drifts together. Although we had water in
the canteens for ourselves, and the horses did not require any, I was
curious to know whether fresh water could be procured where we were
encamped--a long, low and narrow tongue of sandy land, lying between the
sea on one side and extensive salt swamps on the other, and in no part
elevated more than a few feet above the level of the sea itself. After
tea I took the spade and commenced digging, and to my great surprise at
six feet I obtained water, which though brackish was very palatable. This
was very extraordinary, considering the nature of the position we were
in, and that there were not any hills from which the fresh water could

The night was again bitterly cold and frosty, and we suffered severely.
Now the winter had set in, and we were sadly unprepared to meet its
inclemency, the cold at nights became so intense as to occasion me
agonies of pain; and the poor native was in the same predicament.

May 11.--Upon moving away this morning, I kept behind the sea shore along
the borders of the salt swamp, steering for some sand-hills which were
seen a-head of us. A hill was now visible in the distance, a little south
of west, rising above the level bank behind the shore,--this was the
first hill, properly so called, that we had met with for many hundreds of
miles, and it tended not a little to cheer us and confirm all previous
impressions relative to the change and improvement in the character of
the country. Our horses were dreadfully fatigued and moved along with
difficulty, and it was as much as we could do to reach the sand-hills we
had seen, though only seven miles away. In our approach to them we passed
through a fine plain full of grass, and of a much better description than
we had met with since leaving Fowler's Bay. Not only was it long and in
the greatest abundance, but there were also mixed with the old grass many
stalks of new and green, the whole forming a rich and luxurious feast for
our horses, such as they had not enjoyed for many a long day. Nearer to
the sand-hills we obtained excellent water by digging, at a depth of five
feet, and only half a mile away from the grass. This place was too
favourable not to be made the most of, and I determined to halt for a day
or two to give our horses the benefit of it, and to enable us to diminish
the weight of meat they had to carry. Whilst here I gave Wylie free
permission to eat as much as he could,--a privilege which he was not long
in turning to account. Between last night's supper and this morning's
breakfast he had got through six-and-a-half pounds of solid cooked flesh,
weighed out and free from bone, and he then complained, that as he had so
little water (the well had fallen in and he did not like the trouble of
cleaning it out again), he could hardly eat at all. On an average he
would consume nine pounds of meat per day. I used myself from two to
three when undergoing very great exertions. After dinner I ascended one
of the sand-hills, and set the hill I had seen in the morning at W. 17
degrees S.

May 12.--I intended this morning to have walked down to the beach, but
was suddenly taken ill with similar symptoms to those I had experienced
on the 19th, and 21st of April; and, as formerly, I attributed the
illness entirely to the unwholesome nature of the meat diet. Wylie was
ill too, but not to so great a degree; nor was I surprised at his
complaining; indeed, it would have been wonderful if he had not,
considering the enormous quantity of horse flesh that he daily devoured.
After his feasts, he would lie down, and roll and groan, and say he was
"mendyt" (ill) and nothing would induce him to get up, or to do any
thing. There were now plenty of sting-ray fish along the beach again, and
I was desirous, if possible, to get one for a change of diet; my friend,
however, had so much to eat, that though he said he should like fish too,
I could not get him to go about a mile to the back of the sand-hills, to
cut a stick from the scrub, to make a spear for catching them.

May 13.--After breakfast, Wylie said he thought he could catch some
bandicoots, by firing the scrub near the sand-hills, and went out for an
hour or two to try, but came back as he went. During his absence, I was
employed in repairing my only two pair of socks now left, which were
sadly dilapidated, but of which I was obliged to be very careful, as they
were the only security I had against getting lame. In the afternoon I
walked down to the beach, to try to spear sting-ray, but the sea was
rough, and I saw none. In my ramble, I found plenty of the beautiful
white clematis, so common both to the north and south of Sydney.

May 14.--I was again seized with illness, though I had been particularly
careful in the quantity of flesh which I had used. For many hours I
suffered most excruciating pains; and after the violence of the attack
was over, I was left very weak, and incapable of exertion. Wylie was also
affected. It was evident that the food we were now living upon, was not
wholesome or nutritious. Day after day we felt ourselves getting weaker
and more relaxed, whilst the least change of weather, or the slightest
degree of cold, was most painfully felt by both of us. What we were to do
in the wet weather, which might daily be expected, I knew not, suffering
as we did from the frosts and dews only. In the state we now were in, I
do not think that we could have survived many days' exposure to wet.

May 15.--I intended to have proceeded early on our journey this morning,
but was so ill again, that for some hours I could not stir. The boy was
similarly situated. About ten we got a little better, and packing up our
things, moved away, but had scarcely gone more than a couple of miles
along the beach, when I discovered that the horse-hobbles had been left
behind. It was Wylie's duty always to take these off, and strap them
round the horses necks, whilst I was arranging the saddles, and fixing on
them our arms, provisions, etc.; he had forgotten to do this, and had left
them lying on the ground. As we could not possibly do without the
hobbles, I sent Wylie back for them, telling him I would drive on the
horses slowly for a few miles, and then halt to wait for him.

After proceeding eleven miles along the coast, I halted, and Wylie came
up a little before dark, bringing the hobbles with him. We were both very
hungry; and as we had suffered so much lately from eating the horse
flesh, we indulged to-night in a piece of bread, and a spoonful of flour
boiled into a paste, an extravagance which I knew we should have to make
up for by and bye. I had dug for water, and procured it at a depth of
five feet; but it was too brackish either to drink, or give to our
horses; we used it, however, in boiling up our flour into paste. The
afternoon was exceedingly dark and stormy looking, but only a few light
showers fell. The night then set in cold, with a heavy dew.

May 16.--We commenced our journey at daylight, travelling along the
beach, which was very heavy for nine miles, and then halting, at a very
low part of the coast, to rest the horses. Whilst here, I dug for water,
and getting it of very fair quality, though with an effluvia very like
Harrowgate water, I decided upon remaining for the day. We were very much
fatigued, being weak and languid, and like our horses, scarcely able to
put one foot before the other. From our present encampment, some islands
were visible at a bearing of S. 18 degrees E. The tops of the hills,
also, to the back, were visible above the level bank, which formed the
continuation of the singular table land extending round the Bight, but
which was now gradually declining in elevation, and appeared as if it
would very shortly cease altogether, so that we might hope to have an
unobstructed view of the country inland.

A jagged peak, which I named Mount Ragged, bore W. 10 degrees N., and a
round topped one W. 30 degrees N. We were now actually beyond those
hills; but the level bank, under which we had been travelling, prevented
our seeing more of them than the bare outline of their lofty summits. The
whole of the intervening country, between the level bank and the hills,
consisted of heavy sandy ridges, a good deal covered with scrub; but we
now found more grass than we had seen during the whole journey before. In
the night I was taken ill again, with violent pains, accompanied by cold
clammy sweats; and as the air was cold and raw, and a heavy dew falling,
I suffered a great deal.

May 17.--This morning I felt rather better, but very weak, and wishing to
give the horses an opportunity of drinking, which they would not do very
early on a cold morning, I did not break up the camp until late. Upon
laying down last night Wylie had left the meat on the ground at some
distance from our fire, instead of putting it up on a bush as I had
directed him, the consequence was that a wild dog had stolen about
fourteen pounds of it whilst we slept, and we were now again reduced to a
very limited allowance.

After travelling about five miles we found a great and important change
in the basis rock of the country; it was now a coarse imperfect kind of
grey granite, and in many places the low-water line was occupied by
immense sheets of it. Other symptoms of improvement also gradually
developed themselves. Mountain ducks were now, for the first time, seen
upon the shore, and the trunk of a very large tree was found washed up on
the beach: it was the only one we had met with during the whole course of
our journey to the westward, and I hailed it with a pleasure which was
only equalled by finding, not far beyond, a few drops of water trickling
down a huge graniterock abutting on the sea-shore. This was the only
approximation to running water which we had found since leaving Streaky
Bay, and though it hardly deserved that name, yet it imparted to me as
much hope, and almost as much satisfaction, as if I had found a river.
Continuing our course around a small bay for about five miles, we turned
into some sand-drifts behind a rocky point of the coast, from which the
islands we had seen yesterday bore E. 47 degrees S., Cape Pasley, S. W.,
Point Malcolm, S. 33 degrees W., and Mount Ragged W. 32 degrees N.
Several reefs and breakers were also seen at no great distance from the

Our stage to-day was only twelve miles, yet some of our horses were
nearly knocked up, and we ourselves in but little better condition. The
incessant walking we were subject to, the low and unwholesome diet we had
lived upon, the severe and weakening attacks of illness caused by that
diet, having daily, and sometimes twice a day, to dig for water, to carry
all our fire-wood from a distance upon our backs, to harness, unharness,
water, and attend to the horses, besides other trifling occupations,
making up our daily routine, usually so completely exhausted us, that we
had neither spirit nor energy left. Added to all other evils, the nature
of the country behind the sea-coast was as yet so sandy and scrubby that
we were still compelled to follow the beach, frequently travelling on
loose heavy sands, that rendered our stages doubly fatiguing: whilst at
nights, after the labours of the day were over, and we stood so much in
need of repose, the intense cold, and the little protection we had
against it, more frequently made it a season of most painful suffering
than of rest, and we were glad when the daylight relieved us once more.
On our march we felt generally weak and languid--it was an effort to put
one foot before the other, and there was an indisposition to exertion
that it was often very difficult to overcome. After sitting for a few
moments to rest--and we often had to do this--it was always with the
greatest unwillingness we ever moved on again. I felt, on such occasions,
that I could have sat quietly and contentedly, and let the glass of life
glide away to its last sand. There was a dreamy kind of pleasure, which
made me forgetful or careless of the circumstances and difficulties by
which I was surrounded, and which I was always indisposed to break in
upon. Wylie was even worse than myself, I had often much difficulty in
getting him to move at all, and not unfrequently was compelled almost
forcibly to get him up. Fortunately he was very good tempered, and on the
whole had behaved extremely well under all our troubles since we had been
travelling together alone.

Chapter III.


May 18.--THIS morning we had to travel upon a soft heavy beach, and moved
slowly and with difficulty along, and three of the horses were
continually attempting to lie down on the road. At twelve miles, we found
some nice green grass, and although we could not procure water here, I
determined to halt for the sake of the horses. The weather was cool and
pleasant. From our camp Mount Ragged bore N. 35 degrees W., and the
island we had seen for the last two days, E. 18 degrees S. Having seen
some large kangaroos near our camp, I sent Wylie with the rifle to try
and get one. At dark he returned bringing home a young one, large enough
for two good meals; upon this we feasted at night, and for once Wylie
admitted that his belly was full. He commenced by eating a pound and a
half of horse-flesh, and a little bread, he then ate the entrails,
paunch, liver, lights, tail, and two hind legs of the young kangaroo,
next followed a penguin, that he had found dead upon the beach, upon this
he forced down the whole of the hide of the kangaroo after singeing the
hair off, and wound up this meal by swallowing the tough skin of the
penguin; he then made a little fire, and laid down to sleep, and dream of
the pleasures of eating, nor do I think he was ever happier in his life
than at that moment.

May 19.--The morning set in very cold and showery, with the wind from the
southward, making us shiver terribly as we went along; luckily the
country behind the sea-shore was at this place tolerably open, and we
were for once enabled to leave the beach, and keep a little inland. The
soil was light and sandy, but tolerably fertile. In places we found low
brush, in others very handsome clumps of tea-tree scattered at intervals
over some grassy tracts of country, giving a pleasing and park-like
appearance we had long been strangers to. The grass was green, and
afforded a most grateful relief to the eye, accustomed heretofore to rest
only upon the naked sands or the gloomy scrubs we had so long been
travelling amongst. Anxious if possible to give our horses a day or two's
rest, at such a grassy place, and especially as the many kangaroos we
saw, gave us hope of obtaining food for ourselves also, I twice dug for
water, but did not find any of such quality as we could use. I was
compelled therefore to turn in among the sand-hills of Point Malcolm,
where I found excellent water at three and a half feet, and halted for
the day, after a stage of five miles. Unfortunately we were now beyond
all grass, and had to send the horses by a long and difficult road to it,
over steep sandy ridges, densely covered by scrub. Upon halting, one of
our horses lay down, appearing to be very ill, for two hours I could not
get him to rise, and was sadly afraid he would die, which would have been
a serious loss to us, for he was the strongest one we had left. A little
inside Point Malcolm, I found traces of Europeans who had slept on shore
near the beach, and upon one of the tea-trees, I found cut "Ship Julian,
1840," "Haws, 1840," "C. W." and some few other letters, which I did not
copy. The forenoon continued very wild and stormy, with occasional
showers of rain, and as we could get neither firewood nor shelter at our
camp, and the sand eddied around us in showers, we were very miserable.
After dinner, I sent Wylie out with the rifle, to try to shoot a
kangaroo, whilst I took a walk round, to look for grass, and to ascertain
whether water could not be procured in some place nearer the horses, and
better provided with firewood and shelter. My efforts were without
success, nor did I meet with better fortune, in examining Point Malcolm,
to see if there was any place where we could fish from the shore, the
point itself was of granite, but on the sheltered side the water was very
shoal, close to the shore, whilst on the outer side the waves were
breaking with frightful violence, and the spray curling and rising from
the rocks in one perpetual and lofty jet. In the evening Wylie returned
without a kangaroo.

The night turned out showery, wild, and cold, making us keenly alive to
the bleak, shelterless position we were encamped in.

May 20.--The sick horse was better to-day, and as they had all found
their way back to the best grass, I determined to remain in camp. Wylie
took the rifle, and again went out kangarooing, whilst I took a long walk
to examine the country, and look out for a line of road to proceed by,
when we left our present position. I was anxious, if possible, to give
over travelling along the beach where the sands were so loose and heavy,
not only causing great extra fatigue to the horses, but adding also
considerably to the distance we should otherwise have to travel. For some
distance I passed over steep ridges, densely covered with large tea-trees
or with other scrub, after which I emerged upon open sandy downs, covered
with low shrubs or bushes, and frequently having patches of good grass
interspersed; the grass-tree was here met with for the first time, but
not very abundantly. This description of country continued between the
coast and the low level bank which still shut out all view of the
interior, though it had greatly decreased in elevation as we advanced to
the west, and appeared as if it would soon merge in the level of the
country around. The day was tolerably fine, but windy, and a few slight
showers fell at intervals. At dusk I got up the horses, watered them, and
was preparing to remove the baggage to a more sheltered place, when Wylie
made his appearance, with the gratifying intelligence that he had shot
one kangaroo, and wounded another; the dead one he said was too far away
for us to get it to-night, and we, therefore, (very unwillingly,) left it
until the morning, and at present only removed our baggage nearer to the
grass, and among thick clumps of tea-trees where we had shelter and
firewood in abundance. The only inconvenience being that we were obliged
to be economical of water, having to bring it all from the sand-drifts,
and our kegs only carrying a few quarts at a time. In the prospect of a
supply of kangaroo, we finished the last of our horse-flesh to-night. It
had lasted us tolerably well, and though we had not gained above
sixty-five miles of distance, since we commenced it, yet we had
accomplished this so gradually, that the horses had not suffered so much
as might have been expected, and were improving somewhat in strength and
appearance every day. It was much to have got them to advance at all,
considering the dreadful sufferings they had endured previous to our
arrival at water on the 3rd of May.

Getting up one of the horses early on the 21st, we took some water with
us and proceeded to where Wylie had left the kangaroo, to breakfast.
Fortunately it had not been molested by the wild dogs during the night.
Though not of a large species, it was a full grown animal, and furnished
us with a grateful supply of wholesome food. Once more Wylie enjoyed as
much as he could eat, and after breakfast, I took the horse back to the
camp, carrying with me about thirty-two pounds weight of the best and
most fleshy parts of the kangaroo. Wylie remained behind with the rifle,
to return leisurely and try to shoot another; but early in the afternoon
he returned, not having seen one. The truth, I suspect was, that he had
eaten too much to breakfast, and laid down to sleep when I was gone,
coming back to the camp as soon as he felt hungry again. The rest of the
day was taken up in attending to the horses and bringing a supply of
water up for ourselves. The weather was mild and pleasant, and a few
slight showers fell at night, but we were now so well protected among the
tea-trees, and had so much firewood, that we were not inconvenienced by
the rain.

As I still intended to remain in camp to recruit the horses, I wished
Wylie to go out again on the 22nd, to try for another kangaroo; but the
other not being yet all used, he was very unwilling to do so, and it was
only upon my threatening to move on if he did not, that I could get him
out. As soon as he was gone, I went down to Point Malcolm to try to fish,
as the weather was now so much more moderate. Unfortunately, my tackling
was not strong, and after catching three rock-fish, weighing together
three pounds and a half; a large fish got hooked, and took great part of
my line, hook and all, away.

It was very vexing to lose a line when I had not many, but still more so
to miss a fine fish that would have weighed fifteen or sixteen pounds.
Being obliged to come back, I spent the remainder of the afternoon in
preparing lines for the morrow.

Towards evening Wylie returned gloomy and sulky, and without having fired
a shot; neither had he brought the horses up with him to water as I had
requested him to do, and now it was too late to go for them, and they
would have to be without water for the night. I was vexed at this, and
gave him a good scolding for his negligence, after which I endeavoured to
ascertain what had so thoroughly put him out of humour, for ordinarily he
was one of the best tempered natives I had met with: a single sentence
revealed the whole--"The----dogs had eaten the skin."

This observation came from the very bottom of his soul, and at once gave
me an idea of the magnitude of the disappointment he had sustained; the
fact was, upon leaving the camp in the morning he had taken a firestick
in his hand, and gone straight back to where we skinned the kangaroo on
the 21st, with the intention of singeing off the hair and eating the
skin, which had been left hanging over a bush. Upon his arrival he found
it gone: the wild dogs had been beforehand with him and deprived him of
the meal he expected; hence his gloomy, discontented look upon his
return. As yet I had not told him that I had been fishing; but upon
showing him what I had brought home, and giving him the two largest for
supper, his brow again cleared, and he voluntarily offered to go out
again to try to get a kangaroo to-morrow.

May 23.--Leaving Wylie asleep at the camp, I set off early to fish at
Point Malcolm. After catching four rock-fish, weighing five pounds, and
losing several hooks, I commenced hunting about among the rocks for
crabs, of which I procured about a dozen They were quite different from
the English crab, being very small, not more than three or four inches in
diameter, and without any meat in the inside of the shell; but the chine
and claws afforded very fair pickings. Upon returning to the camp, I
learnt from Wylie with great satisfaction that he had shot another
kangaroo as he went to bring up the horses. The latter were now at the
camp; so sending him to water them, I remained behind to dry my clothes,
which had got thoroughly wetted in catching the crabs.

Upon Wylie's return I mounted him on one of the horses, and accompanying
him on foot, proceeded to where he had left the kangaroo; as it was only
one mile and a half away we brought it back upon the horse, entire, that
we might skin it more leisurely at the camp. It was a larger one than the
last, and promised an abundant supply of food for some days; added to
this we had five pounds of fish and a dozen crabs, so that our larder was
well and variously stocked. Upon skinning the kangaroo, Wylie carefully
singed, folded up, and put away the skin for another day, fully
determined that this time he would lose no part of the precious prize.
Having taken the paunch and emptied it, he proceeded to make a kind of
haggis (rather a dirty one to be sure), by putting into it the liver,
lights, heart, and small intestines, and then tying it up, thrust it into
the fire to be roasted whole. This seemed to be a favourite dish with
him, and he was now as happy as a king, sleeping and eating alternately
the whole night long; his only complaint now being that the water was so
far off, and that as we had to carry it all up from the sand-hills to our
camp, he could not drink so much as he should like, and in consequence,
could not eat so much either, for it required no small quantity of liquid
to wash down the enormous masses of meat that he consumed whenever he had
an opportunity.

May 24.--Leaving Wylie to continue his feast and attend to the horses, I
went down to the beach to hunt again for crabs, of which I procured about
three dozen, but still of the same small size as before; a few larger
ones were seen in the deeper clefts of the rocks, but I could not get at
them; indeed, as it was, I was very nearly terminating my crab hunting
and expedition at the same time. The places where these animals were
obtained, were the clefts and holes among large masses and sheets of rock
close to the sea, and which were covered by it at high water; many of
these were like platforms, shelving to the sea, and terminating abruptly
in deep water. Whilst busily engaged upon one of them, in trying to get
some crabs out from its clefts, I did not notice that the surf sometimes
washed over where I stood, until whilst stooping, and in the act of
fishing out a crab, a roller came further than usual and dashing over me,
threw me down and took both me and my crabs to some distance, nearly
carrying us down the steep into the sea, from which nothing could have
rescued me, as I should soon have been dashed to pieces by the breakers
against the rocks. Having gathered up the crabs I had collected, I set
off homewards in a sad cold uncomfortable plight, with the skin scraped
off my hands and one of my heels, and with my shoes in such a state from
scrambling about among the rocks and in the wet, as strongly to indicate
to me the propriety of never attempting to go crab hunting again with my
shoes on, unless I wished to be placed altogether "hors du combat" for
walking. Wylie I found had got up the horses and watered them, and had
brought up a supply of water for the camp, so that we had nothing to do
in the afternoon but boil crabs and eat them, at which occupation I found
him wonderfully more skilful than I was, readily getting through two to
my one.

On the 25th we still remained in camp to take advantage of the abundant
supply of food we had for ourselves, and by giving the horses a long
rest, enable them also to recruit a little upon the excellent grass which
grew in this neighbourhood. Wylie took the rifle out to try to get
another kangaroo, but did not succeed. I remained at home to mend my
boots, and prepare for advancing again to-morrow. In the afternoon we
filled our kegs, and brought away the bucket and spade from the
sand-hills, that we might be ready to move without going again to the
water. For the first time since we left Fowler's Bay we were troubled
with musquitoes.

May 26.--Up early, and Wylie, who had been eating the whole night, was so
thirsty, that he actually walked all the way through the dew and cold of
the morning to the water to drink, as I could only afford him one pint
out of the kegs. We had now been in camp six clear days, at this most
favourable position; we had got an abundant and wholesome supply of
provisions for ourselves, and had been enabled to allow our horses to
enjoy a long unbroken interval of rest, amidst the best of pasturage, and
where there was excellent water. Now that we were again going to continue
our route, I found that the horses were so much improved in appearance
and in strength, that I thought we might once again venture, without
oppression to the animals, occasionally to ride; I selected therefore,
the strongest from among them for this purpose, and Wylie and myself
walked and rode alternately; after passing the scrubby sand-ridges, and
descending to the open downs behind them, I steered direct for Cape Arid,
cutting off Cape Pasley, and encamping after a stage of eighteen miles,
where it bore south-east of us. We halted for the night upon a ridge
timbered with casuarinae, and abounding in grass. Once more we were in a
country where trees were found, and again we were able at night to make
our fires of large logs, which did not incessantly require renewing to
prevent their going out. We had now crossed the level bank which had so
long shut out the interior from us; gradually it had declined in
elevation, until at last it had merged in the surrounding country, and we
hardly knew where it commenced, or how it ended. The high bluff and
craggy hills, whose tops we had formerly seen, stood out now in bold
relief, with a low level tract of country stretching to their base,
covered with dwarf brush, heathy plants and grass-tree, with many
intervals of open grassy land, and abounding in kangaroos. I named these
lofty and abrupt mountain masses the "Russell Range," after the Right
Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies--Lord John Russell.
They constitute the first great break in the character and appearance of
the country for many hundreds of miles, and they offer a point of great
interest, from which future researches may hereafter be made towards the
interior. Nearer to the coast, and on either side of Cape Pasley were
sand-drifts, in which I have no doubt that water might have been
procured. We found none where we were encamped, but had sufficient in the
kegs for our own use, and the horses were not thirsty; many and recent
tracks of natives were observed, but the people themselves were not seen.

The morning of the 27th was exceedingly cold; and as we left our
encampments early, neither I nor Wylie were inclined to ride for the
first few miles; it was as much as we could do to keep ourselves from
shivering whilst walking; the dews were so heavy, that we were soon wet
through by the spangles from the shrubs and grass, whilst the pace at
which we travelled was not sufficiently rapid to promote a quick
circulation, and enable us to keep ourselves warm.

At six miles we passed some sand hills, where there was every indication
of water, but I did not think it worth while delaying to try the
experiment in digging, and pushed on for four miles further, round a
bight of the coast, encamping on the east side of Cape Arid, where a
small salt water creek entered the bight. The mouth of this was closed by
a bar of sand, quite dry; nor did the salt water continue for any great
distance inland. Following it up, in the hope of finding fresh water near
its source, I found that there was none now, but that after rains
considerable streams must be poured into it from the gorges of Cape Arid.
The rocks here were all of granite; and in some of the ledges we were
fortunate enough to find abundance of water deposited by the rains, at
which we watered our horses. This being the first time we had ever been
able to do so on our whole journey without making use of the spade and
bucket. After putting the horses out upon the best grass we could find,
Wylie and I went to try our luck at fishing; the sea was boisterous, and
we caught none; but in returning, got about eight or nine crabs a-piece,
which, with some of the kangaroo that was still left, enabled us to make
our fare out tolerably.

May 26.--In the latter part of the night the rain set in moderately, but
steadily, and both Wylie and myself were very wet and miserable. The
morning still continued showery, and I was anxious to have remained in
camp for the sake of the horses; but as we had consumed at breakfast the
last of our kangaroo, it became necessary to find some means of renewing
our resources, or else lose no time in making the best of our way
onwards. Having sent Wylie to try and get crabs, I went out with the
rifle, but could see nothing to shoot; and upon returning to the camp, I
found Wylie had been equally unsuccessful among the rocks, the sea being
too rough; there was no alternative, therefore, but to move on, and
having got up the horses, we proceeded behind Cape Arid for ten miles, at
a course of W. 15 degrees N., and encamped at night amid a clump of
tea-trees, and bastard gums, where we got good grass for our horses, but
no water. The day had been intensely cold, and I could not persuade Wylie
to ride at all. At night we had abundance of firewood, and a few of the
long narrow yams were also found at this encampment, the first vegetable
food we had yet procured. Grass trees had been abundant on our line of
route to-day, and for the first time we met with the Xamia. In the
evening, the kangaroo fly (a small brown fly) became very troublesome,
annoying us in great numbers, and warning us that rain was about to fall.
At night it came in frequent though moderate showers. We got very much
wetted, but our fire was good, and we did not suffer so much from the
cold as the damp, which affected me with cramp in the limbs, and

May 29.--After breakfasting upon a spoonful of flour a-piece, mixed with
a little water and boiled into a paste, we again proceeded. At ten miles
we came to a small salt water stream, running seawards; in passing up it
to look for a crossing place, Wylie caught two opossums, in the tops of
some tea-trees, which grew on the banks. As I hoped more might be
procured, and perhaps fresh water, by tracing it higher up, I took the
first opportunity of crossing to the opposite side, and there encamped;
Wylie now went out to search for opossums, and I traced the stream
upwards. In my route I passed several very rich patches of land in the
valleys, and on the slopes of the hills enclosing the watercourse. These
were very grassy and verdant, but I could find no fresh water, nor did I
observe any timber except the tea-tree. After tracing the stream until it
had ceased running, and merely became a chain of ponds of salt water, I
returned to the camp a good deal fatigued; Wylie came in soon after, but
had got nothing but a few yams. The general character of the country on
either side the watercourse, was undulating, of moderate elevation, and
affording a considerable extent of sheep pasturage. The cockatoos of King
George's Sound, (without the yellow crest) were here in great numbers.
Kangaroos also abounded; but the country had not brush enough to enable
us to get sufficiently near to shoot them.

During the day Wylie had caught two opossums, and as these were entirely
the fruit of his own labour and skill, I did not interfere in their
disposal; I was curious, moreover, to see how far I could rely upon his
kindness and generosity, should circumstances ever compel me to depend
upon him for a share of what he might procure. At night, therefore, I sat
philosophically watching him whilst he proceeded to get supper ready, as
yet ignorant whether I was to partake of it or not. After selecting the
largest of the two animals, he prepared and cooked it, and then put away
the other where he intended to sleep. I now saw that he had not the
remotest intention of giving any to me, and asked him what he intended to
do with the other one. He replied that he should be hungry in the
morning, and meant to keep it until then. Upon hearing this I told him
that his arrangements were very good, and that for the future I would
follow the same system also; and that each should depend upon his own
exertions in procuring food; hinting to him that as he was so much more
skilful than I was, and as we had so very little flour left, I should be
obliged to reserve this entirely for myself, but that I hoped he would
have no difficulty in procuring as much food as he required. I was then
about to open the flour-bag and take a little out for my supper, when he
became alarmed at the idea of getting no more, and stopped me, offering
the other opossum, and volunteering to cook it properly for me. Trifling
as this little occurrence was, it read me a lesson of caution, and taught
me what value was to be placed upon the assistance or kindness of my
companion, should circumstances ever place me in a situation to be
dependent upon him; I felt a little hurt too, at experiencing so little
consideration from one whom I had treated with the greatest kindness, and
who had been clothed and fed upon my bounty, for the last fifteen months.

May 30.--In commencing our journey this morning, our route took us over
undulating hills, devoid of timber, but having occasionally small patches
of very rich land in the valleys and upon some of the slopes. This
continued to a salt-water river, broad, and apparently deep near the sea.
As I was doubtful whether it would have a bar-mouth to seawards, I
thought it more prudent to trace it upwards, for the purpose of crossing.
At no very great distance it contracted sufficiently to enable me to get
over to the other side. But in doing so the ground proved soft and boggy,
and I nearly lost one of the horses. Four miles beyond this river we came
to another channel of salt water, but not so large as the last. In
valleys sloping down to this watercourse we met, for the first time,
clumps of a tree called by the residents of King George's Sound the
cabbage-tree, and not far from which were native wells of fresh water;
there were also several patches of rich land bordering upon the

Travelling for two miles further, we came to a very pretty fresh-water
lake, of moderate size, and surrounded by clumps of tea-tree. It was the
first permanent fresh water we had found on the surface since we
commenced our journey from Fowler's Bay--a distance of nearly seven
hundred miles. I would gladly have encamped here for the night, but the
country surrounding the lake was sandy and barren, and destitute of
grass. We had only made good a distance of eleven miles from our last
camp, and I felt anxious to get on to Lucky Bay as quickly as I could, in
order that I might again give our horses a rest for a few days, which
they now began to require. From Captain Flinders' account of Lucky Bay I
knew we should find fresh water and wood in abundance. I hoped there
would also be grass, and in this case I had made up my mind to remain a
week or ten days, during which I intended to have killed the foal we had
with us, now about nine months old, could we procure food in no other
way. After leaving Lucky Bay, as we should only be about three hundred
miles from the Sound, and our horses would be in comparatively fresh
condition, I anticipated we should be able to progress more rapidly.
Indeed I fully expected it would be absolutely necessary for us to do so,
through a region which, from Flinders' description as seen from sea, and
from his having named three different hills in it Mount Barrens, we
should find neither very practicable nor fertile.

Six miles beyond the fresh-water lake we came to another salt-water
stream, and finding, upon following up a little way, that it was only
brackish, we crossed and halted for the night. Wylie went out to search
for food, but got nothing, whilst I unharnessed and attended to the
horses, which were a good deal fagged, and then prepared the camp and
made the fires for the night: I could get nothing but grass-tree for this
purpose, but it was both abundant and dry. Owing to its very resinous
nature, this tree burns with great heat and brilliancy, emitting a
grateful aromatic odour. It is easily lit up, makes a most cheerful fire,
and notwithstanding the fervency with which it burns, does not often
require renewing, if the tree be large. Our whole journey to-day had been
over undulations of about three hundred feet in elevation; the country
rose a little inland, and a few occasional bluffs of granite were
observed in the distance, but no timber was seen any where. At night the
flies and mosquitoes were very troublesome to us.

May 31.--The morning showery, and bitterly cold, so that, for the first
two hours after starting, we suffered considerably, After travelling for
seven miles and a half, through an undulating and bare country, we came
to a salt-water river, with some patches of good land about it. Having
crossed the river a little way up where it became narrower, we again
proceeded for five miles farther, through the same character of country,
and were then stopped by another salt stream, which gave us a great deal
of trouble to effect a crossing. We had traced it up to where the channel
was narrow, but the bed was very deep, and the water running strongly
between banks of rich black soil. Our horses would not face this at
first, and in forcing them over we were nearly losing two of them. After
travelling only a quarter of a mile beyond this stream I was chagrined to
find we had crossed it just above the junction of two branches, and that
we had still one of them to get over; the second was even more difficult
to pass than the first, and whilst I was on the far side, holding one of
the horses by a rope, with Wylie behind driving him on, the animal made a
sudden and violent leap, and coming full upon me, knocked me down and
bruised me considerably. One of his fore legs struck me on the thigh, and
I narrowly escaped having it broken, whilst a hind leg caught me on the
shin, and cut me severely.

As soon as we were fairly over I halted for the night, to rest myself and
give Wylie an opportunity of looking for food. The water in both branches
of this river was only brackish where we crossed, and at that which we
encamped upon but slightly so.

There were many grass-trees in the vicinity, and as several of these had
been broken down and were dead they were full of the white grubs of which
the natives are so fond. From these Wylie enjoyed a plentiful, and to
him, luxurious supper. I could not bring myself to try them, preferring
the root of the broad flag-reed, which, for the first time, we met with
at this stream, and which is an excellent and nutritious article of food.
This root being dug up, and roasted in hot ashes, yields a great quantity
of a mealy farinaceous powder interspersed among the fibres; it is of an
agreeable flavour, wholesome, and satisfying to the appetite. In all
parts of Australia, even where other food abounds, the root of this reed
is a favourite and staple article of diet among the aborigines. The
proper season of the year for procuring it in full perfection, is after
the floods have receded, and the leaves have died away and been burnt
off. It is that species of reed of which the leaves are used by coopers
for closing up crevices between the staves of their casks.

June 1.--Upon getting up this morning I found myself very stiff and sore
from the bruises I had received yesterday, yet I felt thankful that I had
escaped so well; had any of my limbs been broken, I should have been in a
dreadful position, and in all probability must have perished. After Wylie
had dug up some of the flag-roots for breakfast, and a few to take with
us, we proceeded on our journey. I was anxious to have made a long stage,
and if possible, to have reached Thistle Cove by night; but the country
we had to pass over was heavy and sandy, and after travelling fifteen
miles, the horses became so jaded, that I was obliged to turn in among
some sand-drifts near the coast, and halt for the night. The course we
had been steering for the last few days towards Lucky Bay, had gradually
brought us close to the coast again, and during a part of our journey
this afternoon we were travelling upon the sea-shore. At ten miles after
starting, we crossed a strong stream of fresh water running through some
sandy flats into the sea; a mile and a half beyond this we crossed a
second stream; and half a mile further a third, all running strongly,
with narrow channels, into the sea, and quite fresh. Fresh water was also
laying about every where on our road in large pools; a proof of the very
heavy rains that had lately fallen. We were, therefore, enjoying the
advantages of a wet season without having been subject to its inclemency,
and which, in our present weak, unprotected state, we could hardly have
endured. The country to the back was sandy and undulating, covered
principally with low shrubs, and rising inland; there were also several
granite bluffs at intervals, from among which, the streams I had crossed,
probably took their rise; but there were no trees to be seen any where,
except a few of the tea of cabbage-trees. I do not think that any of the
three fresh-water streams we had crossed would be permanent, their
present current being owing entirely to the recent rains; but when they
are running, and the weather is moderately fair, they afford an admirable
opportunity of watering a vessel with very little trouble, the water
being clear and pure to its very junction with the sea.

At night we made our supper of the flag-roots we had brought with us, and
a spoonful of flour a-piece, boiled into a paste. The night was very cold
and windy, and having neither shelter nor fire-wood at the sand-drifts
where we were, we spent it miserably.

June 2.--As we had made a shorter stage yesterday than I intended to have
done, and the quantity of flour we had now remaining was very small, I
did not dare to make use of any this morning, and we commenced our
journey without breakfast. Being now near Thistle Cove, where I intended
to halt for some time, and kill the little foal for food, whilst the
other horses were recruiting, and as I hoped to get there early this
afternoon, I was anxious to husband our little stock of flour in the
hope, that at the little fresh-water lake described by Flinders, as
existing there, we should find abundance of the flag-reed for our
support. Keeping a little behind the shore for the first hour, we crossed
over the sandy ridge bounding it, and upon looking towards the sea, I
thought I discovered a boat sailing in the bay. Upon pointing this object
out to Wylie, he was of the same opinion with myself, and we at once
descended towards the shore, but on our arrival were greatly disappointed
at not being able again to see the object of our search. In the course of
half an hour, however, whilst resting ourselves and watching the surface
of the ocean, it again became visible, and soon after a second appeared.
It was now evident that both these were boats, and that we had noticed
them only when standing off shore, and the light shone upon their sails,
and had lost them when upon the opposite tack. It was equally apparent
they were standing out from the main land for the islands. I imagined
them to be sealers, who having entered the bay to procure water or
firewood, were again steering towards the islands to fish. Having hastily
made a fire upon one of the sand-hills, we fired shots, shouted, waved
handkerchiefs, and made every signal we could to attract attention, but
in vain. They were too far away to see, or too busy to look towards us.
The hopes we had entertained were as suddenly disappointed as they had
been excited, and we stood silently and sullenly gazing after the boats
as they gradually receded from our view.

Whilst thus occupied and brooding over our disappointment, we were
surprised to see both boats suddenly lower their sails, and apparently
commence fishing. Watching them steadily we now perceived that they were
whale boats, and once more our hearts beat with hope, for I felt sure
that they must belong to some vessel whaling in the neighbourhood. We now
anxiously scanned the horizon in every direction, and at last were
delighted beyond measure to perceive to the westward the masts of a large
ship, peeping above a rocky island which had heretofore concealed her
from our view. She was apparently about six miles from us, and as far as
we could judge from so great a distance, seemed to be at anchor near the

Poor Wylie's joy now knew no bounds, and he leapt and skipped about with
delight as he congratulated me once more upon the prospect of getting
plenty to eat. I was not less pleased than he was, and almost as absurd,
for although the vessel was quietly at anchor so near us, with no sails
loose and her boats away, I could not help fearing that she might
disappear before we could get to her, or attract the notice of those on
board. To prevent such a calamity, I mounted one of the strongest horses
and pushed on by myself as rapidly as the heavy nature of the sands would
allow, leaving Wylie at his own especial request to bring on the other
horses. In a short time I arrived upon the summit of a rocky cliff,
opposite to a fine large barque lying at anchor in a well sheltered bay,
(which I subsequently named Rossiter Bay, after the captain of the
whaler,) immediately east of Lucky Bay, and at less than a quarter of a
mile distant from the shore. The people on board appeared to be busily
engaged in clearing their cables which were foul, and did not observe me
at all. I tied up my horse, therefore, to a bush, and waited for Wylie,
who was not long in coming after me, having driven the poor horses at a
pace they had not been accustomed to for many a long day. I now made a
smoke on the rock where I was, and hailed the vessel, upon which a boat
instantly put off, and in a few moments I had the inexpressible pleasure
of being again among civilized beings, and of shaking hands with a
fellow-countryman in the person of Captain Rossiter, commanding the
French Whaler "Mississippi."

Our story was soon told, and we were received with the greatest kindness
and hospitality by the captain.

Chapter IV.


June 2.--AFTER watering the horses at a deposit left by the rains, in the
sheets of granite near us, and turning them loose, we piled up our little
baggage, and in less than an hour we were comfortably domiciled on board
the hospitable Mississippi,--a change in our circumstances so great, so
sudden, and so unexpected, that it seemed more like a dream than a
reality; from the solitary loneliness of the wilderness, and its
attendant privations, we were at once removed to all the comforts of a
civilised community.

After we had done ample justice to the good cheer set before us, by our
worthy host, he kindly invited us to remain on board as long as we
pleased, to recruit our horses, and told us, that when we felt refreshed
sufficiently to renew the journey, he would supply us with such stores
and other articles as we might require. I learnt that the Mississippi had
but recently arrived from France, and that she had only been three weeks
upon the ground she had taken up for the season's whaling. As yet no
whales had been seen, and the season was said not to commence before the
end of June or beginning of July. The boats I saw in the morning belonged
to her, and had been out chasing what they thought to be a whale, but
which proved to be only a fin-back, a species which was not thought to
repay the trouble of trying out.

Early in the evening the whalers retired to rest, and I had a comfortable
berth provided for me in the cabin, but could not sleep; my thoughts were
too much occupied in reflecting upon the great change which the last few
hours had wrought in the position of myself and my attendant. Sincerely
grateful to the Almighty for having guided us through so many
difficulties, and for the inexpressible relief afforded us when so much
needed, but so little expected, I felt doubly thankful for the mercy we
experienced, when, as I lay awake, I heard the wind roar, and the rain
drive with unusual wildness, and reflected that by God's blessing, we
were now in safety, and under shelter from the violence of the storm, and
the inclemency of the west season, which appeared to be setting in, but
which, under the circumstances we were in but a few short hours ago, we
should have been so little able to cope with, or to endure.

June 3.--I arose at day-break, as I found the whalers breakfasted
betimes, to enable them to send their boats away to look out, at an early
hour. In fact, during the season, I was informed, that it was not unusual
to send them to their posts before the break of day, and especially so,
if other vessels were in company, or there was any competition. After
breakfast I landed with the Captain, to get up and inspect the horses;
poor animals they had not gone far and were doubtless glad at not being
required to march away to-day. I was only sorry that the country did not
abound more in grass. Plenty of water left by the rains was procurable,
in the ledges of the granite rocks, but the vegetation was scanty, the
soil being very sandy, and covered principally with small shrubs, heathy
plants, etc.

Leaving the horses to enjoy their respite from labour, I accompanied the
Captain to see a garden made by the sailors, in which peas and potatoes
had already been planted, and appeared to be growing well. A rich piece
of land had been selected on a slope, bordering upon a salt water creek,
which here wound through the level country towards the sea. The water in
this creek, was brackish in the upper part, but seaward it was quite
salt, it had a bar mouth of sand, which was quite dry. Unfortunately, the
Captain had no garden seeds but the peas and potatoes, so that their
labours were confined to cultivating these; otherwise during the many
months spent by them in bay whaling, they might have abundantly supplied
themselves with a variety of vegetables, at once an agreeable and
wholesome addition to the ordinary diet on board ship. After dinner I
went with the Captain to visit an island near, upon which he kept his
live stock, such as pigs, sheep, and tortoises; the two latter had been
procured from the west side of the island of Madagascar; the sheep were
strange looking animals, more like goats than sheep, of all colours, and
with fat tails, like the Cape sheep. Their cost at Madagascar had been a
tumbler full of powder a piece; a bullock would have cost ten bottles
full, and other things could have been procured at proportionable prices.
The principal articles in request among the Madagases, were said to be
powder, brass headed trunk nails, muskets, gun-flints, clear claret
bottles, looking-glasses, and cutlery.

The greater part of the day was very cold and showery, and I remained
quietly on board, reading some old English papers. Wylie was as happy as
he could be. It was true he did not understand a word spoken by those
around him (for not a soul on board spoke English but the Captain), but
he had as much to eat as he desired; and to do him justice, I believe he
made the most of the opportunity. On the other hand, his capacity for
eating entertained the Frenchmen, with the exception, perhaps, of his
first meal on board, and then, I believe, that the immense number of
biscuits he devoured, and the amazing rapidity with which they
disappeared, not only astounded, but absolutely alarmed them. Fish were
caught in great numbers from the ship's side, mackarel and baracoota
being obtained every day. Other varieties might have been procured off
the rocks near the shore, from which there were many places well adapted
for fishing. Periwinkles abounded, and crabs were numerous among the
crevices of the rocks. Altogether, this seemed to be a most favourable
place; and had we not met with the vessel, it would have held out to us
the prospect of obtaining as abundant a supply of food for ourselves as
we had got at Point Malcolm, without the necessity of destroying the poor
foal. The night again set in very wild, cold, and wet.

June 4.--This morning the weather appeared tolerably fine, and I landed
with the French doctor for the purpose of walking across to Thistle Cove.
After travelling four miles over a sandy heathy country, we arrived at
the pretty little fresh water lake, so accurately described by Captain
Flinders, and which I had so anxiously looked forward to attaining, that
we might halt to rest, and recruit the horses. There is no timber around
the lake, beyond a few xamias, grass trees, and some stunted tea-trees;
neither was there much grass. In other respects, I could not have pitched
upon a more favourable place to have halted at: for near the lake
abounded the flag reed, of which the root was so valuable for food. This
one article would have supported us well during our stay here, whilst the
many bluff rocks, with deep calm water close to them, extending all
around the promontory which projected into the sea, and round the bay,
held out great promise that fish could readily have been caught. Ducks
were also numerous in the lake, and kangaroos on shore. The day turned
out very bleak and wet, and we both got thoroughly soaked through before
we got back to the vessel, which was not until about two in the
afternoon; I was then obliged to borrow a dry suit from the Captain,
whilst my own clothes were drying.

June 5.--From this time until the fourteenth of June I remained on board
the Mississippi, enjoying the hospitality of Captain Rossiter. Wylie went
out once or twice to try to shoot a kangaroo for the ship, but he never
succeeded; he had so much to eat on board that he had no stimulus to
exertion, and did not take the trouble necessary to insure success.
During almost the whole of the time that I remained on board the
Mississippi, the weather was exceedingly boisterous, cold, and wet, and I
could not but feel truly thankful that I had not been exposed to it on
shore; even on board the ship, with shelter and extra clothing, I felt
very sensibly the great change which had taken place in the temperature.

I regretted greatly that during my stay I had not the opportunity of
seeing a whale caught. There was only once an attempt at a chase. In this
instance three boats were sent out, commanded by the Captain and the two
mates, but after a considerable lapse of time, and a long interval of
suspense and anxiety, the fish chased turned out to be a hump-back, and
as this was not deemed worth catching, the boats returned to the ship.
The life led by the whalers, as far as I was able to judge, from the
short time I was with them, seemed to be one of regularity, but of
considerable hardship. At half-past six or seven in the evening they
invariably went to bed, but were up at the first dawn of day, and
sometimes even before it, the boats were then usually sent to a distance
from the ship to look out for whales, and whether fortunate or otherwise,
they would always have a pretty hard day's work before they returned.
They were, however, well fed, being apparently even better dieted than
the generality of merchant-ships; the bread was of a better quality, and
the allowance of butter, cheese, beans, and other little luxuries much
more liberal. In the Mississippi the crew were generally young men, and
with few exceptions all were complete novices at sea; this I was told was
in consequence of an expected war between England and France, and the
prohibition of able seamen from leaving their country. Captain Rossiter
assured me that he had not been allowed for a considerable length of time
to sail at all from France, as the war was daily expected to break out.
He was still ignorant as to what had been done in this respect, and
naturally felt very anxious at being, as he might imagine, on an enemy's

During the time I remained on board the vessel, a party of natives once
or twice came down to the beach, and as I was anxious to enter into
commucation with them, two were induced to get into the boat and come on
board; as I expected, my boy Wylie fully understood the language spoken
in this part of the country, and could converse with them fluently.
Through him I learnt that they had never seen white people before the
Mississippi anchored here, which was somewhat singular, considering the
frankness with which they visited us, and the degree of confidence they
appeared to repose in us. Of the interior I could gain no satisfactory
account, they said that as far inland as they were acquainted with the
country, it was similar to what we saw, that there was an abundance of
water in the valleys in small wells, that there was a lake and fresh
water river, but that there was little or no wood anywhere. In turn they
were curious to know where we had come from, or where we were going; but
Wylie, who in this respect, at least, was prudent and cautious, told them
that we had come from the eastward to join the ship, and were now going
to remain. Finding I could gain no further useful information, presents
of fish and biscuits were made to them, and they were put on shore,
highly pleased with their visit. During the remainder of my stay, I had
no further opportunity of entering into conversation with these people,
as the weather was generally wild, and they could not procure much
shelter or fire-wood on the coast, had they come down to see us.

A few days before I contemplated commencing the renewal of my journey, I
requested the Captain to allow a blacksmith he had on board to shoe my
horses, and to this he kindly consented, but as a scarcity of iron
prevailed, some old harpoons and lances had to be worked up for this
purpose. The blacksmith who was a Frenchman, made his shoes and nails in
so different, and apparently in so much more clumsy manner than I was
accustomed to, that I was almost afraid of letting him put them on, and
tried hard, but in vain, to get him to imitate the English shoe and nail
in ordinary use.

Finding that I was likely to derive no advantage from my officious
interference, I determined to let him have his own way, and was surprised
and delighted to find that he performed his work well and skilfully, the
only unusual part of the operation to me, being the necessity he appeared
to be under, of always having a man to hold up the leg of the horse
whilst he put the shoe on, instead of holding the foot up himself, as an
English blacksmith does; such however, he assured me was the practice
always in France, and he appeared to think it the best too. Having had my
horses shod, I got some canvass from the Captain, to make bags for
carrying my provisions, and then giving him a list of stores that I
wished to take with me, I commenced preparations for leaving my
hospitable entertainer. Every thing that I wished for, was given to me
with a kindness and liberality beyond what I could have expected; and it
gives me unfeigned pleasure, to have it now in my power to record thus
publicly the obligations I was under to Captain Rossiter.

On the 14th, I landed the stores, to arrange and pack them ready for the
journey. They consisted of forty pounds of flour, six pounds of biscuit,
twelve pounds of rice, twenty pounds of beef, twenty pounds of pork,
twelve pounds of sugar, one pound of tea, a Dutch cheese, five pounds of
salt butter, a little salt, two bottles of brandy, and two tin saucepans
for cooking; besides some tobacco and pipes for Wylie, who was a great
smoker, and the canteens filled with treacle for him to eat with rice.
The great difficulty was now, how to arrange for the payment of the
various supplies I had been furnished with, as I had no money with me,
and it was a matter of uncertainty, whether the ship would touch at any
of the Australian colonies. Captain Rossiter however, said that he had
some intention of calling at King George's Sound, when the Bay whaling
was over, and as that was the place to which I was myself going, I gave
him an order upon Mr. Sherratt, who had previously acted as my agent
there in the transaction of some business matters in 1840. To this day,
however, I have never learnt whether Captain Rossiter visited King
George's Sound or not.

In arranging the payment, I could not induce the Captain to receive any
thing for the twelve days' that we had been resident in the ship, nor
would he allow me to pay for some very comfortable warm clothing, which
he supplied me with, both for myself and Wylie. Independently too of the
things which I had drawn from the ship's stores, Captain Rossiter
generously and earnestly pressed me to take any thing that I thought
would be serviceable to me from his own private stock of clothes. The
attention and hospitality shewn me, during my stay on board the vessel,
and the kindness and liberality which I experienced at my departure, will
long be remembered by me with feelings of gratitude. In the evening I
slept on shore, and got every thing ready for commencing my labours again
in the morning.

June 15.--Early this morning the boat came on shore for me, and I went on
board to take a farewell breakfast, in the Mississippi, and to wish good
bye to her kind-hearted people. At eight I landed with the Captain, got
up my horses and loaded them, a matter of some little time and trouble,
now my stock of provisions and other things was so greatly augmented; in
addition too to all I had accumulated before, the Captain insisted now
upon my taking six bottles of wine, and a tin of sardines.

Having received a few letters to be posted at Albany for France, I asked
the Captain if there was anything else I could do for him, but he said
there was not. The only subject upon which he was at all anxious, was to
ascertain whether a war had broken out between France and England or not.
In the event of this being the case, he wished me not to mention having
seen a French vessel upon the coast, and I promised to comply with his

After wishing my kind host good bye, and directing Wylie to lead one of
the horses in advance, I brought up the rear, driving the others before
me. Once again we had a long and arduous journey before us, and were
wending our lonely way through the unknown and untrodden wilds. We were,
however, in very different circumstances now, to what we had been in
previous to our meeting with the French ship. The respite we had had from
our labours, and the generous living we had enjoyed, had rendered us
comparatively fresh and strong. We had now with us an abundance, not only
of the necessaries, but of the luxuries of life; were better clothed, and
provided against the inclemency of the weather than we had been; and
entered upon the continuation of our undertaking with a spirit, an
energy, and a confidence, that we had long been strangers to.

From the great additional weight we had now to carry upon the horses, we
were again obliged to give up riding even in turn, and had both to walk.
This was comparatively of little consequence, however, now we were so
well provided with every thing we could require, and the country appeared
to be so well watered, that we could arrange our stages almost according
to our own wishes.

Steering to the north-west we passed over a sandy country, covered with
low heathy plants, and grasstrees, and having granite elevations
scattered over its surface at intervals. Under these hills fresh water
swamps and native wells were constantly met with, and at one of them we
encamped for the night, after a stage of about four miles.

During the day, we passed a variety of beautiful shrubs, and among them
were many different kind of Banksias, one was quite new to me, and had a
scarlet flower, which was very handsome. The fossil formation still
constituted the geological character of the country, most of the lower
ridges of rock intervening between the various hills of granite,
exhibiting shells in great abundance. In the more level parts, the
surface was so coated over with sand, that nothing else could be seen. I
have no doubt, however, that the whole of the substrata would have been
found an uninterrupted continuation of the tertiary deposit.

At night I observed native fires about a mile from us, in a direction
towards the sea; but the natives did not come near us, nor was I myself
anxious to come into communication with them whilst my party was so

The evening had set in with steady rain, which continuing with little
intermission during the night, wet us considerably.

June 16.--This morning, I found I had caught cold, and was very unwell.
Upon leaving the encampment, we steered N. 30 degrees W. to clear a rocky
hill, passing which, on our left at six miles, we changed the course to
W. 10 degrees N. Three miles from the hill, we crossed a small stream of
brackish water running very strongly towards the sea, and then halted for
the day upon it, after a short stage. The country we had traversed in our
route, still consisted of the same sandy plains and undulations, covered
with low shrubs, heathy plants, grass and cabbage-trees, with here and
there elevations of granite, and fresh water swamps: in and around which,
the soil was black and very rich; very little wood was to be met with
anywhere, and nothing that deserved the appellation of trees.

The country, inland, appeared to rise gradually, but did not seem to
differ in character and features from that we were traversing.

June 17.--A little before daylight it commenced raining, and continued
showery all day, and though we got wet several times, we experienced
great comfort from the warm clothing we had obtained from Captain
Rossiter. Upon ascending the hills, above our camp, which confined the
waters of the little stream we were upon, we could trace its course
south-west by south, to a small lake lying in the same direction, and
which it appeared to empty into. A second small lake was observable to
the north-west of the first. Two and a half miles from our camp, we
passed a granite elevation, near which, were many fresh swamps,
permanently, I think, abounding in water and having much rich and grassy
land around, of which the soil was a deep black, and but little mixed
with sand. For the next three miles and a half, our route lay over a rich
swampy grassy land, and we were literally walking all the way in water
left by the rains; besides crossing in that distance two fresh water
streams, running strongly towards the sea, and both emptying into small
lakes seen under the coast ridges. The largest of these two was one yard
and a half wide and a foot deep, and appeared of a permanent character.
We now ascended an undulating and rather more elevated tract of country
of an oolitic limestone formation, most luxuriantly clothed with the
richest grass, and having several lakes interspersed among the hollows
between the ridges. Near this we halted for the night under some of the
coast sand-hills, after a day's stage of twelve miles. We had splendid
feed for our horses, but were without any water for ourselves, being
unable to carry any with us, as the canteens were full of treacle. From
our camp, a peak, near Cape le Grand, bore E. 33 degrees S.

June 18.--During the night heavy showers had fallen, and in the oilskins
we caught as much water as sufficed for our tea. After breakfast we
proceeded onwards, and at a little more than three miles came to the
borders of a large salt lake, lying southwest and north-east, and being
one of two noted by Captain Flinders as having been copied into his map
from a French chart. Following the borders of the lake for a mile we
found abundance of fresh water under the banks by which it was inclosed,
and which, judging from the rushes and grasses about it, and the many
traces of native encampments, I imagine to be permanent. The lake itself
was in a hollow sunk in the fossil formation, which was now very clearly
recognisable in the high banks surrounding the lake, and which varied
from sixty to a hundred and fifty feet in elevation, and were generally
pretty steep towards the shore. The day being fine I halted at this place
to re-arrange the loads of the horses and take bearings.

A year had now elapsed since I first entered upon the Northern
Expedition. This day twelve months ago I had left Adelaide to commence
the undertaking, cheered by the presence and good wishes of many friends,
and proudly commanding a small but gallant party--alas, where were they
now? Painful and bitter were the thoughts that occupied my mind as I
contrasted the circumstances of my departure then with my position now,
and when I reflected that of all whose spirit and enterprise had led them
to engage in the undertaking, two lone wanderers only remained to attempt
its conclusion.

June 19.--The dew was very heavy this morning, and we did not start until
rather late, travelling through a very grassy country, abounding in fresh
swamps of a soft peaty soil, and often with the broad flag-reed growing
in them. All these places were boggy and impassable for horses. In
attempting to cross one a horse sunk up to his haunches, and we had much
difficulty in extricating him. At five miles from our camp we ascended
some high ridges of an oolitic limestone formation, which were partially
covered by drift-sand, and in the distance looked like the ridge of a sea
shore. From their summit Cape le Grand bore E. 27 degrees S., the peak
called by the French the "Chapeau," E. 23 degrees S., and the head of the
salt-water lake E. 10 degrees S. We had now a succession of barren, sandy
and stony ridges for more than three miles, and as there was but little
prospect of our finding permanent water in such a miserable region, I
took the opportunity of halting at a little rain water deposited in a
hole of the rocks; here we procured enough for ourselves, but could not
obtain any for the horses. Our camp not being far from the coast, I
walked after dinner to the sand-hills to take bearings. Several islands
were visible, of which the centres were set at S. 10 degrees W., S. 26
degrees W., E. 41 degrees S., E. 44 degrees S. and S. 33 degrees E.
respectively; the west point of a bay bore S. 51 degrees W. the eastern
point E. 36 degrees S. Upon digging for water under the sand-hills it was
found to be salt.

June 20.--Rain fell lightly but steadily until one P.M., making it very
disagreeable travelling through the rugged and stony ridges we had to
encounter, and which were a good deal covered with scrub and brush. About
four miles from our camp of last night we crossed high stony ridges, and
immediately beyond came to some steep sand-drifts, among the hollows of
which I dug for water, but at five feet was stopped by rock. The scrubby,
hilly, and rugged nature of the back country, generally about three
hundred feet above the level of the sea, now compelled me to keep the
beach for five miles, from which I was then again driven by the hills
terminating abruptly towards the sea, and forcing me to scale a steep
stony range, which for four miles and a half kept us incessantly toiling
up one rugged ascent after another. We then came to an extensive hollow,
being a partial break in the fossil formation, and having two large lakes
and many smaller ones interspersed over its surface. Around the margins
of the lakes we again found timber--the tea-tree and the bastard gum. The
water in the lakes was salt, but some slight elevations of granite
afforded us in their hollows an abundance of water for ourselves and
horses. The traces of natives were numerous and recent, but yet we saw
none. Swans, ducks, and wild fowl of various kinds were in great numbers,
and kept up an unceasing noise at night whilst passing from one lake to
the other. Our stage had been twelve miles and a half, but the hilly and
rugged nature of the road had made it severe upon the horses, whilst the
wet overhead and the wet grass under our feet made it equally harassing
to ourselves. From our encampment some white drifts in the coast line
bore S. 35 degrees E., and probably were the "white streak in the
sand-hills" of Flinders.

June 21.--We did not get away until late, but the dew had been so heavy
during the night that even then the shrubs and bushes wet us completely
through, and made our journey cold and miserable. After travelling a
short distance we lost all symptoms of grass, and the country was again
sandy and barren, and covered with shrubs and heathy plants. In this
region we passed two native women and a boy, within gun-shot of us; but
as they were so intent upon their occupation of digging roots, and did
not notice us, I was unwilling to alarm them, and we passed silently by.
At six miles we came to a fine deep hole of excellent water about thirty
yards in circumference. It was situated in a narrow, short, but steep and
rocky gorge, and is, I think, permanent. Four miles beyond this we
crossed a chain of salt ponds, trending seawards, towards an apparent gap
in the coast-line; and six miles further another. Upon the latter we
halted for the night, as there was good grass for the horses, and
brackish water was procurable a little way up the stream, where it
divided into branches. The constant travelling in the wet for the last
few days began now to affect our limbs considerably, and upon halting at
nights we found our feet always much swollen, and our legs generally
stiff and cramped.

June 22.--A very heavy dew fell in the night, and we were again condemned
to wade for three hours up to our middle among the wet brush; after which
the day became fine, and we got our clothes dried. Travelling for two and
a half miles, we crossed another small brackish chain of ponds, and then
ascending rather higher ground, obtained a view of a large lake under the
sand-hills, into which the channel we encamped upon last night emptied
itself. The lake appeared as if it were deep, and its dark blue colour
led me to imagine there might be a junction with the sea towards the
south-west, where the low appearance of the coast ridge indicated a gap
or opening of some kind. At four miles from our last night's encampment
we were stopped by a large salt-water river, fully a hundred yards wide,
and increasing to three or four times that size as it trended to its
junction with the large lake, and which was visible from the hills above
the river. This river was deep where we first struck upon it, but
appeared to be much more so towards the lake, where the water was of a
dark blue colour, as was that also of the lake itself. This confirmed me
in my opinion that there must be a junction with the sea; but
unfortunately I was obliged to trace its course upwards, for the purpose
of crossing, and the circumstances under which I was travelling precluded
me from delaying, or going so far back out of my way to examine its
mouth. I dared not leave Wylie in charge of the camp for the time
necessary for me to have gone alone; and to take the horses such a
distance, and through a rough or heavy country, on the uncertainty of
procuring for them either grass or water, would have been a risk which,
in their condition, I did not think myself justified in incurring.

After tracing the river northerly for two miles and a half, I found it
divided into two branches, and though these were still of considerable
size, yet a ledge of rocks extending across the channels enabled us to
effect a passage to the other side. At the place where we crossed, the
stream running over the rocks was only slightly brackish, and we watered
our horses there; had we traced it a little further it might possibly
have been quite fresh, but we had no time for this, for Wylie having
taken charge of the horses but for a few moments, whilst I had been
examining the river for a crossing place, contrived to frighten them all
in some way or other, and set them off at a gallop; the result was, that
our baggage was greatly disturbed, and many things knocked off and
damaged, whilst it took us some time again to get our horses and
re-arrange the loads.

The valley through which the river took its course, was rocky, with
sheets of granite extending in many places to the water's edge. There was
abundance of good grass, however, and in its upper branches, probably,
there might have been some considerable extent of pasturage. The trees
growing upon the margin, were the paper-barked tea-tree, and the bastard

Leaving the river, and proceeding over an undulating sandy country,
without timber, but covered with shrubs, we passed at six miles between
two small lakes, and in three more descended to a deep valley among
granite rocks; here we encamped after a stage of sixteen miles, with
plenty of fresh water in pools, and very fair grass for the horses, about
a mile and a half before we halted, we had obtained a view to seawards,
and I set the "Rocky Islets" at a bearing of S. 25 degrees W.

The character of the country generally, through which we travelled
to-day, was very similar to that we had so long been traversing. Its
general elevation above the level of the sea, was about three hundred
feet, and to a distant observer, it seemed to be a perfect table land,
unbroken to the horizon, and destitute of all timber or trees, except
occasionally a few cabbage-trees, grass-trees, or minor shrubs; it was
also without grass. Upon crossing this region deep gorges or valleys are
met with, through which flow brackish or salt-water streams, and shading
these are found the tea-tree and the bastard gum. The steep banks which
inclose the valleys, through which the streams take their course, and
which until lately we had found of an oolitic limestone, now exhibited
granite, quartz, sandstone or iron-stone.

June 23.--Our horses having rambled some distance back upon our
yesterday's tracks, it was late when they were recovered, and we did not
get away until eleven. After travelling a mile and a half, we crossed a
stream of most excellent water running over a bed of granite, in which
were some large deep pools with reeds growing around their margins. A
branch of this watercourse was crossed a little further on, but was quite
dry where we passed it.

Nine miles from our last night's camp a view of the "Rocky Islets" was
obtained from a hill, and set at due south. Immediately on descending
from the hill we crossed a salt chain of ponds in a bed of sandstone and
ironstone, and nine miles beyond this we came to another, also of salt
water; here we halted for the night as there was tolerable grass for the
horses, and we were fortunate enough to discover fresh water in a granite

In the course of the afternoon I obtained a view of a very distant hill
bearing from us W.8 degrees S. This I took to be the east Mount Barren of
Flinders; but it was still very far away, and the intervening country
looked barren and unpromising. During the day our route had still been
over the same character of country as before, with this exception, that
it was more stony and barren, with breccia or iron-stone grit covering
the surface. The streams were less frequently met with, and were of a
greatly inferior character, consisting now principally of only chains of
small stagnant ponds of salt water, destitute of grass, and without any
good soil in the hollows through which they took their course. Many of
these, and especially those we crossed in the latter part of the day,
were quite dry, and appeared to be nothing more than deep gutters washed
by heavy rains between the undulations of the country.

The rock formation, where it was developed, was exclusively sandstone or
ironstone, with inferior granite; and even the higher levels, which had
heretofore been of a sandy nature, were now rugged and stony, and more
sterile than before; the grasstrees, which generally accommodate
themselves to any soil, were stunted and diminutive, and by no means so
abundant as before. The general elevation of the country still appeared
to be the same. I estimated it at about three hundred feet.

One circumstance, which struck me as rather singular, with regard to the
last forty miles of country we had traversed, was, that it did not appear
to have experienced the same weather as there had been to the eastward.
The little water we found deposited in the rocks, plainly indicated that
the late rains had either not fallen here at all, or in a much less
degree than they had, in the direction we had come from; whilst the dry
and withered state of any little grass that we found, convinced me that
the earlier rains had still been more partial, so great was the contrast
between the rich luxuriance of the long green grass we had met with
before, and the few dry withered bunches of last year's growth, which we
fell in with now.

Chapter V.


June 24.--UPON moving on early this morning, we crossed the bed of a
considerable watercourse, containing large deep pools of brackish water,
but unconnected at present by any stream. The late hour at which we
halted last night had prevented us from noticing this larger chain of
ponds, and of which, that we were encamped upon formed only a branch. The
country we now passed through, varied but little in character, except
that the shrubs became higher, with a good deal of the Eucalyptus dumosa
intermingled with them, and were entangled together by matted creepers or
vines, which made it extremely difficult and fatiguing to force a way
through. The whole was very sterile, and without grass.

After travelling nine miles, we passed on our right a small lake of fresh
water; and two miles beyond this another, about a mile in circumference,
but deep, and evidently of a permanent character. Close to this fresh
water lake was another, divided from it by only a narrow neck of land,
and yet the latter was as salt as the sea. We had only made a short stage
as yet; but as there was a little food for the horses near the lake, I
thought it more prudent to halt there than run the risk of being left
without in the wretched looking country before us,

The Mount Barren ranges were observed again, but the weather was cloudy,
so that I could make nothing out distinctly. In the afternoon, Wylie shot
three teal, of which there were numbers on the lake. At night, our
baggage and clothes had nearly all been destroyed by fire, a spark having
been carried by the wind to the tarpaulin which covered them, and which,
as it had been but newly tarred, was soon in a blaze. I was fortunate
enough, however, to observe the accident in time to save our other

June 25.--We commenced our journey early, but had not gone far before the
rain began to fall, and continued until ten o'clock. Occasionally the
showers came down in perfect torrents, rendering us very cold and
miserable, and giving the whole country the appearance of a large puddle.
We were literally walking in water; and by stooping down, almost any
where as we went along, could have dipped a pint pot half full. It was
dreadful work to travel thus in the water, and with the wet from the long
brush soaking our clothes for so many hours; but there was no help for
it, as we could not find a blade of grass for our horses, to enable us to
halt sooner. The surface of the whole country was stony and barren in the
extreme. A mile from our camp, we passed a small salt lake on our left;
and at fifteen miles more, came to a valley with some wiry grass in it.
At this I halted, as there was no prospect of getting better grass, and
the water left by the rains was abundant. The latter, though it had only
fallen an hour or two, was in many places quite salt, and the best of it
brackish, so thoroughly saline was the nature of the soil upon which it
had been deposited.

As the afternoon proved fine, I traced down the valley we were upon to
its junction with a stream flowing over a granite bed, about a mile from
our camp. In this the pools of water were large, deep, and brackish, but
there was plenty of fresh water left by the rains in holes of the rocks
upon its banks. As, however, there did not appear to be better grass upon
the larger channel, than in the valley where we were, I did not think it
worth while to remove our camp.

June 26.--I determined to remain in camp today to rest the horses, and to
enable me to arrange their loads, so that Wylie and I might again ride
occasionally. We had both walked for the last eleven days, during which
we had made good a distance of 134 miles from Rossiter Bay, and as I
calculated we ought under ordinary circumstances to reach the Sound in
ten days more, I thought that we might occasionally indulge in riding,
and relieve ourselves from the great fatigue we had hitherto been subject
to, especially as the horses were daily improving in strength and

Whilst I was engaged in making the necessary preparations, and throwing
away some things which I thought we could dispense with, such as our
bucket, some harness, ammunition, cooking utensils, and sundry other
things, Wylie took the rifle, and went down to the watercourse to shoot.
On his return in the afternoon he produced four teal and a black swan, as
the produce of his day's sport; he had, however, shot away every charge
of shot from the belt, which had been filled on board the Mississippi,
and held three pounds and a half, besides three ball cartridges; how
often he fired at the swan before he got it I could never discover, but I
heard shot after shot as fast as he could load and fire for some time,
and he himself acknowledged to firing at it seven times, but I suspect it
to have been nearer twice seven.

To-day we were obliged to fetch up what water we required for our own
use, from the holes in the granite rocks near the river, that lying on
the ground near our camp being too salt for use.

June 27.--Upon moving on this morning we passed towards the Mount Barren
ranges for ten miles through the same sterile country, and then observing
a watercourse coming from the hills, I became apprehensive I should
experience some difficulty in crossing it near the ranges, from their
rocky and precipitous character, and at once turned more southerly to
keep between the sea and a salt lake, into which the stream emptied
itself. After getting nearly half round the lake, our progress was
impeded by a dense and most difficult scrub of the Eucalyptus dumosa.
Upon entering it we found the scrub large and strong, and growing very
close together, whilst the fallen trees, dead wood, and sticks lying
about in every direction, to the height of a man's breast, rendered our
passage difficult and dangerous to the horses in the extreme. Indeed,
when we were in the midst of it, the poor animals suffered so much, and
progressed so little, that I feared we should hardly get them either
through it or back again. By dint of great labour and perseverance we
passed through a mile of it, and then emerging upon the beach followed it
for a short distance, until steep rocky hills coming nearly bluff into
the sea, obliged us to turn up under them, and encamp for the night not
far from the lake. Here our horses procured tolerable grass, whilst we
obtained a little fresh water for ourselves among the hollows of the

Our stage had been about thirteen miles, and our position was S. 30
degrees E. from East Mount Barren, the hills under which we were encamped
being connected with that range. Most properly had it been called Mount
Barren, for a more wretched aridlooking country never existed than that
around it. The Mount Barren ranges are of quartz or reddish micaceous
slate, the rocks project in sharp rugged masses, and the strata are all

June 28.--Upon getting up this morning we saw the smoke of native fires
along the margin of the lake, at less than a mile from us. They had
already noticed our fire, and called out repeatedly to us, but as I did
not wish to come into communication with them at all, I did not reply.
Soon afterwards we saw them in the midst of the lake carrying boughs, and
apparently fishing. Three miles from the lake we crossed a small salt
stream, and a mile further another. Four miles beyond the latter we came
to a very deep narrow salt lake, swarming with swans, pelicans, and
ducks. As the passage between the lake and the sea appeared to be
scrubby, and very similar to that we had found so much difficulty in
passing yesterday, I turned to the north-west to head it inland; but had
not proceeded far before I found our progress stopped by a large
salt-water stream, which joined the lake, and whose course was through
steep precipitous ravines. By following the river upwards I came to a
place where we could descend into its basin, and as the water there,
though brackish, was still drinkable, I halted for the night after a
stage of fourteen miles. The horses were a good deal tired with the rough
hilly road they had passed over, and having been without water last
night, stood greatly in need of rest.

In the afternoon Wylie took the rifle to shoot some of the swans and
ducks around us, but was not successful. I remained at the camp, breaking
down and clearing a passage amongst the shrubs and trees which grew in
the rocky bed of the watercourse, to enable us to get our horses readily
across to-morrow. Our position bore S. W. from East Mount Barren, E. from
a bluff range three miles from us, and N. 55 degrees E. from some high
hills in the direction of Middle Mount Barren. The course of the stream
we were encamped upon being nearly north and south.

June 29.--Having found so much difficulty in keeping between the hills
and the sea, I determined now to keep more inland, and steering W. 20
degrees N., headed all ranges in four miles. From this point East Mount
Barren bore E. 20 degrees N., and as I was now clear of hills in front, I
changed my course to W. 20 degrees S., passing through a barren worthless
country for eleven miles, and encamping upon a deep ravine, in which we
procured brackish water. Our horses were greatly fagged. From our camp
West Mount Barren bore S. 41 degrees W.

June 30.--For the first ten miles to-day we had a very bad road, over
steep stony ridges and valleys, covered for the most part with dense gum
scrub. The surface was strewed over with rough pebbles or ironstone grit,
and was broken a good deal into steep-faced ridges and deep hollows, as
if formed so by the action of water. The formation of these precipitous
banks appeared to be an ochre of various colours--red and yellow, and of
a soft friable description. At ten miles we crossed a watercourse with
many pools of brackish water in it, trending to a lake visible under the
coast ridge. There was good grass near this, and many kangaroos were
seen, but as no fresh water could be obtained, we passed on, and at three
miles further came to a hole of rain-water in a rocky gorge, but here
there was not a blade of grass. Hoping to meet with more success further
on, we still advanced for twelve miles, until night compelled us at last
to encamp without either grass or water, both ourselves and our horses
being greatly fatigued.

In the evening we obtained a view of some high rugged and distant ranges,
which I at once recognised as being the mountains immediately behind King
George's Sound. At last we could almost say we were in sight of the
termination of our long, harassing, and disastrous journey. Early in the
morning I had told Wylie that I thought we should see the King George's
Sound hills before night, but he at the time appeared rather sceptical;
when, however, they did break upon our view, in picturesque though
distant outline, his joy knew no bounds. For the first time on our
journey he believed we should really reach the Sound at last. The
cheering and not-to-be-mistaken view before him had dissipated all his
doubts. Once more he gazed upon objects that were familiar to him; the
home of his childhood was before him, and already almost in fancy he was
there, and amongst his friends; he could think, or talk of nothing else,
and actually complimented me upon the successful way in which I had
conducted him to the end of his journey. From our camp the distant ranges
bore W. 5 degrees S., and West Mount Barren E. 5 degrees S.

July 1.--After travelling three miles we came to a chain of large ponds
of brackish water, but with excellent grass around them, and as the
horses had nothing to eat or drink last night we halted for three hours.
The water was bad, but they drank it, and we were obliged to do so too,
after an ineffectual search for better. At noon we again moved on, and
after proceeding about five miles, came to a large watercourse where the
water was excellent, and the feed abundant. Here we halted for the night,
to make our horses amends for the bad fare and hard work of yesterday.
From the hill above our camp West Mount Barren bore E. 8 degrees N.,
Middle Mount Barren E. 21 degrees N., and Rugged Mountains behind the
Sound, W. 4 degrees S. The watercourse we were upon, like all those we
had lately crossed, had perpendicular cliffs abutting upon it, either on
one side or the other, and the channel through which it wound looked
almost like a cut made through the level country above it. A few
casuarinae were observed in parts of the valley, being the first met with
since those seen near Cape Arid.

July 2.--Our route to-day lay through a country much covered with
gum-scrub, banksias, and other shrubs, besides occasionally a few patches
of stunted gum-trees growing in clumps in small hollows, where water
appeared to lodge after rains. At two miles we crossed a small
watercourse, and at fifteen further, came to a deep valley with fine
fresh-water pools in it, and tolerable feed around; here we halted for
the night. The valley we were upon (and one or two others near) led to a
much larger one below, through which appeared to take its course the
channel of a considerable watercourse trending towards a bight in the
coast at S. 17 degrees W.

Some high land, seen to the southward and westward of us, I took to be
Cape Riche, a point I should like greatly to have visited, but did not
think it prudent to go so far out of my direct course, in the
circumstances I was travelling under.

July 3.--Upon commencing our journey to-day I found our route was much
intersected by deep ravines and gorges, all trending to the larger valley
below, and where I had no doubt a large chain of ponds, and probably much
good land, would have been found. After proceeding four miles and a half,
we were stopped by a large salt-water river, which seemed to be very deep
below where we struck it, and trended towards a bight of the coast where
it appeared to form a junction with the sea.

Many oyster and cockle shells were on its shore. This was the largest
river we had yet come to, and it gave us much trouble to cross it, for,
wherever it appeared fordable, the bed was so soft and muddy, that we
dared not venture to take our horses into it. By tracing it upwards for
eight miles, we at last found a rocky shelf extending across, by which we
were enabled to get to the other side. At the point where we crossed, it
had become only a narrow rocky channel; but there was a strong stream
running, and I have no doubt, higher up, the water might probably have
been quite fresh. Its waters flowed from a direction nearly of
west-north-west, and appeared to emanate from the high rugged ranges
behind King George's Sound. The country about the lower or broad part of
this river, as far as I traced it, was rocky and bad; but higher up,
there was a good deal of grass, and the land appeared improving. In the
distance, the hills seemed less rocky and more grassy, and might probably
afford fair runs for sheep. Upon the banks of the river were a few
casuarinae and more of the tea-tree, and bastard gum, than we had seen
before upon any other watercourse.

Upon crossing the river, we found the country getting more wooded, with a
stunted-looking tree, apparently of the same species as the stringy bark,
with bastard gums, and large banksias, the intervals being filled up with
grass-trees and brush, or shrubs, common at King George's Sound. At dark
we could find no water, and I therefore pushed on by moonlight, making
Wylie lead one of the horses whilst I drove the rest after him. At nine
o'clock, we came to a deep valley with plenty of water and grass in it,
and here we halted for the night, after a stage of full thirty miles. The
early part of the morning had been very wet, and it continued to rain
partially for the greatest part of the day, rendering us very cold and
uncomfortable. At night it was a severe frost.

July 4.--Our horses having been a good deal fagged yesterday, I did not
disturb them early, and it was nearly noon when we moved away from our
encampment, crossing the main watercourse, of which the ponds we were
upon last night were only a branch. In the larger channel, there were
many fine pools of water, connected by a strongly running stream in a
deep narrow bed, and which wound at a course of E. 25 degrees S. through
a valley of soft, spongy, peaty formation, and over which we had much
trouble in getting our horses, one having sunk very deep, and being with
difficulty extricated. After travelling two miles and a half, we obtained
a view of Bald Island, bearing S. 15 degrees W.; and in two miles and a
half more, we crossed a fine chain of ponds, taking its course through
narrow valleys between hills of granite; these valleys and the slopes of
the hills were heavily timbered; the soil was very rich, either a reddish
loam, or a light black mixed with sand, and the grass interspersed among
the trees was abundant and luxuriant. After ascending the range, we
passed principally over stony hills, and valleys heavily timbered, and
with brush or underwood, filling up the interstices of the trees.

Ten miles from our last night's camp we crossed the tracks of horses,
apparently of no very old date, this being the first symptom we had yet
observed of our approach towards the haunts of civilised man. The day was
cold with heavy squalls of rain, and as the night appeared likely to be
worse, I halted early, after a stage of thirteen miles. After dark the
rain ceased, and the night cleared up, but was very cold.

July 5.--Another rainy day, and so excessively cold that we were obliged
to walk to keep ourselves at all warm; we spent a miserable time,
splashing through the wet underwood, and at fifteen miles we passed a
fresh water lake, in a valley between some hills. This Wylie recognised
as a place he had once been at before, and told me that he now knew the
road well, and would act as guide, upon which I resigned the post of
honour to him, on his promising always to take us to grass and water at
night. Two miles and a half beyond the lake, we came to a fresh water
swamp, and a mile beyond that to another, at which we halted for the
night, with plenty of water, but very little grass. During the day, we
had been travelling generally through a very heavily timbered country.

At night the rain set in again, and continued to fall in torrents at
intervals; we got dreadfully drenched, and suffered greatly from cold and
want of rest, being obliged to stand or walk before the fire, nearly the
whole night.

July 6.--The morning still very wet and miserably cold. With Wylie acting
as guide, we reached in eight miles, the Candiup river, a large chain of
ponds, connected by a running stream, and emptying into a wide and deep
arm of the sea, with much rich and fertile land upon its banks. The whole
district was heavily timbered, and had good grass growing amongst the
trees. From the very heavy rains that had fallen, we had great trouble in
crossing many of the streams, which were swollen by the floods into
perfect torrents. In the Candiup river I had to wade, cold and chill as I
was, seven times through, with the water breast high, and a current that
I with difficulty could keep my feet against, in order to get the horses
over in safety; the only fordable place was at a narrow ledge of rocks,
and with so strong a stream, and such deep water below the ledge, I dared
not trust Wylie to lead any of them, but went back, and took each horse
across myself. The day was bitterly cold and rainy, and I began to suffer
severely from the incessant wettings I had been subject to for many days

Four miles beyond the Candiup river, we came to King's river, a large
salt arm of Oyster Harbour, here my friend Wylie, who insisted upon it
that he knew the proper crossing place, took me into a large swampy
morass, and in endeavouring to take the horses through, three of them got
bogged and were nearly lost, and both myself and Wylie were detained in
the water and mud for a couple of hours, endeavouring to extricate them.
At last we succeeded, but the poor animals were sadly weakened and
strained, and we were compelled to return back to the same side of the
river, and encamp for the night, instead of going on to King George's
Sound as I had intended!

Fortunately there was tolerable grass, and fresh water lay every where
about in great abundance, so that the horses would fare well, but for
ourselves there was a cheerless prospect. For three days and nights, we
had never had our clothes dry, and for the greater part of this time, we
had been enduring in full violence the pitiless storm--whilst wading so
constantly through the cold torrents in the depth of the winter season,
and latterly being detained in the water so long a time at the King's
river, had rendered us rheumatic, and painfully sensitive to either cold
or wet. I hoped to have reached Albany this evening, and should have done
so, as it was only six miles distant, if it had not been for the unlucky
attempt to cross King's river. Now we had another night's misery before
us, for we had hardly lain down before the rain began to fall again in
torrents. Wearied and worn-out as we were, with the sufferings and
fatigues of the last few days, we could neither sit nor lie down to rest;
our only consolation under the circumstances being, that however bad or
inclement the weather might be, it was the last night we should be
exposed to its fury.

July 7.--Getting up the horses early, we proceeded up the King's river,
with a view of attempting to cross, but upon sounding the depths in one
or two places, I found the tide, which was rising, was too high; I had
only the alternative, therefore, of waiting for several hours until the
water ebbed, or else of leaving the horses, and proceeding on without
them. Under all the circumstances, I decided upon the latter; the rain
was still falling very heavily, and the river before us was so wide and
so dangerous for horses, from its very boggy character, that I did not
think it prudent to attempt to force a passage, or worth while to delay
to search for a proper crossing place. There was good feed for the horses
where they were, and plenty of water, so that I knew they would fare
better by remaining than if they were taken on to the Sound; whilst it
appeared to me more than probable that I should have no difficulty,
whenever I wished to get them, to procure a guide to go for and conduct
them safely across, at the proper crossing place.

Having turned our horses loose, and piled up our baggage, now again
greatly reduced, I took my journals and charts, and with Wylie forded the
river about breast high. We were soon on the other side, and rapidly
advancing towards the termination of our journey; the rain was falling in
torrents, and we had not a dry shred about us, whilst the whole country
through which we passed, had, from the long-continued and excessive
rains, become almost an uninterrupted chain of puddles. For a great part
of the way we walked up to our ankles in water. This made our progress
slow, and rendered our last day's march a very cold and disagreeable one.
Before reaching the Sound, we met a native, who at once recognised Wylie,
and greeted him most cordially. From him we learnt that we had been
expected at the Sound some months ago, but had long been given up for
lost, whilst Wylie had been mourned for and lamented as dead by his
friends and his tribe. The rain still continued falling heavily as we
ascended to the brow of the hill immediately overlooking the town of
Albany--not a soul was to be seen--not an animal of any kind--the place
looked deserted and uninhabited, so completely had the inclemency of the
weather driven both man and beast to seek shelter from the storm.

For a moment I stood gazing at the town below me--that goal I had so long
looked forward to, had so laboriously toiled to attain, was at last
before me. A thousand confused images and reflections crowded through my
mind, and the events of the past year were recalled in rapid succession.
The contrast between the circumstances under which I had commenced and
terminated my labours stood in strong relief before me. The gay and
gallant cavalcade that accompanied me on my way at starting--the small
but enterprising band that I then commanded, the goodly array of horses
and drays, with all their well-ordered appointments and equipment were
conjured up in all their circumstances of pride and pleasure; and I could
not restrain a tear, as I called to mind the embarrassing difficulties
and sad disasters that had broken up my party, and left myself and Wylie
the two sole wanderers remaining at the close of an undertaking entered
upon under such hopeful auspices.

Whilst standing thus upon the brow overlooking the town, and buried in
reflection, I was startled by the loud shrill cry of the native we had
met on the road, and who still kept with us: clearly and powerfully that
voice rang through the recesses of the settlement beneath, whilst the
blended name of Wylie told me of the information it conveyed. For an
instant there was a silence still almost as death--then a single
repetition of that wild joyous cry, a confused hum of many voices, a
hurrying to and fro of human feet, and the streets which had appeared so
shortly before gloomy and untenanted, were now alive with natives--men,
women and children, old and young, rushing rapidly up the hill, to
welcome the wanderer on his return, and to receive their lost one almost
from the grave.

It was an interesting and touching sight to witness the meeting between
Wylie and his friends. Affection's strongest ties could not have produced
a more affecting and melting scene--the wordless weeping pleasure, too
deep for utterance, with which he was embraced by his relatives, the
cordial and hearty reception given him by his friends, and the joyous
greeting bestowed upon him by all, might well have put to the blush those
heartless calumniators, who, branding the savage as the creature only of
unbridled passions, deny to him any of those better feelings and
affections which are implanted in the breast of all mankind, and which
nature has not denied to any colour or to any race.

Upon entering the town I proceeded direct to Mr. Sherrats', where I had
lodged when in King George's Sound, in 1840. By him and his family I was
most hospitably received, and every attention shewn to me; and in the
course of a short time, after taking a glass of hot brandy and water,
performing my ablutions and putting on a clean suit of borrowed clothes,
I was enabled once more to feel comparatively comfortable, and to receive
the many kind friends who called upon me.

I feel great pleasure in the opportunity now afforded me of recording the
grateful feelings I entertain towards the residents at Albany for the
kindness I experienced upon this occasion. Wet as the day was, I had
hardly been two hours at Mr. Sherrats before I was honoured by a visit
from Lady Spencer, from the Government-resident, Mr. Phillips, and from
almost all the other residents and visitors at the settlement,--all vying
with each other in their kind attentions and congratulations, and in
every offer of assistance or accommodation which it was in their power to

Finding that a vessel would shortly sail for Adelaide, I at once engaged
my passage, and proceeded to make arrangements for leaving King George's

To the Governor of the Colony, Mr. Hutt, I wrote a brief report of my
journey, which was forwarded, with a copy both of my own and Wylie's
depositions, relative to the melancholy loss of my overseer on the 29th
April. I then had my horses got up from the King's river, and left them
in the care of Mr. Phillips, who had in the most friendly manner offered
to take charge of them until they recovered their condition and could be

Wylie was to remain at the Sound with his friends, and to receive from
the Government a weekly allowance of provisions, [Note 29: This was
confirmed by Governor Hutt.] by order of Mr. Phillips; who promised to
recommend that it should be permanently continued, as a reward for the
fidelity and good conduct he had displayed whilst accompanying me in
the desert.

On the 13th July I wished my friends good bye, and in the afternoon went
on board the Truelove to sail for Adelaide; whilst working out of harbour
we were accompanied as long as any of the shore boats remained, by some
of the natives of the place, who were most anxious to have gone with me
to Adelaide. Wylie had given them so flattering an account of South
Australia and its pleasures, that he had excited the envy and curiosity
of the whole tribe; dozens applied to me to take them, and I really think
I could have filled the ship had I been disposed; one or two, more
persevering than the rest, would not be denied, and stuck close to the
vessel to the last, in the hope that I might relent and take them with me
before the pilot boat left, but upon this occurring, to their great
discomforture, they were compelled to return disappointed.

On the afternoon of the 26th of July I arrived in Adelaide, after an
absence of one year and twenty-six days.

Chapter VI.


Having now brought to a close the narrative of my explorations in 1840-1,
it may not be out of place to take a brief and cursory review of the
whole, and to state generally what have been the results effected. In
making this summary, I have no important rivers to enumerate, no fertile
regions to point out for the future spread of colonization and
civilization, or no noble ranges to describe from which are washed the
debris that might form a rich and fertile district beneath them; on the
contrary, all has been arid and barren in the extreme.

Such, indeed, has been the sterile and desolate character of the
wilderness I have traversed, and so great have been the difficulties
thereby entailed upon me, that throughout by far the greater portion of
it, I have never been able to delay a moment in my route, or to deviate
in any way from the line I was pursuing, to reconnoitre or examine what
may haply be beyond. Even in the latter part of my travels, when within
the colony of Western Australia, and when the occasionally meeting with
tracts of a better soil, or with watercourses appearing to have an outlet
to the ocean, rendered the country one of much greater interest, I was
quite unable, from the circumstances under which I was placed, the
reduced and worn-out state of my horses, and the solitary manner in which
I was travelling, ever to deviate from my direct line of route, either to
examine more satisfactorily the character of the country, or to determine
whether the watercourses, some of which occasionally bore the character
of rivers (though of only short course), had embouchures opening to the
sea or not.

In a geographical point of view, I would hope the result of my labours
has not been either uninteresting, or incommensurate with the nature of
the expedition placed under my command, and the character of the country
I had to explore. By including in the summary I am now making, the
journeys I undertook in 1839, as well as those of 1840-1 (for a
considerable portion of the country then examined was recrossed by the
Northern Expedition), it will be seen that I have discovered and examined
a tract of country to the north of Adelaide, which was previously
unknown, of about 270 miles in length, extending between the parallels of
33 degrees 40 minutes and 29 degrees S. latitude. In longitude, that part
of my route which was before unknown, extends between the parallels of
138 degrees E., and 118 degrees 40 minutes E., or about 1060 miles of
direct distance. These being connected with the previously known portions
of South-western, South-eastern, and part of Southern Australia, complete
the examination of the whole of the south line of the coast of this
continent. Indeed, I have myself (at various times) crossed over the
whole of this distance from east to west, from Sydney to Swan River. In
the early part of the Expedition, 1840, the continuation of Flinders
range, from Mount Arden, was traced and laid down to its termination,
near the parallel of 29 degrees S. It was ascertained to be hemmed in by
an impassable barrier, consisting of the basin of an immense lake, which
I named Lake Torrens, and which, commencing from the head of Spencer's
Gulf, increased in width as it swept to the north-west, but subsequently
bent round again to the north-east, east and south-east, in
correspondence with the trend of Flinders range, the northern extremity
of which it completely surrounded in the form of a horse-shoe. The shores
of this lake I visited to the westward of Flinders range, at three
different points, from eighty to ninety miles apart from each other, and
on all these occasions I found the basin to consist, as far as I could
penetrate, of a mass of mud and sand, coated on the surface with a crust
of salt, but having water mixed with it beneath. At the most
north-westerly point attained by me, water was found in an arm of the
main lake, about two feet deep, clear, and salt as the sea; it did not
extend, however, more than two or three hundred yards, nor did it
continue to the bed of the main lake, which appeared, from a rise that I
ascended near the arm, to be of the same character and consistency as
before. The whole course of the lake, to the farthest point visited by
me, was bounded by a steep, continuous, sandy ridge, exactly like a
sea-shore ridge; those parts of its course to the north, and to the east
of Flinders range, which I did not go down to, were seen and laid down
from various heights in that mountain chain. Altogether, the outline of
this extraordinary feature, as thus observed and traced, could not have
extended over a circuit of less than 400 miles.

It is singular enough that all the springs found near the termination of
Flinders range should have been salt, and that these were very nearly in
the same latitude in which Captain Sturt had found brine springs in the
bed of the Darling in 1829, although our two positions were so far
separated in longitude. My furthest position to the north-west was also
in about the same latitude, as the most inland point gained by any
previous exploring party, viz. that of Sir Thomas Mitchell's in 1832,
about the parallel of 149 degrees E. longitude; but by my being about 600
miles more to the westward, I was consequently much nearer to the centre
of New Holland. It is, to say the least, remarkable that from both our
positions, so far apart as they are, the country should present the same
low and sterile aspect to the west and north-west. Since my return from
the expedition, a party has been sent out under Captain Frome, the
Surveyor-General, in South Australia, to examine the south-east extremity
of Lake Torrens; the following is the report made by that officer upon
his return.

"The most northern point at which I found water last year, was near the
top of a deep ravine of the Black Rock Hills, in lat. 32 degrees 45
minutes 25 seconds, where I left the dray and the larger portion of my
party on the 20th July, taking on only a light spring cart, the bottom
filled entirely with kegs containing sufficient water for our horses for
nearly three days, and provisions for one month, which was as much as the
cart would contain.

"My object being to ascertain the boundaries of the southern termination
of the eastern branch of Lake Torrens, as laid down by Mr. Eyre, and also
the nature of the country between Flinders range, as high as the parallel
of Mount Hopeless, and the meridian of 141 degrees, (the eastern limits
of the province), I kept at first a course as near N.N.E. as the nature
of the ground would admit, to ensure my not passing to the east of this
extremity of the lake; from whence I intended, if possible, to pursue a
line nearly north-east, as far as my time and the means at my disposal
would allow me, hoping to reach the high land laid down by Sir Thomas
Mitchell, on the right banks of the Darling, to the north of Mount Lyell,
and thus ascertain if any reasonable hope existed of penetrating at some
future time towards the interior from thence. The continued heavy rains
which had fallen for more than three weeks before my departure from
Adelaide, on the 8th July, and for nearly a fortnight afterwards, had
left the surface water in pools on the scrubby plains, and in some of the
ravines; but on proceeding north, it was evident that these rains had not
been there so general or so heavy, though by steering from point to point
of the hills, after crossing the Black Rock Range at Rowe's Creek, I was
able to find sufficient water for the horses, and to replenish the kegs
every second or third day. From this spot, the plains, as well as the
higher land, appeared evidently to dip away to the north-east, the barren
hills all diminishing in elevation, and the deep watercourses from
Flinders range all crossing the plains in that direction. In one of these
watercourses, the Siccus (lat. about 31 degrees 55 minutes), whose
section nearly equals that of the Murray, there were indications of not
very remote floods having risen to between twenty and thirty feet above
its bed, plainly marked by large gum-trees lodged in the forks of the
standing trees, and lying high up on its banks, on one of which I
remarked dead leaves still on the branches; and in another creek (Pasmore
River), lat. 31 degrees 29 minutes, a strong current was running at the
spot where we struck it (owing, I suppose, to recent heavy rains among
the hills from whence it has its source), but below this point the bed
was like that of all the other creeks, as dry as if no rain had ever
fallen, and with occasional patches of various shrubs, and salt water
tea-tree growing in it. After crossing the low ridge above Prewitt's
Springs, lat. 31 degrees 45 minutes, forming the left bank of the basin
of the Siccus, the plain extended between the north and east as far as
the eye could reach, and the lurid glare of the horizon, as we advanced
northward, plainly indicated the approach of Lake Torrens, which, from
the direction I had followed, I expected to turn about this point. I was
obliged, however, to continue a northerly course for the sake of water,
which I could only hope to find in the ravines of the hills on our left,
as high as the parallel of 30 degrees 59 minutes, where the lake was
visible within fifteen or sixteen miles, and appeared from the high land
to be covered with water, studded with islands, and backed on the east by
a bold rocky shore. These appearances were, however, all deceptive, being
caused solely by the extraordinary refraction, as on riding to the spot
the following day, not a drop of water was to be seen in any direction.
The islands turned out to be mere low sandy ridges, very scantily clothed
with stunted scrub on their summits, and no distant land appeared any
where between the north and south-east, though from the hills above our
camp of the previous night, I could discern, with the aid of a very
powerful telescope, a ridge of low land, either on the eastern side of
the lake, or rising out of it, distant at least seventy miles, rendered
visible at that distance by the excessive refractive power of the
atmosphere on the horizon. A salt crust was seen at intervals on the
surface of the sand at the margin of the lake, or as it might more
properly be called, the Desert; but this appearance might either be
caused by water brought down by the Siccus, and other large watercourses
spreading over the saline soil in times of flood, or by rain, and
appeared to me no proof of its ever being covered with water for any
period of time. A few pieces of what appeared drift timber were also
lying about its surface. The sand, as we advanced farther east, became
more loose and drifting, and not a blade of grass, or any species of
vegetation, was visible, rendering hopeless any attempt to cross it with
horses. This point of the lake shore, being by Mr. Eyre's chart about
thirty miles to the westward of where I found it, I thought it advisable
to push further north, in the direction of the highest point of the
range, which I imagined was probably his Mount Serle; for though it was
not to be expected that Mr. Eyre, whose principal and almost sole object
was to discover a road to the interior, would, at the same time, have
been able to lay down the position of his route with the same accuracy
that might have been expected from a surveyor; this difference of
longitude prevented my being certain of the identity of the spot, or that
the range on our left, might not after all, be another long promontory
running to the north, similar to that on the western side of which was
Mr. Eyre's course. The appearance of the country, however, from the hills
close under Mount Serle (for the perpendicular cliffs on the east side of
this range of hills prevented my ascending to their summit without
turning them among the ranges, for which I had not time), convinced me at
once, from its perfect accordance with the description given by Mr. Eyre,
that his eastern arm of Lake Torrens was the sandy desert I had left, its
surface being about three hundred feet above the level of the sea; and
our two converging lines having thus met at Mount Serle, I knew it was
useless to advance further in the same direction to a spot which he had
named, from the impossibility of proceeding beyond it, "Mount Hopeless."

"I was thus forced to return to Pasmore River, as the nearest point from
whence I could cross to the low hills to the eastward, south of Lake
Torrens; and from thence I sent back to the depot two men of the party,
and three horses--the former for the sake of their rations, and the
latter on account of the probable difficulty I should have in procuring
water--taking on with me only Mr. Henderson and Mr. Hawker on foot, with
the light cart and one policeman. The second evening I made the most
northern of these hills, but could not find a drop of water in any of
them; and having unluckily lost the policeman, who had crossed in front
of the dray and got entangled in the dense scrub, I was detained three
days riding upon his tracks, until I had traced them to our dray tracks
from the depot at the Black Rock Hill, which he reached in safety, after
being out five days without food. The cart, in the mean time, had been
obliged to leave the spot where I left it, for want of water--having been
out six days without obtaining any but what we carried in the kegs; and
when I overtook it, we had not sufficient provisions for another attempt,
the period of one month, for which they were intended to last, having
already nearly expired.

"I very much regret not having been able to reach, at all events, within
sight of Mount Lyell; but where I turned I could plainly see the whole
country within fifty or sixty miles of the boundaries of the province,
and can speak with almost as much confidence of its absolute sterility as
if I had actually ridden over it. It would certainly be possible in the
wet season to take a small party from Prewitt's Springs across to this
hill of Sir Thomas Mitchell (distant about one hundred and sixty miles),
by carrying on water for eight or ten days; but no further supply might
be found short of the Darling (eighty miles beyond Mount Lyell), on which
river it would be madness to attempt anything without a considerable
force, on account of the natives; and the same point might be reached in
nearly as short a time, and with much more certainty, with any number of
men that might be considered necessary, by ascending the Murray as high
as the Laidley Ponds, and proceeding north from thence.

"On returning to the depot, I moved the party down to Mount Bryan, and
made another attempt on the 25th August, with Mr. Henderson, and one man
leading a pack-horse, to the north-east, hoping, from the heavy rains
which had fallen during the past two months, to find sufficient water in
the ravines to enable me to push on for several days. The second day, I
crossed the high range I had observed from the Black Rock Hills and Mount
Bryan, for the southern termination of which Colonel Gawler steered when
he left the northern bend of the Murray in December, 1839; but though
these hills had an elevation of twelve hundred or fourteen hundred feet
above the plain, there was no indication of rain having fallen there
since the deluge. This want of water prevented my proceeding further to
the north-east; but from the summit of the highest of these hills (Mount
Porcupine,) I had a clear view of the horizon in every direction, and a
more barren, sterile country, cannot be imagined.

"The direction of the dividing ridge between the basin of the Murray and
the interior desert plain was generally about north-east from the Black
Rock Hills (the highest point north of Mount Bryan,) gradually decreasing
in elevation, and, if possible, increasing in barrenness. The summits of
those hills I found invariably rock--generally sandstone--the lower
slopes covered with dense brush, and the valleys with low scrub, with
occasional small patches of thin wiry grass. I was obliged to return on
the third day, and reached the foot of Mount Bryan on the fourth evening,
at the southern extremity of which hill the horses were nearly bogged in
the soft ground, though only fifty miles distant from land where the dust
was flying as if in the midst of summer.

"It appears to me certain, from the result of these different attempts,
that there is no country eastward of the high land extending north from
Mount Bryan, as far as Mount Hopeless, a distance of about three hundred
miles, as far as the meridian of 141 degrees (and probably much beyond
it), available for either agricultural or pastoral purposes; and that,
though there may be occasional spots of good land at the base of the main
range on the sources of the numerous creeks flowing from thence towards
the inland desert, these must be too limited in extent to be of any
present value.

"The nature of the formation of the main range I found generally
iron-stone, conglomerate and quartz, with sandstone and slate at the
lower elevation. At the points of highest elevation from Mount Bryan
northward, igneous rocks of basaltic character protruded from below,
forming rugged and fantastic outlines.

"At one spot, particularly, about 30 degrees, there were marked
indications of volcanic action, and several hollows resembling small
craters of extinct volcanoes, near one of which we found a small spring
of water, maintaining always a temperature of about 76 degrees Farenheit,
when the thermometer standing in water in the kegs stood at 52 degrees,
and in the atmosphere at 54 degrees.

"The accompanying sketch of the country from Mount Bryan northwards, will
probably explain its character better than any written description. The
altitudes marked at the different spots where they were observed, were
obtained by the temperature of boiling water, as observed by two
thermometers; but as they were not graduated with sufficient minuteness
for such purposes, the results can only be considered approximate."

Capt. Royal Engineers,
September 14th, 1843.

In the above report it will be observed, that there are some apparent
discrepancies between my account and Captain Frome's. First, with respect
to the position of the south-east extremity of Lake Torrens. Captain
Frome states that he found that point thirty miles more to the east than
I had placed it in my chart. Now the only sketch of my course under
Flinders range, and that a rough one, which I furnished to the Colonial
Government, was sent from Port Lincoln, and is the same which was
subsequently published with other papers, relative to South Australia,
for the House of Commons, in 1843. This sketch was put together hastily
for his Excellency the Governor, that I might not lose the opportunity of
forwarding it when I sent from Port Lincoln to Adelaide for supplies
early in October, 1840. It was constructed entirely, after I found myself
compelled to return from the northern interior, and could only be
attended to, in a hurried and imperfect manner, during the brief
intervals I could snatch from other duties, whilst travelling back from
the north to Port Lincoln (nearly 400 miles,) during which time my
movements were very rapid, and many arrangements, consequent upon
dividing my party at Baxter's range, had to be attended to; added to this
were the difficulties and embarrassments of conducting myself one
division of the party to Port Lincoln, through 200 miles of a desert
country which had never been explored before, and which, from its arid
and sterile character, presented impediments of no ordinary kind.

Upon my return to Adelaide in 1841, after the Expedition had terminated,
other duties engrossed my time, and it was only after the publication of
Captain Frome's report, that my attention was again called to the
subject. Upon comparing my notes and bearings with the original sketch I
had made, I found that in the hurry and confusion of preparing it, whilst
travelling, I had laid down all the bearings and courses magnetic,
without allowing for the variation; nor can this error, perhaps, be
wondered at, considering the circumstances under which the sketch was

At Mount Hopeless the variation was 4 degrees E., at Mount Arden it was 7
degrees 24 minutes E. Now if this variation be applied proportionably to
all the courses and bearings as marked down in the original chart,
commencing from Mount Arden, it will be found that Mount Serle will be
brought by my map very nearly in longitude to where Captain Frome places
it. [Note 30 at end of para.] Our latitudes appear to agree exactly.
The second point upon which some difference appears to exist
between Captain Frome's report and mine is the character of Lake Torrens
itself, which Captain Frome thought might more properly be called
a desert. This, it will be observed, is with reference to its south-east
extremity--a point I never visited, and which I only saw once from
Mount Serle; a point, too, which from the view I then had of it,
distant although it was, even at that time seemed to me to be
"apparently dry," and is marked as such in Arrowsmith's chart,
published from the sketch alluded to.

[Note 30: This has been done by Arrowsmith in the map which accompanies
these volumes;--to which Mr. Arrowsmith has also added Captain Frome's
route from the original tracings.]

There is, however, a still greater, and more singular difference alluded
to in Captain Frome's report, which it is necessary to remark; I mean
that of the elevation of the country. On the west side of Flinders range,
for 200 miles that I traced the course of Lake Torrens, it was, as I have
observed, girded in its whole course by a steep ridge, like a sea-shore,
from which you descended into a basin, certainly not above the level of
the sea, possibly even below it (I had no instruments with me to enable
me to ascertain this,) the whole bed consisted of mud and water, and I
found it impossible to advance far into it from its boggy nature. On the
east side of Flinders range, Captain Frome found the lake a desert, 300
feet above the level of the sea, [Note 31: By altitude deduced from the
temperature of boiling water.] and consisting of "loose and drifting
sand," and "low sandy ridges, very scantily clothed with stunted scrub on
their summits." Now, by referring to Captain Frome's chart and report, it
appears that the place thus described was nearly thirty miles south of
Mount Serle, and consequently twenty miles south of that part of the bed
of Lake Torrens which I had seen from that hill. It is further evident,
that Captain Frome had not reached the basin of Lake Torrens, and I
cannot help thinking, that if he had gone further to the north-east, he
would have come to nearly the same level that I had been at on the
western side of the hills. There are several reasons for arriving at this
conclusion. First, the manner in which the drainage is thrown off from
the east side of Flinders range, and the direction which the watercourses
take to the north-east or north; secondly, because an apparent connection
was traceable in the course of the lake, from the heights in Flinders
range, nearly all the way round it; thirdly, because the loose sands and
low sandy ridges crowned with scrub, described by Captain Frome, were
very similar to what I met with near Lake Torrens in the west side,
before I reached its basin.

After the Northern Expedition had been compelled to return south, (being
unable to cross Lake Torrens,) the peninsula of Port Lincoln was
examined, and traversed completely round, in all the three sides of the
triangle formed by its east and west coasts, and a line from Mount Arden
to Streaky Bay. A road overland from Mount Arden was forced through the
scrub for a dray; but the country travelled through was of so
inhospitable a character as to hold out no prospect of its being
generally available for overland communication. One unfortunate
individual has since made an attempt to take over a few head of cattle by
this route, but was unable to accomplish it, and miserably perished with
his whole party from want of water. [Note 32: Vide note to page 154,
Vol. I. (Note 11)]

On the northern side of the triangle I have alluded to, or on the line
between Mount Arden and Streaky Bay, a singularly high and barren range,
named the Gawler Range after His Excellency the Governor, was found
consisting of porphoritic granite, extending nearly all the way across,
and then stretching out to the north-west in lofty rugged outline as far
as the eye could reach; the most remarkable fact connected with this
range, was the arid and sterile character of the country in which it was
situated, as well as of the range itself, which consisted entirely of
rugged barren rocks, without timber or vegetation. There was not a stream
or a watercourse of any kind emanating from it; we could find neither
spring nor permanent fresh water, and the only supply we procured for
ourselves was from the deposits left by very recent rains, and which in a
few days more, would have been quite dried up. The soil was in many
places saline, and wherever water had lodged in any quantity (as in lakes
of which there were several) it was quite salt.

[Note 33: A small exploring party, under a Mr. Darke, was sent from Port
Lincoln in August, 1844, but after getting as far as the Gawler Range were
compelled by the inhospitable nature of the country to return. The
unfortunate leader was murdered by the natives on his route homewards.]

Continuing the line of coast to the westward, the expedition passed
through the most wretched and desolate country imaginable, consisting
almost entirely of a table-land, or of undulating ridges, covered for the
most part with dense scrubs, and almost wholly without either grass or
water. The general elevation of this country was from three to five
hundred feet, and all of the tertiary deposit, with primary rocks
protruding at intervals.

The first permanent fresh water met with on the surface was a small
fresh-water lake, beyond the parallel of 123 degrees E.; but from Mount
Arden to that point, a distance of fully 800 miles in a direct line, none
whatever was found on the surface (if I except a solitary small spring
sunk in the rock at Streaky Bay). During the whole of this vast distance,
not a watercourse, not a hollow of any kind was crossed; the only water
to be obtained was by digging close to the sea-shore, or the sand-hills
of the coast, and even by that means it frequently could not be procured
for distances of 150 to 160 miles together. With the exception of the
Gawler Range, which lies between Streaky Bay and Mount Arden, this dreary
waste was one almost uniform table-land of fossil formation, with an
elevation of from three to five hundred feet, covered for the most part
by dense impenetrable scrubs, and varied only on its surface by
occasional sandy or rocky undulations.

What then can be the nature of that mysterious interior, bounded as it is
by a table-land without river or lakes, without watercourses or drainage
of any kind, for so vast a distance? Can it be that the whole is one
immense interminable desert, or an alternation of deserts and shallow
salt lakes like Lake Torrens? Conjecture is set at defiance by the
impenetrable arrangements of nature; where, the more we pry into her
secrets, the more bewildered and uncertain become all our speculations.

It has been a common and a popular theory to imagine the existence of an
inland sea, and this theory has been strengthened and confirmed by the
opinion of so talented, so experienced, and so enterprising a traveller
as my friend Captain Sturt, in its favour. That gentleman, with the noble
and disinterested enthusiasm by which he has ever been characterised, has
once more sacrificed the pleasure and quiet of domestic happiness, at the
shrine of enterprise and science. With the ardour of youth, and the
perseverance and judgment of riper years, he is even now traversing the
trackless wilds, and seeking to lift up that veil which has hitherto hung
over their recesses. May he be successful to the utmost of his wishes,
and may he again rejoin in health and safety his many friends, to forget
in their approbation and admiration the toils he has encountered, and to
enjoy the rewards and laurels which will have been so hardly earned, and
so well deserved.

It was in August, 1844, that Captain Sturt set out upon his arduous
undertaking, with a numerous and well equipped party, and having
provisions calculated to last them for eighteen months. I had the
pleasure of accompanying the expedition as far as the Rufus (about 240
miles from Adelaide), to render what assistance I could, in passing up,
on friendly terms among the more distant natives of the Murray. Since my
return, Captain Sturt has been twice communicated with, and twice heard
from, up to the time I left the Colony, on the 21st December, 1844. The
last official communication addressed to the Colonial Government will be
found in Chapter IX. of Notes on the Aborigines. The following is a copy
of a private letter to John Morphett, Esq M.C., and published in the
Adelaide Observer of the 9th November, 1844:--

"14th October, 1844.

"I left Lake Victoria, as I told you in a former letter, on the 18th of
September, and again cut across the country to the Murray. As we
travelled along we saw numerous tracks of wild cattle leading from the
marshes to the river, and we encamped at the junction of the river and a
lagoon (one of the most beautiful spots you ever saw), just where these
tracks were most numerous. In the night therefore we were surrounded by
lowing herds, coming to the green pastures of which we had taken
possession. In the morning I sent Messrs. Poole and Brown, with Flood my
stockman, and Mark to drive in some bullocks, as I was anxious to secure
one or two workers. The brush however was too thick, and in galloping
through it after a bull, Flood's carbine exploded, and blew off three of
the fingers of his right hand. This accident obliged me to remain
stationary for two days, notwithstanding my anxiety to get up to the
lagoon at Williorara, to ascertain the truth or otherwise of the report I
had heard of the massacre of a party of overlanders there.

"On the 23rd I reached the junction of the Ana branch with the Murray,
discovered by Eyre, and then turned northwards. Running this Ana branch
up, I crossed it where the water ceased, and went to the Darling,
striking it about fifteen miles above its junction with the Murray. The
unlooked-for course of the Darling however kept me longer on its banks
than I had anticipated; but you can form no idea of the luxuriant verdure
of its flats. They far surpass those of the Murray, both in quantity and
quality of soil; and extended for many miles at a stretch along the river
side. We have run up it at a very favourable season, and seen the
commencement of its floods; for, two days after we reached it, and found
it with scarcely any water in its bed, we observed a fresh in it,
indicated by a stronger current. The next morning to our surprise the
waters were half-bank high. They had risen six feet during the night, and
were carrying everything before them; now they are full sixteen feet
above their level, and a most beautiful river it is. Over this said
mysterious river, as Major Mitchell calls it, the trees drooped like
willows, or grew in dark clusters at each turn; the sloping banks were of
a vivid green, the flats lightly timbered, and the aspect of the whole
neighbourhood cheerful.

"I had hoped that we should have been able to approach the ranges pretty
closely along the line of Laidley's Ponds; but fancy our disappointment
when we arrived on its banks to find that instead of a mountain stream it
was a paltry creek, connecting a lake, now dry, with the river, and that
its banks were quite bare. I was therefore obliged to fall back upon the
Darling, and have been unable to stir for the last four days by reason of
heavy rain.

"On Tuesday I despatched Mr. Poole to the ranges, which are forty miles
distant from us, to ascertain if there is water or feed under them; but I
have no hope of good tidings, and believe I shall ultimately be obliged
to establish myself on the Darling.

"You will be glad to hear, and so ought every body, that we have
maintained a most satisfactory intercourse with the natives. The report
we had heard referred to Major Mitchell's affray with them, and you will
not be surprised at their reverting to it, when I tell you that several
old men immediately recognized me as having gone down the Murray in a
boat, although they could have seen me for an hour or two only, and
fifteen years have now elapsed since I went down the river. I suppose we
misunderstood the story; but most assuredly I fully anticipated we
should, sooner or later, come on some dreadful acene or other, and I came
up fully prepared to act; but the natives have been exceedingly quiet,
nor have we seen a weapon in the hands of any of them: in truth I have
been quite astonished at the change in the blacks; for instead of
collecting in a body, they have visited us with their wives and children,
and have behaved in the most quiet manner. We may attribute this in part
to our own treatment of the natives, and in part to Eyre's influence over
them, which is very extensive, and has been productive of great good. The
account the natives give of the distant interior is very discouraging. It
is nothing more however than what I expected. They say that beyond the
hills it is all sand and rocks; that there is neither grass or water, or
wood; and that it is awfully hot. This last feature appears to terrify
them. They say that they are obliged to take wood to the hills for fire,
and that they clamber up the rocks on the hills; that when there is water
there, it is in deep holes from which they are obliged to sponge it up
and squeeze it out to drink. I do not in truth think that any of the
natives have been beyond the hills, and that the country is perfectly

"We are now not more than two hundred and fifteen feet above the sea,
with a declining country to the north-west, and the general dip of the
continent to the south-west. What is the natural inference where there is
not a single river emptying itself upon the coast, but that there is an
internal basin? Such a country can only be penetrated by cool calculation
and determined perseverance. I have sat down before it as a besieger
before a fortress, to make my approaches with the same systematic
regularity. I must cut hay and send forage and water in advance, as far
as I can. I have the means of taking sixteen days' water and feed for two
horses and three men; and if I can throw my supplies one hundred miles in
advance, I shall be able to go two hundred miles more beyond that point,
at the rate of thirty miles a-day, one of us walking whilst two rode.
Surely at such a distance some new feature will open to reward our
efforts! My own opinion is, that an inland sea will bring us up ere
long--then how shall we get the boat upon it? 'Why,' you will say,
'necessity is the mother of invention.' You will find some means or
other, no doubt; and so we will. However, under any circumstances, depend
upon it I will either lift up or tear down the curtain which hides the
interior from us, so look out for the next accounts from me as of the
most interesting kind, as solving this great problem, or shutting the
door to discovery from this side the continent for ever.

"P.S. Poole has just returned from the ranges. I have not time to write
over again. He says that there are high ranges to N. and N.W. and
water,--a sea extending along the horizon from S.W. by W., to ten E. of
N. in which there are a number of islands and lofty ranges as far as the
eye can reach. What is all this? Are we to be prosperous? I hope so; and
I am sure you do. To-morrow we start for the ranges, and then for the
waters,--the strange waters on which boat never swam, and over which flag
never floated. But both shall are long. We have the heart of the interior
laid open to us, and shall be off with a flowing sheet in a few days.
Poole says that the sea was a deep blue, and that in the midst of it
there was a conical island of great height. When will you hear from me

From this communication, Captain Sturt appears to be sanguine of having
realized the long hoped for sea, and at last of having found a key to the
centre of the continent. Most sincerely do I hope that this may be the
case, and that the next accounts may more than confirm such satisfactory

My own impressions were always decidedly opposed to the idea of an inland
sea, nor have I changed them in the least, now that circumstances
amounting almost to proof, seem to favour that opinion.

Entertaining, as I do, the highest respect for the opinion of one so
every way capable of forming a correct judgment as Captain Sturt, it is
with considerable diffidence that I advance any conjectures in opposition
to his, and especially so, as I may be thought presumptuous in doing so
in the face of the accounts received. Until these accounts, however, are
further confirmed, the question still remains as it was; and it may
perhaps not be out of place to allude to some of the reasons which have
led me to form an opinion somewhat different from that entertained by
Captain Sturt, and which I have been compelled to arrive at after a long
personal experience, a closer approach to the interior, and a more
extensive personal examination of the continent, than any other traveller
has hitherto made. In the course of that experience, I have never met
with the slightest circumstance to lead me to imagine that there should
be an inland sea, still less a deep navigable one, and having an outer
communication with the ocean. I can readily suppose, and, in fact, I do
so believe, that a considerable portion of the interior consists of the
beds or basins of salt lakes or swamps, as Lake Torrens, and some of
which might be of great extent. I think, also, that these alternate, with
sandy deserts, and that probably at intervals, there are many isolated
ranges, like the Gawler range, and which, perhaps, even in some places
may form a connection of links across the continent, could any favourable
point be obtained for commencing the examination.

It is very possible that among these ranges, intervals of a better or
even of a rich and fertile country might be met with.

The suggestion thrown out by Captain Sturt a few years ago, that
Australia might formerly have been an Archipelago of islands, appears to
me to have been a happy idea, and to afford the most rational and
satisfactory way of accounting for many of the peculiarities observable
upon its surface or in its structure. That it has only recently (compared
with other countries) obtained its present elevation, is often forcibly
impressed upon the traveller, by the appearance of the country he is
traversing, but no where have I found this to be the case in a greater
degree, than whilst exploring that part of it, north of Spencer's Gulf,
where a great portion of the low lands intervening, between the base of
Flinders range, and the bed of Lake Torrens, presents the appearance of a
succession of rounded undulations of sand or pebbles washed perfectly
smooth and even, looking like waves of the sea, and seeming as if they
had not been very many centuries deserted by the element that had moulded
them into their present form. In this singular district I found scattered
at intervals throughout the whole area inclosed by, but south of, Lake
Torrens, many steep-sided fragments of a table land, [Note 34 at end of
para.] which had evidently been washed to pieces by the violent action of
water, and which appeared to have been originally, of nearly the same
general elevation as the table lands to the westward. It seems to me,
that these table lands have formerly been the bed of the ocean, and this
opinion is fully borne out by the many marine remains, fossil shells, and
banks of oyster shells, [Note 35 at end of para.] which are frequently to
be met with embedded in them. What are now the ranges of the continent
would therefore formerly have been but rocks or islands, and if this
supposition be true, there are still hopes that some other islands are
scattered over the immense space occupied by Australia, and which may be
of as rich and fertile a character, as any that are yet known. Thus if
the intervening extent of desert lying between any of the known portions
of Australia, and what may be considered as having been the next island,
can be ascertained and crossed over, new and valuable regions may yet be
offered for the extension of the pastoral interest of our Colonies,
and for the general spread of civilization and improvement.

[Note 34: "An hundred miles above this, I passed a curious feature, called
the "Square Hills" (plate 123 ). I landed my canoe and went ashore, and to
their tops to examine them. Though they appeared to be near the river, I
found it half a day's journey to travel to and from them; they being
several miles from the river. On ascending them I found them to be two or
three hundred feet high, and rising on their sides at an angle of 45 deg.
and on their tops, in some places for half a mile in length perfectly
level, with a green turf, and corresponding exactly with the tabular
hills spoken of above the Mandans, in plate 39, vol. 1. I therein said
that I should visit these hills on my way down the river; and I am fully
convinced from close examination, that they are a part of the same
original superstratum, which I therein described, though 7 or 800 miles
separated from them. They agree exactly in character, and also in the
materials of which they are composed; and I believe that some
unaccountable gorge of waters has swept away the intervening earth,
leaving these solitary and isolated, though incontrovertible evidences,
that the summit level of all this great valley, has at one time been
where the level surface of these hills now is, two or three hundred feet
above what is now denominated the summit level."--Catlin's American
Indians, Vol. 2. pp. 11 and 12.]

[Note 35: Similar banks of fossil shells and oyster beds, are found in the
Arkansas.--Vide Catlin, Vol. 2. p. 85. At page 86, Mr. Catlin describes
banks of gypsum and salt, extending through a considerable extent of
country, and which apparently was of a very similar formation to some of
the localities I was in to the north of Spencer's Gulf.]

I have already observed that several circumstances connected with my own
personal experience have led me to the conclusion, that there is no
inland sea now occupying the centre of New Holland; it will be sufficient
to name three of the most important of these.

First. I may mention the hot winds which in South Australia, or opposite
the centre of the continent, always blow from the north, to those, who
have experienced the oppressive and scorching influence of these winds,
which can only be compared to the fiery and withering blasts from a
heated furnace, I need hardly point out that there is little probability
that such winds can have been wafted over a large expanse of water.

Secondly. I may state that between the Darling river and the head of the
Great Australian Bight, I have at various points come into friendly
communication with the Aborigines inhabiting the outskirts of the
interior, and from them I have invariably learnt that they know of no
large body of water inland, fresh or salt; that there were neither trees
nor ranges, but that all was an arid waste so far as they were accustomed
to travel.

Thirdly. I infer the non-existence of an inland sea, from the coincidence
observable in the physical appearance, customs, character, and pursuits
of the Aborigines at opposite points of the continent, whilst no such
coincidence exists along the intervening lines of coast connecting those

With respect to the first consideration, it is unnecessary to add further
remark; as regards the second, I may state, that although I may sometimes
not have met with natives at those precise spots which might have been
best suited for making inquiry, or although I may sometimes have had a
difficulty in explaining myself to, or in understanding a people whose
language I did not comprehend; yet such has not always been the case, and
on many occasions I have had intercourse with natives at favourable
positions, and have been able, quite intelligibly, to carry on any
inquiries. One of these opportunities occurred in the very neighbourhood
of the hill from which Mr. Poole is said to have seen the inland sea, as
described in Captain Sturt's despatch.

There are several reasons for supposing Mr. Poole to have been deceived
in forming an opinion of the objects which he saw before him from that
elevation: first, I know, from experience, the extraordinary and
deceptive appearances that are produced in such a country as Mr. Poole
was in, by mirage and refration combined. I have often myself been very
similarly deceived by the semblance of hills, islands, and water, where
none such existed in reality. Secondly, in December 1843, I was within
twenty-five miles of the very spot from which Mr. Poole thought he looked
upon a sea, and I was then accompanied by natives, and able, by means of
an interpreter, to communicate with those who were acquainted with the
country to the north-west. My inquiries upon this point were particular;
but they knew of no sea. They asserted that there was mud out in that
direction, and that a party would be unable to travel; from which I
inferred either that some branch of the Darling spread out its waters
there in time of flood, or that Lake Torrens itself was stretching out in
the direction indicated. Thirdly, I hold it physically impossible that a
sea can exist in the place assigned to it, in as much as during an
expedition, undertaken by the Surveyor-general of the Colony, in
September, 1843, that officer had attained a position which would place
himself and Mr. Poole at two opposite points, upon nearly the same
parallel of latitude; but about 130 miles of longitude apart, in a low
level country, and in which, therefore, the ranges of their respective
vision from elevations would cross each other, and if there was a sea,
Captain Frome must have seen it as well as Mr. Poole; again, I myself had
an extensive and distant view to the north-east and east from Mount
Hopeless, a low hill, about ninety miles further north than Captain
Frome's position, but a little more east; yet there was nothing like a
sea to be seen from thence, the dry and glazed-looking bed of Lake
Torrens alone interrupting the monotony of the desert.

There are still some few points connected with our knowledge of the
outskirts of the interior which leave great room for speculation, and
might lead to the opinion that it is not altogether a low or a desert
region. The facts which have more immediately come under my own
observation, are connected, first with the presence of birds belonging to
a higher and better country in the midst of a desert region, and
secondly, with the line of route taken by the Aborigines in spreading
over the continent, as deduced from a coincidence or dissimilarity of the
manners, customs, or languages of tribes remotely apart from one another.

With respect to the presence of birds in a region such as they do not
usually frequent, I may state that at Mount Arden, near the head of
Spencer's Gulf, swans were seen taking their flight high in the air, to
the north, as if making for some river or lake they were accustomed to
feed at. At the Frome river, where it spreads into the plains to the
north of Flinders range; four white cockatoos were found flying about
among the trees, although those birds had not been met with for 200 miles
before I attained that point. [Note 36: Vide Vol. I. July 4, Aug 31,
and March 19.] And about longitude 128 degrees 20 minutes E., when
crossing over towards King George's Sound, large parrots were found coming
from the north-east, to feed upon the berries of a shrub growing on the
sea coast, although no parrots were seen for two or three hundred
miles on either side, either to the east or to the west, they
must, therefore, have come from the interior. Now the parrot is a bird
that often frequents a mountainous country, and always inhabits one
having timber of a better description and larger growth than the
miserable shrubs met with along the coast; it is a bird too that always
lives within reach of permanent fresh-water, as rivers, lakes, creeks,
pools, etc. Can there then be such in the interior, with so barren and
arid a region, bounding it? and how are we to commence an examination
with so many difficulties and embarrassments attending the very outset?

The second series of facts which have attracted my attention, relate to
the Aborigines. It is a well known circumstance that the dialects,
customs, and pursuits in use among them in the various parts of the
continent, differ very much from each other in some particulars, and yet
that there is such a general similarity in the aggregate as to leave no
room to doubt that all the Aborigines of Australia have had one common
origin, and are in reality one and the same race. If this then is really
the case, they must formerly have spread over the continent from one
first point, and this brings me to the

Third reason I have mentioned as being one, from which I infer, that
there is not an inland sea, viz., the coincidence observable in the
physical appearance, customs, character, and pursuits of the Aborigines,
at opposite points of the continent, whilst no such coincidence exists
along the intervening lines of coast connecting those two points, and
which naturally follows from the circumstances connected with the present
location of the various tribes in which this is observable, and with the
route which they must have taken to arrive at the places they now occupy
on the continent. [Note 37 at end of para.] I believe that the idea of
attempting to deduce the character of the continent, and the most probable
line for crossing it, from the circumstances and habits of the natives
inhabiting the coast line is quite a novel one. It appears to me, however,
to be worth consideration; and if it is true that the natives have all one
common origin, and have spread over the continent from one first point,
I think it may reasonably be inferred that there is a practicable route
across the centre of New Holland, and that this line lies between the
125th and 135th degrees of east longitude. It further appears that there
must still be a second route, other than the coast line, in the direction
between Port Jackson in New South Wales and the south-east corner of the
Gulf of Carpentaria on the north coast.

[Note 37: Vide Chapter VII. of Notes on the Aborigines, where this subject
will be found fully discussed, and the reasons given for supposing the
conclusions here assumed.]

If then we have reasonable grounds for believing that such lines of route
actually do exist, it becomes a matter of much interest and importance to
determine the most favourable point from which to explore them. My own
experience has pointed out the dreadful nature of the southern coast, and
the very great and almost insuperable difficulties that beset the
traveller at the very commencement--in his efforts even to establish a
single depot from which to enter upon his researches. The northern coast
may, probably, afford greater facilities, but in a tropical climate,
where the heat and other circumstances render ordinary difficulties and
impediments still more embarrassing and dangerous, it is a matter of deep
moment that the expedition for interior exploration should commence at
the right point, and this can only be ascertained by a previous

I have myself always been most anxious to attempt to cross from Moreton
Bay on the N. E. coast to Port Essington on the N. W. I believe that this
journey is quite practicable, and I have no doubt that if judiciously
conducted, and the country to the south of the line of route always
examined, as far as that could be done, it would completely develop, in
connection with what is already known, the character and formation of
Australia, and would at once point out the most proper place from which
subsequent expeditions ought to start in order finally to accomplish the
passage across its interior--from the north to the south.




Upon bringing to a close the narrative of an Expedition of Discovery in
Australia, during the progress of which an extensive portion of the
previously unknown parts of that continent were explored, I have thought
it might not be uninteresting to introduce a few pages on the subject of
the Aborigines of the country.

It would afford me much gratification to see an interest excited on their
behalf proportioned to the claims of a people who have hitherto been
misjudged or misrepresented.

For the last twelve years I have been personally resident in one or other
of the Australian Colonies, and have always been in frequent intercourse
with the aboriginal tribes that were near, rarely being without some of
them constantly with me as domestics.

To the advantages of private opportunities of acquiring a knowledge of
their character were added, latterly, the facilities afforded by my
holding a public appointment in South Australia, in the midst of a
district more densely populated by natives than any in that Colony, where
no settler had ventured to locate, and where, prior to my arrival in
October 1841, frightful scenes of bloodshed, rapine, and hostility
between the natives and parties coming overland with stock, had been of
frequent and very recent occurrence.

As Resident Magistrate of the Murray District, I may almost say, that for
the last three years I have lived with the natives. My duties have
frequently taken me to very great distances up the Murray or the Darling
rivers, when I was generally accompanied only by a single European, or at
most two, and where, if attacked, there was no possibility of my
receiving any human aid. I have gone almost alone among hordes of those
fierce and blood-thirsty savages, as they were then considered, and have
stood singly amongst them in the remote and trackless wilds, when
hundreds were congregated around, without ever receiving the least injury
or insult.

In my first visits to the more distant tribes I found them shy, alarmed,
and suspicious, but soon learning that I had no wish to injure them, they
met me with readiness and confidence. My wishes became their law; they
conceded points to me that they would not have done to their own people,
and on many occasions cheerfully underwent hunger, thirst, and fatigue to
serve me.

Former habits and prejudices in some respects gave way to the influence I
acquired. Tribes that never met or heard of one another before were
brought to mingle in friendly intercourse. Single individuals traversed
over immense distances and through many intervening tribes, which
formerly they never could have attempted to pass, and in accomplishing
this the white man's name alone was the talisman that proved their
safe-guard and protection.

During the whole of the three years I was Resident at Moorunde, not a
single case of serious injury or aggression ever took place on the part
of the natives against the Europeans; and a district, once considered the
wildest and most dangerous, was, when I left it in November 1844, looked
upon as one of the most peaceable and orderly in the province.

Independently of my own personal experience, on the subject of the
Aborigines, I have much pleasure in acknowledging the obligations I am
under to M. Moorhouse, Esq. Protector of Aborigines in Adelaide, for his
valuable assistance, in comparing and discussing the results of our
respective observations, on matters connected with the natives, and for
the obliging manner in which he has furnished me with many of his own
important and well-arranged notes on various points of interest in their

By this aid, I am enabled, in the following pages, to combine my own
observations and experience with those of Mr. Moorhouse, especially on
points connected with the Adelaide Tribes. In some cases, extracts from
Mr. Moorhouse's notes, will be copied in his own words, but in most I
found an alteration or rearrangement to be indispensable to enable me to
connect and amplify the subjects: I wish it to be particularly
understood, however, that with any deductions, inferences, remarks, or
suggestions, that may incidentally be introduced, Mr. Moorhouse is
totally unconnected, that gentleman's notes refer exclusively to abstract
matters of fact, relating to the habits, customs, or peculiarities of the
people treated of, and are generally confined to the Adelaide Tribes.

[Note 38: Some few of these notes were printed in the Colony, in a
detached form, as Reports to the Colonial Government, or in the
Vocabularies of the Missionaries, and since my return to England I find
others have been published in papers, ordered to be printed by the House
of Commons, in August 1844. From the necessity, however, of altering in
some measure the phraseology, to combine Mr. Moorhouse's remarks with my
own, and to preserve a uniformity in the descriptions, it has not been
practicable or desirable in all cases, to separate or distinguish by
inverted commas, those observations which I have adopted. I have,
therefore, preferred making a general acknowledgment of the use I have
made of the notes that were supplied to me by Mr. Moorhouse.]

In the descriptions given in the following pages, although there may
occasionally be introduced, accounts of the habits, manners, or customs
of some of the tribes inhabiting different parts of Australia I have
visited, yet there are others which are exclusively peculiar to the
natives of South Australia. I wish it, therefore, to be understood, that
unless mention is made of other tribes, or other parts of the continent,
the details given are intended to apply to that province generally, and
particularly to the tribes in it, belonging to the districts of Adelaide
and the Murray river.

As far as has yet been ascertained, the whole of the aboriginal
inhabitants of this continent, scattered as they are over an immense
extent of country, bear so striking a resemblance in physical appearance
and structure to each other; and their general habits, customs, and
pursuits, are also so very similar, though modified in some respects by
local circumstances or climate, that little doubt can be entertained that
all have originally sprung from the same stock. The principal points of
difference, observable between various tribes, appear to consist chiefly
in some of their ceremonial observances, and in the variations of dialect
in the language they speak; the latter are, indeed, frequently so great,
that even to a person thoroughly acquainted with any one dialect, there
is not the slightest clue by which he can understand what is said by a
tribe speaking a different one.

The only account I have yet met with, which professed to give any
particular description of the Aborigines of New Holland, is that
contained in the able papers upon this subject, by Captain Grey, in the
second volume of his travels. When it is considered, that the material
for that purpose was collected by the author, during a few months
interval between his two expeditions, which he spent at Swan River, and a
short time subsequently passed at King George's Sound, whilst holding the
appointment of Government Resident there; it is perfectly surprising that
the amount of information amassed should be so great, and so generally
correct, on subjects where so many mistakes are liable to be made, in all
first inquiries, when we are ignorant of the character and habits of the
people of whom information is to be sought, and unacquainted with the
language they speak.

The subject, however, upon a portion of which Captain Grey so
successfully entered, is very extensive, and one which no single
individual, except by the devotion of a life-time, could hope fully to
discuss. The Continent of Australia is so vast, and the dialects,
customs, and ceremonies of its inhabitants so varied in detail, though so
similar in general outline and character, that it will require the lapse
of years, and the labours of many individuals, to detect and exhibit the
links which form the chain of connection in the habits and history of
tribes so remotely separated; and it will be long before any one can
attempt to give to the world a complete and well-drawn outline of the

It is not therefore to satisfy curiosity, or to interrupt the course of
inquiry, that I enter upon the present work; I neither profess, nor could
I attempt to give a full or matured account of the Aborigines of New
Holland. Captain Grey's descriptions on this subject are limited to the
races of South-western, as mine are principally directed to those of
Southern Australia, with occasionally some remarks or anecdotes relating
to tribes in other parts of the Continent with whom I have come in

The character of the Australian native has been so constantly
misrepresented and traduced, that by the world at large he is looked upon
as the lowest and most degraded of the human species, and is generally
considered as ranking but little above the members of the brute creation.
Savages have always many vices, but I do not think that these are worse
in the New Hollanders, than in many other aboriginal races. It is said,
indeed, that the Australian is an irreclaimable, unteachable being; that
he is cruel, blood-thirsty, revengeful, and treacherous; and in support
of such assertions, references are made to the total failure of all
missionary and scholastic efforts hitherto made on his behalf, and to
many deeds of violence or aggression committed by him upon the settler.

[Note 39: I cannot adduce a stronger proof in support of the position I
assume, in favour of the natives, than by quoting the clear and just
conclusions at which the Right Honourable Lord Stanley, the present
Secretary of State for the Colonies, arrived, when considering the case of
some collisions with the natives on the Ovens River, and after a full
consideration of the various circumstances connected with the occurrence.
In a despatch to Governor Sir G. Gipps, dated 5th October, 1841, Lord
Stanley says, "Contrasting the accounts of the Aborigines given by Mr.
Docker with those given by Mr. Mackay, and the different terms on which
those gentlemen appear to be with them in the same vicinity, I cannot
divest myself of the apprehension that the fault in this case lies with
the colonists rather than with the natives. It was natural, that conduct
so harsh and intemperate as that of the Messrs. Mackay should be signally
visited on them, and probably also on wholly unoffending persons, by a
race of uninstructed and ignorant savages. At the same time the case of
Mr. Docker affords a most satisfactory instance of natives entering into
permanent service with white men, and working, as they appear to do,
steadily for wages."]

With respect to the first point, I consider that an intimate knowledge of
the peculiar habits, laws, and traditions, by which this people are
governed, is absolutely necessary, before any just opinion can be formed
as to how far the means hitherto pursued, have been suitable, or adapted
to counteract the influence of custom and the force of prejudice. Until
this knowledge is attained, we have no right to brand them as either
irreclaimable, or unteachable. My own impression, after long experience,
and an attentive consideration of the subject, is, that in the present
anomalous state of our relations with the Aborigines, our measures are
neither comprehensive enough for, nor is our system sufficiently adapted
to, the singular circumstances they are in, to enable us successfully to
contend with the difficulties and impediments in the way of their rising
in the scale of civilization.

Upon the second point it is also necessary to make many inquiries before
we arrive at our conclusions; and I have no doubt, if this be done with
calmness, and without prejudice, it will be generally found that there
are many extenuating circumstances which may be brought to modify our
judgment. I am anxious, if possible, to place a few of these before the
public, in the hope, that by lessening in some degree the unfavourable
opinion heretofore entertained of the Aborigines, they may be considered
for the future as more deserving our sympathy and benevolence.

Without assuming for the native a freedom from vice, or in any way
attempting to palliate the many brutalising habits that pollute his
character, I would still contend that, if stained with the excesses of
unrestrained passions, he is still sometimes sensible to the better
emotions of humanity. Many of the worst traits in his character are the
result of necessity, or the force of custom--the better ones are
implanted in him as a part of his nature. With capabilities for
receiving, and an aptness for acquiring instruction, I believe he has
also the capacity for appreciating the rational enjoyments of life.

Even in his present low and debased condition, and viewed under every
disadvantages, I do not imagine that his vices would usually be found
greater, or his passions more malignant than those of a very large
proportion of men ordinarily denominated civilised. On the contrary, I
believe were Europeans placed under the same circumstances, equally
wronged, and equally shut out from redress, they would not exhibit half
the moderation or forbearance that these poor untutored children of
impulse have invariably shewn.

It is true that occasionally many crimes have been committed by them, and
robberies and murders have too often occurred; but who can tell what were
the provocations which led to, what the feelings which impelled such
deeds? Neither have they been the only or the first aggressors, nor has
their race escaped unscathed in the contest. Could blood answer blood,
perhaps for every drop of European's shed by natives, a torrent of their,
by European hands, would crimson the earth.

[Note 40: "The whites were generally the aggressors. He had been informed
that a petition had been presented to the Governor, containing a list of
nineteen murders committed by the blacks. He could, if it were necessary,
make out a list of five hundred blacks who had been slaughtered by the
whites, and that within a short time."--Extract from speech of Mr.
Threlkeld to the Auxiliary Aborigines' Protection Society in New South
Wales. Abstract of a "Return of the number of homicides committed
respectively by blacks and whites, within the limits of the northwestern
district (of Port Phillip), since its first occupation by settlers--"

"Total number of white people killed by Aborigines   8
"Total number of Aborigines killed by white people  43."

This is only in one district, and only embraces such cases as came to the
knowledge of Mr. Protector Parker. For particulars vide Papers on
Aborigines of Australian Colonies, printed for the House of Commons,
August 1844, p. 318.]

Let us now inquire a little, upon whose side right and justice are
arrayed in palliation (if any such there can be) of deeds of violence or
aggression on the part of either.

It is an undeniable fact, that wherever European colonies have been
established in Australia, the native races in that neighbourhood are
rapidly decreasing, and already in some of the elder settlements, have
totally disappeared. It is equally indisputable that the presence of the
white man has been the sole agent in producing so lamentable an effect;
that the evil is still going on, increased in a ratio proportioned to the
number of new settlements formed, or the rapidity with which the settlers
overrun new districts. The natural, the inevitable, but the no less
melancholy result must be, that in the course of a few years more, if
nothing be done to check it, the whole of the aboriginal tribes of
Australia will be swept away from the face of the earth. A people who, by
their numbers, have spread around the whole of this immense continent,
and have probably penetrated into and occupied its inmost recesses, will
become quite extinct, their name forgotten, their very existence but a
record of history.

It is a popular, but an unfair and unwarranted assumption, that these
consequences are the result of the natural course of events; that they
are ordained by Providence, unavoidable, and not to be impeded. Let us at
least ascertain how far they are chargeable upon ourselves.

Without entering upon the abstract question concerning the right of one
race of people to wrest from another their possessions, simply because
they happen to be more powerful than the original inhabitants, or because
they imagine that they can, by their superior skill or acquirements,
enable the soil to support a denser population, I think it will be
conceded by every candid and right-thinking mind, that no one can justly
take that which is not his own, without giving some equivalent in return,
or deprive a people of their ordinary means of support, and not provide
them with any other instead. Yet such is exactly the position we are in
with regard to the inhabitants of Australia.

[Note 41: "The invasion of those ancient rights (of the natives) by
survey and land appropriations of any kind, is justifiable only on the
ground, that we should at the same time reserve for the natives an AMPLE
SUFFICIENCY for THEIR PRESENT and future use and comfort, under the new
style of things into which they are thrown; a state in which we hope they
will be led to live in greater comfort, on a small space, than
they enjoyed before it occurred, on their extensive original
possessions."--Reply of His Excellency Colonel Gawler, to the gentlemen
who objected to sections of land being appropriated for the natives,
before the public were allowed to select.]

Without laying claim to this country by right of conquest, without
pleading even the mockery of cession, or the cheatery of sale, we have
unhesitatingly entered upon, occupied, and disposed of its lands,
spreading forth a new population over its surface, and driving before us
the original inhabitants.

To sanction this aggression, we have not, in the abstract, the slightest
shadow of either right or justice--we have not even the extenuation of
endeavouring to compensate those we have injured, or the merit of
attempting to mitigate the sufferings our presence inflicts.

It is often argued, that we merely have taken what the natives did not
require, or were making no use of; that we have no wish to interfere with
them if they do not interfere with us, but rather that we are disposed to
treat them with kindness and conciliation, if they are willing to be
friends with us. What, however, are the actual facts of the case; and
what is the position of a tribe of natives, when their country is first
taken possession of by Europeans.

It is true that they do not cultivate the ground; but have they,
therefore, no interest in its productions? Does it not supply grass for
the sustenance of the wild animals upon which in a great measure they are
dependent for their subsistence?--does it not afford roots and vegetables
to appease their hunger?--water to satisfy their thirst, and wood to make
their fire?--or are these necessaries left to them by the white man when
he comes to take possession of their soil? Alas, it is not so! all are in
turn taken away from the original possessors. The game of the wilds that
the European does not destroy for his amusement are driven away by his
flocks and herds. [Note 42 at end of para.] The waters are occupied and
enclosed, and access to them in frequently forbidden. The fields are
fenced in, and the natives are no longerat liberty to dig up roots--the
white man claims the timber, and the very firewood itself is occasion
ally denied to them. Do they pass by the habitation of the intruder, they
are probably chased away or bitten by his dogs, and for this they can
get no redress. [Note 43 at end of para.] Have they dogs of their own,
they are unhesitatingly shot or worried because they are an annoyance to
the domestic animals of the Europeans. Daily and hourly do their wrongs
multiply upon them. The more numerous the white population becomes, and
the more advanced the stage of civilization to which the settlement
progresses, the greater are the hardships that fall to their lot and the
more completely are they cut off from the privileges of their birthright.
All that they have is in succession taken away from them--their
amusements, their enjoyments, their possessions, their freedom--and all
that they receive in return is obloquy, and contempt, and degradation,
and oppression. [Note 44 appears after note 43, below]

[Note 42: "But directly an European settles down in the country, his
constant residence in one spot soon sends the animals away from it, and
although he may in no other way interfere with the natives, the mere
circumstance of his residing there, does the man on whose land he settles
the injury of depriving him of his ordinary means of subsistence."--GREY'S
TRAVELS, vol. ii. p. 298.

"The great question was, were we to give them no equivalent for that which
we had taken from them? Had we deprived them of nothing? Was it
nothing that they were driven from the lands where their fathers
lived, where they were born and which were endeared to them by
associations equally strong with the associations of more civilsed
people? He believed that their affections were as warm as the Europeans."
"Perhaps he obtained his subsistence by fishing, and occupied a slip of
land on the banks of a river or the margin of a lake. Was he to be turned
off as soon as the land was required, without any consideration
whatever?" "Had any proper attempt been made for their civilization? They
had not yet had fair play--they had been courted by the missionaries with
the Bible on the one hand, and had at the sametime been driven away and
destroyed by the stock-keepers on the other. He thought that they might
be reclaimed if the proper course was adopted."--EXTRACTS FROM THE SPEECH

I have myself repeatedly seen the natives driven off private lands in the
vicinity of Adelaide, and their huts burned, even in cold wet weather.
The records of the Police Office will shew that they have been driven off
the Park lands, or those belonging to Government, or at least that they
have been brought up and punished for cutting wood from the trees there.
What are they to do, when there is not a stick or a tree within miles of
Adelaide that they can legally take?]

[Note 43: I have known repeated instances of natives in Adelaide
being bitten severely by savage dogs rushing out at them from the
yards of their owners, as they were peaceably passing along the street. On
the other hand I have known a native imprisoned for throwing his waddy at,
and injuring a pig, which was eating a melon he had laid down for a moment
in the street, and when the pig ought not to have been in the street at
all. In February 1842, a dog belonging to a native was shot by order of
Mr. Gouger, the then Colonial Secretary, and the owner as soon as he
became aware of the circumstance, speared his wife for not taking better
care of it, although she could not possibly have helped the occurrence. If
natives then revenge so severely such apparently trivial offences among
themselves, can we wonder that they should sometimes retaliate upon us
for more aggravated ones.]

[Note 44: The following are extracts from an address to a jury, when
trying some aboriginal natives, by Judge Willis. They at least shew some
of the BLESSINGS the Aborigines experience from being made British
subjects, and placed under British laws:--"I have, on a recent occasion,
stated my opinion, which I still entertain, that the proprietor of a run,
or, in other words, one who holds a lease or license from the Crown to
depasture certain Crown lands, may take all lawful means to prevent either
natives or others from entering or remaining upon it." "The aboriginals of
Van Diemen's Land were strictly commanded, by Governor Arthur's
proclamation of the 15th of April 1828 (a proclamation of which His
Majesty King George the Fourth, through the Right honourable the then
Secretary of State, by a dispatch of the 2nd of February, 1829, under the
circumstances, signified his approval,) "to retire and depart from, and
for no reason, and no pretence, save as therein provided, (viz.
travelling annually to the sea coast in quest of shellfish, under certain
regulations,) to re-enter the settled districts of Van Diemen's Land, or
any portions of land cultivated and occupied by any person whomsoever,
under the authority of Her Majesty's Government, on pain of forcible
expulsion therefrom, and such consequences as might be necessarily
attendant on it, and all magistrates and other persons by them authorized
and deputed, were required to conform themselves to the directions and
instructions of this proclamation, in effecting the retirement and
expulsion of the Aborigines from the settled districts of that

What are they to do under such circumstances, or how support a life so
bereft of its wonted supplies? Can we wonder that they should still
remain the same low abject and degraded creatures that they are,
loitering about the white man's house, and cringing, and pandering to the
lowest menial for that food they can no longer procure for themselves? or
that wandering in misery through a country, now no longer their own,
their lives should be curtailed by want, exposure, or disease? If, on the
other hand, upon the first appearance of Europeans, the natives become
alarmed, and retire from their presence, they must give up all the haunts
they had been accustomed to frequent, and must either live in a starving
condition, in the back country, ill supplied with game, and often wanting
water, or they must trespass upon the territory of another tribe, in a
district perhaps little calculated to support an additional population,
even should they be fortunate enough to escape being forced into one
belonging to an enemy.

Under any circumstances, however, they have but little respite from
inconvenience and want. The white man rapidly spreads himself over the
country, and without the power of retiring any further, they are
overtaken, and beset by all the evils from which they had previously

Such are some of the blessings held out to the savage by civilization,
and they are only some of them. The picture is neither fanciful nor
overdrawn; there is no trait in it that I have not personally witnessed,
or that might not have been enlarged upon; and there are often other
circumstances of greater injury and aggression, which, if dwelt upon,
would have cast a still darker shade upon the prospects and condition of
the native.

Enough has, however, perhaps been said to indicate the degree of injury
our presence unavoidably inflicts. I would hope, also, to point out the
justice, as well as the expediency of appropriating a considerable
portion of the money obtained, by the sales of land, towards alleviating
the miseries our occupation of their country has occasioned to the
original owners.

[Note 44a: "That it appears to memorialists that the original occupants of
the soil have an irresistible claim on the Government of this country for
support, inasmuch as the presence of the colonists abridges their means
of subsistence, whilst it furnishes to the public treasury a large
revenue in the shape of fees for licences and assessments on stock,
together with the very large sums paid for land seized by the Crown, and
alienated to private individuals.

"That it appears to memorialists that the interests at once of the
natives and the colonists would be most effectually promoted by the
government reserving suitable portions of land within the territorial
limits of the respective tribes, with the view of weaning them
from their erratic habits, forming thereon depots for supplying
them with provisions and clothing, under the charge of individuals
of exemplary moral character, taking at the same time an interest
in their welfare, and who would endeavour to instruct them in agricultural
and other useful arts."--Extract from Memorial of the Settlers of
the County of Grant, in the district of Port Phillip, to His Excellency
Sir G. Gipps, in 1840.]

Surely if we acknowledge the first principles of justice, or if we admit
the slightest claims of humanity on behalf of these debased, but harshly
treated people, we are bound, in honour and in equity, to afford them
that subsistence which we have deprived them of the power of providing
for themselves.

It may, perhaps, be replied, and at first it might seem, with some
appearance of speciousness, that all is done that can be done for them,
that each of the Colonial Governments annually devotes a portion of its
revenue to the improvement, instruction, and maintenance of the natives.
So far this is very praiseworthy, but does it in any degree compensate
for the evil inflicted?

The money usually voted by the councils of Government, towards defraying
expenses incurred on behalf of the Aborigines of Australia, is but a very
small per centage upon the sums that have been received for the sales of
lands, and is principally expended in defraying the salaries of
protectors, in supporting schools, providing food or clothing for one or
two head stations, and perhaps supplying a few blankets once in the year
to some of the outstations. Little is expended in the daily provisioning
of the natives generally, and especially in the more distant country
districts least populated by Europeans, but most densely occupied by
natives, and where the very thinness of the European inhabitants
precludes the Aborigines from resorting to the same sources to supply
their wants, that are open to them in a town, or more thickly inhabited
district. Such are those afforded by the charity of individuals, by the
rewards received for performing trifling services of work, by the
obtaining vast quantities of offal, or of broken victuals, which are
always abundant in a country where animal food is used in excess, and
where the heat of the climate daily renders much of it unfit for
consumption in the family, and by others of a similar nature.

Such resources, however humiliating and pernicious they are in their
effects, are not open to the tribes living in a district almost
exclusively occupied by the sheep or cattle of the settler, and where the
very numbers of the stock only more completely drive away the original
game upon which the native had been accustomed to subsist, and hold out a
greater temptation to him to supply his wants from the superabundance
which he sees around him, belonging to those by whom he has been
dispossessed. The following appropriate remarks are an extract from
Report of Aborigines' Protection Society, of March, 1841, (published in
the South Australian Register, 4th December, 1841.)

"Under that system it is obvious to every coloured man, even the least
intelligent, that the extending settlements of the Europeans involve a
sentence of banishment, and eventual extermination, upon his tribe and
race. Major Mitchell, in his travels, refers to this apprehension on the
part of the Aborigines--"White man come, Kangaroo go away"--from which as
an inevitable consequence follows--"black man famished away." If, then,
this appears a necessary result of the unjust, barbarous, unchristian
mode of colonization pursued in New Holland, over-looking the other
incidental, and more pointedly aggravating provocations, to the coloured
man, associated with that system, how natural, in his case, is an enmity
which occasionally visits some of the usurping race with death! We call
the offence in him MURDER; but let the occasion be only examined, and we
must discover that, in so designating it, we are imposing geographical,
or national restrictions, upon the virtue of patriotism; or that in the
mani-festations of that principle, we make no allowances for the
influence on its features of the relative degradation or elevation of
those among whom it is met.

"Our present colonization system renders the native and the colonizing
races from necessity belligerents; and there can be no real peace, no
real amity, no mutual security, so long as that system is not substituted
by one reconciling the interest of both races. Colonists will fall before
the spears and the waddies of incensed Aborigines, and they in return
will be made the victims of 'summary justice.'

"In cases of executive difficulty, the force of popular prejudice will be
apt to be too strong for the best intentioned Governor to withstand it;
Europeans will have sustained injury; the strict forms of legal justice
may be found of difficult application to a race outcast or degraded,
although ORIGINALLY in a condition fitted to appreciate them, to benefit
by them, and reflect their benefits upon others; impatient at this
difficulty, the delay it may occasion, and the shelter from ultimate
punishment, the temptation will ever be strong to revert to summary
methods of proceeding; and thus, as in a circle, injustice will be found
to flow reciprocal injury, and from injury injustice again, in another
form. The source of all these evils, and of all this injustice, is the
unreserved appropriation of native lands, and the denial, in the first
instance of colonization, of equal civil rights. To the removal of those
evils, so far as they can be removed in the older settlements, to their
prevention in new colonies, the friends of the Aborigines are invoked to
direct their energy; to be pacified with the attainment of nothing less;
for nothing less will really suffice."

Can it be deemed surprising that a rude, uncivilized being, driven from
his home, deprived of all his ordinary means of subsistence [Note 45 at
end of para.], and pressed perhaps by a hostile tribe from behind, should
occasionally be guilty of aggressions or injuries towards his oppressors?
The wonder rather is, not that these things do sometimes occur, but that
they occur so rarely.

[Note 45: "If you can still be generous to the conquered, relieve the
hunger which drives us in despair to slaughter your flocks and the men who
guard them. Our fields and forests, which once furnished us with abundance
of vegetable and animal food, now yield us no more; they and their produce
are yours; you prosper on our native soil, and we are famishing."
--STRZELECKI'S N. S. WALES, p. 356.]

In addition to the many other inconsistencies in our conduct towards the
Aborigines, not the least extraordinary is that of placing them, on the
plea of protection, under the influence of our laws, and of making them
British subjects. Strange anomaly, which by the former makes amenable to
penalties they are ignorant of, for crimes which they do not consider as
such, or which they may even have been driven to commit by our own
injustice; and by the latter but mocks them with an empty sound, since
the very laws under which we profess to place them, by their nature and
construction are inoperative in affording redress to the injured.

[Note 46: "To subject savage tribes to the penalties of laws with which
they are unacquainted, for offences which they, very possibly, regard as
acts of justifiable retaliation for invaded rights, is a proceeding
indefensible, except under circumstances of urgent and extreme
necessity."--Fourth Report of the Colonization Commissioners, presented to
the House of Commons, 29th July, 1840.

"The late act, declaring them naturalized as British subjects, has only
rendered them legally amenable to the English criminal law, and added one
more anomaly to all the other enactments affecting them. This
naturalization excludes them from sitting on a jury, or appearing as
witnesses, and entails a most confused form of judicial proceedings; all
which, taken together, has made of the Aborigines of Australia a
nondescript caste, who, to use their own phraseology, are 'neither black
nor white.'"--Strzelecki's N. S. Wales.]

If, in addition to the many evils and disadvantages the natives must
necessarily be subject to from our presence, we take still further into
account the wrongs they are exposed to from the ill feeling towards them
which has sometimes existed among the settlers, or their servants, on the
outskirts of the country; the annoyances they are harassed by, even where
this feeling does not exist, in being driven away from their usual haunts
and pursuits (and this is a practice often adopted by the remote grazier
as a mere matter of policy to avoid trouble or the risk of a collision);
we shall find upon the whole that they have often just causes of offence,
and that there are many circumstances connected with their crimes which,
from the peculiar position they are placed in, may well require from us
some mitigation of the punishment that would be exacted from Europeans
for the same misdeeds.

Captain Grey has already remarked the strong prejudice and recklessness
of human life which frequently exist on the part of the settlers with
regard to the natives. Nor has this feeling been confined to Western
Australia alone. In all the colonies, that I have been in, I have myself
observed that a harsh and unjust tone has occasionally been adopted in
speaking of the Aborigines; and that where a feeling of prejudice does
not exist against them, there is too often a great indifference
manifested as to their fate. I do not wish it to be understood that such
is always the case; on the contrary, I know that the better, and right
thinking part of the community, in all the colonies, not only disavow
such feelings, but are most anxious, as far as lies in their power, to
promote the interests and welfare of the natives. Still, there are always
some, in every settlement, whose passions, prejudices, interests, or
fears, obliterate their sense of right and wrong, and by whom these poor
wanderers of the woods are looked upon as intruders in their own country,
or as vermin that infest the land, and whose blood may be shed with as
little compunction as that of the wild animals they are compared to.

By those who have heard the dreadful accounts current in Western
Australia, and New South Wales, of the slaughter formerly committed by
military parties, or by the servants [Note 47 at end of para.] of the
settlers upon the Aborigines, in which it is stated that men, women, and
children have been surprised, surrounded and shot down indiscriminately,
at their camps at night; or who have heard such deeds, or other similar
ones, justified or boasted of, it will readily be believed to what an
extent the feeling I have alluded to has occasionally been carried, and
to what excesses it has led. [Note 48 appears after Note 47, below]

[Note 47: The following extract from a reply of his Honour the
Superintendent of Port Phillip to the representation made to his Honour
by the settlers and inhabitants of the district of Port Fairy, in
March 1842, shews that these frightful atrocities against the natives
had not even then ceased.

"That the presence of a protector in your district, and other means of
prevention hitherto employed, have not succeeded better than they have
done in repressing aggression or retaliation, and have failed to establish
a good understanding between the natives and the European settlers,
is greatly to be deplored.

"As far as the local government has power, every practicable extension
of these arrangements shall be made without delay; but, gentlemen,
however harsh, a plain truth must be told, the destruction of
European property, and even the occasional sacrifice of European
life, by the hands of the savage tribes, among whom you live, if
unprovoked and unrevenged, may justly claim sympathy and pity; but the
feeling of abhorrence which one act of savage retaliation or cruelty on
your part will rouse, must weaken, if not altogether obliterate every
other, in the minds of most men; and I regret to state, that I have
before me a statement presented in a form which I dare not discredit,
shewing that such acts are perpetrated among you.

"It reveals a nightly attack upon a small number of natives, by a
party of the white inhabitants of your district, and the murder of
no fewer than three defenceless aboriginal women and a child, in
their sleeping place; and this at the very time your memorial was
in the act of signature, and in the immediate vicinity of the station
of two of the parties who have signed it. Will not the commission of
such crimes call down the wrath of God, and do more to check the
prosperity of your district, and to ruin your prospects, than all
the difficulties and losses under which you labour?" Mr. Sievewright's
letter gives an account of this infamous transaction.


"Sir,--I have the honour to report that on the afternoon
of the 24th instant, two aboriginal natives, named Pwe-bin-gan-nai,
Calangamite, returned to this encampment, which they had left with their
families on the 22nd, and reported 'that late on the previous evening,
while they with their wives, two other females, and two children, were
asleep at a tea-tree scrub, called One-one-derang, a party of eight white
people on horseback surrounded them, dismounted, and fired upon them with
pistols; that three women and a child had been thus killed, and the other
female so severely wounded as to be unable to stand or be removed by
them;' they had saved themselves and the child, named 'Uni bicqui-ang,'
by flight, who was brought to this place upon their shoulders.

"At daybreak yesterday I proceeded to the spot indicated, and there found
the dead bodies of three women, and a male child about three years of age;
and also found a fourth woman dangerously wounded by gunshot wounds, and
severely scorched on the limbs by the discharge of fire-arms.

"Having proceeded to the station of the Messrs. Osbrey and Smith, distant
about 700 yards from where the bodies were found, and requested the
presence of those gentlemen as witnesses, I proceeded to view the bodies,
upon which were found the wounds as set forth in the accompanying report.

"All knowledge of this barbarous transaction is denied by the proprietors,
overseer, and servants at the home station, so near to which the bodies
were found, nor have I as yet obtained any information which may lead to
the discovery of the perpetrators of these murders.

"I have, etc.
(Signed) "C. W. SIEVEWRIGHT."
James Croke, Esq.,
Crown Prosecutor,"
etc. etc. etc.

Description of Gun-shot Wounds upon the bodies of three Aboriginal Women
and One Male Child found dead, and an Aboriginal Woman found wounded in a
tea-tree scrub, near the Station of Messrs. Osbrey and Smith, Portland
District, upon the 25th of February, 1842, by Assistant-Protector

"No. 1. Recognised by the assistant-protector as
'Wooi-goning,' wife of an Aboriginal native 'Pui-bui-gannei;' one gun-shot
wound through the chest (a ball), and right thigh broken by a gun-shot
wound (a ball).

"No. 2. Child (male); one gun-shot wound through the chest (a bullet),
left thigh lacerated by some animal.

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

"No. 4. Woman; gun-shot wound through abdomen (a bullet), by right hip;
gun-shot wound, left arm broken, (a bullet.)

"No. 5. Woman wounded; gun-shot wound in back (a ball), gun-shot through
right hand (a ball).


[Note 48: The belief on the part of the Home authorities that such deeds
did occur, and their opinion, so many years ago, regarding them, may be
gathered from the following extract from a despatch from Lord Glenelg to
Governor Sir James Stirling, dated 23rd of July, 1835. "I perceive, with
deep concern, that collisions still exist between the colonists and the

"It is impossible, however, to regard such conflicts without
regret and anxiety, when we recollect how fatal, in too many instances,
our colonial settlements have proved to the natives of the places where
they have been formed.

"It will be your duty to impress upon the settlers that it is the
determination of the Government to visit any act of injustice or
violence on the natives, with the utmost severity, and that in no
case will those convicted of them, remain unpunished. Nor will it
be sufficient simply to punish the guilty, but ample compensation must be
made to the injured party, for the wrong received. You will make it
imperative upon the officers of police never to allow any injustice or
insult in regard to the natives to pass by unnoticed, as being of too
trifling a character; and they should be charged to report to you, with
punctuality, every instance of aggression or misconduct. Every neglect of
this point of duty you will mark with the highest displeasure."

Such were the benevolent views entertained by the Government in England
towards the Aborigines ten years ago, and it might be readily proved from
many despatches of subsequent Secretaries of State to the different
Governors, that such have been their feelings since, and yet how little
has been done in ten years to give a practical effect to their good
intentions towards the natives.]

Were other evidence necessary to substantiate this point, it would be
only requisite to refer to the tone in which the natives are so often
spoken of by the Colonial newspapers, to the fact that a large number of
colonists in New South Wales, including many wealthy landed proprietors
and magistrates, petitioned the Local Government on behalf of a party of
convicts, found guilty on the clearest testimony of having committed one
of the most wholesale, cold-blooded, and atrocious butcheries of the
Aborigines ever recorded [Note 49 at end of para.], and to the acts of the
Colonial Governments themselves, who have found it necessary, sometimes,
to prohibit fire-arms at out-stations, and have been compelled to take
away the assigned servants, or withdraw the depasturing licences of
individuals, because they have been guilty of aggression upon the

[Note 49: Seven men were hanged for this offence, on the 18th of December,
1838. In the Sydney Monitor, published on the 24th or next issue after the
occurrence, is the following paragraph:--

"The following conversation between two gentlemen took place in the
military barrack square, on Tuesday, just after the execution of the seven
murderers of the native blacks, and while General O'Connell was reviewing
the troops of the garrison.

"COUNTRY GENTLEMAN.--So I find they have hanged these men.
"TOWN GENTLEMAN.   --They have."
"COUNTRY GENTLEMAN.--Ah! hem, we are going on a safer game now.
"TOWN GENTLEMAN.   --Safer game! how do you mean?"
"COUNTRY GENTLEMAN.--Why, we are poisoning the blacks; which is much
                     better, and serve them right too!"

"We vouch for the truth of this conversation, and for the very words;
and will prove our statement, if public justice should, in our
opinion require it."

The following letter from His Honour the Superintendent of Port Philip
shews, that even in 1843, suspicions were entertained in the colony,
that this most horrible and inhuman cruelty towards the Aborigines had
lately been practised there.

"Melbourne, 17th March, 1843.

"SIR,--I have the honour to report, for his Excellency's information,
that in the month of December last, I received a letter from the Chief
Protector, enclosing a communication received from Dr. Wotton, the
gentleman in charge of the Aboriginal station at Mount Rouse, stating that
a rumour had reached him that a considerable number of Aborigines had
been poisoned at the station of Dr. Kilgour, near Port Fairy.

"I delayed communicating this circumstance at the time, as I expected
the Chief Protector and his assistants would find it practicable to
bring the crime home to the parties accused of having perpetrated it;
but I regret to state, that every attempt to discover the guilty
parties has hitherto proved ineffectual, and that although there
may be strong grounds of suspicion that such a deed had been perpetrated,
and that certain known parties in this district were the perpetrators,
yet it seems nearly impossible to obtain any legal proof to bear on
either one point or the other.

"I beg leave to enclose copies of two communications which I have received
from Mr. Robinson on the subject.

"I have, etc.
"The Honourable the Colonial Secretary,
etc. etc. etc."

Rumours of another similar occurrence existed in the settlements
north of Sydney, about the same time. To the inquiries made on the
subject, by the Government, the following letters refer.

"Moreton Bay, Zion's Hill, 14th January 1843.

"Sir,--In reply to your inquiry respecting the grounds on which I made
mention in my journal, kept during a visit to the Bunga Bunga country,
of a considerable number of blacks having been poisoned in the
northern part of this district, I beg leave to state, that having
returned from Sydney in the month of March 1842, I learnt, first,
by my coadjutor, the Rev. Mr. Epper, that such a rumour was spreading,
of which I have good reason to believe also his Excellency the Governor
was informed during his stay at Moreton Bay. I learnt, secondly,
by the lay missionaries, Messrs. Nique and Rode, who returned
from an excursion to "Umpie-boang" in the first week of April, that
natives of different tribes, who were collecting from the north for a
fight, had related the same thing to them as a fact. Messrs. Nique and
Rode have made this statement also in their diary, which is laid before
our committee in Sydney. I learnt, thirdly, by the runaway Davis, when
collecting words and phrases of the northern dialect from him, previous
to my expedition to the Bunga Bunga country, that there was not the least
doubt but such a deed had been done, and moreover that the relatives of
the poisoned blacks, being in great fury, were going to revenge
themselves. Davis considered it, therefore, exceedingly dangerous for us
to proceed to the north, mentioning at the same time, that two white men
had already been killed by blacks in consequence of poisoning. I
ascertained likewise from him the number, 50 or 60.

"When inquiring of him whether he had not reported this fact to
yourself, he replied, that both he, himself, and Bracewell, the
other runaway, whom Mr. Petrie had brought back from the Wide Bay,
had done so, and that you had stated it fully in your report to his
Excellency the Governor, respecting himself and Bracewell.

"4. The natives who had carried our provisions up to Mr. Archer's station,
made the same statement to us, as a reason why they would not accompany
us any farther to the Bunga Bunga country.

"When writing down, therefore, my journal, I considered it unnecessary to
make a full statement of all that had come to my knowledge since the month
of March, concerning that most horrid event, or even to relate it as
something new, as it was not only known several months since to the
respective authorities, but also as almost every one at Moreton Bay
supposed that an investigation would take place without delay.

"I have, etc.

"S. Simpson, Esq.,
"Commissioner of Crown Lands,
"Eagle Farm."


"Sir,--I have the honour to report, for the information of his Excellency,
that during my excursion to the Bunga country, I have taken every
opportunity of instituting an inquiry as to the truth of the alleged
poisoning of some Aborigines at a sheep station in the north of this
district. A report of the kind certainly exists among the two 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.

"I have, etc.
"(signed) S. SIMPSON,
"Commissioner of Crown Lands."

"The Honourable E. D. Thomson,
"Colonial Secretary."

For the sake of humanity I would hope that such unheard of atrocities
cannot really have existed. That the bare suspicion even of such crimes
should have originated and gained currency in more than one district
of Australia, is of itself a fearful indication of the feeling
among the lowest classes in the colonies, and of the harrowing
deeds to which that might lead.

Extract from South Australian Register, 10th of July, 1841, after the
return of Major O'Halloran and a party of sixty-eight individuals, sent
up the Murray to try and rescue property stolen by blacks. "In the mean
time we cannot but think that the DISAPPOINTMENT SO GENERALLY
EXPRESSED, because Major O'Halloran has returned 'WITHOUT FIRING A SHOT,'
is somewhat unreasonable, seeing that in his presence the natives DID
NOTHING TO WARRANT AN EXTREME MEASURE, and that there were no means of
identifying either the robbers of Mr. Inman, or the murderers of Mr.
Langhorne's servants. It is quite clear that a legally authorised English
force could not be permitted to fire indiscriminately upon the natives AS
SOME PERSONS THINK they ought to have done, or to fire at all, save when
attacked, or under circumstances in which any white subject of the Queen
might be shot at. We KNOW that many overland parties HAVE NOT HESITATED
the tribes now hostilely disposed may have received some provocation."

The following extract from a letter addressed by the Chief Protector of
the Port Phillip district, Mr. Robinson, to his Honour the Superintendent
at Melbourne, shews that officer's opinion of the feeling of the lower
class of the settlers' servants, with regard to the Aborigines in
Australia Felix.

"Anterior to my last expedition I had seen a large portion of this
province; I have now seen nearly the entire, and, in addition, have made
myself thoroughly acquainted with the character of its inhabitants.

"The settlers are, for the most part, a highly respectable body of men,
many, to my knowledge, deeply commiserating the condition of the natives;
a few have been engaged in the work of their amelioration; these,
however, are but isolated instances; the majority are averse to having
the natives, and drive them from their runs.

"Nothing could afford me greater pleasure than to see a reciprocity of
interest established between the settler and aborigine, and it would
delight me to see the settlers engaged in the great work of their
amelioration; and though on the part of the settlers, a large majority
would readily engage, I nevertheless feel persuaded that, until a better
class of peasantry be introduced, and a code of judicature suited to the
condition of the natives, its practicability, as a general principle, is

"In the course of my wanderings through the distant interior, I found it
necessary, in order to arrive at a correct judgment, to observe the
relative character of both classes, i. e. the European and the Aborigine.
The difficulty on the part of the Aborigine by proper management can be
overcome; but the difficulty on the part of the depraved white man is of
far different character, and such as to require that either their place
should be supplied by a more honest and industrious peasantry, or that a
more suitable code of judicature be established, to restrain their
nefarious proceedings with reference to the aboriginal natives.

"I found, on my last expedition, that a large majority of the white
servants employed at the stock stations in the distant interior were, for
the most part, men of depraved character; and it was with deep regret
that I observed that they were all armed; and in the estimation of some
of these characters, with whom I conversed, I found that the life of a
native was considered to be of no more value than that of a wild dog. The
settlers complained generally of the bad character of their men. The
saying is common among them, 'That the men and not we are the masters.'
The kind of treatment evinced towards the aboriginal natives in remote
parts of the interior by this class of persons, may be easily imagined;
but as I shall have occasion more fully to advert to this topic in the
report I am about to transmit to the Government, I shall defer for the
present offering further observations.

"The bad character of the white servants is a reason assigned by many
settlers for keeping the natives from their stations. At a few
establishments, viz. Norman M'Leod's, Baillie's, Campbell's, Lenton's,
and Urquhart's, an amicable and friendly relation has been maintained for
several years; the Aborigines are employed and found useful. I visited
these stations; and the proprietors assured me the natives had never done
them any injury; the natives also spoke in high terms of these parties.
There are other settlers also who have rendered assistance in improving
the condition of the natives, and to whom I shall advert in my next

"Whether the proprietors of these establishments devote more attention,
or whether their white servants are of less nefarious character than
others, I am not prepared to say; but the facts I have stated are
incontrovertible, and are sufficient to shew the reclaimability of the
natives, when proper persons are engaged, and suitable means had recourse
to. I cannot but accede to the proposition, namely, that of holding out
inducements to all who engage in the amelioration of the aboriginal
natives. Those who have had experience, who have been tried and found
useful, ought to have such inducements held out to them as would ensure a
continuance of their appointments, the more especially as it has always
been found difficult to obtain suitable persons for this hazardous and
peculiar service."

The following extract from another letter, also addressed to his Honour
the Superintendent, shews the opinions and feelings of the writer, a
Magistrate of the Colony, and a Commissioner of Crown Lands, in the
Geelong district.

"In offering my candid opinion, I submissively beg leave to state, that
for the last three years, on all occasions, I have been a friend to the
natives; but from my general knowledge of their habits of idleness,
extreme cunning, vice, and villany, that it is out of the power of all
exertion that can be bestowed on them to do good by them; and I further
beg leave to state, that I can plainly see the general conduct of the
native growing worse, and, if possible, more useless, and daily more
daring. One and all appear to consider that no punishment awaits them.
This idea has latterly been instilled into their minds with, I should
think, considerable pains, and also that the white men should be punished
for the least offence.

"In reply to the latter part of your letter, I beg leave to bring to your
notice that, at considerable risk, two years ago, I apprehended a native
for the murder of one of Mr. Learmonth's men, near Bunengang. He was
committed to Sydney gaol, and at the expiration of a year he was returned
to Melbourne to be liberated, and is now at large. In the case of Mr.
Thomson's, that I apprehended two, and both identified by the men who so
fortunately escaped. It is a difficult thing to apprehend natives, and
with great risk of life on both sides. On the Grange, and many parts of
the country, it would be impossible to take them; AND IN MY OPINION, the
only plan to bring them to a fit and proper state is to insist on the
gentlemen in the country to protect their property, AND TO DEAL WITH SUCH

Captain Grey bears testimony to similar feelings and occurrences in
Western Australia. In speaking of capturing some natives, he says, vol.
2. p. 351. "It was necessary that I should proceed with great caution, in
order not to alarm the guilty parties when they saw us approaching, in
which case, I should have had no chance of apprehending them, and I did
not intend to adopt the popular system of shooting them when they ran
away." And again, at page 356, he says, "It was better that I, an
impartial person, should see that they were properly punished for theft,
than that the Europeans should fire indiscriminately upon them, as had
lately been done, in another quarter."

Even in South Australia, where the Colonists have generally been more
concentrated, and where it might naturally be supposed there would be
less likelihood of offenders of this kind escaping detection and
punishment, there are not wanting instances of unnecessary and
unprovoked, and sometimes of wanton injury upon the natives. In almost
all cases of this description, it is quite impracticable from the
inadmissibility of native evidence, or from some other circumstances, to
bring home conviction to the guilty. [Note 50 at end of para.] On the
other hand, where natives commit offences against Europeans, if they can
be caught, the punishment is certain and severe. Already since the
establishment of South Australia as a colony, six natives have been tried
and hung, for crimes against Europeans, and many others have been shot or
wounded, by the police and military in their attempts to capture or
prevent their escape. No European has, however, yet paid the penalties of
the law, for aggressions upon the Aborigines, though many have deserved
to do so. The difficulty consists in legally bringing home the offence,
or in refuting the absurd stories that are generally made up in
justification of it.

[Note 50: Vide Chapter 9, of Notes on the Aborigines.]

A single instance or two will be sufficient, in illustration of the
impunity which generally attends these acts of violence. On the 25th
January, 1843, the sheep at a station of Mr. Hughes, upon the Hutt river,
had been scattered during the night, and some of them were missing. It
was concluded the natives had been there, and taken them, as the tracks
of naked feet were said to have been found near the folds. Upon these
grounds two of Mr. Hughes' men, and one belonging to Mr. Jacobs, another
settler in the neighbourhood, took arms, and went out to search for the
natives. About a mile from the station they met with one native and his
wife, whom they asked to accompany them back to the station, promising
bread and flour for so doing. They consented to go, but were then
escorted AS PRISONERS, the two men of Mr. Hughes' guarding the male
native, and Mr. Jacobs' servant (a person named Gregory) the female.
Naturally alarmed at the predicament they were in, the man ran off,
pursued by his two guards, but escaped. The woman took another direction,
pursued by Gregory, who recaptured her, and she was said to have then
seized Gregory's gun, and to have struck at him several blows with a
heavy stick, upon which, being afraid that he would be overcome, HE SHOT
HER. Mr. Hughes, the owner of the lost sheep, came up a few moments after
the woman was shot, and heard Gregory's story concerning it, but no marks
of his receiving any blows were shewn. On the 23rd of March, he was tried
for the offence of manslaughter; there did not appear the slightest
extenuating circumstances beyond his own story, and his master giving him
a good character, and yet the jury, without retiring, returned a verdict
of Not Guilty!

At the very next sittings of the Supreme Court Criminal Sessions, another
and somewhat analogous case appeared. The following remarks were made by
His Honour Judge Cooper, to the Grand Jury respecting it: "There was also
a case of manslaughter to be tried, and he called their attention to
this, because it did not appear in the Calendar. The person charged was
named Skelton, and as appeared from the depositions, was in custody of
some sheep, when an alarm of the rushing of the sheep being given, he
looked and saw something climbing over the fence, and subsequently
something crawling along the ground, upon which he fired off his piece,
and hit the object, which upon examination turned out to be a native. The
night was dark, and the native was brought into the hut, where he died
the next day. He could not help observing, that cases of this kind were
much more frequent than was creditable to the reputation of the Colony.
Last Sessions a man was tried and acquitted of the charge of killing a
native woman. That verdict was a very merciful one, but not so merciful,
he trusted, as to countenance the idea that the lives of the natives are
held too cheaply. The only observation that he would make upon this case
was, that it was ONE OF GREAT SUSPICION."

[Note 51: I believe this case was not brought to trial.]

Other cases have occurred in which some of the circumstances have come
under my own notice, and when Europeans have committed wanton aggressions
on the Aborigines, and have then made up a plausible story to account for
what had taken place, but where, from obvious circumstances, it was quite
impossible to disprove or rebut their tale, however improbable it might
be. In the Port Phillip District in 1841, Mr. Chief Protector thus writes
to the local Government.

"Already appalling collisions have happened between the white and
aboriginal inhabitants, and, although instances, it is possible, have
transpired when natives have been the aggressors, yet it will be found
that the largest majority originated with the Europeans. The lives of
aboriginal natives known to have been destroyed are many, and if the
testimony of natives be admissible, the amount would be great indeed; but
even in cases where the Aborigines are said to be the aggressors, who can
tell what latent provocation existed for perpetrating it? Of the numerous
cases that could be cited, the following from a recent journal of an
assistant protector, Mr. Parker, of the Lodden, will suffice to shew the
insurmountable difficulty, I may add the impossibility, of bringing the
guilty parties to justice, for in nine cases, I may say, out of ten,
where natives are concerned, the only evidence that can be adduced is
that of the Aborigines.

"This evidence is not admissible. Indeed the want of a code, suited to
the Aborigines, is now so strongly felt, and of such vital importance to
the welfare and existence of the natives, that I earnestly trust that
this important subject may be brought under the early consideration and
notice of Her Majesty's Government.

"The following is the extract from Mr. Parker's journal referred to: 'On
the 8th of March 1841, I proceeded to the Pyrenees to investigate the
circumstances connected with the slaughter of several Aborigines, by a
Mr. Frances. On the 9th and 10th I fell in with different parties of
natives. From the last of these I obtained some distressing statements,
as to the slaughter of the blacks; they gave me the names of seven
individuals shot by Mr. Frances within the last six months. I found,
however, no legal evidence attainable. The only persons present in the
last and most serious affair with the Aborigines, which took place in
December of last year, were Frances, a person named Downes, and a
stock-keeper in Melbourne. No other admissible evidence of the death of
these poor people can be obtained than what Frances's written statement
conveys. In that he reports that he and the person before named WENT OUT
slain, and their information on that point is more to be depended on.
Owing to the legal disabilities of the Aborigines, this case must be
added with many others which have passed without judicial notice. I
cannot, however, but wish that squatting licenses were withheld from
persons who manifest such an utter disregard of human life as Mr.
Frances, even on his own shewing, has done.'

"And in this latter sentiment, under existing circumstances, I most
cordially agree. In Frances' case, the PERPETRATOR ADMITS his having SHOT
FOUR ABORIGINES, and for aught that is shewn to the contrary, it was AN
UNPROVOKED AGGRESSION. The natives, whose testimony Mr. Parker states,
can be relied upon, affirm that six were slain, and these within the
brief period of six months.

"In my last expedition I visited the country of the 'Barconedeets,' the
tribe attacked by Frances; of these I found a few sojourning with the
'Portbullucs,' a people inhabiting the country near Mount Zero, the
northernmost point of the Grampians. These persons complained greatly of
the treatment they had received, and confirmed the statement made to the
sub-protector by the other natives. The following are a few of the
collisions, from authentic documents brought under the notice of this
department, that have happened between settlers and Aborigines, and are
respectfully submitted for the information of the Government.

"CASES.--CHARLES WEDGE AND OTHERS.--Five natives killed and others
wounded at the Grampians.

"AYLWARD AND OTHERS.--Several natives killed and others wounded at the
Grampians. In this case Aylward deposed, 'that there must have been a
great many wounded and several killed, as he saw blood upon the grass,
and in the tea-tree two or three dead bodies.'

"MESSRS. WHYTE'S FIRST COLLISION.--William Whyte deposed that 30 natives
were present, and they were all killed but two, and one of these it is
reported died an hour after of his wounds.

"DARLOT.--One native shot. Two natives shot near Portland Bay by the
servants of the Messrs. Henty.

"HUTTON AND MOUNTED POLICE.--The written report of this case states,
'that the party overtook the aborigines at the junction of the
'Campaspee;' they fired, and it is stated, that to the best of the belief
of the party, five or six were killed.' In the opinion of the
sub-protector a greater number were slain.

"MESSRS. WINTER AND OTHERS.--On this occasion five natives were killed.

"One black shot by Frances.

"MUNROE AND POLICE.--Two blacks shot and others wounded.

"The following from Lloyd's deposition:--'We fired on them; I have no
doubt some were killed; there were between forty and fifty natives.'

"BY PERSONS UNKNOWN.--A native of the Coligan tribe killed by white

"MESSRS. WEDGE AND OTHERS.--Three natives killed and others wounded.

"Names of Taylor and Lloyd are mentioned as having shot a black at Lake


"Taylor was overseer of a sheep station in the Western district, and was
notorious for killing natives. No legal evidence could be obtained
against this nefarious individual. The last transaction in which he was
concerned, was of so atrocious a nature, that he thought fit to abscond,
and he has not been heard of since. No legal evidence was attainable in
this latter case. There is no doubt the charges preferred were true, for
in the course of my inquiries on my late expedition, I found a tribe, a
section of the Jarcoorts, totally extinct, and it was affirmed by the
natives that Taylor had destroyed them. The tribes are rapidly
diminishing. The 'Coligans,' once a numerous and powerful people,
inhabiting the fertile region of Lake 'Colac,' are now reduced, all ages
and sexes, under forty, and these are still on the decay. The Jarcoorts,
inhabiting the country to the west of the great lake 'Carangermite,' once
a very numerous and powerful people, are now reduced to under sixty. But
time would fail, and I fear it would be deemed too prolix, were I to
attempt to particularise in ever so small a degree, the previous state,
condition, and declension of the original inhabitants of so extensive a

Upon the same subject, His Honour the Superintendent of Port Phillip thus

"On this subject, I beg leave to remark that great impediments evidently
do interpose themselves in the way of instituting proper judicial inquiry
into the causes and consequences of the frequent acts of collision
between the settlers and the aboriginal natives, and into the conduct of
the settlers on such occasions. I am quite ready to lament with the
Protectors, that numerous as the cases have unfortunately been in which
the lives of the Aborigines have been taken in this district, IN NO

Many similar instances might be adduced to shew the little chance there
is of evidence enough being procurable, even to cause the aggressor to be
put upon his trial, still less to produce his conviction.

Independently of the instances of wanton outrage, which sometimes are
perpetrated on the outskirts of the settled districts by the lowest and
most abandoned of our countrymen, there are occasions also, when equal
injuries are inflicted unintentionally, from inexperience or
indiscretion, on the part of those whose duty it is to protect rather
than destroy, when the innocent have been punished instead of the
guilty [Note 52 at end of para.], and thus the very efforts made to
preserve peace and good order, have inadvertently become the means of
subverting them.

[Note 52: Upon collisions of this character, Lord John Russell remarks in
his despatch, 21st December, 1839, to Sir G. Gipps: "In the case now
before me the object of capturing offenders was entirely lost sight of,
and shots were fired at men who were apparently only guilty of jumping
into the water to escape from an armed pursuit. I am, however, happy to
acknowledge that you appear to have made every practicable exertion for
the prevention of similar calamities in future, and I approve the
measures adopted by you for that purpose. You cannot overrate the
solicitude of Her Majesty's Government on the subject of the Aborigines
of New Holland. It is impossible to contemplate the condition and the
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 of those which must
originate from the exasperation of the settlers, on account of
aggressions on their property, which are not the less irritating, because
they are nothing else than the natural results of the pernicious examples
held out 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."]

Several very lamentable instances of this kind, have occurred in Port
Lincoln. The following is one among others. Soon after the murder of
Messrs. Biddle and Brown, a party of soldiers was sent over to try and
capture the aggressors. In one of their attempts a native guide was
procured from the Eastern tribe, who promised to conduct them to where
the murderers were. The party consisting of the military and their
officer, the police, a settler, and the missionary, in all twelve or
fourteen persons, set off towards Coffin's Bay, following as they
supposed upon the track of the murders. Upon reaching the coast some
natives were seen fishing in the water, and the party was at once spread
out in a kind of semicircle, among the scrub, to close upon and capture
them; the officer, missionary, and guide, being stationed near the
centre. As the party advanced nearer, the guide saw that he was mistaken
in the group before him, and that they were not the guilty parties, but
friends. The officer called out not to fire, but unfortunately from the
distance the men were at, and the scrubby nature of the country, he was
not heard or attended to. A shot was fired, one of the natives sprung up
convulsively in the water, walked on shore and fell down, exclaiming
whilst dying, "me Kopler, me good man," and such indeed it proved. He was
one of a friendly tribe, and a particular protege of the missionary's,
having taken the name of Kopler from his German servant who was so

The other natives at once came forward to their dying friend, scornfully
motioning away his murderers, fearless alike of the foes around them, and
regardless of their ill-timed attempts to explain the fatal mistake. Will
it be credited, that at such a scene as this the soldiers were indulging
in coarse remarks, or brutal jests, upon the melancholy catastrophe; and
comparing the last convulsive spring of the dying man to a salmon leaping
in the water. Yet this I was assured was the case by the Government
Resident at Port Lincoln, from when I received this account.

Another melancholy and unfortunate case of the same nature occurred at
Port Lincoln, on the 11th of April, 1844, where a native was shot by a
policeman, for attempting to escape from custody, when taken in charge on
suspicion of being implicated in robbing a stranded vessel. An
investigation was made into this case by the Commissioner of Police, when
it was stated in the depositions, that attempts at rescue were made by
the other natives. Upon these grounds, I believe, it was considered that
the policeman was justified in what he did.

The following extract relating to this subject, is from a letter
addressed to a gentleman in Adelaide, by the Rev. C. Schurmann, one of
the German Missionaries, who has for some years past been stationed among
the Port Lincoln natives, and is intimately acquainted with their

[Note 53: Without adopting the tone of this letter, and which in some
respects I cannot approve of, I believe the writer to be deeply interested
in the welfare of the Aborigines, and strongly impressed with a conviction
of the evils and injuries to which they are subject from our anomalous
position with regard to them. I have quoted it, therefore, not for the
purpose of casting imputations on the Government, but to shew how
powerless they are, and how frequently, under the existing system in
force with respect to the Aborigines, those very measures which were
conceived and entered upon with the best intentions, produce in their
result the most unmitigated evils.]

"You will probably recollect, that some time ago (I think it was in the
month of May) the Adelaide newspapers contained a short notice of a Port
Lincoln native having been shot by the police in self-defence, and a
letter in the 'Observer,' mentioned another as being shot by Mr.----, but
as the charitable correspondent added, 'Unfortunately only in the arm,
instead of through the body.' From these statements one would infer that
the parties concerned in these transactions were without blame, being
perfectly justified--the one to protect his life, and the other his
property. However, since my return to Port Lincoln, I have learned that
both tales run very differently when told according to truth. I address
myself, therefore, to you, with the true facts of the transactions, as I
have learned them, partly from the settlers themselves, partly from the
natives. My motive for so doing is to case my own mind, and to gratify
the interest which I know you take in the Aborigines of this country.

"The man shot by the police was named Padlalta, and was of so mild and
inoffensive a disposition, that he was generally noticed by the settlers
on that very account, several of whom I have heard say since, it was a
pity that some other native had not been hit in his stead. The same man
was captured last year by Major O'llalloran's party, but was set at
liberty as soon as I came up and testified his innocence, for which the
poor fellow kissed my hand near a dozen times.

"The day before he met his death he was as usual in the town, doing
little jobs for the inhabitants, to get bread or other food. On the
evening when he was killed, he had encamped with about half a dozen other
natives on the northern side of Happy Valley, a short mile from the town.
The police who were sent by the Government Resident to see what number of
natives were at the camp state, that while searching the man's wallet, he
seized hold of one gun, and when the other policeman came up to wrest it
from him, he the native grasped the other gun too. In the scuffle that
ensued, one of the guns went off, when the other natives who had fled
returned and presented their spears. They then shot the native who held
the gun.

"Now this statement is a very strange one, when it is considered that the
native was a very spare and weak man, so that either of the police ought
to have been able to keep him at arm's length; but to say that he seized
both their guns is beyond all credibility. The natives were sitting down
when the police arrived. How they could therefore find a wallet upon the
murdered man, I cannot conceive; since the natives never have their
wallets slung, except when moving; and it certainly is not probable, that
the man, in spite of the fright he is admitted to have been in, should
have thought of taking up his wallet.

"The wallet is said to have contained some sovereigns, taken from the
cutter Kate, which was wrecked some time previous to this affair, about
forty miles up the coast, and to have been one of those marked by the
police, at a native camp near the wreck from which the natives had been
scared away, leaving all their things behind. But if the murdered native
had taken the sovereigns, why were they not then in his wallet, or why
was the wallet not examined the day before when he was in town?
[Note 54 at end of para.] I think that there is little doubt that the
police found no wallet at all upon the native, and that they coined away
one of those found at the camp upon him, with a view to incriminate him."

[Note 54: There cannot be a greater act of injustice towards the natives
than that of applying the English law to them with respect to stolen
property. Any one who knows any thing of their habits, and the custom
prevalent amongst them, of giving any European clothing, or other articles
they may acquire, from one to another, must be fully aware how little the
fact of their being found in possession of stolen property is just
evidence against them. Articles such as I have mentioned, often pass, in a
very short time, through the hands of three or four individuals, and
perhaps even through as many tribes.]

"Another native, Charley, who was present when the said affair took
place, tells me, that the police sneaked upon, and fired at them, while
sitting round the fire; [Note 55 at end of para.] that he jumped up, and
endeavoured to make himself known, as a friendly native, by saying,
"Yarri (that is the name the natives have given to one of the police),
Yarri, I Charley, I Charley,"--but that the effect produced had been the
pointing of a gun at him, when of course he ran away. That any of the
natives returned, and poised their spears, he firmly denies; but accounts
for the murder, by supposing that the dead man made resistance, and
offered to spear his assailants. He moreover says, that Padlalta would not
have died in consequence of the first shot, but that the police fired
repeatedly, which agrees with the settlers, who say they heard three
shots. When the bloody deed had been committed (a ball had passed right
through his body), the cruel perpetrators ran home, leaving the murdered
man helpless."

[Note 55: There must, I think, be some mistake here in the phrascology.
I cannot think any of the police would fire upon a small party of friendly
natives whilst unresisting. The probability is, that they surrounded the
natives to make prisoners, and fired upon being resisted. This must
generally occur if the police have positive orders to make captures.
Natives, not very much in contact with Europeans, will almost always
resist an attempt to make prisoners of them, or will try to escape. Very
many have, at various times, met their death under such circumstances;
and too often it has occurred, that the innocent have been the suffering
parties. This shews the absurdity of applying European customs and laws
to a people situated as the Australian natives are. It shews, too, the
necessity of altering our present system and policy towards them, to one
that will exercise sufficient influence over them to induce them to give
up offenders themselves. I believe such a system may be devised.--Vide
Chapter IX.]

"Some time after, a party of three settlers went to the spot, one of whom
he recognized, and claimed his acquaintance, and perhaps assistance, by
mentioning the party's Christian name; but, alas! no good Samaritan was
found amongst these three; they all passed by on the other side, without
alleviating his pain, moistening his parched lips, warming his shivering
limbs, or aiding him in any way whatever. There he lay a whole cold and
long winter night, without a fire to warm him, or a soul to talk to him.
Next morning he was found still alive, but died on the way into town,
where he was buried in the jail yard, like a condemned felon.

"What awful and melancholy reflections crowd upon one's mind in thinking
on this transaction. But what conclusians must a poor people, whom a
Christian and civilized nation calls savages, arrive at, with such facts
before them.

"The other native, wounded by Mr.--in the arm, was doubtless of the party
who attacked the flock; but it must have been some hours after that he
was shot, for the shepherd had to come home with the flock to inform him
of the occurrence, and then search and pursuit had to be made, during
which he was overtaken. He is a stupid idiotic sort of man, so that the
natives have not deemed him worthy of receiving the honours of their
ceremonies, and still call him a boy, or youth, although he is an oldish

"On another occasion, when an uninhabited hut, with some wheat in it, had
been broken into by some unknown natives, a party went in search of the
offenders. It was night when they came on a camp, on the opposite side of
the lake to where the hut stands; the natives, acting upon the first
impulse, and warned by frequent examples, ran away, when two of the party
snapped their pieces, but providentially both guns missed fire. The
natives, however, soon took confidence, and returned, when it was found
that two of the most orderly and useful men would have been shot if the
guns had gone off. The party took upon themselves to make one of them
prisoner, but of course did not venture to bring him before the

"These facts incontestably prove, that, notwithstanding the Aborigines
are called British subjects, and in spite of the so-called protection
system, there is no shadow of protection for them, while they are
debarred from the first and most important of all liberties, namely, that
of being heard in a Court of civil Justice.

"Several instances have occurred during my residence in this district, in
which natives have been arraigned before the administrators of the law,
although I was morally convinced of their innocence; in other cases, they
have sought redress through me, for wanton attacks on their person and
lives, without being listened to.

"Only a few weeks ago a native was very nearly being taken up, on the
charge of having thrown a spear at Mr. Smith's shepherd, without,
however, any felonious intent, the distance being too great. This
circumstance saved the man, or else he would, no doubt, have been tried
and found guilty on the shepherd's evidence, who would not allow that he
could be mistaken in the individual, although the accused native came
boldly into town and court (a circumstance that has never before occurred
since I have known these natives), although he was an intimate friend of
the shepherd and his wife; and although all the other natives could prove
where he had been at the time of the attack on the flock, and state who
were the guilty parties.

"For those who have had an opportunity of observing the Aborigines in
their original state, it is not very difficult to distinguish the guilty
from the innocent, for they are a simple-minded race, little skilled in
the arts of dissimulation.

"It is bad enough that a great part of the colonists are inimical to the
natives; it is worse that the law, as it stands at present, does not
extend its protection to them; but it is too bad when the press lends its
influence to their destruction. Such, however, is undoubtedly the case.
When Messrs. Biddle and Brown were murdered, the newspapers entertained
their readers week after week with the details of the bloody massacre,
heaping a profusion of vile epithets upon the perpetrators. But of the
slaughter by the soldiers, (who killed no less than four innocent
natives, while they captured not one guilty party), among the tribes who
had had nothing to do with the murders--of the treachery of attacking in
the darkness of the night, a tribe who had the day before been hunting
kangaroo with their informers, when one of the former guides to the
magistrates' pursuing party was killed amongst others; of the wanton
outrage on the mutilated body of one of the victims;--of these things the
press was as silent as the grave."

Without attempting to enlarge more fully upon the subjects entered upon
in the preceding pages, I trust that I have sufficiently shewn that the
character of the Australian natives has been greatly misrepresented and
maligned, that they are not naturally more irreclaimably vicious,
revengeful, or treacherous than other nations, but on the contrary, that
their position with regard to Europeans, places them under so many
disadvantages, subjects them to so many injuries, irritates them with so
many annoyances, and tempts them with so many provocations, that it is a
matter of surprise, not that they sometimes are guilty of crime, but that
they commit it so rarely.

If I have in the least degree succeeded in establishing that such is the
case, it must be evident that it is incumbent upon us not only to make
allowances when pronouncing an opinion on the character or the crimes of
the Aborigines; but what is of far greater and more vital importance, as
far as they are concerned, to endeavour to revise and improve such parts
of our system and policy towards them as are defective, and by better
adapting these to the peculiar circumstances of this people, at once
place them upon juster and more equal terms, and thus excite a reasonable
hope that some eventual amelioration may be produced, both in their moral
and physical condition.

[Note 56: "We say distinctly and deliberately that nothing comparatively
has yet been done--that the natives have hitherto acquired nothing of
European civilization, but European vices and diseases, and that the
speedy extinction of the whole race is inevitable, save by the
introduction of means for their civilization on a scale much more
comprehensive and effectual than any yet adopted."--Leading Article in
South Australian Register, 1st August, 1840.]

I shall now proceed to give an account of the appearance, habits, mode of
life, means of subsistance, social relations, government, ceremonies,
superstitions, numbers, languages, etc. etc. of the natives of Australia,
so as to afford some insight into the character and circumstances of this
peculiar race, to exhibit the means hitherto adopted for, and the
progress made in attempting, their civilization, and to shew the effects
produced upon them by a contact with Europeans.

Chapter II.


The Aborigines of Australia, with whom Europeans have come in contact,
present a striking similarity to each other in physical appearance and
structure; and also in their general character, habits, and pursuits. Any
difference that is found to exist is only the consequence of local
circumstances or influences, and such as might naturally be expected to
be met with among a people spread over such an immense extent of country.
Compared with other aboriginal races, scattered over the face of the
globe, the New Hollander appears to stand alone.

The male is well built and muscular, averaging from five to six feet in
height, with proportionate upper and lower extremities. The anterior
lobes of the brain are fairly developed, so as to give a facial angle,
far from being one of the most acute to be found amongst the black races.
The eyes are sunk, the nose is flattened, and the mouth wide. The lips
are rather thick, and the teeth generally very perfect and beautiful,
though the dental arrangement is sometimes singular, as no difference
exists in many between the incisor and canine teeth. The neck is short,
and sometimes thick, and the heel resembles that of Europeans. The ankles
and wrists are frequently small, as are also the hands and feet. The
latter are well formed and expanded, but the calves of the legs are
generally deficient. Some of the natives in the upper districts of the
Murray, are, however, well formed in this respect. In a few instances,
natives attain to a considerable corpulency. The men have fine broad and
deep chests, indicating great bodily strength, and are remarkably erect
and upright in their carriage, with much natural grace and dignity of
demeanour. The eye is generally large, black, and expressive, with the
eye-lashes long.

When met with for the first time in his native wilds there is frequently
a fearless intrepidity of manner, an ingenuous openness of look, and a
propriety of behaviour about the aboriginal inhabitant of Australia,
which makes his appearance peculiarly prepossessing.

In the female the average height is about five feet, or perhaps a little
under. The anterior part of the brain is more limited than in the male;
the apex of the head is carried further back; the facial angle is more
acute; and the extremities are more attenuated. The latter circumstance
may probably be accounted for from the fact, that the females have to
endure, from a very early age, a great degree of hardship, privation, and
ill-treatment. Like most other savages the Australian looks upon his wife
as a slave. To her belongs the duty of collecting and preparing the daily
food, of making the camp or hut for the night, of gathering and bringing
in firewood, and of procuring water. She must also attend to the
children; and in travelling carry all the moveable property and
frequently the weapons of her husband. In wet weather she attends to all
the outside work, whilst her lord and master is snugly seated at the
fire. If there is a scarcity of food she has to endure the pangs of
hunger, often, perhaps, in addition to ill-treatment or abuse. No wonder,
then, that the females, and especially the younger ones, (for it is then
they are exposed to the greatest hardships,) are not so fully or so
roundly developed in person as the men. Yet under all these disadvantages
this deficiency does not always exist. Occasionally, though rarely, I
have met with females in the bloom of youth, whose well-proportioned
limbs and symmetry of figure might have formed a model for the sculptor's
chisel. In personal appearance the females are, except in early youth,
very far inferior to the men. When young, however, they are not
uninteresting. The jet-black eyes, shaded by their long, dark lashes, and
the delicate and scarcely-formed features of incipient womanhood give a
soft and pleasing expression to a countenance that might often be called
good-looking--occasionally even pretty.

The colour of the skin, both in the male and female, is generally black,
or very darkly tinged. The hair is either straight or curly, but never
approaching to the woolliness of the negro. It is usually worn short by
both sexes, and is variously ornamented at different periods of life.
Sometimes it is smeared with red ochre and grease; at other times adorned
with tufts of feathers, the tail of the native dog, kangaroo teeth, and
bandages or nets of different kinds.

[Note 57: The same fondness for red paint, ornaments of skins, tufts of
feathers, etc., is noticed by Catlin as prevalent among the American
Indians, and by Dieffenbach as existing among the New Zealanders.]

When the head of the native is washed clean, and purified from the odour
of the filthy pigment with which it is bedaubed, the crop of hair is very
abundant, and the appearance of it beautiful, being a silken, glossy, and
curly black. Great pains are, however, used to destroy or mar this
striking ornament of nature.

Without the slightest pride of appearance, so far as neatness or
cleanliness is concerned, the natives are yet very vain of their own rude
decorations, which are all worn for EFFECT. A few feathers or teeth, a
belt or band, a necklace made of the hollow stem of some plant, with a
few coarse daubs of red or white paint, and a smearing of grease,
complete the toilette of the boudoir or the ball-room. Like the scenery
of a panorama, they are then seen to most advantage at a distance; for if
approached too closely, they forcibly remind us of the truth of the
expression of the poet, that "nature unadorned is adorned the most."

The body dress is simple; consisting of the skins of the opossum, the
kangaroo, or the wallabie, when they can be procured. A single garment
only is used, made in the form of an oblong cloak, or coverlet; by the
skins being stretched out and dried in the sun, and then sewn together
with the sinews of the emu, etc. The size of the cloak varies according to
the industry of the maker, or the season of the year. The largest sized
ones are about six feet square, but the natives frequently content
themselves with one not half this size, and in many cases are without it
altogether. The cloak is worn with the fur side outwards, and is thrown
over the back and left shoulder, and pinned on in front with a little
wooden peg; the open part is opposite the right side, so as to leave the
right arm and shoulder quite unconfined, in the male; the female throws
it over the back and left shoulder, and brings it round under the right
arm-pit, and when tied in front by a string passing round the cloak and
the back, a pouch is formed behind, in which the child is always
carried. [Note 58 at end of para.] In either if the skin be a handsome
one, the dress is very pretty and becoming.

[Note 58: A similar custom prevails among the women of the American
Indians.--CATLIN. vol. ii. p. 132.]

On the sea coast, where the country is barren, and the skins of animals
cannot readily be procured, sea-weed or rushes are manufactured into
garments, with considerable ingenuity. In all cases the garments worn by
day constitute the only covering at night, as the luxury of variety in
dress is not known to, or appreciated by, the Aborigines.

No covering is worn upon the head, although they are continually exposed
to the rays of an almost tropical sun. In extreme seasons of heat, and
'when they are travelling, they sometimes gather a few green bunches or
wet weeds and place upon their heads; but this does not frequently occur.

The character of the Australian natives is frank, open, and confiding. In
a short intercourse they are easily made friends, and when such terms are
once established, they associate with strangers with a freedom and
fearlessness, that would give little countenance to the impression so
generally entertained of their treachery. On many occasions where I have
met these wanderers in the wild, far removed from the abodes of
civilization, and when I have been accompanied only by a single native
boy, I have been received by them in the kindest and most friendly
manner, had presents made to me of fish, kangaroo, or fruit, had them
accompany me for miles to point out where water was to be procured, and
been assisted by them in getting at it, if from the nature of the soil
and my own inexperience. I had any difficulty in doing so myself.

I have ever found them of a lively, cheerful disposition [Note 59 at end
of para.], patiently putting up with inconveniences and privations, and
never losing that natural good temper which so strongly characterizes
them. On the occasion of my second visit from Moorunde, to the Rufus
natives in 1841, when I had so far overcome the ill-feelings and dread,
engendered by the transactions in that quarter, in 1840, as to induce
a large body of them to accompany me back to the station, they had to
walk a distance of 150 miles, making daily the same stages that the
horses did, and unprovided with any food but what they could procure
along the road as they passed, and this from the rapidity with which
they had to travel, and the distance they had to go in a day, was
necessarily limited in quantity, and very far from sufficient to
appease even the cravings of hunger, yet tired, foot-sore, and hungry
as they were, and in company with strangers, whose countrymen had slain
them in scores, but a few months before, they were always merry at
their camps at nights, and kept singing, laughing, and joking, to a
late hour.

[Note 59: Such appears usually to be the characteristic of Nature's
children, than whom no race appears more thoroughly to enjoy life.--Vide
character of the American Indians, by Catlin, vol. 1. p. 84.]

On falling in with them in larger numbers, when I have been travelling in
the interior with my party, I have still found the same disposition to
meet me on terms of amity and kindness. Nor can a more interesting sight
well be imagined, than that of a hundred or two hundred natives advancing
in line to meet you, unarmed, shouting and waving green boughs in both
hands, men, women, and children, the old and the young, all joining in
expressing their good feelings and pacific intentions. On such occasions
I have been often astonished at the facility with which large bodies,
have by a little kindness and forbearance been managed, and kept from
being troublesome or annoying, by a party of only six or seven Europeans.
I have occasionally had upwards of 150 natives sitting in a long line,
where I placed them, and as orderly and obedient almost as a file of

At other times, when riding with only a native boy over the plains of the
interior, I have seen the blue smoke of the native fires, curling up
through the distant line of trees, which marked some yet unvisited
watercourse, and upon making towards it, have come suddenly upon a party
encamped in the hollow, beneath the banks upon which I stood. Here I have
remained, observing them for a few moments, unseen and unthought of. A
single call would arouse their attention, and as they looked up, would
draw from them a wild exclamation of dismay, accompanied by a look of
indescribable horror and affright, at beholding the strange, and to them
incomprehensible beings who stood before them. Weapons would hastily be
seized, baggage gathered up, and the party so lately buried in repose and
security, would at once be ready either to fight or to evacuate their
camps, as circumstances might seem to render most expedient. A few
friendly gestures and a peaceable demeanour would however soon dissipate
their terror, and in a few moments their weapons would be thrown aside,
and both invaders and invaded be upon intimate and confiding terms.

I have always found the natives ready to barter their nets, weapons, or
other implements, for European articles, and sometimes they will give
them unsolicited, and without any equivalent; amongst themselves they
constantly do this.

In their intercourse with each other, natives of different tribes are
exceedingly punctilious and polite, the most endearing epithets are
passed between those who never met before; almost every thing that is
said is prefaced by the appellation of father, son, brother, mother,
sister, or some other similar term, corresponding to that degree of
relationship which would have been most in accordance with their relative
ages and circumstances. In many instances, too, these titles are even
accompanied by the still more insinuating addition of "dear," to say
nothing of the hugs and embraces which they mutually give and receive.

The natives are very fond of the children they rear, and often play with,
and fondle them; but husbands rarely shew much affection for their wives.
After a long absence, I have seen natives, upon their return, go to their
camp, exhibiting the most stoical indifference, never take the least
notice of their wives, but sit down, and act, and look, as if they had
never been out of the encampment; in fact, if any thing, they are more
taciturn and reserved than usual, and some little time elapses before
they enter into conversation with freedom, or in their ordinary manner.

[Note 60: For the existence of similar customs amongst the American
Indians, vide Catlin, vol. i. p. 56.]

Upon meeting children after a long absence, I have seen parents "fall
upon their necks, and weep" bitterly. It is a mistaken idea, as well as
an unjust one, that supposes the natives to be without sensibility of
feeling. It may often be repressed from pride or policy, but it will
sometimes break forth uncontrolled, and reveal, that the best and genuine
feelings of the heart are participated in by savage in common with
civilized man. The following is an instance in point:--A fine intelligent
young boy, was, by his father's consent, living with me at the Murray for
many weeks; but upon the old man's going into Adelaide, he took his son
away to accompany him. Whilst there, the boy died, and for nearly a year
I never saw any thing more of the father, although he occasionally had
been within a few miles of my neighbourhood. One day, however, I was out
shooting about three miles from home, and accidentally fell in with him.
Upon seeing me he immediately burst into tears, and was unable to speak.
It was the first time he had met me since his son's death, and my
presence forcibly reminded him of his loss. The same circumstance
occurred when he accompanied me to the house, where every thing he saw
recalled the memory of his child.

Innate propriety of behaviour is also frequently exhibited by the
Aborigines in their natural state, in the modest unassuming manner in
which they take their positions to observe what is going on, and in a
total absence of any thing that is rude or offensive. It is true that the
reverse of this is also often to be met with; but I think it will usually
be found that it is among natives who have before been in contact with
Europeans, or where familiarities have been used with them first, or an
injudicious system of treatment has been adopted towards them.

DELICACY of feeling is not often laid to the charge of the Aborigines,
and yet I was witness to a singular instance of it at King George's
Sound. I was looking one evening at the natives dancing, and who were, as
they always are on these occasions, in a state of complete nudity. In the
midst of the performance, one of the natives standing by a spectator,
mentioned that a white woman was passing up the road; and although this
was some little distance away, and the night was tolerably dark, they all
with one accord crossed over to the bushes where their cloaks were, put
them on, and resumed their amusement.

It has been said, and is generally believed, that the natives are not
courageous. There could not be a greater mistake, at least as far as they
are themselves concerned, nor do I hold it to be any proof that they are
cowards, because they dread or give way before Europeans and their
fire-arms. So unequal a match is no criterion of bravery, and yet even
thus, among natives, who were labouring under the feelings, naturally
produced by seeing a race they were unacquainted with, and weapons that
dealt death as if by magic, I have seen many instances of an open manly
intrepidity of manner and bearing, and a proud unquailing glance of eye,
which instinctively stamped upon my mind the conviction that the
individuals before me were very brave men.

In travelling about from one place to another, I have always made it a
point, if possible, to be accompanied by one or more natives, and I have
often found great advantage from it. Attached to an exploring party they
are frequently invaluable, as their perceptive powers are very great, and
enable them both to see and hear anything at a much greater distance than
a European. In tracking stray animals, and keeping on indistinct paths,
they display a degree of perseverance and skill that is really wonderful.
They are useful also in cutting bark canoes to cross a river, should such
impede the progress of the party, and in diving for anything that may be
lost in the water, etc. etc. The Aborigines generally, and almost always
those living near large bodies of water, are admirable swimmers and
divers, and are almost as much at home in the water as on dry land. I
have known them even saw a small log or root at the bottom of a deep
river. In a locality, however, which is badly watered, it sometimes
happens that they cannot swim. At Meerkap, in Western Australia, while
crossing with some friends, from the Sound to Swan River, we met with
some who were in this predicament, and who seemed a good deal astonished
at our venturing into the small ponds at that place. I have been told
that the natives at the Sound could not swim before that settlement was
occupied by Europeans--this seems hardly probable, however, upon the
sea-coast; at all events, be this as it may, they all swim now.

In habit they are truly nomadic, seldom remaining many weeks in one
locality, and frequently not many days. The number travelling together
depends, in a great measure, upon the period of the year, and the
description of food that may be in season. If there is any particular
variety more abundant than another, or procurable only in certain
localities, the whole tribe generally congregate to partake of it. Should
this not be the case, then they are probably scattered over their
district in detached groups, or separate families.

At certain seasons of the year, usually in the spring or summer, when
food is most abundant, several tribes meet together in each other's
territory for the purpose of festivity or war, or to barter and exchange
such food, clothing, implements, weapons, or other commodities as they
respectively possess; or to assist in the initiatory ceremonies by which
young persons enter into the different grades of distinction amongst
them. The manner and formalities of meeting depend upon the cause for
which they assemble. If the tribes have been long apart, many deaths may
have occurred in the interim; and as the natives do not often admit that
the young or the strong can die from natural causes, they ascribe the
event to the agency of sorcery, employed by individuals of neighbouring
tribes. This must of course be expiated in some way when they meet, but
the satisfaction required is regulated by the desire of the injured tribe
to preserve amicable relations with the other, or the reverse.

The following is an account of a meeting which I witnessed, between the
natives of Moorunde (comprising portions of several of the neighbouring
tribes) and the Nar-wij-jerook, or Lake Bonney tribe, accompanied also by
many of their friends. This meeting had been pre-arranged, as meetings of
large bodies of natives never take place accidentally, for even when a
distant tribe approaches the territory of another unexpectedly,
messengers are always sent on in advance, to give the necessary warning.
The object of the meeting in question was to perform the initiatory
ceremonies upon a number of young men belonging to both of the tribes. In
the Murray district, when one tribe desires another to come from a
distance to perform these ceremonies, young men are sent off with
messages of invitation, carrying with them as their credentials, long
narrow news, made of string manufactured from the rush. These nets are
left with the tribe they are sent to, and brought back again when the
invitation is responded to.

Notice having been given on the previous evening to the Moorunde natives
of the approach of the Nar-wij-jerook tribe, they assembled at an early
hour after sunrise, in as clear and open a place as they could find. Here
they sat down in a long row to await the coming of their friends. The men
were painted, and carried their weapons, as if for war. The women and
children were in detached groups, a little behind them, or on one side,
whilst the young men, on whom the ceremonies were to be performed, sat
shivering with cold and apprehension in a row to the rear of the men,
perfectly naked, smeared over from head to foot with grease and
red-ochre, and without weapons. The Nar-wij-jerook tribe was now seen
approaching. The men were in a body, armed and painted, and the women and
children accompanying them a little on one side. They occasionally
halted, and entered into consultation, and then, slackening their pace,
gradually advanced until within a hundred yards of the Moorunde tribe.
Here the men came to a full stop, whilst several of the women singled out
from the rest, and marched into the space between the two parties, having
their heads coated over with lime, and raising a loud and melancholy
wail, until they came to a spot about equi-distant from both, when they
threw down their cloaks with violence, and the bags which they carried on
their backs, and which contained all their worldly effects. The bags were
then opened, and pieces of glass and shells taken out, with which they
lacerated their thighs, backs, and breasts, in a most frightful manner,
whilst the blood kept pouring out of the wounds in streams; and in this
plight, continuing their wild and piercing lamentations, they moved up
towards the Moorunde tribe, who sat silently and immoveably in the place
at first occupied. One of the women then went up to a strange native, who
was on a visit to the Moorunde tribe and who stood neutral in the affair
of the meeting, and by violent language and frantic gesticulations
endeavoured to incite him to revenge the death of some relation or
friend. But he could not be induced to lift his spear against the people
amongst whom he was sojourning. After some time had been spent in
mourning, the women took up their bundles again, and retiring, placed
themselves in the rear of their own party. An elderly man then advanced,
and after a short colloquy with the seated tribe, went back, and beckoned
his own people to come forward, which they did slowly and in good order,
exhibiting in front three uplifted spears, to which were attached the
little nets left with them by the envoys of the opposite tribe, and which
were the emblems of the duty they had come to perform, after the ordinary
expiations had been accomplished.

In advancing, the Nar-wij-jerooks again commenced the death wail, and one
of the men, who had probably sustained the greatest loss since the tribes
had last met, occasionally in alternations of anger and sorrow addressed
his own people. When near the Moorunde tribe a few words were addressed
to them, and they at once rose simultaneously, with a suppressed shout.
The opposite party then raised their spears, and closing upon the line of
the other tribe, speared about fifteen or sixteen of them in the left
arm, a little below the shoulder. This is the generally understood order
of revenge; for the persons who were to receive the wounds, as soon as
they saw the weapons of their assailants poised, at once put out the left
foot, to steady themselves, and presented the left shoulder for the blow,
frequently uttering the word "Leipa" (spear), as the others appeared to

Whilst this was going on, the influential men of each tribe were
violently talking to each other, and apparently accusing one another of
being accessory to the death of some of their people. Disclaimers passed
on each side, and the blame was imputed to other and more distant tribes.
The manes of the dead having been appeased, the honour of each party was
left unsullied, and the Nar-wij-jerooks retired about a hundred yards,
and sat down, ready to enter upon the ceremonies of the day, which will
be described in another place. [Note 61: Chapter V.]

If the meeting of the tribes be for the purpose of war, a favourable
situation is selected by one of the parties, and notice is sent to the
other, who then proceed to the place of meeting, where both draw out
their forces in opposing parallel lines. Day-break, or nearly about
sunset in the evening, are the times preferred for these engagements, as
the softened light at those hours does not so much affect the eyesight,
and the spears are more easily seen and avoided. Both parties are fully
armed with spears, shields, and other weapons, and the fight sometimes
lasts for three or four hours, during which scarcely a word is spoken,
and but little noise of any kind is heard, excepting a shrill cry now and
then, when some one is wounded or has a narrow escape. Many are injured
generally on both sides, and some severely so; but it rarely happens that
more than one or two are killed, though hundreds may have been engaged.

The fights are sometimes witnessed by men who are not concerned in them,
by the women and the children. The presence of the females may be
supposed probably to inspire the belligerents with courage and incite
them to deeds of daring.

The most dangerous and fatal affrays in which the natives engage are
those which occur suddenly amongst tribes who have been encamped near one
another on amicable terms, and between whom some cause of difference has
arisen, probably in relation to their females, or some recent death,
which it is imagined the sorcerers have been instrumental in producing.
In the former case a kind of melee sometimes takes place at night, when
fire-brands are thrown about, spears launched, and bwirris [Note 62 at end
of para.] bran-dished in indescribable confusion. In the latter case the
affray usually occurs immediately after the body is buried, and is more of
a hand-to-hand fight, in which bwirris are used rather than spears, and
in which tremendous blows are struck and frightful wounds inflicted.

[Note 62: A short, heavy, wooden stick, with a knob at one end.]

In wars males are always obliged to join their relatives by blood and
their own tribe. Women frequently excite the men to engage in these
affrays to revenge injuries or deaths, and sometimes they assist
themselves by carrying spears or other weapons for their husbands. I am
not aware that women or children are ever butchered after a battle is
over, and I believe such is never the case. Single camps are sometimes
treacherously surprised when the parties are asleep, and the males
barbarously killed in cold blood. This generally takes place just before
the morning dawns, when the native is most drowsy, and least likely to
give his attention to any thing he might hear. In these cases the attack
is generally made under the belief that the individual is a desperate
sorcerer, and has worked innumerable mischiefs to their tribe. In their
attacks upon European parties I believe the natives generally advance in
a line or crescent, beating their weapons together, throwing dust in the
air, spitting, biting their beards, or using some other similar act of
defiance and hostility. I have never witnessed any such collision myself,
but am told that the attack is always accompanied by that peculiar savage
sound produced by the suppressed guttural shout of many voices in unison,
which they use in conflicts amongst themselves, and which is continued to
the moment of collision, and renewed in triumph whenever a weapon strikes
an opponent.

When hostilely disposed from either fear or from having been previously
ill-treated, I have seen the natives, without actually proceeding to
extremities, resort to all the symptoms of defiance I have mentioned, or
at other times, run about with fire-brands in their hands, lighting the
bushes and the grass, either as a charm, or in the hope of burning out
the intruders. When much alarmed and rather closely pressed, they have
run up the trees like monkeys, and concealed themselves among the boughs,
evidently thinking they were secure from pursuit there.

If tribes meet simply for the purpose of festivity, and have no deaths to
avenge on either side, although they appear in warlike attitude, painted
and bearing spear and shield, yet when they approach each other, they all
become seated upon the ground. After which, the strangers, should there
be any, undergo a formal introduction, and have their country and lineage
described by the older men. At these meetings all occurrences of interest
are narrated, information is given as to the localities in which food is
most abundant, and invitations are issued by the proprietors of these
districts, to their relations and friends to accompany them thither.

The position of one tribe towards another, whether on friendly terms or
otherwise, is talked about, and consultations are held on the existing
state of affairs, whether hostilities shall be continued or withdrawn,
and future plans of operation are marked out.

Whilst the men are occupied in discussing these matters, the females
engage in a narration of family occurrences, such as births of children,
marriages, deaths, etc., not omitting a sprinkling of gossip and scandal,
from which, even these ebon sisters of a fairer race, are not altogether

In the evening, the huts of the different tribes are built as near to
each other as practicable, each tribe locating itself in the direction
from whence it came. The size and character of the huts, with the number
of their occupants, vary according to the state of the weather, and the
local circumstances of their position. In fine weather, one hut will
contain from two to five families, in wet weather more, each family
however having a separate fire.

The amusements of the natives are various, but they generally have a
reference to their future occupations or pursuits. Boys who are very
young, have small reed spears made for them by their parents, the ends of
which are padded with grass, to prevent them from hurting each other.
They then stand at a little distance, and engage in a mimic fight; and by
this means acquire early that skill in the use of this weapon, for which,
in after life, they are so much celebrated. At other times round pieces
of bark are rolled along the ground, to represent an animal in the act of
running, at which the spears are thrown for the sake of practice.

Another favourite amusement among the children, is to practise the dances
and songs of the adults, and a boy is very proud if he attains sufficient
skill in these, to be allowed to take part in the exhibitions that are
made before other tribes.

String puzzles are another species of amusement with them. In these a
European would be surprised to see the ingenuity they display, and the
varied and singular figures which they produce. Our juvenile attempts in
this way, are very meagre and uninteresting compared to them. [Note 63: An
amusement of the New Zealand children.--Dieffenbach, vol. 2. p. 32.]

Other gratifications enjoyed by children, consist in learning the
occupations and pursuits of after life, as to make twine, and weapons; to
ascend trees; to procure food; to guide the canoe, and many other things,
which enter into the pursuits of a savage.

The elder boys engage more extensively in similar occupations, as they
are more particularly interested in them, and by their exertions have to
provide chiefly for their own support. Mock combats frequently take place
amongst them, in which they are encouraged by the adults, that they may
acquire the dexterities of warfare, in which they are soon to be more
seriously engaged. [Note 64: For an account of a similar practise among
the American Indians, vide Catlin, vol. 1. p. 131.]

An amusement of the adults, is a large bunch of emu feathers tied
together, (fig. 1. Pl. 1.) which is held out and shaken as if in
defiance, by some individual, whilst the others advance to try to take it
out of his hands. This occasions an amusing struggle before the prize is
gained, in which it is not uncommon to see from ten to twenty strong and
lusty men rolling in a heap together. This is a sort of athletic exercise
amongst them, for the purpose of testing each other's strength. On such
an occasion they are all unarmed and naked.

At nights, dances or plays are performed by the different tribes in turn,
the figures and scenes of which are extensively varied, but all are
accompanied by songs, and a rude kind of music produced by beating two
sticks together, or by the action of the hand upon a cloak of skins
rolled tightly together, so as to imitate the sound of a drum. In some of
the dances only are the women allowed to take a part; but they have
dances of their own, in which the men do not join. At all times they are
the chief musicians, vocal and instrumental. Sometimes, however, they
have an old man to lead the band and pitch the tunes; and at others they
are assisted by the old and young men indiscriminately.

The natives have not any war-dance, properly so called, though sometimes
they are decorated in all the pomp and circumstance of war. Being
excellent mimies, they imitate in many of their dances the habits and
movements of animals. They also represent the mode of hunting, fighting,
love-making, etc. New figures and new songs are constantly introduced, and
are as much applauded and encored, as more refined productions of a
similar kind in civilized communities; being sometimes passed from tribe
to tribe for a considerable distance. I have often seen dances performed
to songs with which I was acquainted, and which I knew to belong to
distant parts of the country where a different dialect was spoken, and
which consequently could not be understood where I heard them. Many of
the natives cannot even give an interpretation of the songs of their own
districts [Note 65 at end of para.], and most of the explanations they do
give are, I am inclined to think, generally very imperfect, as the
measures or quantities of the syllables appear to be more attended to
than the sense.

[Note 65: "Not one in ten of the young men who are dancing and singing it,
know the meaning of the song they are chaunting over."--Catlin, vol. 1. p.
126. Also the case in New Zealand, with respect to some of the
songs.--Vide Dieffenbach, vol. 2. p. 57.]

Of these amusements the natives are passionately fond; and when once they
have so far overcome their naturally indolent disposition as to be
induced to engage in them there is no knowing when they will give over.
Dances are sometimes held during the day, but these are of rare
occurrence, and seem to be in some way connected with their ceremonial
observances or superstitions, since rude figures, and lofty branches of
trees, decorated with tufts of feathers, emu plumes, swan's down and red
ochre, occupy a prominent part in the exhibition, although never met with
in the dances by night.

The dances vary a great deal among the different tribes, both as to
figures and music; the painting or decoration of their persons, their use
of weapons, and the participation of the females in them. Throughout the
entire continent, as far as it is known, there are many points of
resemblance in the dances of all the Aborigines, such as the practice of
painting the body with white and red ochre, carrying boughs in their
hands, or tying them round their limbs; adorning the head with feathers
or down, bearing bunches of feathers, tied in tufts in their hands, the
women singing and beating time upon folded skins, the men beating time
upon sticks or some of their smaller weapons, an old man acting as leader
of the band, and giving the time and tune to the others; the dances
representing the actions of animals, the circumstances of the chase, of
war, or of love; and the singular and extraordinary quivering motion of
the thighs when the legs are distended, a peculiarity probably confined
to the natives of the continent of Australia.

The most interesting dances are those which take place at the meeting of
different tribes. Each tribe performs in turn, and as there is much
rivalry, there is a corresponding stimulus to exertion. The dances
usually commence an hour or two after dark, and are frequently kept up
the greater part of the night, the performers becoming so much excited
that, notwithstanding the violent exercise required to sustain all their
evolutions, they are unwilling to leave off. It is sometimes difficult to
induce them to commence a dance; but if they once begin, and enter into
the spirit of it, it is still more difficult to induce them to break up.

The females of the tribe exhibiting, generally sit down in front of the
performers, either irregularly, in a line, or a semicircle, folding up
their skin cloaks into a hard ball, and then beating them upon their laps
with the palm of their hand, and accompanying the noise thus produced
with their voices. It is surprising to see the perfect time that is kept
in this way, and the admirable manner in which the motions of the dancers
accord with the music. There is no confusion, irregularity, or mistake.
Each person is conversant with his part; and all exhibit a degree of
elasticity and gracefulness in their movements which, in some of the
dances, is very striking and beautiful.

In many of the figures, weapons are carried, such as the waddy, the
shield, the spear, etc. and in these it is amazing to behold the facility
and skill with which they form in close array, spread into open rank,
change places, and thread through the mazes of the dance, without ever
deranging their plans, or coming in contact with each other.

The tribes who are not engaged in dancing, are seated in a large
semicircle as spectators, occasionally giving a rapturous exclamation of
delight, as any part of the performance is well gone through or any
remarkable feat of activity exhibited. Where natives have not much
acquaintance with Europeans, so as to give up, in some measure, their
original habits, if there is any degree of jealousy between the
respective tribes, they are sometimes partitioned off from each other by
boughs of trees, whilst they look at the dance. On one occasion I saw
five tribes met together, and the evening was of course spent in dancing.
Each tribe danced in turn, about forty being engaged at once, besides
sixteen females, eight of whom were at each corner of the male
performers. The men were naked, painted in various devices with red and
white, and had their heads adorned with feathers. The women wore their
opossum cloaks, and had bands of white down round their foreheads, with
the long feathers of the cockatoo sticking up in front like horns. In the
dance the men and women did not intermingle; but the two sets of women
who were dancing at the corners of the line, occasionally changed places
with each other, passing in this transit, at the back of the men. All
sung, and the men beat time upon their smaller weapons whilst dancing,
the whole making up a wild and piercing noise, most deafening and
ungrateful to the ears.

The natives of the Rufus and Lake Victoria (Tar-ru) have a great variety
of dances and figures. One of these, which I witnessed, representing the
character, habits, and chase of the kangaroo was admirably performed, and
would have drawn down thunders of applause at any theatre in Europe. One
part of this figure, where the whole of the dancers successively drop
down from a standing to a crouching posture, and then hop off in this
position with outstretched arms and legs, was excellently executed. The
contrast of their sable skins with the broad white stripes painted down
their legs; their peculiar attitudes, and the order and regularity with
which these were kept, as they moved in a large semicircle, in the
softening light of the fire, produced a striking effect; and in
connection with the wild and inspiriting song, which gave an impulse to
their gesticulation, led me almost to believe that the scene was

In some of the dances the music varies rapidly from slow to quick, and
the movements alter accordingly. In some they are altogether measured and
monotonous, in others very lively and quick, keeping the performers
almost constantly at a double quick march, moving in advance and retreat,
crossing past or threading through the ranks, and using a kind of motion
with the feet in unison with the music, that bears a strong resemblance
to the European mode of dancing. At particular points the figures
terminate by some simultaneous motion of the whole performers,
accompanied by a deep, gutteral "Waugh," [Note 66 at end of para.] uttered
by all together; at others by the actors closing in a dense circle, and
raising and pointing their weapons upwards with the same exclamation.

[Note 66: This very peculiar sound appears to be common among the American
Indians, and to be used in a similar manner.--Vide Catlin, vol. 2. p.136.]

The "Paritke," or natives inhabiting the scrub north-west of Moorunde,
have quite a different form of dancing from the river natives. They are
painted or decorated with feathers in a similar way; but each dancer ties
bunches of green boughs round the leg, above the knees, whilst the mode
of dancing consists in stamping with the foot and uttering at each motion
a deep ventral intonation, the boughs round the knees making a loud
rustling noise in keeping with the time of the music. One person, who
directs the others in the movements of this dance, holds in his hands an
instrument in the form of a diamond, made of two slight sticks, from two
and a half to three feet long, crossed and tied in the middle, round this
a string, made of the hair of the opposum, is pressed from corner to
corner, and continued successively towards the centre until there is only
room left for the hand to hold the instrument. At each corner is appended
a bunch of cockatoo feathers. With this the chief performer keeps a
little in advance of the dancers, and whisking it up and down to the time
of the music, regulates their movements.

In another dance, in which women are the chief performers, their bodies
are painted with white streaks, and their hair adorned with cockatoo
feathers. They carry large sticks in their hands, and place themselves in
a row in front, whilst the men with their spears stand in a line behind
them. They then all commence their movements, but without intermingling,
the males and females dancing by themselves. There is little variety or
life in this dance, yet it seems to be a favourite one with the natives.

The women have occasionally another mode of dancing, by joining the hands
together over the head, closing the feet, and bringing the knees into
contact. The legs are then thrown outwards from the knee, whilst the feet
and hands are kept in their original position, and being drawn quickly in
again a sharp sound is produced by the collision. This is either
practised alone by young girls, or by several together for their own
amusement. It is adopted also when a single woman is placed in front of a
row of male dancers to excite their passions; for many of the native
dances are of a grossly licentious character. In another figure they keep
the feet close together, without lifting them from the ground, and by a
peculiar motion of the limbs advance onwards, describing a short
semicircle. This amusement is almost exclusively confined to young
females among themselves.

It has already been remarked, that the natives, on particular occasions,
have dances which they perform in the day-time, which are different from
others, and seem to have some connection with their ceremonial
observances or superstitions. I have only witnessed one of these. It took
place at Moorunde, in March 1844, on the occasion of a large number of
distant natives coming to visit the place; and the visitors were the
performers. The Moorunde natives were seated upon the brow of a
sand-bank; the strangers, consisting of two tribes, down in a hollow a
little way off, among a few bushes. When ready, they advanced in a line
towards the others, dancing and singing, being painted and decorated as
usual, some having tufts of feathers placed upon their heads like
cockades and others carrying them in their hands tied to short sticks.
Nearly all the males carried bunches of green boughs, which they waved
and shook to the time of the song. The women were also painted, and
danced in a line with the men, those of each tribe stationing themselves
at opposite ends of the line. Dancing for a while, they retired again
towards the hollow, and after a short interval advanced as before, but
with a person in the centre carrying a curious, rude-looking figure,
raised up in the air. This singular object consisted of a large bundle of
grass and reeds bound together, enveloped in a kangaroo skin, with the
flesh side outwards, and painted all over in small white circles. From
the top of this projected a thin stick, with a large tuft of feathers at
the end to represent the head, and sticks were stuck out laterally from
the sides for the arms, terminating in tufts of feathers stained red to
represent the hands. From the front, a small stick about six inches long
was projected, ending with a thick knob, formed of grass, around which a
piece of old cloth was tied. This was painted white and represented the
navel. The figure was about eight feet long, and was evidently intended
to symbolise a man. It was kept in its elevated position by the person
who carried it, and who advanced and retired with the movements of the
dancers. The position of the latter was alternately erect and crouching,
whilst they sang and beat time with the green boughs. Sometimes they
stretched out their right arms simultaneously, and at other times their
left, apparently for the purpose of marking the time at particular parts
of the song. After dancing for a while in this way, they again retired to
the hollow, and for a few moments there was another pause; after which
they again advanced as before, but without the image. In the place of
this two standards were exhibited, made of poles, about twelve feet long,
and borne by two persons. These were perfectly straight, and for the
first eight feet free from boughs; above this nine branches were left
upon each pole, having at their ends each a bunch of feathers of the hawk
or owl. On the top of one of the standards was a bunch of emu feathers.
The branches were stripped of all their smaller twigs and leaves, and of
their bark. They were painted white, and wound round with the white down
of the black swan, twisted into a rope. This also extended for a
considerable distance down the pole, below the undermost branch.

Having again retired towards the hollow, they remained there for a few
minutes, and then advanced for the third time. On this occasion, however,
instead of the image or standards, they all carried their spears. After
dancing with these for some time, they went forward towards the Moorunde
natives, who sprang upon their feet, and seizing their weapons, speared
two or three of the strangers in the shoulder, and all was over. I was
anxious to have got hold of the rude figure to have a drawing made of it,
but it had been instantly destroyed. The standards I procured.

This dance took place between nine and ten in the morning, and was quite
unlike any thing I had seen before. A stranger might have supposed it to
be a religious ceremony, and the image the object of worship. Such,
however, I am convinced was not the case, although I believe it to have
had some connection with their superstitions, and that it was regarded in
the light of a charm.

Before the country was occupied by Europeans, the natives say that this
dance was frequently celebrated, but that latterly it has not been much
in use. No other instance of it ever came under my own observation in any
part of New Holland.

The songs of the natives are of a very rude and unmeaning character,
rarely consisting of more than one or two ideas, which are continually
repeated over and over again. They are chiefly made on the spur of the
moment, and refer to something that has struck the attention at the time.
The measure of the song varies according to circumstances. It is gay and
lively, for the dance; slow and solemn for the enchanter; and wild and
pathetic for the mourner. The music is sometimes not unharmonious; and
when heard in the stillness of the night and mellowed by distance, is
often soothing and pleasing. I have frequently laid awake, after retiring
to rest, to listen to it. Europeans, their property, presence, and
habits, are frequently the subject of these songs; and as the natives
possess great powers of mimicry, and are acute in the observation of
anything that appears to them absurd or ludicrous, the white man often
becomes the object of their jests or quizzing. I have heard songs of this
kind sung at the dances in a kind of comic medley, where different
speakers take up parts during the breaks in the song, and where a
sentence or two of English is aptly introduced, or a quotation made from
some native dialect, other than that of the performers. It is usually
conducted in the form of question and answer, and the respective speakers
use the language of the persons they are supposed to represent. The
chorus is, however, still the same repetition of one or two words.

The following specimens, taken from a vocabulary published by Messrs.
Teichelmann, and Schurmann, German Missionaries to the Aborigines, will
give an idea of the nature of the songs of the Adelaide tribe.

Pindi mai birkibirki parrato, parrato. (DE CAPO BIS.)

The European food, the pease, I wished to eat, I wished to eat.

Natta ngai padlo ngaityarniappi; watteyernaurlo tappandi ngaityo parni
tatti. (DA CAPO.)

Now it (viz. the road or track) has tired me;
throughout Yerna there is here unto me a continuous road.

Strike (him, viz. the dog) with the tuft of eagle feathers.

Kadlottikurrelo paltando
Strike (him) with the girdle

Mangakurrelo paltando
Strike (him) with the string round the head

Worrikarrolo paltando
Strike (him) with the blood of circumcision

Turtikarrolo paltando
Strike (him) with the blood of the arm, etc. etc.

Kartipaltapaltarlo padlara kundando

Wodliparrele kadlondo

Kanyamirarlo kadlondo

Karkopurrelo kadlondo

"This curse or imprecation is used in hunting a wild dog, which, by the
mysterious effects of those words, is induced to lie down securely to
sleep, when the natives steal upon and easily kill him. The first word in
each line denotes things sacred or secret, which the females and children
are never allowed to see.

* * *

KAWEMUKKA minnurappindo Durtikarro minnurappindo
Tarralye minnurappindo  Wimmari minnurappindi
Kirki minurappindo      Wattetarpirri minnurappindo
Worrikarro minurappindo

"These sentences are used in hunting opossums, to prevent their escape,
when the natives set fire to hollow trees in which the opossums are

* * *

KARRO karro wimmari     Karra yernka makkitia
Karro karro kauwemukka  Makkitia mulyeria
Karro karro makkitia

"These words are rapidly repeated to the NGULTAS, while undergoing the
painful operation of tattooing; they are believed to be so powerful as to
soothe the pain, and prevent fatal consequences of that barbarous

Another specimen may be given from the Vocabulary published by Mr. Meyer,
another of the German Missionaries at Encounter Bay.

"Miny-el-ity yarluke an-ambe what is it road me for
Aly-..el-..arr' yerk-in yangaiak-ar! here are they standing up hill . . .

What a fine road is this for me winding between the hills!

"The above words compose one of the native songs. It refers to the road
between Encounter Bay and Willunga. All their songs appear to be of the
same description, consisting of a few words which are continually
repeated. This specimen, it will be observed, consists of two regular


"This may, however, be accidental."

I have not thought it worth while to give any specimens of the songs I
have collected myself, because I could not be quite certain that I should
give the original words with strict accuracy, neither could I be
satisfied about the translations.

The assemblage of several tribes at one place for any of the objects I
have described, rarely continues uninterrupted for any great length of
time, for even where it has taken place for the most pacific purposes, it
seldom terminates as it began; and the greater the number of natives
present, the less likelihood is there that they will remain very long in
a state of quiescence.

If not soon compelled to separate by the scarcity of food, or a desire to
follow some favourite pursuit, for which the season of the year is
favourable, they are generally driven to it by discord and disagreements
amongst themselves, which their habits and superstitions are calculated
to foment.

Chapter III.


The food of the Aborigines of Australia embraces an endless variety of
articles, derived both from the animal and vegetable kingdom. The
different kinds in use depend in a great measure upon the season of the
year and local circumstances. Every district has in it something peculiar
to itself. The soil and climate of the continent vary greatly in their
character and afford a corresponding variety of productions to the
Aborigines. As far as it is yet known there are no localities on its
coast, no recesses in its interior, however sterile and inhospitable they
may appear to the traveller, that do not hold out some inducements to the
bordering savage to visit them, or at proper seasons of the year provide
him with the means of sustenance. Captain Grey remarks, in volume 2, of
his travels, page 261--

"Generally speaking, the natives live well; in some districts there may
at particular seasons of the year be a deficiency of food, but if such is
the case, these tracts are, at those times, deserted. It is, however,
utterly impossible for a traveller or even for a strange native to judge
whether a district affords an abundance of food, or the contrary; for in
traversing extensive parts of Australia, I have found the sorts of food
vary from latitude to latitude, so that the vegetable productions used by
the Aborigines in one are totally different to those in another; if,
therefore, a stranger has no one to point out to him the vegetable
productions, the soil beneath his feet may teem with food, whilst he
starves. The same rule holds good with regard to animal productions; for
example, in the southern parts of the continent the Xanthorrea affords an
inexhaustible supply of fragrant grubs, which an epicure would delight
in, when once he has so far conquered his prejudices as to taste them;
whilst in proceeding to the northward, these trees decline in health and
growth, until about the parallel of Gantheaume Bay they totally
disappear, and even a native finds himself cut off from his ordinary
supplies of insects; the same circumstances taking place with regard to
the roots and other kinds of food at the same time, the traveller
necessarily finds himself reduced to cruel extremities. A native from the
plains, taken into an elevated mountainous district near his own country,
for the first time, is equally at fault.

"But in his own district a native is very differently situated; he knows
exactly what it produces, the proper time at which the several articles
are in season, and the readiest means of procuring them. According to
these circumstances he regulates his visits to the different portions of
his hunting ground; and I can only state that I have always found the
greatest abundance in their huts."

It is evident therefore that a European or even a stranger native would
perish in a district capable of supplying the necessaries of life, simply
because he had not the experience necessary to direct him where to search
for food, or judgment to inform him what article might be in season at
the particular time of his visit. It is equally the same with respect to
procuring water. The native inhabiting a scrubby and an arid district
has, from his knowledge of the country and from a long residence and
practical experience in the desert, many resources at command to supply
his wants, where the white man would faint or perish from thirst.

The very densest brushes, which to the latter are so formidable and
forbidding, hold out to the former advantages and inducements to resort
to them of more than ordinary temptation. Abounding in wild animals of
various kinds, they offer to the natives who frequent them an unlimited
supply of food: a facility for obtaining firewood, a grateful shade from
the heat, an effectual screen from the cold, and it has already been
shewn that they afford the means of satisfying their thirst by a process
but little known, and which from a difference in habits and temperament
would be but little available to the European.[Note 67 at end of para.]
In judging, therefore, of the character of any country, from the mere
fact of natives being seen there, or even of their being numerous, we must
take all these circumstances into consideration; and, in estimating the
facility with which a native can remain for a long time in a country,
apparently arid and inhospitable, we must not omit to take into account
his education and experience, and the general nature of his habits. The
two former have accustomed him from infancy to feel at home and at ease,
where a European sees only dread and danger: he has thus the advantage
over the European in the desert, that a swimmer has in the water over the
man who cannot swim; conscious of his own powers and resources, he feels
not the least apprehension, whilst the very terrors of the other but
augment his danger. On the other hand, the general habits, mode of life,
and almost temperament of the savage, give him an equally great advantage.
Indolent by disposition and indulgence, he makes very short stages in his
ordinary travels, rarely moving more than from eight to twelve miles in
the day, and this he does so leisurely and quietly, that he neither
becomes excited nor heated, and consequently does not experience that
excessive thirst, which is produced by the active exertions or violent
exercise of the European, and which in the latter is at the same time so
greatly augmented, by his want of confidence and anxiety.

[Note 67: Vide vol. I. p.349 (March 26.)]

Another very great advantage on the part of the natives is, the intimate
knowledge they have of every nook and corner of the country they inhabit;
does a shower of rain fall, they know the very rock where a little water
is most likely to be collected, the very hole where it is the longest
retained, and by repairing straight to the place they fill their skins,
and thus obtain a supply that lasts them many days. Are there heavy dews
at night, they know where the longest grass grows, from which they may
collect the spangles, and water is sometimes procured thus in very great
abundance. [Note 68 at end of para.] Should there be neither rains nor
dews, their experience at once points out to them the lowest levels where
the gumscrub grows, and where they are sure of getting water from its
roots, with the least possible amount of labour that the method
admits of, and with the surest prospect of success.

[Note 69: Vide vol. I. p.349 (March 27.)]

[Note 68: Vide vol. I. p.361 (March 30.)]

Another very important circumstance in favour of the native, and one
which results in a measure from some of the above-mentioned
considerations, is the fact, that the native sets to work to procure his
supply calmly and collectedly, and before he requires it; whilst the
European, even if acquainted with the method of obtaining it, would not
resort to it until the last extremity, when the body was fatigued and
heated by previous exertion, the mouth dry and parched by thirst, and the
mind excited and anxious from apprehension. The natural consequence of
such a very different combination of circumstances would be, that the
native would obtain an abundant and satisfying supply, whilst the
European would never be able to procure a sufficiency to appease his
thirst, but would rather fatigue and exhaust his strength the more, from
his want of skill and experience, and from his body and mind being both
in an unfit state for this particular kind of exertion. Such at least, on
many various occasions, I have found to be the case both with myself, and
with natives with me who have not been accustomed to the scrub, or to
this method of procuring water. The difficulty and labour of finding and
digging out the roots, our want of skill in selecting proper ones, the
great dust arising from the loose, powdery soil in which they were, and
our own previously excited and exhausted state, have invariably prevented
us from deriving the full advantage we expected from our efforts.

In cases of extreme thirst, where the throat is dry and parched, or life
at all in danger, the toil of digging for the roots would be well repaid
by the relief afforded. I have myself, in such cases, found that though I
could by no means satiate my thirst, I could always succeed in keeping my
mouth cool and moist, and so far in rendering myself equal to exertions I
could not otherwise have made. Indeed, I hold it impossible that a
person, acquainted with this means of procuring water, and in a district
where the gum-scrub grew, could ever perish from thirst in any moderate
lapse of time, if he had with him food to eat, and was not physically
incapable of exertion. Under such circumstances, the moisture he would be
able to procure from the roots, would, I think, be quite sufficient to
enable him to eat his food, and to sustain his strength for a
considerable time, under such short stages as would gradually conduct him
free from his embarrassments.

In addition to the value of the gum-scrub to the native, as a source from
whence to obtain his supply of water, it is equally important to him as
affording an article of food, when his other resources have failed. To
procure this, the lateral roots are still made use of, but the smaller
ones generally are selected, such as vary in diameter from an inch
downwards. The roots being dug up, the bark is peeled off and roasted
crisp in hot ashes; it is then pounded between two stones, and has a
pleasant farinaceous taste, strongly resembling that of malt. I have
often seen the natives eating this, and have frequently eaten it myself
in small quantities. How far it alone would support life, or sustain a
man in strength, I have of course no means of forming an opinion; but it
is, probably, only resorted to when other food is scarce. Several of the
roots of other shrubs are also used for food, and some of them are
mucilaginous and very palatable.

Throughout the greater portion of New Holland, where there do not happen
to be European settlers, and invariably where fresh water can be
permanently procured upon the surface, the native experiences no
difficulty whatever in procuring food in abundance all the year round. It
is true that the character of his diet varies with the changing seasons,
and the formation of the country he inhabits; but it rarely happens that
any season of the year, or any description of country does not yield him
both animal and vegetable food. Amongst the almost unlimited catalogue of
edible articles used by the natives of Australia, the following may be
classed as the chief:--all salt and fresh-water fish and shell-fish, of
which, in the larger rivers, there are vast numbers and many species;
freshwater turtle; frogs of different kinds; rats and mice; lizards, and
most kinds of snakes and reptiles; grubs of all kinds; moths of several
varieties; fungi, and many sorts of roots; the leaves and tops of a
variety of plants; the leaf and fruit of the mesembryanthemum; various
kinds of fruits and berries; the bark from the roots of many trees and
shrubs; the seeds of leguminous plants; gum from several species of
acacia; different sorts of manna; honey from the native bee, and also
from the flowers of the Banksia, by soaking them in water; the tender
leaves of the grass-tree; the larvae of insects; white ants; eggs of
birds; turtles or lizards; many kinds of kangaroo; opossums; squirrels,
sloths, and wallabies; ducks; geese; teal; cockatoos; parrots; wild dogs
and wombats; the native companion; the wild turkey; the swan; the
pelican; the leipoa, and an endless variety of water-fowl, and other
descriptions of birds.

Of these articles, many are not only procurable in abundance, but in such
vast quantities at the proper seasons, as to afford for a considerable
length of time an ample means of subsistence to many hundreds of natives
congregated in one place; and these are generally the kinds of food of
which the natives are particularly fond. On many parts of the coast, and
in the larger inland rivers, fish are obtained of a very fine
description, and in great abundance. At Lake Victoria, which is filled
with the back waters of the Murray, I have seen six hundred natives
encamped together, all of whom were living at the time upon fish procured
from the lake, with the addition, perhaps, of the leaves of the
mesembryanthemum. When I went amongst them I never perceived any scarcity
in their camps. The fish were caught in nets.

At Moorunde, when the Murray annually inundates the flats, fresh-water
cray-fish make their way to the surface of the ground from holes where
they have been buried during the year, in such vast numbers that I have
seen four hundred natives live upon them for weeks together, whilst the
numbers spoiled or thrown away would have sustained four hundred more.
This fish is an excellent and nutritious article of food, and would be
highly prized by the epicure. It is caught by the women who wade into the
water in a long close line, stooping down and walking backwards, whilst
they grope with their hands and feet, presenting a singular, and to the
uninitiated, an incomprehensible spectacle, as they thus move slowly
backwards, but keep the line regular and well preserved, as all generally
occupy the same position at one time. When a cray-fish is caught the
large claws are torn off to prevent the animal from biting, and both
claws and body are put into a small net suspended from the neck for that
purpose. In two or three hours a woman will procure as many fish as will
last her family for a day. The men are too lazy to do anything when food
is so abundant, and lie basking under the trees in luxurious indolence,
whilst their wives, mothers, or sisters are engaged in cooking for them.

An unlimited supply of fish is also procurable at the Murray about the
beginning of December, when the floods, having attained their greatest
height, begin again to recede; and when the waters, which had been thrown
by the back water channels of the river into the flats behind its banks,
begin again to reflow through them into the river as it falls in height.
At this time the natives repair to these channels, and making a weir
across them with stakes and grass interwoven, leave only one or two small
openings for the stream to pass through. To these they attach bag nets,
which receive all the fish that attempt to re-enter the river. The number
procured in this way in a few hours is incredible. Large bodies of
natives depend upon these weirs for their sole subsistence, for some time
after the waters have commenced to recede.

Another very favourite article of food, and equally abundant at a
particular season of the year, in the eastern portion of the continent,
is a species of moth which the natives procure from the cavities and
hollows of the mountains in certain localities. This, when roasted, has
something of the appearance and flavour of an almond badly peeled. It is
called in the dialect of the district, where I met with it, Booguon. The
natives are never so well conditioned in that part of the country, as at
the season of the year when they return from feasting upon this moth; and
their dogs partake equally of the general improvement.

The tops, leaves, and stalks of a kind of cress, gathered at the proper
season of the year, tied up in bunches, and afterwards steamed in an
oven, furnish a favourite, and inexhaustible supply of food for an
unlimited number of natives. When prepared, this food has a savoury and
an agreeable smell, and in taste is not unlike a boiled cabbage. In some
of its varieties it is in season for a great length of time, and is
procured in the flats of rivers, on the borders of lagoons, at the
Murray, and in many other parts of New Holland.

There are many other articles of food among the natives, equally abundant
and valuable as those I have enumerated: such as various kinds of
berries, or fruits, the bulbous roots of a reed called the belillah,
certain kinds of fungi dug out of the ground, fresh-water muscles, and
roots of several kinds, etc. Indeed, were I to go through the list of
articles seriatim, and enter upon the varieties and subdivisions of each
class, with the seasons of the year at which they were procurable, it
would at once be apparent that the natives of Australia, in their natural
state, are not subject to much inconvenience for want of the necessaries
of life. In almost every part of the continent which I have visited,
where the presence of Europeans, or their stock, has not limited, or
destroyed their original means of subsistence, I have found that the
natives could usually, in three or four hours, procure as much food as
would last for the day, and that without fatigue or labour. They are not
provident in their provision for the future, but a sufficiency of food is
commonly laid by at the camp for the morning meal. In travelling, they
sometimes husband, with great care and abstinence, the stock they have
prepared for the journey; and though both fatigued and hungry, they will
eat sparingly, and share their morsel with their friends, without
encroaching too much upon their store, until some reasonable prospect
appears of getting it replenished.

In wet weather the natives suffer the most, as they are then indisposed
to leave their camps to look for food, and experience the inconveniences
both of cold and hunger. If food, at all tainted, is offered to a native
by Europeans, it is generally rejected with disgust. In their natural
state, however, they frequently eat either fish or animals almost in a
state of putridity.

Cannibalism is not common, though there is reason to believe, that it is
occasionally practised by some tribes, but under what circumstances it is
difficult to say. Native sorcerers are said to acquire their magic
influence by eating human flesh, but this is only done once in a

[Note 70: The only authentic and detailed account of any instance of
cannibalism, that I am acquainted with, is found in Parliamentary Papers
on Australian Aborigines, published August, 1844, in a report of
Mr. Protector Sievewright, from Lake Tarong, in one of the Port Phillip

"On going out I found the whole of the men of the different tribes
(amounting to upwards of 100) engaged hand to hand in one general melee.

"On being directed by some of the women, who had likewise sought shelter
near my tent, to the huts of the Bolaghers, I there found a young woman,
supported in the arms of some of her tribe, quite insensible, and
bleeding from two severe wounds upon the right side of the face; she
continued in the same state of insensibility till about 11 o'clock, when
she expired.

"After fighting for nearly an hour, the men of the Bolagher tribe
returned to their huts, when finding that every means I had used to
restore the young woman was in vain, they gave vent to the most frantic
expressions of grief and rage, and were employed till daylight in
preparing themselves and weapons to renew the combat.

"Shortly before sunrise they again rushed towards the Targurt and
Elengermite tribes, who, with about a dozen of Wamambool natives, were
encamped together, when a most severe struggle took place between them,
and very few escaped on either side without serious fractures or dangerous
spear wounds. Although the Targurt tribe were supported by the Elengermite
and Wamambool natives, and were consequently much superior in number,
they were, after two hours hard fighting, driven off the ground and
pursued for about four miles, to where their women and children had
retired; when one of the former, named Mootinewhannong, was selected,
and fell, pierced by about 20 spears of the pursuers.

"The body of this female was shortly afterwards burned to ashes by her
own people, and the Bolagher natives returned to their encampment,
apparently satisfied with the revenge they had taken, and remained
silently and sullenly watching the almost inanimate body of the wounded

"When death took place, they again expressed the most violent and
extravagant grief; they threw themselves upon the ground, weeping and
screaming at the height of their voices, lacerating their bodies and
inflicting upon themselves wounds upon their heads, from blows which they
gave themselves with the leangville. About an hour after the death of the
young woman, the body was removed a few hundred yards into the bush
by the father and brother of the deceased; the remainder of the tribe
following by one at a time, until they had all joined what I imagined
to be the usual funeral party. Having accompanied the body when it
was removed, I was then requested to return to my tent, which request
I took no notice of. In a few minutes I was again desired, rather
sternly, and by impatient signs to go. I endeavoured to make them
understand that I wished to remain, and I sat down upon a tree close to
where the body lay. The father of the deceased then came close up to me,
and pointed with his finger to his mouth, and then to the dead body. I
was at this moment closely and intensely scrutinized by the whole party.
I at once guessed their meaning, and signified my intention to remain,
and, with as much indifference as I could assume, stretched myself upon
the tree, and narrowly watched their proceedings.

"With a flint they made an incision upon the breast, when a simultaneous
shriek was given by the party, and the same violent signs of grief were
again evinced. After a short time the operation was again commenced,
and in a few minutes the body disembowelled.

"The scene which now took place was of the most revolting description;
horror-stricken and utterly disgusted, while obliged to preserve that
equanimity of demeanour upon which I imagined the development of this
tragedy to depend, I witnessed the most fearful scene of ferocious

"The bowels and entire viscera having been disengaged from the body,
were at first portioned out; but from the impatience of some of the women
to get at the liver, a general scramble took place for it, and it was
snatched in pieces, and, without the slightest process of cooking,
was devoured with an eagerness and avidity, a keen, fiendish expression
of impatience for more, from which scene, a memory too tenacious upon
this subject will not allow me to escape; the kidneys and heart were
in like manner immediately consumed, and as a climax to these revolting
orgies, when the whole viscera were removed, a quantity of blood and
serum which had collected in the cavity of the chest, was eagerly
collected in handsful, and drunk by the old man who had dissected
the body; the flesh was entirely cut off the ribs and back, the
arms and legs were wrenched and twisted from the shoulder and hip
joints, and their teeth employed to dissever the reeking tendons, when
they would not immediately yield to their impatience. The limbs were now
doubled up and put aside in their baskets; and on putting a portion of
the flesh upon a fire which had previously been lit, they seemed to
remember that I was of the party; something was said to one of the women,
who cut off a foot from the leg she had in her possession, and offered it
to me; I thought it prudent to accept of it, and wrapping it in my
handkerchief, and pointing to my tent, they nodded assent, and I joyfully
availed myself of their permission to retire. They shortly afterwards
returned to their huts with the debris of the feast, and during the day,
to the horror and annoyance of my two boys, and those belonging to the
establishment, they brought another part, and some half-picked bones, and
offered them to us. The head was struck off with a tomahawk and placed
between hot stones in the hollow of a tree, where it has undergone a
process of baking, and it is still left there otherwise untouched."]

Many methods of obtaining the various articles of food, are resorted to
by the natives, some of these are very simple; some exceedingly
ingenious; whilst others require great tact and skill; and not a few
exercise to their fullest extent those qualities, which they possess so
greatly, and prize so highly, such as quickness of sight, readiness of
hand, caution in arranging plans, judgment in directing them, patience in
waiting for the result, endurance in pursuing, and strength in holding

Fish are procured in different ways. They are caught with weirs or dams,
as already described; and also with large seines made of string
manufactured from the rush, and buoyed up with dry reeds, bound into
bundles, and weighted by stones tied to the bottom. This is used just in
the same way as the European seine, being either shot from a canoe, or
set by swimming or wading, according to the depth of the water. Great
numbers of fish of various kinds, and often of a large size, are caught
in this way. Fresh water turtles, varying in weight from three to twelve
pounds, are also taken in the same way, and are excellent eating.

Another kind of net (ngail-le) used in fishing is made of slender twine,
and has a large mesh. It is long, but not more than from two to three
feet deep. A string is passed through the loops of the upper part, and is
then stretched across a lagoon, or any other sheet of still water, the
upper part being nearly level with the surface of the water, and the
lower part dangling loose below, without weight. In setting it each
extremity is fastened to a pole or spear, stuck firmly in the mud to keep
it in its place, whilst a third pole is occasionally put in the middle. A
few dry reeds are sometimes fastened at intervals to the line, running
through the upper part to prevent the net from sinking too low. When set,
the native either remains by it to take the fish out as they are caught,
or leaves it there all night. The fish swimming about the lagoon, or
sporting near the surface, strike against the net, and get their heads
fast in the meshes. The net swinging loose, yields to their pressure, and
entangles them the more as they struggle to extricate themselves from it.
This is a most destructive mode of catching fish, and generally secures
the finest and largest.

Fish are sometimes taken in another way. A party of natives proceed to a
lagoon, or lake of still water, each carrying in his hand a small net
(ken-de-ran-ko) of a semi-oval shape, about twenty inches long, from
seven to nine inches across, and from five to seven inches deep. This net
is kept in shape by a thin hoop of wood running round it in the upper
part. With this the native dives to the bottom, and searches among the
weeds until he sees a fish; he then cautiously places the net under it,
and, rising suddenly to the surface, holds his victim at arm's length
above his head; and then biting it to kill it, he throws it on the shore
and dives down again for another.

The natives are very skilful in this mode of fishing, and it is an
interesting sight to see several of them in the water diving together,
and exerting themselves against each other in their efforts to catch the
best fish, whilst the affrighted inhabitants of the water swim wildly and
confusedly about, seeking shelter in the mud and weeds, only to become an
easier prey. I have even seen natives dive down in the river, without net
or implement of any kind, and bring up good-sized fish, which they had
caught with their hands at the bottom.

Another method of diving with the net is conducted on a larger scale. The
net itself is made of strong twine, from six to eight feet long, oval at
the top, about two feet across, and two deep. It is looped to a wooden
hoop or bow, with a strong string drawn tightly across the two ends of
the bow, and passed through the loops of the straight side of the net.
With this two natives dive together under the cliffs which confine the
waters of the Murray, each holding one end of the bow. They then place it
before any hole or cavity there may be in the rocks beneath the surface,
with the size, shape, and position of which they have by previous
experience become well acquainted; the terrified fish is then driven into
the net and secured. Fishes varying from twenty to seventy pounds are
caught in this way. It is only, however, at particular seasons of the
year, when the female fish are seeking for a place to deposit their spawn
that this mode of fishing can be adopted.

Other kinds of hoop-nets are used for catching fish in shallow waters, or
for taking the shrimp, and a small fish like the white-bait, but they
need not be particularly described.

The next principal mode of procuring fish is by spearing them, and even
this is performed in a variety of ways, according to the season of the
year, the description of fish to be taken, and the peculiarities of the
place where they are found. In the shallow waters upon the sea-coast the
native wades with his spear and throwing-stick, and follows the windings
of the fish with singular rapidity and skill, rarely missing his aim
where he has an opportunity of striking.

In the larger rivers, when the waters are low and clear, a party of
natives varying in numbers from five to forty plunge in with their
spears, which for the purpose are made of hard wood, with smooth, sharp
points, and about six feet long. Forming themselves into a large
semicircle in the water, they all dive down, simultaneously, with their
weapons, accompanied sometimes by a young man, a few yards in advance of
the middle of the party, and without a spear. For a considerable time
they remain under water, and then, if successful, gradually emerge, and
deliver the fish that have been speared, to their friends on the shore.
If unsuccessful they swim a few yards further down, and dive again with
their weapons. And thus they frequently go on for a mile or two, until
they are either tired or satisfied with their success. I have known a
party of thirty natives kill seven or eight fish in the course of an
hour, none of which were under fifteen pounds, whilst some of them were
much larger.

The regularity with which they keep their relative positions,
notwithstanding the current of the river, and the dexterity and order
with which they dive under the water, are truly surprising to a person
who witnesses them for the first time.

At the period of floods, and when they have nearly attained their height,
and the young reeds and rushes begin to shew themselves above the surface
of the water, near the bank of rivers or of lagoons formed by the floods
in the alluvial flats behind, another method of spearing fish is
practised from a canoe (mun) made out of a solid sheet of the bark of the
gum-tree (eucalyptus).

To these reeds the fish are very fond of resorting, probably to feed upon
the insects that are found upon the tender leaves; in moving about from
one place to another they strike against the reeds, and produce a
vibration in the tops above the water; this indicates to the native, who
is sailing stealthily along in his canoe, the exact place where they are
passing, and suddenly raising his arm with great energy he strikes
forcibly among the reeds with his spear, without letting it go out of his
hand. If the first blow does not succeed, it is rapidly repeated, and
seldom fails in securing a prize. When a large fish is speared, it is
pressed downwards to the ground, and the native leaps out of his canoe
and dives to the bottom to secure it. The spear (moo-ar-roo) used in this
method of fishing varies from ten to sixteen feet in length, and is made
of pine, pliant, and of nearly a uniform thickness; it is about an inch
and a half in diameter, and has two short pointed pieces of hard wood
lashed to one end, projecting about five or six inches, and set a little
apart, so as to form a kind of prongs or grains. This instrument is also
used for propelling the canoe.

It is used too for spearing fish by night, which is by far the most
interesting method of any.

Having previously prepared his canoe, straightened his spear, and
hardened and sharpened the points of the prongs, the native breaks up his
fire-wood in small pieces, and loads his canoe with a stock calculated to
last the time he intends to be absent. An oval piece of bark, about three
feet long and two broad, is then coated over with wet mud and placed in
the stern of the canoe, on a framework of sticks. One or two sticks are
stuck upright in the mud, and others placed around them in the form of a
cone. A fire is then put underneath, and the native, stepping into the
bow of his canoe, pushes steadily into the stream, and commences his
nocturnal employment. The wood of which the fire is made is of a
particular kind, and, as only one description of tree will answer, it has
frequently to be brought from a considerable distance. It is obtained
among the brush of the table-land stretching behind the valley of the
Murray, on either side, and its peculiarities are that it is light,
brittle, and resinous, emitting when burning a most agreeable fragrance
and a powerful and brilliant light, almost wholly free from smoke.

Two men usually accompany each canoe, one to attend to the fire, and keep
it always burning brightly, and the other to guide the canoe and spear
the fish. As soon as the fire begins to blaze up the scene becomes most
beautiful. The low black looking piece of bark floats noiselessly down
the middle of the stream, or stealthily glides under the frowning cliffs,
now lit up by a brilliant light. In the bow is seen the dark, naked, but
graceful form of the savage, standing firm and erect, and scarcely
seeming to move, as with the slightest motion of his arms he guides the
frail canoe. His spear is grasped in his hand, whilst his whole attitude
and appearance denote the most intense vigilance and attention. Suddenly
you see his arm uplifted, and the weapon descending with the rapidity of
thought, a splash is seen, a struggle heard, and a fish is slowly and
cautiously drawn towards the canoe pierced through with the spear. If it
is a large one, the native at once plunges into the water, still
retaining his hold of the spear, and soon reappears with the trophy in
his arms.

Among the rocks under the cliffs, or among logs or roots of trees, or on
a clayey bottom, large fresh-water lobsters (poo-ta-ron-ko) are procured
in the same way, weighing from two to four pounds each, and of a most
delicate and excellent flavour. I have frequently been out with a single
native, and seen him spear from ten to sixteen of these in an hour or

It has a singular and powerful effect upon the imagination, to witness at
midnight a fleet of these canoes, gliding about in the distance like so
many balls of fire, imparting a still deeper shade to the gloom of
darkness which surrounds the spectator, and throwing an air of romance on
the whole scene. Occasionally in travelling at night, and coming suddenly
upon the river from the scrub behind, I have been dazzled and enchanted
with the fairy sight that has burst upon me. The waters have been alive
with brilliant fires, moving to and fro in every direction, like meteors
from a marsh, and like those too, rapidly and inexplicably disappearing
when the footsteps of strangers are heard approaching.

A few other methods of catching fish are sometimes resorted to, such as
stirring up the mud in stagnant ponds, and taking the fish when they come
up almost choked to the surface. Groping with their hands or with boughs,
etc. etc.

There is also a particular season of the year (about September), when in
the larger rivers the fish become ill or diseased, and lie floating on
the surface unable to descend, or drift down dead with the current.
Fishes weighing nearly eighty pounds are sometimes taken in this way. The
natives are always looking out for opportunities of procuring food so
easily, and never hesitate to eat any fish, although they may have been
dead for some time.

I have never seen the natives use hooks in fishing of their own
manufacture, nor do I believe that they ever make any, though they are
glad enough to get them from Europeans.

The large fresh-water lobster is sometimes procured by diving, in which
case the females are generally employed, as the weather is cold, and
night is the best time to procure them. It is extraordinary to see a
party of women plunge into the water on a cold dark night, and swim and
dive about amongst logs, stumps, roots, and weeds without ever hurting
themselves, and seldom failing to obtai the object of their search.

Turtle are procured in the same way, but generally by the men, and in the
day time.

Muscles of a very large kind are also got by diving. The women whose duty
it is to collect these, go into the water with small nets (len-ko) hung
round their necks, and diving to the bottom pick up as many as they can,
put them into their bags, and rise to the surface for fresh air,
repeating the operation until their bags have been filled. They have the
power of remaining for a long time under the water, and when they rise to
the surface for air, the head and sometimes the mouth only is exposed. A
stranger suddenly coming to the river when they were all below, would be
puzzled to make out what the black objects were, so frequently appearing
and disappearing in the water.

Cray-fish of the small kind (u-kod-ko) weighing from four to six ounces
are obtained by the women wading into the water as already described, or
by men wading and using a large bow-net, called a "wharro," which is
dragged along by two or three of them close to the bottom where the water
is not too deep.

Frogs are dug out of the ground by the women, or caught in the marshes,
and used in every stage from the tadpole upwards.

Rats are also dug out of the ground, but they are procured in the
greatest numbers and with the utmost facility when the approach of the
floods in the river flats compels them to evacuate their domiciles. A
variety is procured among the scrubs under a singular pile or nest which
they make of sticks, in the shape of a hay-cock, three or four feet high
and many feet in circumference. A great many occupy the same pile and are
killed with sticks as they run out.

Snakes, lizards and other reptiles are procured among the rocks or in the
scrubs. Grubs are got out of the gum-tree into which they eat their way,
as also out of the roots of the mimosa, the leaves of the zamia, the
trunk of the xanthorra, and a variety of other plants and shrubs.

One particularly large white grub, and a great bon-bouche to the natives,
is procured out of the ground. It is about four inches long and half an
inch in thickness, and is obtained by attaching a thin narrow hook of
hard wood to the long, wiry shoots of the polygonum, and then pushing
this gently down the hole through which the grub has burrowed into the
earth until it is hooked. Grubs are procured at a depth of seven feet in
this way without the delay or trouble of digging.

Moths are procured as before described; or the larger varieties are
caught at nights whilst flying about.

Fungi are abundant, and of great variety. Some are obtained from the
surface of the ground, others below it, and others again from the trunks
and boughs of trees.

Roots of all kinds are procured by digging, one of the most important
being that of the flag or cooper's reed, which grows in marshes or
alluvial soils that are subject to periodical inundations. This is used
more or less at all seasons of the year, but is best after the floods
have retired and the tops have become decayed and been burnt off. The
root is roasted in hot ashes, and chewed, when it affords a nutritious
and pleasant farinaceous food.

The belillah is another important bulbous root, which also grows on lands
subject to floods. It is about the size of a walnut, of a hard and oily
nature, and is prepared by being roasted and pounded into a thin cake
between two stones. Immense tracts of country are covered with this plant
on the flats of the Murray, which in the distance look like the most
beautiful and luxuriant meadows. After the floods have retired I have
seen several hundreds of acres, with the stems of the plant six or seven
feet high, and growing so closely together as to render it very difficult
to penetrate far amongst them.

The thick pulpy leaf of the mesembryanthemum is in general use in all
parts of Australia which I have visited, and is eaten as a sort of relish
with almost every other kind of food. That which grows upon the elevated
table lands is preferred to that which is found in the valleys. It is
selected when the full vigour of the plant begins to decline and the tips
of the leaves become red, but before the leaf is at all withered. The
fruit is used both when first ripe and also after it has become dried up
and apparently withered. In each case it has an agreeable flavour and is
much prized by the natives.

Many other descriptions of fruits and berries are made use of in
different parts of the continent, the chief of which, so far as their use
has come under my own observation, are--

1. A kind of fruit called in the Moorunde dialect "ketango," about the
size and shape of a Siberian crab, but rounder. When this is ripe, it is
of a deep red colour, and consists of a solid mealy substance, about the
eighth of an inch in thickness, enclosing a large round stone, which,
upon being broken, yields a well-flavoured kernel. The edible part of the
fruit has an agreeable acid taste, and makes excellent puddings or
preserves, for which purpose it is now extensively used by Europeans. The
shrub on which this grows, is very elegant and graceful, and varies from
four to twelve feet in height. [Note 71: A species of fusanus.] When in
full bearing, nothing can exceed its beauty, drooping beneath its
crimson load.

Another shrub found in the scrubs, may sometimes be mistaken for this, as
it bears in appearance a similar fruit; but on being tasted, it is bitter
and nauseous. This in the Murray dialect is called "netting." The natives
prepare it by baking it in an oven, which takes the bitter taste away.
The "netting" is earlier in season than the "ketango."

2. A berry about the size and shape of a large sloe, but with a smaller
stone; conical in shape, and rounded at the large end. This fruit is
juicy and saline, though not disagreeable in taste. There are several
varieties of it, which when ripe are of a black, red, or yellow colour.
The black is the best. The bush upon which it grows is a salsolaceous
bramble [Note 72: Nitraria Australis], and is found in large quantities
on the saline flats, bordering some parts of the Murrumbidgee and Murray
rivers; and along the low parts of the southern coast, immediately behind
the ridges bounding the sea shore. It is a staple article of food in its
season, among the natives of those districts where it abounds, and is
eaten by them raw, stone and all.

3. A small berry or currant, called by the natives of Moorunde
"eertapko," about the size of No. 2. shot. When ripe it is red, and of an
agreeable acid flavour. It grows upon a low creeping tap-rooted plant, of
a salsolaceous character, found in the alluvial flats of the Murray,
among the polygonum brushes, and in many other places. A single plant
will spread over an area of many yards in diameter, covering the dry and
arid ground with a close, soft, and velvety carpet in the heat of summer,
at which time the fruit is in perfection. To collect so small a berry
with facility, and in abundance, the natives cut a rounded tray of thin
bark, two or three feet long, and six or eight inches wide, over this
they lift up the plant, upon which the fruit grows, and shake the berries
into it. When a sufficiency has been collected, the berries are skilfully
tossed into the air, and separated from the leaves and dirt. The natives
are very fond of this fruit, which affords them an inexhaustible resource
for many weeks. In an hour a native could collect more than he could use
in a day.

The other sorts of fruits and berries are numerous and varied, but do not
merit particular description.

[Note 73: Mr. Simpson gives the following account of the Bunya Bunya, a
fruit-bearing tree lately discovered on the N.E. coast of New

"Ascending a steep hill, some four miles further on, we passed
through a bunya scrub, and for the first time had an opportunity of
examining this noble tree more closely. It raises its majestic head above
every other tree in the forest, and must, therefore, frequently reach the
height of 250 feet; the trunk is beautifully formed, being as straight as
an arrow, and perfectly branchless for above two-thirds of its height;
branches then strike off, nearly at right angles from the trunk, forming
circles which gradually diminish in diameter till they reach the summit,
which terminates in a single shoot; the foliage shining, dark green, the
leaves acutely pointed and lanceolate, with large green cones, the size
of a child's head, hanging from the terminal branches in the fruiting
season (January). It is, too, very remarkable that the bunya tree,
according to the natives, is nowhere to be met with but in these parts;
it is, however, there is no doubt, a species of the araucaria genus, well
known in South America; the timber, when green, is white, fine grained
and very tough, but whether it retains these qualities when dry, has not
yet been determined. The Aborigines are particularly fond of the bunya
nuts, which are as large as a full sized almond, including the shell,
and, in good seasons, come from a distance of 100 or 200 miles to feast
upon them."]

Bark from the roots of trees and shrubs is roasted, and then pounded
between two stones for use.

Gums exude from the trees on which they are procured. These are generally
varieties of the Mimosa.

Manna exudes in great abundance from the tree already mentioned, as
constituting the firewood which the natives use in fishing by night. It
is of a mottled red or brown colour, of a firm consistency and sweet
taste, resembling exactly in appearance, flavour, and colour, the manna
used medicinally in Europe.

Another variety is yielded by the Eucalyptus mannifera and is found early
in the morning under the tree, scattered on the ground. This is
beautifully white and delicate, resembling flakes of snow.

Honey is procured by steeping the cones of the Banksia or other
melliferous flowers in water. It is procured pure from the hives of the
native bees, found in cavities of rocks, and the hollow branches of
trees. The method of discovering the hive is ingenious. Having caught one
of the honey bees, which in size exceeds very little the common house
fly, the native sticks a piece of feather or white down to it with gum,
and then letting it go, sets off after it as fast as he can: keeping his
eye steadily fixed upon the insect, he rushes along like a madman,
tumbling over trees and bushes that lie in his way, but rarely losing
sight of his object, until conducted to its well-filled store, he is
amply paid for all his trouble. The honey is not so firm as that of the
English bee, but is of very fine flavour and quality.

White ants are dug in great numbers out of their nests in the ground,
which are generally found in the scrubs. They are a favourite food of the
natives in the spring of the year. The females only are used, and at a
time just before depositing their eggs. They are separated from the dirt
that is taken up with them, by being thrown into the air, and caught
again upon a trough of bark.

The eggs of birds are extensively eaten by the natives, being chiefly
confined to those kinds that leave the nest at birth, as the leipoa, the
emu, the swan, the goose, the duck, etc. But of others, where the young
remain some time in the nest after being hatched, the eggs are usually
left, and the young taken before they can fly. The eggs of the leipoa, or
native pheasant, are found in singular-looking mounds of sand, thrown up
by the bird in the midst of the scrubs, and often measuring several yards
in circumference. The egg is about the size of the goose egg, but the
shell is extremely thin and fragile. The young are hatched by the heat of
the sand and leaves, with which the eggs are covered. Each egg is
deposited separately, and the number found in one nest varies from one to

One nest that I examined, and that only a small one, was twelve yards in
circumference, eighteen inches high, and shaped like a dome. It was
formed entirely of sand scraped up by the bird with its feet. Under the
centre of the dome, and below the level of the surrounding ground was an
irregular oval hole, about eighteen inches deep, and twelve in diameter.
In this, the eggs were deposited in different layers among sand and
leaves; on the lower tier was only one egg, on the next two, at a depth
of four or five inches from the ground. All the eggs were placed upon
their smaller ends, and standing upright. The colour of the egg is a dark
reddish pink; its length, three inches six-tenths; breadth, two inches
two-tenths; circumference, lengthwise, ten inches, and across, seven
inches two-tenths. The eggs appear to be deposited at considerable
intervals. In the nest alluded to, two eggs had only been laid sixteen
days after it was discovered, at which time there had been one previously
deposited. The bird is shaped like a hen pheasant, of a brownish colour,
barred with black, and its weight is about four pounds and a half.

The eggs of the emu are rather smaller than those of the ostrich. They
are of a dark green colour and the shell is very thick. They are
deposited by the bird almost upon the ground, in the vicinity of a few
bushes, or tufts of grass, and usually in a country that is tolerably
open; a great many eggs are found in one nest, so that it is generally
looked upon by the natives as a great prize.

Eggs are eaten in all stages. I have even seen rotten ones roasted, and
devoured with great relish.

Kangaroos are speared, netted, or caught in pit falls. Four methods of
spearing them are practised. 1st. A native travelling with his family
through the woods, when he sees a kangaroo feeding or sleeping, will
steal silently and cautiously upon it, keeping, as he advances, a tree or
shrub between himself and the animal, or holding up before him, if he be
in an open place, a large branch of a tree, until sufficiently near to
throw the fatal weapon. 2ndly. Two natives get upon the track of a
kangaroo, which they follow up perseveringly even for two or three days,
sleeping upon it at night, and renewing their pursuit in the morning,
until, at last, the wearied animal, fairly tired out by its relentless
pursuers, is no longer able to fly before them, and at last becomes a
prize to the perseverance of the hunters. 3rdly. A small hut of reeds is
made near the springs, or water holes, in those districts, where water is
scarce; and in this, or in the top of a tree, if there be one near, the
native carefully conceals himself, and patiently waits until his game
comes to drink, when he is almost sure to strike it with his spear,
seldom quitting his lurking place without an ample remuneration for his
confinement. 4thly. A large party of men go out early in the morning,
generally armed with barbed spears, and take their stations upon ground
that has been previously fixed upon in a large semicircle. The women and
children, with a few men, then beat up, and fire the country for a
considerable extent, driving the game before them in the direction of the
persons who are lying in wait, and who gradually contract the space they
had been spread over, until they meet the other party, and then closing
their ranks in a ring upon the devoted animals, with wild cries and
shouts they drive them back to the centre as they attempt to escape,
until, at last, in the conflict, many of them are slaughtered. At other
times, the ground is so selected as to enable them to drive the game over
a precipice, or into a river, where it is easily taken. Netting the
kangaroo does not require so large a party; it is done by simply setting
a strong net (mugn-ko) across the path, which the animal is
accustomed to frequent, and keeping it in its place by long sticks, with
a fork upon the top. A few natives then shew themselves in a direction
opposite to that of the net, and the kangaroo being alarmed, takes to his
usual path, gets entangled in the meshes, and is soon despatched by
persons who have been lying in wait to pounce upon him.

Pitfalls are also dug to catch the kangaroo around the springs, or pools
of water they are accustomed to frequent. These are covered lightly over
with small sticks, boughs, etc. and the animal going to drink, hops upon
them, and falls into the pit without being able to get out again. I have
only known this method of taking the kangaroo practised in Western
Australia, between Swan River and King George's Sound,

The emu is taken similarly to the kangaroo. It is speared in the first,
third, and fourth methods I have described. It is also netted like the
kangaroo, indeed with the same net, only that the places selected for
setting it are near the entrance to creeks, ravines, flats bounded by
steep banks, and any other place where the ground is such as to hold out
the hope, that by driving up the game it may be compelled, by surrounding
scouts, to pass the place where the net is set. When caught the old men
hasten up, and clasping the bird firmly round the neck with their arms,
hold it or throw it on the ground, whilst others come to their assistance
and despatch it. This is, however, a dangerous feat, and I have known a
native severely wounded in attempting it; a kick from an emu would break
a person's leg, though the natives generally keep so close to the bird as
to prevent it from doing them much harm.

The emu is frequently netted by night through a peculiarity in the habits
of the bird, that is well-known to the natives, and which is, that it
generally comes back every night to sleep on one spot for a long time
together. Having ascertained where the sleeping place is, the natives set
the net at some little distance away, and then supplying themselves with
fire-sticks, form a line from each end of the net, diverging in the
distance. The party may now be considered as forming two sides of a
triangle, with the net at the apex and the game about the middle of the
base; as soon as the sides are formed, other natives arrange themselves
in a line at the base, and put the bird up. The emu finding only one
course free from fire-sticks, viz. that towards the net or apex of the
triangle, takes that direction, and becomes ensnared.

Opossums are of various kinds and sizes. They inhabit the hollows of
trees, or sometimes the tops, where they make a house for themselves with
boughs. They are also found in the holes of rocks. They are hunted both
in the day-time and by moon-light. During the day the native, as he
passes along, examines minutely the bark of the trees, to see whether any
marks have been left by the claws of the animal in climbing on the
previous night. If he finds any he is sure that an opossum is concealed,
either in that tree or one adjoining. The way he distinguishes whether
the marks are recently made or otherwise is, by examining the appearance
of the bark where the wound is, if fresh it is white, has rough edges, or
has grains of sand adhering to it; if otherwise it is dry and brown, and
free from loose particles. Having ascertained that an opossum has
recently been there, he then ascends the tree to look for it; this, if
the tree be in a leaning position, or has a rough bark, is not difficult
to him, and he rarely requires any other aid than his hands and feet; but
if the bark be smooth, and the tree straight, or of very large
dimensions, he requires the assistance of his stone hatchet, or of a
strong sharp-pointed stick, flattened on one side near the point (called
in the Adelaide dialect, "Wadna," in that of Moorunde "Ngakko,"); with
this instrument a notch is made in the bark about two feet above the
ground. In this the small toes of the left foot are placed, the left arm
is employed in clasping the trunk of the tree, and the right in cutting
another notch for the right foot, about two feet above the first; but a
little to one side of it, the wadna or ngakko is now stuck firmly in the
bark above, and serves to enable him to raise the body whilst gaining the
second notch, into which the ball of the great toe of the right foot is
placed, and the implement liberated to make a third step on the left
side, and so on successively until the tree is ascended. The descent is
made in the same manner, by clasping the tree, and supporting the feet in
the notches. The principle of climbing in the way described, appears to
consist in always having three points of contact with the tree, either
two arms and one leg, or two legs and one arm.

Having got up the tree, the native proceeds to search for any holes there
may be in its trunk, or among the boughs; these vary from one foot to
nine, or more, in depth, for the whole trunk itself is sometimes hollow.
To ascertain in which hole the opossum is, the native drops in a pebble
or a piece of bark, or a broken bit of stick, and then applying his ear
to the outside, listens for the rustling motion made by the animal in
shifting its position, when disturbed by what has been dropped upon it. A
stick is sometimes made use of, if the hole be not very deep, for the
same purpose, after inserting it in the hole, and twisting the rough end
round and withdrawing it, he looks to see if any fur is left on the
point, if so, the animal is there, but if the point of the stick shews no
fur, he goes to the next hole or tree, and so on until he finds it.

If not very far in the hole the native puts in his arm, and draws it out
by the tail, striking its head violently against the tree to prevent its
biting him, as soon as it is clear of the orifice; if the hole be deep,
the furthest point to which the animal can recede is ascertained, and an
opening made near it with whatever implement he may be using. If the
whole trunk of the tree, or a large portion of it be hollow, a fire is
made in the lower opening, which soon drives out the game.

When opossums are hunted by moonlight, the native dog is useful in
scenting them along the ground where they sometimes feed, and in guiding
the native to the tree they have ascended, when alarmed at his approach.
They are then either knocked down with sticks or the tree is ascended as
in the day time.

Flying squirrels are procured in the same way as opossums. The sloth,
which is an animal as large as a good sized monkey, is also caught among
the branches of the larger scrub-trees, among which it hides itself; but
it is never found in holes.

Wallabies are of many kinds, and are killed in various ways. By hunting
with bwirris, by nets, by digging out of the ground; the larger sorts, as
rock wallabies, by spearing, and several kinds by making runs, into which
they are driven. In hunting with bwirris (a short heavy stick with a knob
at one end) a party of natives go out into the scrub and beat the bushes
in line, if any game gets up, the native who sees it, gives a peculiar
"whir-rr" as a signal for the others to look out, and the animal is at
once chased and bwirris thrown at him in all directions, the peculiar
sound of the "whir-rr" always guiding them to the direction he has taken.
It rarely happens that an animal escapes if the party of natives be at
all numerous.

In netting the wallabies, a party of seven or eight men go in advance,
with each a net of from twenty to forty feet long, and when they arrive
near the runs, usually made use of by these animals, a favourable spot is
selected, and the nets set generally in a line and nearly together, each
native concealing himself near his own net. The women and children who,
in the mean time had been making a considerable circuit, now begin to
beat amongst the bushes with the wind, shouting and driving the wallabies
before them towards the nets, where they are caught and killed.

Other species of the wallabie burrow in the ground like rabbits, and are
dug out. The large rock-wallabies are speared by the natives creeping
upon them stealthily among the rugged rocks which they frequent, on the
summits of precipitous heights which have craggy or overhanging cliffs.

In making runs for taking the wallabie, the natives break the branches
from the bushes, and laying them one upon another, form, through the
scrubs, two lines of bush fence, diverging from an apex sometimes to the
extent of several miles, and having at intervals large angles formed by
the fence diverging. At the principal apex and at all the angles or
corners the bushes are tied up, and a hole in the fence left like the run
of a hare. At each of these a native is stationed with his bwirris, and
the women then beating up the country, from the base of the triangle
drive up the game, which finding themselves stopped by the bush fence on
either side, run along in search of an opening until the first angle
presents itself, when they try to escape by the run, and are knocked on
the head by the native guarding it.

Native companions and swans are sometimes speared or killed with bwirris;
the latter are also caught easily in the water holes or lakes when
moulting, as they are then unable to fly. Pelicans are caught in nets or
whilst asleep in the water, by natives wading in and seizing them by the

Wild dogs are speared, but young ones are often kept and tamed, to assist
in hunting, in which they are very useful. The wombat is driven to his
hole with dogs at night, and a fire being lighted inside, the mouth is
closed with stones and earth. The animal being by this means suffocated,
is dug out at convenience.

Birds are killed on the wing, with bwirris, or whilst resting on the
ground, or in the water, or upon branches of trees. They are also taken
by spearing, by snaring, by noosing, and by netting. In spearing them the
natives make use of a very light reed spear (kiko), which is pointed with
hard wood, and projected when used, with the nga-waonk or throwing
stick. They resort to the lagoons or river flats, when flooded, and
either wading or in canoes, chase and spear the wild fowl. The
kiko is thrown to a very great distance, with amazing rapidity and
precision, so that a native is frequently very successful by this method,
particularly so when the young broods of duck and other wild fowl are
nearly full grown, but still unable to fly far. Getting into his canoe,
the native paddles along with extraordinary celerity after his game,
chasing them from one side of the lagoon to the other, until he loads
himself with spoil.

Ducks and teal are caught by snaring, which is practised in the following
manner. After ascertaining where there is a shelving bank to any of the
lagoons, which is frequented by these birds, and upon which there is
grass, or other food that they like near the edges, the natives get a
number of strong reeds, bend them in the middle, and force the two ends
of each into the ground, about seven inches apart, forming a number of
triangles, with their uppermost extremities about five or six inches from
the ground. From these, strings are suspended with slip nooses, and when
a sufficient number are set, the natives go away, to let the ducks come
up to feed. This they soon do; and whilst poking their heads about in
every direction a great many push them through the snares and get hung.

Noosing waterfowl is another general and very successful mode of taking
them. It is performed by a native, with a tat-tat-ko, or long rod,
tapering like a fishing rod, but longer, and having a piece of string at
the end, with a slip noose working over the pliant twig which forms the
last joint of the rod. [Note 74: Plate 4, fig. 1. (not reproduced in this
etext)] This being prepared, and it having been ascertained where
the birds are, the native binds a quantity of grass or weeds around
his head, and then taking his long instrument, plunges into the water
and swims slowly and cautiously towards them, whilst they see nothing
but a tuft of grass or weeds coming floating towards them, of which
they take no notice, until coming close upon them he gently raises
the tapering end of the instrument, and carefully putting the noose over
the head of the bird, draws it under water towards him. After taking it
out of the noose, he tucks its head in his belt, or lets it float on the
water, whilst he proceeds to catch another, or as many more as he can
before the birds take the alarm at the struggles of their companions, and
fly away. A windy day is generally selected for this employment, when the
water is ruffled by waves. On such occasions a skilful native will secure
a great many birds.

Netting birds remains to be described, and is the most destructive mode
of taking them of any that is practised. Geese, ducks, teal, widgeons,
shags, pelicans, pigeons, and others are procured in this way. The method
adopted is as follows:--a large square or oblong net, (kue-rad-ko) from
thirty to sixty feet broad, and from twenty to forty deep, is formed by
lacing together pieces of old fishing nets, or any others, made of light
twine, that they may have. A strong cord is then passed through the
meshes of one end, and tied at both extremes of the net. The natives then
go down to a lagoon of moderate width, where two tall trees may be
standing opposite to each other on different sides, or they select an
opening of a similar kind among the trees on the bank of the river,
through which the ducks, or other birds, are in the habit of passing when
flying between the river and the lagoons. An old man ascends each of the
trees, and over the topmost branch of both lowers the end of a strong
cord passing through the net. The other end is tied near the root of each
tree, and serves for the native, who is stationed there, to raise or
lower the net as it may be required. When set, the ropes are hauled
tight, and the net dangles in the air between the two trees, hanging over
the lagoon, or dry passage, as the case may be. All being ready, a native
is left holding each end of the rope, and others are stationed at
convenient places near, with little round pieces of bark in their hands
to throw at the birds, and drive them onwards as they approach the net.
The women are then sent to put the birds up, and they come flying through
the open space towards the net, not dreaming of the evil that awaits
them; as they approach nearer, the two natives at the trees utter a
shrill whistle, resembling the note of the hawk, upon which the flock,
which usually consists of ducks, lower their flight at once, and
proceeding onwards, strike full against the net, which is instantly
lowered by the men attending to it, and the birds are left struggling in
the water, or on the ground, entangled in its meshes, whilst the natives
are busy paddling in their canoes, or scampering towards the net on the
ground, to wring their necks off, and get the instrument of destruction
raised again, to be ready for the next flight that may come. Should the
birds fly too high, or be inclined to take any other direction, little
pieces of bark are thrown above them, or across their path, by the
natives stationed for that purpose. These circling through the air, make
a whirring noise like the swoop of the eagle when darting on his prey,
and the birds fancying their enemy upon them, recede from the pieces of
bark, and lowering their flight, become entangled in the net. Early in
the morning, late in the evening, and occasionally in the night, this
work is conducted, with the greatest success, though many are caught
sometimes in the day.

As many as fifty birds are taken in a single haul. I have myself, with
the aid of a native, caught thirty-three, and many more would have been
got, but that the net was old, and the birds broke through it before they
could be all killed. On other occasions, I have been out with the
natives, where a party of five or six have procured from twenty to thirty
ducks, on an average, daily, for many days successively. In these
occupations the natives make use of a peculiar shrill whistle to frighten
down the birds; it is produced by pulling out the under lip with the
fore-finger and thumb, and pressing it together, whilst the tongue is
placed against the groove, or hollow thus formed, and the breath strongly
forced through. Whistling is also practised in a variety of other ways,
and has peculiar sounds well known to the natives, which indicate the
object of the call. It is used to call attention, to point out that game
is near, to make each other aware of their respective positions in a
wooded country, or to put another on his guard that an enemy is near,
etc., etc.

Such is an outline of some of the kinds of food used by the natives, and
the modes of procuring it as practised in various parts of Australia
where I have been. There is an endless variety of other articles, and an
infinite number of minute differences in the ways of procuring them,
which it is unnecessary to enter upon in a work which professes to give
only a general account of the Aborigines, their manners, habits, and
customs, and not a full or complete history, which could only be compiled
after the observation of many years devoted exclusively to so
comprehensive a subject.

In the preparation and cooking of their food, and in the extent to which
this is carried, there are almost as many differences as there are
varieties of food. Having no vessels capable of resisting the action of
fire, the natives are unacquainted with the simple process of boiling.
Their culinary operations are therefore confined to broiling on the hot
coals, baking in hot ashes, and roasting, or steaming in ovens. The
native oven is made by digging a circular hole in the ground, of a size
corresponding to the quantity of food to be cooked. It is then lined with
stones in the bottom, and a strong fire made over them, so as to heat
them thoroughly, and dry the hole. As soon as the stones are judged to be
sufficiently hot, the fire is removed, and a few of the stones taken, and
put inside the animal to be roasted if it be a large one. A few leaves,
or a handful of grass, are then sprinkled over the stones in the bottom
of the oven, on which the animal is deposited, generally whole, with hot
stones, which had been kept for that purpose, laid upon the top of it. It
is covered with grass, or leaves, and then thickly coated over with
earth, which effectually prevents the heat from escaping. Bark is
sometimes used to cover the meat, instead of grass or leaves, and is in
some respects better adapted for that purpose, being less liable to let
dirt into the oven. I have seen meat cooked by the natives in this
manner, which, when taken out, looked as clean and nicely roasted as any
I ever saw from the best managed kitchen.

If the oven is required for steaming food, a process principally applied
to vegetables and some kinds of fruits, the fire is in the same way
removed from the heated stones, but instead of putting on dry grass or
leaves, wet grass or water weeds are spread over them. The vegetables
tied up in small bundles are piled over this in the central part of the
oven, wet grass being placed above them again, dry grass or weeds upon
the wet, and earth over all. In putting the earth over the heap, the
natives commence around the base, gradually filling it upwards. When
about two-thirds covered up all round, they force a strong sharp-pointed
stick in three or four different places through the whole mass of grass
weeds and vegetables, to the bottom of the oven. Upon withdrawing the
stick, water is poured through the holes thus made upon the hissing
stones below, the top grass is hastily closed over the apertures and the
whole pile as rapidly covered up as possible to keep in the steam. The
gathering vegetable food, and in fact the cooking and preparing of food
generally, devolves upon the women, except in the case of an emu or a
kangaroo, or some of the larger and more valuable animals, when the men
take this duty upon themselves.

In cooking vegetables, a single oven will suffice for three or four
families, each woman receiving the same bundles of food when cooked,
which she had put in. The smaller kinds of fish and shell-fish, birds and
animals, frogs, turtle, eggs, reptiles, gums, etc., are usually broiled
upon the embers. Roots, bark of trees, etc., are cooked in the hot ashes.
Fungi are either eaten raw or are roasted. The white ant is always eaten
raw. The larvae of insects and the leaves of plants are either eaten raw
or in a cooked state. The larger animals, as the kangaroo, emu, native
dog, etc. and the larger fishes, are usually roasted in the oven.

In preparing the food for the cooking process a variety of forms are
observed. In most animals, as the opossum, wallabie, dog, kangaroo, etc.
the the bones of the legs are invariably broken, and the fur is singed
off; a small aperture is made in the belly, the entrails withdrawn, and
the hole closed with a wooden skewer, to keep in the gravy whilst
roasting. The entrails of all animals, birds, and fishes, are made use
of, and are frequently eaten whilst the animal itself is being prepared.
Most birds have the feathers pulled or singed off, they are then thrown
on the fire for a moment or two and when warm are withdrawn, skinned and
the skin eaten. The meat is now separated on each side of the breast
bone, the limbs are disjointed and thrown back, and the bird is placed
upon the fire, and soon cooked, from the previous dissection it had
undergone, and from hot coals being put above it.

The smaller fish and reptiles are simply thrown upon the fire, sometimes
gutted, at other times not. The larger fish are divided into three
pieces, in the following manner. The fish is laid on its side, and a
longitudinal cut made from the head to within three or four inches of the
tail, just above where the ribs are joined to the back bone, these are
separated by a sharp pointed stick, and the same done on the other side;
a transverse incision is then made near the root of the tail, the gills
are separated from the head, the fleshy part covering the back dissected
from one to two inches thick, over the whole surface left between the
longitudinal cuts that had been made in the sides, and extending from the
head to the transverse incision near the tail. The divisions then consist
of three pieces, one comprising the head, backbone, and tail, another the
fleshy part that covered the back, and the third the belly and sides. The
last is the most prized of the three. This method of dividing the fish is
well adapted for ensuring rapid preparation in the process of cooking; it
is also well suited for satisfying the respective owners and claimants;
the three pieces being, if not quite equal in size, sufficiently so for
the purpose of partition.

There are many usages in force among the natives respecting the
particular kinds of food allowed to be eaten at different ages;
restrictions and limitations of many kinds are placed upon both sexes at
different stages of life. What is proper to be eaten at one period, is
disallowed at another, and vice versa. And although laws of this nature
appear to be in force throughout the whole continent, there appear to be
occasional differences of custom as to restriction in regard to both food
and age. It also appears that there are more restrictions placed upon the
females, until past the age of child-bearing, than upon the males.

Infants are not often weaned until between two and three years old; but
during this time any food is given to them which they can eat, except
those kind of vegetables which are likely to disagree with them. No
restrictions are placed upon very young children of either sex, a portion
being given to them of whatever food their parents may have. About nine
or ten years appears to be the age at which limitations commence. Boys
are now forbidden to eat the red kangaroo, or the female or the young
ones of the other kinds; the musk duck, the white crane, the bandicoot,
the native pheasant, (leipoa, meracco), the native companion, some kinds
of fungi, the old male and female opossum, a kind of wallabie (linkara),
three kinds of fish (toor-rue, toitchock, and boolye-a), the black duck,
widgeon, whistling duck, shag (yarrilla), eagle, female water-mole
(nee-witke), two kinds of turtles (rinka and tung-kanka), and some other
varieties of food.

When young men they are disallowed the black duck, the widgeon, the
whistling duck, the emu, the eggs of the emu, a fish called kalapko, the
red kangaroo, the young of other kinds of kangaroo, if taken from the
pouch; a kind of shag called yarrilla, the snake (yarl-dakko), the white
crane, the eagle, a kind of water-mole (nee-witke), two kinds of turtle
(rinka and tung-kanka), the musk-duck, the native dog, the large grub dug
out of the ground (ronk), a vegetable food called war-itch (being that
the emu feeds upon), the native companion, bandicoot, old male opossum,
wallabie (linkara), coote, two fishes (toor-rue and toit-chock), etc. etc.

Married men, until from thirty-five to forty years of age, are still
forbidden the red kangaroo, the young of any kangaroo from the pouch, the
fish kelapko, the shag yarrilla, the coote, the white crane, the turtle
rinka, the native companion, the eagle, etc.

Young females, before the breasts are fully developed, are disallowed the
young of any of the kangaroo species if taken from the pouch, the red
kangaroo, the white crane, the bandicoot, the native companion, the old
male opossum, the wallabie (linkara), the shag (yarrilla), the eagle, etc.

Full grown young females are not allowed to eat the male opossum, the
wallabie (linkara), the red kangaroo, the fish kelapko, the black duck,
the widgeon, the whistling duck, the coote, the native companion, two
turtles (rinka and tung-kanka), the emu, the emu's egg, the snake
(yarl-dakko), cray-fish which may have deformed claws, the female or the
young from the pouch of any kangaroo, the musk duck, the white crane, the
bandicoot, the wild dog, two kinds of fish (toor-rue and toitchock), the
shag (yarrilla), the water mole (neewitke), the ground grub (ronk), the
vegetable food eaten by the emu (war-itch), etc. When menstruating, they
are not allowed to eat fish of any kind, or to go near the water at all;
it being one of their superstitions, that if a female, in that state,
goes near the water, no success can be expected by the men in fishing.
Fish that are taken by the men diving under the cliffs, and which are
always females about to deposit their spawn, are also forbidden to the
native women.

Old men and women are allowed to eat anything, and there are very few
things that they do not eat. Among the few exceptions are a species of
toad, and the young of the wombat, when very small, and before the hair
is well developed.

Chapter IV.


It has generally been imagined, but with great injustice, as well as
incorrectness, that the natives have no idea of property in land, or
proprietary rights connected with it. Nothing can be further from the
truth than this assumption, although men of high character and standing,
and who are otherwise benevolently disposed towards the natives, have
distinctly denied this right, and maintained that the natives were not
entitled to have any choice of land reserved for them out of their own
possessions, and in their respective districts.

In the public journals of the colonies the question has often been
discussed, and the same unjust assertion put forth. A single quotation
will be sufficient to illustrate the spirit prevailing upon this point.
It is from a letter on the subject published in South Australian Register
of the 1st August, 1840:--"It would be difficult to define what
conceivable proprietary rights were ever enjoyed by the miserable savages
of South Australia, who never cultivated an inch of the soil, and whose
ideas of the value of its direct produce never extended beyond obtaining
a sufficiency of pieces of white chalk and red ochre wherewith to bedaub
their bodies for their filthy corrobberies." Many similar proofs might be
given of the general feeling entertained respecting the rights of the
Aborigines, arising out of their original possession of the soil. It is a
feeling, however, that can only have originated in an entire ignorance of
the habits, customs, and ideas of this people. As far as my own
observation has extended, I have found that particular districts, having
a radius perhaps of from ten to twenty miles, or in other cases varying
according to local circumstances, are considered generally as being the
property and hunting-grounds of the tribes who frequent them. These
districts are again parcelled out among the individual members of the
tribe. Every male has some portion of land, of which he can always point
out the exact boundaries. These properties are subdivided by a father
among his sons during his own lifetime, and descend in almost hereditary
succession. A man can dispose of or barter his land to others; but a
female never inherits, nor has primogeniture among the sons any peculiar
rights or advantages. Tribes can only come into each other's districts by
permission, or invitation, in which case, strangers or visitors are
always well treated. The following extract from Captain Grey's work gives
the result of that gentlemen's observations in Western Australia,
corroborated by Dr. Lang's experience of the practice among the natives
of New South Wales, (vol. ii. p. 232 to 236.)

belong to a tribe, or to several families, but to a single male; and the
limits of his property are so accurately defined that every native knows
those of his own land, and can point out the various objects which mark
his boundary. I cannot establish the fact and the universality of this
institution better than by the following letter addressed by Dr. Lang,
the Principal of Sydney College, New South Wales, to Dr. Hodgkin, the
zealous advocate of the Aboriginal Races:

"LIVERPOOL, 15th Nov. 1840.

"My Dear Friend,--In reply to the question which you proposed to me some
time ago, in the course of conversation in London, and of which you have
reminded me in the letter I had the pleasure of receiving from you
yesterday, with the pamphlets and letters for America, viz.--'Whether the
Aborigines of the Australian continent have any idea of property in
land,' I beg to answer most decidedly in the affirmative. It is well
known that these Aborigines in no instance cultivate the soil, but
subsist entirely by hunting and fishing, and on the wild roots they find
in certain localities (especially the common fern), with occasionally a
little wild honey; indigenous fruits being exceedingly rare. The whole
race is divided into tribes, more or less numerous, according to
circumstances, and designated from the localities they inhabit; for
although universally a wandering race with respect to places of
habitation, their wanderings are circumscribed by certain well-defined
limits, beyond which they seldom pass, except for purposes of war or
festivity. In short, every tribe has its own district, the boundaries of
which are well known to the natives generally; and within that district
all the wild animals are considered as much the property of the tribe
inhabiting, or rather ranging on, its whole extent, as the flocks of
sheep and herds of cattle, that have been introduced into the country by
adventurous Europeans, are held by European law and usage the property of
their respective owners. In fact, as the country is occupied chiefly for
pastoral purposes, the difference between the Aboriginal and the European
ideas of property in the soil is more imaginary than real, the native
grass affording subsistence to the kangaroos of the natives, as well as
to the wild cattle of the Europeans, and the only difference indeed
being, that the former are not branded with a particular mark like the
latter, and are somewhat wilder and more difficult to catch. Nay, as the
European regards the intrusion of any other white man upon the
CATTLE-RUN, of which European law and usage have made him the possessor,
and gets it punished as a trespass, the Aborigines of the particular
tribe inhabiting a particular district, regard the intrusion of any other
tribe of Aborigines upon that district, for the purposes of kangaroo
hunting, etc. as an intrusion, to be resisted and punished by force of
arms. In short, this is the frequent cause of Aboriginal, as it is of
European wars; man, in his natural state, being very much alike in all
conditions--jealous of his rights, and exceedingly pugnacious. It is
true, the European intruders pay no respect to these Aboriginal divisions
of the territory, the black native being often hunted off his own ground,
or destroyed by European violence, dissipation, or disease, just as his
kangaroos are driven off that ground by the European's black cattle; but
this surely does not alter the case as to the right of the Aborigines.

"But particular districts are not merely the property of particular
tribes; particular sections or portions of these districts are
universally recognised by the natives as the property of individual
members of these tribes; and when the owner of such a section or portion
of territory (as I ascertained was the case at King George's Island) has
determined on burning off the grass on his land, which is done for the
double purpose of enabling the natives to take the older animals more
easily, and to provide a new crop of sweeter grass for the rising
generation of the forest, not only all the other individuals of his own
tribe, but whole tribes from other districts are invited to the hunting
party, and the feast and dance, or corrobory that ensue; the wild animals
on the ground being all considered the property of the owner of the land.
I have often heard natives myself tell me, in answer to my questions on
the subject, who were the Aboriginal owners of particular tracts of land
now held by Europeans; and indeed this idea of property in the soil, FOR
HUNTING PURPOSES, is universal among the Aborigines. They seldom complain
of the intrusion of Europeans; on the contrary, they are pleased at their
SITTING DOWN, as they call it, on their land: they do not perceive that
their own circumstances are thereby sadly altered for the worse in most
cases; that their means of subsistence are gradually more and more
limited, and their numbers rapidly diminished: in short, in the
simplicity of their hearts, they take the frozen adder in their bosom,
and it stings them to death. They look for a benefit or blessing from
European intercourse, and it becomes their ruin.

"If I had a little more leisure I would have written more at length, and
in a style more worthy of your perusal; but you may take it as certain,
at all events, that the Aborigines of Australia HAVE an idea of property
in the soil in their native and original state, and that that idea is, in
reality, not very different from that of the European proprietors of
sheep and cattle, by whom they have, in so many instances, been
dispossessed, without the slightest consideration of their rights or

"Indeed, the infinity of the native names of places, all of which are
descriptive and appropriate, is of itself a PRIMA FACIE evidence of their
having strong ideas of property in the soil; for it is only where such
ideas are entertained and acted on, that we find, as is certainly the
case in Australia, NULLUM SINE NOMINE SAXUM.

"I am, my dear Friend,
"Your's very sincerely,

"To Dr. Hodgkin."

The dwellings of the Aborigines are simple, of a very temporary
character, and requiring but little skill or labour to construct them. In
the summer season, or when the weather is fine, they consist of little
more than a few bushes laid one upon the other, in the form of a
semicircle, as a protection from the wind, for the head, which is laid
usually close up to this slight fence. In the winter, or in cold or wet
weather, the semicircular form is still preserved, but the back and sides
are sheltered by branches raised upon one end, meeting at the top in an
arch, and supported by props in front, the convex part being always
exposed to the wind. The sizes of these huts depends upon the facilities
that may be afforded for making them, the number of natives, and the
state of the weather.

[Note 75: "Travelled northerly for 20 miles; at evening encamped at
Tarcone, adjacent to the station (then being formed) of Drs. Bernard
and Kilgour. The greater part of the servants at this establishment
had been convicts, they were in a state of great insubordination.
My native attendants pointed out an extensive weir, 200 feet long
and five feet high; they said it was the property of a family,
and emphatically remarked, "that white men had stolen it and their
country;" the Yow-ew-nil-lurns were the original inhabitants. "Tapoe,"
the Mount Napier of Mitchell, is an isolated hill of volcanic
formation; the crater is broken down on the west side to its base.
The great swamp is skirted by low hills and well grassed open forest
land; the natives are still the undisputed occupants, no white men
having been there to dispossess them. The people who occupy the
country have fixed residences; at one village were 13 large huts,
they are warm and well constructed, in shape of a cupola or "kraal;" a
strong frame of wood is first made, and the whole covered with thick
turf, with the grass inwards; there are several varieties; those like a
kraal are sometimes double, having two entrances, others are
demicircular; some are made with boughs and grass, and last are the
temporary screens; one hut measured 10 feet diameter by five feet high,
and sufficiently strong for a man on horseback to ride over.

"Left early, attended by Pevay, to reconnoitre the country. In the
marshes numerous trenches were again met with; these resembled more the
works of civilized than of savage men; they were of considerable extent;
one continuous treble line measured 500 yards in length, two feet in
width, and from 18 inches to two feet in depth; these treble dikes led to
extensive ramified watercourses; the whole covered an area of at least
ten acres, and must have been done at great cost of labour to the
Aborigines, a convincing proof of their persevering industry. These are
the most interesting specimens of native art I had seen; thousands of
yards had been accomplished; the mountain streams were made to pass
through them. In fishing, the natives use the arabine or eel-pot of
platted grass, from nine to twelve feet in length. On the elevated ground
were some of the largest ash-hills I had seen, and must have been the
work of generations; one measured 31 yards in length, 29 in width, and
two in height, with hollow cavities for the natives' bivouacs and camping
places."--"Extract from Mr. Robinson's Letter, copied from papers
relative to Australian Aborigines, printed for the House of Commons,
August 1844, p. 240."]

Sometimes each married man will have a hut for himself, his wives, and
family, including perhaps occasionally his mother, or some other near
relative. At other times, large long huts are constructed, in which, from
five to ten families reside, each having their own separate fire. Young
unmarried men frequently unite in parties of six or eight, and make a hut
for themselves. The materials of which the huts are composed, are
generally small branches or boughs of trees, covered in wet weather with
grass, or other similar material. At other times, and especially if
large, or made in wet weather, they are formed of thick solid logs of
wood, piled and arranged much in the same way as the lighter material,
but presenting an appearance of durability that the others do not
possess. In this case they are generally well covered over with grass,
creeping plants, or whatever else may appear likely to render them
waterproof. In travelling through the country, I have found that where
bushes or shrubs abounded, I could at any time in an hour or two, by
working hard, make myself a hut in which I could lie down, perfectly
secure from any rain. The natives, of course, have much less difficulty
in doing this, from their great skill and constant practice. In many
parts of New Holland that I have been in, bark is almost exclusively used
by the natives, for their huts; where it can be procured good it is
better than any thing else. I have frequently seen sheets of bark twelve
feet long, and eight or ten feet wide, without a single crack or flaw, in
such cases one sheet would form a large and good hut; but even where it
is of a far inferior description, it answers, by a little system in the
arrangement, better than almost any thing else. Projecting, or
overhanging rocks, caverns, hollows of trees, etc. etc., are also
frequently made use of by the natives for lodging houses in cold or wet
weather. When hostile parties are supposed to be in the neighbourhood,
the natives are very cautious in selecting secret and retired places to
sleep. They go up on the high grounds, back among scrubs, or encamp in
the hollows of watercourses, or where there are dense bushes of
polygonum, or close belts of reeds; the fires are very small on these
occasions, and sometimes none are made; you may thus have a large body of
natives encamped very near you without being conscious of it. I have been
taken by a native to a camp of about twenty people in a dense belt of
reeds, which I had gone close by without being aware of their presence,
although I could not have been more than three or four yards from some of
them when I passed.

It has already been remarked, that where many natives meet together, the
arrangements of their respective huts depends upon the direction they
have come from. In their natural state many customs and restrictions
exist, which are often broken through, when they congregate in the
neighbourhood of European settlements.

Such is the custom requiring all boys and uninitiated young men to sleep
at some distance from the huts of the adults, and to remove altogether
away in the morning as soon as daylight dawns, and the natives begin to
move about. This is to prevent their seeing the women, some of whom may
be menstruating; and if looked upon by the young males, it is supposed
that dire results will follow. Strangers are by another similar rule
always required to get to their own proper place at the camp, by going
behind and not in front of the huts. In the same way, if young males meet
a party of women going out to look for food, they are obliged to take a
circuit to avoid going near them. It is often amusing to witness the
dilemma in which a young native finds himself when living with Europeans,
and brought by them into a position at variance with his prejudices on
this point. All the buildings of the natives are necessarily from their
habits of a very temporary character, seldom being intended for more than
a few weeks' occupation, and frequently only for a few days. By this time
food is likely to become scarce, or the immediate neighbourhood unclean,
and a change of locality is absolutely unavoidable. When the huts are
constructed, the ground is made level within, any little stumps of
bushes, or plants, stones, or other things being removed, and grass,
reeds, or leaves of trees frequently gathered and spread over the bottom,
to form a dry and soft bed; this and their opossum cloak constitute the
greatest degree of luxury to which they aspire. Occasionally native men,
in very cold weather, are both without huts and clothing of any kind. In
this case, many small fires are made (for the natives never make a large
one), by which they keep themselves warm. I have often seen single
natives sleep with a fire at their head, another at their feet, and one
on either side, and as close as ever they could make them without burning
themselves; indeed, sometimes within a very few inches of their bodies.

The weapons of the natives are simple and rudimental in character, but
varied in their kind and make, according to the purposes for which they
may be required, or the local circumstances of the district in which they
are used. The spear, which is the chief weapon of offence over all the
known parts of the continent, is of two kinds, one kind is used with the
throwing stick, and the other is thrown out of the hand; of each there
are four varieties that I am acquainted with. Of those launched with the
throwing stick there are--1, the kiko, or reed spear, pointed with hard
wood; 2, the kiero, or hard wood spear, with about two feet of the
flower-stem of the grass-tree jointed to the upper end; 3, a similar
weapon, with five or six jags cut in the solid wood of the point upon one
side; and 4, the light hard wood spear of Port Lincoln, and the coast to
the eastward, where a single barb is spliced on at the extreme point with
the sinew of the emu or the kangaroo: each spear averages from six to
eight feet in length, and is thrown with facility and precision to
distances, varying from thirty to one hundred yards, according to the
kind made use of, and the skill of the native in using it.

Of the large spear there is--1, the karkuroo, or smooth heavy spear, made
of the gum-scrub; 2, the same description of weapon, barbed with
fragments of flint or quartz; 3, another variety, having five or six jags
cut at the point, upon one side; and 4, a similar weapon, with the same
number of barbs cut upon both sides of the point: each of them is from
twelve to fourteen feet long, and is thrown with most deadly force and
accuracy to distances of from thirty to forty feet. The fishing spear has
already been described. The Nga-wa-onk, or throwing stick is from
twenty to twenty-six inches in length, and is of a very similar character
throughout the continent, varying a little in width or shape according to
the fashion of particular districts. It consists of a piece of hard wood,
broad about the middle, flattened and sometimes hollowed on the inside,
and tapering to either extremity; at the point the tooth of a kangaroo is
tied and gummed on, turning downwards like a hook; the opposite end has a
lump of pitch with a flint set in it, moulded round so as to form a knob,
which prevents the hand from slipping whilst it is being used, or it is
wound round with string made of the fur of the opossum for the same
purpose. In either case it is held by the lower part in the palm of the
hand, clasped firmly by the three lower fingers, with its upper part
resting between the fore-finger and the next; the head of the spear, in
which is a small hole, is fitted to the kangaroo tooth, and then coming
down between the fore-finger and thumb, is firmly grasped for throwing;
the arm is then drawn back, the weapon levelled to the eye, a quivering
motion given to it to steady it, and it is hurled with a rapidity, force,
and precision quite incredible.

The Wangn or wangno (the boomerang of Eastern and kiley of Western
Australia) is another simple but destructive weapon, in the hands of the
native. It consists of a thin, flat, curved piece of hard wood, about two
feet long, made out of the acacia pendula or gum-scrub, the raspberry-jam
wood, or any other of a similar character, a branch or limb is selected
which has naturally the requisite curve (an angle from one hundred to one
hundred and thirty degrees) and is dressed down to a proper shape and
thickness, and rounded somewhat at the bend, those whose angles are
slightly obtuse, are usually thrown with the sharp edge against the wind,
and go circling through the air with amazing velocity, and to a great
height and distance, describing nearly a parabola and descending again at
the foot of the person who throws them; those which have the largest
obtuse angle are thrown generally against the ground from which they
bound up to a great height, and with much force. With both, the natives
are able to hit distant objects with accuracy, either in hunting or in
war; in the latter case this weapon is particularly dangerous, as it is
almost impossible, even when it is seen in the air, to tell which way it
will go, or where descend. I once nearly had my arm broken by a wangno,
whilst standing within a yard of the native who threw it, and looking out
purposely for it.

The (katta twirris) or two-edged sword is a formidable weapon, used among
the tribes to the north of Adelaide, exclusively for war; another weapon,
common among the same tribes, is the katta, a round chisel-pointed stick,
about three feet long, and used principally in pitched battles between
two individuals.

Another weapon is an angular piece of hard wood, pointed and shaped very
much like a miner's pick, the longer or handle-end being rounded and
carved, to give a firmer grasp; another dreadful weapon, intended for
close combat, is made out of hard wood, from two to three feet long,
straight and with the handle rounded and carved for the grasp, which has
an immense pointed knob at the end; the bwirri, is also a weapon of hard
wood about two feet long, rather slight and merely smoothed in the
handle, with a round knob at the extremity, it is principally thrown, and
with very great precision; but is more generally used after game than in

The shield (tar-ram) is made out of the bark or wood of the gum-tree, and
varies in shape and device, the ordinary shield is about two or two and a
half feet long, from eight to eighteen inches across, and tapering from
the middle towards the extremities, two holes are made near the centre,
through which a piece of wood is bent for a handle; shields are always
carved and painted in time of war.

The implements made use of by the natives are not very numerous, and
their general characteristics are nearly the same all over the continent.
The native hatchet is made of a very hard greenish-looking stone, rubbed
to an edge on either side; it is fixed in the cleft of a stick, or a
branch is doubled round it, and either tied or gummed to prevent its
slipping. The throwing sticks have generally a sharp piece of quartz or
flint gummed on at the lower end, which is used as a knife or chisel;
flints or muscle shells are used for skinning animals, dissecting food,
cutting hair, etc.

The ngak-ko, a strong chisel-pointed stick, from three to four feet long,
is used for dissecting the larger animals and fish, for digging grubs out
of the trees, for making holes to get out opossums, etc., for stripping
bark, ascending trees, for cutting bark canoes, and a variety of other
useful purposes. The rod for noosing ducks, (tat-tat-ko) and other wild
fowl, is about sixteen feet long, and consists, in its lower part, for
the first ten feet, of hard wood, tapering like an ordinary spear, to
this is cemented with resin, a joint of tolerably strong reed about
sixteen inches long, at the upper end of this is inserted and cemented
with wax, a tapering rod of hard wood, three feet long and very similar
to the top joint of a fly-fishing rod, to this is spliced a fine springy
and strong top, of about eighteen inches in length, at the end of which
is bound a piece of fine strong cord, which works with a running noose
upon the tapering end of the instrument. Needles are made from the fibula
of the emu or kangaroo, and are pointed at one end by being rubbed on a
stone, they are used in sewing as we use a shoemaker's awl, the hole is
bored and the thread put through with the hand; the thread is made of the
sinews of the emu and kangaroo. The netting needle is a little round bit
of stick or reed, about the size of a lead pencil, round which the string
is wound, no mesh is used, the eye and hand enabling the native to net
with the utmost regularity, speed, and neatness.

The nets for hunting, for carrying their effects or food, for making
belts for the waist, or bandages for the head, are all made from the
tendons or fur of animals, or from the fibres of plants. In the former,
the sinews of the kangaroo or emu, and the fur of opossums and other
similar animals, are used; in the latter, a species of rush, the fibres
of the root of the mallow, the fibres of the root of the broad flag-reed,
etc. and in some parts of the continent, the fibrous bark of trees. The
materials are prepared for use by being soaked in water and carded with
the teeth and hands, or by being chewed or rubbed.

String is made by the fibres being twisted, and rubbed with the palm of
the hand over the naked thighs, and is often as neatly executed as
English whip-cord, though never consisting of more than two strands,--the
strands being increased in thickness according to the size of the cord
that may be required. Nets vary in size and strength according to the
purposes for which they are required; the duck net (kew-rad-ko) has
already been described, as also the kenderanko, or small net for diving
for fish, and the taendilly net, for diving with under the rocks for the
larger fish; the kenyinki is a net with very small meshes, and set out
with a wooden bow, for catching shrimps and other very small fish. There
are also, a wharro, a large hoop-net for catching small cray-fish; a
lenko, or small net for hanging round the neck, to put muscles,
cray-fish, frogs, etc. in; a rocko, or large net bag, used by the women
for carrying their worldly effects about with them; the kaar-ge-rum, or
net for the waistband; the rad-ko, or fishing net, which is a regular
seine for catching fish, about fifty or sixty feet in length, and varying
in depth according to the place where it is to be used; the emu or
kangaroo net (nunko) is very strong, with meshes from five to six inches
square; it is made of cord as thick as a large quill, and its length is
from a hundred to a hundred and thirty feet, and depth about five feet
when set. The wallabie net is about thirty feet long, of strong cord, and
when set about eighteen inches high. The size of the meshes of all the
nets depends upon the game to be taken; generally they are small. Neat,
and variously striped baskets and mats are made by the women of certain
tribes, from rushes, or a broad-leaved description of grass. The kallater
is a round basket, wide at the base, and tapering upwards; its size
varies. The poola-danooko is a very pretty looking, flat, oval basket,
adapted for laying against the back. The poneed-ke is a large, flat,
circular mat, worn over the back and shoulders, and when tied by a band
round the waist affords a lodging for an infant. Large bags or wallets
are also made of kangaroo skins, with the fur outside, and small ones of
the skins of lesser animals with the fur inside. Skins are prepared for
making cloaks by pegging them tight out upon the ground soon after they
are taken off the animal, when dry, cold ashes or dust are thrown in, to
absorb any grease that may have exuded. If the weather is damp, or the
native is in a hurry, they are pegged out near the fire; after drying,
the smaller skins are rubbed with stones to make them flexible, or are
scored or ornamented with various devices, cut with a flint or shell on
the skin side; the larger skins have their inner layers shaved off by
flints, shells, or implements of wood. Opossums, wallabies, young
kangaroos, etc. are skinned sometimes by simply making a slit about the
head, through which the rest of the body is made to pass; the skins are
turned inside out, and the ends of the legs tied up, and are then ready
for holding water, and always form part of the baggage of natives who
travel much about, or go into badly watered districts. I have seen these
skins (lukomb) capable of holding from two to three gallons of water: the
fur is always inside. The karko is a small spade of wood, used by the
natives north of Adelaide for digging up grubs from the ground. The canoe
or "mun" is a large sheet of bark cut from the gum-tree, carefully
lowered to the ground, and then heated with fire until it becomes soft
and pliable, and can be moulded into form, it is then supported by wooden
props, to keep it in shape, until it becomes hard and set, which is in
about twenty-four hours, though it is frequently used sooner. On its
being launched, sticks or stretchers are placed across each end and in
the middle, to prevent the bark from contracting or curling up with
exposure to the air. A large canoe will hold seven or eight people
easily; it is often twenty feet long. The following is a description of
an ordinary one for fishing:--length fifteen feet, width three feet,
depth eight inches, formed out of a single sheet of bark, with one end a
little narrower than the other and pointing upwards. This end is paddled
first; the bottom is nearly flat, and the canoe is so firm, that a person
can take hold of one side, and climb into it from the water without
upsetting it. It is paddled along with the long pine-spear moo-aroo,
described as being used in fishing at night by firelight. In propelling
it the native stands near the centre, pushing his moo-aroo against the
water, first on one side and then on the other; in shallow water one end
of the moo-aroo is placed on the bottom, and the canoe so pushed along.
The natives are well acquainted with the use of fire, for hardening the
points of their weapons or softening the wood to enable them to bend
them. In the former case, the point is charred in the fire, and scraped
with a shell or flint to the precise shape required; in the latter, their
spears, and other similar weapons, are placed upon hot ashes, and bent
into form by pressure. It is a common practice among many of the tribes
to grease their weapons and implements with human fat, taken from the
omentum, either of enemies who have been killed, or of relations who have
died. Spears, and other offensive arms, are supposed to possess
additional powers if thus treated; and nets and other implements for
procuring game are imagined to become much more effectual in ensnaring
prey. In setting nets, too, the natives have a practice of taking up a
handful of water to the mouth, and then squirting it out over the net, in
a shower of spray, this they think is a powerful charm to ensure the fish
being caught.

There can hardly be said to be any form of government existing among a
people who recognize no authority, and where every member of the
community is at liberty to act as he likes, except, in so far as he may
be influenced by the general opinions or wishes of the tribe, or by that
feeling which prompts men, whether in civilised or savage communities to
bend to the will of some one or two persons who may have taken a more
prominent and leading part than the rest in the duties and avocations of
life. Among none of the tribes yet known have chiefs ever been found to
be acknowledged, though in all there are always some men who take the
lead, and whose opinions and wishes have great weight with the others.

Other things being equal, a man's authority and influence increase among
his tribe in proportion to his years. To each stage of life through which
he passes is given some additional knowledge or power, and he is
privileged to carry an additional number of implements and weapons, as he
advances in life. An old grey-headed man generally carries the principal
implements and weapons, either for war or sorcery; many of the latter the
women and children are never allowed to see, such as pieces of
rock-crystal, by which the sorcerer can produce rain, cause blindness, or
impart to the waters the power of destroying life, etc.; sacred daggers
for causing the death of their enemies by enchantment; the
moor-y-um-karr or flat oval piece of wood which is whirled round
the camp at nights, and many others of a similar nature.

I have not, however, found that age is invariably productive of
influence, unless the individual has previously signalized himself among
his people, and taken up a commanding position when youth and strength
enabled him to support his pretensions, and unless he be still in full
possession of vigour of mind and energy of character, though no longer
endowed with personal strength. The grey-head appears to be usually
treated with respect as long as the owner is no incumbrance to those
around him, but the moment he becomes a drag, every tie is broken, and he
is at once cast off to perish. Among many tribes with which I have been
acquainted, I have often noticed that though the leading men were
generally elderly men from forty-five to sixty years old, they were not
always the oldest; they were still in full vigour of body and mind, and
men who could take a prominent part in acting as well as counselling. I
am inclined, therefore, to think that the degree of estimation in which
any native is held by his fellows, or the amount of deference that may be
paid to his opinions, will in a great measure depend upon his personal
strength, courage, energy, prudence, skill, and other similar
qualifications, influenced, perhaps, collaterally by his family
connections and the power which they possess.

Each father of a family rules absolutely over his own circle. In his
movements and arrangements he is uncontrolled, yet, as a matter of
policy, he always informs his fellows where he is going, what he is going
to do, how long he will be absent, when he will meet them again, etc. It
thus happens that, although a tribe may be dispersed all over their own
district in single groups, or some even visiting neighbouring tribes, yet
if you meet with any one family they can at once tell you where you will
find any other, though the parties themselves may not have met for weeks.
Some one or other is always moving about, and thus the news of each
other's locality gets rapidly spread among the rest. The principal
occupation, indeed, of parties when they meet, is to give and receive
information relative to neighbouring families or tribes. In cases of
sudden danger or emergency, the scattered groups are rapidly warned or
collected by sending young men as messengers, or by raising signal smokes
in prominent positions.

In an assembly of the tribe, matters of importance are generally
discussed and decided upon, by the elder men, apart from the others. It
not unfrequently happens, however, that some discontented individual will
loudly and violently harangue the whole tribe; this usually occurs in the
evening, and frequently continues for hours together; his object being
generally either to reverse some decision that has been come to, to
excite them to something they are unwilling to do, or to abuse some one
who is absent. Occasionally he is replied to by others, but more
frequently allowed uninterruptedly to wear himself out, when from sheer
exhaustion he is compelled to sit down.

Occasionally the tribe is addressed by its most influential members in
the language of admonition or advice, and though at such times a loud
tone and strong expressions are made use of, there is rarely any thing
amounting to an order or command; the subject is explained, reasons are
given for what is advanced, and the result of an opposite course to that
suggested, fully pointed out; after this the various members are left to
form their own judgments, and to act as they think proper.

In their domestic relations with one another polygamy is practised in its
fullest extent. An old man having usually from one to four wives, or as
many as he can procure.

The females, and especially the young ones are kept principally among the
old men, who barter away their daughters, sisters, or nieces, in exchange
for wives for themselves or their sons. Wives are considered the absolute
property of the husband, and can be given away, or exchanged, or lent,
according to his caprice. A husband is denominated in the Adelaide
dialect, Yongarra, Martanya (the owner or proprietor of a wife). Female
children are betrothed usually from early infancy, and such arrangements
are usually adhered to; still in many cases circumstances occur
frequently to cause an alteration; but if not, the girls generally go to
live with their husbands about the age of twelve, and sometimes even
before that. Relatives nearer than cousins are not allowed to marry, and
this alliance does not generally take place. Female orphans belong to the
nearest male relative, as also does a widow, instead of to the nearest
male relative of the husband, as was found to be the case in Western
Australia by Captain Grey. Two or three months generally elapse before
the widow goes to another husband; but if the wife dies, the man takes
another as soon as he can get one. If a woman, having young children,
join another tribe, the children go with her; but I am not aware whether
they would remain permanently attached to that tribe or not. Brothers
often barter their sisters for wives for themselves, but it can only be
done with the parents' consent, or after their death. If a wife be
stolen, war is always continued until she is given up, or another female
in her place.

There is no ceremony connected with the undertaking of marriage. In those
cases where I have witnessed the giving away of a wife, the woman was
simply ordered by the nearest male relative in whose disposal she was, to
take up her "rocko," the bag in which a female carries the effects of her
husband, and go to the man's camp to whom she had been given. Marriage is
not looked upon as any pledge of chastity, indeed no such virtue is

[Note 76: Foeminae sese per totam pene vitam prostituunt. Apud plurimas
tribus juventutem utriusque sexus sine discrimine concumbere in usus est.
Si juvenis forte indigenorum coetum quendam in castris manentem adveniat
ubi quaevis sit puella innupta, mos est; nocte veniente et cubantibus
omnibus, illam ex loco exsurgere et juvenem accedentem cum illo per
noctem manere unde in sedem propriam ante diem redit. Cui foemina sit,
eam amicis libenter praebet; si in itinere sit, uxori in castris manenti
aliquis ejus supplet ille vires. Advenis ex longinquo accedentibus
foeminas ad tempus dare hospitis esse boni judicatur. Viduis et foeminis
jam senescentibus saepe in id traditis, quandoque etiam invitis et
insciis cognatis, adolescentes utuntur. Puellae tenerae a decimo primum
anno, et pueri a decimo tertio vel quarto, inter se miscentur. Senioribus
mos est, si forte gentium plurium castra appropinquant, viros noctu huic
inde transeuntes, uxoribus alienis uti et in sua castra ex utraque parte
mane redire. Temporis quinetiam certis, machina quaedam ex ligno ad formam
ovi facta, sacra et mystica, uam foeminas aspicere haud licitam, decem
plus minus uncias longa et circa quatuor lata insculpta ac figuris
diversis ornata, et ultimam perforata partem ad longam (plerumque e
crinibus humanis textam) inscrendam chordam cui nomen "Mooyumkarr," extra
castra in gyrum versata, stridore magno e percusso aere facto, libertatem
coeundi juventuti esse tum concessam omnibus indicat. Parentes saepe
infantum, viri uxorum quaestum corporum faciunt. In urbe Adelaide panis
praemio parvi aut paucorum denariorum meretrices fieri eas libenter
cogunt. Facile potest intelligi, amorem inter nuptos vix posse esse
grandem, quum omnia quae ad foeminas attinent, hominum arbitrio
ordinentur et tanta sexuum societati laxitas, et adolescentes quibus ita
multae ardoris explendi dantur occasiones, haud magnopere uxores, nisi ut
servas desideraturos.

But little real affection consequently exists between husbands and wives,
and young men value a wife principally for her services as a slave; in
fact when asked why they are anxious to obtain wives, their usual reply
is, that they may get wood, water, and food for them, and carry whatever
property they possess. In 1842 the wife of a native in Adelaide, a girl
about eighteen, was confined, and recovered slowly; before she was well
the tribe removed from the locality, and the husband preferred
accompanying them, and left his wife to die, instead of remaining to
attend upon her and administer to her wants. When the natives were gone,
the girl was removed to the mission station, to receive medical
attendance, but eventually died. In the same year an old woman who broke
her thigh was left to die, as the tribe did not like the trouble of
carrying her about. Parents are treated in the same manner when helpless
and infirm. [Note 77 at end of para.] In 1839 I found an aged man
left to die, without fire or food, upon a high bare hill beyond the
Broughton. In 1843 I found two old women, who had been abandoned in
the same way, at the Murray, and although they were taken every care
of when discovered, they both died in about a week afterwards. No age
is prescribed for matrimony, but young men under twenty-five years
of age do not often obtain wives, there are exceptions, however,
to this: I have seen occasionally young men of seventeen or eighteen
possessing them. When wives are from thirty-five to forty years of age,
they are frequently cast off by the husbands, or are given to the
younger men in exchange for their sisters or near relatives, if such are
at their disposal.

[Note 77: "Practised by the American Indians."--Catlin, vol. i. p. 216.

"The early life of a young woman at all celebrated for beauty is generally
one continued series of captivity to different masters, of ghastly wounds,
of wanderings in strange families, of rapid flights, of bad treatment from
other females amongst whom she is brought a stranger by her captor; and
rarely do you see a form of unusual grace and elegance, but it is marked
and scarred by the furrows of old wounds; and many a female thus wanders
several hundred miles from the home of her infancy, being carried off
successively to distant and more distant points."]

Women are often sadly ill-treated by their husbands or friends, in
addition to the dreadful life of drudgery, and privation, and hardship
they always have to undergo; they are frequently beaten about the head,
with waddies, in the most dreadful manner, or speared in the limbs for
the most trivial offences. No one takes the part of the weak or the
injured, or ever attempts to interfere with the infliction of such severe

Few women will be found, upon examination, to be free from frightful
scars upon the head, or the marks of spear-wounds about the body. I have
seen a young woman, who, from the number of these marks, appeared to have
been almost riddled with spear wounds. Upon this point Captain Grey
remarks, vol. ii. p. 249.

The menses commence to flow among the native females at an earlier age
than among Europeans, frequently beginning at about twelve; they are also
subject to many irregularities in their periodical return, arising
probably from the kind of life they lead and the nature of the diet upon
which they live. I have known cases where this irregularity has extended
to three months. Child-bearing does not commence often before the age of
sixteen, nor have I ever noticed pregnant women under that age. In
inquiries conducted by Mr. Moorhouse among the natives of Adelaide, that
gentleman ascertained, that as many as nine children have occasionally
been born to one woman; that the average number is about five; but that
each mother only reared an average of two. At childbirth, the placenta,
which is considered as sacred, is carefully put away from the reach of
the dogs as soon as thrown off from the uterus, and the female is up and
following her usual avocations a very few hours after the accouchement.
Instances have occurred of women sitting up, and asking for food an hour
after confinement, though wet with rain, and having very little fire. Two
days after it, I have seen a woman walking two or three miles, and going
out to look for food in her usual manner. Infanticide is very common, and
appears to be practised solely to get rid of the trouble of rearing
children, and to enable the woman to follow her husband about in his
wanderings, which she frequently could not do if encumbered with a child.
The first three or four are often killed; no distinction appears to be
made in this case between male or female children. Half-castes appear to
be always destroyed.

The nomenclature of the natives is a subject of considerable difficulty,
and is at present involved in much obscurity and uncertainty, so many
different practices obtaining, and so many changes of name occurring to
some individuals during the course of their life. In the Adelaide
district, and among the tribes to the north, Mr. Moorhouse has found that
numerical names are given to children when first born, in the order of
birth, a variation in the termination constituting the distinction of
name for male or female, thus:--

                                  IF MALE.   IF FEMALE.
The 1st child would be called     Kertameru  Kertanya
2nd child would be called         Warritya   Warriarto
3rd child would be called         Kudnutya   Kudnarto
4th child would be called         Monaitya   Monarto
5th child would be called         Milaitya   Milarto
6th child would be called         Marrutya   Marruarto
7th child would be called         Wangutya   Wangwarto
8th child would be called         Ngarlaitya Ngarlarto
9th child would be called         Pouarna    Ngarlarto

These are given at birth; but a short time after another name is added,
which is derived from some object in nature, as a plant, animal, or
insect. This name continues until after marriage and the birth of the
first child, upon which the father takes the name of this child, and has
the word binna or spinna, (an adult,) affixed, as Kadli; name of a child,
Kadlitpinna, the father of Kadli; the mother is called Kadli ngangki, or
mother of Kadli, from ngangki, a female or woman. The names of the father
and mother are changed at the birth of every child in the same manner.

At Moorunde, and among many other tribes, I have not found any numerical
names to be given at birth, the first name usually being that derived
from some object in nature. This is occasionally changed after marriage
and the birth of a child; as among the Adelaide or northern natives, the
father taking the name of the child with the affix of imbe or nimbe
(implying father), as Kartul, a child's name, Kartulnimbe the father of
Kartul, Memparne, a child's name, Memparnimbe the father of Memparne.
This paidronymic is not, however, always adhered to in preference to the
original name; thus Memparnimbe is as often called by his former name of
Tenberry as his paidronymic; he is also called occasionally Worrammo,
from his being left-handed. Neither have I found the name of the parent
change at the birth of every child; thus Memparnimbe has other children,
younger than Memparne, as Warrulan, Timarro, etc. yet he is never called
Warrulanimbe, Timarronimbe, etc. The mother's name, similarly to that of
the father, is also occasionally altered to that of the child, with the
affix of arwer, or emarwer, as Kartulemarwer, the mother of Kartul,
Memparnemarwer, the mother of Memparne, yet is the original name of the
mother as often used as the paidronymic. Old men are frequently called by
the name of the place which belongs to them, with the affix of bookola
thus Mooroondooyo Bookola is the old man who owns Mooroonde, etc.

At other times nicknames are given to natives, and so generally made use
of by the others that the proper or original name becomes almost lost.
Thus a native named Marloo, from a habit he had of looking about him and
saying, "I see, I see," is called Nairkinimbe, or the father of seeing.
Another named Ngalle-ngalle is called Eukonimbe, the father of eukodko,
from his being very fond of the crayfish of that name, and so on. Other
local appellations are given referring to some peculiarity of personal
appearance, Parn-gang-gapko, the baldheaded, Towang Makkeroo, the
broken-thighed, etc. Others again refer to family bereavements, as Roo
ptootarap, a father without children, Parntomakker, a childless mother,
Parnko, an orphan, Wirrang, one who has lost a brother, Rockootarap, one
whose wife is dead, Thaltarlpipke, an unmarried man, Rartchilock, one who
owns a wife, Rang, a widow, Waukerow, an unmarried woman, etc. These are
all distinctions, which though readily discoverable by a person tolerably
well versed in the dialect, or long resident among the same natives,
present many difficulties, and lead to many mistakes, amongst casual
inquirers, or those whose pursuits do not keep them long at the place of
their inquiries. There are others which are still more difficult to be
understood, from the almost utter impossibility of learning (with any
reasonable sacrifice of time) the language with sufficient accuracy to
enable the inquirer thoroughly to comprehend the meanings of the proper
names, and deduce the roots from which they are derived.

Even among the Adelaide tribes, where there appears to be a greater
uniformity in the system of nomenclature than I have met with any where
else, and where Mr. Moorhouse has devoted more time and attention to the
subject than perhaps any other person, there are still difficulties and
uncertainties. Thus an Adelaide boy about the age of ten, is called by
the name of Koar (the crow), from early infancy, but between ten and
twelve, after undergoing one of their ceremonies, the name was changed to
Mannara, (which I believe means the crow's nest). According, however, to
the usual system adopted, this boy's name ought to have remained Koar,
until, by becoming a married man and a father, it gave way to a

There is another subject somewhat analogous to that of nomenclature, and
about which still less is known;--that of every native adopting some
object in creation as his crest, or tiende. The same thing is noticed by
Captain Grey in his narrative (vol. ii. p. 228).

"But as each family adopts some animal or vegetable, as their crest or
sign, or KOBONG as they call it, I imagine it more likely, that these
have been named after the families, than that the families have been
named after them.

"A certain mysterious connection exists between a family and its KOBONG,
so that a member of a family will never kill an animal of the species, to
which his KOBONG belongs, should he find it asleep; indeed, he always
kills it reluctantly, and never without affording it a chance to escape.
This arises from the family belief, that some one individual of the
species is their nearest friend, to kill whom would be a great crime, and
to be carefully avoided. Similarly, a native who has a vegetable for his
KOBONG, may not gather it under certain circumstances, and at a
particular period of the year."

From the foregoing quotation, it is apparent that very little difference
exists in the custom as practised in Western and Southern Australia. In
the former, however, there appears to be an unwillingness to destroy the
object represented by the kobong or tiende that I have never observed in
the latter. But very little appears to be known on this subject at
present, as far as regards the reason for assuming the tiende, or its
connection with the individual or family it may represent. The same
tiende seems to descend from a father to his children; but I have been
told occasionally of instances where such has not been the case. There
are several striking differences between the customs and habits of the
Aborigines of Western Australia, narrated by Captain Grey, and those in
force among the tribes I have myself been best acquainted with in
Southern or South-eastern Australia. One singular peculiarity is
described by Captain Grey.

"One of the most remarkable facts connected with the natives, is that
they are divided into certain great families, all the members of which
bear the same names, as a family or second name: the principal branches
of these families, so far as I have been able to ascertain, are the


"But in different districts the members of these families give a local
name to the one to which they belong, which is understood in that
district, to indicate some particular branch of the principal family. The
most common local names are,


"These family names are common over a great portion of the continent; for
instance, on the Western coast, in a tract of country extending between
four and five hundred miles in latitude, members of all these families
are found. In South Australia, I met a man who said that he belonged to
one of them, and Captain Flinders mentions Yungaree, as the name of a
native in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

"These family names are perpetuated, and spread through the country, by
the operation of two remarkable laws:--

"1st. That children of either sex, always take the family name of their

"2nd. That a man cannot marry a woman of his own family name."

From this it appears that the natives of that part of the country have in
addition to their other ordinary names a family or surname, which is
perpetuated through successive generations on the mother's side. This is
not the case as far as my observations and inquiries have enabled me to
ascertain among the numerous tribes frequenting the Murray river, and Mr.
Moorhouse assures me that he has been equally unable to detect any
coincidence of the kind among the tribes frequenting the district of

The division, numbers, and names of the various tribes are also subjects
of difficulty and uncertainty. As far as my researches have yet extended
upon this point, it appears to me, first, that groups of natives have a
distinctive or a local appellation, derived from the particular place
they belong to, as Barmerara maru, the natives frequenting the lake
called Barmera: Moolyoolpero maru, the natives frequenting the lagoon
called Moolyoolko, and so on. Secondly, a general or tribal name, as
Narwijjerook, a native of the tribe so called, which includes the natives
of Barmera and various others in that neighbourhood. Karn-brickolenbola,
a native of the tribe so called, and which includes various groups around
Mooroonde. Thirdly, it appears that wherever a change occurs in the name
of the tribes to which contiguous groups of natives may belong, there is
a corresponding change in the dialect or language spoken; thus the
Narwij-jerook speak a dialect called Narwijjong, the Karn-brickolenbola
tribe the Aiawong dialect, and so on.

In many of these dialects there appears to be little more difference than
exists among the counties in England. Such is the case up the course of
the Murray from Lake Alexandrina to the Darling; and such Captain Grey
found to be the case throughout a great part of Western Australia. In
others the dialects are so totally unlike one another, that natives,
meeting upon opposite sides of a river, cannot speak to or understand a
word of what each other say, except through the medium of a third
language, namely that spoken by the natives of the river itself, and
which is totally unlike either of the other two.

This is the case at Moorunde, where three different dialects meet, the
Yakkumban, or dialect spoken by the Paritke tribe, or natives inhabiting
the scrub to the west and north-west of the Murray. The
Boraipar or language of the Arkatko tribe, who
inhabit the scrub to the east of the Murray, and the Aiawong or river
dialect, extending, with slight variations, from the junction of the
Murray and Lake Alexandrina to the Darling.

Chapter V.


The ceremonies and superstitions of the natives are both numerous and
involved in much obscurity; indeed it is very questionable if any of them
are understood even by themselves. Almost all the tribes impose
initiatory rites upon the young, through which they must pass from one
stage of life to another, until admitted to the privileges and rights of
manhood. These observances differ greatly in different parts of the
continent, independently of local or distinctive variations indicative of
the tribe to which a native may belong.

Thus at the Gulf of Carpentaria, the rite of circumcision is performed;
at Swan River, King George's Sound, and nearly three hundred miles to the
eastward of the latter place, no such rite exists. Round the head of the
Great Australian Bight, and throughout the Port Lincoln Peninsula, not
only is this rite performed, but a still more extraordinary one conjoined
with it. [Note 78: "Finditur usque ad urethram a parte inferaa penis."]
Descending the east side of Spencer's and St. Vincent's Gulf, and
around the district of Adelaide, the simple rite of circumcision is
retained. Proceeding but a little farther to the banks of the Murray, and
its neighbourhood, no such ceremony exists, nor have I ever heard of its
having been observed any where on the southeastern, or eastern parts of
the continent.

So also with respect to tattooing; in one part of the continent it is
adopted, in another it is rejected; when it is practised, there are many
varieties in the form, number, or arrangement of the scars,
distinguishing the different tribes, so that one stranger meeting with
another any where in the woods, can at once tell, from the manner in
which he is tattooed, the country and tribe to which he belongs, if not
very remote. In the Adelaide district, Mr. Moorhouse has observed, that
there are five stages to be passed through, before the native attains the
rank of a bourka, or full grown man. The first is, that from birth to the
tenth year, when he is initiated into the second, or Wilya kundarti, by
being covered with blood, drawn from the arm of an adult; he is then
allowed to carry a wirri for killing birds, and a small wooden spade
(karko) for digging grubs out of the ground. At from twelve to fourteen,
the third stage is entered, by having the ceremony of circumcision
performed, which takes place in the following manner. Early in the
morning, the boys to be circumcised are seized from behind, and a bandage
is fastened over the eyes of each; they are then led away from the
presence of the women and children to a distance of half a mile, when
they are laid on the ground, and covered with a cloak, or skin, so as not
to see what is passing amongst the adults, who proceed with the ceremony.
Three of them now commence limping, and making a peculiar groaning noise,
until they arrive opposite one of the boys, upon whom they seize. The
individual laid hold of, jumps up, and runs off at full speed, as if he
intended to escape; the three, before occupied in limping and groaning,
run with him to prevent this, and after three or four races, all four run
over the place where the boys are covered up, and the boy, who had been
trying to escape, is caught, and laid down near the other boys, and
covered with dust. He is now supposed to be in a state of enchantment,
from which he is aroused by being lifted up by the ears, at the same time
that loud noises are made into them. All the men now, except the sick,
form themselves into a circle, and keep walking round in single file, the
first individual having a katto, or long stick held down his back. After
a few circles this is given to another; a short rest is taken, and then
the whole party rise, except the sick, the inspired men, or sorcerers,
and those upon whom the operation is to be performed, and proceed to a
short distance, the man with the katto down his back leading. When
assembled, they form into a line, and at word of command commence the
peculiar stamping and groaning, beginning at the far end of the line, and
gradually advancing towards the other. During several rounds of this
noise, they advance at each, a little nearer to the boys, who when they
are very near, have their eyes uncovered that they may see the men
approaching. The first man who held the katto, fastens it in the ground,
and all the others coming up, take hold of it, and fall down into a heap.
The boys are then thrown upon the heap of men, and the operation is
performed by men who are supposed to be inspired, or sorcerers.
Immediately after the operation, the boys are taken away from the
presence of all females, and kept upon a vegetable diet until recovered
from its effects. The head is covered with grease, and red ochre, with a
bandage passed round it, and is ornamented with tufts of feathers. The
Yudna, or pubic covering, is worn by the circumcised for some months
after the operation.

The fourth stage (Wilyaru) is entered about the age of twenty, when the
back, shoulders, arms and chest, are tattooed. He is called ngulte, at
the time of the operation; yellambambettu, when the incisions have begun
to discharge pus; tarkange, when the sores are just healed; mangkauitya,
at the time the cuts begin to rise; and bartamu, when the scars are at
their highest elevation. Each tribe has a distinctive mode of making
their incisions. Some have scars running completely across the chest,
from one axillar to the other, whilst others have merely dotted lines;
some have circles and semicircles formed on the apex of the shoulder,
others small dots only.

The fifth stage is bourka or full man, and is only attained when the
individual is getting grey-headed.

Among the Murray natives and contiguous tribes, instead of the rite of
circumcision, a ceremony called wharepin, is performed upon youths from
fourteen to sixteen. Early in the morning some of the male friends of the
boy about to be operated upon, go behind him to seize him, upon which he
sets off running as hard as he can, as if to escape; but being followed
by his pursuers is soon captured and thrown down; he is then raised up
and surrounded by several natives, who hold him and smear him from head
to foot, with red ochre and grease; during this part of the ceremony, a
band of elderly women, generally the mother and other near relatives,
surround the group, crying or lamenting, and lacerating their thighs and
backs with shells or flints, until the blood streams down. When well
ochred all over, the novice is led away by another native, apart from the
rest of the tribe, or if there are more than one, they stand together
linked hand in hand, and when tired sit down upon bunches of green boughs
brought for that purpose, for they are neither allowed to sit on the
ground, nor to have any clothing on; and when they move about they always
carry a bunch of green boughs in each hand.

They are now ready for the ceremony, which is usually performed by
influential natives of distant tribes, and which generally takes place at
the meetings of these tribes, as in the case of the meeting of the
Moorunde natives, and the Nar-wij-jerook tribe described in Chapter
II.P.220. On that occasion, there were three Moorunde natives to be
operated upon. As soon as the ceremonial of the meeting of the tribes had
been gone through, as already described, the Nar-wij-jerook natives
retired about a hundred yards, and sat down on the ground, the Moorunde
people remaining standing. The three spears which had little nets
attached to them, and which had been brought down by the Nar-wij-jerooks,
were now advanced in front of that tribe, still seated and stuck in a row
in the ground. Three men then got up and seated themselves at the foot of
the three spears, with their legs crossed. Two other natives then went
over to the Moorunde people, to where the three novices stood shaking and
trembling, like criminals waiting for their punishment, seizing them by
the legs and shoulders, and carefully lifting them from the ground, they
carried each in turn, and laid them on their backs at full length upon
green boughs, spread upon the ground in front of the three men sitting by
the spears, so that the head of each rested on the lap of one of the
three. From the moment of their being seized, they resolutely closed
their eyes, and pretended to be in a deep trance until the whole was
over. When all three novices had been laid in their proper position,
cloaks were thrown over them, but leaving the face exposed, and a
Nar-wij-jerook coming to the side of each, carefully lifted up a portion
of the covering and commenced plucking the hair from the pubes. At
intervals, the operators were relieved by others of both sexes, and of
various ages; little children under ten, were sometimes but not
frequently officiating. When all the hair had been pulled out, that
belonging to each native was carefully rolled up in green boughs, the
three lots being put together, and given to one of the wise or inspired
men to be put properly away; bunches of green boughs were now placed
under each arm of the boys as also in their hands, after which several
natives took hold of them, and raised them suddenly and simultaneously to
their feet, whilst a loud gutteral Whaugh was uttered by the other
natives around. They were then disenchanted and the ceremony was over,
but for some time afterwards, the initiated are obliged to sleep away
from the camp, and are not allowed to see the women; their heads and
bodies are kept smeared with red ochre and grease, and tufts of feathers
and kangaroo teeth are worn tied to the hair in front. One of the most
singular circumstances connected with this ceremony, is that the natives
who have officiated never afterwards mention the name of the young men,
nor do the latter ever mention the names of the individuals who have
operated upon them; should the name of either be accidentally mentioned
in the presence of the other, they are greatly annoyed, and at once put
the hand up to the mouth to signify that it must not be spoken. It is
thus often very difficult to find out the names of particular natives,
and strangers would make many mistakes, imagining that they were putting
down the name, when in reality they were marking some phrase, signifying
that his name could not be mentioned by the one applied to. They have no
objection to meet each other after the ceremony, nor do they decline
speaking, but there is this peculiarity in their conduct that if one
gives food, or any thing else to the other, it is either laid on the
ground for him to take, or is given through the intervention of a third
person, in the gentlest and mildest manner possible, whereas to another
native it would be jerked, perhaps much in the same way that a bone is
thrown to a dog. There are other instances in which the names of natives
are never allowed to be spoken, as those of a father or mother-in-law, of
a son-in-law and some cases arising from a connection with each other's
wives. In speaking, therefore, of one another, or introducing persons to
distant natives, a very round about way of describing them has often to
be adopted, yet so intimately are neighbouring tribes acquainted with the
peculiar relations subsisting between the members of each, that there is
rarely any difficulty in comprehending who the individual is that is
alluded to. Among the Adelaide tribes, there is no circumstance but death
that makes them unwilling to mention the name of any of their
acquaintances, and this cause of unwillingness I believe extends equally
all over the continent.

The ceremony of tattooing is practised among the tribes of the Murray and
its neighbourhood with great circumstantial variety. Some are tattooed
all over the back or breast in rows, some only one half of each or of
one, some are only dotted, others have rings or semicircles round the
upper part of the arms and some are tattooed on the belly, etc.

Many tribes I have met with in different parts of Australia, have no
tattooing at all, others are marked on the breast by singular looking
scars, occupying a space of six or eight inches each way upon the chest,
these are called "renditch" in the Murray dialect, and are made by fire;
but I have never been able to obtain any satisfactory information
respecting them. These scars are confined to particular tribes whom I
have only met with occasionally, and for a period which did not allow me
the opportunity of making much inquiry into their origin.

At Encounter Bay, instead of plucking out the hair of the pubes, the
incipient beard is pulled out by the roots, and the youth, as at the
Murray, is smeared from head to foot with red ochre and grease.

Among the females the only ceremony of importance that I am aware of is
that of tattooing the back, a long and very painful operation. [Note 79 at
end of para.] The method of performing the operation is as follows:
the person whose back is to be tattooed is taken out early in the
morning and squatted on the ground with her back towards the operator
(always a male), and her head bent down between the knees of a strong
old woman who is sitting on the ground for that purpose; the back is
thus presented in the best position to the operator, and the girl,
as long as her head is kept firmly in its position, cannot possibly
arise until all is over. The man who performs the ceremony then
commences by taking hold of a fold of the flesh on the girl's right side,
just above the breech, with his left hand, whilst with his right he
holds a piece of flint or shell, and cuts perpendicular gashes an inch
long, three-sixteenths of an inch deep, and about half an inch apart,
in horizontal lines from right to left quite across the back, the rows
being half an inch or three-quarters distant from each other.

[Note 79: Hoc plerumque menstruis jam primum venientibus factum est:
saepe autem puellis propter timorem statum suam celantibus, aut aliqua
alia ex causa, opus quod tempore menstruali fieri prorsus necessarium est,
in proxima differtur.]

This is carried up the whole way from where he commences to the
shoulders, and when freshly done, presents one of the most dreadful
spectacles imaginable, the blood gushes out in torrents, and though
frequently wiped away with grass by some of the women present, is
scarcely removed before the crimson stream flows as profusely as ever.
During the time of the ceremony the mother and other female relations
lament and mourn, whilst they lacerate their bodies with shells. When the
incisions are all made, grass or boughs are warmed at the fire, to wipe
off the blood. The whole scene is most revolting and disgusting; the
ground near where the poor creature sits is saturated with blood, and the
whole back is one mass of coagulated gore. In one case, where I saw this
operation performed upon a girl belonging to the Paritke tribe, she
seemed to suffer much pain. At first, until nearly a row of scars had
been made across the lower part of the back, she bore the operation well,
but as it proceeded, her cries were piteous and unceasing, and before it
was concluded, they became the most heart-rending screams of agony. From
the position in which she was held, however, by the old woman on the
ground (and who, by the way, was her mother,) it was impossible for her
to stir or escape; indeed, had she attempted it, she would probably have
been most cruelly beaten in addition.

The ceremony occupied three-quarters of an hour, but it was two hours
before the wounds had ceased to bleed, and even then, the dried blood was
not washed off. Two kangaroo teeth, and a tuft of emu feathers were tied
to the girl's hair, and she was smeared over with grease and red ochre,
but was still forbidden to touch food until the morning.

Many weeks elapse before the wounds heal, and the inconveniences
attending them are removed.

In another case that I saw, the girl bore the operation most stoically,
until about two-thirds over, when she could stand it no longer, but
screaming out in agony, applied her teeth and nails with such good effect
to the thighs of the old lady who held her down, that the latter was
compelled to release her grasp, and the poor girl got up, vowing she
would not have another incision made. Of course all resistance would have
been futile, or probably have only brought down a fearful chastisement
upon her if she had been alone with her tribe in the bush; but she took
advantage of my presence, and escaped with nearly one-third of the
incisions deficient. At this ceremony many other natives of both sexes,
and of all ages were standing looking on; but so little did they
commiserate the poor creature's sufferings, that the degree of her pain
only seemed to be the measure of their laughter and merriment.

The girls, however, are always anxious to have this ceremony performed,
as a well tattooed back is considered a great addition to their other
charms, and whenever I have offered to protect them from the cruelty of
their tribe for refusing to submit to it, they have invariably preferred
submitting to the operation.

The only other ceremonies undergone by the females, are those of having
the belly or arms tattooed, and of having the hair plucked from the pubes
after the death of a child, and sometimes from other causes.

In the mode of disposing of the dead, and the ceremonials attending it,
there is a difference in almost every tribe. Among the Adelaide natives
as soon as a person dies, a loud wailing cry is raised by the relations
and friends. The body is immediately wrapped up in the skin or clothing
worn during life, and in the course of a day or two, it is placed upon
the wirkatti or bier, which is made of branches crossed so as to form the
radii of a circle, an examination is then entered upon as to the cause of
death, in the following manner. The bier is carried upon the shoulders of
five or six persons, over places where the deceased had been living;
whilst this is going on, a person is placed under the bier, professedly
in conversation with the deceased. He asks, what person killed you? If
the corpse say no one, the inquest ceases; but if it states that some
person has, the bier moves round, the corpse is said to produce the
motion, influenced by kuingo (a fabulous personification of death). If
the alleged murderer be present, the bier is carried round by this
influence, and one of the branches made to touch him. Upon this a battle
is sure to ensue either immediately, or in the course of a day or two.

At the time of burial the body is removed from the bier, and deposited,
with the head to the west, in a grave from four to six feet deep.
Children under four years are not buried for some months after death.
They are carefully wrapped up, carried upon the back of the mother by
day, and used as a pillow by night, until they become quite dry and
mummy-like, after which they are buried, but the ceremony is not known to
Mr. Moorhouse.

In the Encounter Bay neighbourhood, four modes of disposing of the dead
obtain, according to Mr. Meyer:--old persons are buried; middle-aged
persons are placed in a tree, the hands and knees being brought nearly to
the chin, all the openings of the body, as mouth, nose, ears, etc. being
previously sewn up, and the corpse covered with mats, pieces of old
cloth, nets, etc. The corpse being placed in the tree, a fire is made
underneath, around which the friends and relatives of the deceased sit,
and make lamentations. In this situation the body remains, unless removed
by some hostile tribe, until the flesh is completely wasted away, after
which the skull is taken by the nearest relative for a drinking cup.

The third mode is to place the corpse in a sitting posture, without any
covering, the face being turned to the eastward, until dried by the sun,
after which it is placed in a tree. This mode is adopted with those to
whose memory it is intended to shew some respect. The fourth method is to
burn the body; but this is only practised in the case of still-born
children, or such as die shortly after birth.

Another method practised upon Lake Alexandrina, is to construct a
platform [Note 80 at end of para.], or bier upon high poles of pine,
put upright in the ground upon which the body is placed, bandages being
first put round the forehead, and over the eyes, and tied behind. A bone
is stuck through the nose, the fingers are folded in the palm of the hand,
and the fist is tied with nets, the ends of which are fastened about a
yard from the hands; the legs are put crossing each other.

[Note 80: "They often deposit their dead on trees and on scaffolds."
--Catlin's AMERICAN INDIANS, vol. ii. p. 10--vide also vol. i. p. 89]

The lamentations are raised by the natives around, fires are made below,
so that the smoke may ascend over the corpse, and the mourners usually
remain encamped about the place for a great length of time, or until the
body is thoroughly dry, after which they leave it. Mr. Schurman says, "At
Port Lincoln, after the body is put in a grave, and a little earth is
thrown on it; the natives place a number of sticks across its mouth, over
which they spread grass or bushes to prevent the remaining earth from
falling down, so that an empty space of about three feet in depth is left
between the body and the top earth."

At the Flinders river (Gulf of Carpentaria), Captain Stokes observes, "At
the upper part of Flinders river, a corpse was found lodged in the
branches of a tree, some twenty feet high from the ground; it had three
coverings, first, one of bark, then a net, and outside of all a layer of

On the Murray river, and among the contiguous tribes, many differences
occur in the forms of burial adopted by the various tribes. Still-born
children are buried immediately. Infants not weaned are carried about by
the mother for some months, well wrapped up, and when thoroughly dry, are
put into nets or bags, and deposited in the hollows of trees, or buried.
Children and young people are buried as soon as practicable after death,
and a spearing match generally ensues.

Old people are also buried without unnecessary delay. I have even seen a
man in the prime of life all ready placed upon the bier before he was
dead, and the mourners and others waiting to convey him to his long home,
as soon as the breath departed.

In the case of a middle-aged, or an old man, the spearing and fighting
contingent upon a death is always greater than for younger natives. The
burial rites in some tribes assimilate to those practised near Adelaide;
in others I have witnessed the following ceremony:--The grave being dug,
the body was laid out near it, on a triangular bier (birri), stretched
straight on the back, enveloped in cloths and skins, rolled round and
corded close, and with the head to the eastward; around the bier were
many women, relations of the deceased, wailing and lamenting bitterly,
and lacerating their thighs, backs, and breasts, with shells or flint,
until the blood flowed copiously from the gashes. The males of the tribe
were standing around in a circle, with their weapons in their hands, and
the stranger tribes near them, in a similar position, imparting to the
whole a solemn and military kind of appearance. After this had continued
for some time, the male relatives closed in around the bier, the mourning
women renewed their lamentations in a louder tone, and two male relatives
stepped up to the bier, and stood across the body, one at the head, and
one at the foot, facing each other.

Having cut above the abdomen the strings binding the cloths which were
wound round the body, they proceeded to cut a slit of about ten inches
long, through the swathing cloths above the belly; through this opening,
they removed the arms, which appeared to have been crossed there, laying
them down by the sides, inside the wrappings (for no part was unwound);
having warmed a handful of green boughs over a fire, they thrust them in
through the opening in the cloths, upon the naked belly of the corpse;
after a little while these were removed, and one of their sorcerers made
an incision of about eight inches long in the abdomen. Having pulled out
the entrails and peritoneum, they were turned over, and carefully
examined, whilst the women kept wailing and cutting [Note 81 at end
of para.] themselves more violently than before, and even the men
themselves lamented aloud. When this had been continued for some time,
a portion of the omentum was cut off, wrapped in green leaves, and then
put carefully away in a bag. The entrails were now replaced, a handful
or two of green leaves thrust in above them, the cloths replaced, and the
body again bound up ready for interment.

[Note 81: Also an American custom.--Catlin, vol. i. p. 90. Lacerating the
flesh at death was expressly forbidden in the Jewish dispensation. It is
practised also in New Zealand.--Vide Dieffenbach.]

A relative of the deceased now jumped up, with his weapons, violently
excited, and apparently with the intention of spearing some one; but he
was at once restrained by his friends, who informed me that the
investigation had satisfied them that the man had not died through the
agency of sorcery; if he had, it is imagined that a cicatrice would have
been found upon the omentum. Two men now got into the grave, spread a
cloth in the bottom, and over that green boughs. Other natives turned the
bier round, and lifting up the body, gave it to the two in the grave to
lay in its proper position, which was quite horizontal, and with the head
to the west [Note 82 at end of para.], the grave being dug east and west:
green boughs were now thrown thickly into it, and earth was pushed in by
the bystanders with their feet, until a mound had been raised some height
above the ground. All was now over, and the natives began to disperse,
upon which the wild and piercing wail of the mourners became redoubled.

[Note 82: This appears to be a very general custom, and to be of Eastern
origin. Catlin describes it as always being attended to at the disposal
of the dead by the American Indians. In South Africa, however, Moffat
states (p. 307), "that the corpse is put exactly facing the north."]

Upon the mounds, or tumuli, over the graves, huts of bark, or boughs, are
generally erected to shelter the dead from the rain; they are also
frequently wound round with netting. Many graves being usually in one
vicinity, and an elevated dry place being selected, the cemeteries often
present a picturesque appearance. Graves are frequently visited by the
women at intervals, for some months, and at such times the wail is
renewed, and their bodies lacerated as at the interment. At Boga Lake, I
saw a grave with a very neat hut of reeds made over it, surmounted by
netting, and having a long curious serpentine double trench, of a few
inches deep, surrounding it; possibly it might have been the burial place
of the native mentioned by Major Mitchell, as having been shot by his
black, Piper, at that lake.

Nets, but not implements, are sometimes buried with the natives; nor do
the survivors ever like to use a net that has belonged to a man who is

There are not any ceremonies attending the burial of young children; and
the male relatives often neglect to attend at all, leaving it altogether
to the women.

The natives have not much dread of going near to graves, and care little
for keeping them in order, or preventing the bones of their friends from
being scattered on the surface of the earth.

I have frequently seen them handling them, or kicking them with the foot
with great indifference. On one occasion when out with an old native
looking for horses before it was daylight, I came to a grave of no very
old date, and where the boughs and bushes built over in the form of a hut
were still remaining undisturbed; the weather was extremely cold, and the
old man did not hesitate to ask me to pull down the boughs to make a
fire, but would not do it himself.

On another occasion when a poor old woman had been deserted by the
natives of Moorunde, and died a few days after being brought up to the
station, I had great difficulty in getting the other natives to bury her,
they would on no account touch the body; but after digging a hole, they
got a long wiry branch of a tree, and one man taking hold of each end
they bent the middle round the old woman's neck, and thus dragged her
along the ground and threw her into the pit like a dog, all the time
violently and continually spitting out in every direction to ward off, as
they said, the infection.

[Note 83: "He tied a thong to her leg, avoiding the touch of that form
which gave him birth, dragged the corpse to some bushes, and left the
thong because it had been in contact with the body of his mother."
--Moffat's South Africa, p. 306.]

Sometimes it happens that when a death occurs, the nearest grown up male
relative, whose duty it would be to take the principal part in the
ceremonies, or inflict punishment if evil agency is suspected to have
caused the death, may be absent. In this case he would have to discharge
these duties upon the first occasion of his meeting with the supposed
aggressors. The following is an instance which I witnessed.

A relative of Tenberry, one of the principal natives of the Murray, had
died when he was absent, and the son of the deceased was too young to
revenge the sorcery which it was imagined had caused his father's death,
it therefore became Tenberry's duty to do this upon the first occasion
that offered. I was with him when the parties first came into the
neighbourhood, and I witnessed the proceedings. Notice having been sent
by Tenberry the evening before, to warn them to be ready, I accompanied
him early in the morning towards the encampment of the natives, situated
in a hollow near the water; when within about a hundred yards we saw from
the rise all the natives seated below us in the valley. Tenberry now
halted, and having taken a hasty survey of the group hung down his head
upon his breast and raised a low mournful lamentation; after a time it
ceased, and the wail was at once replied to and continued by women's
voices in the camp: he now hastily went down to the camp still uttering
his lamentations, and the whole body rose at his approach, and formed a
large open circle around him. The natives who were supposed to have
caused the death of his friend, formed a part of the circle and were
armed with spears; behind them stood the orphan son of the deceased,
probably in the light of an accuser; and behind the son were the widows,
wailing and lamenting bitterly.

After taking the centre of the circle, Tenberry called for a spear, but
no one offered one, he therefore took a long one from a native in the
ring, who had evidently brought it for that purpose and yielded it
unresistingly. Pacing with this weapon furiously up and down the circle,
he advanced and retreated before the accused, brandishing the spear at
them, and alternately threatening and wailing. No one replied, but the
melancholy dirge was still kept up by the widows in the rear.

After sufficiently exciting himself in this manner for some time, he
advanced with uplifted spear, and successively repeating his blows
speared four or five persons among the accused natives in the left arm,
each of them pushing forward his arm unflinchingly for the blow as he
advanced upon them. Tenberry now again hung down his head and took up his
lamentation for a short time, after which he paced about rapidly,
vehemently haranguing, and violently gesticulating, and concluded by
ordering all the natives present to separate their camps, and each tribe
to make their own apart.

Mourning is performed by the men by cutting their beards [Note 84 at end
of para.] and hair, and daubing the head and breast with a white pigment;
among the women, by cutting and burning the hair close off [Note 85 at
end of para.] to the head and plastering themselves with pipe-clay.
In some cases, hot ashes are put upon the head to singe the hair to
its very roots, and they then literally weep "in dust and ashes." Among
some of the Murray tribes, a mourning cap is worn by the women, made two
or three inches thick of carbonate of lime. It is moulded to the head
when moist around a piece of net work; the weight is eight pounds and
a half. (Pl. 1, fig. 17.)

[Note 84: The custom among the Australians of putting dust or ashes on the
head, of shaving the head, of clipping the beard, and of lacerating the
body at death or in sign of mourning, appears very similar to
the practices among the Israelites in the time of Moses. Vide
Leviticus xix. 27, 28; Leviticus xxi. 5; Jeremiah xiviii. 30, 31, 32;
Revelations xviii. 19, etc.]

[Note 85: The women among the American Indians also cut off the hair
close to the head as a sign of mourning.--Vide Catlin, vol. i.]

The lamentations for the dead do not terminate with the burial;
frequently they are renewed at intervals by the women, during late hours
of the night, or some hours before day-break in the morning. Piercingly
as those cries strike upon the traveller in the lonely woods, if raised
suddenly, or very near him, yet mellowed by distance they are soothing
and pleasing, awakening a train of thoughts and feelings, which, though
sad and solemn, are yet such as the mind sometimes delights to indulge
in. The names of the dead are never repeated by the natives among
themselves, and it is a very difficult matter for a European to get them
to break through this custom, nor will they do it in the presence of
other natives. In cases where the name of a native has been that of some
bird or animal of almost daily recurrence, a new name is given to the
object, and adopted in the language of the tribe. Thus at Moorunde, a
favourite son of the native Tenberry was called Torpool, or the Teal;
upon the child's death the appellation of tilquaitch was given to the
teal, and that of torpool altogether dropped among the Moorunde tribe.

The natives of New Holland, as far as yet can be ascertained, have no
religious belief or ceremonies. A Deity, or great First Cause, can hardly
be said to be acknowledged, and certainly is not worshipped by this
people, who ascribe the creation to very inefficient causes. They state
that some things called themselves into existence, and had the property
of creating others. But upon all subjects of this nature their ideas are
indistinct and indefinite, as they are not naturally a reasoning people,
and by no means given to the investigation of causes or their effects;
hence, if you inquire why they use such and such ceremonies, they reply,
our fathers did so, and we do it; or why they believe so and so, our
fathers told us it was so. [Note 86 at end of para.] They are not fond of
entering upon abstruse subjects, and when they are induced to do it, it is
more than possible, from our imperfect acquaintance with their language,
and total ignorance of the character and bent of their thoughts upon such
points, that we are very likely to misunderstand and misrepresent their
real opinions. It appears to me that different tribes give a different
account of their belief, but all generally so absurd, so vague,
unsatisfactory, and contradictory, that it is impossible at present
to say with any certainty what they really believe, or whether they
have any independent belief at all. Mr. Moorhouse, who has taken
great pains in his inquiries among the natives around Adelaide upon
questions of this nature, states that they believe in a Soul or Spirit
(itpitukutya), separate and distinct altogether from the body, which
at death goes to the west, to a large pit, where the souls of all men go.
When all are dead, the souls will return to their former place of
residence, go to the graves of their forsaken bodies, and inquire,
are these the bodies that we formerly inhabited? The bodies will reply,
"we are not dead, but still living." The souls and bodies will not be
re-united; the former will live in trees during the day, and at night
alight on the ground, and eat grubs, lizards, frogs, and kangaroo rats,
but not vegetable food of any description. The souls are never again
to die, but will remain about the size of a boy eight years old.

[Note 86: "For that practice, they are, as far as I could learn, unable to
give any other reason than that of its being the custom of their
forefathers which they are therefore bound to follow."--Burchell's
Bichuana tribes, vol. ii. p. 531.]

The account given me by some of the natives of the Murray of the origin
of the creation, is, that there are four individuals living up among the
clouds, called Nooreele, a father and his three male children, but there
is no mother. The father is all-powerful, and of benevolent character. He
made the earth, trees, waters, etc., gave names to every thing and place,
placed the natives in their different districts, telling each tribe that
they were to inhabit such and such localities, and were to speak such and
such a language. It is said that he brought the natives originally from
some place over the waters to the eastward. The Nooreele never die, and
the souls (ludko, literally a shadow) of dead natives will go up and join
them in the skies, and will never die again. Other tribes of natives give
an account of a serpent of immense size, and inhabiting high rocky
mountains, which, they say, produced creation by a blow of his tail. But
their ideas and descriptions are too incongruous and unintelligible to
deduce any definite or connected story from them.

All tribes of natives appear to dread evil spirits, having the appearance
of Blacks (called in the Murray dialect Tou, in that of Adelaide Kuinyo).
They fly about at nights through the air, break down branches of trees,
pass simultaneously from one place to another, and attack all natives
that come in their way, dragging such as they can catch after them. Fire
[Note 87 at end of para.] appears to have considerable effect in keeping
these monsters away, and a native will rarely stir a yard by night,
except in moonlight, without carrying a fire-stick. Under any
circumstances they do not like moving about in the dark, and it is with
the greatest difficulty that they are ever induced to go singly from
one station to another, a mile or two distant, after night-fall.
Notwithstanding this dread of they don't know exactly what, the natives
do not let their fears prevent them moving about after dark, if any
object is to be gained, or if several of them are together. By moonlight
they are in the habit of travelling from one place to another, as well as
of going out to hunt opossums.

[Note 87: Fire is produced by the friction of two pieces of wood or
stick--generally the dry flower-stem of the Xanthorrea. The natives,
however, usually carry a lighted piece of wood about with them, and do
not often let it go out.]

Anything that is extraordinary or unusual, is a subject of great dread to
the natives: of this I had a singular instance at Moorunde. In March,
1843, I had a little boy living with me by his father's permission,
whilst the old man went up the river with the other natives to hunt and
fish. On the evening of the 2nd of March a large comet was visible to the
westward, and became brighter and more distinct every succeeding night.
On the 5th I had a visit from the father of the little boy who was living
with me, to demand his son; he had come down the river post haste for
that purpose, as soon as he saw the comet, which he assured me was the
harbinger of all kinds of calamities, and more especially to the white
people. It was to overthrow Adelaide, destroy all Europeans and their
houses, and then taking a course up the Murray, and past the Rufus, do
irreparable damage to whatever or whoever came in its way. It was sent,
he said, by the northern natives, who were powerful sorcerers, and to
revenge the confinement of one of the principal men of their tribe, who
was then in Adelaide gaol, charged with assaulting a shepherd; and he
urged me by all means to hurry off to town as quickly as I could, to
procure the man's release, so that if possible the evil might be averted.
No explanation gave him the least satisfaction, he was in such a state of
apprehension and excitement, and he finally marched off with the little
boy, saying, that although by no means safe even with him, yet he would
be in less danger than if left with me.

All natives of Australia believe in sorcery and witchcraft on the part of
certain of their own tribe, or of others. To enable them to become
sorcerers, certain rites must be undergone, which vary among the
different tribes. Around Adelaide they have at one period to eat the
flesh of young children, and at another that of an old man, but it does
not appear that they partake more than once in their life of each kind.
When initiated, these men possess extensive powers, they can cure or
cause diseases, can produce or dissipate rain [Note 88 at end of para.],
wind, hail, thunder, etc. They have many sacred implements or relics,
which are for the most part carefully kept concealed from the eyes of all,
but especially from the women, such as, pieces of rock crystal, said to
have been extracted by them from individuals who were suffering under
the withering influence of some hostile sorcerers; the pringurru, a sacred
piece of bone (used sometimes for bleeding), etc. The latter, if burned
to ashes in the fire, possesses mortiferous influence over enemies.
If two tribes are at war, and one of either happens to fall sick, it is
believed that the sickness has been produced by a sorcerer of the opposite
tribe, and should the pringurru have been burnt, death must necessarily

[Note 88: Also an American superstition.--Vide Catlin, vol.i.p. 134.
"Sorcerers or rain makers, for both offices are generally assumed by one
individual."--Moffat's South Africa, p. 305.]

As all internal pains are attributed to witchcraft, sorcerers possess the
power of relieving or curing them. Sometimes the mouth is applied to the
surface where the pain is seated, the blood is sucked out, and a bunch of
green leaves applied to the part; besides the blood, which is derived
from the gums of the sorcerer, a bone is sometimes put out of the mouth,
and declared to have been procured from the diseased part; on other
occasions the disease is drawn out in an invisible form, and burnt in the
fire, or thrown into the water; at others the patient is stretched upon
the ground, whilst another person presses with his feet or hands upon the
diseased part, or cold water is sprinkled over, and green leaves used as
before. There are few complaints that the natives do not attempt to cure,
either by charms or by specific applications: of the latter a very
singular one is the appliance personally of the urine from a female--a
very general remedy, and considered a sovereign one for most disorders.
Bandages are often applied round the ankles, legs, arms, wrists, etc.
sufficiently tight to impede circulation; suction is applied to the bites
of snakes, and is also made use of by their doctors in drawing out blood
from the diseased part, a string being tied to the hair, if it be the
head that ails, or to any other part, and the opposite end is put into
the sorcerer's mouth, who then commences sucking and spitting out blood,
which he declares comes from the patient. Blood letting is practised
occasionally to relieve pains in the head, or oppression of the system.
The operation is performed by opening a vein in the arm, with a piece of
rock crystal in the same way as Europeans bleed.

Fractures of the extremities are treated with splints and bandages, as in
Europe. Venereal ulcers are sprinkled with alkaline wood ashes, the
astringent liquid of the nettle bark, or a macerated preparation from a
particular kind of broad-leaved grass. Superficial wounds are left to
themselves, and usually heal without much trouble. Malformations of the
body are attributed to the influence of the stars, caused by the mother
eating forbidden food during pregnancy, or if occurring after birth it is
still caused by the stars, in consequence of forbidden food being eaten.
The teeth of the native are generally regular and very beautiful, indeed,
in their natural state, I have never seen a single instance of decayed
teeth, among them. Among those, however, who have been living near
Europeans for some years past, and whose habits and diet have been
changed from simple to more artificial ones, a great alteration is taking
place in this respect, and symptoms of decaying teeth are beginning to
make their appearance among many.

Among other superstitions of the natives, they believe in the existence
of an individual called in the Murrumbidgee Biam, or the Murray
Biam-baitch-y, who has the form and figure of a black, but is deformed in
the lower extremities, and is always either sitting cross-legged on the
ground, or ferrying about in a canoe.

From him the natives say they derive many of the songs sung at their
dances; he also causes diseases sometimes, and especially one which
indents the face like the effects of small pox. Another evil agency,
dreaded by the natives, is a spirit of the waters, called ngook-wonga, it
causes many diseases to those who go into the waters in unauthorised
places, or at improper times, hence a native is very loth to go into
water he is not accustomed to for the first time.

To counteract the evil effects produced by this spirit, there are persons
particularly devoted to this branch of sorcery, the following is a case
where I saw them exercise their powers. A boy of about fourteen had at
the Murray river been seized with a severe attack of erysipelas in the
lower part of one of his legs, from bathing and remaining in the water
when heated. As this did not get better, it was ascribed to the evil
agency of the Spirit of the Waters; and the Pachwonga or Pachwin were
called in to cure him. They arrived late at night, three in number, and
at once proceeded to the exercise of their duties. As soon as it was seen
that the magicians were coming, the friends of the boy lifted him up, and
carrying him some distance away from the camp, placed him on the ground
by himself, and then ranged themselves in two rows upon either side, in a
sitting posture, but at some distance behind the patient. The three magi
now advanced in the form of a triangle, one leading and the other two
behind, equidistantly apart. They were all painted, carried bunches of
green reeds in their hands, which they kept shaking, and danced [Note 89
at end of para.] with a measured tread, keeping the right foot always in
advance of the other as in a galopade, and singing a low solemn dirge,
which was vehemently beat time to, by the natives behind thumping
on the ground. Upon arriving at the boy, the leading native fell down
on his knees close to him, and took hold of the diseased leg, the
other two still dancing and singing around the patient. In a little
time, one of the two fell down also on his knees on another side
of the boy, leaving the third still dancing and singing around them.
At last he fell down also on his knees in a triangular position
with the others, the boy being in the centre. All three now commenced
blowing, spitting, making curious gurgling kinds of noises, waving
their green bunches of reeds, and pressing forcibly upon the diseased
leg to make the patient give audible indications of the evil spirit
leaving him. After some time, two of the three doctors got up
again, danced and sung around the boy, and then once more assuming their
kneeling positions, recommenced spitting and blowing, waving their
bunches of reeds, and making the same curious noises, but louder than
ever. Their exorcism at last was effectual, the evil spirit, in the shape
of a sharp stone, was extracted from the limb, and driven into the
ground; but it was too dark they said to see it. As soon as this
agreeable news was announced, the friends of the boy came up and hastily
removed him back to the camp, whilst the three doctors assuming the
triangular position, sung and danced round the place where the boy had
been laid, and then advancing in the same form towards the river, keeping
the right foot always in advance, they at last fairly drove the spirit
into the water and relieved the neighbourhood from so troublesome a

[Note 89: "Dancing over him, shaking his frightful rattles, and singing
songs of incantation, in the hopes to cure him by a charm."--Catlin's
North American Indians, vol. i.p. 39.]

It was a long time before I lost a vivid impression of this ceremony; the
still hour of the night, the naked savages, with their fancifully painted
forms, their wild but solemn dirge, their uncouth gestures, and unnatural
noises, all tended to keep up an illusion of an unearthly character, and
contributed to produce a thrilling and imposing effect upon the mind.

At the Murray River, singular looking places are found sometimes, made by
the natives by piling small stones close together, upon their ends in the
ground, in a shape resembling the accompanying diagram, and projecting
four or five inches above the ground. The whole length of the place thus
inclosed, by one which I examined, was eleven yards; at the broad end it
was two yards wide, at the narrow end one. The position of this singular
looking place, was a clear space on the slope of a hill, the narrow end
being the lowest, on in the direction of the river. Inside the line of
stones, the ground was smoothed, and somewhat hollowed. The natives
called it Mooyumbuck, and said it was a place for disenchanting an
individual afflicted with boils. In other places, large heaps of small
loose stones are piled up like small haycocks, but for what purpose I
could never understand. This is done by the young men, and has some
connection probably with their ceremonies or amusements.

In others, singular shaped spaces are inclosed, by serpentine trenches, a
few inches deep, but for what purpose I know not, unless graves have
formerly existed there.

Another practice of the natives, when travelling from one place to
another, is to put stones up in the trees they pass, at different heights
from the ground, to indicate the height of the sun when they passed.
Other natives following, are thus made aware of the hour of the day when
their friends passed particular points. Captain Grey found the same
custom in Western Australia; vol. i. p. 113, he says:--

"I this day again remarked a circumstance, which had before this period
elicited my attention, which was, that we occasionally found fixed on the
boughs of trees, at a considerable height from the ground, pieces of
sandstone, nearly circular in form, about an inch and a half in
thickness, and from four to five in diameter, so that they resembled
small mill-stones. What was the object of thus fashioning, and placing
these stones, I never could conceive, for they are generally in the least
remarkable spots. They cannot point out burial places, for I have made
such minute searches, that in such case I must have found some of the
bones; neither can they indicate any peculiar route through the country,
for two never occur near one another."

The power of sorcery appears always to belong, in a degree, to the aged,
but it is assumed often by the middle aged men. It is no protection to
the possessor, from attack, or injury, on the part of other natives. On
the contrary, the greater the skill of the sorcerer, and the more
extensive his reputation, the more likely is he to be charged with
offences he is unconscious of, and made to pay their penalty. Sorcerers
are not ubiquitous, but have the power of becoming invisible, and can
transport themselves instantaneously to any place they please. Women are
never sorcerers. It is a general belief among almost all the Aborigines,
that Europeans, or white people, are resuscitated natives, who have
changed their colour, and who are supposed to return to the same
localities they had inhabited as black people. The most puzzling point,
however, with this theory, appears to be that they cannot make out how it
is that the returned natives do not know their former friends or
relatives. I have myself often been asked, with seriousness and
earnestness, who, among the Europeans, were their fathers, their mothers,
and their other relatives, and how it is that the dead were so ignorant,
or so forgetful, as not to know their friends when they again returned to
the earth.

One old native informed me, that all blacks, when dead, go up to the
clouds, where they have plenty to eat and drink; fish, birds, and game of
all kinds, with weapons and implements to take them. He then told me,
that occasionally individuals had been up to the clouds, and had come
back, but that such instances were very rare; his own mother, he said,
had been one of the favoured few. Some one from above had let down a
rope, and hauled her up by it; she remained one night, and on her return,
gave a description of what she had seen in a chaunt, or song, which he
sung for me, but of the meaning of which I could make out nothing.

Chapter VI


There is scarcely any point connected with the subject of the Aborigines
of New Holland, upon which it is more difficult to found an opinion, even
approximating to the truth, than that of the aggregate population of the
continent, or the average number of persons to be found in any given
space. Nor will this appear at all surprising, when the character and
habits of the people are taken into consideration. Destitute of any fixed
place of residence, neither cultivating the soil, nor domesticating
animals, they have no pursuits to confine them to any particular
locality, or to cause them to congregate permanently in the same
district. On the contrary, all their habits have an opposite tendency.

The necessity of seeking daily their food as they require it, the fact of
that food not being procurable for any great length of time together in
the same place, and the circumstance that its quality, and abundance, or
the facility of obtaining it, are contingent upon the season of the year,
at which they may visit any particular district, have given to their mode
of life, an unsettled and wandering character.

The casual observer, or the passing traveller, has but little, therefore,
to guide him in his estimate of the population of the country he may be
in. A district that may at one time be thinly inhabited, or even
altogether untenanted, may at another be teeming with population. The
wanderer may at one time be surrounded by hundreds of savages, and at
another, in the same place he may pass on alone and unheeded.

At Lake Victoria, on the Murray, I have seen congregated upwards of six
hundred natives at once, again I have passed through that neighbourhood
and have scarcely seen a single individual; nor does this alone
constitute the difficulty and uncertainty involved in estimating the
numbers of the Aborigines. Such are the silence and stealth with which
all their movements are conducted, so slight a trace is left to indicate
their line of march, and so small a clue by which to detect their
presence, that the stranger finds it impossible to tell from any thing
that he sees, whether he is in their vicinity or not. I have myself often
when travelling, as I imagined in the most retired and solitary recesses
of the forest, been suddenly surprised by the unexpected appearance of
large bodies of natives, without being in the least able to conjecture
whence they had come, or how they obtained the necessaries of life, in
what appeared to me an arid and foodless desert.

Captain Grey has observed in other parts of Australia, the same ingenuity
and stealth manifested by them in either cloaking their movements, or
concealing their presence, until circumstances rendered it in their
opinion no longer necessary to preserve this concealment, vol. i. p. 147,
he says: "Immediately numbers of other natives burst upon my sight, each
tree, each rock, seemed to give forth its black denizen as if by
enchantment; a moment before the most solemn silence pervaded these
woods, we deemed that not a human being moved within miles of us, and now
they rang with savage and ferocious yells, and fierce armed men crowded
around us on every side, bent on our destruction."

Nor is it less difficult to arrive at the number of the population in
those districts which are occupied by Europeans. In some, the native
tribes rarely frequent the stations, in others, portions only of the
different tribes are to be found; some belong to the district and others
not. In all there is a difficulty in ascertaining the exact number of any
tribe, or the precise limits to which their territory extends in every
direction around. Even could these particulars be accurately obtained in
a few localities, they would afford no data for estimating the population
of the whole, as the average number of inhabitants to the square mile,
would always vary according to the character of the country and the
abundance of food.

Upon this subject Captain Grey remarks, vol. ii. p. 246, "I have found the
number of inhabitants to a square mile to vary so much from district to
district, from season to season, and to depend upon so great a variety of
local circumstances, that I am unable to give any computation which I
believe would even nearly approach to truth."

Mr. Moorhouse, who has also paid much attention to this subject, in the
neighbourhood of Adelaide, has arrived at the conclusion, that, in 1843,
there were about sixteen hundred aborigines, in regular or irregular
contact with the Europeans, in the province of South Australia; these he
has classed as follows, viz.:--

In regular contact with Europeans,

Adelaide district  300
Encounter Bay      230
Moorunde           300
Port Lincoln        60
Hutt River          30

In irregular contact with Europeans,

Adelaide            -
Encounter Bay      100
Moorunde           200
Port Lincoln       340
Hutt River          40

or together about 1600.

Taking in the southern districts of South Australia 120 miles from
Adelaide, the northern ones 160, and the eastern one 200. Mr. Moorhouse
estimates that there are altogether only about 3000 natives. This
however, appears to me to be a considerably under-rated number, and I
should rather incline to the opinion, that there are twice as many, if
the Port Lincoln peninsula be added to the limits already mentioned. In
the Port Lincoln district, Mr. Schurman conjectures there are about 400.

On the Murray River, which is, perhaps, the most densely populated part
of the country, I imagine there are, from Moorunde, about three to four
natives to every mile of river, which as it winds very considerably in
its course, would give a large population to the square mile, if only the
valley of the Murray was taken into account.

There are other tribes also frequenting the river occasionally, from the
back scrubs on either side; but as these range through a great extent of
country beyond the valley, and only sometimes come down there on a visit;
I do not include them in the estimate.

At Moorunde itself I have sometimes had from four to five hundred
collected, and among those, only a few, perhaps, from the very remote

At the Rufus and Lake Victoria, I have seen above six hundred together,
where they had no other motive to collect in so large a party, than from
custom, and for the enjoyment of festivity.

Large towns are frequently the centre of meeting for many, and very
distant tribes. The facility of obtaining scraps by begging, small
rewards for trifling jobs of work, donations from the charitable, and a
variety of broken victuals, offal, etc. enable them to collect in large
numbers, and indulge to the uttermost their curiosity in observing the
novelties around them, in meeting strange tribes, and joining them either
in war or festivity, in procuring tools, clothes, etc. to carry back and
barter in their own districts, and for other similar objects. Thus,
Adelaide is nearly always occupied by tribes from one part or other of
the country: on an average, it will support probably six hundred in the
way I have described, though occasionally eight hundred have met there.
The following returns of the numbers who have attended the annual muster
on the Queen's birthday, when bread and beef have been distributed, will
show how the ratio has gone on increasing during the last five years.

In 1840 there were present 283 men, women, and children.
   1841 there were present 374 men, women, and children.
   1842 there were present 400 men, women, and children.
   1843 there were present 450 men, women, and children.
   1844 there were present 793 men, women, and children.

In the Murray district, where it has been customary, since the first
establishment of the post at Moorunde, to issue a certain quantity of
flour once in the month (at the full moon) to every native who chose to
come in to receive it, the increase in attendance has been progressively
going on, viz.

 2 issues in 1841 the average attendance were  52 men, women, and children
12 issues in 1842 the average attendance were  94 men, women, and children
10 issues in 1843 the average attendance were 136 men, women, and children
 9 issues in 1844 the average attendance were 171 men, women, and children

Occasionally nearly 500 natives have been present at these monthly issues
of flour, and the reason that the average attendance is not greater, is,
that immediately after collecting at Moorunde, at the full of the moon,
to receive their flour, from 100 to 300 would usually set off to
Adelaide, where there are so many objects of interest and attraction, and
re-remain there for several months at a time, and especially during the
winter. As fast, too, as one party returned to their own districts,
another would go into town, and thus the average number would be
constantly kept down. A third reason why the musters do not appear so
large as they otherwise would, is that many of the more distant natives
come down at other times than the full moon, and I have then been obliged
to deviate from my usual custom, and issue flour to them at the periods
when they arrived. The number of natives attending such extraordinary
issues do not appear in the periodical returns.

In endeavouring to estimate the numbers and proportions of the sexes, and
children, almost as great a difficulty exists as in that of obtaining
their aggregate numbers. This arises from the fact of the more distant
tribes who visit Europeans stations, frequently leaving their younger
wives, or little children at home, with aged relatives, whilst they
themselves go to a distance. In all the periodical, or regular issues of
flour at the time of full moon, I have accurately kept lists of all who
attended. The gross totals of thirty-three issues are as follows:--

Men      1266
Women    1330
Boys      930
Girls     551
Infants    52

From this it is apparent, first, that the women attending the monthly
meetings at the Murray have been, on the whole, about five and a half per
cent in excess of the men, an extraordinary and unusual circumstance, as
compared with the results obtained at other places. I can only account
for this upon the supposition before given, that when large bodies of
natives leave Moorunde for Adelaide, more men than women go away, and
that consequently a larger proportion of females is left behind. Mr.
Moor-house remarks, upon this point, that he has found the males to
average seventy per cent more than the females, among the Adelaide
tribes. My own observation leads me to the opinion that upon the Murray
the two sexes are as nearly equal in numbers as may be.

Secondly, it would appear, that of the Moorunde issues, the number of
girls attending has been little more than one half that of the boys. This
may, perhaps, arise in some measure from females assuming the duties of
women, and being classed as such, at an age when males would still be
considered as only boys. The principal reason, however, must, as before,
be ascribed to a greater number of girls being left behind by the more
distant tribes when they come to visit Moorunde.

Thirdly, from the list I have given, it seems that to each woman there
would be about 1 1/3 child. Upon this subject Mr. Moorhouse remarks, that
his investigation has led to the conclusion that each woman has, on an
average, five children born (nine being the greatest number known), but
that each mother only rears, upon an average, two; and this I think, upon
the whole, would be a tolerably correct estimate.

There is one point connected with the return I have given, peculiarly
striking, as it shews the comparatively small increase that now appears
to be going on among the more numerous tribes of the Aborigines, I allude
to the fact of there only having been fifty-two young infants among 1330
women. By infants I mean such as had to be carried in the arms, for those
who could walk at all have been classed among the boys and girls.

I have never known a case of twins among the Aborigines, and Mr.
Moorhouse informs me that no case has ever come under his observation;
but Captain Grey found such to occur sometimes in Western Australia. On
the number and proportion of the sexes he observes, that 4.6 seemed to be
the average number of children born to each woman, and that there was one
female to every 1.3 males. With respect to the duration of life among the
Aborigines, Captain Grey says, vol. ii. p. 246-248--"With regard to the
age occasionally attained by the natives, I believe very erroneous ideas
have been prevalent, for so far am I from considering them to be short
lived, that I am certain they frequently attain the age of seventy years
and upwards." "Yet were these instances of longevity contrasted with the
great number of deaths which take place during the period of infancy,
there can be no doubt whatever that the average duration of life amongst
these savage tribes falls far short of that enjoyed by civilized races."

These remarks, as far as my observation has extended, apply to the
natives of New Holland generally. I have frequently met with many
venerable, white-headed men among the Aborigines, who could not, I think,
have been less than eighty years of age, and who yet retained the full
vigour of mind, and the bold, upright, though now wasted form, that had
characterised them in the pride of manhood; but about sixty-five appears
perhaps to be the average age attained by the old.

The second inference is more than borne out by the statement already
recorded, that for every five children born on an average to each mother,
two only are reared, and these subject to all the casualities and dangers
which savage life is exposed to.

[Note 90: This can of course only apply to tribes tolerably well known to
Europeans, and more or less frequently coming in contact with them. Of
tribes in their natural state we can have no accurate data, and but few
passing notes even that are worthy of confidence. Generally I have found
children to be numerous among tribes who have never had intercourse with
Europeans' and it is a well known fact that the increase of numbers in
aboriginal tribes is checked in proportion to the frequency, or the
extent of their communication with Europeans. At Flinders island to which
210 Van Diemen's Land natives were removed from Van Diemen's Land in
1835, this is singularly exemplified. In 1842 Count Strzelecki says, page
353--"And while each family of the interior of New South Wales,
uncontaminated by contact with the whites, swarms with children, those of
Flinders island, had during eight years an accession of only fourteen in

Upon inquiry into the causes which tend to prevent population going on in
an increasing ratio among the natives of Australia, the following appear
to be the most prominent. First, 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 among the younger and favourite women.

Thirdly. Diseases, to which in a savage state young children are
peculiarly liable, such as dysentry, cold, and their consequences, etc.

[Note 91: Huic accedit, ex quo illis sunt immisti Europaei, lues venerea.
Morbum infantibus matres afflant, et ingens multitudo quotannis
inde perit.]

Fourthly. Wars and quarrels, occurring sometimes from the most trivial
circumstances, and often ending in deaths, or wounds that terminate in

The diseases to which the natives are subject, are with the exception of
those induced by artificial living, as gout, rheumatism, etc. very similar
to those which afflict Europeans, the principal being the result of
inflammation, acute, or chronic, arising from exposure to the cold, and
which affects most generally the bronchiae, the lungs, and the pleura.
Phthisis occasionally occurs, as does also erysipelas. Scrofula has been
met with, but very rarely. A disease very similar to the small-pox, and
leaving similar marks upon the face, appears formerly to have been very
prevalent, but I have never met with an existing case, nor has Mr.
Moorhouse ever fallen in with one. It is said to have come from the
eastward originally, and very probably may have been derived in the first
instance from Europeans, and the infection passed along from one tribe to
another: it has not been experienced now for many years.

[Note 92: Ex morbis quos patiuntur ab adventu Europaeorum longe
frequentissima et maxime fatalis est lues venerea. An hic morbus
indigenis, priusquam illis immiscebuntur Europaei erat notus, sciri nunc
minime potest. Ipsi jamdiu ex oriente adductum dicunt, ex quo maxime
probabile videtur, eum, origine prima ex Europa, inde de gente in gentem
per totam poene continentem esse illatam. Neque dubium eum in gentibus iis
quibus non immiscentur Europaei, neque frequentem esse, nec acrem, eorum
autem per immistionem terribilem in modum augescere. Quinetiam ii sunt
indigenarum mores, ut, adveniat modo forma sub pessima morbus, velox et
virulentus qualis nusquam alias illico latissime effluat. Licet bene
sciant hae gentes, hunc, sicut ejus modi alii morbum per contactum
contractum esse illis tamen pestem cujus indies spectantur tantae tamque
terribiles offensiones, vitare minime curae est. Vidi egomet plurimos non
modo aegrotorum in tentoriis otiari, verum etiam foedatus ita secure
induere vestes aut iisdem in stragulis cubare, ac si optima ibi adesset
sanitas. Mihi stationem publicam ponendi causa ad "Morrandi" in mensa
Octobris, 1841, advenienti, occurrebant populi morbis poene liberi
formam atque membra bene formati; postea autem ex frequenti cum oppido
et proximis stationibus commercio, circa Octobrem 1844, morbos quam
maxime horridos contraxerant. Inde eo tempore moribundi erant plurimi,
nonnulli mortui, paucique ex iis, qui frequenter coibant, ex omni aetate
et sexu hujusce pestis formis omnino expertes erant. Apud indigenas
morbus hic eodem fere modo quo apud Europaeos sese ostendere videtur
variis tamen ex causis etiam magis odiosum, eo praesertim quod pustulae
rotundae, magnitudinem fere uncialem habentes, simul in cute exsurgunt.
His gradatim, cum pure effluente, pars media expletur, et inde magis
magisque crescentibus et dispersis corporis universi superficies tabe ac
scabie laborat, quae propinquantibus simul horrorem ac nauseam movent.
Ulcera haec aliquando infra sex vel octo menses ipsa se cohaerent;
plerumque autem incitamentorum et vi causticorum ad locum adhibita infra
hebdomadas tres sanantur. Nec minus apud indigenas quam apud Europaeos,
remedium hujusoe morbi speciale: medicamenta sunt mercurialia, majore
tamen illis cum periculo, tum propter eorum mores, quum quod plerumque
sub dio vivunt, omni absente medicina. Post annum primum aut alterum
morbus evanescit, interdum mortem affert. Semper autem aegrotis miseris
cruciatus maximus et dolores perpetui inde flunt. Moorhousi de morbo hoc
opiniones in paucis a meis experimentis dissident, quum ille num glandem
penis aut inguinis, principio nunquam, glandem autem penis rarissime vel
secundo attingere arbitrabatur. Ego autem et hoc et illud in ripis
Murray fluminis vidi.]

Many natives of deformed persons are occasionally to be met with,
especially in the extremities. I have seen natives tall, and perfect, and
well built in the body and limbs, from the head down to the knees: but
from that point downwards, shrivelled and blighted, presenting but skin
and bone. Many are blind in one eye, some in both; sometimes this appears
the effect of inflammation, or of cataract; at others, it may be the
result of accident. Among those natives inhabiting the sandy drifts along
the western coast, where the sand is always circling about in a perfect
shower, I have no doubt but that many become blind from its effects.

In October, 1839, Mr. Moorhouse found nine inhabitants in two huts to the
south; out of these, five were quite blind, and one had lost one eye;
they were occupied in making nets.

Deaf and dumb persons are not often found among the Aborigines, but I
have met with instances of this kind. One of the most intelligent natives
I ever met with, was a deaf and dumb youth at the Wimmera. From this poor
boy, I could more readily and intelligibly obtain by signs a description
of the country, its character, and localities, than from any native I
ever met with, whose language I was at the time quite unacquainted with.

The blind, or the infirm, are generally well treated, and taken care of
when young, but as soon as they advance in years, or become an impediment
to the movements of the tribe, they are abandoned at once by their
people, and left to perish.

The crimes committed by the natives against Europeans do not bear any
proportion, either numerically, or in magnitude, to their number, as a
people, and the circumstances of their position. When we consider the low
state of morals, or rather, the absence of all moral feeling upon their
part, the little restraint that is placed upon their community, by either
individual authority, or public opinion, the injuries they are smarting
under, and the aggressions they receive, it cannot but be admitted that
they are neither an ill disposed, nor a very vindictive people. The
following are the returns of the convictions of natives in South
Australia for the years 1842 and 1843, viz. :--


OFFENCE.                         1842 1843 1844

Larceny                            2    0    2
Assault with intent to murder      2    0    0
Wilful murder                      0    3    1
Sheep stealing                     1    2    1
Cattle stealing                    0    1    2


Assault                             0   3    3
Breaking windows                    1   0    0
Intoxication                        3   0    0
Injuring park trees                 0   0    2
                                    9   9   11

In the colony of New South Wales, the return of all the trials of the
Aborigines, from 10th February, 1837, to the 24th July, 1843, amounted to
thirty-three cases, and implicated sixty-one individuals. The offences
were chiefly murder and assault, or stealing sheep and cattle. In ten
cases only, out of thirty-three, convictions took place, and nineteen
individuals were sentenced, viz., twelve to death, six to transportation
for ten years, and one to a flogging. [Note 93: For particulars vide
Papers on the Aborigines of Australian Colonies, printed for the House of
Commons, August 9th, 1844.]

Among the natives, but few crimes are committed against each other; in
fact, it would be somewhat difficult to define what their idea of crime
would be, for that which is offensive on the part of another is
considered a virtue in themselves. Accustomed to act upon the impulse of
the moment, and to take summary vengeance for injury, real or imagined,
their worst deeds are but in accordance with their own standard of right,
having no moral sense of what is just or equitable in the abstract, their
only test of propriety must in such cases be, whether they are
numerically, or physically strong enough to brave the vengeance of those
whom they may have provoked, or injured. Custom has, however, from time
immemorial, usurped the place of laws, and with them, perhaps, is even
more binding than they would be. Through custom's irresistible sway has
been forged the chain that binds in iron fetters a people, who might
otherwise be said to be without government or restraint. By it, the young
and the weak are held in willing subjection to the old and the strong.
Superstitious to a degree they are taught from earliest infancy to dread
they know not what evil or punishment, if they infringe upon obligations
they have been told to consider as sacred. All the better feelings and
impulses implanted in the human heart by nature, are trampled upon by
customs, which, as long as they remain unchanged, must for ever prevent
them from rising in the scale of civilization and improvement, or to use
the apt and expressive language of Captain Grey upon this point, vol. ii.
p. 217 :--

"He (the native) is in reality subjected to complex laws, which not only
deprive him of all free agency of thought, but at the same time, by
allowing no scope for the development of intellect, benevolence, or any
other great moral qualification, they necessarily bind him down in a
hopeless state of barbarism, from which it is impossible for him to
emerge, so long as he is enthralled by these customs, which, on the other
hand, are so ingeniously devised as to have a direct tendency to
annihilate any effort that is made to overthrow them."

Those customs regulate all things, the acquisition and disposal of wives,
the treatment of women, of the elders, the acquiescence of the younger
members of a tribe in any measure that may have been decided upon by the
old men, the rules which guide the international intercourse between
different tribes, the certain restrictions or embargoes that are put upon
different kinds of food or at certain ages, the fear of sorcery or
witchcraft if they transgress the orders of the elders, or break through
the ordinances that have been imposed upon them, and many other similar

In their intercourse with each other I have generally found the natives
to speak the truth and act with honesty, and they will usually do the
same with Europeans if on friendly terms with them. In their treatment of
each other, and in the division of food, policy and custom have induced
them to be extremely polite and liberal. Old men are especially well off
in this respect, as the younger people always give them the best and
largest share of everything. Males generally are generous and liberal to
each other in sharing what food they have, but it is not often that the
females participate in the division. When following their usual pursuits
upon the Murray, I have seen the men after an hour or two's fishing with
the nets, sit down and devour all they had caught, without saving
anything for their family or wives, and then hurry about noon to the
camps to share in what had been procured by the women, who usually begin
to return at that hour, with what they have been able to collect.
Favourite kinds of food are also frequently sent as presents from one
male to another, and at other times two parties will meet and exchange
the different kinds they respectively bring. Among the younger people I
have often seen a poor hungry fellow, who had by his skill or
perseverance obtained some small article of food, compelled by the rules
of savage politeness to share out the petty spoil among a group of
expectant sharks around, whilst he whose skill or labour had procured it
dared hardly taste it, and was sure to come in for the smallest share.

Naturally, I do not think they are bloodthirsty; custom or example may
sometimes lead them on to shed blood, but it is usually in accordance
with their prejudices or to gratify the momentary excitement of passion.
With many vices and but few virtues, I do not yet think the Australian
savage is more? vicious in his propensities or more virulent in his
passions than are the larger number of the lower classes of what are
called civilized communities. Well might they retort to our accusations,
the motives and animus by which too many of our countrymen have been
actuated towards them.

I have remarked that as far as my observation has enabled me to judge,
the natives are rarely guilty of offences (which they deem such,) towards
members of their own tribes. There are many acts, however, which
according to our ideas of right and wrong, are acts of the greatest
cruelty and tyranny, which they exercise towards each other, though
sanctioned by custom, and enforced by daily practice. Such are the
cruelties inflicted upon the women, who are looked upon in the light of
slaves, and mercilessly beaten or speared for the most trifling offences.
No one under any circumstances ever attempts to take the part of a
female, and consequently they are maltreated and oppressed in a shocking
degree. Does a native meet a woman in the woods and violate her, he is
not the one made to feel the vengeance of the husband, but the poor
victim whom he has abused. Is there hard or disagreeable work of any kind
to be done--the woman is compelled to do it. Is there a scarcity of food
at the camp when the husband comes home hungry--the wife is punished for
his indolence and inactivity.

[Note 94: In February 1842, Mr. Gouger, then Colonial Secretary at
Adelaide, caused a dog belonging to a native to be shot for some cause or
other I am not acquainted with. The animal had been left by its master in
the charge of his wife, and as soon as he learnt that it was dead, he
speared her for not taking better care of it.]

The complete subserviency of the younger people of both sexes in the
savage community, to the older or leading men, is another very serious
evil they labour under. The force of habit and of traditional custom has
so completely clouded their otherwise quick perceptions, that they
blindly yield to whatever the elders may require of them; they dare not
disobey, they dare not complain of any wrong or indignity they may be
subjected to this has been and will be the greatest bar to their
civilization or improvement until some means are taken to free them from
so degrading a thraldom, and afford that protection from the oppression
of the strong and the old which they so greatly require.

On the Murray river, or amongst the Adelaide natives I am not aware that
any stated punishments are affixed to specific crimes, except that of
spearing in the arm to expiate deaths. Vengeance appears usually to be
summarily executed and on the spot, according to the physical strength or
number of friends of the individual injured; otherwise it is made a cause
of quarrel between tribes, and a battle or disturbance of some kind takes
place. This appears to be one great point of distinction between the
practice of some of the tribes in Southern and Western Australia. Captain
Grey says in reference to the latter place, (vol. ii. p. 243.)

"Any other crime may be compounded for, by the criminal appearing and
submitting himself to the ordeal of having spears thrown at him by all
such persons as conceive themselves to have been aggrieved, or by
permitting spears to be thrust through certain parts of his body; such as
through the thigh, or the calf of the leg, or under the arm. The part
which is to be pierced by a spear, is fixed for all common crimes, and a
native who has incurred this penalty, sometimes quietly holds out his leg
for the injured party to thrust his spear through."

This custom does not appear to hold among the tribes of South Australia,
with whom I have come in contact; but I have often been told by natives
of tribes in New South Wales, that they practised it, although an
instance of the infliction of the punishment never came under my own

Injuries, when once overlooked, are never revenged afterwards. Tribes may
compel members to make restitution, as in the case of stealing a wife;
but I have never known an instance of one of their number being given up
to another tribe, for either punishment or death. Occasionally they have
been induced to give up guilty parties to Europeans; but to effect this,
great personal influence on the part of the person employed is necessary
to ensure success. Though they are always ready to give up or point out
transgressors, if belonging to other tribes than their own.

Chapter VII.


During the last few years much has been done towards an examination and
comparison of the dialects spoken by the aboriginal tribes of Australia
in different portions of the continent. The labours of Mr. Threlkeld, of
Captain Grey, of Messrs. Teichelman and Schurmann, of Mr. Meyer, of Mr.
Schurman, with the occasional notes of visitors and travellers, have done
much to elucidate this subject, and have presented to the world
vocabularies of the Hunter's River and Lake Macquarie districts in New
South Wales; of Swan River and King George's Sound in Western Australia;
of Adelaide, of Encounter Bay, and of Port Lincoln, in South Australia;
besides occasional phrases or scanty manuals of various other dialects
spoken in different districts. From these varied contributions it would
appear that a striking coincidence exists in the personal appearance,
character, customs, traditions, dialects, etc. among the many and remotely
separated tribes scattered over the surface of New Holland. Each of
these, no doubt, varies in many particulars from the others, and so much
so some times, as to lead to the impression that they are essentially
different and distinct. [Note 95 at end of para.] Upon close examination,
however, a sufficient general resemblance is usually found to indicate
that all the tribes have originally sprung from the same race, that
they have gradually spread themselves over the whole continent from
some one given point; which appears, as far as we can infer from
circumstantial evidence, to have been somewhere upon the northern
coast. There are some points of resemblance which, as far as is yet
known, appear to be common to most of the different dialects with
which we are acquainted. Such are, there being no generic terms
as tree, fish, bird, etc., but only specific ones as applied to
each particular variety of tree, fish, bird, etc. The cardinal
numbers, being only carried up to three, there being no degrees
of comparison except by a repetition to indicate intensity, or by a
combination of opposite adjectives, to point out the proportion intended,
and no distinction of genders, if we except an attempt to mark one among
those tribes who give numerical names to their children, according to the
order of their birth, as before mentioned. [Note 96: Chap. IV.
nomenclature.] All parts of speech appear to be subject to inflections,
if we except adverbs, post-fixes, and post-positions. Nouns, adjectives,
pronouns and verbs have all three numbers, singular, dual and plural. The
nominative agent always precedes an active verb. When any new object
is presented to the native, a name is given to it, from some fancied
similarity to some object they already know, or from some peculiar
quality or attribute it may possess; thus, rice is in the Moorunde
dialect called "yeelilee" or "maggots," from an imagined resemblance
between the two objects.

[Note 95: Catlin remarks the existence of a similar number and variety in
the dialects of the American Indians, but appears to think them radically
different from one another.]

The most singular and remarkable fact, connected with the coincidence of
customs or dialect, amongst the Aborigines, is that it exists frequently
to a less degree among tribes living close to one another, than between
those who are more remotely separated. The reason of this apparent
anomaly would seem to be, that those tribes now living near to one
another, and among whom the greatest dissimilarity of language and
customs is found to exist, have originally found their way to the same
neighbourhood by different lines of route, and consequently the greatest
resemblances in language and custom, might naturally be expected to be
met with, (as is in reality the case), not between tribes at present the
nearest to each other, but between those, who although now so far
removed, occupy respectively the opposite extremes of the lines of route
by which one of them had in the first instance crossed over the

Without entering into an elaborate analysis, of either the structure or
radical derivation of the various dialects we are acquainted with, I
shall adduce a few instances in each, of words taken from the
vocabularies I have mentioned before, for King George's Sound, Adelaide,
Encounter Bay, and Port Lincoln, and supply them myself from other
dialects, including those meeting on the Murray or at the Darling, to
shew the degree of similarity that exists in language.

In selecting the examples for comparison, I have taken first the personal
pronouns and numerals, as being the words which usually assimilate more
closely in the different dialects, than any other. Secondly, those words
representing objects which would be common to all tribes, and which from
their continual recurrence, and daily use, might naturally be supposed to
vary the least from each other, if the original language of all were the
same, but which, if radically different in any, render the subject still
more difficult and embarrassing.


[Note: At this point in the book a table appears, which lists
common English words and the equivalent word as taken from the
vocabularies of aborigines from various locations. This table has not
been reproduced in full, however, a few entries are given below.]

English   Western   Adelaide   Encounter   Parnkalla       Aiawong
          Australia            Bay         (Port Lincoln) (Moorundie)

I        Nganya     Ngaii      Ngaape       Ngai, ngatto   Ngappo
Thou     Nginnee    Ninna      Nginte       Ninna          Ngurru
She      Bal        Pa         Kitye        Panna          Nin
We (Ye)  Nganneel   Ngadlu     Ngane        Ngarrinyalbo   Ngenno
They     Balgoon    Parna      Kar          Yardna         Ngau-o
We two   Ngal-li    Ngadli     Ngele        Ngadli         Ngel-lo
You two  Newball    Niwa       Ngurle       Nuwalla        Ngupal
They two Boala      Purla      Kengk        Pudlanbi       Dlau-o
One      Gyne       Kumande    Yammalaitye  Kuma           Meiter
Two      Kardura    Purlaitye  Ning Kaiengg Kuttara        Tang kul
Many     Partanna   Towata     Ruwar        Kulbarri       Neil
Few      Warrang    Kutyonde   --           --             Baupalata

Upon comparison of the different dialects given in the two foregoing
tables, and which comprise an extent of country, embracing fully one half
of the continent of Australia, it will be apparent that a sufficient
degree of resemblance exists to justify the conclusion, that they were
derived from one and the same original. It is true, that in many
respects, there are sometimes even radical differences in some of the
words of various dialects; but as Captain Grey judiciously remarks, if
the comparison in such cases be extended, and the vocabulary of each
enlarged, there will always be found points of resemblance, either in the
dialects compared, or in some intermediate dialect, which will bear out
the conclusion assumed. [Note 97 at end of para.] This view is still
further strengthened, by including in the comparison the weapons, habits,
customs, and traditions, of the various tribes.

[Note 97. I may here refer to a curious mathematical calculation, by
Dr. Thomas Young, to the effect, that if three words coincide in two
different languages, it is ten to one they must be derived in both cases
from some parent language, or introduced in some other manner. "Six words
would give more," he says, "than seventeen hundred to one, and eight near
100,000; so that in these cases, the evidence would be little short of
absolute certainty."--Vestiges of the Creation, p. 302.]

It must be admitted, however, that where the languages spoken by two
tribes, appear to differ greatly, there is no key common to both, or by
which a person understanding one of them thoroughly, could in the least
degree make out the other, although an intimate acquaintance with one
dialect and its construction, would undoubtedly tend to facilitate the
learning of another. A strong illustration of this occurs at Moorunde,
where three dialects meet, varying so much from each other, that no
native of any one of the three tribes, can understand a single word
spoken by the other two, except he has learnt their languages as those of
a foreign people.

The dialects I allude to, are first that of the Murray river, called the
"Aiawong" and which is spoken with slight variations from the Lake
Alexandrina, up to the Darling. Secondly, the "Boraipar," or language of
the natives to the east of the Murray, and which appears in its
variations to branch into that of the south-eastern tribes; and thirdly,
the "Yak-kumban," or dialect spoken by the natives, inhabiting the
country to the north-west and north of the Murray, and which extends
along the range of hills from Mount Bryant to the Darling near Laidley's
Ponds, and forms in its variations the language of the Darling itself;
these tribes meet upon the Murray at Moorunde, and can only communicate
to each other by the intervention of the Aiawong dialect, which the
north-western or south-eastern tribes are compelled to learn, before they
can either communicate with each other, or with the natives of the
Murray, at their common point of rendezvous.

To the tables already given, it is thought desirable to add two of the
dialects, spoken in the country to the eastward of South Australia, and
which were published for the House of Commons, with other papers on the
Aborigines, in August 1844.

[Note: At this point in the book two table appear, with the following
headings. These tables have not been reproduces in this eBook.]



Captain Flinders observed the same difference to exist in various parts
of New Holland, which he visited, and yet that judicious navigator
inclined to the opinion that all the various tribes had originally one
common origin. Vol. ii. p. 213-14, he says,

"I do not know that the language of any two parts of Terra Australis,
however near, has been found to be entirely the same; for even at Botany
Bay, Port Jackson, and Broken Bay, not only the dialect, but many words
are radically different; and this confirms one part of an observation,
the truth of which seems to be generally admitted, that although
similarity of language in two nations proves their origin to be the same,
yet dissimilarity of languages is no proof of the contrary position.

"The language of Caledon Bay (north-west coast) may therefore be totally
different to what is spoken on the east and south coasts, and yet the
inhabitants have one common origin; but I do not think that the language
is absolutely and wholly different, though it certainly was no better
understood by Bongarrco (a Sydney native) than by ourselves. In three
instances I found a similarity. The personal pronoun of Port Jackson,
'Ngia' (I), was used here, and apparently in the same sense. When inquiry
was made after the axe, the natives replied 'yehangeree-py,' making signs
of beating, and py signifies to beat in the Port Jackson language. The
third instance was that of the lad Woga calling to Bongarree in the boat,
which after he had done several times without being answered, he became
angry, and exclaimed Bongarree-gah in a vehement manner, as Bongarree
himself would have done in a similar case."

Captain Grey, in speaking of the Aborigines of New Holland, says (vol.
ii. p. 209),

"One singularity in the dialects spoken by the Aborigines in different
portions of Australia is, that those of districts widely removed from one
another, sometimes assimilate very closely, whilst the dialects spoken in
the intermediate ones differ considerably from either of them. The same
circumstances take place with regard to their rights and customs."

And again, after comparing some of the dialects of South Australia and
New South Wales with those of Western Australia, Captain Grey says (vol.
ii. p. 216),

"Having thus traced the entire coast line of the continent of Australia,
it appears that a language the same in root is spoken throughout this
vast extent of country, and from the general agreement in this, as well
as in personal appearance, rites and ceremonies, we may fairly infer a
community of origin for the Aborigines."

Had we a collected and an authentic account of the dialects, weapons,
habits, customs, and traditions of all the tribes of Australia with whom
Europeans have already been in close or friendly contact, and which, with
very few exceptions, would embrace the circuit of the whole continent, we
should have a mass of valuable and interesting information, that would
enable us, not only to form a probable opinion as to the community of
origin of the various tribes, and the point from which they first
overspread the continent, but also to guide us in conjecturing the routes
which the various offsets have taken from the parent tribe, the places of
contact where they have met from opposite extremities of the continent,
and the gradual change which has taken place in the habits, customs, and
dialects of each.

In the absence of many links necessary to form a connection, we can at
present only surmise conclusions, which otherwise might have been almost
certainly deduced.

Connecting, however, and comparing all the facts with which we are
acquainted, respecting the Aborigines, it appears that there are still
grounds sufficient to hazard the opinion, that it is not improbable that
Australia was first peopled on its north-western coast, between the
parallels of 12 degrees and 16 degrees S. latitude. From whence we might
surmise that three grand divisions had branched out from the parent
tribe, and that from the offsets of these the whole continent had been

The first division appears to have proceeded round the north-western,
western, and south-western coast, as far as the commencement of the Great
Australian Bight. The second, or central one, appears to have crossed the
continent inland, to the southern coast, striking it about the parallel
of 134 degrees E. longitude. The third division seems to have followed
along the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria to its most south-easterly
bight, and then to have turned off by the first practicable line in a
direction towards Fort Bourke, upon the Darling. From these three
divisions various offsets and ramifications would have been made from
time to time as they advanced, so as to overspread and people by degrees
the whole country round their respective lines of march. Each offset
appearing to retain fewer or more of the original habits, customs, etc. of
the parent tribe in proportion to the distance traversed, or its isolated
position, with regard to communication with the tribes occupying the main
line of route of its original division; modified also, perhaps, in some
degree, by the local circumstances of the country through which it may
have spread.

Commencing with the parent tribe, located as I have supposed, first upon
the north-west coast, we find, from the testimony of Captain Flinders and
Dampier, that the male natives of that part of the country, have two
front teeth of the upper jaw knocked out at the age of puberty, and that
they also undergo the rite of circumcision; but it does not appear that
any examination was made with sufficient closeness to ascertain,
whether [Note 98: Vide Note 78.] any other ceremony was conjoined with
that of circumcision. How far these ceremonies extend along the
north-western or western coasts we have no direct evidence, but at
Swan River, King George's Sound, and Cape Arid, both customs are
completely lost, and for the whole of the distance intervening
between these places, and extending fully six hundred miles in
straight line along the coast, the same language is so far spoken,
that a native of King George's Sound, who accompanied me when travelling
from one point to the other, could easily understand, and speak to any
natives we met with. This is, however, an unusual case, nor indeed am I
aware that there is any other part of Australia where the same dialect
continues to be spoken by the Aborigines, with so little variation, for
so great a distance, as in the colony of Western Australia.

Following round the southern coast easterly, the head of the Great Bight
is the first point at which any great change appears to occur, and even
here it is less in the character, language, and weapons of the natives,
than in their ceremonial observances. For the first time the rite of
circumcision is observed, and conjoined with it the still more
extraordinary practice to which I have before alluded. The ceremony of
knocking out the two upper front teeth of boys arrived at the age of
puberty, is not, however, adopted. We have already noticed, that for six
hundred miles to the west and north-west from the Great Bight,
circumcision is unknown. The tribes, therefore, who practise it, cannot
have come from that direction, neither are they likely to have come from
the eastward, for after crossing the head of the Port Lincoln peninsula,
and descending towards Adelaide, we find the rite of circumcision alone
is practised, without any other ceremony in connection with it. Now, in a
change of habits or customs, originating in the wandering, unsettled life
of savages, it is very likely, that many of their original customs may
gradually be dropped or forgotten; but it is scarcely probable, that they
should be again revived by their descendants, after a long period of
oblivion, and when those tribes from whom they more immediately
proceeded, no longer remembered or recognised such ceremonials. By
extending the inquiry still further to the east, the position I have
assumed is more forcibly borne out, for the rite of circumcision itself
then becomes unknown. It is evident, therefore, that the Adelaide or Port
Lincoln natives could not have come along either the eastern or western
coasts, and retained customs that are there quite unknown, neither could
they have come across the country inland, in the direction of the
Darling, for the ceremonies alluded to are equally unknown there. They
must then have crossed almost directly from the north-western coast,
towards the south-eastern extremity of the great Australian Bight. And
from them the Adelaide natives would appear to be a branch or offset.

Returning to the north-west coast, and tracing down the route of the
third division of the parent family, from the south-east Bight of
Carpentaria, towards Fort Bourke upon the Darling, we shall find, that by
far the greatest and most fertile portion of New Holland appears to have
been peopled by it. In its progress, offsets and ramifications would have
branched off in every direction along the various ranges or watercourses
contiguous to the line of route. All the rivers running towards the
eastern coast, together with the Nammoy, the Gwyder, the Castlereagh,
Macquarie, Bogan, Lochlan, Darling, Hume, Goulburn, etc. with their many
branches and tributaries, would each afford so many routes for the
different sub-divisions of the main body, to spread over the varied and
fertile regions of Eastern, South-eastern, and part of Southern
Australia. As tribe separated from tribe, each would retain, in a greater
or less degree, some of the language, habits, or customs of the original
division; but such points of resemblance would naturally again undergo
many changes or modifications, in proportion to the time, distance, or
isolated character of the separation. If we look at the progress of any
two parties of natives, branching off upon different rivers, and trace
them, either upwards or downwards, we shall find, that the further they
went, the more isolated they would become, and the less likely to come
again in contact with each other, or with the original division from
which they separated. We may, therefore, naturally expect a much greater
variety of dialects or customs in a country that is much intersected by
rivers, or ranges, or by any features that tend to produce the isolating
effect that I have described, than in one whose character has no such
tendency; and this in reality we find to be the case. In Western and
South-western Australia, as far as the commencement of the Great Bight,
the features and character of the country appear to be but little
diversified, and here, accordingly, we find the language of the natives
radically the same, and their weapons, customs, and ceremonies very
similar throughout its whole extent; but if, on the other hand, we turn
to Eastern, South-eastern, and part of Southern Australia, we find the
dialects, customs, and weapons of the inhabitants, almost as different as
the country itself is varied by the intersection of ranges and rivers.

The division I have supposed as taking a south-easterly course from the
Gulf of Carpentaria, would appear early to have lost the rite of
circumcision; but to have retained among some of its branches, the
practice of knocking out the front teeth of the upper jaw. Thus, those
who made their way to Port Jackson and to Hunter's River, and to some of
the southern parts of New South Wales, still retained the practice of
knocking out one of the front teeth at the age of puberty; but at
Keppel's, Harvey's, and Glass-House bays, on the north-east coast, at
Twofold bay on the south-east, at Port Phillip on the south, and upon the
rivers Darling and Murray, of the interior, no such rite is practised. It
is clear, therefore, that when the continent was first peopled, the
natives of Sydney or Hunter's River could not have come round the
north-east coast by Keppel's or Harvey's bays, and retained a ceremony
that is there lost; neither could the Murrumbidgee or southern districts
of New South Wales, have been peopled from Port Phillip, or from South
Australia, or by tribes passing up the Murray for the same reason. It is
not demanding too much, therefore, to suppose that the general lines of
route taken by the Aborigines in spreading over the continent of
Australia, have been somewhat analogous to those I have imagined, or that
we can fairly account for any material differences there may be in the
dialects, customs, or weapons of the different tribes, by referring them
to the effect of local circumstances, the length of time that may have
elapsed since separation, or to the isolated position in which they may
have been placed, with regard to that division of the parent tribe from
which they had seceded.

At present our information respecting the customs, habits, weapons and
dialects of the various tribes is too limited and too scattered to enable
us to trace with accuracy the division to which each may have originally
belonged, or the precise route by which it had arrived at its present
location; but I feel quite confident that this may be done with tolerable
certainty, when the particulars I have referred to shall be more
abundantly and correctly recorded.

It is at least a subject of much interest, and one that is well worthy
the attention of the traveller or the philanthropist. No one individual
can hope personally to collect the whole material required; but if each
recorded with fidelity the facts connected with those tribes, with whom
he personally came in contact, a mass of evidence would soon be brought
together that would more than suffice for the purpose required.

Chapter VIII.


Some attempts have been made in nearly all the British Settlements of
Australia to improve the condition of the aboriginal population; the
results have, however, in few cases, met the expectations of the
promoters of the various benevolent schemes that have been entered upon
for the object; nor have the efforts hitherto made succeeded in arresting
that fatal and melancholy effect which contact with civilization seems
ever to produce upon a savage people. It has already been stated, that in
all the colonies we have hitherto established upon the continent, the
Aborigines are gradually decreasing in number, or have already
disappeared in proportion to the time their country has been occupied by
Europeans, or to the number of settlers who have been located upon it.

Of the blighting and exterminating effects produced upon simple and
untutored races, by the advance of civilization upon them, we have many
and painful proofs. History records innumerable instances of nations who
were once numerous and powerful, decaying and disappearing before this
fatal and inexplicable influence; history WILL record, I fear, similar
results for the many nations who are now struggling; alas, how vainly,
against this desolating cause. Year by year, the melancholy and appalling
truth is only the more apparent, and as each new instance multiplies upon
us, it becomes too fatally confirmed, until at last we are almost, in
spite of ourselves, forced to the conviction, that the first appearance
of the white men in any new country, sounds the funeral knell of the
children of the soil. In Africa, in the country of the Bushmen, Mr.
Moffat says--

"I have traversed those regions, in which, according to the testimony of
the farmers, thousands once dwelt, drinking at their own fountains, and
killing their own game; but now, alas, scarcely is a family to be seen!
It is impossible to look over those now uninhabited plains and mountain
glens without feeling the deepest melancholy, whilst the winds moaning in
the vale seem to echo back the sound, 'Where are they?'"

Another author, with reference to the Cape Colony, remarks--

"The number of natives, estimated at the time of the discovery at about
200,000, are stated to have been reduced, or cut off, to the present
population of about 32,000, by a continual system of oppression, which
once begun, never slackened."

Catlin gives a feeling and melancholy account of the decrease of the
North American Indians, [Note 99: Vide Catlin's American Indians,
vol. i. p. 4 and 5, and vol. ii. p. 238.] and similar records might be
adduced of the sad fate of almost every uncivilized people, whose country
has been colonized by Europeans. In Sydney, which is the longest
established of all our possessions in New Holland, it is believed that not
a single native of the original tribes belonging to Port Jackson is now
left alive. [Note 100 at end of para.] Advancing from thence towards the
interior a miserable family or two may be met with, then a few detached
groups of half-starved wretches, dependant upon what they can procure
by begging for their daily sustenance. Still further, the scattered
and diseased remnants [Note 101 at end of para.], of once powerful,
but now decayed tribes are seen interspersed throughout the country,
until at last upon arriving at the more remote regions, where the
blighting and annihilating effects of colonization have not yet
overtaken them, tribes are yet found flourishing in their natural state,
free from that misery and diminution which its presence always brings
upon them.

[Note 100: "In the first year of the settlement of New South Wales, 1788,
Governor Phillip caused the amount of the population of Port Jackson to be
ascertained, by every cove in it being visited by different inspectors at
the same time. The number of natives found in this single harbour was
130, and they had 67 boats. At the same time it was known that many were
in the woods making new canoes. From this and other data, Governor Phillip
estimated the population between Botany Bay and Broken Bay inclusive,
at 1500."--Aboriginal Protection Society's Report, May 1839, p. 13.

In Report of the same Society for July 1839, page 71, Mr. Threlkeld
says--"Of one large tribe in the interior four years ago there were 164
persons--there are now only three individuals alive!!"]

[Note 101: "The whole eastern country, once thickly peopled, may now be
said to be entirely abandoned to the whites, with the exception of some
scattered families in one part, and of a few straggling individuals in
another; and these once so high spirited, so jealous of their independence
and liberty, now treated with contempt and ridicule even by the lowest of
the Europeans; degraded, subdued, confused, awkward, and distrustful, ill
concealing emotions of anger, scorn, and revenge--emaciated and covered
with filthy rags;--these native lords of the soil, more like spectres of
the past than living men, are dragging on a melancholy existence to a yet
more melancholy doom."--STRZELECHI'S N. S. WALES, p.350.]

It is here that the native should be seen to be appreciated, in his
native wilds, where he alone is lord of all around him. To those who have
thus come into communication with the Aborigines, and have witnessed the
fearless courage and proud demeanour which a life of independence and
freedom always inspires, it cannot but be a matter of deep regret to see
them gradually dwindling away and disappearing before the presence of
Europeans. As the ravages of a flood destroy the country through which it
takes its course, and which its deposit ought only to have fertilized,
[Note 102 at end of para.] so the native, who ought to be improved by a
contact with Europeans, is overwhelmed and swept away by their approach.
In Van Diemen's Land the same result has been produced as at Sydney, but
in a more extended and exterminating manner.[Note 103 at end of para.]
There, instead of a few districts, the whole island is depopulated
of its original inhabitants, and only thirty or forty individuals,
the banished remnant of a once numerous people, are now existing as
exiles at Flinders Island, to tell the tale of their expatriation. [Note
104 at end of para.] In Western Australia the same process is gradually
but certainly going on among the tribes most in contact with the
Europeans. In South Australia it is the same; and short as is the time
that this province has been occupied as a British Colony, the results
upon the Aborigines are but too apparent in their diminished numbers, in
the great disproportion that has been produced between the sexes, and in
the large preponderance of deaths over births. A miserably diseased
condition, and the almost total absence of children, are immediate
consequences of this contact with Europeans. The increase or diminution
of the tribes can only be ascertained exactly in the different
districts, by their being regularly mustered, and lists kept of the
numbers and proportion of the sexes, births, deaths, etc.

[Note 102: "Hard indeed is the fate of the children of the soil,
and one of the darkest enigmas of life lies in the degradation and
decay wrought by the very civilization which should succour, teach,
and improve."--ATHENAEUM.]

[Note 103: "That the Aboriginal Tasmanian was naturally mild and
inoffensive in disposition, appears to be beyond doubt. A worm, however,
will turn, and the atrocities which were perpetrated against these
unoffending creatures may well palliate the indiscriminate, though
heart-rending slaughter they entailed. Such was the character of the
Tasmanian native before roused by oppression, and ere a continued
and systematic hostility had arisen between the races--ere 'their
hand was against every man, and every man's hand against them.'"

[Note 104: "At the epoch of their deportation, in 1835, the number of the
natives amounted to 210. Visited by me in 1842, that is, after the
interval of seven years, they mustered only fifty-four individuals."

Respecting the Aborigines of Van Diemen's Land, who were thus forcibly
removed, Mr. Chief Protector Robinson (who removed them) observes
(Parliamentary Report, p. 198), "When the natives were all assembled
at Flinders Island, in 1835, I took charge of them, and have continued
to do so ever since. I did not find them retaining that ferocious
character which they displayed in their own country; they shewed
no hostility, nor even hostile recollection towards the whites.
Unquestionably these natives assembled on the island were the same who
had been engaged in the outrages I have spoken of; many of them, before
they were removed, pointed out to me the spots where murders and other
acts of violence had been committed; they made no secret of
acknowledging their participation in such acts, and only considered them
a just retaliation for wrongs done to them or their progenitors. On
removal to the island they appeared to forget all these facts; they
could not of course fail to remember them, but they never recurred to

In April, 1843, or only six and a half years after South Australia had
first been occupied, the Protector of the Aborigines in Adelaide
ascertained that the tribes, properly belonging to that neighbourhood,
consisted of 150 individuals, in the following proportions, namely, 70
men, 39 women, and 41 children. Now, at the Murray, among a large number
of natives who, until 1842, were comparatively isolated from Europeans,
and among whom are frequently many different tribes, I found by an
accurate muster every month at Moorunde for a period of three years, that
the women, on an average, were equally numerous with the men, from which
I infer that such is usually the case in their original and natural
state. Taking this for granted, and comparing it with the proportions of
the Adelaide tribe, as given above, we shall find that in six years and a
half the females had diminished from an equality with the males, to from
70 to 80 per cent. less, and of course the tribe must have sustained also
a corresponding diminution with respect to children.

[Note 105: This result seems to be generally borne out by the few accurate
returns that have hitherto been made on the subject. In Mr. Protector
Parker's report for his district, to the north-west of Port Phillip (for
January, 1843), that gentleman gives a census of 375 male natives, and 295
female, which gives an excess of about 26 per cent. of males over females.
In 1834 Mr. Commissioner Lambie gives a census, for the district of
Manero, of 416 males and 321 females, or an excess of the former over the
latter of nearly 45 per cent. It would appear that the disproportion of
the sexes increases in a ratio corresponding to the length of time a
district has been occupied by settlers and their stock, and to the density
of the European population residing in it. Official returns for four
divisions of the Colony of New South Wales, give a decrease of the
proportion of females to males of fifteen per cent. in two years. Vide
Aborigines Protection Society Report, July, 1839, p. 69. In the same
Report, p. 70, Mr. Threlkeld states, that the Official Report for one
district gives only two women to 28 men, two boys, and no girls.]

Again, in 1844, the Protector ascertained from the records he had kept
that, in the same tribe, there were, in four years, twenty-seven births
and FIFTY deaths, which shews, beyond all doubt, the gradual but certain
destruction that was going on among the tribe. If no means can be adopted
to check the evil, it must eventually lead to their total extermination.

By comparing the twenty-seven births in four years with the number of
women, thirty-nine, it appears that there would be annually only one
child born among every six women: a result as unnatural as it is
evidently attributable to the increased prostitution that has taken
place, with regard both to Europeans and other native tribes, whom
curiosity has attracted to the town, but whom the Adelaide tribe were not
in the habit of meeting at all, or, at least, not in such familiar
intercourse prior to the arrival of the white people. This single cause,
with the diseases and miseries which it entails upon the Aborigines, is
quite sufficient to account for the paucity of births, and the additional
number of deaths that now occur among them.

In the Moorunde statistics, given Chapter VI., the very small number of
infants compared with the number of women is still more strongly
illustrated; but in this case only those infants that lived and were
brought up by their mothers to the monthly musters were marked down; many
other births had, doubtless, taken place, where the children had died, or
been killed, but of which no notice is taken, as it would have been
impossible under the circumstances of such a mixture of tribes, and their
constantly changing their localities, to have obtained an accurate
account of all.

Under the circumstances of our intercourse with the Aborigines as at
present constituted, the same causes which produced so exterminating an
effect in Sydney and other places, are still going on in all parts of
Australia occupied by Europeans, and must eventually lead to the same
result, if no controlling measures can be adopted to prevent it.

Many attempts, upon a limited scale, have already been made in all the
colonies, but none have in the least degree tended to check the gradual
but certain extinction that is menacing this ill-fated people; nor is it
in my recollection that throughout the whole length and breadth of New
Holland, a single real or permanent convert to Christianity has yet been
made amongst them, by any of the missionaries engaged in their
instruction, many of whom have been labouring hopelessly for many years.

In New South Wales, one of the oldest and longest established missions in
Australia was given up by the Rev. Mr. Threlkeld, after the fruitless
devotion of many years of toil. [Note 106 at end of para.] Neither have
the efforts hitherto made to improve the physical circumstances or social
relations of the Aborigines been attended with any better success. None
have yet been induced permanently to adopt our customs, or completely to
give up their wandering habits, or to settle down fixedly in one place,
and by cultivating the ground, supply themselves with the comforts and
luxuries of life. It is not that the New Hollander is not as apt and
intelligent as the men of any other race, or that his capacity for
receiving instruction, or appreciating enjoyment is less; on the contrary,
we have the fullest and most ample testimony from all who have been
brought much into contact with this people that the very contrary is the
case: a testimony that is completely borne out by the many instances on
record, of the quickness with which natives have learned our language, or
the facility with which temporarily they have accommodated themselves to
our habits and customs.

[Note 106: Vide Parliamentary Reports on Australian Aborigines, 9th of
August, 1844, pages 160 and 161.--"In submitting to this decision, it is
impossible not to feel considerable disappointment to the expectations
formerly hoped to be realized in the conversion of some at least of the
Aborigines in this part of the colony, and not to express concern that so
many years of constant attention appear to have been fruitlessly
expended. It is however, perfectly apparent that the termination of the
mission has arisen solely from the Aborigines becoming extinct in these
districts, and the very few that remain elsewhere are so scattered, that
it is impossible to congregate them for instruction; and when seen in the
towns, they are generally unfit to engage in profitable conversation. The
thousands of Aborigines, if ever they did exist in these parts, decreased
to hundreds, the hundreds have lessened to tens, and the tens will
dwindle to units before a very few years will have passed away."

"This mission to the Aborigines has ceased to exist, not from want of
support from the British Government, nor from the inclination of the
agent, but purely from the Aborigines themselves becoming extinct in these
parts; and in leaving this scene of much solitariness, privation, and
trial, it is earnestly hoped that He who fixes the bounds of our
habitation, apparently in Sydney for a season, will guide our feet through
life to his glory, and provide support for a numerous family, so that the
'ministry be not blamed.'"]

On the natural intelligence of the native children, Mr. Moorhouse
remarks, after several years practical experience:--

"They are as apt as European children so far as they have been tried, but
they have not been put to abstract reasoning. Their perceptive powers are
large, as they are much exercised in procuring food, etc. Anything
requiring perception only is readily mastered, the alphabet will be known
in a few lessons; figures are soon recognised, and the quantities they
represent, but addition from figures alone always presents difficulties
for a while, but in a little time, however, it is understood."

Upon the same subject, Captain Grey remarks, vol. ii. p. 374.

"They are as apt and intelligent as any other race of men I am acquainted
with; they are subject to the same affections, appetites, and passions as
other men."

Innumerable cases might be adduced, where native boys, or young men, and
sometimes even females, have been taken into the employment of the
settlers, and have lived with them as active and useful servants for many
months, and occasionally even years. Unfortunately, however, in all such
cases, they have eventually returned again to their savage life, and
given up the customs and habits they had assumed. The same result has
occurred among the many children who have been educated at the various
schools established for their instruction, in the different Colonies.
Numerous examples might be given of the great degree of proficiency made;
and often, of many of the scholars being in such a state of forwardness
and improvement, as reasonably to sanction the expectation, that they
might one day become useful and intelligent members of the community:
this hope has, however, hitherto, in almost every instance, been sooner
or later disappointed, and they have again descended from the civilized
to the savage state. What can be the causes then, that have operated to
produce such unfavourable results?

If we admit, and it is admitted by all whose experience best qualifies
them to give an opinion, that the Australian is fully equal in natural
powers and intelligence, to the generality of mankind; it is very
evident, that where so little success has hitherto attended any attempts
to improve him, either morally or socially, there must either be some
radical defects in the systems adopted, or some strongly counteracting
causes to destroy their efficiency. I believe, that to both these
circumstances, may be traced the results produced.

The following remarks, by Captain Grey, upon this subject, point out some
of the evils to which the natives are subject, and in a great degree,
account for the preference they appear to give to their own wild life and
habits. (Vol. 2. pp. 367 to 371.) He says:--

"If we inquire into the causes which tend to detain them in their present
depressed condition, we shall find that the chief one is--'prejudice' The
Australians have been most unfairly represented as a very inferior race,
in fact as one occupying a scale in the creation which nearly places them
on a level with the brutes, and some years must elapse, ere a prejudice
so firmly rooted as this can be altogether eradicated, but certainly a
more unfounded one never had possession of the public mind.

"Amongst the evils which the natives suffer in their present position,
one is an uncertain and irregular demand for their labour, that is to
say, they may one day have plenty of means for exerting their industry
afforded them by the settlers, and the next their services are not
required; so that they are necessarily compelled to have recourse to
their former irregular and wandering habits.

"Another is the very insufficient reward for the services they render. As
an example of this kind, I will state the instance of a man who worked
during the whole season, as hard and as well as any white man, at getting
in the harvest for some setlers, and who only received bread, and
sixpence a day, whilst the ordinary labourers would earn at least fifteen
shillings. In many instances, they only receive a scanty allowance of
food, so much so, that some settlers have told me that the natives left
them because they had not enough to eat.

"The evil consequence of this is, that a native finding he can gain as
much by the combined methods of hunting and begging, as he can by
working, naturally prefers the former and much more attractive mode of
procuring subsistence, to the latter one.

"Many of the natives have not only a good idea of the value of money, but
even hoard it up for some particular purpose; several of them have shewn
me their little treasure of a few shillings, and have told me it was
their intention to save more until they had enough to buy a horse, a gun,
or some wished-for article, but their improvidence has always got the
better of their thriftiness, and this sum has eventually been spent in
treating their friends to bread and rice.

"Another evil is the very extraordinary position in which they are placed
with regard to two distinct sets of laws; that is they are allowed to
exercise their own laws upon one another, and are again held amenable to
British law where British subjects are concerned. Thus no protection is
afforded them by the British law against the violence or cruelty of one
of their own race, and the law has only been hitherto known to them as
the means of punishment, but never as a code from which they can claim
protection or benefit.

"The following instances will prove my assertion: In the month of October
1838, I saw early one morning some natives in the public street in Perth,
in the act of murdering a native woman, close to the store of the Messrs.
Habgood: many Europeans were present, amongst others a constable; but
there was no interference on their part until eventually the life of the
woman was saved by the courage of Mr. Brown, a gardener in Perth, who
rushed in amongst the natives, and knocked down the man who was holding
her; she then escaped into the house of the Messrs. Habgood, who treated
the poor creature with the utmost humanity. She was, however, wounded in
several places in the most severe and ghastly manner.

"A letter I received from Mr. A. Bussel, (a settler in the southern part
of the colony,) in May, 1839, shews that the same scenes are enacted all
over it. In this case, their cow-keeper, (the native whose burial is
narrated at p. 330,) was speared by the others. He was at the time the
hired servant of Europeans, performing daily a stated service for them;
yet they slew him in open day-light, without any cause of provocation
being given by him.

"Again, in October, 1838, the sister of a settler in the northern
district, told me that shortly before this period, she had, as a female
servant, a most interesting little native girl, not more than ten or
eleven years of age. This girl had just learned all the duties belonging
to her employment, and was regarded in the family as a most useful
servant, when some native, from a spirit of revenge, murdered this
inoffensive child in the most barbarous manner, close to the house; her
screams were actually heard by the Europeans under whose protection, and
in whose service she was living, but they were not in time to save her
life. This same native had been guilty of many other barbarous murders,
one of which he had committed in the district of the Upper Swan, in the
actual presence of Europeans. In June, 1839, he was still at large,
unmolested, even occasionally visiting Perth.

"Their fondness for the bush and the habits of savage life, is fixed and
perpetuated by the immense boundary placed by circumstances between
themselves and the whites, which no exertions on their part can overpass,
and they consequently relapse into a state of hopeless passive

"I will state a remarkable instance of this:--The officers of the Beagle
took away with them a native of the name of Miago, who remained absent
with them for several months. I saw him on the North-west coast, on board
the Beagle, apparently perfectly civilized; he waited at the gun-room
mess, was temperate (never tasting spirits), attentive, cheerful, and
remarkably clean in his person. The next time I saw him was at Swan
River, where he had been left on the return of the Beagle. He was then
again a savage, almost naked, painted all over, and had been concerned in
several murders. Several persons here told me,--"you see the taste for a
savage life was strong in him, and he took to the bush again directly."
Let us pause for a moment and consider.

"Miago, when he was landed, had amongst the white people none who would
be truly friends of his,--they would give him scraps from their table,
but the very outcasts of the whites would not have treated him as an
equal,--they had no sympathy with him,--he could not have married a white
woman,--he had no certain means of subsistence open to him,--he never
could have been either a husband or a father, if he had lived apart from
his own people;--where, amongst the whites, was he to find one who would
have filled for him the place of his black mother, whom he is much
attached to?--what white man would have been his brother?--what white
woman his sister? He had two courses left open to him,--he could either
have renounced all natural ties, and have led a hopeless, joyless life
amongst the whites,--ever a servant,--ever an inferior being;--or he
could renounce civilization, and return to the friends of his childhood,
and to the habits of his youth. He chose the latter course, and I think
that I should have done the same."

Such are a few of the disadvantages the natives have to contend with, if
they try to assimilate in their life and habits to Europeans, nor is
there one here enumerated, of which repeated instances have not come
under my own observation. If to these be added, the natural ties of
consanguinity, the authority of parents, the influence of the example of
relatives and friends, and the seducing attraction which their own habits
and customs hold out to the young of both sexes; first, by their offering
a life of idleness and freedom, to a people naturally indolent and
impatient of restraint; and secondly, by their pandering to their natural
passions: we shall no longer wonder that so little has been effected
towards ameliorating their condition, or inducing them to adopt habits
and customs that deprive them of those indulgences.

In New South Wales and Port Phillip, the Government have made many
efforts in behalf of the Aborigines; for a series of years past, and at
present, the sum of about ten thousand pounds, is annually placed upon
the estimates, towards defraying the salaries of a Chief Protector, and
several subordinate ones, and for other expenses connected with the

[Note: Not included in thei eBook, Table on pages 428-9: ABSTRACT

In Western Australia a sum of money is also devoted annually towards
defraying the salaries of two Protectors, and other expenses connected
with the department.

I am not, however, personally aware, what the particular arrangements may
be that have latterly been adopted in either of these colonies, for the
benefit of the Aborigines, or the degree of success which may have
attended them. I believe, however, that in both places, more has been
attempted, within the last three or four years, than had ever been the
case before. What the eventual result may be it is impossible to tell,
but with the past experience before me, I cannot persuade myself, that
any real or permanent good will ever be effected, until the influence
exercised over the young by the adults be destroyed, and they are freed
from the contagious effects of their example, and until means are
afforded them of supporting themselves in a new condition, and of forming
those social ties and connections in an improved state, which they must
otherwise be driven to seek for among the savage hordes, from which it is
attempted to reclaim them.

In South Australia many efforts have been made in behalf of the
Aborigines, and an anxious desire for their welfare has frequently been
exhibited on the part of the Government, and of many of the colonists.
For the year 1845 the sum of 820 pounds is noted in the estimates for the
Aboriginal Department. This sum is distributed as follows:--

Salary of Protector                      300 pounds
Master of Native School at Walkerville   100
Matron of School at Native Location       20
Provisions                               150
Donation to Lutheran Mission             100
Miscellaneous                            150
Total                                    820 pounds

There are three native schools established in the province. The first is
that at the native location in the town of Adelaide, commenced in
December, 1839, by Mr. Klose, one of the Dresden missionaries. The
average attendance of children has been about sixteen, all of whom have
latterly been lodged as well as fed at the school. The progress made by
the children may be stated to have been as follows: on the 16th February,

14 were able to read polysyllables.
2 were able to read monosyllables.
2 could repeat the cardinal numbers.
14 were in addition.
3 in subtraction.
9 in multiplication.
2 in division.

Most of the children could repeat the Lord's Prayer and Commandments, and
they were able to narrate the history of the Creation, the fall of our
first parents, and other portions of the Old and New Testament. A few
were able to write these subjects to dictation. In geography many of the
scholars knew the ordinary divisions of the earth, its shape, diameter,
circumference, and the names of the continents, oceans, seas, gulfs, etc.
etc. together with the general description of the inhabitants of each
part, as to colour, etc. Of the girls, fourteen had been taught to sew,
and have made upwards of fifty garments for themselves, besides several
shirts for Europeans.

Mr. Klose receives as salary 33 pounds per annum from the Government, and
a remittance from his society at Dresden. The matron of the establishment
also receives 20 pounds from the Government. The average expense of
provisions for each child per week, amounts to two shillings and ten
pence. The cost of clothing each child per year is 2 pounds. Until very
recently this school was taught in the native language; but English is
now adopted, except in lecturing from Scripture, when the native language
is still retained.

At Walkerville, about one mile from North Adelaide, another school has
been established under the superintendence of Mr. Smith, since May, 1844.
Up to October of the same year the average attendance of children had
been sixty-three. In that short time the progress had been very
satisfactory; all the children had passed from the alphabetical to the
monosyllabic class, and most had mastered the multiplication table;
eighteen could write upon the slate, and six upon paper; twelve girls had
commenced sewing, and were making satisfactory progress.

They go four times in the week to the council chamber to be instructed by
gratuitous teachers. On Sunday evening service is performed according to
the Church of England by Mr. Fleming, and the children are said to be
attentive and well-behaved. The Methodists of the New Connection have
them also under spiritual instruction in the morning and afternoon of
each Sabbath, assisted by persons of other religious denominations.

All instruction is given in English; their food is cooked by the elder
children, (who also provide the firewood,) and distributed by themselves
under the master's eye The cook is said to take good care of himself, and
certainly his appearance does not belie the insinuation, for he is by far
the fattest boy in the lot. The school building is a plain, low cottage,
containing a school-room, a sleeping-room for the male children, another
for the female, and apartments for the master and mistress. There is also
an old out-building attached, where the children perform their ablutions
in wet weather. Mr. and Mrs. Smith receive 100 pounds per annum from the
Colonial Government for their services. The children of this school have
not yet been generally provided with other clothing than a small blanket
each. The third school was only just commenced at Encounter Bay, where it
has been established through the influence and exertions of Mr. Meyer,
one of the missionaries. The Government give 20 pounds per annum, and the
settlers of the neighbourhood 100 bushels of wheat, and some mutton. Six
or eight children are expected to be lodged and boarded at this school,
with the means at present existing.

Besides the establishment of schools, there is a Protector resident in
Adelaide to take the management of the aboriginal department, to afford
medical assistance and provisions to such of the aged or diseased as
choose to apply for them, and to remunerate any natives who may render
services to the Government, or the Protectorate. At Moorunde, upon the
Murray, the natives are mustered once a month by the Resident magistrate,
and two pounds and a half of flour issued to each native who chooses to
attend. This is occasionally done at Port Lincoln, and has had a very
beneficial effect. Once in the year, on the Queen's birthday, a few
blankets are distributed to some of the Aborigines at Adelaide, Moorunde,
Encounter Bay, and Port Lincoln, amounting in all to about 300. Four
natives are also provisioned by the Government as attaches to the police
force at different out-stations, and are in many respects very useful.

Exclusive of the Government exertions in behalf of the Aborigines, there
are in the province four missionaries from the Lutheran Missionary
Society at Dresden, two of whom landed in October 1838, and two in August
1840. Of these one is stationed at the native location, and (as has
already been stated) acts as schoolmaster. A second is living twelve
miles from Adelaide, upon a section of land, bought by the Dresden
Society, with the object of endeavouring to settle the natives, and
inducing them to build houses upon the property, but the plan seems
altogether a failure. It was commenced in November 1842, but up to
November 1844 natives had only been four months at the place; and on one
occasion a period of nine months elapsed, without their ever visiting it
at all, although frequently located at other places in the neighbourhood.

A third missionary is stationed at Encounter Bay, and is now conducting a
school, mainly established through his own exertions and influence.

The fourth is stationed at Port Lincoln. All the four missionaries have
learned the dialects of the tribes where they are stationed, and three
have published vocabularies and grammars as the proof of their industry.

Such is the general outline of the efforts that have hitherto been made
in South Australia, and the progress made. It may be well to inquire,
what are likely to be the results eventually under the existing
arrangements. From the first establishment of the schools, until June
1843, the children were only instructed at the location, their food was
given to them to take to the native encampments to cook, and they were
allowed to sleep there at night. The natural consequence was, that the
provisions intended for the sonolars were shared by the other natives,
whilst the evil influence of example, and the jeers of their companions,
did away with any good impression produced by their instruction. I have
myself, upon going round the encampments in Adelaide by night, seen the
school-children ridiculed by the elder boys, and induced to join them in
making a jest of what they had been taught during the day to look upon as

A still more serious evil, resulting from this system was, that the
children were more completely brought into the power, and under the
influence of the parents, and thus their natural taste for an indolent
and rambling life, was constantly kept up. The boys naturally became
anxious to participate and excel in the sports, ceremonies, or pursuits
of their equals, and the girls were compelled to yield to the customs of
their tribe, and break through every lesson of decency or morality, which
had been inculcated.

Since June, 1843, the system has so far been altered, that the children,
whilst under instruction, are boarded and lodged at the school houses,
and as far as practicable, the boys and girls are kept separate. There
are still, however, many evils attending the present practice, most of
which arise from the inadequacy of the funds, applicable to the
Aborigines, and which must be removed before any permanent good can be
expected from the instruction given. The first of these, and perhaps one
of the greatest, is that the adult natives make their encampments
immediately in the neighbourhood of the schools, whilst the children,
when out of school, roam in a great measure at will, or are often
employed collecting firewood, etc. about the park lands, a place almost
constantly occupied by the grown up natives, there is consequently nearly
as much intercourse between the school children and the other natives,
and as great an influence exercised over them by the parents and elders,
as if they were still allowed to frequent the camps.

Another evil is, that no inducement is held out to the parents, to put
their children to school, or to allow them to remain there. They cannot
comprehend the advantage of having their children clothed, fed, or
educated, whilst they lose their services; on the contrary, they find
that all the instruction, advice, or influence of the European, tends to
undermine among the children their own customs and authority, and that
when compelled to enforce these upon them, they themselves incur the
odium of the white men. Independently, however, of this consideration,
and of the natural desire of a parent to have his family about him, he is
in reality a loser by their absence, for in many of the methods adopted
for hunting, fishing, or similar pursuits, the services even of young
children are often very important. For the deprivation of these, which he
suffers when his children are at school, he receives no equivalent, and
it is no wonder therefore, that by far the great majority of natives
would prefer keeping their children to travel with them, and assist in
hunting or fishing. It is a rare occurrence, for parents to send, or even
willingly [Note 107 at end of para.] to permit their children to go to
school, and the masters have consequently to go round the native
encampments to collect and bring away the children against their wishes.
This is tacitly submitted to at the time, but whenever the parents
remove to another locality, the children are informed of it, and at
once run away to join them; so that the good that has been done in school,
is much more rapidly undone at the native camp. I have often heard the
parents complain indignantly of their children being thus taken; and
one old man who had been so treated, but whose children had run away
and joined him again, used vehemently to declare, that if taken any more,
he would steal some European children instead, and take them into the
bush to teach them; he said he could learn them something useful,
to make weapons and nets, to hunt, or to fish, but what good did the
Europeans communicate to his children?

[Note 107: "Mr. Gunter expressed very decidedly his opinion, that the
blacks do not like Mr. Watson, and that they especially do not like him,
have some children under his care, IF HE COULD PROCURE THEM BY PROPER
MEANS."--Memorandum respecting Wellington Valley, by Sir G. Gipps,
November 1840.]

A third, and a very great evil, is that, after a native boy or girl has
been educated and brought up at the school, no future provision is made
for either, nor have they the means of following any useful occupation,
or the opportunity of settling themselves in life, or of forming any
domestic ties or connections whatever, save by falling back again upon
the rude and savage life from which it was hoped education would have
weaned them. It is unnatural, therefore, to suppose that under existing
circumstances they should ever do other than relapse into their former
state; we cannot expect that individuals should isolate themselves
completely from their kind, when by so doing they give up for ever all
hope of forming any of those domestic ties that can render their lives

Such being the very limited, and perhaps somewhat equivocal advantages we
offer the Aborigines, we can hardly expect that much or permanent benefit
can accrue to them; and ought not to be disappointed if such is not the
case. [Note 108 at end of para.] At present it is difficult to say what
are the advantages held out to the natives by the schools, since they have
no opportunity of turning their instruction to account, and must from
necessity relapse again to the condition of savages, when they leave
school. Taken as children from their parents, against the wishes of
the latter, there are not means sufficient at the schools for keeping
them away from the ill effects of the example and society of the most
abandoned of the natives around. They are not protected from the power
or influence of their parents and relatives, who are always encouraging
them to leave, or to practise what they have been taught not to do.
The good that is instilled one day is the next obliterated by evil
example or influence. They have no future openings in life which
might lead them to become creditable and useful members of society;
and however well disposed a child may be, there is but one sad and
melancholy resource for it at last, that of again joining its tribe,
and becoming such as they are. Neither is there that disinclination
on the part of the elder children to resume their former mode of
life and customs that might perhaps have been expected; for whilst
still at school they see and participate enough in the sports,
pleasures, or charms of savage life to prevent their acquiring a distaste
to it; and when the time arrives for their departure, they are generally
willing and anxious to enter upon the career before them, and take their
part in the pursuits or duties of their tribe. Boys usually leave school
about fourteen, to join in the chase, or learn the practice of war. Girls
are compelled to leave about twelve, through the joint influence of
parents and husbands, to join the latter; and those only who have been
acquainted with the life of slavery and degradation a native female is
subject to, can at all form an opinion of the wretched prospect before

[Note 108: The importance of a change in the system and policy adopted
towards the Aborigines, and the urgent necessity for placing the schools
upon a different and better footing, appears from the following extract
from a despatch from Governor Hutt to Lord Stanley, 21st January, 1843, in
which the difficulties and failure attending the present system are
stated. Mr. Hutt says (Parliamentary Reports, p. 416). "It is to the
schools, of course, that we must look for any lasting benefit to be
wrought amongst the natives, and I regret most deeply the total
failure of the school instituted at York, and the partial failure
of that at Guilford, both of which at FIRST promised so well. The
fickle disposition of these people, in youth as in older years,
incapacitate them from any long continued exertions, whether of
learning or labour, whilst from the roving lives of the parents in
search of food, the children, if received into the schools, must
be entirely supported at the public expense. This limits the sphere
of our operations, by restricting the number of the scholars who
can thus be taken charge of. Through the kindly co-operation of the
Wesleyan Society at Perth, and the zealous pastoral exertions of the Rev.
Mr. King at Fremantle, the schools at both these places have been
efficiently maintained; but in the country, and apart from the large
towns, to which the Aborigines have an interest in resorting in large
numbers for food and money, the formation of schools of a lasting
character will be for some time a work of doubt and of difficulty."]

There are two other points connected with the natives to which I will
briefly advert: the one, relative to the language in which the school
children are taught, the other, the policy, or otherwise, of having
establishments for the natives in the immediate vicinity of a town, or of
a numerous European population.

With respect to the first, I may premise, that for the first four years
the school at the location in Adelaide was conducted entirely in the
native tongue. To this there are many objections.

First, the length of time and labour required for the instructor to
master the language he has to teach in.

Secondly, the very few natives to whom he can impart the advantages of
instruction, as an additional school, and another teacher would be
required for every tribe speaking a different dialect.

Thirdly, the sudden stop that would be put to all instruction if the
preceptor became ill, or died, as no one would be found able to supply
his place in a country where, from the number, and great differences of
the various dialects, there is no inducement to the public to learn any
of them.

Fourthly, that by the children being taught in any other tongue than that
generally spoken by the colonists, they are debarred from the advantage
of any casual instruction or information which they might receive from
others than their own teachers, and from entering upon duties or
relations of any kind with the Europeans among whom they are living, but
whose language they cannot speak.

Fifthly, that, by adhering to the native language, the children are more
deeply confirmed in their original feelings and prejudices, and more
thoroughly kept under the influence and direction of their own people.

Among the colonists themselves there have scarcely been two opinions upon
the subject, and almost all have felt, that the system originally adopted
was essentially wrong. It has recently been changed, and the English is
now adopted instead of the native language. I should not have named this
subject at all, had I not been aware that the missionaries themselves
still retain their former impressions, and that although they have
yielded to public opinion on this point, they have not done so from a
conviction of its utility.

The second point to which I referred,--the policy, or otherwise, of
having native establishments near a populous European settlement, is a
much more comprehensive question, and one which might admit, perhaps, of
some reasons on both sides, although, upon the whole, those against it
greatly preponderate.

The following are the reasons I have usually heard argued for proximity
to town.

1st. It is said that the children sooner acquire the English language by
mixing among the towns people. This, however, to say the least, is a very
negative advantage, for in such a contact it is far more probable that
they will learn evil than good; besides, if means were available to
enable the masters to keep their scholars under proper restrictions,
there would no longer be even the opportunity for enjoying this very
equivocal advantage.

2nd. It is stated that the natives are sooner compelled to give up their
wandering habits, as there is no game near a town. This might be well
enough if they followed any better employment, but the contrary is the
case; and with respect to the school-children, the restriction would be
the correction of a bad habit, which they ought never to be allowed to
indulge in, and one which might soon be done away with entirely if
sufficient inducement were held out to the parents to put their children
to school, and allow them to remain there.

3rd. It is thought that a greater number of children can be collected in
the vicinity of a town than elsewhere. This may perhaps be the case at
present, but would not continue so if means were used to congregate the
natives in their own proper districts.

4th. It is said that provisions and clothing are cheaper in town and more
easily procured than elsewhere. This is the only apparently valid reason
of the whole, but it is very questionable whether it is sufficient to
counterbalance the many evils which may result from too close a
contiguity to town, and especially so as far as the adults are concerned.
With respect to the children, if kept within proper bounds, and under
proper discipline, it is of little importance where they may be located,
and perhaps a town may for such purposes be sometimes the best. With the
older natives however it is far different, and the evils resulting to
them from too close contact with a large European population, are most
plainly apparent; in,--

1st. The immorality, which great as it is among savages in their natural
state, is increased in a tenfold degree when encouraged and countenanced
by Europeans, and but little opening is left for the exercise of
missionary influence or exertions.

2nd. The dreadful state of disease which is superinduced, and which
tends, in conjunction with other causes as before stated, to bring about
the gradual extinction of the race.

3rd. The encouragement a town affords to idleness, and the opportunities
to acquire bad habits, such as begging, pilfering, drinking, etc. the
effects of which must also have a very bad moral tendency upon the

The town of Adelaide appears capable of supporting about six hundred
natives on an average. Many of these obtain their food by going errands,
by carrying wood or water, or by performing other light work of a similar
kind. Many are supported by the offal of a place where so much animal
food is consumed; but by far the greater number are dependent upon
charity, and some few even extort their subsistence from women or
children by threats, if they have the opportunity of doing so without
fear of detection.

The number of natives usually frequenting the town of Adelaide averages
perhaps 300, but occasionally there are even as many as 800. These do not
belong to the neighbourhood of the town itself, for the Adelaide tribe
properly so called only embraces about 150 individuals. The others come
in detached parties from almost all parts of the colony. Some from the
neighbourhood of Bonney's Well, or 120 miles south; some from the
Broughton, or 120 miles north; some from the upper part of the Murray, or
nearly 200 miles east. Thus are assembled at one spot sometimes portions
of tribes the most distant from each other, and whose languages, customs
and ceremonies are quite dissimilar. If any proof were wanted to shew the
power of European influence in removing prejudices or effecting a total
revulsion of their former habits and customs, a stronger one could
scarcely be given than this motley assembly of "all nations and
languages." In their primitive state such a meeting could never take
place; the distant tribes would never have dreamt of attempting to pass
through the country of the intermediate ones, nor would the latter have
allowed a passage if it had been attempted.

I have remarked that in Adelaide many of the natives support themselves
by light easy work, or going errands; there are also a dozen, or fourteen
young men employed regularly as porters to storekeepers with whom they
spend two-thirds of their time, and make themselves very useful. At
harvest time many natives assist the settlers. At Encounter Bay during
1843, from 70 to 100 acres of wheat or barley, were reaped by them; at
Adelaide from 50 to 60 acres, and at Lynedoch Valley they aided in
cutting and getting in 200 acres. Other natives have occasionally
employed themselves usefully in a variety of ways, and one party of young
men collected and delivered to a firm in town five tons of mimosa bark up
to December 1843. At the native location during the year 1842, three
families of natives assisted by the school-children, had dug with the
spade the ground, and had planted and reaped more than one acre of maize,
one acre of potatoes, and half an acre of melons, besides preparing
ground for the ensuing year. On the Murray River native shepherds and
stock-keepers have hitherto been employed almost exclusively, and have
been found to answer well. Most of the settlers in that district have one
or more native youths constantly living at their houses.

In concluding an account of the present state and prospects of the
Aborigines and of the efforts hitherto made on their behalf, I may state
that I am fully sensible that to put the schools upon a proper footing
and to do away with the serious disadvantages I have pointed out as at
present attending them, or to adopt effective means for assembling,
feeding, or instructing the natives in their own respective districts
would involve a much greater expenditure than South Australia has
hitherto been able to afford from her own resources; and I have therefore
called attention to the subject, not for the purpose of censuring what it
is impossible to remedy without means; but in the sincere and earnest
hope that an interest in behalf of a people who are generally much
misrepresented, and who are certainly in justice entitled to expect at
our hands much more than they receive, will be excited in the breasts of
the British public, who are especially their debtors on many accounts.

I am aware that the subject of the Aborigines is one of a very difficult
and embarrassing nature in many respects, and I know that evils and
imperfections will occasionally occur, in spite of the utmost efforts to
prevent them. No system of policy can be made to suit all circumstances
connected with a subject so varied and perplexing, and especially so,
where every new arrangement and all benevolent intentions are restrained
or limited, by the deficiency of pecuniary means to carry out the object
in a proper manner. Already the subject of apprenticing the natives, or
teaching them a trade, has been under the consideration of the
Government, but has been delayed from being brought into operation by the
want of funds sufficient to carry the object into effect. It is intended,
I believe, to make the experiment as soon as means are available for that

My duties as an officer of the Government having been principally
connected with the more numerous, but distant tribes of the interior, I
can bear testimony to the anxious desire of the Government to promote the
welfare of the natives.

I have equal pleasure in recording the great interest that prevails on
their behalf among their numerous friends in the colonies, and the
general kindness and good feeling that have been exhibited towards them
on the part of a large proportion of the colonists of Australia. It is in
the hope that this good feeling may be promoted and strengthened that I
have been led to enter into the details of the preceding pages. In
bringing before the public instances of a contrary conduct or feeling, I
by no means wish to lead to the impression that such are now of very
frequent or general occurrence, and I trust my motives may not be
misunderstood. My sole, my only wish has been to bring about an
improvement in the terms of intercourse, which subsists between the
settlers and the Aborigines. Whilst advocating the cause of the latter, I
am not insensible to the claims of the former, who leaving their native
country and their friends, cheerfully encounter the inconveniences,
toils, privations, and dangers which are necessarily attendant upon
founding new homes in the remote and trackless wilds of other climes.
Strongly impressed with the advantages, and the necessity of
colonization, I am only anxious to mitigate its concomitant evils, and by
effecting an amelioration in the treatment and circumstances of the
Aborigines, point out the means of rendering the residence or pursuits of
the settler among an uncivilized community, less precarious, and less
hazardous than they have been. My object has been to shew the result, I
may almost say, the necessary result of the system at present in force,
when taking possession of and occupying a country where there are
indigenous races. By shewing the complete failure of all efforts hitherto
made, to prevent the oppression and eventual extinction of these
unfortunate people, I would demonstrate the necessity of remodelling the
arrangements made on their behalf, and of adopting a more equitable and
liberal system than any we have yet attempted.

I believe that by far the greater majority of the settlers in all the
Australian Colonies would hail with real pleasure, the adoption of any
measures calculated to remove the difficulties, which at present beset
our relations with the Aborigines; but to be effectual, these measures,
at the same time that they afford, in some degree, compensation and
support to the dispossessed and starving native--must equally hold out to
the settler and the stockholder that security and protection, which he
does not now possess, but which he is fairly entitled to expect, under
the implied guarantee given to him by the Government, when selling to him
his land, or authorizing him to locate in the more remote districts of
the country.

From a long experience, and an attentive observation of what has been
going on around me, I am perfectly satisfied, that unless some great
change be made in our system, things will go on exactly as they have
done, and in a few years more not a native will be left to tell the tale
of the wrongs and sufferings of his unhappy race. I am equally convinced
that all one-sided legislation--all measures having reference solely to
the natives must fail. The complete want of success attending the
protecting system, and all other past measures, clearly shew, that unless
the interests of the two classes can be so interwoven and combined, that
both may prosper together; no real good can be hoped for from our best
efforts to ameliorate the condition of the savage. In all future plans it
is evident that the native must have the inducements and provocations to
crime destroyed or counteracted, as far as it may be practicable to
effect this, and the settler must be convinced that it is his interest to
treat the native with kindness and consideration, and must be able to
feel that he is no longer exposed to risk of life or property for
injuries or aggressions, which, as an individual, he has not induced.

I have now nearly discharged the duty I have undertaken--a duty which my
long experience among the natives, and an intimate acquaintance with
their peculiarities, habits, and customs, has in a measure almost forced
upon me. In fulfilling it, I have been obliged to enter at some length
upon the subject, to give as succinct an account as I could of the
unfavourable impressions that have often, but unjustly, been entertained
of the New Hollanders: of the difficulties and disadvantages they have
laboured under, of the various relations that have subsisted, or now
subsist between them and the colonists, of the different steps that have
been adopted by the Government or others, to ameliorate their condition,
and of the degree of success or otherwise that has attended these
efforts. I have stated, that from the result of my own experience and
observation, for a long series of years past, from a practical
acquaintance with the character and peculiarities of the Aborigines, and
after a deliberate and attentive consideration of the measures that have
been hitherto pursued, I have unwillingly been forced to the conviction,
that some great and radical defect has been common to all; that we have
not hitherto accomplished one single, useful, or permanent result; and
that unless a complete change in our system of policy be adopted for the
future, there is not the slightest hope of our efforts being more
successful in times to come, than they have been in times past. That I am
not alone or singular in the view which I take on this subject, may be
shewn from various sources, but most forcibly from the opinions or
statements of those, who from being upon the spot, and personally
acquainted with the real facts of the case, may be supposed to be most
competent to form just conclusions, and most worthy of having weight
attached to their opinions. The impression on the public mind in the
colonies, with respect to the general effect of the measures that have
heretofore been adopted, may be gathered from the many opinions or
quotations to which I have already referred in my remarks; many others
might be adduced, if necessary, but one or two will suffice.

The following extract is from a speech by A. Forster, Esq. at a meeting
held to celebrate the anniversary of the South Australian Missionary
Society, on the 6th September, 1843, and at which the Governor of the
Colony presided:--

"This colony had been established for nearly seven years, and during the
whole of that time the natives had been permitted to go about the streets
in a state of nudity. [Note 109 at end of para.] This was not only an
outrage on decency and propriety, but it was demoralising to the natives
themselves. Like Adam, after having come in contact with the tree of
knowledge, they had begun to see their own nakedness, and were ashamed
of it. If they could give them a nearer approach to humanity by clothing
them, if they could make them look like men, they would then, perhaps,
begin to think like men. What he complained of was, not that they were
in a low and miserable condition, but that no effort had been made to
rescue them from that condition."

[Note 109: And yet a law is passed, subjecting natives, who appear thus,
to punishment!--How are they to clothe themselves?]

"The circumstances, too, of the aborigines called upon them for increased
exertion. They were wasting away with disease--they were dying on the
scaffold--they were being shot down in mistake for native dogs, and their
bleeding and ghastly heads had been exhibited on poles, as scare-crows to
their fellows."

The report of the Missionary Society, read on the same occasion, says,

"Though it is undeniable that there is much to discourage in the small
results which can yet be reckoned from these efforts, and a variety of
secondary means might be brought to bear with great advantage on the
condition of the natives, still we must exercise faith in the power of
the Spirit of God, over the most savage soul, in subduing the wicked
passions and inclining the heart unto wisdom by exalted views of a future
state, and of the divine character and will."

Captain Grey's opinion of the little good that had ever been
accomplished, may be gathered from the following quotation, and which is
fully as applicable to the state of the natives in 1844, as it was in
1841. Vol. ii. p. 366, he says,

"I wish not to assert, that the natives have been often treated with
wanton cruelty, but I do not hesitate to say, that no real amelioration
of their condition has been effected, and that much of negative evil, and
indirect injury has been inflicted on them."

Upon the same subject, the Committee of Management of the Native School
at Perth, Swan River, Western Australia, state in their 3rd Annual
Report, dated 1844.

"With regard to the physical condition of the native children, and those
who are approaching to mature life, it may be observed, that they are
somewhat improving, though slowly, we trust surely. We find that to undo
is a great work; to disassociate them from their natural ideas, habits,
and practices which are characteristic of the bush life, is a greater
difficulty, for notwithstanding the provisions of sleeping berths in good
rooms, also of tables, etc. for their use, and which are peculiar to
civilised life, and with which they are associated, yet they naturally
verge towards, and cling to aboriginal education, and hence to squat on
the sand to eat, to sleep a night in the bush, to have recourse to a
Byly-a-duck man for ease in sickness; these to them seem reliefs and
enjoyments from these restraints which civilized life entails upon them."

"With regard to the mental improvement of the native children, we cannot
say much."

"As to the religious state of the pupils in the institution we have
signs, improvements, and encouragements, which say to us, 'Go on.'"

The following quotation from Count Strzelecki's work only just published
(1845), shews the opinion of that talented and intelligent traveller,
after visiting various districts of New South Wales, Port Phillip, Van
Diemen's Land, and Flinders' Island, and after a personal acquaintance
with, and experience among the Aborigines:--

"Thus, in New South Wales, since the time that the fate of the
Australasian awoke the sympathies of the public, neither the efforts of
the missionary, nor the enactments of the Government, and still less the
Protectorate of the "Protectors," have effected any good. The attempts to
civilize and christianize the Aborigines, from which the preservation and
elevation of their race was expected to result, HAVE UTTERLY FAILED,
though it is consolatory, even while painful, to confess, that NEITHER

With such slight encouragement in colonies where the best results are
supposed to have been obtained, and with instances of complete failure in
others, it is surely worth while to inquire, why there has been such a
signal want of success?--and whether or not any means can be devised that
may hold out better hopes for the future? I cannot and I would not
willingly believe, that the question is a hopeless one. The failure of
past measures is no reason that future ones should not be more
successful, especially when we consider, that all past efforts on behalf
of the Aborigines have entirely overlooked the wrongs and injuries they
are suffering under from our mere presence in their country, whilst none
have been adapted to meet the exigencies of the peculiar relations they
are placed in with regard to the colonists. The grand error of all our
past or present systems--the very fons et origo mali appears to me to
consist in the fact, that we have not endeavoured to blend the interests
of the settlers and Aborigines together; and by making it the interest of
both to live on terms of kindness and good feeling with each, bring about
and cement that union and harmony which ought ever to subsist between
people inhabiting the same country. So far, however, from our measures
producing this very desirable tendency, they have hitherto,
unfortunately, had only a contrary effect. By our injustice and
oppression towards the natives, we have provoked them to retaliation and
revenge; whilst by not affording security and protection to the settlers,
we have driven them to protect themselves. Mutual distrusts and mutual
misunderstandings have been the necessary consequence, and these, as must
ever be the case, have but too often terminated in collisions or
atrocities at which every right-thinking mind must shudder. To prevent
these calamities for the future; to check the frightful rapidity with
which the native tribes are being swept away from the earth, and to
render their presence amidst our colonists and settlers, not as it too
often hitherto has been, a source of dread and danger, but harmless, and
to a certain extent, even useful and desirable, is an object of the
deepestinterest and importance, both to the politician and to the
philanthropist. I have strong hopes, that means may be devised, to bring
about, in a great measure, these very desirable results; and I would
suggest, that such means only should be tried, as from being just in
principle, and equally calculated to promote the interests of both races,
may, in their practical adoption, hold out the fairest prospect of
efficacy and success.

Chapter IX.


In the preceding chapters I have given a general outline of the
character, manners, and customs of the Aborigines of Australia, and of
the effects produced upon them by a contact with civilization.

I have thus endeavoured to lay before the public their present state and
future prospects, and as far as I am able, have attempted to explain what
appear to me the reasons that so little success has hitherto attended
Missionary, or other efforts, in their behalf. I would sincerely hope,
that the accounts which I have given, may not be altogether useless; but
that a certain knowledge of the real position of the natives, of the just
claims they have upon us, and of the little prospect that exists of any
real or permanent good being effected for them, until a great alteration
takes place in our system, and treatment, may be the means of attracting
attention to their condition, and of enlisting the sympathy of my
fellow-countrymen in their cause.

Englishmen have ever been ready to come forward to protect the weak, or
the oppressed; nor could they lend their aid to promote a greater, or a
nobler work, than that of endeavouring, to arrest the decay, and avert
the destruction which at present threatens the aboriginal races of our
Australian colonies; and to try at least to bring within the pale of
christianity and civilization, a people hitherto considered as the
lowest, and most irreclaimable of mankind, but whose natural capabilities
and endowments, are, I feel assured, by no means inferior to those of the
most favoured nations.

I shall now briefly suggest such alterations and additions, in the system
of instruction and policy adopted towards them, as appear to me likely to
prove beneficial.

I am aware, that in carrying out the improvements I propose, a greatly
increased expenditure on behalf of the natives would be necessary, beyond
what has hitherto been allowed by any of the Colonial Governments.

It appears to me, however, that they are justly entitled to expect, at
our hands, some compensation for the injuries our presence unavoidably
inflicts, and some alleviation of the consequent miseries they are
suffering under.

If we are sincere in our desires and efforts to promote the improvement,
or prevent the decay of this unfortunate people, we are bound to make our
measures sufficiently comprehensive to hold out some reasonable hope of
success, otherwise our labour and money are only thrown away.

I do not believe that there is any one practically acquainted with the
present state of our relations with the Aborigines, and the system
adopted towards them, its working, defects, and inaptitude to overcome
opposing difficulties, who would conscientiously assert that there is the
least prospect of any greater benefits resulting in future than have been
realized up to the present time.

There is another reason, independently of justice or humanity, one which,
with some, may perhaps have more weight, as a motive for extending and
amending our policy towards the natives. I mean self-interest. If our
measures were calculated to afford them that protection which we claim
for ourselves; and in place of those resources we have deprived them of,
to offer to them a certain and regular supply of food in their respective
districts, their wandering habits would be partially restrained, and a
degree of influence and authority acquired over the whole aboriginal
population, in contact with Europeans, which would counteract their
natural propensities. The flocks and herds of the settlers, and the lives
of his family and servants, would be as unmolested and uninjured as among
our own people. There would no longer occur those irritating aggressions,
or bloody retaliations, which have too often taken place heretofore,
between the black and the white man; and the misfortune of always having
the border districts in a state of excitement and alarm, would be
avoided, whilst the expense and inconvenience of occasionally sending
large parties of military and police, to coerce or punish transgressors
that they can rarely meet with, would be altogether dispensed with.

Unfortunately, the system I propose has been so little tried in
Australia, that but few instances of its practical results can be
adduced. There is one instance, however, which, from its coming nearer to
it than any other, may serve to exemplify the success that might be
expected. The case I allude to, is that of the establishment of the
Government post at Moorunde, upon the Murray, in October 1841, by His
Excellency Governor Grey. The circumstances which led to the formation of
this post, arose from the disturbed and dangerous state the river route
from New South Wales was in at the time, from the fearful losses that had
occurred both of life and property, and the dread entertained by many,
that the out-stations, which were formed along the line of hills fronting
the Murray, would be subject to irruptions from the natives.

Between the 16th of April, and 27th of August, or in about four months,
four several affrays had taken place between the Aborigines and
Europeans, in which many of the latter had been killed, and stock, drays,
and other property, had been taken to a great value, (in one instance
alone amounting to 5,000 sheep, besides drays and stores); on the other
hand the sacrifice of native life had been very great, and was admitted
in one case, to have amounted to thirty individuals, exclusive of many
who were perhaps mortally wounded. Four different parties had been sent
up the river during this short period, to punish aggressions, or protect
property. In one of these the Europeans were worsted and driven back by
the natives, in another a number amounting to sixty-eight Europeans, were
absent for upwards of six weeks, at an immense expense, and were then
obliged to return without bringing in a single culprit from the offending

[Note 110: In this latter case, the Commissioner of Police, and the
greater number of his men, accompanied the expedition, leaving of course
the colony unprotected, and ordinary civil arrangements at a stand still
until their return. I have already remarked, the little chance there is,
of either the police or military ever succeeding in capturing native
offenders, and how very frequently it has occurred, that in their attempts
to do so, either through mistake, or from mismanagement, they have very
often been guilty of most serious and lamentable acts of injury and
aggression upon the innocent and the unoffending. As a mere matter of
policy, or financial arrangement, I believe it would in the long run,
be prudent and economical, to adopt a liberal and just line of treatment
towards the Aborigines. I believe by this means, we should gain a
sufficient degree of influence, to induce them always to GIVE UP OFFENDERS
THEMSELVES; and I believe that this is the ONLY MEANS by which we can ever
hope to ensure their CAPTURE.]

The line of route had become unsafe and dangerous for any party coming
from New South Wales; a feeling of bitter hostility, arising from a sense
of injury and aggression, had taken possession both of the natives and
the Europeans, and it was evident for the future, that if the European
party was weak, the natives would rob and murder them, and if otherwise,
that they would commit wholesale butchery upon the natives. It was to
remedy this melancholy state of affairs, that the Government station at
Moorunde was established, and his Excellency the Governor, did me the
honour to confide to my management the carrying out the objects proposed.

The instructions I received, and the principles upon which I attempted to
carry out those instructions, were exclusively those of conciliation and
kindness. I made it my duty to go personally amongst the most distant and
hostile tribes, to explain to them that the white man wished to live with
them, upon terms of amity, and that instead of injuring, he was most
anxious to hold out the olive branch of peace.

By the liberality of the Government, I had it in my power once every
month, to assemble all the natives who chose to collect, whether from
near or more distant tribes, and to give to each a sufficiency of flour
to last for about two days, and once in the year, at the commencement of
winter, to bestow upon some few of the most deserving, blankets as a
protection against the cold.

How far success attended the system that was adopted, or the exertions
that were made, it is scarcely perhaps becoming in me to say: where the
object, however, is simply and solely to try to benefit the Aborigines,
and by contrasting the effects of different systems, that have been
adopted towards them, to endeavour to recommend the best, I must, even at
the risk of being deemed egotistical, point out some of the important and
beneficial results that accrued at Moorunde.

In the first place, I may state that the dread of settling upon the
Murray, has so far given place to confidence, that from Wellington (near
the Lake), to beyond the Great South Bend, a distance of more than 100
miles, the whole line of river is now settled and occupied by stock,
where, in 1841, there was not a single European, a herd of cattle, or a
flock of sheep; nay, the very natives who were so much feared then, are
looked upon now as an additional inducement to locate, since the services
of the boys or young men, save in great measure the expense of European
servants. There are few residents on the Murray, who do not employ one or
more of these people, and at many stations, I have known the sheep or
cattle, partially, and in some instances, wholly attended to by them.

For three years I was resident at Moorunde, and during the whole of that
time, up to November, 1844, not a single case of serious aggression,
either on the persons or property of Europeans had ever occurred, and but
very few offences even of a minor character. The only crime of any
importance that was committed in my neighbourhood, was at a sheep
station, about 25 miles to the westward, where somefew sheep were stolen,
by a tribe of natives during the absence or neglect of the men attending
them. By a want of proper care and precaution, temptation was thrown in
the way of the natives, but even then, it was only some few of the young
men who were guilty of the offence; none of the elder or more influential
members of the tribe, having had any thing to do with it. Neither did the
tribe belong to the Murray river, although they occasionally came down
there upon visits. There was no evidence to prove that the natives had
stolen the sheep at all; the only fact which could be borne witness to,
was that so many sheep were missing, and it was supposed the natives had
taken them. As soon as I was made acquainted with the circumstances, I
made every inquiry among the tribe suspected, and it was at once admitted
by the elder men that the youths had been guilty of the offence. At my
earnest solicitations, and representations of the policy of so doing, the
TRIBE. No evidence could be procured against them, and after remanding
them from time to time as a punishment, I was obliged to discharge them.

I may now remark, that upon inquiry into the case, and in examining
witnesses against the natives, it came out in evidence, that at the same
station, and not long before, a native HAD BEEN FIRED AT, (with what
effect did not appear,) simply because he SEEMED to be going towards the
sheep-folds, which were a long way from the hut, and were directly in the
line of route of any one either passing towards Adelaide, or to any of
the more northern stations. Another case occurred about the same time,
and at the same station, where an intelligent and well-conducted native,
belonging to Moorunde, was sent by a gentleman at the Murray to a
surgeon, living about sixty miles off, with a letter, and for medicines.
The native upon reaching this station, which he had to pass, was
(which he said he was,) was at least intimidated, and driven back, and
myself knew the native who was sent, to be one of the most orderly and
well-conducted men we had at the Murray; in fact he had frequently, at
different times, been living with me as an attache to the police force.

In the second place, I may state, that during the time I have held office
at Moorunde, I have frequently visited on the most friendly terms, and
almost alone, the most distant and hostile tribes, where so short a time
before even large and well-armed bodies of Europeans could not pass
uninterrupted or in safety. Many of those very natives, who had been
concerned in affrays or aggressions, have since travelled hundreds of
miles and encountered hunger and thirst and fatigue, to visit a white
man's station in peace, and on friendly terms.

Thirdly, I may observe, that ever since I went to the Murray, instead of
shewing signs of enmity or hostility, the natives have acted in the most
kind and considerate manner, and have upon all occasions, when I have
been travelling in less known and more remote districts, willingly
accompanied me as guides and interpreters, introducing me from one tribe
to another, and explaining the amicable relations I wished to establish.
In one case, a native, whom I met by himself, accompanied me at once,
without even saying good-bye to his wife and family, who were a mile or
two away, and whom, as he was going to a distance of one hundred and
fifty miles and back, he was not likely to see for a great length of
time. He was quite content to send a message by the first native he met,
to say where he was going. In my intercourse with the Aborigines I have
always noticed that they would willingly do any thing for a person whom
they were attached to. I have found that an influence, amounting almost
to authority, is produced by a system of kindness; and that in cases
where their own feelings and wishes were in opposition to the particular
object for which this influence might be exercised, that the latter would
almost invariably prevail. Thus, upon one occasion in Adelaide, where a
very large body of the Murray natives were collected to fight those from
Encounter Bay, I was directed by the Government to use my influence to
prevent the affray. Upon going to their encampment late at night, I
explained the object of my visit to them, and requested them to leave
town in the morning, and return to their own district, (90 miles away.)
In the morning I again went to the native camp, and found them all ready,
and an hour afterwards there was not one in Adelaide. Another strong
instance of the power that may be acquired over the natives occurred at
Moorunde, in 1844:--Several tribes were assembled in the neighbourhood,
and were, as I was told, going to fight. I walked down towards their huts
to see if this was the case, but upon arriving at the native camps I
found them deserted, and all the natives about a quarter of a mile away,
on the opposite side of a broad deep sheet of water caused by the floods.
As I reached the edge of the water I saw the opposing parties closing,
and heard the cry of battle as the affray commenced; raising my voice to
the utmost, I called out to them, and was heard, even above the din of
combat. In a moment all was as still as the grave, a canoe was brought
for me to cross, and I found the assembled tribes fully painted and
armed, and anxiously waiting to know what I was going to do. It was by
this time nearly dark, and although I had no fears of their renewing the
fight again for the night, I knew they would do so early in the morning;
I accordingly directed them to separate, and remove their encampments.
One party I sent up the river, a second down it, a third remained where
they were, and two others I made recross the water, and go up to encamp
near my own residence. All this was accomplished solely by the influence
I had acquired over them, for I was alone and unarmed among 300 natives,
whose angry passions were inflamed, and who were bent upon shedding each
others' blood.

By the assistance of the natives, I was enabled in December 1843, to
ascend the Darling river as far as Laidley's Ponds (above 300 miles from
Moorunde) when accompanied only by two other Europeans, and should have
probably been enabled to reach Mount Lyell (100 miles further) but that a
severe attack of illness compelled me to return. My journey up the
Darling had, however, this good effect, that it opened a friendly
communication with natives who had never before come in contact with the
white man, except in enmity or in contest, and paved the way for a
passage upon friendly terms of any expedition that might be sent by that
route to explore the continent. Little did I anticipate at the time, how
soon such an expedition was to be undertaken, and how strongly and how
successfully the good results I so confidently hoped for were to be fully

In August 1844, Captain Sturt passed up the Murray to explore the country
north-west of the Darling, and whilst at Moorunde, on his route, was
supplied with a Moorunde boy to accompany his party to track stock, and
also with a native of the Rufus named And-buck, to go as guide and
interpreter to the Darling. The latter native had accompanied me to
Laidley's Ponds in December 1843, and had come down to Moorunde,
according to a promise he then made me, to visit me in the winter, and go
again with me up the Darling, if I wished it. At Laidley's Ponds I found
the natives very friendly and well conducted, and one of them, a young
man named Topar, was of such an open intelligent disposition that
although my own acquaintance with him was of very short duration, I did
not hesitate to recommend him strongly to my friend Captain Sturt, as
likely to be a willing and useful assistant. The following report from
Captain Sturt, dated from Laidley's Ponds, will best shew how far I was
justified in expecting that a friendly intercourse might be maintained
even with the Darling natives, and to what distance the influence of the
Government station at Moorunde had extended, upon the conciliatory system
that had been adopted, limited though it was by an inadequacy of funds to
provide for such a more extended and liberal treatment of the Aborigines
as I should wish to have adopted.

"Sir,--Feeling assured that the Governor would be anxious to hear from me
as soon as possible after the receipt of my letters from Lake Victoria, I
should have taken the earliest opportunity of forwarding despatches to
his Excellency after I had ascertained whether the reports I had heard of
the massacre of a party of overlanders at the lagoons on the Darling was
founded in fact or not; but having been obliged to cross over from the
ana-branch of the Darling to that river itself for water,--and its
unlooked-for course having taken me greatly to the eastward, I had no
opportunity by which to send to Moorunde, although I was most anxious to
allay any apprehensions my former letter might have raised as to the
safety of my party. I tried to induce several natives to be the bearers
of my despatches, but they seemed unwilling to undertake so long a
journey; the arrival, therefore, of a messenger from Moorunde was a most
welcome occurrence, as he proposes returning to that place immediately,
and will be the bearer of this communication to you.

"In continuing, for his Excellency's information, the detail of the
proceedings of the expedition under my orders since I last addressed you,
I have the honour to state that I had advanced a considerable way up the
Darling before I ascertained satisfactorily the true grounds of the
report I had heard at Lake Victoria, and was enabled to dismiss all
further anxiety on the subject from my mind.

"It referred to the affray which took place on the Darling, opposite to
Laidley's Ponds, between Major Mitchell and the natives; and I conclude
that the circumstance of our being about to proceed to the same place,
recalled a transaction which had occurred eight years ago to their minds;
for we can trace a connection between the story we heard at the Lake, and
what we have heard upon the spot; but all the circumstances were at first
told to us with such minuteness, that coupling them with the character
Major Mitchell has given of the Darling natives, and the generally
received opinion of their ferocity and daring, we could hardly refuse
giving a certain degree of credit to what we heard; more especially as it
was once or twice confirmed by natives with whom we communicated on our
way up the river. I really feared we should come into collision with
these people, despite my reluctance to proceed to extremities; but it
will be satisfactory to his Excellency, as I trust it will to Lord
Stanley, to know that we have passed up the Darling on the most friendly
terms with the native tribes, insomuch that I may venture to hope that
our intercourse with them will be productive of much good. So far from
the show of any hostility, they may have invariably approached us
unarmed, nor have we seen a weapon in the hands of a native since we
have made it a rule to give blankets to the old and infirm, and tomahawks
and knives to the young men, and they perfectly understand the reason of
this distinction. Finding too, that they consider kangaroos as their own
property, we have almost invariably given them all the animals the dogs
have killed, and have endeavoured to convince them that we wish to be
just, and have the kindest feelings toward them. In this humane duty I
have been most cordially assisted both by Mr. Poole and Mr. Browne, and I
must add, by the conduct of my men towards the natives, which reflects
THE DIFFERENT TRIBES; and I have earnestly to recommend Nadbuck, who has
accompanied us from Moorunde to this place, to the favour of the
Governor, and to request that he may be rewarded in such manner as his
Excellency thinks fit, from the funds of the expedition. We find that Mr.
Eyre's influence has extended to this place, and that he is considered in
the highest light by all the natives along the Darling. In their physical
condition they are inferior to the natives of the Murray in size and
strength, but we have seen many very handsome men, and, although
diminutive in stature, exceedingly well proportioned. The tribe at
Williorara, Laidley's Ponds, numbers about eighty souls; the greater
proportion women and children. One of them, Topar, accompanies us to the
hills with another native, Toonda, who has been with us since we left
Lake Victoria, and who is a native of this tribe. He is a very singular
and remarkable man, and is rather aged, but still sinewy and active;
Topar is young, and handsome, active, intelligent, and exceedingly good
natured;--with them I hope we shall be able to keep up our friendly
relations with the natives of the interior.

"I have to request that you will thank his Excellency for the prompt
assistance he would have afforded us; but I am sure it will be as
gratifying to him as it is to us to know that it is not required.

"As I reported to you in my letter of the 17th of September, I left Lake
Victoria on the following day, and crossing the country in a
south-easterly direction, reached the Murray after a journey of about
fifteen miles, over plains, and encamped on a peninsula formed by the
river and a lagoon, and on which there was abundance of feed. We had
observed numerous tracks of wild cattle leading from the brush across the
plains to the river, and at night our camp was surrounded by them. I
hoped, therefore, that if I sent out a party in the morning. I should
secure two or three working bullocks, and I accordingly detached Mr.
Poole and Mr. Browne, with Flood, my stockman, and Mack, to run them in;
but the brush was too thick, and in galloping after a fine bull, Flood's
carbine went off, and carried away and broke three of the fingers of his
right hand. This unfortunate accident obliged me to remain stationary for
a day; but we reached the junction of the ana-branch of the Darling with
the Murray, on the 23rd, and then turned for the first time to the

"We found the ana-branch filled by the back waters of the Murray, and ran
up it for two days, when the water in it ceased, and we were obliged to
cross over to the Darling, which we struck on an east course, about
eighteen miles above its junction with the Murray. It had scarcely any
water in its bed, and no perceptible current--but its neighbourhood was
green and grassy, and its whole aspect pleasing. On the 27th, we thought
we perceived a stronger current in the river, and observed small sticks
and grass floating on the water, and we were consequently led to believe
that there was a fresh in it; and as we had had rain, and saw that the
clouds hung on the mountains behind us, we were in hopes the supply the
river was receiving came from Laidley's Ponds. On the following morning
the waters of the Darling were half-bank high, and from an insignificant
stream it was at once converted into a broad and noble river, sweeping
everything away on its turbid waters at the rate of these or four miles
an hour. The river still continues to rise, and is fast filling the
creeks and lagoons on either side of it. The cattle enjoy the most
luxuriant feed on the banks of the river--there being abundance of grass
also in the flats, which far surpass those of the Murray both in richness
of soil, and in extent. I cannot but consider the river as a most
valuable feature of the interior: many a rich and valuable farm might be
established upon it. Its seasons appear to be particularly favourable,
for we have had gentle rains ever since we came upon it. Its periodical
flooding is also at a most favourable period of the year, and its waters
are so muddy that the deposit must be rich, and would facilitate the
growth of many of the inter-tropical productions, as cotton, indigo--the
native indigo growing to the height of three feet--maize, or flax;
whilst, if an available country is found in the interior, the Darling
must be the great channel of communication to it. The country behind the
flats is sandy and barren, but it would in many places support a certain
number of stock, and might be found to be of more value than appearances
would justify me in stating, and I would beg to be understood, in
speaking of the Darling, that I only speak of it as I have seen it. The
summer sun probably parches up the vegetation and unclothes the soil; but
such is the effect of summer heat in all similar latitudes, and that spot
should be considered the most valuable where the effect of solar heat can
be best counteracted by natural or artificial means. I had hoped, as I
have stated, that the Darling was receiving its accession of waters from
the Williorara (Laidley's Ponds); but on arriving on its banks we were
sadly disappointed to find, instead of a mountain stream, a creek only
connects the river with Cowandillah Lake; instead of supplying the
Darling with water it was robbing it, and there was scarcely a blade of
vegetation on its banks. I was, therefore, obliged to return to the
Darling, and to encamp until such time as I should determine on our next
movement. From some hills above the camp, we had a view of some ranges to
the north-west and north, and I detached Mr. Poole on the 4th to
ascertain the nature of the country between us and them, before I
ventured to remove the party; more especially as the natives told us the
interior beyond the ranges was perfectly impracticable. This morning Mr.
Poole returned, and informed me that, from the top of the ranges he
ascended, he had a view of distant ranges to the north and north-west, as
far as he could see; that from south-west to west to 13 degrees east of
north, there was water extending, amidst which there were numerous
islands; that there was a very distant high peak, which appeared to be
surrounded by water, which shewed as a dark blue line along the horizon.
The country between him and the more distant ranges appeared to be level,
and was similar in aspect to the plains we had traversed when approaching
the hills, which were covered with spear grass, a grass of which the
animals are fond, and thin green shrubs.

"I will not venture a conjecture as to the nature of the country whose
features have been thus partially developed to us. How far these waters
may stretch, and what the character of the ranges is, it is impossible to
say, but that there is a good country at no great distance, I have every
reason to hope. Mr. Poole states that the small scolloped parroquets
passed over his head from the north-west in thousands; and he observed
many new birds. I am therefore led to hope, that, as these first are
evidently strong on the wing on their arrival here, that the lands from
which they come are not very remote from us. So soon as I shall have
verified my position in a satisfactory manner,--which a clouded sky has
hitherto prevented my doing,--we shall move to the ranges, and leaving my
drays in a safe place, shall proceed with the horse teams to a closer
examination of the country, and, if I should find an open sea to
north-west, shall embark upon it with an ample supply of provisions and
water, and coast it round. The reports of the fine interior, which we
have heard from the natives, are so contradictory, that it is impossible
to place any reliance in them; but Toonda informs us that the water Mr.
Poole has seen is fresh--but as we are not more than two hundred and
fifteen feet above the sea, and are so near Lake Torrens, I can hardly
believe that such can be the case. It is a problem, however, that will
now very soon be solved, and I most sincerely trust this decided change
in the barrenness of the land will lead us to a rich and available

"I have great pleasure in reporting to you the continued zeal and anxiety
of my officers, and the cheerful assistance they render me. I have found
Mr. Piesse of great value, from his regular and cautious issue of the
stores and provisions; and Mr. Stewart extremely useful as draftsman.
Amongst my men, I have to particularise Robert Flood, my stockman, whose
attention to the horses and cattle has mainly insured their fitness for
service and good condition; and I have every reason to feel satisfied
with the manner in which the men generally perform their duties.

"I have to apologize for the hurried manner in which this letter is
written, and beg to subscribe myself,

"Sir, your most obedient servant,


With reference to the above report, I may mention in explanation, that,
after I had accompanied the exploring party as far as the Rufus, and
returned from thence to Moorunde, a rumour was brought to Captain Sturt
by some natives from the Darling, of a massacre said to have taken place
up that river near Laidley's Ponds. From being quite unacquainted with
the language not only of the Darling natives, but also of the Rufus
interpreter or the Moorunde boy, Captain Sturt's party had been only able
to make out the story that was told to them by signs or by the aid of
such few words of English as the boy might have learnt at Moorunde. They
had naturally fallen into some error, and had imagined the natives to be
describing the recent murder of a European party coming down the Darling
with stock, instead of their narrating, as was in reality the case, an
old story of the affray with Major Mitchell some years before. As Captain
Sturt was still at the Rufus (150 miles from Moorunde) when he received
the account, as he imagined, of so sanguinary an affray, he felt anxious
to communicate the occurrence to the Colonial Government as early as
possible, and for this purpose, induced two natives to bring down
despatches to Moorunde. Upon their arrival there, the policeman was
absent in town, and I had no means of sending in the letters to the
Government, but by natives. Two undertook the task, and walked from
Moorunde to Adelaide with the letters, and brought answers back again to
the station within five days, having walked 170 miles in that period,
Moorunde being 85 miles from Adelaide.

Again upon the Government wishing to communicate with Captain Sturt,
letters were taken by the natives up to the Rufus, delivered over to
other natives there, and by them carried onwards to Captain Sturt,
reaching that gentleman on the eleventh day after they been sent from
Moorunde, at Laidley's Ponds, a distance of 300 miles.

By this means a regular intercourse was kept up with the exploring party,
entirely through the aid and good feeling of the natives, up to the time
I left the colony, in December, 1844, when messengers who had been sent
up with despatches were daily expected back with answers. For their very
laborious and harassing journeys, during which they must suffer both some
degree of risk in passing through so many other tribes on their line of
route, and of hunger and other privations in prosecuting them, the
messengers are but ill requited; the good feeling they displayed, or the
fatigues they went through, being recompensed only by the present of a
SMALL BLANKET AND A FEW POUNDS OF FLOUR. With these facts before us can
we say that these natives are a ferocious, irreclaimable set of savages,
and destitute of all the better attributes of humanity? yet are they
often so maligned. The very natives, who have now acted in such a
friendly manner, and rendered such important services to Europeans, are
the SAME NATIVES who were engaged in the plundering of their property,
and taking away their lives when coming over land with stock. Such is the
change which has been effected by kindness and conciliation instead of
aggression and injury; and such, I think, I may in fairness argue, would
generally be the result if SIMILAR MEANS were more frequently resorted

As yet Moorunde is the only place where the experiment has been made of
assembling the natives and giving food to them; but as far as it has been
tried, it has been proved to be eminently successful. I am aware that the
system is highly disapproved of by many of the colonists, and the general
feeling among them appears to be that nothing should be given where
nothing is received, or in other words, that a native should never have
any thing given to him until he does some work for it. I still maintain
that the native has a right to expect, and that we are IN JUSTICE BOUND
to supply him with food in any of those parts of the country that we
occupy, and to do this, too, WITHOUT demanding or requiring any other
consideration from him than we have ALREADY received when we TOOK FROM
HIM his possessions and his hunting grounds. It may be all very proper to
get him to work a little if we can--and, perhaps, that MIGHT follow in
time, but we have no right to force him to a labour he is unused to, and
right to supply him with what he has been accustomed to, BUT OF WHICH WE

If in our relations with the Aborigines we wish to preserve a friendly
and bloodless intercourse; if we wish to have their children at our
schools to be taught and educated; if we hope to bring the parents into a
state that will better adapt them for the reception of christianity and
civilization; or if we care about staying the rapid and lamentable
ravages which a contact with us is causing among their tribes, we must
endeavour to do so, by removing, as far as possible, all sources of
irritation, discontent, or suffering. We must adopt a system which may at
once administer to their wants, and at the same time, give to us a
controlling influence over them; such as may not only restrain them from
doing what is wrong, but may eventually lead them to do what is right--an
influence which I feel assured would be but the stronger and more lasting
from its being founded upon acts of justice and humanity. It is upon
these principles that I have based the few suggestions I am going to
offer for the improvement of our policy towards the natives. I know that
by many they will be looked upon as chimerical or impracticable, and I
fear that more will begrudge the means necessary to carry them into
effect; but unless something of the kind be done--unless some great and
radical change be effected, and some little compensation made for the
wrongs and injuries we inflict--I feel thoroughly satisfied that all we
are doing is but time and money lost, that all our efforts on behalf of
the natives are but idle words--voces et preterea nihil--that things will
still go on as they have been going on, and that ten years hence we shall
have made no more progress either in civilizing or in christianizing them
than we had done ten years ago, whilst every day and every hour is
tending to bring about their certain and total extinction.


1st. It appears that the most important point, in fact almost the only
essential one, in the first instance, is to gain such an influence or
authority over the Aborigines as may be sufficient to enable us to induce
them to adopt, or submit to any regulations that we make for their
improvement, and that to effect this, the means must be suited to their
circumtances and habits.

2ndly. It is desirable that the means employed should have a tendency to
restrain their wandering habits, and thus gradually induce them to locate
permanently in one place.

3rdly. It is important that the plan should be of such a nature as to
become more binding in its influence in proportion to the length of time
it is in operation.

4thly. It should hold out strong inducements to the parents, willingly to
allow their children to go to, and remain at the schools.

5thly. It should be such as would operate, in some degree, in weaning the
natives from towns or populous districts.

6thly. It should offer some provision for the future career of the
children upon their leaving school, and its tendency should be of such a
character as to diminish, as far as practicable, the attractions of a
savage life.

7thly. It is highly important that the system adopted should be such as
would add to the security and protection of the settlers, and thereby
induce their assistance and co-operation, instead, as has too often been
the case hitherto with past measures, of exciting a feeling of irritation
and dislike between the two races.

I believe that all these objects might be accomplished, in a great
degree, by distributing food regularly to all the natives, in their
respective districts.

[Note 111: The whole of my remarks on the Aborigines having been hurriedly
compiled, on board ship, during the voyage from Australia, it was not
until my arrival in England that I became aware that a plan somewhat
similar to this in principle, was submitted to Lord John Russell by a Mr.
J. H. Wedge, and was sent out to the colony of New South Wales, to be
reported upon by the authorities. I quote the following extract from Mr.
La Trobe's Remarks on Mr. Wedge's letter, as shewing an opinion differing
from my own (Parliamentary Papers, p. 130). "With reference to the supply
of food and clothing, it has not been hitherto deemed advisable to
furnish them indiscriminately to all natives visiting the homesteads. In
one case, that of the Western Port District, the assistant protector has
urged that this should be the case; but I have not felt myself
sufficiently convinced of the policy or expediency of such measure to
bring it under his Excellency's notice."]

I have previously shewn, that from the injuries the natives sustain at
our hands, in a deprivation of their usual means of subsistence, and a
banishment from their homes and possessions, there is at present no
alternative for them but to remain the abject and degraded creatures they
are, begging about from house to house, or from station to station, to
procure food, insulted and despised by all, and occasionally tempted or
driven to commit crimes for which a fearful penalty is enacted, if
brought home to them. I have given instances of the extent to which the
evils resulting from the anomalous state of our relations with them are
aggravated by the kind of feeling which circumstances engender on the
part of the Colonists towards them. I have pointed out the tendency of
their own habits and customs, to prevent them from rising in the scale of
improvement, until we can acquire an influence sufficient to counteract
these practices; and I have shewn that thus situated, oppressed,
helpless, and starving, we cannot expect they should make much progress
in civilization, or pay great regard to our instructions, when they see
that we do not practice what we recommend, and that we have one law for
ourselves and another for them. The good results that have been produced
when an opposite and more liberal system has been adopted (limited as
that system was) has also been stated. It is only fair to assume,
therefore, that these beneficial effects may be expected to accrue in an
increasing ratio in proportion to our liberality and humanity.

My own conviction is, that by adopting the system I recommend, an almost
unlimited influence might be acquired over the native population. I
believe that the supplying them with food would gradually bring about the
abandonment of their wandering habits, in proportion to the frequency of
the issue, that the longer they were thus dependent upon us for their
resources, the more binding our authority would be; that when they no
longer required their children to assist them in the chase or in war,
they would willingly allow them to remain at our schools; that by only
supplying food to natives in their own districts they would, in some
measure, be weaned from the towns; that by restraining the wandering
habits of the parents in this way, there would be fewer charms and less
temptation to the children to relapse from a comparative state of
civilization into one of barbarism again; and that, by supplying the
wants of the natives, and taking away all inducements to crime, a
security and protection would be afforded to the settlers which do not
now exist, and which, under the present system, can never be expected,
until the former have almost disappeared before their oppressors.

Many subordinate arrangements would be necessary to bring the plan into
complete operation, and from its general character it could not, perhaps,
be carried out every where at once, but if such arrangements were made,
only in a few districts every year, much would be done towards eventually
accomplishing the ends desired.

At Moorunde flour was only regularly issued once in the month, but that
is not often enough to attain the full advantages of the system, still
less to remedy the evils the natives are subject to, or restrain their
wandering propensities. Upon the Murray the natives are peculiarly
situated, and have greater facilities for obtaining their natural food
than in any other part of the country. They were consequently in a
position more favourable for making an experiment upon, than those of the
inland districts, where a native is often obliged to wander over many
miles of ground for his day's subsistence, and where large tribes cannot
remain long congregated at the same place. In these it would therefore be
necessary to make the issues of food much more frequently, and I would
proportion this frequency to the state of each district with regard to
the number of Europeans, and stock in it; and the facility there might be
for procuring native food. On the borders of the colony, where the
natives are less hemmed in, the issue might take place once every
fortnight, gradually increasing the number of the issues in approaching
towards Adelaide as a centre. At the latter, and in many other of the
districts where the country is thoroughly occupied by Europeans, it would
be necessary, as it would only be just, to supply the natives with food
daily, and I would extend this arrangement gradually to all the
districts, as funds could be obtained for that purpose. It is possible
that if means at the same time were afforded of teaching them industrial
pursuits, a proportion of the food required might eventually be raised by
themselves, but it would not be prudent to calculate upon any such
resources at first.

Having now explained what I consider the first and most important
principle, to be observed in all systems devised for the amelioration of
the Aborigines, viz. that of endeavouring to adapt the means employed to
the acquisition of a strong controlling influence over them, and having
shewn how I think this might best be obtained, I may proceed to mention a
few collateral regulations, which would be very essential to the
effective working of the system proposed.

First. It would be necessary for the sake of perspicuity to suppose the
country divided into districts, agreeing as nearly as could be
ascertained with the boundaries of the respectives tribes. In these
districts a section or two of land, well supplied with wood and water,
should be chosen for the Aborigines; such lands, if possible, to be
centrically situated with regard to the tribes intended to assemble
there, but always having reference to their favourite places of resort,
or to such as would afford the greatest facilities for procuring their
natural food. I do not apprehend that these stations need be very
numerous at first: for the whole colony of South Australia nine or ten
would probably be sufficient at present; thus stations such as I have
described, at Adelaide, Encounter Bay, The Coorong, Moorunde, the Hutt
River, Mount Bryant, Mount Remarkable, and Port Lincoln would embrace
most of the tribes of Aborigines at present in contact with the settlers;
others could be added, or these altered, as might be thought desirable or

Secondly. In order to carry due weight when first established, and until
the natives get well acquainted with Europeans and their customs, it
would be essential that each station should be supported by two or more
policemen. These might afterwards be reduced in number, or withdrawn,
according to the state of the district.

[Note 112: "It is absolutely necessary, for the cause of humanity and good
order, that such force should exist; for as long as distant settlers
are left unprotected, and are compelled to take care of and avenge
themselves, so long must great barbarities necessarily be committed,
and the only way to prevent great crimes on the part of the natives,
and massacres of these poor creatures, as the punishment of such crimes,
is to check and punish their excesses in their infancy; it is only after
becoming emboldened by frequent petty successes that they have hitherto
committed those crimes, which have drawn down so fearful a vengeance upon
them."--GREY, vol ii. p. 379.]

Under any circumstances a police is necessary in all the country
districts, nor do I think on the whole, many more policemen would be
required than there are at out-stations at present. They would only have
to be quartered at the native establishments.

Thirdly. It would be absolutely requisite to have experienced and proper
persons in charge of each of the locations; as far as practicable, it
would undoubtedly be the most desirable to have these establishments
under missionaries. In other cases they might be confided to the
protectors of the Aborigines, and to the resident or police magistrates.
All officers having such charge should be deemed ex-officio to be
protectors, and as many should be in the commission of the peace as

Many other necessary and salutary regulations, would naturally occur in
so comprehensive a scheme, but as these belong more to the detail of the
system, it may be desirable to allude only to a few of the most

It would be desirable to keep registers at all the stations, containing
lists of the natives frequenting them, their names, and that of the tribe
they belong to.

Natives should not be allowed to leave their own districts, to go to
Adelaide, or other large towns, unless under passes from their respective
protectors, and if found in Adelaide without them, should be taken up by
the police and slightly punished.

[Note 113: Natives, from a distance, are in the habit of going at certain
times of the year into Adelaide, and remaining three or four months at a
time. They are said by Europeans to plunder stations on the line of route
backwards and forwards, and to threaten, and intimidate women and
children living in isolated houses near the town. There is no doubt but
that they have sometimes driven away the natives properly belonging to
Adelaide, and have been the means, by their presence, of a great decrease
in the attendance of the children of the Adelaide tribes at the school.
The protector has more than once been obliged to make official
representations on this subject, and to request that measures might be
taken to keep them away.]

Deaths, Births, and Marriages, should be duly registered, and a gratuity
given on every such occasion, to ensure the regulation being attended to.

Rewards should be given, (as an occasional present, of a blanket for
instance), to such parents as allowed their children to go to and remain
at school during the year.

Rewards should be bestowed for delivering up offenders, or for rendering
any other service to the Government.

Light work should be offered to such as could be induced to undertake it,
and rewards, as clothing, or the like, should be paid in proportion to
the value of the work done, and BEYOND THE MERE PROVIDING THEM with food.

Gifts might also be made to those parents, who consented to give up the
performance of any of their savage or barbarous ceremonies upon their

Young men should be encouraged to engage themselves in the service of
settlers, as shepherds or stockkeepers, and the masters should be induced
to remunerate their services more adequately than they usually do.

The elder natives should be led as far as could be, to make articles of
native industry for sale, as baskets, mats, weapons, implements, nets,
etc., these might be sent to Adelaide and sold periodically for their

Such and many other similar regulations, would appear to be advantageous,
and might be adopted or altered from time to time, as it should be deemed

Upon the subject of schools for the native children, it appears that much
benefit would be derived from having them as far separated as possible
from other natives, and that the following, among others, would be
improvements upon the plans in present use.

1st. That the school buildings should be of such size and arrangement, as
to admit of all the scholars being lodged as well as boarded, and of the
boys and girls having different sleeping rooms.

2ndly. That the schools should have a sufficiency of ground properly
enclosed around them, for the play-grounds, and that no other natives
than the scholars should be admitted within those precincts, except in
the presence of the master, when relatives come to see each other; but
that on no account should any natives be permitted to encamp or sleep
within the school grounds.

3rdly. That the children should not be allowed or encouraged to roam
about the towns, begging, or to ramble for any purpose outside their
boundaries, where they are likely to come under the influence of the
other natives. This is particularly necessary with respect to girls,
indeed the latter should never be allowed to be absent from school at
all, by themselves.

4thly. To compensate in some degree, for what may at first appear to them
an irksome or repulsive restraint, playthings should occasionally be
provided for those children who have behaved well, and all innocent
amusement be encouraged, and as often as might be convenient, the master
should accompany his scholars out into the country for recreation, or
through the town, or such other public places, as might be objects of
interest or curiosity.

5thly. That a stimulus to exertion, should be excited by prizes, being
given to children distinguishing themselves at certain stages of their
progress, such as a superior article of dress, a toy, or book, or
whatever might be best adapted to the age or disposition of the child.

6thly. That parents should never be allowed to withdraw the children,
contrary to their wishes, after having once consented to allow them to
remain there.

7thly. That children of both sexes, after having received a proper degree
of instruction, and having attained a certain age, should be bound out as
apprentices for a limited term of years, to such as were willing to
receive them, proper provision being made for their being taught some
useful occupation, and being well treated.

8thly. Encouragement should be offered to those who have been brought up
at the schools to marry together when their apprenticeships are out, and
portions of land should be preserved for them and assistance given them
in establishing themselves in life. At first perhaps it might be
advisable to have these settlements in the form of a village and
adjoining the school grounds, so that the young people might still
receive the advantage of the advice or religious instruction of the
missionaries or such ministers as attended to this duty at the schools.

9thly. The children should be taught exclusively in the English language
and on Sundays should always attend divine service at some place of
public worship, accompanied by their masters.

In carrying into effect the above or any other regulations which might be
found necessary for the welfare and improvement of the children. I
believe that a sufficient degree of influence would be acquired over the
parents by the system of supplying them with food, which I have
recommended to induce a cheerful consent, but it would be only prudent to
have a legislative enactment on the subject, that by placing the
school-children under the guardianship of the protectors, they might be
protected from the influence or power of their relatives; after these had
once fully consented to their being sent to school to be educated.

[Note 114: "The best chance of preserving the unfortunate race of New
Holland lies in the means employed for training their children: the
education given to such children should consist in a very small part of
reading and writing. Oral instruction in the fundamental truths of the
Christian religion will be given by the missionaries themselves. The
children should be taught early; the boys to dig and plough, and the
trades of shoemakers, tailors, carpenters and masons; the girls to sew and
cook and wash linen, and keep clean the rooms and furniture. The more
promising of these children might be placed, by a law to be framed for
this purpose, under the guardianship of the Governor and placed by him at
a school, or in apprenticeship, in the more settled parts of the colony.
Thus early trained, the capacity of the race for the duties and
employments of civilized life would be fairly developed."--Letter from
Lord John Russell to Sir G. Gipps; Parliamentary Report on
Aborigines, p. 74.]

There is yet another point to be considered with respect to the
Aborigines, and upon the equitable adjustment of which hinges all our
relations with this people, whilst upon it depends entirely our power of
enforcing any laws or regulations we may make with respect to them, I
allude to the law of evidence as it at present stands with respect to
persons incompetent to give testimony upon oath.

It is true that in South Australia an act has very recently passed the
legislative council to legalize the unsworn testimony of natives in a
court of justice, but in that act there occurs a clause which completely
neutralizes the boon it was intended to grant, and which is as follows,
"Provided that no person, whether an Aboriginal or other, SHALL BE
CONVICTED OF ANY OFFENCE by any justice or jury upon the SOLE TESTIMONY
of any such uncivilized persons." 7 and 8 Victoria, section 5.

Here then we find that if a native were ill-treated or shot by an
European, and the whole tribe able to bear witness to the fact, no
conviction and no punishment could ensue: let us suppose that in an
attempt to maltreat the native, the European should be wounded or injured
by him, and that the European has the native brought up and tried for a
murderous attack upon him, how would it fare with the poor native? the
oath of the white man would overpower any exculpatory unsworn testimony
that the native could bring, and his conviction and punishment would be
(as they have been before) certain and severe.

Without attempting to assign a degree of credence to the testimony of a
native beyond what it deserves, I will leave it to those who are
acquainted with Colonies, and the value of an oath among the generality
of storekeepers and shepherds, to say how far their SWORN evidence is, in
a moral point of view, more to be depended upon than the unsworn parole
of the native. I would ask too, how often it occurs that injuries upon
the Aborigines are committed by Europeans in the presence of those
competent to give a CONVICTING TESTIMONY, (unless where all, being
equally guilty, are for their own sakes mutually averse to let the truth
be known)? or how often even such aggressions take place under
circumstances which admit of circumstantial evidence being obtained to
corroborate native testimony?

Neither is it in the giving of evidence alone, that the native stands at
a disadvantage as compared with a white man. His case, whether as
prosecutor or defendant, is tried before a jury of another nation whose
interests are opposed to his, and whose prejudices are often very strong
against him.

I cannot illustrate the position in which he is placed, more forcibly,
than by quoting Captain Grey's remarks, vol. ii. p. 381, where he says:--

"It must also be borne in mind, that the natives are not tried by a jury
of their peers, but by a jury having interests directly opposed to their
own, and who can scarcely avoid being in some degree prejudiced against
native offenders."

The opinion of Judge Willis upon this point may be gathered from the
following extract, from an address to a native of New South Wales, when
passing sentence of death upon him:--

"The principle upon which this court has acted in the embarrassing
collisions which have too frequently arisen between the Aborigines and
the white Europeans, has been one of reciprocity and mutual protection.
On the one hand, the white man when detected (WHICH I FEAR SELDOM
HAPPENS), has been justly visited with the rigour of the law, for
aggressions on the helpless savages; and, on the other, the latter has
been accountable for outrages upon his white brethren. As between the
Aborigines themselves, the court has never interfered, for obvious
reasons. Doubtless, in applying the law of a civilized nation to the
condition of a wild savage, innumerable difficulties must occur. The
distance in the scale of humanity between the wandering, houseless man of
the woods, and the civilized European, is immeasurable! FOR PROTECTION,
REGARDED AS A BRITISH SUBJECT. In theory, this sounds just and
reasonable; but in practice, how incongruous becomes its application! As
a British subject, he is presumed to know the laws, for the infraction of
which he is held accountable, and yet he is shut out from the advantage
of its protection when brought to the test of responsibility. As a
British subject, he is entitled to be tried by his PEERS. Who are the
peers of the black man? Are those, of whose laws, customs, language, and
religion, he is wholly ignorant--nay, whose very complexion is at
variance with his own--HIS peers? He is tried in his native land by a
race new to him, and by laws of which he knows nothing. Had you, unhappy
man! had the good fortune to be born a Frenchman, or had been a native of
any other country but your own, the law of England would have allowed you
to demand a trial by half foreigners and half Englishmen. But, by your
lot being the lowest, as is assumed, in the scale of humanity, you are
inevitably placed on a footing of fearful odds, when brought into the
sacred temple of British justice. Without a jury of your own
countrymen--without the power of making adequate defence, by speech or
witness--you are to stand the pressure of every thing that can be alleged
against you, and your only chance of escape is, not the strength of your
own, but the weakness of your adversary's case. Surrounded as your trial
was with difficulties, everything, I believe, was done that could be done
to place your case in a proper light before the jury. They have come to a
conclusion satisfactory, no doubt, to their consciences. Whatever might
be the disadvantages under which you laboured, they were convinced, as I
am, that you destroyed the life of Dillon; and as there was nothing
proved to rebut the presumption, of English law, arising from the fact of
homicide being committed by you, they were constrained to find you guilty
of murder. There may have been circumstances, if they could have been
proved, which would have given a different complexion to the case from
that of the dying declaration of the deceased, communicated to the Court
through the frail memory of two witnesses, who varied in their relation
of his account of the transaction. This declaration, so taken, was to be
regarded as if taken on oath, face to face with your accuser; and,
although you had not the opportunity of being present at it, and of
cross-examining the dying man, yet by law it was receivable against you."

In vol. ii. p 380, Captain Grey says:--

"I have been a personal witness to a case in which a native was most
undeservedly punished, from the circumstance of the natives, who were the
only persons who could speak as to certain exculpatory facts, not being
permitted to give their evidence."

Under the law lately passed in South Australia, the evidence of natives
would be receivable in a case of this kind, in palliation of the offence.
Although it is more than questionable how far such evidence would weigh
against the white man's oath; but for the purpose of obtaining redress
for a wrong, or of punishing the cruelty, or the atrocity of the European
[Note 115 at end of para.], no amount of native evidence would be of the
least avail. Reverse the case, and the sole unsupported testimony of a
single witness, will be quite sufficient to convict even unto death, as
has lately been the case in two instances connected with Port Lincoln,
where the natives have been tried at different times for murder,
convicted, and two of them hung, upon the testimony of one old man, who
was the only survivor left among the Europeans, but who, from the natural
state of alarm and confusion in which he must have been upon being
attacked, and from the severe wounds he received, could not have been in
an advantageous position, for observing, or remarking the identity of the
actual murderers, among natives, who, even under more favourable
circumstances are not easily recognizable upon a hasty view, and still
less so, if either they, or the observer, are in a state of excitement at
the time. Is it possible for the natives to be blind to the unequal
measure of justice, which is thus dealt out, and which will still continue
to be so as long as the law remains unchanged?

[Note 115: Governor Hutt remarks, in addressing Lord Glenelg on this
subject:--"In furtherance of the truth of these remarks, I would request
your Lordship particularly to observe, that here is one class of Her
Majesty's subjects, who are DEBARRED A TRUE AND FAIR TRIAL BY JURY,
whose evidence is inadmissible in a court of justice, and who consequently
may be the victims of any of the most outrageous cruelty and violence,
redress, and whose quarrels, ending sometimes in bloodshed and death,
it is unjust, as well as inexpedient, to interfere with.

"A jury ought to be composed of a man's own peers. Europeans, in the case
of a native criminal, cannot either in their habits or sympathies be
regarded as such, and his countrymen are incapable of understanding or
taking upon themselves the office of juror."]

I have no wish to give the native evidence a higher character than it
deserves, but I think that it ought not to be rendered unavailable in a
prosecution; the degree of weight or credibility to be attached to it,
might be left to the court taking cognizance of the case, but if it is
consistent and probable, I see no reason why it should not be as strong a
safeguard to the black man from injury and oppression, as the white man's
oath is to him. There are many occasions on which the testimony of
natives may be implicitly believed, and which are readily distinguishable
by those who have had much intercourse with this people--unaccustomed to
the intricacies of untruth, they know not that they must be consistent to
deceive, and it is therefore rarely difficult to tell when a native is

Among the natives themselves, the evil effects resulting from the
inability of their evidence to produce a conviction are still more
apparent and injurious. [Note 116 at end of para.] It has already been
shewn how highly important it is to prevent the elders from exercising
an arbitrary and cruel authority over the young and the weak, and how
necessary that the latter should feel themselves quite secure from
the vengeance of the former, when endeavouring to throw off the
trammels of custom and prejudice, and by embracing our habits and
pursuits, making an effort to rise in the scale of moral and physical
improvement. Whatever alteration therefore we may make in our system
for the better, or however anxious we may be for the welfare and the
improvement of the Aborigines, we may rest well assured that our
efforts are but thrown away, as long as the natives are permitted
with impunity to exercise their cruel or degrading customs upon
each other, unchecked and unpunished. We may feel equally certain that
these oppressions and barbarities can never be checked or punished but by
means of their own unsupported testimony against each other, and until
this can be legally received, and made available for that purpose, there
is no hope of any lasting or permanent good being accomplished.

[Note 116: Upon the inability of natives to give evidence in a court of
justice, Mr. Chief Protector Robinson remarks, in a letter to His Honour,
the Superintendent of Port Phillip, dated May, 1843--"The legal
disabilities of the natives have been a serious obstacle to their civil
protection; and I feel it my duty, whilst on this subject, respectfully to
bring under notice the necessity that still exists for some suitable
system of judicature for the governance and better protection of the
aboriginal races. 'As far as personal influence went, the aboriginal
natives have been protected from acts of injustice, cruelty, and
oppression; and their wants, wishes, and grievances have been faithfully
represented to the Government of the colony,' and this, under the
circumstances, was all that could possibly be effected. There is,
however, reason to fear that the destruction of the aboriginal natives
has been accelerated from the known fact of their being incapacitated
to give evidence in our courts of law. I have frequently had to deplore,
when applied to by the Aborigines for justice in cases of aggression
committed on them by white men, or by those of their own race, my
inability to do so in consequence of their legal incapacity to give
evidence. It were unreasonable, therefore, under such circumstances,
to expect the Aborigines would respect, or repose trust and confidence
in the Protectors, or submit to the governance of a department unable
efficiently to protect or afford them justice. Nor is it surprising they
should complain of being made to suffer the higher penalties of our law,
when deprived (by legal disability) of its benefits. Little difficulty
has been experienced in discovering the perpetrator where the blacks
have been concerned, even in the greater offences, and hence the ends
of justice would have been greatly facilitated by aboriginal evidence.
It is much to be regretted the Colonial Act of Council on aboriginal
evidence was disallowed."]

The following very forcible and just remarks are from Captain Grey's
work, vol. ii. pages 375 to 378:--

"I would submit, therefore, that it is necessary from the moment the
Aborigines of this country are declared British subjects, they should, as
far as possible, be taught that the British laws are to supersede their
own, so that any native who is suffering under their own customs, may
have the power of an appeal to those of Great Britain; or to put this in
its true light, that all authorized persons should, in all instances, be
required to protect a native from the violence of his fellows, even
though they be in the execution of their own laws.

"So long as this is not the case, the older natives have at their
disposal the means of effectually preventing the civilization of any
individuals of their own tribe, and those among them who may be inclined
to adapt themselves to the European habits and mode of life, will be
deterred from so doing by their fear of the consequences, that the
displeasure of others may draw down upon them.

"So much importance am I disposed to attach to this point, that I do not
hesitate to assert my full conviction, that whilst those tribes which are
in communication with Europeans are allowed to execute their barbarous
laws and customs upon one another, so long will they remain hopelessly
immersed in their present state of barbarism: and however unjust such a
proceeding might at first sight appear, I believe that the course pointed
out by true humanity would be, to make them from the very commencement
amenable to the British laws, both as regards themselves and Europeans;
for I hold it to be imagining a contradiction to suppose, that
individuals subject to savage and barbarous laws, can rise into a state
of civilization, which those laws have a manifest tendency to destroy and

"I have known many instances of natives who have been almost or quite
civilized, being compelled by other natives to return to the bush; more
particularly girls, who have been betrothed in their infancy, and who, on
approaching the years of puberty, have been compelled by their husbands
to join them.

"To punish the Aborigines severely for the violation of laws of which
they are ignorant, would be manifestly cruel and unjust; but to punish
them in the first instance slightly for the violation of these laws would
inflict no great injury on them, whilst by always punishing them when
guilty of a crime, without reference to the length of period that had
elapsed between its perpetration and their apprehension, at the same time
fully explaining to them the measure of punishment that would await them
in the event of a second commission of the same fault, would teach them
gradually the laws to which they were henceforth to be amenable, and
would shew them that crime was always eventually, although it might be
remotely, followed by punishment.

"I imagine that this course would be more merciful than that at present
adopted; viz. to punish them for a violation of a law they are ignorant
of, when this violation affects a European, and yet to allow them to
commit this crime as often as they like, when it only regards themselves;
for this latter course teaches them, not that certain actions, such, for
instance, as murder, etc. are generally criminal, but only that they are
criminal when exercised towards the white people, and the impression,
consequently excited in their minds is, that these acts only excite our
detestation when exercised towards ourselves, and that their criminality
consists, not in having committed a certain odious action, but in having
violated our prejudices."

Many instances have come under my own personal observation, where natives
have sought redress both against one another and against Europeans, but
where from their evidence being unavailable no redress could be afforded
them. Enough has however been now adduced to shew the very serious evils
resulting from this disadvantage, and to point out the justice, the
policy, the practicability, and the necessity of remedying it.

In bringing to a close my remarks on the Aborigines, their present
condition and future prospects, I cannot more appropriately or more
forcibly conclude the subject than by quoting that admirable letter of
Lord Stanley's to Governor Sir G. Gipps, written in December, 1842; a
letter of which the sentiments expressed are as creditable to the
judgment and discrimination, as they are honourable to the feelings and
humanity of the minister who wrote it, and who, in the absence of
personal experience, and amidst all the conflicting testimony or
misrepresentation by which a person at a distance is ever apt to be
assailed and misled, has still been able to separate the truth from
falsehood, and to arrive at a rational, a christian, and a just opinion,
on a subject so fraught with difficulties, so involved in uncertainty,
and so beset with discrepancies.

In writing to Sir G. Gipps, Lord Stanley says (Parliamentary Reports, pp.
221, 2, 3):--


"I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your despatches of the
dates and numbers mentioned in the margin, reporting the information
which has reached you in respect to the aboriginal tribes of New South
Wales, and the result of the attempts which have been made, under the
sanction of Her Majesty's Government, to civilize and protect these

"I have read with great attention, but with deep regret, the accounts
contained in these despatches. After making every fair allowance for the
peculiar difficulty of such an undertaking, it seems impossible any
longer to deny that the efforts which have hitherto been made for the
civilization of the Aborigines have been unavailing; that no real
progress has yet been effected, and that there is no reasonable ground to
expect from them greater suceess in future. You will be sensible with how
much pain and reluctance I have come to this opinion, but I cannot shut
my eyes to the conclusion which inevitably follows from the statements
which you have submitted to me on the subject.

"Your despatch of the 11th March last, No. 50, contains an account of the
several missions up to that date, with reports likewise from the chief
Protector and his assistants, and from the Crown Land Commissioners. The
statements respecting the missions, furnished not by their opponents, nor
even by indifferent parties, but by the missionaries themselves, are, I
am sorry to say, as discouraging as it is possible to be. In respect to
the mission at Wellington Valley, Mr. Gunther writes in a tone of
despondency, which shews that he has abandoned the hope of success. The
opening of his report is indeed a plain admission of despair; I sincerely
wish that his facts did not bear out such a feeling. But when he reports,
that after a trial of ten years, only one of all who have been attached
to the mission 'affords some satisfaction and encouragement;' that of the
others only four still remain with them, and that these continually
absent themselves, and when at home evince but little desire for
instruction; that 'their thoughtlessness, and spirit of independence,
ingratitude, and want of sincere, straightforward dealing, often try us
in the extreme;' that drunkenness is increasing, and that the natives are
'gradually swept away by debauchery and other evils arising from their
intermixture with Europeans,' I acknowledge that he has stated enough to
warrant his despondency, and to shew that it proceeds from no momentary
disappointment alone, but from a settled and reasonable conviction.

"Nor do the other missions hold out any greater encouragement. That at
Moreton Bay is admitted by Mr. Handt to have made but little progress, as
neither children nor adults can be persuaded to stay for any length of
time; while that at Lake Macquarie had, at the date of your despatch,
ceased to exist, from the extinction or removal of the natives formerly
in its vicinity. The Wesleyan Missionaries at Port Phillip,
notwithstanding an expenditure in 1841 of nearly 1,300 pounds, acknowledge
that they are 'far from being satisfied with the degree of success which
has attended our labours,' and 'that a feeling of despair sometimes takes
possession of our minds, and weighs down our spirits,' arising from the
frightful mortality among the natives.

"In the face of such representations, which can be attributed neither to
prejudice nor misinformation, I have great doubts as to the wisdom or
propriety of continuing the missions any longer. I fear that to do so
would be to delude ourselves with the mere idea of doing something; which
would be injurious to the natives, as interfering with other and more
advantageous arrangements, and unjust to the colony, as continuing an
unnecessary and profitless expenditure.

"To this conclusion I had been led by your despatch, No. 50, but
anticipating that the protectorate system would promise more beneficial
results, I postponed my instructions in the matter until I should receive
some further information.

"Your despatches of the 16th and 20th May have furnished that further
information, although they contradict the hopes which I had been led to
entertain. After the distinct and unequivocal opinion announced by Mr. La
Trobe, supported as it is by the expression of your concurrence, I cannot
conceal from myself that the failure of the system of protectors has been
at least as complete as that of the missions.

"I have no doubt that a portion of this ill success, perhaps a large
portion, is attributable to the want of sound judgment and zealous
activity on the part of the assistant protectors. Thus the practice of
collecting large bodies of the natives in one spot, and in the immediate
vicinity of the settlers, without any previous provision for their
subsistence or employment, was a proceeding of singular indiscretion.
That these people would commit depredations rather than suffer want, and
that thus ill-blood, and probably collisions, would be caused between
them and the settlers, must, I should have thought, have occurred to any
man of common observation; and no one could have better reason than Mr.
Sievewright to know his utter inability to control them. When such a
course could be adopted, I am not surprised at your opinion that the
measures of the protectors have tended 'rather to increase than allay the
irritation which has long existed between the two races.'

"But after allowing for the effect of such errors, and for the
possibility of preventing their recurrence, there is yet enough in Mr. La
Trobe's reports to shew that the system itself is defective, at least in
the hands of those whose services we are able to command. I am unwilling,
at this distance from the scene, and without that minute local knowledge
which is essential, to give you any precise instructions as to the course
which under present circumstances should be pursued: but I have the less
hesitation in leaving the matter in your hands, because your whole
correspondence shews that no one feels more strongly than yourself the
duty as well as the policy of protecting, and, if possible, civilizing
these Aborigines, and of promoting a good understanding between them and
the white settlers. At present, though I am far from attributing to the
white settlers generally an ill disposition towards the natives, there is
an apparent want of feeling among them, where the natives are concerned,
which is much to be lamented. Outrages of the most atrocious description,
involving sometimes considerable loss of life, are spoken of, as I
observe in these papers, with an indifference and lightness which to
those at a distance is very shocking. I cannot but fear that the feeling
which dictates this mode of speaking, may also cause the difficulty in
discovering and bringing to justice the perpetrators of the outrages
which from time to time occur. With a view to the protection of the
natives, the most essential step is to correct the temper and tone
adopted towards them by the settlers. Whatever may depend on your own
personal influence, or on the zealous co-operation of Mr. La Trobe, will
I am sure be done at once, and I will not doubt that your efforts in this
respect will be successful. In regard to the missions and the protectors,
I give you no definite instructions. If at your receipt of this despatch
you should see no greater prospect of advantage than has hitherto
appeared, you will be at liberty to discontinue the grants to either as
early as possible; but if circumstances should promise more success for
the future, the grants may be continued for such time as may be necessary
to bring the matter to a certain result. In the meantime, agreeing as I
do, in the general opinion, that it is indispensable to the protection of
the natives that their evidence should, to a certain extent at least, be
received in the courts of law, I shall take into my consideration the
means by which this can be effected in the safest and most satisfactory

"I cannot conclude this despatch without expressing my sense of the
importance of the subject of it, and my hope that your experience may
enable you to suggest some general plan by which we may acquit ourselves
of the obligations which we owe towards this helpless race of beings. I
should not, without the most extreme reluctance, admit that nothing can
be done; that with respect to them alone the doctrines of Christianity
must be inoperative, and the advantages of civilization incommunicable. I
cannot acquiesce in the theory that they are incapable of improvement,
and that their extinction before the advance of the white settler is a
necessity which it is impossible to control. I recommend them to your
protection and favourable consideration with the greatest earnestness,
but at the same time with perfect confidence: and I assure you that I
shall be willing and anxious to co-operate with you in any arrangement
for their civilization which may hold out a fair prospect of success.

"I have, etc.

* * * * *



1. Ku-ru-un-ko--tuft of emu feathers used in the play spoken of, page 228.
2. Three tufts of feathers tied in a bunch, with two kangaroo teeth, worn
tied to the hair.
3. Tufts of feathers, used as a flag or signal, elevated on a spear;
similar ones are worn by the males, of eagle or emu feathers over the pubes.
4. Let-ter-rer--kangaroo teeth worn tied to the hair of young males and
females after the ceremonies of initiation.
5 and 6. Coverings for the pubes, worn by females, one is of fur string in
threads, the other of skins cut in strips.
7. Tufts of white feathers worn round the neck.
8. Tufts of feathers stained red, worn round the neck.
9. Tufts of feathers stained red, with two kangaroo teeth to each tuft,
also worn round the neck.
10. A piece of bone worn through the septum nasi.
11. Tufts of feathers worn round the neck, one is black, the other
stained red.
12. Tufts of feathers stained red, with four kangaroo teeth in a bunch,
worn round the neck.
13. Necklace of reeds cut in short lengths.
14. Band for forehead, feathers and swan's-down.
15. Man-ga--band for forehead, a coil of string made of opossum fur.
16. Mona--net cap to confine the hair of young men of opossum fur.
17. Korno--widow's mourning cap made of carbonate of lime, moulded to the
head, weight 8 1/2lbs.
18. Dog's-tail, worn as an appendage to the beard, which is gathered
together and tied in a pigtail.


1. Spear barbed on both sides, of hard wood, 10 1/2 feet long, used in war
or hunting.
2. Similar to the last but only barbed on one side, used for same
3. Kar-ku-ru--smooth spear of hard wood, 10 1/2 feet, used for
punishments, as described page 222, also for general purposes.
4. Short, smooth, hard wood spear, 7 1/2 feet long, used to spear fish in
5. Reed spear with barbed hard wood point, used for war with the throwing
stick--the way of holding it, and position of the hand are shewn.
6. Hard wood spear with grass-tree end, 8 feet long, used with the
throwing stick for general purposes.
7. Hard wood spear with single barb spliced on, 8 feet long, used from
Port Lincoln to King George's Sound for chase or war, it is launched with
the throwing stick.
8. Ki-ko--reed spear, hard wood point, 6 to 7 feet long, used with the
throwing-stick to kill birds or other game.
9. Hard wood spear, grass-tree end, barbed with flint, used with the
throwing-stick for war.
10. The head of No. 9 on a arger scale.
11. The head of No. 1 on a larger scale.
12. The head of a Lachlan spear, taken from a man who was wounded there,
the spear entered behind the shoulder in the back, and the point reached
to the front of the throat, it had to be extracted by cutting an opening
in the throat and forcing the spear-head through from behind--the man
13. The head of No. 7 on a larger scale.


1. Nga-waonk, or throwing-stick, about 2 feet long, and narrow.
2. Ditto but hollowed and conical.
3. Ditto straight and flat.
4. Ditto narrow and carved.
5. Ditto broad in the centre.
6. Sorcerer's stick, with feathers and fur string round the point
7. Ditto plain.
8. The Darling Wangn, (boomerang) carved, 1 foot 10 inches.
9. The Darling war Wangn, 2 feet 1 inch.
10. Battle-axe.
11. Ditto
12. Ditto
13. Ditto
14. The lower end of the throwing-stick, shewing a flint gummed on as a
15. The Tar-ram, or shield made out of solid wood, 2 feet 7 inches long,
1 foot broad, carved and painted.
16. A side view of ditto
17. War-club of heavy wood, rounded and tapering.
18. Port Lincoln Wirris, or stick used for throwing at game, 2 feet.
19. Murray River Bwirri, or ditto ditto
20. War club, with a heavy knob, and pointed.
21. Port Lincoln Midla, or lever, with quartz knife attached to the end.
22. Murray river war club.


1. Tat-tat-ko, or rod for noosing wild fowl, 16 feet long, vide p. 310.
2. Moo-ar-roo, or paddle and fish spear, 10 to 16 feet, vide p. 263.
3. Chisel pointed hard wood stick, from 3 to 4 feet long, used by the
women for digging.
4. Ngakko, or chisel pointed stick, 3 feet long, used by the men.
5. Mun--canoe of bark, vide p. 314.
6. 7, 8. Varieties of Mooyumkarr, or sacred oval pieces of wood, used at
night, by being spun round with a long string so as to produce a loud
roaring noise for the object of counteracting any evil influences, and
for other purposes.
9. 10, 11, 12. Needles, etc. from the fibulas of kangaroos, wallabies,
emus, etc.
13. Kangaroo bone, used as a knife.
14. Stone with hollow in centre for pounding roots.
15. Stone hatchet.
16. Distaff with string of hair upon it.
17. Lenko, or net hung round the neck in diving to put muscles, etc. in.
18. Kenderanko, net used in diving, vide p. 260.
19. Drinking cup made of a shell.
20. Drinking cup, being the scull of a native with the sutures closed
with wax or gum.


1. Lukomb, or skin for carrying water, made from the skins of opossums,
wallabie, or young kangaroo; the fur is turned inside, and the legs,
tail, and neck, are tied up; they hold from 1 quart to 3 gallons.
2. Pooneed-ke--circular mat, 1 foot 9 inches in diameter, made of a kind
of grass, worn on the back by the women, with a band passed round the
lower part and tied in front, the child is then slipped in between the
mat and the back, and so carried.
3. Kal-la-ter--a truncated basket of about a foot wide at the bottom,
made also of a broad kind of grass, used for carrying anything in, and
especially for taking about the fragile eggs of the Leipoa.
4. A wallet, or man's travelling bag, made of a kangaroo skin, with the
fur outside.
5. A small kal-la-ter.
6. Pool-la-da-noo-ko, or oval basket made of broad-leaved grass, used for
carrying anything; from its flat make, it fits easily to the back.
7. An Adelaide oblong and somewhat flattish basket, made of a kind of
8. The Rok-ko, or net bag, made of a string manufactured from the rush,
it is carried by the women, and contains generally all the worldly
property of the family, such as shells and pieces of flint for
knives--bones for needles--sinews of animals for thread--fat and red
ochre for adorning the person--spare ornaments or belts--white pigment
for painting for the dance--a skin for carrying water--a stone for
pounding roots--the sacred implements of the husband carefully folded up
and concealed--a stone hatchet--and many other similar articles. The size
of the rok-ko varies according to the wealth of the family; it is
sometimes very large and weighty when filled.

The End

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia and Overland from Adelaide to King George's Sound in the Years 1840-1: Sent By the Colonists of South Australia, with the Sanction and Support of the Government: Including an Account of the Manners and Customs of the Aborigines and the State of Their Relations with Europeans — Volume 02" ***

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