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Title: Children of Wild Australia
Author: Pitts, Herbert
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: BOY SPEARING FISH]





[Illustration: Decoration]




            DEAR LITTLE MARY
            THIS LITTLE BOOK
           OF A FAR-OFF LAND
            IS DEDICATED BY
              HER FATHER


All the time I have been writing this little book I have been wishing I
could gather you all around me and take you with me to some of the
places in faraway Australia where I myself have seen the little black
children at their play. You would understand so much better all I have
tried to say.

It is a bright sunny land where those children live, but in many ways a
far less pleasant land to live in than our own. The country often grows
very parched and bare, the grass dies, the rivers begin to dry up, and
the poor little children of the wilderness have great difficulty in
getting food. Then perhaps a great storm comes and a great quantity of
rain falls. The rivers fill up and the grass begins to grow again, but
myriads of flies follow and they get into the children's eyes and
perhaps blind some of them, and the mosquitoes come and bite them and
give them fevers sometimes.

Yet though much of the land is wilderness--bare, sandy plains--beautiful
flowers bloom there after the rains. Lovely hibiscus, the giant scarlet
pea, and thousands of delicate white and yellow everlastings are there
for the eyes to feast upon, but the loveliest flowers of all are
frequently the love and tenderness and unselfishness which bloom in the
children's hearts.

I have left Australia now and settled down again in the old homeland,
but the memories of the eight years I spent among the dear little
children out there are still very delightful ones, and they, more than
anything I have read, have helped me to write this little book for you.

Your Sincere friend,


DOUGLAS, I.O.M., 1914


CHAP.                                               PAGE
      INTRODUCTORY LETTER                              7

   I. INTRODUCTORY                                    11

  II. PICCANINNIES                                    17


  IV. BLACKFELLOWS' "HOMES"                           26

   V. EDUCATION                                       31

        MAKE AND USE                                  35

 VII. HOW FOOD IS CAUGHT AND COOKED                   40


  IX. MAGIC AND SORCERY                               47



 XII. MORE STORIES TOLD TO CHILDREN                   65

XIII. RELIGION                                        68

 XIV. YARRABAH                                        72

  XV. TRUBANAMAN CREEK                                79


XVII. THE CHOCOLATE BOX                               89


BOY SPEARING FISH           _Frontispiece_




YOUTH IN WAR PAINT                      52







This little book is all about the children of wild Australia--where they
came from, how they live, the weapons they fight with, their strange
ideas and peculiar customs. But first of all you ought to know something
of the country in which they live, whence and how they first came to it,
and what we mean by "wild Australia" to-day, for it is not all
"wild"--very, very far from that.

Australia is a very big country, nearly as large again as India, and no
less than sixty times the size of England without Wales. Nearly half of
it lies within the tropics so that in summer it is extremely hot. There
are fewer white people than there are in London, in fact less than five
millions in all and more than a third of these live in the five big
cities which you will find around the coast, and about a third more in
smaller towns not so very far from the sea. The further you travel from
the coast the more scattered does the white population become, till some
hundred miles inland or more you reach the sheep and cattle country
where the homes of the white men are twenty or even more miles apart.
Further back still lies a vast, and, as far as whites are concerned,
almost unpeopled region into which, however, the squatter is constantly
pushing in search of new pastures for his flocks and herds, and into
which the prospector goes further and further on the look-out for gold.
This country we call in Australia "the Never-Never Land," and it is this
which is wild Australia to-day. It lies mostly in the North and runs
right up to the great central desert. It is there that the aboriginals,
or black people, are found. The actual number of these black people
cannot be exactly ascertained, but there are probably not more than
100,000 of them left to-day.

Much of wild Australia is made up of vast treeless plains and huge
tracts of spinifex (a coarse native grass) and sand. Sometimes in the
North-west one travels miles and miles without seeing a tree except on
the river banks, but in Queensland there is sometimes dense and almost
impenetrable jungle, and mighty, towering trees, with many beautiful
flowering shrubs. All alike is called "bush," which is the general term
in Australia for all that is not town.

The animals of wild Australia are most interesting and numerous. Several
kinds of kangaroo (from the giant "old man," five feet or more in
height, to the tiny little kangaroo mice no larger than our own mice at
home), make their home there, and emus may often be seen running across
the plains. Gorgeous parrots and many varieties of cockatoos are found
in great numbers, snakes are numerous, whilst the rivers and water-holes
teem with fish. Wild dogs, or dingos, too, are very numerous.


For hundreds and hundreds of years the aborigines had this vast country
to themselves, for though Spaniards, like Torres and De Quiros, and
Dutchmen, like Tasman and Dirk Hartog, had visited their shores, and an
Englishman named William Dampier had even landed in the North West in
1688, it was not till exactly a hundred years afterwards that white men
first came to make their homes in their land.

The aborigines are a Dravidian people, and, some think, of the same
parent stock as ourselves. Thousands of years ago, long, long before our
remote ancestors had learned how to build houses, make pottery, till the
soil, or domesticate any animal except the dog--long years, in fact,
before history began, the aboriginals left their primitive home on the
hills of the Deccan and drifting southward in their bark canoes landed
at last on the northern and western shores of the great island
continent. There they found an earlier people with darker skins than
their own and curly hair, very much like the Papuans and Melanesians of
to-day, and they drove them further and further southwards before them
just as our own English forefathers, coming to this land, drove an
earlier people before them into the mountain fastnesses of Wales and
Cumberland and into Cornwall. Some time afterwards came a series of
earthquakes and other disturbances which cut Tasmania away from the
mainland, and there till 1878 that early Papuan people survived.

As the blacks grew more numerous they began to form tribes, and to
divide the country up among themselves. Thus each tribe had its own
hunting-ground to which it must keep and on which no other tribe must
come and settle. But at length the white men came and they recognized no
such law. They settled down and began to build their own homes upon the
black men's hunting-grounds and to bring in their sheep and cattle and
turn them loose on the plains. The blacks did not at all like the white
man's coming, and sometimes did all they could to prevent their settling
down. They speared their sheep and cattle for food, they burned down
their houses, they threw their spears at the men themselves, and did all
they could to drive them back to sea. Sometimes hundreds of them would
surround a new settler's home, and murder all the whites they could see.
We must not blame the blacks. They were only doing what we should do
ourselves if some invader came and settled in our country and tried to
drive us back. But the white men were not to be driven back. They armed
themselves and made open war upon the black people and I am afraid did
many things of which we are all now thoroughly ashamed. For a few years
the struggle between the two races went on and at length the blacks had
to own themselves beaten, and so Australia passed into the white man's

The blacks to-day may be divided into three classes:--

1. The _Mialls_, or wild blacks, still living their own natural life in
their great hunting-grounds in the North, just as they lived before the
white men came. It is chiefly about these that this little book will

2. The _station-blacks_, living on the sheep and cattle stations and
helping the squatters on their "runs." They are fed and clothed in
return for their work, and are given a new blanket every year. The men
and boys ride about the run looking after the sheep, bring them in at
shearing time and help with the shearing. The women and girls learn to
do housework and make themselves useful in many ways. They seem very
happy and comfortable and are usually well treated and well cared for by
their masters. Once or twice a year, perhaps, they are given a
"pink-eye," or holiday, and then away they go into the wild bush with
their boomerangs and their spears, or perhaps visit some neighbouring
camp further up or down the river's bank. Their houses are just
"humpies," made of a few boughs, plastered over with clay or mud, with
perhaps a piece or two of corrugated iron put up on the weather side. In
this class, too, we ought to include those blacks, some hundreds, alas!
in number, who spend their time "loafing about" the mining camps and
the coastal towns of the North, living as best they can, guilty often of
crime, learning to drink, and swear, and gamble, and often making
themselves a thorough nuisance to all around. More wretched, degraded
beings it would not be possible to see--such a contrast to the fine,
manly wild-blacks. The pity and the shame of it all is that it is the
white man who has made them what they are.

3. The _mission-blacks_, that is the blacks on the mission stations such
as Yarrabah, Mitchell River, and Beagle Bay. These will have some
chapters to themselves later on and you will, I hope, be much interested
in them. There are not very many of them, perhaps not more than six or
seven hundred in all, but new mission stations are being started and so
we may well hope that their number will soon increase. There are some
splendid Christians among them, some of them quite an example to
ourselves. Of those you shall hear more fully by and by.

As you read this little book your heart will be stirred sometimes with
strange feelings that you cannot quite understand. Those strange
feelings will be nothing less than the expression of your own
brotherhood with them. Their skins may be "black" (though they are not
really black at all), and their lives may be wild; but they have human
hearts beating within them just as we have, and immortal souls, like
ours, for which Christ died. Never forget this as you are reading. It is
so easy to forget--to claim brotherhood with those who are wiser and
greater than ourselves, and to forget that just that same brotherhood
unites us one by one with the countless thousands who make up what we
call the wild and primitive peoples of the world.



People in wild Australia very seldom talk about babies. They call them
by a much longer name, and one not nearly so easy to spell,
piccaninnies. But whatever name we call them by--babies or
piccaninnies--the little black children are perfectly delightful, as all
children are.

I shall never forget the first little Australian piccaninny I ever saw.
It was not more than a few hours old, and so fat and jolly, with a
little twinkle in its eye as much as to say, "I know all about you and
you needn't come and look at me." Of course I expected to see a dear
little shiny black baby as black as coal, but very much to my surprise
it wasn't black at all. It was a very beautiful golden-brown, but as the
mother said to me, "him soon come along black piccaninny all right."
Under his eyes and on his arms and on other parts of his body were
little jet black lines, and these gradually widened and spread till in a
few weeks time he was a very deep chocolate colour, for though we call
them "the blacks" the people of wild Australia are not really black but
deep chocolate.

I am very sorry to tell you that many of the little piccaninnies who are
born in Australia, especially if they happen to be girls, are not
allowed to live at all. Perhaps the last little baby is still quite
young and unable to help itself at all and so still needs all it's
mother's care. Or perhaps there hasn't been any rain for many, many
months and the grass has all withered and the water-holes have very
nearly dried up, and there is very, very little food for anyone and the
natives are beginning to think that it is never going to rain any more.
In either of these cases the little baby is almost certain to be killed
almost as soon as it is born, and perhaps, so scarce has food become, it
may even be eaten by its parents and other members of the tribe.

There is another reason why babies are sometimes killed and eaten, and
to us it seems a very horrible one indeed. Perhaps it is fat and healthy
and there is some other and older child in the tribe who is weakly and
thin. The natives will then sometimes kill the healthy baby and feed the
weakly child on tiny portions of its flesh. It seems, as I said just
now, very awful and very horrible, but the idea is this, that the
strength and vigour of the younger child will be imparted to the weaker

It is the father who always decides whether the baby shall live or die.
If it is allowed to live you must not imagine that it will be in any way
neglected or ill-treated. Quite the opposite is true. There is no
country in the world where babies and older children are spoiled quite
so much as they are in wild Australia. They are never corrected or
chastised by either father or mother, and they do just exactly as they
like. Sometimes, perhaps, when father and mother are both away their
maternal grandmother may happen to give them a good smack in the same
way and on the same part as is usual in civilized countries, but this is
certainly the only form of punishment they ever receive. They are
everyone's idol and everyone's playthings, and yet they are never
kissed, because no Australian aboriginal knows how to kiss. If a mother
wants to show her love for her little one she will place her lips to his
and then blow through them, and this is the nearest to kissing she ever
gets. But baby crows with delight whenever mother does this.

Australian mothers never carry their piccaninnies in their arms as
British mothers do, neither of course do they have any fine
perambulators or mail-carts to push them out in. The most usual way of
carrying them when they are quite tiny is in a bag of opossum skin or
plant fibre slung on the mother's back. At night baby will very likely
be put to sleep in a cradle made of a piece of bent bark perhaps sown up
at the ends and covered with an opossum skin or a few green leaves. This
is generally called a pitchi. As soon, however, as baby is able to hold
on it seems to prefer to sit astride its mother's shoulder or hip and
hang on by her hair.

Names are usually given according to the order of birth, but on the
sheep stations the babies usually receive a white child's name.
"Tommies" and "Maries" are of course almost as frequent as they are here
at home, but some babies get very fine names indeed, and some three or
four. In the wild parts, however, it would be considered unlucky to name
a child before it could walk. It is often called simply "child" or
"girl" until then. The name, when it is given, often depends on
something that happened at the time of its birth. A baby was once named
"kangaroo rat" because one of these little animals ran through the
_mia-mia_ (house or home) a few minutes after it was born. Another was
called "fire and water" because at the time of his birth the _mia_ had
caught fire and the fire had been put out with water. There is a similar
custom among the Bedouins to-day, which has been in existence ever since
the days of Jacob. You can see an instance of it in Genesis XXX. 10, 11.
"Zilpah, Leah's maid, bare Jacob a son. And Leah said, A troop cometh:
and she called his name Gad (_i.e._ a troop or company.)" Is it not
strange that we should find this old Hebrew custom still in use in wild

But the name which is first given is frequently changed. Most boys and
girls are given a new name altogether as soon as they are regarded as
grown-up, _i.e._ about the age of fourteen. Again, should someone die
who happens to have the same name, the child's will at once be changed,
for the aboriginals, for reasons which will be explained in a later
chapter, never mention the names of their dead. Sometimes, again, as a
sign of very special friendship two black people will exchange names.

There is one very curious custom among the blacks the "why" and
"wherefore" no one has ever been quite able to explain. One of the
things that would strike you most if you could look into the face of an
aboriginal would be the great width of the nose. It sometimes extends
almost across the face. It looks, if I may put it that way, almost as
though it had been put on hot and before it had properly cooled had been
accidentally sat upon. The reason is that when babies are quite tiny
their mothers flatten their noses, but why they do this I cannot say.
Probably a very broad nose is part of their idea of beauty.

It is always pretty to watch children at their play. You will remember
how our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, like all child lovers, would often
stand in the market place and watch the children playing. Sometimes they
played weddings, sometimes funerals, and He once drew a lesson for the
Jews from the conduct of those disagreeable and sulky children who would
not join in. So it is a very pretty sight to see the little children of
wild Australia playing. Like all other children they are very fond of
games and grow very excited over them. Little girls may sometimes be
seen sitting down and playing with little wooden dolls which a kind
uncle or grandfather has made for them, whilst boys and girls alike will
often play "Cat's Cradle" for quite a long time, and very wonderful and
elaborate are the figures some of them contrive. Yet, like most other
children, they like noisier games best. A kind of football is very
popular, and they will often play it for hours at a time. Some one
chosen to begin the game will take a ball of fibre or opossum or
kangaroo skin and kick it into the air. The others all rush to get it
and the one who secures it kicks it again with his instep. They get very
excited over it and their fathers and big brothers sometimes get very
excited too and come and join in, and the shouts and laughter grow until
the very rocks begin to echo back their merriment.

At another time they will play "hide and seek" just as white children
do, or a sort of "I spy." Another time perhaps a mock kangaroo hunt will
engage them. One of them will be kangaroo and the others will hunt him.
For a long time he will elude them, but at last he has to own himself
captured and allow the hunters to dispatch him with their tiny spears.
So, in one way or another, the merry days roll on until childhood's days
are done and the education of the young savage, of which you will learn
in a later chapter, begins to be taken in hand.

Often when the writer has watched the little black children at their
play that beautiful promise in the prophets has come into his mind, "the
streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the
streets thereof." The prophet was thinking of the New Jerusalem and its
happiness, and a great longing has come into the writer's mind for more
men and women and children, too, to realize their duty to these
forgotten children of the wild, and to take their part in bringing them
into that heavenly city. Perhaps all those who read this little book
will try what they can do.



Every little black piccaninny as soon as it is old enough to understand
is told by its mother what sort of a spirit it has inside it, for the
blackfellows all believe that their spirits have lived before and came
in the very beginning out of some animal or plant. So some children have
"kangaroo spirits," some "eagle spirits," some "emu spirits," and some,
perhaps, the "spirit of the rain."

The mothers know exactly what kind of spirit each baby has. If it came
to her in the kangaroo country then it has a kangaroo spirit and so on.
In some parts it doesn't matter a bit what kind of a spirit father or
mother may have. Father may have an emu spirit, mother an eagle hawk's,
but if the baby came in the snakes' country it will have a snake's

Sometimes on the rocks in wild Australia you may see a rough picture of
a kangaroo drawn by some native artist in coloured clays. It is a
picture of the great-great-greatest-grandfather of the kangaroo men and
so also, of course, of any little child who has a kangaroo spirit,
because when he grows up he will belong to the kangaroo men. The story
which he will be told about his great-great-greatest-grandfather will be
something like this:--

"Ever so many moons ago" (for the blackfellows count all time by moons),
"a great big kangaroo came up out of the earth at such and such a place
and wandered about for a long time. After this he changed himself into a
man and then he amused himself making spirits. Of course as he was a
kangaroo man he could only make kangaroo spirits. These kangaroo spirits
did not at all like having no bodies, so as they had none of their own
they began to look about for other bodies to go into. (You will remember
how in the Gospel story the spirits who were cast out of the poor
demoniacs of Gadara were unhappy at the prospect of having no bodies,
and so asked to go into the swine.) So some went into kangaroos and some
into little black children who happened to come in their country. Then
one day great-great-greatest-grandfather called them all together--all
the kangaroos and all the little children with kangaroo spirits--and
told them that they all alike had kangaroo spirits and so were really
brothers and must never eat or harm one another. And so to-day all the
children with kangaroo spirits are taught to call the kangaroo their
brother, and they will never eat or harm a kangaroo, and as you all know
a kangaroo will never eat them."

If they have emu spirits they will never eat emu and so on.

The children are not told these stories by word of mouth as I have told
you, but they are taught chiefly by means of corrobborees, or native
dances, which you will read about later on.

The proper name of the animal or plant whose spirit they are said to
have is their _Totem_, and every man, woman, and child in wild Australia
belongs to some totem group and calls its totem its brother. You will
hear more about these totems later on.

When I saw a black man, as I did sometimes, who wouldn't eat iguana I
knew at once that he belonged to the iguana totem group and had an
iguana spirit; and, of course, his great-great-greatest-grandfather was
not a kangaroo but an iguana.

Now that you have learnt in this chapter something of what the little
black children of wild Australia are taught about where they came from
and the sort of spirits which they have you will, I hope, want to do
something to help to teach them the truth--that God made them all and
that not the spirit of an animal or plant but a beautiful bright spirit
fresh from God's own hand has been given them all, and that all have the
same kind of spirit and those spirits when they leave the body will not
wander about the earth again looking for some other body, but will
"return to God Who gave them." They, just as much as we, are meant to
live and enjoy God now and be happy with Him for ever hereafter.


[1] I owe this title and something of the contents of the chapter to Mrs
Aeneas Gunn's very interesting book for children, "Little Black



One of the first things of which a little child takes notice is its
home. The pictures on the wall, the pretty things all around, the
flowers in the garden are a source of ever-increasing delight to its
growing consciousness. The older it grows the more it comes to know and
love its home. Some of those who read this book will, perhaps, have very
beautiful homes richly decked with all that art and money can supply,
others will have smaller and plainer ones, but the children of wild
Australia have scarcely anything that can be called a home at all.

A blackfellows' camp will consist of a number of the plainest and rudest
huts that one can either imagine or describe. Sometimes there is not
even a hut, but they live entirely in the open air on the bank of some
creek or stream with merely a breakwind of boughs to keep off the wind
and rain. During bad weather they will all huddle together as close to
the breakwind as they can, whilst their limbs shake and their teeth
chatter with cold.

More often, however, something in the way of a hut is made. A few
pieces of stick, which will easily bend, will be driven into the ground,
covered with sheets of bark and a few boughs and perhaps plastered over
with mud. Sometimes, where kangaroos are plentiful, some dried skins
will be used instead of bark and boughs. There will, of course, be
nothing in the way of chairs or tables, a few skins and a pitchi or two
will probably be the only furniture, but a miscellaneous assortment of
odds and ends will lie around. Some eight or nine souls may claim the
hut as home.

These huts are arranged according to a fixed plan. Some will face in one
direction, some in another. Thus a man's hut must never face in the same
direction as that of his mother-in-law and certain other of his

A native camp always has a most untidy appearance. All kinds of things
are left lying about, but as the black people are very honest nothing is
ever stolen. They will give their things away freely but they will never
think of taking what is not their own. Most of their time is spent out
of doors. They only use their huts in wet and windy weather or when the
nights are cold. Their food is always cooked and eaten outside, and
bones and all kinds of remnants are littered about everywhere, but as
they usually have several dogs these things do not remain for long. How
thankful you and I ought to be for our homes and our home comforts,
however plain and humble those homes may be!

If food is becoming scarce the people will often leave their camp
altogether and migrate further up the river where it is more plentiful,
for their camps, you must remember, are nearly always built upon a
river's bank. Sometimes there may have been heavy rain in one part of
their country and very little in another. Then they will move to where
grass and game are more plentiful. We expect our food to be brought to
our home, but the blacks take their homes to their food. Sometimes after
a death, too, they will desert their settlement and encamp elsewhere.
The dead man may have been a very troublesome person to get on with when
alive, and they think if they bury him near his old camp and then move
away themselves his ghost will not know where to find them and they will
be rid of him altogether. This frequent moving of their homes is in many
ways a very good thing. If they stayed too long in one place their huts
would soon become very insanitary and diseases would begin to work havoc
among them.

In the camp the old man's word is law. They even decide what food may be
eaten and what must be left alone. They manage to forbid all the more
delicate morsels to all the younger members of the tribe and so secure
the best of everything for themselves. Women and girls are of little
account among them. They are in fact but the "hewers of wood and drawers
of water" for the men, and their life is one of terrible and
never-ending drudgery. The little girls, of course, do not have to work,
but they are seldom made such pets of as are the little boys. At
fourteen they are girls no longer and their life of drudgery begins.


Where, as on the mission stations, the Gospel is preached to this poor
people it brings new joy and hope to the women. There is no other hope
for them, nothing else that saves them from the slavery in which they
are compelled to live. On the mission stations are real homes, houses
like our own, into which love has entered and where woman is no longer
slave or chattel, but a queen. Each family on these settlements has its
own little holding fenced and cleared in which fruit, flowers, and
vegetables and, perhaps, rice and maize are grown. The cottages are
patterns of neatness both without and within, so tremendous is the
difference the religion of Jesus Christ makes to this poor degraded
people. If we had more missionaries we should have many more such homes
and many more of the black women would enter into the meaning of those
words in the twentieth chapter of St John--"The disciples went away
again _to their own home_" and found the Resurrection light shining
there in all its beauty.

Perhaps nothing would give us so good an idea of the position of women
and girls among this people as to take our place in a native camp on the
morning of some aboriginal girl's wedding day. The poor little bride,
she will probably not be more than about fourteen, will have been told
that her husband has come to fetch her. She has very likely never seen
him before, although she was engaged to him as soon as she was born, and
he will probably be much older than she. She will cry a good deal and
say she does not want to go, but she knows very well that by the laws of
her tribe she must do so. Her father, expecting rebellion, will be
standing by her side with a spear and a heavy club in his hand. The
moment she attempts to resist her capture (for it is really nothing
less) a blow from the spear will remind her she must go. If she tries,
as she probably will, to run away the heavy club will fell her to the
ground. Her husband may then begin to show his authority. He will seize
her by her hair and drag her off in the the direction of his _mia_. She
will very likely make her teeth meet in the calf of his leg, but it will
be no good. She will only receive a kick from his bare foot in return.
Arrived at her new home she has to cook her husband a dinner and then
sit quietly by his side while he eats it. When he has finished she may
have what is left, although he, not improbably, has been throwing pieces
to the dogs all the time.

Such are the marriage ceremonies in wild Australia.



There are no schools in wild Australia, yet it must not be thought that
the children receive no education. On the contrary their education
begins at a very early age and is continued well into manhood and
womanhood. Up to the age of seven or eight boys and girls play together
and remain under their mother's care, but a separation then takes place
and schooldays, if we may call them by that name, begin. The boys leave
the society of the girls and sleep in the bachelor's camp. They begin to
accompany their fathers on long tramps abroad. They are taught the names
and qualities of the different plants and animals which they see, and
the laws and legends of their tribe. Lessons of reverence and obedience
to their elders are instilled into their young minds, and they have
impressed upon them that they must never attempt to set up their own
will against the superior will of the tribe. They are taught to use
their eyes, and to take note of the footprints of the different animals
and birds, and eventually to track them to their haunts. In this art of
tracking many of them become wonderfully skilled. They will often say
how long it is since a certain track was made, and in the case of a
human foot-mark will often tell whose it is. They will say whether the
traveller was a man or a woman, and in some cases have been known to
say, quite correctly, that the man was knock-kneed or slightly lame.
Trackers employed by the police have often traced a man's footsteps over
stony and rocky ground, being able to tell, from the displacing of a
stone here and there, that the man whom they were seeking had passed
that way. On one occasion a clergyman was travelling in the bush when he
was met by an aboriginal boy who told him that a man had gone along that
way earlier in the day, had been thrown from his horse about five miles
further on but had not been hurt very much because he had got up after a
few minutes and had gone after his horse; the man, however, was slightly
lame, and the horse had cast a shoe. The same evening the clergyman met
the man in question and found that the native's account of what happened
was correct in every detail. He had gained his information entirely from
careful observation of the tracks.

So wonderfully is this power of seeing trained that every object is most
carefully noted as it is passed. The foot-marks of an emu or kangaroo on
their way to water, the head of a wild turkey standing above the grass
some two hundreds yards away, will be pointed out to the purblind white
man who has never learned to see. If one of the lessons of life is to
use the eyes the aboriginal teacher teaches his lessons well.

The children of wild Australia are taught to use their ears. They will
start up at the first faint stirring of the leaves which tells that a
storm of wind will soon be down upon them or that an opossum or parrot
is awakening in the tree. Their ears, too, will notice the slight
rustling of the grass and the stealthy footsteps on the ground which
tell that some enemy is near. It takes long and careful training to
bring the power of hearing to such perfection as this.

They are taught to use their hands and to make and use the weapons,
etc., of which you will read in the next chapter. What wonderful natural
history lessons, too, theirs must be. The habits of all the various
animals are learned out in the wild, and numerous stories about them are
told. The traditions of all the places they come to are carefully
narrated by the older men, and in this way a faithful adherence to the
rules and customs of the tribe is ensured. Wonderful are the tales of
their old ancestors which will be narrated around the camp fires at
night, whilst in the day time excursions to some of the sacred spots,
whose legends were told over night, may be made. So in one way or
another a remarkable reverence for antiquity--for the dim and shadowy
(though, to the aboriginal, very real) heroes of the "alcheringa," or
distant dream age in which these old heroes lived, and for the aged will
be instilled and the children grow up in ways of reverence and obedience
which are often sadly lacking in more favoured lands.

Sometimes the growing lad at about the age of twelve or thirteen will be
sent away to school, that is he will go to stay with some neighbouring
friendly tribe whose old men will carefully complete the education
which his father and the men of his own tribe began.

But lessons are taught not only by word of mouth but by means of sacred
rites which the young lad at about the age of fourteen is allowed to
witness for the first time. In these sacred performances the deeds of
some doughty ancestor are portrayed, and the boy as he gazes upon them,
and listens to the answers given to the questions he is allowed to ask,
learns more and more of the rules and traditions of his tribe. No women
and children are ever allowed to be present at these solemnities. The
tribal secrets which they depict may be known only to the men. A woman
or girl who dared to venture near or pry into them would have her eyes
put out or be killed at once by the men.

Before the young lad can be allowed to attend he needs to be solemnly
initiated into his tribe. He is taken away into the bush and there
undergoes a kind of savage Confirmation. A front tooth is knocked out,
and the body is gashed with sharp stones. In some tribes a new gash is
given as each new secret is imparted. Into the wounds thus made ashes or
the down of the eagle hawk are rubbed to make the wound heal. The actual
result is a raised scar which lasts on through life.

Sometimes what is called a Fire Ceremony is also performed to test the
power of endurance of those who are henceforth to be regarded as men. A
large fire is lighted and then the hot embers are strewn on the ground.
Over these a few green boughs are placed and the boys are made to lie
down upon them until permission is given them by their elders to rise.
The boughs, of course, keep them from being actually burned, but the
heat of the fire is very great and they are often nearly suffocated with
the smoke. Should the faintest cry escape one of them or should they
fail to lie perfectly still they would be regarded as weak and
effeminate and unworthy to be "made men," and their admission into the
full privileges of the tribe would be delayed. These fire ceremonies are
a very severe test of their power of endurance. The native lad will
suffer a great deal rather than be thought soft and womanish, and there
are few who fail to stand the severe test which is here demanded of



The people of wild Australia are still in what is called "the stone
age," which means that all their tools and weapons are made of wood or
stone. Those on the sheep stations and near the towns are, however,
learning to use tin and iron, but it is not natural for them to do so.

The first tool they learn to use is a little digging stick. Almost as
soon as they are able to run alone one of these little instruments will
be put into their hands and they will be shown how to use it. With these
they learn very quickly how to dig for grubs and edible roots, and as
they get a little older they may be seen making little "humpies" of
sand. But the most wonderful of all their weapons is the boomerang. No
other people in the world is known to use it though some have thought
that it was once in use among the very ancient Egyptians. There is a
very interesting theory as to the origin of the boomerang. Some
children, it is said, were playing one day with the leaf of a white gum
tree. As the leaves of this tree fall to the ground they go round and
round, and if thrown forward with a quick jerk they make a curve and
come back. An old man was watching them playing, and to please them he
made a model of the leaf in wood. This was improved upon from time to
time until it developed into the boomerang.

Boomerangs are of two kinds--_war-boomerangs_ and _toy-boomerangs_ or
_boomerangs proper_. The first kind are rather larger and usually less
curved than the others, but do not return when thrown. They are often
about thirty inches long and have a sharp cutting edge. They are made
entirely of wood, the branches of the iron-bark or she-oak tree being
preferred. The necessary cutting and shaping has to be done entirely
with sharp flints or diorite, the only tools except stone axes, which
the natives in their wild state employ. They naturally take a very long
time to make, but, when made, are very deadly weapons. They can be
thrown as far as a hundred and fifty yards, and even at that distance
will inflict a very severe wound. When thrown from a distance of sixty
yards they have been known to pass almost through a man's body.

Boomerangs proper are usually about twenty-four inches long, but there
are seldom two of exactly the same size and pattern. They are rather
more curved on the under than on the upper side. A man or boy who wants
to throw one of them first examines it very carefully and then takes
equally careful notice of the direction of the wind. He then throws it
straight forward giving it a very sharp twist as he throws. At first it
will keep fairly close to the ground, then after it has gone a certain
distance it will turn over and at the same time rise in the air.
Completing its outward flight, and perhaps hitting the object at which
it was aimed, it turns over again and comes back to within a few feet of
the man who threw it. Boys may often be seen practising for hours at a
time with their little toy boomerangs, and by the time they are men many
of them have become very proficient in throwing them.

A skilful thrower can do almost anything he likes with his boomerang. A
native has been seen to knock a stone off the top of a post fifty yards
away, but very few of them are quite as clever as this. None the less it
would be rather dangerous for an unwary spectator to watch a party of
native men and boys throwing their boomerangs. An enemy or a hunted
animal hiding behind a tree would be quite safe from a spear or bullet
but could easily be taken in the rear and seriously injured by one of
these extraordinary weapons when thrown by a skilful thrower. Kangaroos
and emus find it almost impossible to avoid them whilst they work the
most amazing havoc among a number of ducks or cockatoos just rising from
water, or even among a flock of parrots on the wing. Many a supper has
an aboriginal boy brought home with the aid of his trusty boomerang.

In Western Australia most of the aboriginals use a smaller and lighter
boomerang than those in use in the other parts of the continent. This is
called a _kylie_ or _kaila_, and is very leaf-like. It will also fly
further than the heavier weapon.

Next to the boomerang or kylie the weapons in most frequent use are
_spears_. These, too, are very remarkable and vary much in length and
character. Some are quite small and can be used without difficulty by a
child. Some are as much as fifteen feet long. The simplest form of spear
is no more than a pointed stick, but the wild blacks seldom content
themselves with these. Often a groove is cut in one or both sides of the
spear, and pieces of flint are inserted in the groove and fastened with
native gum. More frequently deep barbs are cut at the sides and these
will inflict a very ugly and painful wound, especially when, as is often
the case, they have been previously dipped in the juice of some poison
plant. The most elaborate spears are those with stone heads. These
heads are often beautifully made and are securely fastened to the spear
with twine or gum. Where there are white men glass is often used
instead, the glass being chipped into shape in a perfectly wonderful way
with tools of flint. The patience displayed in their manufacture is
admirable indeed. When the telegraph line was first erected in wild
Australia the natives caused endless trouble to the Government by
knocking off the glass or porcelain insulators and using them for spear

Spears are sometimes thrown with the hand, but perhaps more frequently
by means of a special instrument called a _meero_ or _wommera_. This is
a flat piece of wood about twenty-four inches long, with a tooth made of
very hard white wood fastened to its head in such a way that when the
wommerah is handled the tooth is towards the man who is holding it. This
tooth fits into a hole at the end of the spear. Spears thrown with the
wommerah will travel further and with much greater force than those
thrown with the hand.

As a protection against an enemy's spear the aborigines usually provide
themselves with a wooden shield or _woonda_. These are usually about
thirty-three inches long and six inches wide and have a handle cut in
the back. They are cut out of one solid block; and have grooved ridges
on the front. The hollow parts between the ridges are frequently painted
white with a kind of pipe-clay and the ridges are stained red. Why they
are marked in this way and why the grooves are cut at all no one seems
to know. The native men are extraordinarily quick in the use of these
shields, and will sometimes ward off with their aid a very large number
of spears thrown at them in rapid succession. It is very important that
boys should become proficient in making and using all these things as in
after days their food-supply and even their lives may depend upon their

While the men and boys are hard at work making these different
implements the women and girls very likely busy themselves manufacturing
bags and baskets. The baskets are made of thin twigs and the bags with
string spun from the fibre of a coarse grass called spinifex, or perhaps
from animal fur. In them they contrive to carry all their worldly goods
as they travel from camp to camp, and occasionally baby also is safely
stowed away in the same receptacle.



In very few parts of wild Australia can the black people count on a
regular supply of food. Sometimes there is no rain for months, and
consequently the grass disappears, water dries up, and many of the
animals die. In these times of drought the conditions of the people are
pitiable indeed.

The chief articles of diet besides seeds and roots are fish of various
kinds--kangaroo, emu, lizards, snake, wild turkey or bustard, parrots
and cockatoos, insects and grubs. Vermin, too, are sometimes eaten, and
clay is occasionally indulged in as dessert.

There are many ways of catching fish. The commonest method is by means
of a spear. A native boy may often be seen standing on a rock in the
middle of a pool, or by the water's edge, with a spear in his hand, his
eyes intently fixed upon the water. As soon as a fish comes near down
goes the spear and it is seldom that he fails to land his prey. In some
parts rough canoes of bark are made and the fishing will be done from
these. Sometimes the fish are poisoned by pouring the juices from some
poison plant into the water but this method is not very often employed.

Their method of catching crayfish is not one that you and I would care
to employ. They will walk about in the water and allow the fish to
fasten on their toes, but so extraordinarily quick are they that they
will stoop down and crush the creature's claws with their own fingers
before it has had time to nip.

Even more varied than their ways of fishing are their methods of
catching birds. A black boy may sometimes be seen stretched naked and
motionless on a bare rock with a piece of fish in his fingers. When a
bird comes to sample the fish he will with his disengaged hand, catch it
by the leg. Parrots and cockatoos are often caught by means of the
boomerang, but the native will sometimes employ quite another method. He
will get into a tree at night, tie himself to a branch, and take with
him a big stick. As the birds fly past him he will lash out with his
stick and bring large numbers of them to the ground. Emus are far too
powerful to be caught in any of these ways. They are usually taken in
nets as they come in the early morning to water. A number of natives
will hide themselves in bushes or behind rocks and when the emus have
gathered at the water-hole will steal out almost noiselessly (for emus
are very timid birds and easily startled) and stretch large nets on
three sides of a square behind them. The birds on returning from the
pool walk straight into the nets and are easily speared.

Kangaroos are sometimes captured in the same way, but more frequently
they are killed with spears. A native has been known to walk very many
miles stalking a kangaroo. A case is even on record where a man spent
three days in capturing one. When the kangaroo ran he ran, when it stood
he stood, when it slept he slept, and so on till at last he was enabled
to creep up sufficiently closely to dispatch it with his spear.

The way in which his food is cooked when he has caught it depends upon
how hungry the aboriginal is. If he is very hungry indeed he may pull it
to pieces with his teeth and his fingers there and then and eat it raw.
If not quite so hungry but still impatient for his meal, the fish, or
whatever it is, will be thrown upon the fire and eaten as soon as it is
warmed through. The most elaborate way of all is to wrap the fish in a
piece of paper bark with a few aromatic leaves, tie the ends carefully
with native twine, and allow it to cook slowly underneath the camp
fire. A fish cooked in this way is most delicate and tasty, and would
probably tempt the palate of a white man as much as it does the blacks.


The natives always roast their food. They never touch anything boiled.
But not even an aboriginal can cook his dinner unless he has first made
a fire. There is nothing of the nature of matches among this people.
When they want to make a fire they will take a piece of soft wood, place
it on the ground and hold it in position with their feet. Another stick
is then taken, pressed down upon the first piece, and made to rotate
quickly upon it. Perhaps a few very dry leaves are placed near the place
where one stick touches the other and as soon as the friction has caused
the light dust to smoulder a gentle blow with the breath will cause the
leaves to burst into flame. At other times two shields or kylies will be
rubbed together until the dust catches fire. As these are rather
wearisome methods of kindling flame, a fire once lighted is seldom
allowed to go out. When camp is moved the women may be seen carrying
pieces of smouldering charcoal in their hands. The movement through the
air causes these to keep alight, and as soon as the new camping ground
is reached all that needs to be done is to place them on the ground,
pile a few dry leaves and sticks over them, and in a very few seconds a
cheerful fire is blazing merrily. So expert are the women in keeping
these fire-sticks alight that a party of them will travel all day
without allowing a single one to go out.



Among the special delights of an aboriginal boy or girl is the memory of
the first corrobboree he was ever allowed to see. These corrobborees are
very elaborate and curious native dances nearly always performed at
night. The women and children are allowed to witness them but only the
men actually take part. The black men who live on or near the stations
often speak of these as "Debbil-debbil dances," as they are supposed to
have some relation to the evil spirits, or "debbil-debbils," of whom the
blacks are so terribly afraid.

It takes a long while to dress the men up for these dances. Often they
are first pricked all over with sharp stones to make the blood flow, and
this blood is then smeared all over their faces and bodies. Little tufts
of white cockatoo or eagle hawk down are then stuck all over them, the
blood being used as gum. If the doings of some mythical emu ancestor are
to be celebrated in the dance only men belonging to the emu totem group
will be allowed to perform. An enormous head-dress of down and feathers
will next be made and put on, and large anklets of fresh green leaves
will complete the array.

A large space will be specially prepared as the ceremonial ground. In
front of this huge fires will usually be lighted, and either in front of
these, or at the sides, a number of women and older girls will be seated
with kangaroo skins drawn tightly across their knees. On these skins
they beat with sticks or with their hands, making a noise similar to
that which would be made by a number of kettle-drums. All the time the
dancing is going on the women keep up a weird, monotonous chant, often
beginning on a high key and dying down almost to a whisper. It is not
very musical to our ears but the effect is often very strange and
wonderful. It sometimes sounds as though a number of singers were
gradually coming towards one from afar, then standing still awhile, then
turning round and going back again.

One of the performers will come out upon the stage, go through a few
curious antics which he calls a dance, then retire whilst another takes
his place. After a while, perhaps, all will come on together and the fun
for a time will be very fast and furious. The blacks are all so very
serious about it, but any white people who happened to be looking on
would find it very difficult to restrain their laughter. It would not do
to laugh though, as the "debbil-debbils" would be very angry and might
revenge themselves upon the blacks before long. After they have been
dancing for some time the men present a very curious sight. The
perspiration which has been pouring down their faces and bodies has
disarranged their paint and feathers and their head-dresses have got
very much awry. Perhaps, too, they have grown almost dizzy with
excitement, so that they certainly look more ludicrous than impressive.

They greatly enjoy these corrobborees and get wildly excited about them,
but to us they would appear very monotonous and wearisome. To them, too,
they are very full of meaning and they are one of the chief ways in
which the young people are taught the legends of their tribes. Sometimes
very useful moral lessons are taught by their means. An old man will
very likely sit in the centre of a group of boys and carefully explain
to them the meaning of all they see. They frequently last for hours, and
some of them even require three or four nights if they are to be
properly performed, so that the blackfellows spend a very great deal of
time in preparing for and performing them.

Some of these corrobborees no women and young children are allowed to
see. When this is the case a peculiar piece of sacred stone with a hole
in the end, through which a string is fastened, is swung round and round
by one of the men. As it is swung it makes a loud booming sound. This
instrument is called a Bullroarer, and is looked upon as a very sacred
thing. The women and girls are taught that the noise it makes is the
voice of the evil spirit to whom it is sacred, warning them to hurry
away and not dare to look at the sacred ceremonies which are about to be
performed. If any of them disregarded the warning their eyes would
certainly be put out, and they might even be put to death.

When a friendly tribe, or group of natives, is visiting another tribe
they will often be entertained by a corrobboree. On such an occasion the
most difficult and elaborate of all their dances will most probably be
performed. The next night the visitors will provide the entertainment.

Though there is very little idea of religion among the people, as you
will see in later chapters, yet these dances have something of a
religious character about them. They keep alive the old tribal legends,
and the blacks most firmly believe that the spirits of their old
ancestors are pleased when corrobborees are properly performed. On the
other hand they are grievously offended if anything is done carelessly
and without proper thought.



The blacks are great believers in magic and sorcery. Some of these
beliefs are quite harmless and merely help to keep them amused, but
others prove a terrible curse to them, as they can seldom rid themselves
of the idea that another blackfellow somewhere is working them harm by
means of sorcery, and they often die from fear.

The magical ceremonies of the aboriginals are of three kinds:--

1. Those by which they think they can control the weather.

2. Those by which they endeavour to secure an abundant supply of food.

3. Those by which they cause sickness and death--the use of "pointing
sticks" and bones.

We will speak of each of these in order.

The commonest and most universal of all their magical ceremonies by
which they hope to control the weather is that of making rain. Every
group of natives has its "rain-makers," but the methods they employ are
not everywhere the same. In North-western Australia the rain-maker
usually goes away by himself to the top of some hill. He wears a very
elaborate and wonderful head-dress of white down with a tuft of cockatoo
feathers, and holds a wommera, or spear-thrower, in his hand. He squats
for some time on the ground, singing aloud a very monotonous chant or
incantation. Then, after a time, he rises to a stooping position, goes
on singing, and as he does so moves his wommera backwards and forwards
very rapidly, makes his whole body quiver and sway, and turns his head
violently from side to side. Gradually his movements become more and
more rapid, and by the time he has finished he is probably too dizzy to
stand. If he were asked what the ceremonies meant he would most likely
be unable to say more than that he was doing just what his great-great
greatest-grandfather did when he first made rain. Only men belonging to
the "rain totem" are supposed to possess this power of making rain.
Should rain fall after he has finished he, of course, takes all the
credit for it and is a very important personage for a time. If it should
fail to rain, as not infrequently happens, he will put it down to the
fact that some other blackfellow, probably in some other tribe, has been
using some powerful hostile magic to prevent his from taking effect. If
he should happen to meet that other blackfellow there would probably be
a very bad quarter of an hour for somebody!

Sometimes the rain-maker contents himself with a very much simpler
ceremony. He goes to some sacred pool, sings a charm over it, then takes
some of the water into his mouth and spits it out in all directions.

In the New Norcia district when the rain-makers wanted rain they used to
pluck hair from their thighs and armpits and after singing a charm over
it blow it in the direction from which they wanted the rain to come. If
on the other hand they wished to prevent rain they would light pieces of
sandalwood and beat the ground hard and dry with the burning brands. The
idea was that this drying and burning of the soil would soon cause all
the land to become hardened and dried by the sun. In fact their entire
belief in this "sympathetic magic" as it is called is based upon the
notion, perfectly true in a way, that "like produces like," and that for
them to initiate either the actions of their ancestors who first
produced such and such a thing will have the same effect as then, or
that the doing of something (such as causing water to fall) in a small
way will cause the same result to happen on a very much larger scale.

In some parts of Western Australia when cooler weather is desired a
magician will light huge fires and then sit beside them wrapped in a
number of skins and blankets pretending to be very cold. His teeth will
chatter and his whole body shake as though from severe cold, and he is
fully persuaded that colder weather will follow in a few days.

In the second class of magical ceremonies are included all those which
have for their purpose the ensuring of a plentiful supply of food. The
people of wild Australia have no knowledge of those natural laws and
forces, much less of that over-ruling Hand controlling them, by which
their food supply is assured. They think that everything is due to
magic, and therefore the performance of these magical ceremonies
occupies a very large amount of their time. You have seen already that
every tribe consists of a number of "totem groups" as they are called,
and it is to these totem groups that the whole tribe looks to maintain
the supply of their particular animals or plant. If the kangaroo men do
their duty there will be plenty of kangaroos, but if they should become
careless and slothful and begin to think of their own ease and comfort
instead of the well-being of the tribe then the kangaroos will become
fewer and fewer and perhaps disappear. These kangaroo ceremonies, as we
may call them, are usually performed at some rock or stone specially
sacred to this particular animal and believed by the natives to have
imprisoned within it, or at any rate in its near neighbourhood, a number
of kangaroo spirits who are only awaiting the due performance of the
ancient ceremonies to set them free from their prison and again go forth
and become once more embodied. The men gather round the rock or stone,
freely bleed themselves, and then smear the rock or stone with their
blood. As they are "of one blood" with their totem it is, they think,
kangaroo blood which is being poured out, and as "the blood is the life"
they feel quite sure that it will enable the weak and feeble kangaroo
spirits to become quite strong again. Then they arrange themselves in a
kind of half-circle and "sing" their charm. No magical ceremonies are
ever performed without "singing."

The "cockatoo" ceremonies, by which the natives hope to increase the
number of cockatoos are much simpler, but to a white man who might
happen to be in the near neighbourhood would prove a very thorough
nuisance. A rough image of a white cockatoo will be made, and the man
will imitate its harsh and piercing cry all night. When his voice fails,
as it does at last from sheer exhaustion, his son will take up the cry
till the father is able to begin again.

But of all the forms of magic or sorcery the most terrible is that of
"bone-pointing" and "singing-dead."

A man desirous of doing his neighbour some harm will provide himself
with one of these sticks or bones, go off by himself into some lonely
part of the bush, place the bone or stick in the ground, crouch over it
and then mutter or "sing" into it some horrible curse. Perhaps he will
sing some such awful curse as this over and over again:--

     Kill old Wallaby Jack, kill him dead-fellow;
     If he eat fish poison him with it;
     If he go near water drown him with it;
     If he eat kangaroo choke him with it;
     If he eat emu poison him with it;
     If he go near fire burn him with it;
     Kill old Wallaby Jack, kill him dead-fellow quick.

Then he will go back to the camp leaving the bone in the ground. Later
he will return and bring the bone nearer to the camp. Then some evening,
after it has grown dark, he will creep quietly up to the man whom he
wants to injure and secretly point the bone at him. The magic will, he
believes, pass at once from the bone to his victim, who soon afterwards
will without any apparent cause sicken and die unless some _bullya_, or
medicine man, can remove the curse. The bone is then taken away and
hidden, for should it be found out that he had "pointed" it he would be
killed at once.

[Illustration: YOUTH IN WAR PAINT]

All the blackfellows, men, women, and children alike are horribly afraid
of these pointing-bones, and believe fully in their awful power, and
anyone who believes that one of them has been pointed at him is almost
certain to die. Men in the full vigour of early manhood and middle life
have wasted away, just as though they had been stricken with
consumption, because they could not rid themselves of the belief that
this horrible magic had entered them. A man coming from the Alice
Springs to the Tennant Creek caught a slight cold, but the natives at
the latter place told him that some men belonging to a tribe about
twelve miles away had taken his heart out by means of one of these
pointing sticks. He believed their story, and though there was
absolutely nothing the matter with him but a cold, simply laid himself
down and wasted away. Probably several hundreds of men, women, and
children die in wild Australia every year from fear of these awful bones
and sticks alone. All sickness and death is ascribed to magic.

The only person who is believed able to remove this evil magic is the
"_bullya_," or medicine man. These medicine men are believed to have had
mysterious stones placed in their bodies by certain spirits. It is the
possession of these stones that gives them their power to counteract
evil magic. Lest these stones should dissolve they have to be very
careful never to eat or drink anything hot. You could probably never
tempt one of them to take a cup of hot tea. Should he do so all his
powers as a doctor would be gone. Medicine men, however, are not called
in for simpler ailments, though these too are attributed to magic. A
common remedy for head-ache is to wear tightly round the forehead a belt
of woman's hair. This is believed to have the power of driving out the
magic. Another frequent but much nastier medicine is several blows on
the head with a heavy waddy. It is wonderful how few doses are required!
Should a man be suffering from back-ache, or stomach-ache, he will lie
down on the ground with the painful part of his body uppermost, and his
friends and relations will jump on him one at a time till the "magic"

One day a man came home from a long journey through the bush. Soon
afterwards he was attacked by rheumatism and severe lameness. The
medicine men told him that one of his enemies had seen his tracks and
had put some sharp flints into his footmarks. His friends searched the
track, found the flints, and removed them. Almost immediately the
rheumatism and lameness left him and he was completely cured.

On another occasion a medicine man was called in to see a blackfellow
who was lying very nearly at death's door. He said that some men in
another tribe had charmed away his spirit but it hadn't gone very far
and he could fetch it back. He at once ran after it and caught it just
in time, so he said, and brought it back in his rug. He then threw
himself across the sick man, pressed the rug over his stomach, made a
few "passes" somewhat after the manner of a conjurer and so restored the
spirit. The sick man speedily recovered.

These medicine men are not guilty of any trickery. They believe in their
powers as thoroughly as the best European doctors believe in theirs.
They are never paid for their services, but, of course, they expect to
be looked up to by the other members of the tribe and to be spared all
labour and unpleasantness. They also expect the chief delicacies to be
reserved for them, and that others should, as far as possible, do their
bidding. No one would willingly offend a medicine man. His control of
magic is much too dangerous a weapon to be used against them, far more
deadly in its effects than spear or boomerang. He can put a curse in
even more easily than he can get it out, and if he puts it in who is
there to take it away? So you can see on the whole the medicine man has
rather an easy time of it, but as no one wills it otherwise all are

What a boon a few medical missions would prove in wild Australia--a few
earnest Christian men and women who would go and heal the bodily
diseases of the black people, and by their faithful teaching destroy
this awful curse of belief in magic! How glad we all ought to be that
wherever missions have been started, a hospital has been one of the
first buildings to be erected. At Yarrabah, at Mitchell River and at the
Roper River, all of which you will learn more fully about later on, the
missionaries are devoting much time and thought to healing the sick,
just as our Blessed Lord did when He was here among men. Soon after the
missionaries have settled in a new home the sick from all around will
come flocking in to have their needs attended to, and often stay in the
settlement long after they are cured to learn the wonderful new message
those missionaries have brought about the Great Healer and all His
Power and Love.



When a death has occurred in a blackfellow's camp, strange scenes are
often witnessed. Perhaps just before it took place the dying man or
woman would be brought out of the _mia_ where he or she was lying and
placed on a rug or blanket in the open air. The _mia_ would then be
pulled down to prevent the spirit remaining within it and thus becoming
an annoyance and perhaps a source of danger to the survivors.

After death has actually occurred the mourners paint themselves all over
with pipe-clay, or _wilgi_, rub huge quantities of clay and mud into
their hair, and sit around the corpse making a most hideous wailing.
They rock themselves to and fro for hours, keeping up the mourning cry
all the time, but every now and again the women will relieve the
monotony by a series of loud piercing shrieks.

The bodies of very young children sometimes remain unburied for some
considerable time. The mothers will carry them about with them wherever
they go in the hope that the spirit, seeing their grief and so young a
body, will be full of pity and return.

With this exception dead bodies are usually disposed of within a few
hours of death. The commonest method is burial, but bodies are sometimes
burned, sometimes eaten, and not infrequently placed in trees, the bones
being afterwards raked down and buried.

Graves are usually shallow, but the bodies are sometimes buried in a
sitting position, sometimes standing. In Western Australia the hands,
and at times the feet, are tied together in order to prevent the ghost
from moving about and doing mischief. Among some tribes the right thumb
is cut off before burial so that the dead man may be unable to use a
spear. In other tribes a spear and a boomerang will be placed in the
grave as the dead man may require them in the beautiful sky country to
which his spirit will go. On one of the North-West Australian sheep
stations a dead man who had been an inveterate smoker had his pipe and a
stick of tobacco placed by his side. Very often a hole is left in the
grave to enable the spirit if it wishes to do so to go in and out. In
some places the grave is covered with boughs. In other places a hut will
be built over it in the hope that the ghost will thus be kept within
bounds and will refrain from wandering about and annoying the living.
The ground around the grave will be swept clean with boughs and
occasionally watched for footmarks. After the burial the camp will as a
rule be moved.

When bodies are cremated a huge pile of dry grass and boughs is first
prepared. Above this a platform, also of boughs, is built, and the body
placed upon it and covered with more boughs. A fire-stick is then
applied by one of the nearest female relatives.

The most curious of all aboriginal methods of disposing of a dead body
is that which is usually called "tree-burial." This is probably done in
the hope of speedy re-incarnation, but when it becomes evident, say
after a year has passed, that the spirit does not intend to return the
bones are raked down with a piece of bark and placed in a cave and there
buried. In the Kimberley district of Western Australia there are numbers
of these burial caves. The arm-bone, however, is not buried with the
rest. It is solemnly laid aside, wrapped in paper bark, and often
elaborately decorated with feathers. When everything is in readiness
preparations are made for bringing it into the camp with great ceremony.
The bone is first placed in a hollow tree while some of the men go off
in search of game which they bring into the camp and solemnly offer to
the dead man's nearest male relatives. Next day the bone itself will be
brought in and placed on the ground. All at once bow reverently towards
it, the women meanwhile maintaining a loud wailing. It is then given to
one of the dead man's female relatives who places it in her hut until it
is required for the final ceremonies some days afterwards. These final
ceremonies begin with a corrobboree, and the bone is then snatched by
one of the men from the woman who has charge of it and taken to another
of the men who breaks it with an axe. As soon as the blow of the axe is
heard the women flee, shrieking, to their camp and re-commence their
wailing. The broken bone is then buried and the mourning ceremonies for
the dead man are at an end.

The most revolting of all methods of disposing of dead bodies is that of
eating them. This, however, you will be glad to learn is not very often
employed. Sometimes it is pure cannibalism that makes them do so.
Mothers have been known to join in a meal upon the bodies of their own
children. Usually only the bodies of the famous dead, great warriors for
instance, or of enemies killed in battle are thus disposed of. In some
tribes it is looked upon as the most honourable form of burial. The
reasons for this custom you will understand better when you have read
carefully the chapter on Religion.

There is one very curious custom connected with mourning which I am sure
you will be interested in hearing about, and the reason for which you
will also come to understand when you have read a few more chapters. So
far as I know it is not practised among any other people. Until the
period of mourning is at an end the nearest female relatives of the dead
man are placed under a rule of silence, and are not allowed to utter a
single word. Perhaps for as long a time as two years they are only
allowed to make use of "gesture language." Any attempt to speak on their
part would at once be visited with heavy punishment perhaps even with
death itself. It sometimes happens if there have been several deaths in
a tribe that all the women are under this ban, and it very seldom
occurs that all are allowed to speak.



In this chapter and the next you shall hear some of the stories which
the little children of wild Australia are told about the earth, the
origin of man, the sun, the moon, and the stars, and about how sin and
death came into this world of men. These tales fall very far short of
those beautiful stories which have come down to us in the early chapters
of Genesis, but the blackfellows all believe them to be strictly true.
Often when they are seated around the camp fire on some bright star-lit
night when the light from the fire will be shining brightly on their
eager, dusky faces these old, old tales will be told again as only an
old black can tell them.

They believe the earth to be flat and to stand out of the water on four
huge lofty pillars, like very big tree trunks, and some think that above
the sky, which they believe to be a solid dome arching over the earth,
is a beautiful sky country where Baiame lives and the spirits. This
Baiame is a god who is specially concerned in the ceremonies of making
men, and is pleased when those ceremonies are properly performed. This
sky country is much more beautiful and much better watered than their
own, and there are great numbers of kangaroo and game so that
blackfellows who go there are never hungry and always have plenty of

The road to it is the milky way which is made up of the spirits of the

In many tribes the sun is regarded as a woman because among the
blackfellows it is a woman's work to make fire. Here is one of the most
remarkable of all the "sun stories" which the old blackfellows tell the

In olden days before there was any sun the birds and beasts were always
quarrelling and playing tricks upon one another. A kind of crane called
the courtenie, or native companion, was at the bottom of nearly all the
mischief. In those days the emus lived in the clouds and had very long
wings. They often looked down upon the earth and were particularly
interested in the courtenies as they danced. One day an emu came down to
earth and told them how much she would like to dance too. But the
courtenies only laughed, and one of the oldest ones among them told the
emu she could never dance while she had such long wings. Then all folded
their wings and appeared to be wingless. The poor simple emu at once
allowed her wings to be cut quite short, but no sooner had she done so
than those wicked courtenies unfolded their beautiful wings and flew
away. Then the kookaburra--or laughing jackass--burst into a loud laugh
to think that the emu could be so silly. Later on the emu had a big
brood. A native companion saw her coming and at once hid all her chicks
except one. "You poor silly emu," she said, "why don't you kill all your
chicks except one? They'll wear you out with worry if you don't. Where
do you think I should be if I went about with a family like that? You'll
break down from over-work if you let them all live." So the silly emu
destroyed her brood. Then the native companion gave a peculiar cry and
out from their hiding-place came all her chicks one after the other.
When the emu saw them she flew into a great rage and attacked that
native companion and twisted her neck so badly that in future she was
only able to utter two harsh notes.

Next season the emu was sitting on her eggs when the courtenie came
along and pretended to be very friendly. This was more than that poor
tormented emu could stand and she made a rush at the courtenie. But the
courtenie leaped over the emu's back and broke all her eggs except one.
Maddened with rage the emu made for her again, but she was not nearly
agile enough, and met with no better success than before. The courtenie
took the one remaining egg and sent it flying to the sky. At once a
wonderful thing happened. The whole earth was flooded with brilliant and
beautiful light. The egg had struck a huge pile of wood which a being
named Ngoudenout, who lived in the sky, had been collecting for a very
long time and set it on fire. The birds were so frightened by the
beautiful light that they made up their quarrel there and then and have
lived happily ever after, but ever since then the courtenies have had
twisted necks and only two harsh notes, and emus have had very short
wings and have never laid more than one egg. Ngoudenout saw what a good
thing it would be for the world to have the sun, and so ever since then
he has lit the fire again every day. Of course when it is first lighted
it doesn't give very much heat, and as it dies down towards night the
world begins to get cold again. Ngoudenout spends the night collecting
more wood for next day.

There are numerous other stories about the sun, but this one is
sufficient to enable you to see the kind of beliefs the people of wild
Australia have on these matters. Now listen to one which will show you
how some of them account for the phases of the moon and for the stars.

Far away in the East is a beautiful country where numbers of moons live,
a very big mob of moons, whole tribes in fact. These moons are very
silly fellows. They will wander about at night alone, although a great
big giant lives in the sky who as soon as he sees them cuts big pieces
off and makes stars of them. Some of the moons get away before he can
cut much off, but sometimes he cuts them nearly all up and hardly any
moon is left at all.

"Why don't stars come out in the day-time?" a young child will ask and
will receive this answer:--

"The stars are all very afraid of the sun. If he finds them out in the
day-time he gets very angry and burns them all. So they never come out
till he has gone down under the earth. Sometimes, though, a little star
will come and see if he has gone, but most of them wait in their country
till he is really down."

Some of the black children in some parts of the far North call
hailstones rainbow's eggs, and worms baby rainbows, because they have
noticed sometimes after a rainbow has been seen hailstones have fallen.
After these have melted, or, as they would probably say, burrowed into
the ground, numbers of worms have appeared. This is why they call worms
baby rainbows.

The black people are nearly always very much frightened at eclipses
either of the sun or moon. They have two chief ways of accounting for
them. Some tribes will say that a hostile tribe has hidden in or near
the luminary and held bark in front of it, whilst others put the whole
trouble down to an evil spirit which has got in front. Whatever their
belief as to the cause of an eclipse may be, when one takes place they
will all throw spears at it in the hope that the hostile tribe or evil
spirit will find things too uncomfortable to remain.

There are three ways of accounting for shooting stars. Some believe them
to be the spirits of the dead. Some think that they are firesticks
thrown down by some evil spirit who has his home in the sky, whilst
others would say that a medicine man flying through the air has let his
firestick fall.



Each part of Australia has its own stories as to the origin of the world
and man. It would be impossible to tell them all, especially when one
remembers that no two tribes believe exactly the same. There is a more
or less general belief in a Creator who made the sun, moon, and stars,
the earth, trees, rocks, birds, animals, and man, everything, in fact,
except women. Their origin is left more or less unaccounted for. No
Creator could have bothered himself to make such unimportant things as
women. Different tribes have different names for the Creator. In some
parts he is called Baiame or Byamee, in others Pundjel or Punjil, in
others Daramulun. Here is a story about Daramulun which the men of the
Yuin tribe tell.

Ever so many moons ago Daramulun lived on the earth with his mother. The
earth in those days was hard and bare and there were no men and women
upon it, only reptiles, birds, and animals. So Daramulun made trees.
Soon afterwards men and women appeared, but whether Daramulun made them
or whether they just came up out of the earth we have not been told. One
day a thrush caused a great flood, and all the people were destroyed
except a few who managed to crawl out and take refuge on Mount
Dromedary. From these have come the Yuin tribe of to-day. Daramulun,
after the flood was over, called them all together, and told them how
they were to live and catch and cook their food, and gave them their
laws. At the same time he gave the medicine men power to use magic. Then
he went away to the sky country. When a man dies Daramulun meets his
spirit and takes care of it.

Now listen to a story about Punjil which the old Victorian blacks have
frequently told:--

One day Punjil was walking about the earth with a big knife in his hand.
With this knife he cut two pieces of bark. Then he mixed some clay and
made two black men, one very much blacker than the other. He took all
day over them and when he had finished he found that one had curly hair
and the other smooth. The curly-haired one he named Kookinberrook, the
other Berrookboru. At first they were like dead fellows, but after he
had blown into their nostrils they began to move about.

Now the very next day Punjil's brother Pallian was paddling about in a
creek in his canoe. Presently he saw two heads come up out of the water.
Then two breasts followed. Pallian paddled up to them and found that
they were two women. He took them to Punjil who was very pleased and
blew into their nostrils exactly as he had done in the case of the two
men he had made the day before. Then Punjil gave them names, one he
called Kunewarra, the other Kimrook. After this he put a spear in the
hand of each man and gave a digging stick to each of the women and
showed them how to use them. Then he gave the women to the men as their

Here is a Flood story which you will like to compare with the beautiful
story in Genesis. You will notice these among other differences. Though
the people of wild Australia believe in a Flood they have no idea that
it was sent as a punishment from God. On the other hand it was purely an
accident. Again you must remember they have no belief in God like our
own. There are various vague, indefinite beliefs in one or more creators
and in a Supreme Being who is pleased when the different ceremonies are
properly performed. There is nothing more than this. There is, for
instance, no idea at all of sin as being against God. They only
understand offences against the tribe which the old men must punish, or
indignities against the spirits of the departed which those spirits
themselves will revenge. The Supreme Being never interferes in purely
human concerns.

Once upon a time there was no water anywhere upon the earth. All the
animals, therefore, met in solemn council to find out the reason of this
remarkable drought. After a great deal of foolish talking they
discovered the secret. An enormous frog had swallowed all the water and
the only way he could be made to disgorge it was by being made to laugh.
So one after another they all tried to amuse him but none of them
succeeded in even making him smile. At last a big eel came and he began
to wriggle. This was more than the frog's gravity could stand. He
opened his mouth and laughed loudly. At once great streams of water
began to pour from his jaws, and in a short time so much water had come
from him that a great flood followed, and many of the animals and some
of the people perished in the waters. A large pelican then determined to
do his utmost to save the people. He made a canoe and paddled in it from
one island to another. Wherever he found any blacks he took them into
his canoe and so saved them. Before very long, however, the pelican had
a quarrel with the blacks about a woman, and as a punishment was turned
into stone.



In the really strict sense of the word the people of wild Australia have
no religion. There is, as you have already seen, some faint belief in a
Supreme Being and Creator who is known by a different name in the
different tribes, but this belief in a Supreme Being makes no difference
to their lives and they do not recognize that they have any duties
towards him. He is pleased when certain ceremonies are performed
properly, and angry when they are performed carelessly or not at all,
but beyond that he takes no interest in them. They, for their part, do
not think it necessary to worry themselves about him. They never say
any prayers, they offer no sacrifices, they build no temples or altars,
and they make no idols. For these reasons we usually say they have no

That which takes the place of religion among them is fear of evil
spirits, the ghosts of the dead. These ghosts are always looked upon as
hostile, and always ready to do them harm. This belief is commonly known
as Animism. It is a general belief among all very primitive peoples.
Among some races, like the Kols of India, to whom the natives of
Australia are believed by some people to be very closely akin, it takes
the form of devil worship, and constant offerings are made to turn away
the anger of the spirits, but there is no attempt at propitiation, as
this is called, among the people of Australia. They live in constant
fear of spirits it is true, but their efforts are all in the direction
of avoiding them, or keeping them at a distance. For this reason they
will seldom camp beneath trees for the ghosts of men and women whose
bodies have been placed in those trees to decay may still be hovering
about among them and would come down and harm them if they dared to
sleep under their shadow. For this same reason, too, they never mention,
as you have already been told, the names of their dead. If the ghost
heard them talking about him he would conclude they were not
sufficiently sorry and would be very angry and be sure to harm them. A
white man was once talking with an aboriginal boy, and in the course of
his talk he three times mentioned rather loudly the name of a dead
black man. The boy was so frightened that he ran away as fast as he
could into the bush and did not appear again for several days. When a
death occurs any other members of the tribe will, as you have already
been told, at once change their names, and should the dead man or woman
have borne the name of some plant or animal a new name will at once be
given to it.

The aboriginals probably came to believe in spirits through their
dreams. In those dreams they have visited friends in some far-off tribe,
fought some battle, or engaged in a hunt, yet their bodies, they know,
have not moved from their resting-place. How could they have done this
unless they had a spirit which was able to pass out of their body during
sleep and go away on a journey. Some tribes give the name of _murup_ to
this spirit. At death the _murup_ leaves the body and either goes across
the sea, or along the milky way into the beautiful sky country, or
continues to haunt the scenes of its earthly life and especially the
place where the body is buried, so becoming a source of danger and
annoyance to those who remain alive. This is why most tribes move their
camp after a death has taken place and why the tribes in the Kimberley
District of Western Australia nearly always cross the river. The ghost
will have great difficulty in finding them and in any case he could not
cross water.

Some tribes believe that as soon as the dead body has completely turned
to dust the soul goes back to the rock or water-hole whence the totemic
ancestor, or great-great-greatest-grandfather of the dead man,
originally came. There it quietly waits until some little baby is born
in the immediate neighbourhood, when it passes into his body and so
again becomes incarnate.

You will have noticed from all this how the religion of the aborigines,
like all heathen religions, is based, wholly on fear. There is only one
religion, the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is based on Love.
This is the religion we want to teach them. It alone, we know, can
change their lives and drive out that awful fear. How it is changing
them you will learn in the next few chapters. "The Christians," said a
traveller in North Australia one day, "always look so happy. The
frightened look is altogether gone. You can always tell them." The man
who said this was, I am sorry to say, a Christian only in name, and had
long been known as a strong opponent of all missionary work among this
poor unhappy people, but this makes his words all the more remarkable.
They should help to stir us up to do much more in the future than we
have done in the past, and make us keener than ever to put forth all our
efforts to spread the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ among them that
His beautiful light may shine more and more in them and that men may
take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus.



There is an old Persian story, which some of you may know, of a
wonderful magic carpet on which one only needed to stand in order to be
spirited away to some other land to which one wanted to go and see
strange scenes and unwonted sights.

Let us take our place on this magic carpet and utter the correct
formulæ, and in a few moments we shall be far away in distant and
beautiful Yarrabah on the North-eastern shores of Queensland. The name
means "beautiful spot," and it is, indeed, a lovely part of wild
Australia where the tropic sun looks down upon beautiful palm-trees and
where birds of the gayest plumage make their home, and where the coasts
are washed with coral seas.


Yarrabah is a mission reserve which the Queensland Government gave to
the Australian Church about twenty-five years ago. It covers about sixty
thousand acres and no white man except the missionaries is allowed to
make a home upon it. Its beginnings were most discouraging, and nothing
but the indomitable faith of the first missionaries could have kept them
to their work. The tribes settled on the "reserve" were extremely
fierce, and within a week or two of the actual founding of the mission
three men of the tribe were killed and eaten. The native who was more
responsible than any others for these acts of murder and cannibalism was
some years afterwards converted to Christ, baptized and confirmed, and
has for years been a respected and trusted Christian. It was among such
tribes that the missionaries went and made their home. Thousands of
people would have been afraid to have ventured amongst them, but the
missionaries (and there was a lady in their number) were so full of the
love of Jesus and so earnest in their desires to win these poor degraded
tribes for Him, that they never stopped to think about being afraid. It
was very different to going and settling down in some town or village in
China or India where there were other white people near and the dangers
were not so great. There were very few white people, and probably no
white women at all, nearer than Cairns, thirty miles away to the North.
Only the wild monotonous bush was around them and fierce cannibals from
whom at any moment a poisoned spear might come. At first all the
missionaries could do was wait. A rough little house was put up close to
the sea where they lived, said their prayers, and waited. After a while
a few natives came and built their _mias_ near the missionaries' home.
They soon came to see that these were kind, good people who only wanted
to be friendly, and little by little they began to give their
confidence. Soon a little hospital was erected where sick aboriginals
were attended to and healed, and a little school where the children whom
their parents allowed to come and live with the missionaries were
taught. To-day, about twenty-two years after its first founding,
Yarrabah is one of the most wonderful industrial missions in the whole
Island Continent. Please take note of those words "Industrial missions,"
for I want you to remember that it has been found that it is very little
good indeed teaching the children or the men and women of wild Australia
about the redeeming love of our Lord Jesus Christ unless they are at the
same time taught the duty of honest and useful work. The mere preaching
of the Gospel and the provision of a place of worship which would be
enough among a more civilized people is very far from enough in wild
Australia. So all missions in that land are what we call industrial.

If we visited Yarrabah to-day, by means of our magic carpet, what should
we see?

First we should see the head station, and we should be told that there
were five other settlements, little Christian villages in charge of an
aboriginal catechist, within a few miles of the head station, and that
altogether no less than 350 natives and half-castes were living happy,
contented, well-conducted lives.

The first visit some of us would be inclined to pay would be to the
school where we should see quite a number of dusky little scholars. The
head teacher is a white--one of the missionaries--but most of the
teaching is done by several excellent and fully-qualified aboriginals
who themselves learned their very first lessons in that same school and
were once wild blacks. Some might like to hear the children read and
would probably be quite surprised to find that they were able to acquit
themselves quite as well as British children of the same age. This would
be true, too, of their writing. Some of the older children would be able
to bring out some really beautiful specimens of penmanship for our
admiration. They also do sums, but these, perhaps, they do not take to
quite so kindly as some of the other subjects. Still, we should probably
find that they do almost as well as children of other lands of the same
age. But the subject which is regarded as of supreme importance at
Yarrabah school is the religious teaching. If the teachers were asked to
quote some text which might be taken as the motto of their school I
think they would choose those words from the last verse of the
twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Job, "The fear of the Lord that is
wisdom," and they would tell us that the most important of all knowledge
is the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the Christians at
Yarrabah have not only attained considerable intellectual development
but have also, in many cases, become true saints. A few years ago at an
examination in religious subjects, open to all the children in
Queensland, white and coloured alike, the whole of the twenty-three
first-class certificates which were awarded, were won by children of

Perhaps as we came out of the schools we should like to pass into the
homes where the children live. Many of them, however, remain at school
as boarders, their parents living in one or other of the little
villages on the reserve. How different these homes are to the rough,
uncomfortable humpies described in Chapter IV which form the homes of
the poor children of the wilderness. Each home at Yarrabah is a little
cottage of wood and iron with two or more rooms which has been built by
the people themselves. It stands in an enclosed garden in which mangoes,
sweet potatoes and other vegetables are growing and for part of the year
beautiful flowers bloom brightly. In some of the cottages the little
flower patch is the children's especial care. Everything within the
house is beautifully neat and clean. The older girls help their mothers
to keep it so. They wash and make and mend, and as many of them dress
entirely in white there is plenty of work to do.

After our visit to some of the homes we pass into the little Church
dedicated in the name of the first British martyr, St. Alban. The very
name reminds us of that for which the church stands. It stands there to
turn the heathens into good soldiers of Jesus Christ like St. Alban. It
is far too small for the needs of the little community which lives in
its neighbourhood, and we hope before very long to be able to build a
much larger and better one. It is of white wood and across the chancel
is carried a scroll with these words upon it, "Lift up thy prayer for
the remnant that is left."

Services are held in it every day at 7 A.M. and 7 P.M., and nearly every
one comes. On one side are seated the boys and young men, on the other
the girls and unmarried women. The missionaries and the married couples
take their places at the western end, while the babies and infants squat
and occasionally crawl about on the floor. Most of them sit or stand
very reverently with folded arms. A little black curly-headed boy plays
the harmonium, and the choir enters noiselessly. Their feet are bare,
their long surplices reach nearly to the ground, their scarlet loin
cloths sometimes showing through them. An aboriginal catechist in all
probability leads the service, also wearing a surplice. Everything is
done exactly as it would be in an English village church. On Sundays the
psalms as well as the canticles are sung. On other days they are
sometimes read but very, very slowly, for it must be remembered that
only the younger members of the congregation, those brought up on the
mission, are able to read. The lessons from Holy Scripture, too, are
read very slowly. The reverence and devotion of all alike, the hearty
singing not only with the lips but with the heart, are a wonderful
illustration of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for these dusky
children of a savage and primitive people.

After church each morning there is an interval for breakfast and then a
parade for work. The children pass into the school, the men and boys to
their allotted tasks on the farm or in the different workshops, the
women and unmarried girls to their various domestic duties. All are
given something to do and all are required to perform their tasks to
the satisfaction of those set over them. Yet I do not think anyone would
talk about "tasks" at Yarrabah. There is a suggestion of unpleasantness,
of an imposition about the word, but no one looks at work in that light
at Yarrabah. It has become almost second nature and a delight to them
here. Sometimes, of course, when the weather is very hot and close and
sultry they do not work as well as at other times, but what white man or
child would not prefer to rest under such circumstances? Even the
tiniest children like to feel they are doing something and very soon
learn to run about and pick up rubbish and fallen leaves and so help to
keep the settlement clean and tidy.

Up on the hillside is the hospital where the sick children, as well as
the men and women are carefully nursed and cared for by a kind black
matron and nurses.

There is a branch of the Church Lad's Brigade, and a most efficient
brass band.


After dinner comes play-time for a while in which all are free to amuse
themselves in any way they like. Then work again till service time at 7.
Then follows supper, then night prayers in their homes, then bed. The
life at Yarrabah might well be described as a life of honourable work,
and innocent recreation hallowed by Christian worship. What a wonderful
contrast it all is to the wild undisciplined life of the aboriginals in
the bush. The contrast almost reminds us of that wonderful story in the
Gospels which tells of the poor wild maniac of Gergesa whose savage
yells were the terror of the whole surrounding neighbourhood. People
were afraid to go near him, and "no man could tame him." He wore no
clothes, he had no fixed dwelling-place, and often cut himself with
stones. But One came where He was and had compassion on him and
commanded the evil spirits to leave him. The Voice was a Voice of Power,
and when next we see him he is "sitting at the feet of Jesus clothed and
in his right mind." Is not this just exactly what has happened at
Yarrabah where the Lord Jesus has indeed worked a wonderful miracle,
delivering those poor wild aborigines from the bondage of evil spirits
and causing them to sit in love and wonder as changed men "at His feet"?



We step on to our magic carpet once again and after bidding an
affectionate farewell to Yarrabah are soon flying through the air across
some beautiful tropical forests till we come to land almost on the
eastern shores of the great gulf of Carpentaria, eleven miles south of
the Mitchell River, at a spot called Trubanaman Creek, where another
mission was established just eight years ago. It is four hundred miles
from Yarrabah, and there is no mission in between.

There are six tribes of fierce natives within reach of the mission. The
men are strong stalwart fellows who have come very little into contact
with white men. Some of them carry knives of sharks' teeth which they
use chiefly for the purpose of making the women do their will. There are
numbers of children, and it is these children whom the missionaries are
specially trying to induce to come and live with them to be taught.

When the missionaries went to live there nothing but the wild bush was
around them. As Mr Matthews, the Head of the Mission has said, "the hoot
of the kookaburra (laughing-jackass), the howl of the dingo (wild dog),
or the shout of the wild man were the only early morning noises." A few
buildings were put up and after a time a few men and boys came in. Some
of these were sick or suffering from wounds, and their wounds were
carefully attended to and dressed. They went back to their tribe and
told what had been done for them and of the good and regular food they
had received from the white men down at the creek. The news spread,
others came in, the sick for treatment, the whole for food. Many ran
away again unable to endure the monotony of a settled and ordered life,
but some remained. To-day there are about a hundred residents.

The most conspicuous and the central building on the settlement is the
church, which like that at Yarrabah is of wood and has been built by the
people themselves. Some trees were cut down, sawn into planks at the
mission's own steam saw-mill, which the men work themselves, and so the
material was prepared. The furniture and fittings, too, are all of
aboriginal workmanship. The services are very similar to those at
Yarrabah and every day begins and ends with public worship.

The school is under the care of Mrs Matthews, wife of the Superintendent
of the mission, who has the help of another lady. Two and a half years
ago the Bishop of Carpentaria, in whose diocese the mission is, paid a
surprise visit to the school and examined the children in their work. He
expressed himself as surprised and delighted with all he heard and saw.
From the school he passed to the Catechism class where he found twenty
boys ranging in age from ten to eighteen years. Much to his surprise
these boys could say together the English Church Catechism to the end of
the "Duty towards our neighbour" without any hesitation or a single
mistake. Most of them could also answer correctly any questions put to
them separately, and could explain the meaning of the more difficult
words and phrases. What, however, pleased the Bishop even more was to
find that they were all alike making a very real and persevering effort
to carry this teaching out in their own daily lives. Mere ability to
recite the words of a Catechism or Creed is nothing, it is the living it
out that matters, and this the boys of Mitchell River (as we call them)
are honestly trying to do. Of course like other boys they are often
naughty and sometimes do very wicked things but they have learned
enough of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ to know that if they are
really sorry for their sins and express that sorrow both with their lips
and by altered lives He will forgive their sins and receive them back
into His favour and His care.

Fifteen married couples at the Mitchell River are living in little
houses of their own. Seven of these couples were married by the Bishop
on one day. They have built their houses themselves, fenced and cleared
the little holdings 240 feet by 120 in which the house stands and
cultivate these holdings entirely without supervision.

The residents, as far as possible, are allowed to live a perfectly
natural life. The men and boys are, of course, required to wear loin
cloths, the women and girls short skirts, but they need wear nothing
more. They still enjoy hunting and fishing exactly as in the old days,
and corrobborees still afford them never-ending delight. Only those
things in the old life which are contrary to the Gospel of our Lord
Jesus Christ are forbidden them.

The first baptisms took place on Sunday, August 13th, 1911, a day of
great joy and gladness when eight males and four females made their
solemn confession of repentance and faith and were received into the
warmth and shelter of God's Holy Church.

There are several other missions, but we have no time in which to visit
them. We can only point out where they are and perhaps some of us
afterwards will mark them on our maps.

On the opposite side of the Gulf of Carpentaria is another Church of
England mission--that at the Roper River. It was founded only a few
years ago, but deserves special mention because it is the first
Australian mission which has ever employed full-blooded natives on its
staff. On their way North to found it the missionaries halted a few days
at Yarrabah. The Christians gathered together to meet them and to wish
them God speed. All that the missionaries were going to do was explained
to them, the hardships and dangers of their life among the fierce
cannibal tribes of the far North were dwelt upon. Would any of them
volunteer to go? It would mean turning their backs upon their beautiful
happy home, laying aside many of the blessings and privileges which were
so dear to them, but it would bring great joy to the heart of the Lord
Jesus if someone would go. There was no immediate answer, but some few
days afterwards two men and one woman came to the superintendent and
said they would go.

In the Northern Territory there is also to be found the very successful
mission at Mapoon where also a very wonderful work has been done. It is
one of the oldest missions in the North. It is conducted by missionaries
of the Moravian Church, and its work among the children is done in the
same way as in those other missions of which you have been told more

In Western Australia the Roman Catholic Church has three missions. The
oldest of these was founded nearly sixty years ago. It is situated at
New Morcia on the Victoria Plains ninety miles North of Perth. The
third generation of Christians is now growing up under the kindly care
of the good Fathers and nuns who control the mission. All are living
earnest Christian lives. There are now no heathen left in the
neighbourhood. Another Roman Catholic Mission is that at Beagle Bay,
seventy miles North of Broome. There are twenty-two resident
missionaries of whom nine are ladies, and forty boys, and fifty-four
girls in the schools. The children rise with the sun, say their prayers,
attend service in the Church, and then have breakfast. After a short
time for play they pass at once to the schools where they do lessons for
three hours. After dinner all rest during the great heat of the day.
Then work and lessons again till service-time and supper. Soon after
sundown all go to bed. Among other things the children are being taught
the very useful art of hat-making, the hats being afterwards sold in aid
of the mission funds.


In the extreme North-west--near the little town of Wyndham--the three
remaining missions are found. The one on the Drysdale River is under the
care of the Roman Catholic Church. A few miles away is another
controlled by the Presbyterians, while thirty miles South of Wyndham on
the Forrest River lies the newest of all. It is impossible to give an
account of these. None of them have done much more than begin. The most
recent, that at the Forrest River, was only founded last year. We can
all pray that God will bless the good missionaries working upon them
that under His Guiding Hand many more children of the wilderness may lay
aside their fear of evil spirits and come to love and worship our dear
Lord Jesus Christ.



There are some names so famous in wild Australia, and especially on the
mission stations, that they deserve and must have a chapter to

The first of these is Tom Moreton who soon after he became a Christian
also became a leper. His earliest teachings were, I believe, received at
Yarrabah, and there he was baptized, confirmed, and made his first
communion. When he was found to be suffering from his terrible disease,
which is somewhat common in those parts, he was removed by the
Government to Friday Island, the leper settlement in the far north.
Nearly all the other lepers there were South Sea Islanders, and most of
them had been baptized, having become Christians during their time of
service as labourers in the sugar-plantations. One of them had been a
teacher of the London Missionary Society. Tom evidently regarded his
exile to Friday Island as an opportunity of earnest work for his
Saviour. He set himself to teach his poor fellow-lepers all he knew of
the love and gentleness of our Lord. They readily listened to his words
as he taught the way of God more perfectly. Their leprosy had attacked
them before they had come to know all His Love. He was no official
missionary, there had been no formal sending, but he told them
everything the Lord Jesus had done for him and how He had dealt with his
soul. He awakened in them a keen desire to be partakers in the great
Memorial Feast which the Saviour had ordained, and then he began one by
one to prepare them for it. When some time afterwards the Bishop of
Carpentaria visited the island Tom told him what he had done. The Bishop
spoke to them one by one, and finding them really in earnest
administered to them the laying-on-of-hands. He then placed them in
Tom's care again. When he next came he administered to all the Holy
Communion. The last scene of all is very solemn. The Government decided
to close Friday Island and remove the lepers to Brisbane. So the Bishop
came once more steering his vessel with his own hands into the little
bay. An ordinary washing table was brought out and placed beneath the
trees. A white cloth covered it and upon it the Sacred Feast was spread.
The sixteen poor leprous men "drew near," and there were tears in the
Bishop's eyes as he placed in those poor maimed hands the Heavenly Food.
It was a pathetic farewell to Friday Island, but how those hearts must
have blessed the faithful ministry of the aboriginal saint, Tom Moreton!

The next name on our roll of honour is James Noble. He was one of those
who volunteered to go with the first missionaries to the Roper River.
For about three years he remained there and was a great help and
encouragement to the founders of that mission, as he is a great help and
strength to-day to the work at Yarrabah. Once a savage he has sat more
than once as one of the representatives of Yarrabah in the Synod, or
Church Parliament, of his diocese, and is always listened to with
something more than respect as he pleads at different meetings the cause
of his neglected people. He is now a Catechist, and is trusted and much
loved by all.

Sam Smith's right to a place on our roll of honour no one who knows his
story could deny. He is a native of New South Wales, his home being near
Dubbo. He works on one of the sheep stations and is an earnest and
devout Christian. But there are no idle Christians among the blacks. All
are taught that they must undertake some definite work for our Lord. Sam
has chosen as his work Sunday-school teaching. Every Saturday afternoon
when his week's work is done he starts off through the bush for his
distant Sunday-school twenty-eight miles away, takes his class on the
Sunday and then in the evening walks twenty-eight miles back again so as
to be on the spot for his work again on Monday morning. It is a long
journey, but Sam never fails.

The last on our little list of saints and heroes is not a Christian at
all, but none the less we cannot refuse him a place among those who
deserve to be remembered. Neighbour, a native of the Roper River
country, had been arrested on a charge of cattle stealing. Probably his
poor savage heart saw nothing wrong in the deed. He was being led off in
custody by police constable Johns. When crossing a flooded stream the
constable's horse turned over and kicked him badly on the head. He was
in grave danger of drowning. Neighbour was burdened with heavy chains,
but he at once jumped into the river at the risk of his life and brought
the constable to land. Mounting the horse he then rode off for help. The
chance was given him of freeing himself from his chains and making good
his escape. His brave act was at once reported to the authorities, who
brought it to the knowledge of King George. He was only sixteen and a
savage. The King decided to confer the Albert Medal upon him. It was
presented to him at a great public gathering at Government House, Port
Darwin, some months afterwards in the presence of many of the leading
residents. It is the first time such an honour has ever been paid to an
Australian native, and Neighbour's bosom swells with lawful pride as he
points to the medal upon his breast.



In a Sunday-school in New South Wales the children were very keen about
their missionary duty. They were specially interested in the
chocolate-coloured people of New Guinea, a very large island to the
North of Australia, and determined to do all they could to help them.
Among other things they had a chocolate-coloured box made and they put
in it all they could. During the season of Lent they all gave up
chocolates and other sweets and gave the pennies thus saved to what had
come to be known as "The Chocolate Box."

You have been reading in this little book about another people with
chocolate skins, and one result of your reading ought to be a strong
desire to make better known among them the redeeming love of our Lord
Jesus Christ. For some of them "He has done great things already whereof
we rejoice," but if He had only more money He could do much more. We can
all help Him by means of a chocolate box.

We can help Him, too, by our prayers. This little book, if you have read
it carefully, will have suggested much to you to pray about. Just to
tell the Lord Jesus about the poor little children of wild Australia and
their needs is to do much to help those needs to be supplied. Call up in
your mind what happened at Cana of Galilee where Jesus made the water
wine. His mother came to Him and laid before Him the need, and He in His
own good time supplied it. So we can all lay before Him the needs of
these dear little children and we can trust Him at His own time to do
what is best. Perhaps some day some may hear the call to personal
service, to go out and make their homes among the children there and
teach them, as others have been taught, to know and love the Children's

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