Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 2, 1932-1936

Relations between settlers and aborigines in Western Australia

A.O. Neville

(Chief Protector of Aborigines in Western Australia.)

[Read before the Society, June 26, 1936.]

Neville, A.O. 1936, 'Relations between settlers and aborigines in Western Australia', Early Days: Volume 2, Part 19: 10-46.

[For reasons of space it has been necessary to omit part of Mr. Neville's address. He opened by reviewing: the circumstances of British colonial expansion in the eighteenth century, and the consequent contact with native races. He also referred to the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and emancipation of slaves in 1833. After general references to Australian settlement he continued:]

It is authoritatively stated that when the first settlers arrived in Australia there were about 300,000 aborigines scattered throughout the continent and that Western Australia contained 55,000, yet our predecessors believed the natives of Australia were so few in number and so rigid in their conditions of life as to render any possibility of danger and warfare, such as existed for a long time in India, South Africa and New Zealand, impossible. Certainly pioneer settlement in Western Australia was never frustrated by native wars, though we know that for 50 years or more the blacks must have outnumbered the whites. Concerted action on the part of the natives could easily have resulted in tragedy for the few white newcomers, but concerted action of that nature was not possible amongst a people who ever lived within narrow limits in mutual fear of their fellows. Split up into numerous hordes, divided again into family groups, concerted action by any considerable body was not feasible and even the corroboree assemblies were limited to members of tribes friendly disposed towards each other. Differences of dialect, too, assisted in maintaning this disunity, so it will be seen that from this point of view the migrant race was perfectly safe.

That little band of pioneers, fewer than one hundred souls, led by Stirling, who landed from the Parmelia in 1829, could not have known that they faced in the fertile valleys of the South-West alone some 13,000 untutored savages. They knew practically nothing of the


unexplored bush-covered country out of which they proposed to carve their homes or what dangers lurked in the shadows of the forest, yet they pressed on, doubtless with many a misgiving. True, they had a protecting body of 57 soldiers just arrived by H.M.S. Sulphur to guard them—what temerity—but so typical of the British race!

At first the black man gazed in wonder upon the newcomer, and regarded him as the reincarnation of his own departed warrior heroes returning to earth. But his demeanour was not that of a menial towards a master, or an inferior towards a superior, and later his attitude even became a little contemptuous when he found that these wonder men whose skin was white could become even as himself, mate with his women, and live on equal terms with him. Debasement was not a precedent to contact with the migrant race, but rather the consequence of it.

It was written, a couple of years later: “The stately air of Manyat, as he parades the streets with his feather-tufted stick, and feathered cap, approaching closely to some of our most dignified and polished actions, acquired by art, has led us to reflect how unjustly we estimate the savage, by our own acquirements.”

One of Stirling’s first acts was to issue a proclamation regarding the treatment of the natives. This wa* dated June 18, 1829. After enjoining all to be good and loyal subjects of His Majesty, to obey his legal commands, and pointing out that the laws of the United Kingdom, as far as they were applicable to the circumstances surrounding them, applied, and detailing other matters concerning the conduct of the people, His Excellency said:—

“And whereas the protection of the law doth of right belong to all people whatsoever who may come or be found within the territory aforesaid, I do hereby give notice that if any person or persons shall be convicted of behaving in a fraudulent, cruel, or felonious manner towards the aboriginal race of inhabitants of this country, such person or persons will be liable to be prosecuted and tried for the offence as if the same had been committed against any others of His Majesty’s subjects."

In the same proclamation all male persons between the ages of 15 and 50 were required to enrol in the militia to secure the safety of the territory from invasion and from the attacks of hostile native tribes as might be necessary.


Prom the very beginning the natives assisted exploring parties, guiding them and showing them native paths, one named Mokare being one of the first official guides. The newcomers were as yet too few to impress the natives with the significance of their invasion.

This happy relationship between the settlers and blacks up to the later part of 1830 continued. The whites showed no fear of the blacks and treated them liberally. The natives were constantly visiting the settlers and the settlers gave them food. This surprised the blacks who took great delight in watching the whites work and examining the results of their labour. As time passed the natives came to depend upon the white man’s food and began to beg. The settlers suffered for their liberality and ultimately sent the natives away without their usual gifts, following the advice of the authorities who constantly urged them to withhold their charity. The natives began to be cunning thieves and when they acquired a taste for beef and mutton speared, instead of the kangaroo and emu, the sheep and cattle of the settlers, thus a more serious position was brought about.

Early in November, 1830, there took place the shooting of the first black. Natives were detected robbing a house. They hurried away with the plunder into the bush and the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Peter Brown, accompanied by Mr. G. F. Moore and a few soldiers, pursued and overtook them. In the ensuing conflict one native was shot, three wounded and seven taken prisoners to Perth. Hoping that the proof given of the superiority of European weapons would suffice and to indicate leniency on the part of the whites the prisoners were almost immediately released in the hope that the natives would preserve a peaceful attitude in the future but, alas, it was not to be so. Some of the natives indeed proved amenable, others preferred to steal and even kill where they could not obtain by fair means. Amongst the former there were those who occasionally assisted the settlers and looked to them as superior beings, but another type of native, many of whom had quickly learnt the meaning of simple English words, continued their depredations.

Up to then it was not recorded that any white settler had murdered a black or even punished them to any


extent but we have the instance previously mentioned of the punitive expedition under the leadership of the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Peter Brown.

The natives’ first murder of a white appears to have been that of a man named McKenzie on the Murray River. It is not recorded whether this was in accordance with the natives’ lex talionis. the law of a life for a life, or in relatiation for some injuiry at the hands of the murdered man.

The second murder was committed in 1830. The settlers about the Swan were suffering somewhat heavily from thefts by natives. A man named Smedlev detected a native stealing potatoes from Mr. A. Butler’s garden on the banks of Melville Water. He shot him. Shortly after a party of natives surrounded Mr. Butler’s house and murdered his servant. Entwistle. Two natives. Yagan and Midgegoroo headed these avengers Entwistle was killed on his doorstep before the eyes of his two little sons, who rushed into the house and hid beneath the bed, thus escaping the notice of the natives. Yagan and Midgegooroo were not punished for their part in this crime.

By way of contrast it is related that Lieutenant Preston. while returning from Augusta and the Leschenault. when crossing the Collie River in 1831 was joined by several natives. He was presented by the native men to two native women who accompanied the party and was then led to a place some fifty vards from the track where were congregated some 50 or 60 women and children, as he stated, “some fair looking and others horrible to behold.” Preston gave the youngsters presents and proceeded on his way followed by the male members of the party for quite a time. There was no enmity there.

About the same time Dr. Collie was exploring the country between King George’s Sound and the Stirling Range. He had with him Mokare. the native who had previously accompanied Dr. Wilson. Mokare knew the country well, told Collie many things about it and knew where the waters lay. He proved an indispensable guide and an agreeable companion. Again, as in the case of Preston, Collie was joined by natives and the whole party camped in the same vicinity at night.

But towards the end of 1830 difficulties with the


natives undoubtedly increased and Lieutenant-Governor Stirling was at something of a loss to know how to meet the situation. He could not permit thieving natives to be shot down in cold blood nor did he wish to incur the expense of imprisoning and feeding them for long periods. It was a costly matter to provide protection for the scattered settlers. There was then a barracks on the Murray, another at Augusta and another at King George’s Sound, while the Swan, Canning and Helena Districts demanded more protection than all the others put together. Soldiers were stationed on the Swan, on the Canning at Kelmscott, and several other points. They were intended to act more as police than military.

It was beginning to be realised by this time that the natives as a race were not so despicable as was first supposed. They were intelligent and their shrewdness was often demonstrated and when attacked they could offer the most dogged and determined resistance. Being driven from their hunting grounds, deprived of their natural food, even so early as 1831 they were compelled to hunt beyond the boundaries of their tribal districts.

They began to realise that they were becoming dispossessed. Their group waters were taken over by the white men, their spirit places desecrated, their totem foods destroyed, so they became homeless and foodless.

They could not join other groups outside- their tribal boundaries. They had enemies of their own colour all around them. Their laws broke down, unlawful matings occurred followed by inevitable retribution, hundreds died lacking the will to live, or affected by sorcery, and the decimation of the race began in earnest, not so much because of the evil deeds of the white man but simply because of his presence and his gradual acquisition of what had been for time untold the happy hunt-ing grounds of the aborigines.

As a body the natives rarely killed stock. The outrages were mostly attributable to certain well-known individual natives. They begged and stole, however, and would help themselves when they found a settler absent from home.

In 1831 there were attacks upon the flocks on the Swan when Mr. Brown’s shepherd was killed. Many sheep were driven off and the settlers who pursued the natives discovered that no less than 47 had been slaught-


ered. Stirling then appointed special magistrates to act with the military upon sudden emergency. Additional soldiers were sent to the Guildford District. One has written: “Towards the end of 1831, when the settler was scores of miles inland from his kind, shrouded by the sombre somnolent woods, he murmured loudly against his lot, and pined for the home circle more and more. The half savage natives were his daily companions, the immense unornamented plain his daily prospect; the spirit of these permeated his mind and made ingenuous simplicity his dominant characteristic.”

It was the custom at this time to send two soldiers to every isolated settler to afford him the necessary protection but later, as will be seen, the soldiers were withdrawn.

In 1831, it was the law that portion of a servant’s wages might be paid in rum, and because of the demand of servants to be supplied with rum ofttimes many times a day, the serious evil of intoxication became very prevalent. It can be imagined that the black servants shared in this. Drink was then described as “the bane of the country” by Mr. G. F. Moore.

The following year saw the Governor and his Council still absorbed in the native troubles. There had been some immunity at the beginning of the year but people were suspicious and looking for methods to oppose the onslaughts of the natives; thus Captain Stirling established a police force about the middle of the year and this body included several aborigines. The force was designed for the purpose of protecting, controlling, managing and gradually civilising the aboriginal race and keeping up friendly intercourse with them. Captain Stirling pointed out to the Home Authorities that unless this was done there was bound to be a fearful struggle between the invaders and the invaded which would not cease until the extermination of the latter, to the discredit of the British name.

Captain Ellis, a retired officer of the 14th Regiment, then holding the position of Resident Magistrate at Kelmscott, was appointed Superintendent of this troop in addition to his other duties. He had as his assistant a Mr. Charles Norcott. For their services Ellis was to receive £100 and Norcott £50 annually and a horse and forage for man and beast. These two were to be the


only mounted men and were assigned two soldiers to assist them and the aforesaid natives—not a very extensive force in the circumstances.

Shortly after this, rationing stations were established at Mt. Eliza (Perth), the Murray, Augusta, King George’s Sound, and the Upper Swan where the daily issue in wheat per native was as follows: Men, 12 ounces; women, 8 ounces; children, 6 ounces. Wheat seems to have been the only commodity supplied, but fish, in the procuring of which the natives were most proficient, was available as might be required. This was all they received and then they had to grind the wheat themselves, on the principle I suppose that a man shall not eat unless he works. Had this principle been enforced all along it would have made a considerable difference to the position. As it was the receipt of charity with no return in even a minimum of labour pauperised the natives to their detriment.

Captain Ellis issued a weekly journal showing the ration issues and giving other information of interest and this shows that the daily issues were sometimes made to more than 100 natives. At that time the Perth tribe alone was said to number some 750 aborigines.

The journal shows, too, that Ellis and his assistant. Norcott, constantly patrolled the area under their jurisdiction. I have been told that the natives did not like these officers. They wore the military cloaks of the day and to the natives this garment was the "bwokka” of an enemy.

Apart altogether from any defensive measures adopted by the military section of the community, the Government Storekeeper, Mr. J, Morgan, caused a notice to be posted in February, 1833, enjoining citizens not to give money or food to the natives, and asserting that for some to do so would only bring trouble on others and, further, that such would be regarded as misdemeanours liable to punishment on conviction at the Quarter Sessions. He went on to say that at all times there were always in his office 60 stand of arms with a full supply of ammunition for those who might require them ready to inflict prompt and heavy punshment upon the natives should their conduct deserve it, as judged by those whose duty it was to act in such matters.


Thomas were sowing in a field on the Canning. Their dog began to howl. They looked up and noticed that he had been speared through the ear by a native spear. Then they observed a party of natives led by Yagan, formerly implicated in the affair at Butler’s garden. The natives were excited and hostile and the white men decided to make off. Yagan’s people pursued them, but Gaze failed to escape and falling into the river was speared in the back. His companion returned with a soldier and another man but the natives had disappeared. Gaze was still alive but died shortly afterwards.

About the same time several natives approached the military barracks on the Swan near Guildford but before they came close the soldiers fired upon them.

More than once in these early years determined bands of natives had attacked one or other of the military posts, hurling their spears through the windows and showing considerable daring and disregard of the firearms of the soldiers.

Upon the report that the natives had driven off the cattle of an absent settler, ten white men formed a band and pursued the robbers. They came upon them asleep at night. In the excitement they shot one of their own party and the natives escaped unhurt.

The natives were particularly partial to pigs and were constantly killing them to the deprivation of the whites. Even the Lieutenant-Governor was not spared, many of his own pigs being speared, presumably at his home at Woodbridge. It was beginning to be regarded as something of a waste of time to have to employ white servants to do nothing but watch the flocks and herds. Numerous spears were thrown through the windows of settlers’ houses and struck in dangerous proximity to the body of the inmates.

Matters were now becoming very serious. A paragraph in the report of the Western Australian Agricultural Society dated February 9, 1832, reads: "It is also to be regretted that interruptions and depredations by the natives have become frequent and that there is not a sufficient military force to overawe them so as to j prevent such attempts until a mutual understanding ( could be effected or a friendly intercourse established between us. . .

A meeting was held in Guildford in June to discuss ]


the native question and resolutions were passed expressing the opinion that the Colony must be abandoned if steps were not taken to protect property. It was after this that the Police Corps was established.

A soldier on his way from Perth to Guildford in July stated that he had been attacked by natives: at all events he shot two dead. Another soldier on the Murray was reported to have been speared and severely wounded by blacks and in retaliation he killed five and wounded many more. It would seem that the soldier was not as ready to obey the behest of the authorities as to the attitude to be adopted towards the natives as the private citizen!

After the murder of Gaze the Governor offered a reward for the apprehension of Yagan and he and two other natives concerned in the affair were actually seized by two boatmen when fishing on the Swan River. They were secured and taken to Perth and Lieutenant-Governor Irwin—(Stirling had gone to England)—and his Executive decided to imprison them on Carnac Island. A Mr. R. M. Lyon undertook to act as superintendent in care of them.

Lyon studied the habits and language of the prisoners at Carnac and learned much from them. In fact he got along very well with his captives but nevertheless they escaped. It had been hoped to make a treaty of peace through them with all the native tribes and Mr. Lyon was doing his best to bring this about.

About this time the first outrage on a white woman was committed by natives on the Canning, where a soldier’s wife was speared. One must, however, commend the attitude of the natives towards white women throughout the years. Our women have enjoyed comparative immunity from serious molestation, which unfortunately has not been the experience of some of the other Dominions.

The descent by the blacks on the flocks and herds of the settlers continued, reprisals became more numerous with loss of human life on either side. This caused a condition of animosity to be set up, so much so that some of the whites wished to wage war against the original possessors of the soil. There was, in fact, a revulsion of feeling though the quiet reception accorded the newcomers by the blacks in the first days of settle-


ment was not forgotten. However, ever imbued with sentiments of fair play, these British folk felt that they could not coolly shoot down single blacks and the idea of murdering whole parties in cold blood was repugnant to them. The natives would not unite in open battle and attack the invaders. Their tribal system, as I have said, made such an event impossible.

It was not the same throughout the Colony, however, and while depredations were being committed in one quarter in other parts natives were peacefully and respectfully conducting the white observers through the country showing them their waters, name places and customs or assisting them to till the land, but the natives no longer feared the weapons of the whites. Some of them even secured firearms and learned their use.

Yagan, previously mentioned, the son of one of the leaders, a man of fine physique and the hope of his people, inspired fear amongst the whites by whom he was known as the “Wallace” of the Australian aborigines. He was said to have been endued with intelligence, sagacity and bravery, and was the dominating spirit of the native troubles of 1833.

At this time two King George’s Sound natives visited Perth and were welcomed by Yagan and his tribe at Monger's Lake. A trial of skill between the visitors and local people was proposed. This consisted of spear throwing and Yagan proved the better marksman for his side. One of the whites present stuck his walking stick vertically in the ground. The natives walked some 25 paces away and from there hurled their spears. Yagan’s spear struck down the walking stick.

Much discourse followed in which Yagan recounted his experiences with the whites. Some of the local ladies,

Mrs. Leake in particular, entertained the visiting natives, who sat in arm chairs and drank tea. The visit set up temporary friendliness between the parties again but it was short-lived and the destruction of property by the natives was again indulged in.

Jenkins, a private in the 63rd Regiment, was speared at Clarence, a few miles south of Fremantle. . This was close to the barracks; but Jenkins recovered. It trans-spired that Jenkins was one of the guards of Yagan and Midgegooroo when at Carnac. Mr. Norcott, Assistant Superintendent of Police, was threatened by Yagan be-


cause while eating biscuit in the presence of the native he offered the latter a share. Unfortunately he felt he had given Yagan too much and endeavoured to take away a part, which aroused Yagan’s ire.

The “Perth Gazette” wrote of Yagan at the time: “The reckless daring of this desperado, who sets his life at a pin’s fee, is being the subject of general observation, and we firmly believe for the most trivial offence, even with a loaded musket at his breast, he would take the life of any man who provoked him.” Yet Yagan was not only tolerated but encouraged by the whites though this was most probably from fear of reprisal on his part. Yagan arranged a corroboree in the yard of a settler in Perth on the occasion of the arrival of the schooner Ellen from King George’s Sound with some natives from that centre. Yagan is said to have acquitted himself with “infinite dignity” and his party were even granted permission to sleep on the premises that night. Next day, however, there was a native affray in Perth, apparently caused by jealousy over a woman.

Yagan was indeed an extraordinary and versatile character. He displayed boldness and revenge beside courtesy and hospitality which commanded respect. Should a fire break out Yagan was there to assist in overcoming it. Should any part of the unknown terrain require to be visited Yagan was there to lead the whites. Nevertheless, he was insolent and unforgivable. He entered a house where a white woman was alone and talked and acted in a violent manner. The woman escaped, Yagan calling after her, “Goodbye, Goodbye.” After this episode Captain Ellis, Superintendent of Native Tribes, pursued, caught and lectured Yagan but, breaking away, the native rushed into the bush only to be seen in Perth shortly afterwards.

The natives now discovered another means of displaying animosity. They took to burning the crops and grass, and affairs drew to a crisis. Incendiary acts of this nature often surrounded Perth with a wall of fire necessitating the calling out of the troops and volunteers to suppress them. The Swan District also suffered extensively in this way. A white man from Van Diemen’s Land meeting some natives on the road deliberately shot one of them without provocation, saying to his companion, “Damn the rascals, I’ll show you how


we treat them in Van Diemen’s Land.” That took place on the track between the Canning and Fremantle. A few nights afterwards a store was broken into at Fremantle and the merchant discovered natives on the premises. The neighbours were aroused, firearms seized, and one of the thieves, Domjuim, was killed. It was these two acts which once more stimulated revenge in the heart of Yagan. He openly stated that he was going to the Canning to spear a white man, and proceeded on his way followed by his tribe. It happened that the two brothers Velvick, Thomas and John, were driving in the vicinity of Bull’s Creek in the very cart from which the Tasmanian previously referred to had wantonly shot a native a few days before. At almost the same spot on the same track Yagan and Midgegooroo and party surrounded the vehicle. A Mr. Phillips, nearby, saw Yagan plunging a spear into the body of one of the men, both of whom were found dead afterwards. The natives’ means of securing information were as remarkable then as is the case to-day.

Immediately upon the Governor's learning of this outrage a proclamation was issued offering a reward of £30 to anyone who could capture Yagan dead or alive and £20 for Midgegooroo and Mundav. all three natives being deprived of the protection of British law. this implying that theye were outlawed and could be shot on sight. Private and official parties were at once organised and proceeded in search of Yagan but he managed to elude them and showed no fear. While the country was being scoured for him he actually visited some of the homes of the settlers Wpjfc he only visited those who he knew would not hurt him. He was seen close to Perth for the purpose of obtaining" food. Some of the parties which went out after Vagan were not particular as to their actions and it is feared that more than one native suffered for Yagan’s misdeeds.

Midgegooroo was cantaured bv Captain Ellis and partv and his little son was taken prisoner with him.

He had been associated with many attacks on whites and their stock and had been concerned in the murder of Entwistle. He was bound to the door of the Perth Gaol and shot by a party of the 63rd Regiment, the Lieutenant-Governor himself giving the signal to fire.


There was great feeling of satisfaction amongst the white people in consequence of this execution.

It is reported that numerous natives were shot down about this period by the whites but advocates for their merciful treatment were not wanting. The Government ddded that they must be just and protect the lives of the natives and they therefore issued another proclamation stating that they were subjects of His Majesty and reiterating the terms of that issued in June, 1829, which I have previously referred to.

Then Yagan appeared on the scene again. He was observed by Mr. G. F. Moore who was engaged on his farm on the Swan. Moore had a long conversation with Yagan and endeavoured to impress upon him the futility of his conduct and the probable end of it all. Moore has recorded that Yagan delivered a sort of recitative, looking earnestly into his face, somewhat thus: “You came to our country; you have driven us from our haunts and disturbed us from our occupations. As we walk in our own country we are fired upon by the white men. Why should the white men treat us so?” Yagan sought to know the fate of Midgegooroo but being given no direct reply seemed to sense the answer. He said that if a white man had shot Midgegooroo that he, Yagan would kill three. Moore replied that if he did that every white man would shoot him, Yagan. Yagan, with a look of daring defiance, turned on his heel with disdain and proceeded into the bush. The lex talionis was still in full operation as it is right down to our time.

Yagan was unfortunately otherwise advised of Midgegooroo’s death and upon learning this the Lieutenant-Governor immediately strengthened the military throughout the district, and fear spread through the settlement. Still they searched for him and still the depredations went on, Yagan now being joined by Weeip, the chief of the mountain tribe. This rascal attempted to betray Yagan and even joined a search party under Captain Ellis. It was reported of Yagan that meeting whites unknown to him he offered to show them where they could find Yagan and so endeavoured to lead them into the bush where other natives were waiting to spear them. The “Perth Gazette” of July 6th, 1833, published the following: “Those who have not had an opportunity of witnessing the sagacity and


acuteness of the aborigines of this country can form no idea of the natural extent of their minds—they are by no means the base, degraded, sanguinary wretches they have ignorantly been designated—they have their many virtues which their roving habits will render it difficult to bring into exercise.”

Yagan, the prop of the aborigines, met his death in July, 1833, though ridiculing the idea of being captured and emerging from hiding now and again awaiting his opportunity for retaliation for the death of Midgegooroo. Two lads named William and James Keates eventually brought about his destruction. William was eighteen, James thirteen, and William was imbued with the desire to kill Yagan in order to obtain the reward. It was said that William was bold and unaffected by sentiments of honour and that his master, Lieutenant Bull, a settler on the Swan, often advised him to put the thought from his mind. Bull was friendly with the natives and was strongly in sympathy with them. While the Keates lads were minding cattle near Mr. Bull’s house, Yagan and some other natives came to the house for flour. The boys carried guns. Yagan, becoming suspicious of William’s intentions, threatened them but eventually repaired with his mates to cook a meal nearby. It is said that the boys were invited to partake of the food. William and his brother went amongst the natives but William kept his gun pointed in Yagan’s direction. Eventually he fired and Yagan fell and died. The natives at once fixed their spears in their throwing sticks and James, seeing a native named Heegan in the act of throwing, shot him, too. The lads now ran away but the natives followed William, caught him on the river’s bank and Weeip and others speared him. William’s brother managed to escape. A white settler took the head of Yagan and that part of the body bearing the wales and scars of his tribe. These were dried and kept for many years as memorials of one of the bravest and most intelligent members of a rapidly disappearing race.

The act by which Yagan’s death was encompassed was considered a treacherous one because he was killed while acting as host to the youth who shot him and who was even sharing his meal. The “Perth Gazette” expressed the opinion that the death of Yagan was a wild and treacherous act and that by this act the whites


had taught the native to exercise towards them deceit and treachery which in him had been the subject of daily reproof. It spoke of the aborigines never having abused the confidence of the whites and considered that the act annihilated the surest road to perfect amity—mutual confidence.

When the deed became known throughout Great Britain and the Colonies many hard things were said of the West Australians which were in no wise true. To that date the Government had acted fairly and impartially towards the aborigines and were not to blame for the objectionable method adopted of obtaining the reward.

The natives, lacking the leadership of Yagan, for a time feared the whites and discontinued their depredations. But in the following year they were found congregating in increasing numbers near the scattered homesteads of the settlers for no good purpose. Isolated bands of woodcutters were forced to set a guard to watch, while their companions prepared the timber for market. Farmers and pastoralists were compelled to place some of their servants round their homes with defensive weapons. Numbers of blacks also wandered through the Swan River bush and caused uneasiness in the minds of the community. The natives, too, began fighting amongst themselves and wild corroborees, generally terminating in little damage on either side but fearsome to the minds of the white beholders, took place in the vicinity of the towns. The Government

was at its wit's end to know what to do. It was not humane to disperse them by bloodshed and obviously they could not all be cast into prison. It was then suggested that they should be removed wholesale to an island. However, other methods were tried. Flogging was instituted. One was caught stealing and given a dozen lashes before being released. The case was put to Weeip, now one of the head men, and he recommended this course. He said he thought “a little beating all the same as black man” might be effective and so the punishment was inflicted in front of the guard house. The friends of the victim gazed upon the act and it is said that he received a dozen lashes without wincing or uttering the slightest exclamation.

Next followed the well-known raid on Mr. Shenton's


mill at Pt. Belches or Mill Point as it is now. The story is so well-known that repetition is needless but upon reading it one is filled with admiration for the bravery exhibited by Mr. Shenton on that occasion. Afterwards one of the perpetrators of the deed was shot in the bush, three were imprisoned and some received a whipping. The prisoners were retained as hostages for the good behaviour of the tribe.

At this juncture a native named Yeedamira, while escaping from custody, was shot by a soldier. Weeip and others determined to revenge him. He and his companions went to the barracks where was stationed Larkins, the soldier who had killed their friend (Yeedamira), talked with him and the other soldiers, shook hands and took their leave. The soldiers thus thrown off their guard were unprepared when at a signal from Weeip a shower of spears was hurled at them. Larkins was pinned to the wall of the barracks by a spear and thus was Yeedamira revenged. Weeip was outlawed, but this daring act again increased the fear of the settlers and Captain Ellis, Mr. Norcott his assistant, and their police force became exceedingly busy, seizing several natives and inflicting whippings, but to little effect.

At Greenmount, close to what is now known as the Log Cabin, is a huge rock near which in the early thirties was situated the camping place of several outlawed natives. Mr. John Chipper was one day proceeding along the road near the rock accompanied by a lad named Beacham when these natives attacked them. Beacham was killed but Mr. Chipper, who was severely wounded, had a miraculous escape. With two spears sticking in his back he outran his pursuers and leaped from the rock referred to, a height of 20 feet to the ground below. Being a heavy man, he hit the ground with such force as to burst the toes of his boots which were strong new ones. Mr. Chipper had to go seven miles with the barbs of the spears remaining in his back until he came to Woodbridge, the dwelling place of Sir James Stirling, where he was attended to by Lady Stirling. The rock is to this day known as “Chipper’s Leap.” *

Towards the end of the first decade the Home Go-

* See also W.A.H.S. Journal, Vol. 1., Part X., p. 61.


vernment, through the Governor, issued several notices indicating that the minds of His Majesty’s advisers at Home were considerably perturbed as to the trend of affairs. These commands bristled with inconsistency. There were insufficient troops, it was stated, to guard every part of the Colony; the settlers must only look to the Government to repel serious attacks, must defend themselves against petty assaults, and the Government would inflict the severest penalties upon those ill-treating the natives; the injured parties must be compensated for wrongs received; the officers and police must not allow injustice or insult in regard to the natives to pass unnoticed and must be sure to report every instance of aggression and misconduct. It was recognised that the colonist might encounter conduct which in civilised society would be regarded as highly offensive but he must practise forbearance and moderation and by exactness in the fulfilment of his engagements set an example of justice and good faith. If a native offended and required to be brought to justice every form as in the case of a white person must be observed. The whites must aid in their own protection, keep their arms in order, associate with their neighbours for mutual support, withdraw from the vicinity of the natives, treat them with caution, firmness and good humour. They must not expose themselves to attack through going about unarmed and alone. Friendly relations must be maintained by every possible means and no act of violence committed by unauthorised individuals except on the strongest, clearest and most urgent grounds of self-defence.

You can imagine the discussions which must have occurred amongst the whites on receipt of such instructions and the dilemma in which they were placed in knowing how to treat the matter.

About this time, too, it was decided that no native should be allowed to appear in town armed with a spear and, further, everyone who employed them should insist upon their assuming some sort of clothing to cover their “savage nakedness.” They were enjoined to be careful not to reward their workers with unground corn but always with meal, this being designed to “take from them the means of concealing wheat pillaged from the farmers’ barns and fields.”


Instructions were issued that upon one day of each month a military escort would be available to convoy settlers who might require to travel from one place to another, which seems to be a very good indication that after ten years of pioneer settlement trouble with the natives which had begun in and around Perth was now in evidence throughout the country.

[Mr. Neville then turned to the Murray district and recounted events leading’ to the so-called Battle of Pinjarra in 1834. On this point, see also the series of papers published in W.A.H.S. Journal. Vol, I., Part I., pp. 24-87; and a reference in Vol. I., Part V., pp. 17-19. Mr. Neville gives the number of natives killed as “some thirty,” including unfortunately several women.]

Following the Pinjarra affair Sir James Stirling formulated a plan for civilising the natives. Nobody wanted a repetition of the sort of thing which had just taken place at Pinjarra and the general desire was to induce the natives to obey the English law. Mr. F. Armstrong, a settler who had acquired a knowledge of the aboriginal language, was selected to take charge of an insti-tution situated at the foot of Mount Eliza on Mount’s Bay Road where there was formerly a shipyard. The intention was to afford protection to all natives, supply medical aid and food. It was a popular movement both with the whites and the blacks. The home was duly established and was carried on for a number of years.

It was realised about this time that more use might be made of the services of the natives and their wonderful knowledge of bushcraft. The loss of a white child and the remarkable adroitness of certain natives in following the tracks of the little one until discovered greatly impressed the inhabitants. The services of the blacks as workers on farms became more popular but, alas, the troubles were now transferred to yet another district-—York.

In March, 1835, an attack was made on some men travelling to York, near the Halfway House. Both were wounded and one subsequently died.

By this time a number of people were obtaining returns from pastoral pursuits. At Northam, York, Beverley, King George’s Sound, Augusta and the Swan River, flocks were pastured over large areas. The view was held that more was to be obtained in this way than from growing crops. Settlements spread along the Avon Valley, Plantagenet, Blackwood, Vasse and Williams


Districts. York was particularly favoured. The names of the Clarksons, Hardeys, Burges, and Parkers appeared on the map as occupiers of large holdings and the first town lots at York had been granted to Messrs. Bland and Trimmer.

Two natives rifling a house near York were shot by a settler and his soldier guard. This incident aroused the ire of the York tribes and they vowed vengeance. They killed sheep and dashed out the brains of lambs on the trees. They killed and ate a horse. Finally they killed a man named Knott, another life for a life. It was openly stated that York would have to be abandoned if the natives were not immediately checked and the military strengthened. The Home Government, it was stated, failed to understand the position and Imperial statesmen could not conceive that the impact of civilisation upon the untutored natives was bound to result in tragedy, particularly when primitive law met English law. They believed that native offenders should be treated as Europeans and be given the same opportunities. Summonses had to issue, arrests be made, in the usual order and cases tried with the same legal procedure as with white offenders in accordance with the ideas instilled into the minds of the pioneer settlers by the earliest administrators. The Secretary of State said that the aboriginal race must be treated in the full and sufficient routine of English law, yet even to-day we are seeking to provide means of enabling our native race, by the establishment of special native courts, to understand that the law of a life for a life is not immutable. By this time the settlers knew there was something wrong with the policy and they complained bitterly and resentfully of the principles initiated by the Home Authorities. A battle, they said, such as that which took place at Pinjarra would be illegal and the shooting of a native murderer not permitted. It was sarcastically suggested that members of the Home Government should test their theories by becoming settlers themselves in some of the remoter districts of the Colony.

But the natives.had not forgotten the shooting of the two thieves at York and the tribe to which the dead men belonged killed Isaac Green, a soldier, on the very farm where the deed had been committed against them. Becoming excessively daring and scorning the white


settlers, the aborigines began to move about in bands, and next came the murder of Messrs. Jones and Chidlow, near Northam, and an attack upon Mr. Waylen in the Toodyay Valley when a soldier shot two blacks and Mr. Waylen cut down another with an axe. Lieutenant B unbury with a party of soldiers set out to apprehend these marauders and to harry the natives throughout the district, resulting in a number of them being shot. Mr. G. F. Moore, the Advocate General, proceeded to York to interview the natives. He gathered them about him and delivered a long oration but whether this had any effect or not is hard to say though it is more than likely that the determined attitude of the soldiers did, for there was a general exodus of the natives from the York District to the Swan. This meant increasing the military and police and conferring authority on private persons, mainly resulting^ however, in corroborees and fights amongst the natives themselves as the York people constantly quarrelled with the Swan River natives.

By the time 1838 came in the Government’s stern measures were having some effect but, to show how far-reaching the intelligence system of the natives was, when a King George’s Sound native was murdered by members of the Swan River tribe on Garden Island in this year, several natives walked overland from King Georges’ Sound to avenge the murder. In this year at least one native was sentenced to transportation and sent to Van Diemen’s Land. Executions also took place but, generally speaking, matters improved owing to the increasing strength of the whites.

Someone now mooted the idea of a native prison upon Rottnest. This establishment, in fact, was begun and some prisoners sent to the island but they escaped.

Interest in the natives from a moral point of view began to be taken. A body, known as the West Australian Missionary Society, sent out an Italian pastor in the person of the Rev. Dr. Giustiniani, who had been appointed missionary, and he arrived here in 1836. He was in poor health but animated with zeal and hope. He built a church and school house at Guildford and established a farm on the Swan where the labour of the blacks could be used in conjunction with the mission. Some objected to his presence because he was a


foreigner and Dr. Giustiniani did not improve matters by writing to England and referring in strong terms to the relationship between Europeans and the natives. He was recalled to England in January, 1837. Other missionary efforts were attempted about this time but did not come to fruition.

In July, 1839, Rottnest was definitely proclaimed a Government penal establishment and a Mr. Welsh appointed first superintendent. In the following year an Act of Parliament was passed constituting Rottnest Island a public prison for natives.

There were continued attempts to escape from Rottnest but gradually the natives became inured to it and began to perform useful service including the building of the old Rottnest lighthouse. The natives could not understand why they were sent there and the men who had intruded on their domains, taken their lands, imprisoned and chained them, sent them to this island. It was a stern necessity and, needless to say, regretted by the whites.

We may, I think, acquit the great majority of the early settlers of any intentional or unnecessary cruelty towards the aborigines but, as Stirling complained, there were amongst the early arrivals, the great majority of whom were highly respectable and independent persons, many outcasts of the English parishes possessing habits of the loosest description. These, he said, caused great inconvenience to their masters and endless trouble to the authorities. In the main it was largely a matter of self-defence and the protection of property against a people who largely outnumbered them.

It was said of these days that native fights were constantly occurring in the townsites, even in Perth itself. Armed savages, often in a state of “disgusting nudity,” wandered through the streets and more than once murdered their victims at noonday on the very thresholds of the dwellings of the inhabitants. If money or food were withheld the women were insulted and even the constables menaced with threats of future vengeance. It was then the habit of the natives to visit the dwellings at a very early hour in the morning, necessitating a constant watch being kept on property and goods. There is no doubt that fear walked in the land to a much greater extent than we care to suppose.


There were only one or two people who attempted by studying the native character to get at their point of view. Armstrong was the foremost of these and the records he left are invaluable. There were also Mr. G. F. Moore and Mr. R. M. Lyon, not forgetting Captain Grey.

But there was a lighter side to the picture. Undoubtedly the pranks and doings of their black neighbours afforded considerable amusement and interest to the whites. Numerous corroborees held in and around the settlement were witnessed by large crowds and the considerable number of native servants employed must have added variety to the scene.

All through the years the natives suffered heavily from introduced diseases, such as whooping cough, influenza, measles and small pox, and hundreds of them died from these causes. When whooping cough first broke out amongst them, which it is related, some meddling mischievous person told them they caught from the soldiers, the natives persisted in the belief that they were infected by the “bugler,” not it was presumed from the affinity of the sound of the bugle to their whooping, but from the infectious blasts which they imagined passed through the instrument and spread contagion. They likened this to the power of the cannibal tribes said to exist further East who were magically able to diffuse pestilence and disorders in a similar way. “And,” it was written “had not our flour, potatoes and other foods raised us in their estimation the introduction of this cough would doubtless have brought upon us their displeasure and we should have been associated in their minds with their distant countrymen, the cannibals.

Midgegooroo’s son, who was interned in the native quarters under Mt. Eliza, on one occasion became insensible from the quantity of intoxicating liquor which someone had given to him. “Cannot,” wrote the “Perth Gazette,” “the degraded villain who administered the poison be discovered? Surely these poor creatures are not to be made the subjects of experiment. The practice upon dogs is sufficiently revolting without extending it to the human race." It was afterwards declared illegal to give natives intoxicating liquor, a provision which exists to this day.


On one occasion when a corroboree was held at Perth it was interrupted by “some blackguards throwing a bucket of water over the performers.” It was hoped, said a writer, that bystanders witnessing such dastardly conduct would use every exertion to bring the offenders to justice.

Some wag amongst the whites one day placed a mask over the face of a native. This immediately called forth expressions of horror and the unfortunate masked individual was referred to as “Gyarnac.” This was an evil spirit which destroyed the game and was responsible for no luck attending hunting efforts, the spirit, in fact, representing the departed bad men of their tribe. Such actions indicated that even in those days the aborigines were treated by many with the would-be humorous tolerance which is still in evidence to-day.

About this time a settler at Ellen’s Brook by an ingenious method drove thieving natives, who had been causing him much annoyance, out of the district. He painted a hideous face on a paper lantern which he lit at night and hung on a bush where natives were wont to foregather. The natives were intensely alarmed and decamped declaring that a “Boylea man” had come from the North threatening death to those of them who were bold enough to remain near the spot.

But even the natives themselves sensed the spirit of animosity which was gradually growing up between themselves and the settlers. After matters had settled down somewhat and stable Government had been established an interesting scene took place at Government House when Captain Irwin, then Lieutenant-Governor, received a deputation of head-men of the local tribes. Before appearing before His Honour the leaders begged for soap and water with which to wash themselves, carefully adjusting their scanty cloaks and throwing their spears to their followers. The deputation pointed out that the number of their killed to that date was 16 and nearly twice as many wounded, in fact, that few had escaped uninjured. They knew the name of every person who had in any way injured their people. They related the names of all their dead and the names of the localities where they were killed but they pointed out they were still afraid that others would be added to the


number of the deceased. Being assured by the Lieu-tenant-Governor that this would not occur unless they continued their depredations, they were aware, they said, that natives found committing theft were liable to be shot but argued that this was opposed to their tribal laws, punishment in such instances being banishment from the tribe or the mere spearing of the offender through the leg. They would continue to exact a life for a life. They pointed out that their hunting and fishing grounds had been taken from them, that the dogs of the newcomers had driven the kangaroo far away but naively added that they found mutton a very good substitute. When Irwin suggested that he would like to assemble all the tribes in Perth in the near future with the object of addressing them, they displayed a reluctance to introduce to tneir territory the distant tribes referred to and wished to deter the whites from forming any intimacy with them, expressing the wish that the white man would accompany them into the bush and “boo” (shoot) the black men and assist them in spearing these members of other tribes. The interview does not appear to have accomplished much but on being provided with some bread the deputation went off in high spirits and were afterwards seen in earnest conversation with the others of their tribe.

The history of the second decade is remarkable for three main factors which completely altered the relations between the whites and the natives. First in importance probably was the decision of the Home Government to inaugurate a new system with the avowed object of civilising and preserving the native race and preventing oppression. The treatment of the natives throughout Australia had created an impression in England that the aborigines were being cruelly handled by the whites and it is true that in certain parts, particularly Tasmania, they were being rapidly exterminated.

So far as Western Australia is concerned, the Home Government decided to appoint paid district protectors and selected three gentlemen resident in England to fill these positions. The foremost of these were a Mr. Charles Symmons who was given charge of the most thickly settled area extending from Perth southwards to Augusta, a Mr. Peter Barrow stationed at York who


controlled the district from Toodyay to Cape Riche, and a Dr. Wilson whose activities I have so far been unable to trac«, For many years these officers, notably Mr. Symmons, travelled far and wide, no mean undertaking in those days, and settled disputes. They submitted quarterly and annual reports to the Governor and these reports throw a considerable light upon the struggles of the early settlers, generally. They are couched in perfect English and full of interest. Mr. Barrow in 1842 was succeeded by Mr. R. H. Bland, one of the first settlers in York. Undoubtedly under this system of protection and supervision much good was accomplished and mention here might also be made of the useful seif vices which Mr. Armstrong rendered to the community. Not only did this gentleman act as native interpreter as before stated but he also at considerable personal risk conducted several missions to the tribes in the- country, his duty being, it was stated, “to offer oblivion for past offences, except murder, and proffer friendship for the future.” It had become the practice for offending natives to go bush and lie low for a time until they imagined their offences had become softened through time or forgotten. Then they would calmly make their reappearance and nobody seemed to worry about them. This practice did not have the effect upon the natives which such leniency deserved. They thought the white man a fool for forgiving them so easily.

On the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief the number of native police constables was considerably augmented and it was found that some of the greatest rascals, having rendered themselves obnoxious even to their own people, offered themselves for service and were enrolled because it was desired to employ them in the apprehension of certain natives still required to. be brought to justice. Some remarkable captures were effected by these men entirely unaccompanied by any white officers during the early part of the decade. One instance of this nature will suffice, in 1839 a native named Mendick had committed e murder in the Canning District and up to 1841 he had not been captured although parties both of the military and settlers had scoured the country in all directions looking for him. Mr. Symmons, not long after his appointment, as-


sembled the native police and despatched them with positive orders to seize Mendick alive. Within ten days he was brought in chained to the wrist of a coloured constable and ultimately paid with his life the penalty for his offence.

So great was the improvement in the relations between the hitherto opposing parties towards the end of the decade that it was found possible to do away with the native police altogether.

The second agency which contributed so largely to the suppression of native depredations was the founding of Rottnest penal establishment, previously referred to. A Mr. Vincent was now in charge and the number of natives sent across to the island began to increase until it was said that not a native over whom any serious charge was impending remained at large. Rottnest was shrouded by undefined terrors in the minds of the native population. Mr. Symmons wrote of it that he considered the prison on Rottnest as one of the most powerful engines which the Colonial Government wielded over the aborigines, rather “in terrorem” than in point of fact. It is an undoubted fact that those who had been incarcerated there and subsequently released, though disinclined thereafter to fraternise with the whites, certainly committed no more serious offences. This institution continued until 1905 or 1906, up to which time it had cost the Colony just under £116,000. Tn later years there were admitted to it numerous natives from the North and the annual expenditure reached approximately £4000, some 70 natives on the average being incarcerated, but the very fact that natives from the North were admitted caused it to be finally done way with, the sufferings of the inmates changing proportionately to the character of those incarcerated, The Northern people could not stand the cold, and pulmonary diseases increased to such an extent as to finally influence the authorities in building gaols at Wyndham, Roebourne and elsewhere in the North to accommodate natives brought to justice in those districts and largely in order that they might be imprisoned within their own tribal districts.

The third factor was the increasing influence of the religious denominations, the establishment of native


schools and the commencement of missionary activities. To the Wesleyan denomination belongs the credit ot establishing the really only successful, perhaps I should say the most successful, effort in this direction. This denomination established a day and Sunday school for native children in Perth in 1841. It was financed by the local Government and what was known as the Wesleyan Society. The prime mover was the Rev. John Smithies, Wesleyan minister, and he had with him John Wall Hardey, Joseph Hardey, Henry Trigg, Michael and James Clarkson, Frederick Waldeck and several others, with Mr. George Shenton as secretary and the versatile Mr. Francis Armstrong as teacher, supported by his wife.

It was then the practice to take the native children from their parents, practically all the children from the Perth tribe numbering 100 or so being so absorbed, place them in situations in the town and give them two or three hours’ teaching daily. Some of them were housed and fed by their employers, others at the school, and the whole institution was conducted on strict lines under regulations approved by the Government. Mr. Symmons was loud in his praises of the efforts of all concerned with the institution but, alas, sufficient allowance was not made for the native character. The children were constantly being abducted by their parents or relatives and there was considerable opposition on the part of the natives to the institution. It was impossible to de-tribalise the youngsters who were affianced at birth to blood relatives, generally old men already in possession of a wife. Mr. Symmons wrote: “To resign girls, after having been brought up in comparative luxury and civilisation, to the arms of savages, old enough to be their grandsires, and to the rigorous privations of the bush, would be evidently the refinement of cruelty, and destructive of all our anxious labours and expense on their account.” He went on to say that it was the intention of the governing authorities to effect, when the right time came, suitable unions between the juvenile natives then in training, thus condoning in the minds of the natives an utter breach of the family totem system handed down for centuries past. To obviate injustice, however, gratuities of flour were to be distributed to the old men at stated intervals. Alas! the


futility of it. The authorities added fuel to the fire by arranging one such legal marriage, but it was all to no effect, the natives won in the end. The call of the bush proved too strong. It was found necessary to move the school to Galililup, now known as Wanneroo, and an off-shoot from it was finally established at York but did not continue for long. However, the efforts of the Wesleyans persisted for 14 years when they had expended a sum of over £12,000 in ameliorating efforts. There were many other similar attempts in this decade. The Rev. George King, who did such great work for the Church of England throughout the settled areas, founded schools at Fremantle and Guildford, the former being conducted by a Mrs. Robinson and the latter by Mr. Adrian Jones. Dr. King adopted the novel plan of collecting the tribal husbands of his female pupils and, for a few pieces of silver by way of compensation which he paid out of his own pocket, induced them to sign a formal document of renunciation, the natives signifying acquiescence by making the impression of a cross in lieu of signature. Dr. King stated later that the covenant in these instances was most scrupulously observed. Strangely enough, when a half-caste girl is concerned I have tried this plan with considerable success but I did not know until the other day that Dr. King began it.

About 1840 a school for native children had been established in Perth under the auspices of the Church of England. This adjoined what was later the original Hale school but, like all the other similar efforts during this decade, it was eventually abandoned. The school at Guildford was particularly subject to intimidation from the surrounding natives. A number of the children in Perth schools in the later years succumbed to a serious epidemic. This resulted in the natives refusing thereafter to give up their children and practically put a period upon these efforts. The natives declined to send any more of their children to “death,” as they called it. In later years there were other efforts of this nature which proved much more successful.

It in interesting here to record the fact that Mr. Armstrong in the next decade also became teacher to the convicts and continued his labours in one capacity


or another until he was retired on a pension on August 1, 1882, having served the State for a period of over 50 years.

One or two important legislative ordinances were passed during this decade; one establishing Rottnest as a penal settlement, others enabling natives to give information and evidence without the sanction of an oath, legalising the flogging of natives, making it an offence to entice or persuade an aboriginal child to leave school, and enabling the summary conviction of native offenders.

Although an infinitely better state of affairs had been brought about throughout the country, tragedies still occurred in isolated places. Early in the decade Mr. George Layman had been murdered by a native named Quibean. Unfortunately Mr. Layman, without realising it, inflicted a serious indignity on Quibean when he tweaked his beard, resulting in the native spearing him through the heart when his back was turned. Colonel Molloy and his soldiers exacted a bitter revenge. His party scoured the district destroying blacks by the dozen and their corpses were said to have lined the route of the march of the avengers. Quibean, however, temporarily escaped, being finally betrayed by another native who desired Quibean’s woman.*

[ * For different accounts of this and the following: incident, see also “Cattlechosen,” by E. O. G. Shann (Oxford, 1926), pp. 117-119; and "A History of Western Australia," by J. S. Battye (Oxford, 1924), p. 161. In “Cattlechosen” the name of the native is given as Gaywal.]

The massacre of several natives of the Vasse tribe also seems to have been brought about by some unrecorded means, proof of the deed being found in the numerous bones discovered later on a sand patch in the district. It was said to have been an act of revenge for the murder of a respected settler.

There was a terrible tragedy at York when the wife of Elijah Cook, who was alone in her home except for her infant eight months of age, was speared and the blacks killed her child and burned the house to the ground. The Government forthwith issued a Proclamation calling upon all persons to assist in discovering the perpetrators of the crime and even went to the extent of


having the Proclamation printed in the natives' language and posted throughout, a futile and ludicrous proceeding. The maximum reward offered was £5, surely no great inducement towards the apprehension of an armed savage. To any native securing an outlaw was offered 100lbs. of flour. However, two natives were arrested, tried and found guilty for the deed and hanged at the scene of the murder. A number of natives watched the execution. The two prisoners, Doodjeep and Barrabong, were hung from a tree and their bodies were left hanging in chains for some time as a warning to the natives of the vengeance of the white man.

In 1846 the Roman Catholic Church decided to undertake missonary work amongst the natives. Two priests named Rudisendo Salvado and his friend Guiseppe Serra obtained permission from the Church authorities to undertake this work.

[Mr. Neville then told the story of the founding of New Norcla. On this point, see W.A.H.S. Journal, Vol. I., Part II., pp. 38-48. The paper then continues:]

The scene now changes again. In 1848 the Murchison was discovered. While exploring the country north of Geraldton Governor Fitzgerald, himself, was speared by natives but he recovered from his wound. His party, however, was pursued by natives right back into Champion Bay. There were necessarily many clashes with the natives during this period in the attempts of the aborigines to stay the path of the white man. The troubles in the South-West were practically over and the warlike spirit of the natives broken.

In 1850 Western Australia became a penal settlement and during the following 18 years vessels from the Old Land brought into the country no less than 9,721 convicts and ticket-of-Ieave men. With the convicts came soldiers and pensioners with their wives and families. In 1850 the number of freemen in the Colony was but 5,734 exclusive of soldiers, but in 1860 settlers, soldiers and pensioners numbered about 16,000. During the years in between it often happened that the number of convicts practically equalled the number of freemen, and there is little doubt that the Colony benefited ex-


ceedingly by the introduction of so much additional labour for which it was languishing. The natives, on the other hand, suffered, but their sufferings were not brought to light to the same extent as formerly. Ticket-of-leave men and parties of convicts in the bush mixed with the natives, supplied them with drink, and there were often hideous orgies. The dispossessed blacks had become paupers and mendicants and deterioration, already begun, proceeded apace.

Another interesting ameliorative effort may be mentioned here. In 1852 Mrs. Camfield, wife of the Government Resident at Albany, began a school for native children at her residence at her own expense. Later with the assistance of the Government she carried on until failing health obliged her to give it up in 1870. It was a most meritorious effort. The school was then removed to Perth by Bishop Hale and later still to the Swan where it became the Swan Native and Half-caste Mission. It was closed and the existing inmates removed to the Moore River Native Government settlement when that institution was established in 1917.

The marriage difficulty was very much in evidence in Mrs. Camfield’s time but it was more or less solved by sending the girls to the Eastern States where they were married to civilised natives and for the most part lived happily thereafter.

The following two decades saw the advance of settlement right into the heart of the North-West. The finding of the first pearl at Shark Bay by Lieut. Help-man in 1850 sounded the death knell of hundreds of natives of Western Australia and those introduced from the East. It is believed that the pioneer of Australian pearling was one Tays, an American sailor, who at Nichol Bay gathered shell for export in 1861 employing aborigines as his divers. Certain it is that in the year following pearl shell to the value of £250 was exported; thus the industry began and near where Tays worked the town of Cossack, the first pearling centre, was later established. The white man saw in this industry an opportunity of combining pastoral pursuits with pearling and the chance of acquiring riches at a more rapid


rate than was likely to be the case in following pastoral pursuits alone, but if ever there was a time in the history of the Colony when allegations of slavery might with some justice have been levelled against the colonists it was during the period in which the blacks supplied the labour in the pearling industry. A writer in the “Inquirer” in April, 1875, declared that deeds were done in the dark which were worse than those in the slave States of America, In the latter place slaves cost dollars, in the North-West they cost nothing except a little flour. No clothes or comforts were given them and the pearler kept him to his work with open brutality. “If the Act,” said the writer, referring to the Pearling Act, “were carried out in its entirety such a state of things could not stand.”

It is to be feared that such was more or less the case but the exigencies of pearling were such and the rewards so great that no Acts of Parliament could possibly protect the divers when in the employ of cruel masters. The story of the sufferings of the natives during this period would alone fill a volume but it may briefly be stated that the majority of them were reasonably treated and it was only when they were signed on to cruel masters that the conditions to which I have referred were brought about. At first even women and children were impressed into the service, but the Government put a stop to that by law. To secure the large amount of labour required once the industry was well-established raiding parties scoured the mainland from La Grange to the Fitzroy and later along the Tableland and Hamersley Range Districts. Young male natives were secured in large numbers, many at the point of the gun, and forcibly led in chains attached to the horses of the raiders and were shipped to the Lace-pede Islands and Barrow Island, there to await transfer to the luggers. Many were left for weeks on these islands with little food except what they could catch in the sea, the turtle being their principal means of sustenance, There was then a Government caretaker on the Lacepede Islands but he appears to have been maintained in a permanent condition of intoxication by interested employers and his services were consequently useless. Many natives were signed on as divers and


crews who knew nothing whatever of the significance of the contract which they were virtually forced to enter into. It was asserted that when a boat changed hands the native crew was sold with it. Life was cheap and many died. Protests on the part of the natives were useless and generally rewarded with the application of the rope’s end. All this went on for several years until the representations of certain responsible persons brought about an inquiry by the Government.

There was a story told some years ago that one of the leaders of one of the raiding parties I have referred to received a nocturnal spiritual visitation. In his vision he was chided for his actions and ordered to make recompense to the natives. Being much impressed, he decided to establish a religious mission which he later accomplished and undoubtedly made good, his later services on behalf of the natives surely compensating for his former misdeeds.

Mr. Fairbairn, R.M., was selected to conduct the inquiry into the treatment of the native employees in the pearling industry and his report brought about a drastic change. The pearling inspector was relieved of his duties, the caretaker of the Lacepedes was incontinently dismissed, an Admiralty survey schooner with a naval offier in command was acquired by the Government to patrol the pearling fleet, and police stations were established on the Ashburton, at Condon, and La Grange Bay.

The factor which eventually put an end to the entire employment of natives as divers was the introduction of the diving dress and the importation of the Asiatic diver from the East. The natives of course dived naked and were often forced to dive to illegal depths, thereby hastening their demise.

Following in the footsteps of the explorer Gregory, Mr. W. Padbury in 1863 had proceeded with a party of his friends to Nichol Bay. He was the pioneer of settlement in this district. Others followed and then occurred in the following year that dreadful tragedy, the murder by natives of Messrs. Harding, Panter and Goldwyer. The story of the tragic fate of these three men is well known but their destruction did not improve the outlook


for the natives. In reprisal, during Mr. Brown's expedition to secure the remains of the murdered men, six natives were killed and 12 seriously wounded but such clashes appeared to be inevitable in these days of the march of civilisation. Incidents of the kind, too numerous to mention, occurred during succeeding years but the subjugation of the black people, owing to the immense area and often inaccessible fastnesses which comprised their resorts, proved difficult and protracted. Nevertheless, there was not a little wanton destruction of life which might have been avoided by the exercise of forethought or less hasty action. Of mass destruction there are fortunately few instances but some 15 natives werie shot at one time on the Murchison in 1870, and in 1875 63 were destroyed between the De Grey and Gascoyne during the journey of one party alone. The year 1880 was a very bad one, probably a greater number losing their lives in this year than in any other. And so the tale goes on.

In the early days of settlement in the Kimberleys the same thing was more or less repeated. The discovery of gold at Hall’s Creek produced inevitable results, the few whites meeting death at the hands of the natives resulting in a far greater number of natives suffering destruction in return. It is needless to criticise the actions of those who preceded us but it does seem extraordinary that some better method of meeting the situation could not have been devised.

Governor Broome, whose term of office extended from 1883 to 1889 pursued a lively policy with regard to the natives. His efforts were successful to a large extent in preventing excessive trouble, particularly in the North. In 1881 and 1882 serious statements were made of the depredations by natives in the Upper Murchison.

Mr. Fairbairn, R.M., was entrusted to inquire into the matter and he spoke impartially and fearlessly. Though finding the depredations exaggerated he thought it would have been surprising if the natives had not helped themselves to sheep. Ravages of dogs and drought were laid to the charge of the natives. In reporting on the murder of certain white men he said he found that the murders were due to the theft of the native women. The Governor at this time, Sir William Robinson, express-


ing his approbation of Mr. Fairbairn’s report, wrote: “Their women are surely as valuable to them as our flocks and herds are to us; and so long as we outrage those feelings which human nature has placed in a greater or less degree in even the most savage breast what right have we to expect that they will respect the property of the aggressor? What right have we to be surprised when we hear that a native has killed a white man for taking his woman away? Let us set them a good example and then perhaps we may talk about the iniquity of their proceedings, proceedings which after all considering the utter savages we are dealing with have not been so black as they have been painted.”

The eighties, as has been seen, were packed with incident so far as the native question was concerned. All through the history of the State interperate statements have been made alleging ill-treatment of the natives. All such allegations have been examined by the authorities,-the result generally indicating exaggeration and the lack of supporting evidence, but where there is smoke there is usually fire and there has usually been some truth in the allegations, permitting of rectification being brought about. Thus the notorious assertions of a clergyman, the Rev. J. B. Gribble, who indited a pamphlet called “Dark Deeds in a Sunny Land,” based upon information he had received from someone else, were thoroughly sifted and for the most part unsubstantiated, though there was some truth in his general assertions as to conditions in the pearling industry. This same gentleman adversely criticised the conduct of the settlers throughout the Gascoyne District, allegations which led to all kinds of unpleasantness, even to a libel action, and the setting at enmity of one section of the community against another, but this is all a matter of written history and I only allude to it because with the other incidents recorded during the eighties it led the Government to appoint a Commission to inquire into the whole matter of the treatment of natives on Rottnest and elsewhere. It also led to the passing of the first real protective measure which had been framed in the interests of the natives since the foundation of the Colony. In this Act provision was made for the appointment of a board of five persons to be called the Aborigines’ Protection


Board and defining the powers of such board. A board was duly appointed and functioned for ten years, when it was superseded by a Government Department under Responsible Government.

The Commission to which I refer had as its chairman Sir John (afterwards. Lord) Forrest, the other members being Sir Edward Stone, Sir George Shenton, Mr. Maitland Brown, Mr. W. E. Marmion, Mr. John F. Stone, Dr. A. R. Waylen and Mr. Charles Harper. The Commission’s report made melancholy reading. It said, amongst other things, that the experience of 50 years found us at a point as if we had never begun, notwithstanding that good and able men had devoted their lives and means to attempting their improvement; that 50 years of settlement by Europeans had had the effect In the “Home” district of causing the gradual disappearance of the native race. It said that after 50 years there was not a single instance of a free native cultivating the soil for any length of time nor of living in a house with his family except at a mission station. Its main recommendations, however, were in the direction of improving the condition of the prisoners at Rottnest, then numbering nearly 300.

Much could be said of the natives who during these years assisted the explorer and the oioneer settler. Their deeds have often been recounted and their names are still revered but it is doubtful whether the extent to which their services were availed of and the value attachable to them have been sufficiently realised. "To Charlie,” wrote Warburton, “we might say that under divine providence, our lives were due. There is no doubt that if it had not been for Charlie we must have perished.”

The simple speech of Tommy Pierre to the welcoming crowds in Perth after the return of Mr. Alexander Forrest’s party following upon their overland journey to Adelaide was characteristic. He said that once he had offered his leader £1 if he would take him home but Forrest replied, “Hush! what are talking about? I will take you all right through to Adelaide.” "And,” added Tommy, “I always obeyed him.” Tommy Win-


dich, however, was not so loquacious and could not utter a word.

One word more and I shall have finished. When referring to Australia's treatment of her aborigines we are apt to refer somewhat scathingly to Tasmania’s harshness in ridding herself of her natives within the first 70 years of settlement. In that time some 6,000 natives disappeared and only one was left alive. Yet here in the South-West of our State, within an area about twice the size of Tasmania, between 1829 and 1901 (72 years) a people estimated to number 13,000 were reduced to 1,419, of whom 45 per cent, were half-caste. There is this difference, however, that wanton cruelty was not the chief cause of this disappearance but rather was it due to unfathomable causes over which we had no control, and to some of which I have referred in my paper.

Garry Gillard | New: 8August, 2021 | Now: 18 August, 2021