Chapter 1 Documents

1771- 1837

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Captain Cook reports on Aboriginal concepts of value
"From what I have said of the Natives of New Holland they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth; but in reality they are far happier than we Europeans, being wholly unacquainted not only with the Superfluous but with the necessary Conveniences so much sought after in Europe; they are happy in not knowing the use of them. They live in a Tranquility which is not disturbed by the Inequality of Condition. The Earth and Sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for Life. They covet not Magnificent Houses, Household-stuff etc., they live in a Warm and fine Climate and enjoy a very wholesome Air, so that they have very little need of Cloathing; and this they seem to be fully sencible of, for many of whom we gave Cloth etc., left it carelessly upon the Sea beach and in the Woods, as a thing they had no manner of use for; in short, they seem’d to set no Value upon anything we gave them, nor would they ever part with anything of their own for any one Article we could offer them. This in my opinion argues that they think themselves provided with all the necessaries of Life, and that they have no Superfluities …. " 

(: Captain Cook’s Journal during his Voyage … in M.M. Bark Endeavour 1768-71 London, 1839, p. 323)


No Idea of Traffick

"These people seemed to have no Idea of traffick nor could we teach them; indeed it seemed that we had no one thing on which they set an equal value to induce them to part with the smallest trifle ... They readily received the things we gave them but never would understand our signs when we asked for return." (Joseph Banks, Journal, vol. 1, p.224).


Terra Nullius


"When the journals of Cook and Banks were published, in mangled form, in 1773, the reflective observations of both men on the Aborigines were omitted ... Banks' ... memory of the Aborigines seems to blur with the years; the detail fades and the prejudices already evident in 1770 strengthen. In 1779 he described them to a Committee of the House of Commons as 'naked, treacherous, and armed with Lances, but extremely cowardly'. Although his evidence before the Bauchamp Committee in 1785 was more circumstantial, its main intent was to show that the aborigines were a nomadic people, with no trace of political authority, social organisation or religious belief, and that the east coast of New Holland was, accordingly, terra nullius, open to European settlement and dominion. The First Fleet, with all that followed, was now not far distant." 

(: Williams, Glyndwr; Far more happier than we Europeans': reactions to the Australian Aborigines on Cook's voyage' in Historical Studies, Department of History, University of Melbourne, Vol. 19, 1980-1981) Pages 510-512)




Governors ordered to "conciliate native affections"

Australian law and policy respecting the Aboriginal population originated with the instructions to the first Governor of New South Wales: 'You are to endeavour by every possible means to open an intercourse with the natives, and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all our subjects to live in amity and kindness with them.'"  

(: 'Governor Phillip's instructions, April 25, 1787, Historical Records of Australia, Series I, Vol 1,9;.in Legislative Regulation in New South Wales Original Authors: R Bartlett and Garth Nettheim  Updating Author: Mark Harris (LBC 1997) Page 141)


Military Governors 1788-1837

Captain Phillip, A, R.N. Governor. 12/1/1788-10/12/1792 

Captain Grose, S Lieut. Governor 11/12/1792-12/12/1794 

Captain Paterson, NSW Corps Lieut.-Governor 13/12/1794-1/9/1795 

Captain Hunter, (RN) Governor 7/9/1795-27/9/1800

Captain King (RN)  26/9/1800-12/8/1806

Captain W Bligh, (RN) Governor 13/8/1806-26/1/1808 

NSW Corps Acting Administrator 26/12/1808-28/12/1809 

Major-General L Macquarie, Governor 1/1/1810-1/12/1821 

Sir T Brisbane, KCB Governor 1/12/1821-1/12/1825 

Colonel Stewart (3rd Regiment) Acting Governor 6/12/1825-18/12/25 

Lieutenant-General R Darling Governor 19/12/1825-21/10/1831

Colonel Lindsay, CB Acting Governor 22/10/1831-2/12/1831 

Major-General Sir Richard Bourke, KCB Governor, 3/12/1831-5/12/1837

Lieutenant-Col. K Snodgrass Acting Governor, 12/7/1837-23/2/1838




"An apparently perennial stream of the purest water"  

"The Governor's choice of the site of the present metropolis of Australasia was determined by the fact that an apparently perennial stream of the purest water was found ..."

[: Coghlan, T.A., A.M., Inst. C.E., Government Statistician; The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales 1887-88, (Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, Phillip-Street. George Robinson and Co., 361 George-Street. 1888) Page 8.]




Original extent of New South Wales  

2nd April, 1787 

"The Commission appointed Phillip Captain-General and Governor-In-Chief in and over our territory called New South Wales, extending from the Northern Cape or extremity of the coast called Cape York, in the latitude of ten degrees thirty-seven minutes south, to the southern extremity of the said territory of New South Wales or South Cape, in the latitude of forty-three degrees thirty-nine minutes south, and of all the country westward as far as the one hundred and and thirty-sixth degree of east longitude reckoning from the meridien of Greenwich, including all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean within the latitudes aforesaid of ten degrees thirty-seven minutes south and forty-three degrees thirty-nine minutes south'." 

[ : Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia (No. 47, 1961, Page 3)]



The military administer the Colony  


" ... 1792 ... Major Grose and Captain Paterson, Offices in charge of the military, administered the Government till the arrival of Governor Phillip's successor. 

[: Coghlan, T.A., A.M., Inst. C.E., Government Statistician; The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales 1887-88 (Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, Phillip-Street. George Robinson and Co., 361 George-Street. 1888) Page 11]




In 1795, Captain Hunter ... arrived as the second Governor ...

[: Coghlan, T.A., A.M., Inst. C.E., Government Statistician; The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales 1887-88 (Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, Phillip-Street. George Robinson and Co., 361 George-Street. 1888) Page 11]


Sixty men of the New South Wales Corps are sent from Sydney to the Hawkesbury settlements to combat the Daruk Aborigines.

[: Barani website]



"... the New South Wales Corps, a military body enlisted for service in the Colony, (the first detachments of which had arrived in 1790), formed an efficient garrison ...The next Governor was Phillip Gidley King ... (Governor, 26/9/1800-12/8/1806). The New South Wales Corps ... their sole work would consist in acting as a prison guard, or, at most, in making a few raids, in alleged reprisals for the misdeeds of the ill used, and often sorely provoked, aborigines.

[: Coghlan, T.A., A.M., Inst. C.E., Government Statistician; The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales 1887-88 (Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, Phillip-Street. George Robinson and Co., 361 George-Street. 1888) Page 12] 



The first issue of copper coins marks the official, Government imposition of a regulated monetary system extinguishing Aboriginal systems of exchange and value.



Also to come in a future update: the Historical Records of Australia documents  referring to Aborigines, for this period.



16 October, 1803, Sydney Gazette

"On Sunday last a number of Natives assembled on a ground at the upper end of Pitt's Row, with a design of inflicting punishment on two men who were directly or indirectly concerned in the assassination of two others who died of their spear wounds.

About an hour before sunset the parties made their appearance, and were received by their sriends and partizans, who presented each with a target or Reoleman, as a defence against the missile assaults of their adversaries, who instantly arose and and approached the intended victims of an ungovernable antipathy and rage. One of them, known to us by the name of Musquetto, was the first assaulted, and he with surprising dexterity defended himself against 64 spears, all thrown with rancour and malignity, and 17 of which went through the target, some to a depth of nearly two feet. The 65th and last thrown at him entered the calf of his right leg, and penetrated six inches through - the spear measured more that eight. This was cut short before it could be extracted. At the other only nine were launched, all of which he avoided.

A contest afterward took place between two opposite parties for the wife of one of the deceased. The exercise of merciless barbarity on this and similar occasions strongly characterises this wretched race of men, who, but for their barbarous and irreconcileable usages in cases of homicide, would wholly extirpate their already thin and scattered handfuls.

Aster receiving many severe blows from either party, and having their arms almost dragged from their sockets, the unfortunate PAIR was borne in triumph from the field by an Hibernian Taylor, who probably could sympathise in the sufferings of an unhappy fellow-creature, notwithstanding all the difference in complexion."

"The death of Boneh"

December 18,1803, (Sydney Gazette) 

"A visitor from Hawkesbury mentions the death of Boneh, an ancient Native, who we believe was but little known in Sydney. This veteran had for many years back profited with supreme authority over his tribe, from whom he received a species of homage which approached to adoration. In fact, the straggling subjects of this sooty chieftain, have been frequently heard by the settlers resident nearest the foot of those inaccessible Mountains, to ascribe to him the power of agitating the elements, and of causing floods, rains, &c., &c., a finesse probably constructed purposely to impress us with awe and reverence for a being possessed of such extensive qualifications. That the mythology may in some degree owe its existence to similar causes, we shall not argue, but had this inky venerable been known to those imaginary exhibitions, little doubt can be entertained but his complexion would at least have recommended him to a seat in the infernal regions, where, in the course of time, he might have become a com-peer with the augustiniate." 

Injured Native burned alive at Milkmaid Reach

December 25, 1803 (Sydney Gazette)

"A circumstance that lately took place at Milkmaid Reach, on the Coast between Sydney and Hawkesbury, among a body of Natives, stands, in point of deliberate inhumanity towards a fellow creature, unparalleled, save only in the barbarous usages  to which their people are habituated. One of their number had climbed a lofty tree in pursuit of a Cockatoo; and as soon as he gained the summit and had secured the bird, unfortunately got entangled in the twigs, and in trying to disentangle himself, lost his hold, & by a tremendous fall had both a leg and a thigh broke. The woman at the instant sent up a piercing shriek, and the men assembled around him. The elders examined the fractures minutely, and pronouncing them incurable, hastily commanded the females to retire; then erecting a pile of brushwood, actually set it on fire, whilst the unhappy creature was alive. As soon as this inhuman yet effectual remedy was administered, the Boatmen who were spectators of the proceeding, were advised by one of the more friendly natives to get off as quickly as possible, as the fatal event had aroused the indignation of the whole tribe against all white people, to whom the present misfortune was ascribed, as the Cockatoo would not have been climbed for, had not a reward been the known consequence of its capture."  


"Neglect to profit by the abundance of mackaral"

Sunday, April 8, 1804 (Sydney Gazette)

"The present being the season for Mackaral the prodigious quantities now about the Coast are declared by habitual observers to exceed all former years. No stronger proof can be required of the improvidence and total thoughtlessness or indolence of the Natives on the Coast, than in their idly suffering to pass unprofitably by, a season, which with a little care, might defend them for a considerable part of the year against the wants and exigency to which their indolence naturally exposes them; by drying these fish, which they dexterously take in any numbers, magazines might be erected in places of concealment, to which, from the secrecy, the conservators themselves might alone have access; but this would be attended with a portion of trouble to which this race are totally averse, that every exertion must be the concomitant attendant of fatal and extreme necessity."

"Outrage at Portland Head"

June 3, 1804 (Sydney Gazette)

"We are concerned to state that a few of the natives have again manifested an inclination to hostility, and already proceeded to acts of abominable outrage. Report at the present juncture confines their ravages and barbarity to Portland Head, where Mr. Matthew Everingham, settler, his wise, and a servant, are said to have been speared, as is also Mr. John Howe, settler, near the above spot. The house and out-houses of the former were plundered and afterwards set on sire, but the spear wounds received are not accompanied with any mortal appearance. Several other settlers in the neighbourhood have suffered very considerably in being robbed of their cloathing stock, and grain.

On Thursday evening, shortly after the accounts arrived, HIS EXCELLENCY dispatched a file of Troopers to the Magistrate at Hawkesbury, with the instructions promptly to adopt such measures as the exigency of the case required. The settlers and constables of that settlement went to the succour of the other settlers at Portland Head; as no provocation appears to have been given the Natives in that quarter, and as the Natives in the other districts are still on the domesticated footing they have been for the last two years, it is hoped that the exertions that  are making to keep them in that state, will have the desired effect, without proceeding to further extremities."

"Escaped prisoners, speared by natives near Newcastle"

June 10, 1804 (Sydney Gazette)

"... about 30 miles beyond Hunter's River; where, after a series of unspeakable hardships they were assaulted by a body of natives, who showered spears upon them with a barbarity only to be conceived of by those who have witnessed the brutal ferocity of these unfeeling savages.

Johnson, he believed, was the first who sell a victim to their fury; but very soon sinking beneath the wounds he had himself received, only recollected that when Providence had restored him to life both his companions lay breathless by his side. The boat was staved, and death in a new shape again presented itself:- Famine and extreme anguish were now to complete a destiny which the cruelty of the savages had only half accomplished. Unconscious to the situation of the place, he lest the massacred associates of his imprudence, and wandered hopeless along the extensive sand-beach that separates Port Stephen from the entrance of Hunter's River, &c., &c. ..."

"Extract of a Letter from Lieut. MENZIES Commandant of the Settlement at Newcastle"


JUNE 15, 1804.

0n the 29th ult, James Field, one of three persons who ran off with Serjt. Day's boat from, Sydney, gave himself up, he was quite naked, speared and beat in several places by the Natives, and has not eat any thing for five days - I took him just as he came in, and showed him to all the prisoners: I could wish to be allowed to remain him here, as I think from the account he gives of his misfortunes, and the truly miserable and wretched spectacle he exhibited, it will prevent others from attempting the same with any of our boats that go up the River, by his representing to them the punishment and misery that awaits their rashness and offence..."

Outrage at Portland Head

June 17, 1804 (Sydney Gazette)


Last week in consequence of HIS EXCELLENCY'S despatches to T. ARNDEL, Esq. Magistrate for Hawkesbury, a body of Settlers, fourteen in number, went in pursuit of the Native that had committed numerous outrages at Portland Head; and separating into two divisions, one party, seven in number, led forward by I. Phillips, who was best acquainted with the travel through the brush, proceeded towards the Mountains, and at length came up with forty or fifty of the hostile savages, who had a quantity of property of which they had stripped the Settlers; these retreating towards a cluster of Rocks formed a junction with another group much more formidable, compleating in all about 300. The few settlers, agreeable to their instructions, endeavoured to ascertain their motives for the acts of depredation and cruelty they had committed, all they offered in their justification was an ironical declaration that they wanted and would have corn, wearing apparel, and whatever else the settlers had; then throwing down a flight of spears, compelled the pursuers, in their own defence, to commence siring, in hopes of intimidating their assailants, but without the desired effect; and tho' several must have been wounded, yet the great body hovered round the Settlers party, three of whom were laden with the most valuable part of the spoil which they had retaken from the sorty at first fallen in with, and under cover of the fire of the other four, got into Richmond Hill without receiving a spear wound.

Late accounts state that they still continue their ravages, and that another European had been speared at the beginning of the week. Two of the most violent and ferocious were shot at the Green Hills by the Military detachment sent to the relief of the settlers, whose self preservation requires that they should ever be on the alert to counteract the mischievous designs of the savage and unfeeling enemy."

"Further outrages by Aborigines"

June 24, 1804 (Sydney Gazette)

To our further accounts respecting the hostile hordes whose conduct has lately been the subject of attention, we have to add, that among the reaches about Portland Head their ravages have been felt with much greater severity than elsewhere. The farms of Bingham and Smith were robbed the same day, and their bedding and wearing apparel taken out of their houses; in that the latter John Wilkins, a labouring servant, was wantonly treated with detestable barbarity; aster patently submitting to be stripped, and without even challenging the injustice of the proceeding, a slight of spears were darted at him, most of which the unfortunate man received; and had he not precipitately made towards and plunged into the river, must doubtless have perished beneath their brutal hands: the owner of the farm, however, appeared at the critical juncture, armed with a musquet, which levelling at the savages induced them to desist from the further persecution of the wounded man, and to consult their own safety by a timely flight.

Last Friday se'nnight the farms of Crumby and Cuddie at the south Creek were totally stripped by a formidable body of natives supposed to be about 150 in number, many of whom darted their spears at a labouring servant, who fortunately affected an escape without receiving any wound. - The above persons have been thrice plundered in the space of a very sew months, and have now lost not only their crops, but their whole flock of poultry, together with their bedding, wearing apparel, and every other moveable. On Thursday last they represented to HIS EXCELLENCY the excessive inconvenience as they stood in immediate need of..

Another group made a visit to Tench's River on the maraud, where getting among the corn of J. Kennedy without endeavouring to conceal themselves they were speedily discerned gathering in the crop with unusual activity: the settler disapproving their diligence, as it promised but little advantage to the interests of his own family, instantly embraced the means of repelling a visit that had no real claim on the laws of hospitality, and by a few discharges obliged them to retreat with a trifling booty:- We do not hear of any other attempts thereabouts; nor that any Europeans have lost their lives through their spear wounds.

Although these unenvied people must already feel the miserable effects of unprovoked hostility and aggression, yet no doubt can be entertained that their rancour will continue until some of the more obdurate and enterprising be marked out, as the immediate cause and spur to the recent atrocities; and as they are no less remarkable for perfidy to each other than ingratitude to the settlers, who by constantly contributing to their support, and endeavouring to maintain a friendly intercourse have done the highest credit to themselves and the British Nation, they would no doubt, as in the case of Pemulwoy, whose assassination was voluntarily undertaken by themselves, again willingly qualify a treaty by the sacrifice of such whose superior malignancy may have distinguished them.

It may be verily advanced, that no set of people in the known world were ever so totally destitute as these are of industry and ingenuity, or to whose innate indolence rendered them so wretchedly inattentive to the very means of subsistence. However gratified they may be with a shelter from the inclemency of the seasons, yet none aspires to the superior comforts of civilization, none attempts to erect a hut for himself or his little naked progeny; and though pierced with cold yet none contrives a garment, which the skins of animals would furnish them with little trouble - and yet it is obvious their nudity proceeds only from supineness as they invariably condescend to clothe themselves when furnished with European habiliments.

As sportive nature would seem to have designed the southern hemisphere for the display of phenomena in the animal creation, so also does the polity of these barbarous inhabitants oppose itself to every principle of rational government, and to the propagation of the human species.

That the natural strength of a country must consist first in its population is a maxim that needs no embellishment, as it admits not opposition; but here it is discernible, that unless the propagation of the species be limited by destructive and abominable customs, their natural indolence must in process of time have reduced them to the horrible necessity of existing as cannibals, as nature is wholly unassisted, and the increase of herb and animal alike neglected.

Thus then, even though the supply of their immediate wants by chance research constitutes their only civil occupation, still it is mysterious how the hordes of the interior, who have not the advantage of fishing can possibly supply their wants throughout the year without indulging in all the terrible excesses of refined barbarity."

"Peaceful attitude of Richmond Hill natives, during outrages at Portland Head"

July 1, 1804

We understand from good authority that the Natives of and about Richmond Hill, are for the most part averse to the hostile measures adopted by their brethren down the River, and that during the whole of the wanton warfare, they met with every protection their pacific inclination entitled them to from the surrounding settlers, from one of whom we receive the following narrative of transactions immediately subsequent to the commencement of the excesses committed at and about Portland Head.

'On the 11th instant a party appeared near my farm. who seemed desirous of maintaining that friendly intercourse which is indispensible to their true interests; and their chief, placing himself in a warlike attitude, with his spear shipped, declared he was determined to kill every one of his own complexion whom chance should throw in his way; but I thought myself bound in humanity to avert so terrible a resolution, is possible, by dissuasion, and at the same time to encourage the amicable disposition of himself and his adherents, who were from thirty to forty in number, by repeated assurances that no one would be hurt that did not act offensively - they then became confident, and accepted an offer to remain on my farm, as in that case I could be responsible for their peaceable behaviour from that period to the 18th ult. accounts continued to arrive of the many enormities, that have been committed about Portland head, whither a party of the New South Wales Corps has been detached to the relief of the settlers: but upon this latter information some of my guests became timid, and could no longer be prevailed upon to remain: 12 or 14 accordingly took to the woods, aster many times thanking me, and promising still to retain their friendship towards us, and I verily believe they have not forfeited their promise. On the following day I heard the discharge of three musquets, and afterwards heard that two of the hostile natives had been shot; one of whom, better known by the name of Major White than any other, had ever been remarkable fomenting mischiefs. Since then their rancour has greatly subsided, or at all events its consequences much less injurious than before, and many have signified a desire of returning to their accustomed habits, without which the wants peculiar to the savage state must be felt with increased severity, as well from the succour afforded them by the settlers, as from the relaxation produced by a long state of dependence upon the bounty of their benefactors. 

'Two of the Richmond Hill chiefs, Yaragowhy and Yaramandy, were sent for the day after the firing, by the REV. MR. MARSDEN and MR. ARNDELL, residentiary Magistrate, who requested that they would exert themselves in putting a period to the mischiefs, at the same time loading them with gifts of food and raiment for themselves and their friendly countrymen; and I have no doubt that the mild and placid measures which have been pursued by Government on this, as on every former such irksome occasion, will have the desired effect of recalling these unfortunate creatures to a state of amity, and restore safety and tranquillity to the remote settler.'"  

"Crime of Major White and Nabbin"

July 15, 1805 (Sydney Gazette)

"It is remarkable that Major White and Nabbin, the two Natives lately killed at Richmond Hill, were the two identical persons who between sour and sive years since inhumanly and treacherously murdered Hoskinson. and Wimbo, the game-keeper and settler, on the second ridge of the Mountains, whither they had unfortunately straggled in search of the Kangaroo. They always discovered a rancour to an European, and never lost an occasion to repay their favours with hostility and ingratitude."


"Depredations at George's River"

August 19, 1804 (Sydney Gazette)                       

"In the vicinity of George's River several depredations have recently been committed by the Natives on the settlers stock, grain, and other property:- At the beginning of the last week the farm-house of Gilbert was attacked and his wife treated with barbarity, unpardonable in the most savage race of men. The poor woman perceiving that they were driving her little flock of poultry off the ground, reproached them with their injustice, and fain would have rescued a portion of her property, but the unfeeling wretches turned their spears upon her, nearly twenty of which they threw, but happily without the intended barbarous effect. One of the miscreants ran into the house and seized a musquet, which she also grasped, and determined not to part with it maintained a short struggle against the assailant's whole exertions, who at length yielded to her resolution, and quitted his. hold, but with a violent blow on the head brought her to the ground. The wretches then took away every thing that was portable and made off. Several other settlers have lost swine as well as poultry, for which they can only account in the same manner, and such is the treachery of those indolent and vicious hordes that infest the above neighbourhood, as to render useless and abortive every effort to maintain their friendship By long intercourse many of them have acquired so much of our language as to understand and be understood, but only apply the talent to mischief and deception. Some short time since a settler's wife with a large family, entertained half-a-dozen of these idlers with an almost reprehensible hospitality, and they in return, amused her with assurances of their best wishes and gratitude to her bounty, but in the very interim, a body of their colleagues were busily employed in clearing a whole acre of corn, which they carried off either in canoes or on their shoulders. Major JOHNSTON was on Monday informed that they had given earnest of a new campaign bin the above vicinity, and representing the circumstances to Head Quarters, HIS EXCELLENCY ordered a file of men to be despatched from the Corps, and as no fresh accounts of depredations have been since received, it is to be hoped the fury of these savages, for which they appear likely ever to remain, may somewhat have abated."

Attack on Wilshire's Farm at Lane Cove

September 2, 1804 (Sydney Gazette) 


The natives have during the last week been very troublesome about: Lane Cove:- on Tuesday and Wednesday a party visited the farm of Mr.Wilshire, where they bound the labouring servants, and seemed disposed to remain until expelled by famine.  The poor men's store allowance they unbound one, and obliged him to cook; potatoes, vegetables, and such articles of poultry as had accidentally fallen in their way assisted in the fete, and the first day they devoted to mirth and jocularity.  Accounts, however reached the town the next morning, and, Mr. Wilshire immediately prepared to render assistance to his servants. Accompanied by several persons armed with firelocks, he arrived at the farm in the afternoon, and was welcomed with shouts of defiance from the barbarous ranks, who formed into subdivisions, and anticipate triumph with a brandished spear. A blank discharge proved of no other efficacy than to provoke them to irony, so that any attempt to repel them by intimidation only, promised to encourage their excesses. A discharge of shot convinced them of the danger of maintaining their position, and they fled precipitately to an eminence, where they were joined by a prodigious number, unperceived before, having taken with them all the servants' necessaries and bedding. The men supposed, that at various intervals during the period of their captivity, the number of natives must have exceeded 200. Shortly after their expulsion from the farm they dispersed, and may not, it is to be hoped, return." 

"Aborigines chase sheep"

December 16, 1804 (Sydney Gazette)

"Last week a flock of sheep were chased by the natives from Farm Cove to the Brickfield hill; where the owner accidentally witnessed the hunt, and obliged the pursuers to retire. Their design was manifestly that of selecting one for their own use, and availing themselves of the shepherd's absence, attempted to effect it."

"Punishment of a wife deserter"

December 16, 1804 (Sydney Gazette)

"Yesterday evening a Gala was given by the Natives at Parramatta, at which the well-known Yaranibi received a very severe spear wound in the back. The motives that gave rise to the meeting rendered the scene particularly interesting to honour and humanity; while it reflected credit to the feelings of a barbarous people. The above had inhumanly forsaken his unfortunate female companion in the hour of her sickness and affliction, to perish unassisted. Discovered in a solitary condition, her eye-lids nearly closed by grief and famine. tumultuous vengeance was proclaimed, and the earliest occasion seized to inflict upon the offender the punishment so justly his." 

"Serious affray at Sydney"

December 23, 1804 (Sydney Gazette)

"The beginning of the week presented a native warfare the most malignant that has been witnessed. On Sunday morning last a number of people assembled at Farm Cove for the purpose of inflicting punishment on the heroic Wilhamannan; who, after avoiding an immense number of spears, received one at length in the hand, through his shield, the wound brought on a stubborn conflict which for nearly an hour was general; during which time the white spectators were justly astonished at the dexterity and incredible force with which a bent, edged waddy resembling slightly a turkish scymetar, was thrown by Bungary a native distinguished by his remarkable courtesy. The weapon, thrown at 20 or 30 yards distance, twisted round in the air with astonishing velocity, and alighting on the right arm of one of his opponents, actually rebounded to a distance not less than 70 or 80 yards, leaving a horrible contusion behind, and exciting universal admiration.

A suspension of hostilities took place as abruptly and unaccountably to those who were not in the secret, as the affray had commenced ; and the wounded, after parting a few unintelligible invectives, sat down perfectly satisfied with the event.

Nothing more passed of a hostile nature during the day ; but as perfidy is inherent to some, whatever be the complexion or condition in life, whether of polished manner and fascinating address, or moving in the humble sphere of nature's naked sons, the tranquillity of the unhappy creatures was at midnight interrupted by a villain of  the darkest hue, who treacherously discharged a spear among a dormant and promiscuous group, which was received by Musquito in the arm. A general alarm was the immediate consequence: and between the hours of twelve and one the most frightful shrieks and lamentations resounded upon all sides. By the spear the premeditated assassin was immediately known and pursued; parties took different routes towards the Brickfeilds, where falling in with the fugitive they compelled him by the light of the moon to defend himself for a time, but was at length severely wounded in his turn.

The affray at Parramatta yesterday se'nnight, in which Yaranibi (commonly called. Palmer) was said to be wounded, was misrepresented ;—there were two wounded very severely, but he was not one of the number. 


March 17, 1805, Sydney Gazette

"On the road between Parramatta and Prospect a meeting took place on Monday last for the purpose of inflicting punishment on a native well known to the above settlements by the name of Goguey, whose mischance it has been to hasten one of his opponent's departure for the shades on a similar occasion. His crime was defensible upon custom immemorial; but so likewise was his extraordinary mode of arraignment an event consequent upon the former. Perceiving an unusual degree of rancour in the menaces of his judges, he endeavoured for a short time to avoid them by retiring; but being closely pursued he formed his resolution, and made a stand, with two adherents near him. The spears of his adversaries were barbed and rough-glazed, and three at once advancing on him until within ten or twelve feet, he caught the first thrown at his target, but the second, discharged by Bennelong, entered above the hip, and passed through the side, so as to be afterwards extracted; but the third thrown by Ninbery as he wheeled to defend himself from the former, entered the back below the loins; when perceiving that his seconds had left him, in a transport of rage and anguish turned his resentment upon those from whom he expected assistance but had deceived him, and then exhausted, fell. The last spear he received was attempted to be drawn by two Europeans indued from motives of humanity to tender their assistance; but their combined strength was ineffectual, and the unfortunate creature was on Thursday night still numbered with the living, but the spear continuing immoveable."


March 31, 1805

"ALL persons are hereby strictly cautioned against cutting timber, turning stock, or in any other manner trespassing on a certain farm at the Hawkesbury belonging to D. Dunstan, and called or known by the name of David Dunstan's Back Farm ; and also from shooting at or about the lagoon thereon, as every and any person detected to so trespassing will be prosecuted at the law directs. 

Hawkesbury, Feb. 21st



King was succeeded 1806 by William Bligh, a post-captain in the navy ..."

[Coghlan, T.A., A.M., Inst. C.E., Government Statistician; The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales 1887-88 (Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, Phillip-Street. George Robinson and Co., 361 George-Street. 1888) Page 12]   





in 1808 ... Major Johnston continued to administer the Government until his Lieutenant-Colonel (Foveaux) superseded him ..."

[Coghlan, T.A., A.M., Inst. C.E., Government Statistician; The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales 1887-88 (Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, Phillip-Street. George Robinson and Co., 361 George-Street. 1888) Page 12]   








"Free settlement"

Governor Brisbane began preparations early in 1822 for the free settlement on the Hunter River districts  [5]



Free selection, squatting. Act, 1st Constitution Legislative Bill  

Charter of Justice 13 October 1823 (UK)

This document marked a departure from the ad hoc and pragmatic innovations that had characterised the application of law in early colonial New South Wales. The Charter of Justice (which took effect in New South Wales on 17 May 1824) provided for creation of a Supreme Court of New South Wales, with a single Chief Justice (and if necessary for extra Judges), for the appointment of Court officers, and the admission of solicitors and barristers. It also made limited provision for trial by jury. 

With the establishment of the first (unelected) Legislative Council in New South Wales, came the creation of the Supreme Court and the limited provisions for trial by jury. This was extended by a proclamation of Governor Thomas Brisbane to the lower courts (although not yet to the Supreme Court itself).

The 1823 Charter empowered the Court to admit barristers and attorneys to practice, but unlike earlier Charters, it ruled out the admission of ex-convicts. The judges themselves ruled out ex-convicts sitting on juries, although in practice this was not always adhered to.

[Source: Neal, David, The Rule of Law in a Penal Colony, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1991]




The New South Wales Act and the Legislative Council

"Law courts were established when the colony was sounded, but for the first 35 years, the Governors were absolute rulers. The British Parliament could control their authority, but England was 20,000 kilometres and eight months away by sea: by the time a complaint was heard and decided, nearly two years might have gone by. A growing number of colonists were not happy with total control in the hands of one person and urged the British Parliament to allow the colony to establish a legislature. In 1823, the British Parliament passed an Act, usually called the 'New South Wales Act', which mainly dealt with the structure of the courts and the role of  the judges. It also included a provision for 'His Majesty to constitute and appoint a Council, to consist of ... not exceeding seven and not less than five' members. The Governor, as the King's representative, appointed five Legislative Councillors. All of them were public officials and even though they had very little power as councillors, in their official positions they had considerable influence. The first Legislative Council met on 25 August, 1824."

[ The History of Government in New South Wales (Article reproduced from New South Wales Year Book, 1998, ABS Cat No. 1301.1]  


"The privilege of being tried by his peers was extended to every man"  


Legal reforms designed to protect the rights of British subjects in New South Wales did not extend their benefits to Aborigines as British subjects.


 "1824 ... Trial by jury was introduced about the same period, by which the privilege of being tried by his peers was extended to every man ..." 

[Coghlan, T.A., A.M., Inst. C.E., Government Statistician; The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales 1887-88 (Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, Phillip-Street. George Robinson and Co., 361 George-Street. 1888) Page 19] 



Trial by jury

"1824 – NSW constituted a crown Colony. Executive Council formed. Establishment of Supreme court at Sydney, and introduction of trial by jury;  Land Regulations; Chamber of Justice. First Australian Enactment (Currency Bill) passed by the Legislative Council."  

[Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia (No. 47, 1961, Page 1191)



"The formation of a force of mounted police"

" .. it was the spread of crime by runaway convicts and an increase in trouble between the settlers of the interior and the Aborigines that prompted the formation of a force of mounted police ... Because of the absence of a suitable class of men in the colony ... the men needed were taken from the only  that could supply men of the required calibre: the infantry regiment of the British army currently serving in the colony ..and the infantry provided almost all the force throughout its existence." 

[[ O'Sullivan John, Mounted Police in N.S.W., A History of heroism and duty since 1821 (Rigby 1979) (Page 2]



Extension of New South Wales Westward, 1825

" ... the coast between the western coast of Bathurst island and the eastern side of Coburg Peninsula. Captain James Bremer of HMS Tamar, ... took possession ...of the coast from the 135th to the 129th degree of east longitude ... the whole territory ... was described in Phillip's commission as being within the boundaries of New South Wales, thus increasing its area by 518,134 square miles, and making it ... excluding Tasmania (and) ... excluding New Zealand, 1,972,446 square miles."

[ Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia (No. 47, 1961, Page 3)]


"Governors were financially independent because they controlled the money raised from the sale of Crown land."

"The next Governor was Sir Ralph Darling ... Arriving in Sydney in 1825 ... The work of exploration made some progress ... Sir Richard Bourke (successor) ... Immigrants began to arrive in larger numbers ... In 1829, Legislative Council numbers were again increased to 15. By now, the power of the Council was rivalling the power of the governors. In 1829 there were 36,598 people in NSW, over half of whom were convicts still serving their sentences."

[Coghlan, T.A., A.M., Inst. C.E., Government Statistician; The Wealth and Progress of New South Wales 1887-88 (Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, Phillip-Street. George Robinson and Co., 361 George-Street. 1888) Pages 20-21] 

Governor Darling's Commission 1825 (UK)
This document, Letters Patent of 16 July 1925, extended the boundary of the Colony of New South Wales west from the line of longitude at 135 degrees to longitude 129 degrees. This was done so that a trading post set up the year before on Melville Island, off the coast of northern Australia, would be a British possession within the jurisdiction of the Governor of New South Wales.

Darling's Commission also provided for the establishment of an Executive Council to advise him. This was the foundation of the executive arm of government in the Colony. Captain Arthur Phillip's Commission as New South Wales Governor made the boundary of the Colony 135 degrees east longitude, a convenient line which included only the eastern one-third of the future Northern Territory. This provision continued in the Commissions of the Governors until the British government decided to establish a military and trading post on the north coast of Australia.

The site of the first trading post set up in 1824, Fort Dundas on Melville Island, was some five degrees west of the boundary of the Colony. Earl Bathurst, at the Colonial Office, saw to it that this Commission issued to the next Governor of New South Wales, Ralph Darling, extended the western boundary of New South Wales to 129 degrees east longitude.

The three British military/trading posts set up on the north coast (Fort Dundas, 1824–1828; Fort Wellington, Raffle's Bay, 1827–1829; Victoria, Port Essington, 1838–1849) emphasised Britain's claim to the whole of the Australian continent but were mainly concerned with British commercial and strategic interests in the Indian Ocean. They were temporary and not intended to promote colonisation in the Northern Territory. So, documents relating to them are not considered founding constitutional instruments for the Northern Territory.

When Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling succeeded Sir Thomas Brisbane as Governor of New South Wales on 19 December 1825, his Commission thus differed significantly from the Commissions received by his predecessors by extending the Colony's western boundary, set in 1788 at 135 degrees east longitude, to the 129th meridian. This longitude later became the border dividing Western Australia and South Australia. To the south, everything beyond Wilson's Promontory, the southeastern 'corner' of the continent, ceased to be under the control of New South Wales and was placed under the authority of the Governor of Van Diemen's Land.

Darling's Commission was also unusual in that it provided for the creation (by prerogative act) of an Executive Council (in addition to the Legislative Council created by the New South Wales Act 1823) which the Governor was directed to consult and upon the advice of which he was to act.

[New South Wales documents; Long Title: Ralph Darling's Commission as Governor of New South Wales, 1825, Provenance: British Government, Location: State Records New South Wales, Reference: SRNSW: X23]



The Black War in Tasmania

“‘The Black War of Van Diemen's Land’ was the name of the official campaign of terror directed against the Black people of Tasmania. Between 1803 and 1830 the Black aborigines of Tasmania were reduced from an estimated sive-thousand people to less than seventy-sive.  An article published December 1, 1826 in the Tasmanian Colonial Times declared that:

"We make no pompous display of Philanthropy.  The Government must remove the natives--is not, they will be hunted down like wild beasts and destroyed!"  

[December 1, 1826, Tasmanian Colonial Times]



The case of R v Lowe [1827]

"Australian courts have at times varied in their willingness to recognise aspects of Aboriginal customary law. In the case of R v Lowe [1827] the New South Wales Supreme Court determined that Aboriginal people were subject to its jurisdiction when they were in conflict with Europeans. However some question remained as to whether Aboriginal people were subject to its jurisdiction when committing offences against themselves ..."

[The case of R v Lowe (1827), in Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, Strengthening Community Justice, Some issues in the recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law in New South Wales. Page 4 ]


Land and stock speculation, 1827


Second Constitution

Second Constitution 1828 –

15 Member Legislative Council.


“The Richmond River was discovered”

“The Richmond River was discovered in 1828 by Captain Henry Rous, in the HMS "Rainbow", and was named aster the sixth Duke of Richmond. Early settlers travelled upstream to Broadwater, but the cedar-getters first came across the country from the Clarence River. As word spread, another party of cedar-getters and their families arrived in 1842 on the "Sally", and a camp was established at what is now East Ballina, because of the high ground and good water supply.” (Unknown)


Van Diemen’s Land

“With the declaration of martial law in November 1828, Whites were authorized to kill Blacks on sight.  Although the Blacks offered a heroic resistance, the wooden clubs and sharpened sticks of the Aborigines were no match against the firepower, ruthlessness, and savagery exercised by the Europeans against them.  In time, a bounty was declared on Blacks, and "Black catching," as it was called, soon became a big business; five poundsfor each adult Aborigine, two pounds for each child.  Aster considering proposals to capture them for sale as slaves, poison or trap them, or hunt them with dogs, the government settled on continued bounties and the use of mounted police.” (?)


Imperial Act 1828

Imperial Act 1828 - All laws and statutes in force in England apply in NSW.



Recovery of Crown Lands

25th August, 1829. Council Chambers 

MINUTE No. 2. 




....  5th-"An Act for the more effectual recovery of Crown Lands permitted to be occupied by private individuals."


Clerk of the Court


3rd September, 1829. Council Chambers 

Present, in pursuance of adjournment:—-



The Colonial Secretary seconded by the Collector of Customs, moved the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Recovery of Crown Lands Bill, and it was read a second time accordingly. 

Government resumption of Crown and Church Lands

MINUTE No. 12.

24th September, 1829, Council Chamber,

Present, in pursuance of adjournment -.—

His Excellency thE Governor, His Honor, esq.  &c., &c., &c

“His Excellency the Governor in formed the Council that he had adopted the amendments proposed by them on the Bills for the resumption of Crown and Church Lands, and for instituting Courts of Quarter Sessions, and now laid the etc before the Council, in order to their being passed into Laws.

It was then ordered, on the motion of the Colonial Secretary, that these Bills be read a third time on Tuesday, the 29th September instant. (Franchise)…(3.)  That the qualifications as to property, shall not be less than thirty pounds per annum or a capital of three hundred pounds …  (6) That exemptions and disqualifications be conformable to such persona as are exempted or disqualified by the Stat. 6 Geo. IV., c 50.


Clerk of the Council.



The case of R v Ballard [1829]

"In the case of R v Ballard [1829] the Attorney General sought the direction of the NSW Supreme Court on whether an Aboriginal person could be prosecuted for the murder of another Aboriginal person. In this case the Supreme Court held that it 'has jurisdiction in wrongs committed between Aborigines and Europeans, but not in those in which the only parties are Aborigines. It has always been policy of judges and government of New South Wales not to interfere in disputes between Aborigines'. In fact Chief Justice Forbes stated 'Aborigines are entitled to their own laws without interference by English law. In deciding this same matter Justice Dowling concurred 'until the Aboriginal natives of this country shall consent, either actually or by implication, to the imposition of our laws in the administration of justice for acts committed by themselves upon themselves, I know no reason, human or divine, which ought to justify us interfering in their institutions."

[The case of R v Ballard [1829], in Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, Strengthening Community Justice, Some issues in the recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law in New South Wales. Page 4]




"The vagrancy of their habits"

12 January, 1830  

"It will be observed that the Venerable the Archdeacon is determined on sparing no exertions for the instruction of the Aborigine. It is His Majesty's gracious and declared wish, that this duty should be diligently attended to by his Australian subjects; and having the King for their patron, and the Clergy for their coadjutors, we do hope the people will cheerfully cooperate in this just but truly difficult undertaking ... The failure ...of the attempts hitherto made, points out the necessity of a careful survey of the wilderness it is proposed to cultivate ... Many of (our readers) .. have regarded the Blacks as an interesting subject of curiosity ... The Rev. Mr Threlkeld has gained ground considerably in the study of the native language... we are encouraged to hope, that those dissimilarities between the languages of the several tribes which have been thought ... the most formidable barrier to their civilization, are not radical, but mere differences of dialect, which it would no means impracticable to surmount, and eventually to reform. It is proposed to form stations in the various parts of the Colony, in the first instance for the study of the language, and its reduction to a written, and something like a grammatical form ... The most serious difficulty has hitherto been sound to arise from the vagrancy of their habits, making them altogether impatient of such tempered restraint as is indispensable to their instruction in letters and the arts of civilized life, and next to impossible to attach them either to persons or places ... –How may this vagrancy best be conquered?"


Sterling is decreed to be the sole legal standard of value

13 January, 1830  

Government Notice. Colonial Secretary's Office , Sydney. His Excellency the Governor has directed the following Notice of the general Objects of a Bill, about to be brought under the Consideration of the Legislative Council ... By His Excellency's Command, Alexander McLeay ... It is proposed, by this Bill, to repeal all such Parts of the Acts and Ordinances, now in force, as relate to the payment of Fines, Penalties, Rates, Polls, and Dues in Spanish Dollars, or any other Foreign Coin, and to authorise the levying of all such Fines, Penalties, Forfeitures, Rates, Tolls and Dues in Sterling Money ..."[

[Sydney Gazette; New South Wales Advertiser 13 January 1830 ]


Poor old Boongaree

23 January 1830 

"Poor old Boongaree seems to have taken on a new lease of life. He has not paid his usual devoirs to the Sydney folk for some time past ... the venerable Chief has appeared in renovated health, decorated with a new badge a cocked hat, and a dingy coat to correspond to his complexion."  [Sydney Gazette; New South Wales Advertiser 23 January 1830]





Crown Land

1831 - Land grants abolished.  

No. 29. 

2. Hit Excellency the Governor laid upon the Table, a copy of a Despatch from the Right Honorable Viscount Goderich, dated the 21st December,1831, intimating that an agreement had been entered into with the Church Missionary Society, by which they have undertaken to send out and superintend a Mission to the Aboriginal Inhabitants of New Holland, and recommending that the Sum of Five Hundred Pounds should be appropriated annually, from the Colonial Revenue, for that purpose. Ordered to be printed.

COPY of a Despatch from the Right Honorable Lord Viscount Goderich, to His Excellency Major-General Bourke.


21st December, 1831


The attention of my Predecessor having been called to the lamentable state of ignorance and barbarism in which the Aborigines of New South Wales continue to remain, an agreement has been entered into with the Church Missionary Society, by which they have undertaken to send out and superintend a Mission to these people, upon their being guaranteed for the support of it an annual payment of £500 from the Revenues of New South Wales. I enclose, for your information, a copy of the correspondence which took place between this Office and the Society, from which you will learn the sentiments of Government upon this important subject; and I have to request that you will recommend to the Legislative Council the annual grant, so long as the Mission exists, of £500 from the Colonial Revenues, in furtherance of the objects in view. The commencement of the payment is to date from the arrival of the Mission in New South Wales. One Missionary proceeded to the Colony in March last; the other, it is expected, will take his departure in the course of a few weeks. You will, in concert with the Agents of the Society, establish such regulations for checking the expenditure of this money as may be adapted to ensure the due appropriation of it to the objects for which it is given.

It is almost needless for me to instruct you to afford your countenance and protection to the Missionaries, and to give them every facility, in the discharge of duties from which the Government anticipate much advantage to the Natives themselves, as well as to the European settlers, who at present are exposed to the mischievous consequences of the predatory lives and habits of their neighbours.

I beg to call your attention to the various grants of land which have from time to time been given by your predecessors to Missionary Societies, for the purpose of inducing them to undertake the task of civilising the Natives, and instructing them in the principles of religion and morality. You will ascertain the state of these grants, and the manner in which the funds arising from them have been appropriated; and is you should find that the objects for which they were given have not been realised, and that the Government have the power of resuming the lands, you will not fail to do so, and to dispose of them in such manner as may render them productive of Revenue; by which means the charge to the Colony on account  the New Mission might be lessened.

I am, Sir, &c., &c., &c,

(Signed) GODERICH. 


 "A Mission to the Aboriginal Inhabitants of New Holland"

  10 July 1832.



The Wellington Missionaries report on the violenceof the settlers towards the Aborigines

14th December, 1833

REPORT of the  Mission to  the Aborigines of New Holland. Station, Wellington Valley.

The Missionaries, Rev. Messrs. Watson and Handt, with their wives, arrived at Wellington Valley on the 3rd October, 1832, accompanied by eight Natives who had joined them on the road. A sew days aster their arrival they were visited by more than sixty Natives, many of whom, were wild, and had come from 50 to 70 miles distance. They were supplied with food, a small quantity of tobacco, and a sew pipes. They were then interrogated as to their knowledge of who had made them, the sun, trees, &c. of this they appeared . to be entirely ignorant; nor hail they the least idea of a Supreme Being, of the immortality of the soul, or of a suture state of existence; they were then; informed that the Missionaries had been sent by the King of England to teach them the great truths of religion, and to make them. acquainted with arts and civilization; they answered to these things, ".budgery, budgery" (good, good.)' They did nut remain many days, but have since paid several visits to (Mission.) The Missionaries very speedily discovered that the Natives had been prejudiced against them, by the stockmen in the neighbourhood, who told them that the men would be yoked and made to work as bullocks, and the children would be sent to Sydney and put in prison. A school was established at the commencement of the Mission, and has been con­tinued. Here from twelve to twenty children have been under instruction at one time ; some have occasionally lest, and others have supplied their place. These have been taught to read and spell, and have been regularly instructed in the principles of the Christian religion. ' It has not. been discovered that these children and youths are in any degree inferior in intellect, or ability to learn, than those of civilized countries. They learn their lessons, hymns, prayers, &c, as readily as children in general in an English school. That some moral reformation has been produced by the labors of the Missionaries among these degraded and unlettered Tribes, is evident from this one circumstance, viz:—That swearing in the English language, which is generally prevalent, is never practised in the hearing of the Missionaries by any Native who has occasionally been at the station. Instances have occurred of the Mission boys correcting adult Natives for swearing, even at the excuse of a good beating for their friendly admonition. Some time ago a Native youth, who was so deeply diseased as to render his recovery exceedingly doubtful, came to Mr. Watson for medical aid ; he was at the time a notorious swearer ; after being at the Establishment for some time he recovered, and returned to his brethren forty miles distant. Shortly aster his return, an English stockman swore at an unruly cow, in the hearing of the Native youth, who reproved him, and said it was " no good to swear." He was asked why ? He replied, " because you will not go to Heaven is you swear." He was then asked who told him so ? He answered, " good deal Mr. Watson talk that way, and good many books he have too, which talk that way all about." The Englishman acknowledged that it was very wrong to swear, and he would try to do so no more.  

The demoralization and degradation of the women have perhaps no parallel among savage nations ;for sad as is the state of the female generally under such circumstances, these seem degraded below the lowest of the low. They are commonly betrothed in their earliest infancy, and are not unfrequently taken soon aster by their husbands. Then, too often, all moral restraint and honorable affection are cast away, and adultery in the most frightful latitude is permitted, both with the Aboriginal youths and European adults ; and in the huts of the latter they are very commonly compelled to reside for a considerable time ; but when with their husbands they usually have to hunt for their own food, and even for their husbands, and in their journeys they have to carry what they may desire to take from one place to another, and even the weapons of the husband. And it may be added, that they are often made the unwilling victims  of their husbands' indolence, and the licentiousness of the Europeans. Indeed the idleness of both sexes, and their willingness to receive either food or other articles without any labor, has led to a dreadful increase of their native habits of immorality, and the Europeans participate in them, who are ready to use threats, or even violence, when they find opposition to their vicious inclinations. The cruelty of some of these stockmen to the Natives of both sexes it is to be greatly feared will ultimately lead to revenge on the part of the natives, and the result may be the murder of any or of every white man they meet with.  Common as female prostitution is here, the Missionaries are happy to say, that one female who has been under religious instruction at the Mission House, has since that been known repeatedly to repel the solicitations of white men, and. has told them as a reason for her conduct, that ‘God would see them,’ and that. ‘God who sit down in Heaven would be angry.’ That the children instructed at the Mission House believe the fundamental doctrines o| the Christian religion, is evident from the very interesting questions which they are constantly in the practice of asking. In the month of April, 1813, Mrs. Watson rescued a. half-caste infant from immediate death. Its unnatural mother had so treated it as to impress her own mind that it was already dead, and her female companion was preparing its grave, when Mrs. Watson discovered them. By the attention paid to it it revived and lived for three weeks, when the effects of its parents unnatural conduct at its birth produced a disease which terminated its earthly existence. On this occasion the Native children at the Mission House were deeply affected, and asked  is baby in Heaven now ? Has Jesus Christ taken it ? Is it a little angel?" There is abundant proof that some of the children who have lest the Establishment, and gone into the bush for a season, have both related their prayers at night and said grace before they partook of the opossum or wild cabbage.  

Besides those who are under  regular instructions, there  are generally several others, youths and adults, at  the Mission House. Their number  is very fluctuating, and their stay  very variable ; sometimes  twenty or thirty  will remain for a fortnight, and  then take their departure. In a day or two some of them, perhaps all, will  return, and remain for a short time; but the very most of them attend morning and evening worship in the family, and at the Church on Sundays. We have had several visits from large number of Natives, and have made several tours into the bush. It is a remarkable circumstance that the Natives have no desire to emulate white men except in their vices, it is only by kind treatment and trifling rewards, that even the young are brought to attend to their lessons. Were this desire to learn equal to their abilities, they would soon make great proficiency. After the experience of every act of kindness for twelve months, it is a lamentable act, that the Natives, even in this neighbourhood, are afraid that the Missionaries have some evil intentions towards them It is rather surprising that they will believe what the stockmen say, rather than .be convinced of the purity of the intentions of the Missionaries, when they have received so many acts of kindness from the latter.


The expenditure of the Mission, has during this, its first year, been unavoidably heavy , and indeed it must continue to be so, is as has been the case during the past year, all the supplies needed for the Establishment in suture, have to be procured in Sydney, or at Bathurst, or indeed, is they will have to be purchased at all. The Missionaries, aware of this, have availed themselves of the facilities afforded them by the generous act of His Excellency the Governor, in assigning a certain portion of land at Wellington Valley for the use of the Mission. Accordingly, in the month of July last, twenty acres of wheat were sown, which, however, from the unparalleled dryness of the season has all perished. About ten acres of maize corn has since been planted, and is in a promising state. When there has been raised at Wellington Valley a sufficient number of stock, and grain enough to warrant such a procedure, the Missionaries think it highly desirable to form a station amongst the wild black Natives, where they have not been corrupted by intercourse with Europeans. Such a station might be very conveniently supplied from Wellington Valley, where Missionary efforts will still be in operation, and as diligently attended to, as at present.  

A Vocabulary of the language is in a state of preparation.

(Signed)      WILLIAM WATSON,       J.C.S.HANDT

Mission House, Wellington Valley,

14th December, 1833.

E. DEAS THOMSON, Clerk of the Council.  [17]


1833 – Appellate jurisdiction of Privy Council extended to Colony; civilian juries in criminal cases (if you weren't Aboriginal).



"Good free land"

" ... a great proportion of the capital which flooded in from 1834 was borrowed so that the pastoralist speculators could buy land within the boundaries, offered at auction by the Crown .. a substantial part of the 18 million acres of the 'twenty counties' still unalienated was good land ... graziers who had well established freehold stations found it abundantly worth while to send flocks out far beyond their accustomed pastures, to graze on good free land ..."

[Fitzpatrick, Brian: The British Empire in Australia, An Economic History, Foreword By Geoffrey Blainey Macmillan 1969) (Page 36-37) ]


"The duty of acting upon principles of justice and humanity"

"There is no part of the British Empire in which so conscientious a care was taken of the lives and rights of the natives during the process of colonisation as in the contiguous districts of Victoria and South Australia. They were first colonised in 1837, at a time when the prolonged agitation of the emancipation party had just secured the freedom of the negro; and the treatment of the aboriginal inhabitants of colonies had come prominently before the public. The atrocious evils of the past were brought out in all their horror, and the savagery shown by well-armed white men in dealing with comparatively defenceless savages was depicted from many a platform ... Vastly different was the tone of men's minds in the days when Victoria was colonised. In 1834 there would be no doubt as to the temper of the English nation. In the address which the House of Commons presented to King William lV. in reply to his speech on opening Parliament in the July of that year, there occurs this notable passage:-"Your faithful Commons in Parliament assembled are deeply impressed with the duty of acting upon principles of justice and humanity in the intercourse and relations of this country with the native inhabitants of the colonial settlements," and they humbly pray His Majesty that the would be pleased to take such steps as will secure a kindly treatment of the natives and the spread of civilization among them ... such an expression of opinion compelled the cabinet then in Office to take the most extreme care in dealing with this difficult question, and for six or eight years afterwards it was a prominent matter in the policy of the Colonial Office , all the more so because the general seeling in England was so intense ... Those who maintained a general theory that the white men had no right to invade the territory of the inferior race, were expending their rhetoric in trying to convince practical men of a proposition to which they did not well know how to reply, but of which their common sense made them suspect the fallacy ... what could the oratorical party urge as the reason why each adult black man in Victoria should remain in perpetuity the sole and indefeasible owner of three hundred and sixty square miles to support himself, his wise, and an average of two children? Is the white man could without difficulty contrive to make these three hundred and sixty square miles support ten persons to the square mile, there would be 3500 persons resident thereon, and it would amply repay so numerous a community to maintain the naked savage, his wise, and two children, in a state of comfort utterly unobtainable when he had to hunt over so wide an area for their scanty subsistence. That, in principle, was the policy adopted in the early colonisation of  Victoria ..." 


[Whitworth. Mr R.P.; The Treatment of the Aboriginals-1838 to 1847in Victoria and Its Metropolis (Melbourne, 1888) Page 229]

The Missionaries Report on the Aborigines of New Holland.   ...STATION—WELLINGTON   VALLEY.

The Missionaries, in presenting a Second Annual  Report of their labors among the

Aboriginal Natives of New Holland, are happy in being able to state, that their prospects of being useful to these so deeply degraded, and so long neglected Tribes, are more cheering than when the former Report was drawn up. The prejudices which formerly were so strong against the Missionaries are in a great measure removed, and many of them have acknowledged that the design of the Mission is a very good one, and they believe that " by and bye blackfellow  make a light." The native men have left their wives at the Mission House in large numbers for months successively, when they have gone on their expeditions into the bush. The Natives in general have come to the Establishment in larger numbers than in. the preceding year,  occasionally to the amount of eighty and one hundred. They have also remained longer there  and evidently with more confidence. Many have been induced to work in the Mission garden, in the paddock, &c. In the spring, one youth was engaged in driving bullocks at plough, and occasionally ploughing. During the harvest, eight Natives were daily employed in reaping. Several have planted maize, corn, melons and pumpkins, and sown tobacco seed for themselves. Some of the children have each a small plot of ground in the Mission garden which they respectively cultivate for themselves. The Missionaries have itinerated on several occasions to the distance off from forty to seventy miles in each direction. On these journeys when they have met with Natives who had seen them at Wellington Valley, the most friendly disposition has been invariably manifested. They have also given sufficient evidence that they had not forgotten the daily custom at the Mission House, of presenting prayer and praise to the Great God and Saviour of mankind, by readily kneeling down and uniting with their Christian Teacher in this sacred duly. In the month of February, 1834, one of the Missionaries and his Wife, with an European servant, and a Native Girl, commenced a journey into the interior. A Native youth who had generally been at the Mission House since October, 1832, expressed his desire of going ; but it was thought advisable for several reasons to leave him on the Establishment. However, he felt the disappointment so keenly, that he went before, and having cut down and gathered a number of large boughs, he laid them across the road to impede the progress of the cart, for the distance of two miles. This youth, aster his return, of his own accord, removed them all, saying be had done wrong to place them there. When the company had proceeded about three miles, the youth came up and begged to be allowed to go. which was agreed to, for however improperly he had acted, it cannot be forgotten that he was Heathen. On their journey several Natives joined and proceeded with them. Every evening, all the Natives who were present, united with the Missionary in family worship, and afterwards repeated their prayers in a very solemn manner. This was indeed an interesting scene to behold. A number of Heathen savages in the open wilderness, upon their knees, observing the greatest decorum, addressing the august Majesty of Heaven and Earth. Goon-peen, a Native youth, always took the lead, and acted as prompter in these devotional exercises. It was intended to proceed to Gingin, but having been joined by so many Natives, the stock of provisions became exhausted, and after travelling about eighty miles in a north-west direc­tion, it was sound necessary on this account to return. About one hundred Natives were seen during this tour, and were conversed with on the subject of religion, &.C. The Native Girl who accompanied the Missionary from Wellington Valley, was of great service, acting as an interpreter in cases where the Missionary could not make himself understood ; and it was remarkable how strongly she sometimes argued with the Natives on religious subjects. Medicine was administered to about thirty who were sick, and several came with the Missionary to Wellington Valley. Tho weather was sometimes very unfavorable, the lightning was so vivid, and the rain descended in such torrents, that it was with difficulty the horses could proceed. 


The Missionaries by holding frequent intercourse with the Natives, have obtained more accurate views of their opinions on various subjects. It is now proved beyond dispute, that they believe in the existence of a spirit distinct from the body, and surviving its dissolution. Though there are amongst them, as indeed amongst all nations, some professed unbelievers on this subject, who frequently say, " blackfellow die altogether, " but like the infidel in the storm, from this position they are easily driven by reference being made to their constant fear of death, and their dread of going near a grave, or a hut where a person lately dead formerly resided.. They say that " Byamy, who sits down long way off, over the great waters near to England, " made every thing, and every body first time. " It may eventually appear that they do believe in a first cause. Conversations are frequently hold with the Natives respecting "Byamy," but their accounts are so mysterious, that it is very difficult to understand them; and when they are asked questions which they cannot answer, they conclude the subject by saying, " don't like to talk about him, ho will be very angry." Several months ago there was a general opinion among them, which emanated from some one eminent Native living a great way off, that in a short time there would be a general inundation, but previously to its occurring they would receive a warning, where they should erect a very large hut, in which, they were all to dwell, and that animals eaten by them as food, would voluntarily proceed to the hut, and remain therefore their consumption; when time passed on, and the great flood came not, on being  interrogated on the subject, they replied, " Oh ! that happened long time since. " Whether this is a fragment of the tradition respecting the deluge, it is not easy to determine.


In October, 1833, Goongeen, a Native youth, accompanied one of the Missionaries, on a visit to Sydney. In many respects it appears desirable that persons in his situation should have the opportunity of witnessing the comforts and advantages of civilised life. But it must be confessed, that in a moral And religious point of view, such a circumstance is replete with danger, from that pravity of morals which so generally disgraces our cities and towns. As the youth was anxious to see Sydney, it was deemed more prudent for him to accompany the Missionary than others, who would encourage him in the indulgence of his evil propensities, and who would probably introduce him to scenes of vice, to which he had before been a stranger of all the strange things he beheld there, nothing seemed to surprise him so much, or to make so deep an impression on his memory, as Saint James's Church full of persons assembled together for divine worship, and the sound of the organ. Many times since his return, he remarked, " Sydney, hye, hye; every body goes to Church at Sydney—great music there. "'What for not make Church here like Church at Sydney. " He seemed much astonished at the sine furniture which he saw in some respectable houses, and asked, " who made all them things." To him this was quite a novel scene, as the seats of the Mission house consist principally of benches, boxes, and broken chairs. At Sydney, Goongeen saw some of the New Zealanders, and being told that very many of their countrymen were converted to christianity, and several were engaged in preaching the gospel, he has frequently made this a subject of conversation with his Native brethren. The Missionary does not at present, see any reason to regret his taking the youth with him, as there is ground to hope be thereby rather profited than otherwise. The return of Goongeen to Wellington Valley was hailed with delight by many of the Natives, who had been made to believe that he would never return. Great pains had been taken to dissuade him, as well as King Bobby, (who was very anxious to see His Excellency the Governor) from going, being told that tho Missionary would put them in chains, and send them to England. Several instances have occurred, in which some of the Natives have evidenced solicitude for tho safety of the Missionaries in times of apparent danger. On one occasion, when one of the Missionaries, in company with several Natives, was returning from a journey into the interior, when several miles from home, and late in tho night, they were overtaken by a violent storm of thunder, lightning, and rain; indeed, so tremendous was the hurricane, that the Missionary lost his horse, cloak, hat, and all his travelling apparatus. Tho night was so dark that not an object could be discerned, except by the slashes of lightning. To prevent the Missionary from falling over any stumps of trees, or in passing through creeks, two of the Natives voluntarily took him between them, each taking holdof his arm. On another occasion, when the land at Wellington Valley was flooded, as one of the Missionaries was riding through a paddock, in company with a Native, his horse stumbled, and aster making several plunges, laid himself down in the water; in a moment the Native dismounted, had the Missionary in his arms, placing him upon his (the Native's) horse.

There have been at different times on the establishment, during the past year, thirty children to whom instruction has been given; some have remained but a short time, others longer, and some have continued with the Missionaries. It has been remarked, that the Native children might be taught to imitate certain sounds, or to remember those imitations, and no more; but the Missionaries are happy to say it is far otherwise. The gate to knowledge is in a great measure secured against their admission, and they manifest no curiosity to know what is contained within. Learning to read appears to them a work of impossibility ; and therefore they have no heart to it. But when they have once become able to read, and their minds being thereby expanded, they become inquisitive; learning is no longer looked on as a task, but esteemed as a privilege, as well as &  of delight. Several months age, two boys refused to grind their wheat, and went to the river. In the evening they returned and came up to the window as the children were at prayers; when they came to that petition in tho Lord's Prayer, " Give us this day, &c., " the boys outside repeated in an emphatic tone. " Give us this day our daily bread ; give us daily broad ; bread for all day ; and forgive us our trespasses. "

The following will tend to show the simple, yet pleasing manner, in which the Heathen children often converse. Tho conversation took place in the garden, after tho departure of a gentleman :—

Geanil—Who is that gentleman ? Is he an Englishman ?


Geanil—Oh ! an Irishman.

Missionary—No. He is a Scotch Gentleman.

Geanil—Oh ! Scotch Gentleman—does land where be lives belong to your King ?


Geanil—Oh ! all white masters belong to your King. King William—Sovereign Lord King William. You pray for your King every Sunday. Is he a good man ?

Missionary—Oh yes. He prays to God, and goes to Church. 

Geanil—Gracious Queen Adelaide. Who is Queen Adelaide ? 

Missionary— The wise to King William.

Geanil—Is she a good Woman ?

Missionary—She always reads the Bible, prays to God, and goes to Church. 

One of tho little boys then started the following conversation :—

Oomby—Sheep-mutton sit down at Sargeants

Missionary—Yes, the flesh of sheep is called mutton.

Oomby—Who makes mutton ?

Missionary—God makes sheep, the flesh of which is called mutton.

Oomby—First time I believe, (that is, God made sheep at first.)

Goanil—God always makes it to be sure. God makes all about. First man Cod made was Adam—then be eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Missionary—Yes, Satan tempted him, and he did eat of it, although God had told him not to eat it.

Geanil—No woods in garden then. Did Adam die then? . Missionary—No.

Dicky Marshall—No. God came down from Heaven, and turned him ou tof the garden with a sword, which went this way. (Waving an old shingle about with his hand.)

Geanil—Is Adam in Heaven now ?

Missionary—Yes. God told him that Jesus Christ, his Son, would in process of time come down from Heaven, and die for him and all men: He believed God, and was very sorry for his sins, then God forgave him.

Geanil—Then he went to Heaven when he died.


Geanil—Eve too ?


Dicky Marshall — Enoch too went to Heaven?

Geanil—Enoch not die.

Dicky Marshall—Abel too went to Heaven, not Cain?

Geanil—Why did not Cain go to Heaven?

Dicky Marshall—Because ho was wicked, he killed his brother Abel:

In this manner the children often converse among themselves. Many quick and promising boys have been enticed away from the Mission House by European servants in the neighbourhood ; and when it is remembered that elsewhere they are under no moral restraint, but rather encouraged in all kinds of vice, instead of its being a matter of surprise that so few remain at the Mission House, where they are necessarily subject to control, and under discipline, it is rather remarkable that any will remain, where everything is so uncongenial with their habits and disposition. The migratory habits of the Natives prevent them from receiving that degree of Christian instruction which is desirable, but as they are always conversed with on religious subjects, and attend the Church when at the Mission House, it is hoped that some good, some real spiritual benefit will be the result—and when it will please the Almighty to convert any of them to the Christian faith, their predilection for wandering about, should it remain with them, will doubtless be a great facility for extending the glad tidings of salvation far and wide, as the Establishment is occasionally visited by Natives from a distance of one hundred miles. But it must be acknowledged, that until the Missionaries are able to address the Natives familiarly in the Aboriginal language, no considerable success can be expected from their labors. During the past year constant attention has been given to collecting words and sentences, analyzing them, forming a vocabulary, and arranging matter for a grammar. The following portions have been translated into tho Aboriginal language.

1.—Tho Lord's Prayer. Apostle's Creed. And the Ten Commandments.

2.—1st, 2nd, and 3rd. chapters of Genesis.

3.—1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, part of 5th, 8th, 20th, 27th, and 28th chapters of Saint Matthew's Gospel.

4. —Some of the Miracles of our Lord.

It was thought more eligible to translate an account of tho Creation of the World, the introduction of moral evil; the decalogue ; the birth of Jesus Christ, his baptism, and temptation the wilderness ; some of his miracles ; his accusation, trial, death, and resurrection, as forming the leading subjects of converse with the Natives, than to proceed regularly with one book; it may have have been expected, that ere this, something in the form of a translation would have appeared as the result of Missionary labor. It is true indeed, tho Missionaries could some months ago have presented sur publication some of the result of their labors in the language; but they were well aware that such translations would eventually be proved very inaccurate, and as such, any expense incurred by its publication, would have been employed to no useful purpose- It will be acknowledged by all, that tho attainment of an unwritten language, spoken by savages, unacquainted with the manners and customs of civilized life, is at all times a work of intense study, and of incessant application. In the present instance it is rendered more difficult by the constant use of words by the Natives, which are altogether spurious, being neither English nor Aboriginal. Moreover, as ideas cannot be intelligibly communicated but through the medium of words known both to the speaker and hearer, the Missionary has first to teach the. English language to the person from whom he would learn the Aboriginal. But aster all possible attention has been devoted to the language, the Missionaries apprehend that no translation of the scriptures, sufficiently correct for publication, will be produced, until some of the Natives are converted to Christianity. So it has been sound in other Missions, and so it may be in this. As this is a matter of opinion,—when the Missionaries have done their utmost, it will be left for others to decide on this point; from the great interest which, the Natives take in repeating their prayers, and in hearing portions of Scripture read in their native tongue, the Missionaries cannot but infer, that as their knowledge of the language advances, a door of usefulness will be gradually opening wider and wider. . On one occasion, when a portion of the Scriptures in the Aboriginal language was being read, tho Natives who were round the hut, on hearing it, came in and sat round the Missionary of their own accord. When he had finished, onoof them almost in an ecstasy, jumped up and exclaimed, "kurrenderung myengoo —kurrenderuny myenyoo," (book for blackfellows—book for blackfellows.) Their conduct at Church is remarkably correct; the most indecorous behaviour of which they are guilty, is occasionally falling asleep.

It is not in the power of the Missionaries to record in a report, all the pleasing features of their Mission, or all the trying scenes through which they have to pass. It will never to a reflecting mind appear, that the path of a Christian Missionary, amongst savages, is bestrewed with flowers, or that his mind is the seat of calmness and tranquillity. In this Mission, where Natives of both sexes are under instruction on the same spot of ground, the Missionary is called to witness painful, yea, heart-rending circumstances, which can never be recorded for tho perusal of an enlightened and Christian public. Cradled in prostitution as it were, and fostered in licentiousness, the female children brought under instruction in the families of the Missionaries, do not lose their propensity to vice, as with a charm. Nothing but Divine grace can eradicate those propensities, by the regeneration of the soul; and until that glorious change can be effected, the minds of the Missionaries will be constantly exercised with anxiety.

The entire failure of the crops of wheat in 1832, and maize in 1834, at Wellington Valley, and the high price of flour, together with the increase of Natives on the Establishment has greatly augmented the expenditure of the past year. But; while the Missionaries were careful to distribute to the Natives a moderate supply of provisions, they were equally anxious to observe the greatest economy from sixteen acres of wheat, a very fair crop has been reaped and gathered in, which it is presumed will be sufficient for the consumption of the ensuing year. A few acres of maize corn have been planted, bat owing to the dryness of the season, it is apprehended there will be no crop. 

. In conclusion, the Missionaries desire to present their grateful acknowledgement to His Excellency the Governor for defining the boundaries of the land reserved for the service of the Mission. It has been considered advisable to bring the Report down to the close of the year, so as to make it more regular, and as it will include the state of crops it will afford means of estimating more accurately the probable expenditure of the succeeding year




Mission House, Wellington valley

31st December, 1843



Proclamation of Governor Bourke, 10 October 1835

By His Excellency Major General Sir Richard Bourke, K.C.B. Commanding His Majesty’s Forces, Captain General and Governor in Chief of the Territory of New South Wales and its Dependencies, and Vice Admiral of the same &c. &c. &c.

Whereas, it has been represented to me, that divers of His Majesty’s Subjects have taken possession of vacant Lands of the Crown, within the limits of this Colony, under the pretence of a treaty, bargain, or contract, for the purchase thereof, with the Aboriginal Natives; Now therefore, I, the Governor, in virtue and in exercise of the power and authority in me vested, do hereby proclaim and notify to all His Majesty’s Subjects, and others whom it may concern, that every such treaty, bargain, and contract with the Aboriginal Natives, as aforesaid, for the possession, title, or claim to any Lands lying and being within the limits of the Government of the Colony of New South Wales, as the same are laid down and defined by His Majesty’s Commission; that is to say, extending from the Northern Cape, or extremity of the Coast called Cape York, in the latitude of ten degrees thirty seven minutes South, to the Southern extremity of the said Territory of New South Wales, or Wilson’s Promontory, in the latitude of thirty nine degrees twelve minutes South, and embracing all the Country inland to the Westward, as far as the one hundred and twenty ninth degree of east longitude, reckoning from the meridian of Greenwich, including all the Islands adjacent, in the Pacific Ocean within the latitude aforesaid, and including also Norfolk Island, is void and of no effect against the rights of the Crown; and that all Persons who shall be found in possession of any such Lands as aforesaid, without the license or authority of His Majesty’s Government, for such purpose, first had and obtained, will be considered as trespassers, and liable to be dealt with in like manner as other intruders upon the vacant Lands of the Crown within the said Colony. Given under my Hand and Seal, at Government House, Sydney, this (L.S) twenty sixth Day of August, One thousand eight hundred and thirty five.

(Signed) "Richard Bourke"                                   

By His Excellency’s Command

(Signed) Alexander McLeay

God Save the King!

True Copy

Deas Thomson Clk Co

This document implemented the doctrine of terra nullius upon which British settlement was based, reinforcing the notion that the land belonged to no one prior the British Crown taking possession of it. Aboriginal people therefore could not sell or assign the land, nor could an individual person acquire it, other than through distribution by the Crown. When John Batman, one of the pioneers in the founding of Victoria, first settled at Port Phillip, he made an attempt to buy the land from the Aboriginal people through a 'treaty'. New South Wales Governor, Sir Richard Bourke, effectively quashed the treaty with this Proclamation issued by the Colonial Office and sent to the Governor with Despatch 99 of 10 October 1835. Its publication in the Colony meant that from then, people found in possession of land without the authority of the government would be considered trespassers.

Although many people at the time also recognised that the Aboriginal occupants had rights in the lands (and this was confirmed in a House of Commons report on Aboriginal relations in 1837), the law followed and almost always applied the principles expressed in Bourke's proclamation. This would not change until the Australian High Court's decision in the Mabo Case in 1992.

The document shown is the copy of the Proclamation retained by the Colonial Office; the document despatched to Governor Bourke has not been located.
[ Proclamation of Governor Bourke, 10 October 1835, Provenance: Colonial Office of the British Government, Features: A document not available in Australia, Location: National Archives of the United Kingdom, Reference: PRO UK: CO 201/247 ff 411 r + v]

New South Wales Attorney General Saxe Bannister and the value in recognising customary law.

"... at least one former New South Wales Attorney General saw the value in recognising customary law in 1835. In his evidence to a Committee of the House of Commons, Saxe Bannister stated 'we ought forthwith to begin, at least, to reduce the laws and usages of the Aboriginal tribes to language, print them, and direct our courts of justice to respect those laws in proper cases."

 [Aboriginal customary law, in Strengthening Community Justice, Some issues in the recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law in New South Wales. (Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council) Page 5]

Annual Report of the Mission to the Aborigines, for the Year 1835

28 June, 1836


Annual Report of the Aboriginal Mission at Lake Macquarie, New South

Wales, 1835.

To the Honorable the Colonial Secretary, Alexander McLeay, Esq., &c, &c, &c.

Ebenezer, Lake Macquarie,

December 2nd, 1835.


In the absence of the Venerable the Archdeacon, it becomes my duty, and I have the honor to forward the Annual Report of this .Mission to you, in order to its being submitted to His Excellency the Governor.

In the month of February last several Aboriginal Natives were tried, convicted, and sentenced for transportation for life : one was left for execution for a rape, whilst the others had their sentences commuted for a shorter period of confinement to labor on Goat Island, where they are being taught to read English.

Mickey, the individual to be executed, was attended to during his confinement in the condemned cell until his execution took place, and every exertion was used by me to instruct him in the knowledge of God our Saviour. At the first he stoutly denied being at the place when the crime was committed, and appealed to a person in proof thereof; but on enquiry it was most satisfactorily proved, that he had not been in the employ of that party to whom he referred. He afterwards adopted a threatening tone, and assured me that, "Is the White Men hung him, all the Blacks belonging to his, and the surrounding tribes up the Country would come, encompass and burn Sydney, together with the gaol in which he was confined." Conversation, however, softened down his mind, and he wept. In a subsequent visit he assumed a more bold aspect, and in. an undaunted manner declared, " That the Blacks had a much more powerful Being than the Whites had," who, he assured me, with English oaths, "would, is he were executed, put out the eyes of all the Whites, and smite them with total blindness!" This led to a conversation on the power of the True God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, to which he apparently paid attention, and henceforth ceased to make threatenings. On the morning of his execution, he was asked is be had prayed to Jesus in the night, and for the first time replied, that he had. Suitable passages of Scripture were read to him, whilst the irons were being removed, and he repeated prayers, which were also composed in his own language, as we walked to the place of execution ; he there knelt down joining in prayer, and then ascended the platform. Whilst the rope was being adjusted round his neck, he uttered a deep expression of sorrow, and with a becoming demeanour, was launched into the presence of the "Judge of All."

Hitherto, the Blacks under confinement had not been permitted to be present at the executions, in consequence of a general order respecting all prisoners in the gaol to that effect; but, at my suggestion, the Aborigines under confinement were allowed to behold the sentence carried into effect. Their pale visages, their trembling muscles, indicated the nervous excitement under which they laboured at the melancholy sight. Some, who were about to be brought to trial, urged me to speak for them to the Judge, and all requested that I would ask the Gaoler not to hang them during my absence. To use the. expression of McGill, who was present with me, he said that, " he thought when the drop fell, that he should have shed his skin !" .

Previously to this, it was a matter of joke amongst the Blacks, their being sent to any gaol. This painful task, together with attendance at the Courts of Justice, occupied nearly six weeks at Sydney.

It is pleasing to be able to report, that no further outrages have been committed in the neighbourhood whence these Blacks were taken ; and also, that when I visited Goat Island, where the Aboriginal Culprits are confined under the Superintendence of Mr. Langhorne, they were improving fast in their English Reading. This Gentleman informed me, that on asking the Blacks, " Who made all things ?" one of them, to his surprise, immediately answered " God;" and on being further questioned as to his source of knowledge he replied, " it was at Lake Macquarie." In August last, I was again subpoenaed to the Supreme Court, in consequence of outrages having been committed by the Aborigines in the vicinity of William's River; when another Black, named Charley, was sound guilty of murder, which he did not deny, even when arraigned, but pleaded in justification, the custom of his nation, justifying himself on the ground that, a Talisman, named Mura-mai* (*Note: see Grammar, Page 89) was taken  from him by the Englishman, who with others were keeping a Black Woman amongst them, was pulled to pieces by him, and shewn to the Black Woman, which, according to their superstitious notions, subjects all the parties to the punishment of death ; and further, that he was deputed with others, by his tribe, to enforce the penalty, which he too faithfully performed.

It was deemed necessary, for the tranquillity of those disturbed Districts, that Charley should be executed at a place called Dungog, nigh to the scene of violence, and my duty was to attend him whilst under confinement in the Gaol of Sydney, and also to the place of execution. In this painful part of my Office , much satisfaction was derived from the great attention, and, submissive behaviour of the unhappy culprit. His dialect was a little different; he, like the former one, was a perfect stranger to me, but when my dialect differed from his, he would enquire minutely, and correct my language to accord with theirs. From him no murmur arose, no threat of vengeance escaped his lips, but only an expression of sorrow that he had listened to his tribe, and of lamentation that he knew no better, his tribe had deceived him. When urged to believe in, and pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, he asked, how was he to address him ; on being taught what we deemed suitable prayers, in-his own tongue, he repeated them; and subsequently, when asked, is he had prayed in the night, his reply was that, " he had asked Jesus to cast away all his evil deeds, and to receive his spirit when the Whites kill his body." Owing to some little confusion in the arrangement of the concern when we landed at the Green Hills, he appeared angry, and with a louring aspect, took from his cap bread and biscuit, and threw them, with much displeasure, to the dogs. Seeing him agitated, I informed him this was not the place of execution, nor the day on which he was to suffer, he then gave me a slip of paper from those with which I had furnished him, to know the days he had to live, and sound he had but three lest; he then resumed his usual appearance. 

On the morning of his execution at Dungog, aster reading and praying with him, he said, " when I am dead, shall I make good houses, and be like the Whites in the other world;" this led to reference to the " House not made with hands; Eternal in the Heavens" and to the fashioning of our mortal Bodies to " the Glorious Body of Christ;" the executioner then arrived, and we walked to the fatal drop through an escort of military; he kneeled and prayed, we ascended the gallows, he stood firmly, saying, " I am now cast away for death  he repeated the prayer, " Lord Jesus receive my spirit " the drop fell, and eternity must develop the triumphs of the Cross.

Six weeks were thus occupied before I could return home, making with the former execution, a period of three months out of the present year, employed in a useful, though unpleasant part of my Missionary duties. My first detention in Sydney afforded me a more favourable opportunity of hastening through the press " The Australian Grammar," than could have been had I remained at the Lake, and I have much pleasure in announcing its completion; copies of which have been forwarded to the Colonial Secretary. Owing to the arrangement, by His Excellency the Governor, that part of the expense of printing should be defrayed by Government, being made subsequent to the printing, precluded the acknowledgment with thanks in the work itself.

The following subjects have occupied, and still occupy my attention in the Aboriginal language and Mission, viz : —

1. An Australian Grammar. Printed.

2. The Gospel of Saint Luke .

3. A Selection of Prayers for Public Worship..........Under revisal.

4. A Spelling Book........ In manuscript,

5. Reading Lessons, Selected from the Sacred Scriptures .... In progress.

6. The Instruction of Two Native Youths, in Writing and Reading their own Tongue ........

During the present year the Measles have been very prevalent amongst the Aborigines, and have carried off many of the Natives, from whom Mrs. Threlkeld and our nine children caught the complaint, and were laid up at one time. Providentially, the disease has now subsided.

Several of the Blacks belonging to this District, headed by M'Gill, are travelling to Windsor, Parramatta, and Sydney, in order to teach other tribes a new Song and Dance, which have lately been brought from the regions far beyond Liverpool Plains, where my Son has ascertained that the Song exists, though the dialect is different to that used in these parts on. the Sea Coast, it is not discouraging to reflect that when " Knowledge shall increase amongst these tribes then, the same custom which promulgates the new Song, will convey throughout Australia " The glad tidings of " A Saviour, Christ the Lord."

Having thus stated the progress of, and circumstances connected with the Mission at Lake Macquarie, it only remains for me to mention that my intention in the ensuing year is, to endeavour to complete the elementary works for the Aborigines, and also to introduce their use, when printed, amongst them ; humbly depending on the powerful influence of that Holy Spirit, to cause these very dry bones in the wilderness to arise, and become an exceeding great army to the praise of Him who can excite " Kings to be nursing Fathers, and Queens to be nursing Mothers," to these miserable objects, for whom " The Messiah died."

Trusting that the progressive state of this Mission will not disappoint the expectation of His Excellency the Governor, of the Venerable the Archdeacon, during his protracted detention in Europe, or of  His Majesty's Government, in England,

I have the honor to remain, Sir,

Your most obedient and humble Servant,

(Signed) L.E. THRELKELD [22]  


The question of land ownership by Indigenous people was not dealt with by the colonisers until the mid-1830s. In 1835, John Batman signed two 'treaties' with Kulin people to 'purchase' 600,000 acres of land between what is now Melbourne and the Bellarine Peninsula. In response to these treaties and other arrangements between free settlers and Indigenous inhabitants, such as around Camden, the NSW Governor, Sir Richard Bourke issued a proclamation. Bourke's proclamation established the notion that the land belonged to no-one prior to the British crown taking possession.


To effectively over-ride the legitimacy of the 'Batman treaty' the British Colonial Office felt the need to issue another Proclamation. The Colonial Office proclamation stated that people found in possession of land without the authority of the government would be considered trespassers. This was despite and because many other people, including a report to the House of Commons in 1837, recognised that Aboriginal occupants had rights in land. Never-the-less, the law in New South Wales variously applied the principles expressed in Bourke's proclamation.

European discovery and the colonisation of Australia - Stories from Australia's Culture and Recreation Portal




The case of R v Murrell: English law gave equal protection to Aboriginal people as to Europeans

" ... That case involved an Aboriginal man ... who was accused of murdering another Aboriginal man ... The court ... ruled that it did not recognise Aboriginal law as legitimate and that the English law gave equal protection to Aboriginal people as to Europeans and therefore it was required to prosecute offences committed against Aboriginal people whether they were committed by other Aborigines or by Europeans."

[The case of R v Murrell, in, Strengthening Community Justice, Some issues in the recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law in New South Wales.( Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council) Page 5]  

Significantly, the formal act by Government, of making conciliation between Aborigines and whites illegal, was to find its full fruition as a Statute, in 1836, as the first New South Wales Vagrancy Act

The Vagrancy Act; "Every person not being a black native ..."

An Act for the Prevention of Vagrancy and for the punishment of Idle and Disorderly Rogues and Vagabonds and incorrigible Rogues in the Colony of New South Wales (6 Geo. IV. No.6) 25 August 1836 (repealed by 15 Vic. No. 4, 1851] .

" Whereas it is expedient to make provisions for the prevention of Vagrancy and for the punishment of idle and disorderly persons and rogues and vagabonds in the Colony ... and every person not being a black native or the child of any black native who being sound wandering in company with any of the black natives of this Colony shall not being thereto required by any Justice of the Peace give a good account to the satisfaction of such Justice that he or she hath a lawful means of support and that such lodging or wandering hath been for some temporary and lawful occasion only and hath not continued beyond such occasion ... and every person wandering abroad or placing himself or herself in any public place street highway court or passage to beg or gather alms or causing or procuring or encouraging any child or children to do so shall be deemed an idle and disorderly person within the true intent and meaning of this Act and it shall be lawful for any Justice of the Peace to commit such offender (being thereof convicted before him by his own view or by the concession of such offender or by the evidence on oath of one or more credible witness or witnesses) to His Majesty's nearest gaol or house of correction there to be kept to hard labour for any time not exceeding three calendar months .. "

[Full text of Act: The Public General Statutes of New South Wales from 1 Victoriae to 10 Victoriae, inclusive (1836-1846) (Sydney, Thomas Richards, Government Printer, 1861) Page 631]



Lieutenant-Col. K Snodgrass                              Acting Governor, 12/7/1837-23/2/1838


Detaining by force ...  black women of the Native Tribes

18th September, 1837

Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney.  

GAZETTE, Page 684

The Governor having been informed by the Reports of certain of the Commissioners of Crown Lands, that at the Stations beyond the limits of location, Overseers and other Persons in charge of Cattle and Sheep in those remote Districts, are not infrequently guilty of detaining by force, in their Huts, and as their companions abroad, black women of the Native Tribes resorting to their neighbourhood, an offence not only in itself of a most heinous and revolting character, but in its consequences leading to bloodshed and murder. His Excellency has been pleased to report the names of all Persons whom they shall find in any manner concerned in so abominable and unchristian a proceeding, in order that their Licenses may be immediately cancelled, and that they may be prosecuted under the Act, as illegal occupiers of Crown Lands, or otherwise, as the Law directs.

By His Excellency's Command  



Sale of Land

26th September, 1837

Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney.

At Eleven o'clock on Wednesday, the 8th day of November next, the Colonial Treasurer will put up to AUCTION, ... the undermentioned PORTION of LAND, on the conditions authorised by the Government, the applicant being a recently arrived emigrant. ... Eight hundred acres, more or less, parish unnamed, Boorowa River ... Price 5s. per acre.

By command of His Excellency the Governor


Outrages by aborigines

6th December, 1837 

Report by A. Paterson The Commissioner of Crown Lands in the Liverpool District. (see also 4 April 1839) re outrages by Aborigines on Namoi, Gwydir and Big rivers. Bell's Station, Manilla River "... On my route I heard of many outrages committed by the Natives on Stock at a number of the Stations, and also of their having murdered five men, and I made it my business to make every Inquiry to find out the cause of this increasing evil ... On the Namoi River, the stations ... are more or less subject to their depredations, and at Loder's ... the Blacks are so numerous and daring that the men have all quitted the station from fear ... The whole of this Country is of the richest description ... is it were better watered, it would be the finest grazing land in the world ... The black boy, who traced them, says there are three white men with them painted like the Blacks ... Alexr. Paterson." (Historical Records of Australia 22 July 1839 page 252)  


Go to Chapter 2


[12] Minute no. 12, New South Wales legislative Council, 24th September, 1829 HRA