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Original Documents on Aborigines and Law, 1797-1840

Document 107

Original Document 107

Application of the Committee of the Aboriginal protection Society for the admission of native evidence

[797] Amongst various points which have engaged the attention of the Aborigines Protection Society as necessary to ensure the safety and elevation of the uncivilized natives of those parts of the Globe on which British Colonies or settlements are formed, the subject of their admission to give evidence in our Courts of Law has repeatedly excited particular interest.

      It is evident that the rejection of the evidence of these natives renders them virtually outlaws in their Native Land, which they have never alienated or forfeited.   It seems to me a moral impossibility that their existence can be maintained when [798] in the state of weakness and degradation which their want of civilization necessarily implies, they have to cope with some of the most cruel and atrocious of our species, who carry on their system of profession with almost perfect impunity so long as the evidence of Native witnesses is excluded from our Courts.

      The attention of the Committee of the Aborigines Protection Society has been again called to this subject by a letter from Barton Flack[?] by one of their corresponding Members at Adelaide, a settlement which stands pre-eminent amongst our Colonies for the better feeling which [799] it has fostered towards the native population. That letter contains the particulars of a case in which the practical difficulty has been exhibited, accompanied with the expression of urgent desire that the remedy might be applied by the admission of native evidence.

     For the purpose of obtaining the removal of this very serious inability from the native population of our Australian Colonies and of thereby securing at least one step towards their elevation, the Aborigines Protection Society have had a Bill prepared which they hoped would be passed with the concurrence and support of Her Majesty's Government. [800]

      Intimation, however, having reached the Committee of the Society that the course which it was prepared to take did not meet with the Approbation of the Colonial Office, it has determined to suspend the further prosecution of the Bill and again address the Colonial Office, in the hope that the Appeal which they now offer, limited as it is now to the subject of evidence and confined to the Aborigines of Australia or to the Australias and the Islands of the Pacific, will not be made in vain.   The Committee cannot but anticipate that the effectual carrying out of measures calculated to secure the [801] object which the Bill in question was destined to obtain will prove so real a boon to the native population and so important to the class class of British Emigrants, so decided a check to evil-doers, and so satisfactory to the friends of humanity in this Country, that it may be speedily followed up by similar measures applicable to all the Courts in our Colonies and Dependencies.

 

Blomfield Street,

30 July 1839

[802] Application of

Committee of the

Aborigines Protection

Socty for the

admission of Native

evidence

1839

August

No. 10

Published by the Centre for Comparative Law History and Governance of Macquarie University, and State Records NSW