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Original Documents on Aborigines and Law, 1797-1840

Document 63

Original Document 63

Mr Orton to the Governor on the mission to the natives at Port Phillip.

                                                                                              [350]  Mr. T. [?]

                                                                                                            George Street Sydney

                                                                                                                        3 May 1838 [1]


            By permission I take the liberty to call Your Excellency's attention to the subject of the Christian missions of the aboriginal natives in the neighbourhood of Port Philip to be conducted under the auspices of the Wesleyan Missionary Society.

            From the period of the commissionment of the Society's operations in this Colony, now upward of twenty years, the Committee and friends of the this institution have contemplated with anxious desire the establishment of a Mission with specific experience with the aborigines.

            Many years ago such a mission was commissioned; but from various circumstances - particularly the want of adequate funds to conduct the Mission on a scale likely to be efficient, with deep regret, the Committee was compelled to suspend their operations.

            The Society still keeping in view the desirable object, upon my taking charge of the Missions in their part of the world I was specially instructed to obtain the possible information with reference to the Mission in question. 

[351]           From the period of my arrival in the colonies (in the year 1831) this matter has had my serious consideration, and the best place, and means for accomplishing the object have been the subjects of constant enquiry.   Eventually my attention was directed to the Southern coast of the Territory as a desirable situation; which I was ordered to visit in order to prepare myself of the most correct information and to the eligibility of the place, and other circumstances bearing upon the contemplated Mission.   The information desired led me to report favourably to the Committee in London - Also to address a letter to his Excellency Sir Richard Bourke on the subject, dated 15 th August 1836; to which I had the honour and happiness to receive a favourable reply, 10 December 1836. To each of the above communications I beg permission to refer Your Excellency.   In the letter I had the honour to receive will be found the following encouraging remarks "No difficulty will be found in obtaining from this Government land for the purpose of a Mission in a suitable situation to be held as long as the proposed, object requires its occupation; and application will be made to the Legislature to appropriate an annual sum in said of the Wesleyan Friends and equal at least in amount to that expended by the Society upon the Mission.   The continuance of such aid would no doubt depend upon the favourable opinion entertained of the system and operations of the Society."

            "When your plans are more mature the Government will be happy to hear from you again on the subject."

            The Committee of the Wesleyan Missionary Society having favourably reviewed my representations[352] have actually sent out his Missionaries to be employed on behalf of the aboriginal natives in the vicinity of Port Philip with instructions to myself to take all needful steps to establish the Mission without delay.   I am therefore placed in a position which justifies my addressing Your Excellency on behalf of this undertaking, in accordance with the expression of the letter which I had the honour to receive from His Excellency Sir Richard Bourke previously referred to.

            Viewing the importance of the undertaking, before commencing operations, I deemed it expedient to apply to the Government, for assistance and have also judged it desirable to proceed from Hobart Town to their place, that I might have the honour of a personal interview with Your Excellency on the subject and facilitate the object I have in view by opportunities of explicit and convenient communication.

            As much that Her Majestys Government and Your Excellency as the representative thereof in conjunction with The Gentlemen of the Legislative Council are disposed by all means to promote an object having the strongest claims - of Benevolence - Justice - and policy: as the agent of the Weslyan Missionary Society.   I do most earnestly and respectfully solicit that Your Excellency will be pleased to afford assistance in prosecuting a design so unquestionably desirable.

            With submission I take the liberty to suggest that the Government should allow to the Society as most of the expense incurred in support of the Mission, the remainder I am prepared to guarantee from the Society's funds also the sanction of the reservation of the land is an eligible situation and of sufficient extent for the purpose of the Mission to be held by the Wesleyan Missionary Society in trust for the use and benefit of the Aboriginal Natives, on such conditions, with regard to the prosecution of the object contemplated and Your Excellency may judge most proper. [353] The calculated amount of expenditure for the Mission is about 600 pounds per annum including the support of Two Missionaries - expenses connected with conducting schools - partial maintenance of natives - incidental charges.

            The southern coast near to Port Philip has occupied attention as the most eligible situation, but the exact spot cannot be determined until more correct information be obtained by personal inspection.   In the meantime it will be indispensably necessary that the Missionaries obtain authority from the Government to locate.   Also such protection as can be afforded, with reference to promoting their object, as it would not be desirable to proceed on such a mission to be subject to the inconveniences which might arise from the want of such authority and protection.

            It would be impracticable to submit a class for conducting a mission so peculiar in its character - the specific course of operation must be governed by a development of circumstance.

            It is judged desirable at first to form a homestead in the best situation as a rendezvous for the mission - particularly for such natives as might be induced to settle or sojourn in the immediate vicinity - that at least one of the missionaries, should always be at the Establishment for the purpose of instructing the natives particularly the children - and that one should sinuate[?] with the natives; which would afford favourable opportunities for obtaining information as to their languages, habits and manners; for imparting instructions for gaining their confidence and inducing [354] them to settle near the Mission Station.   It would be the object of the Missionaries to encourage habits of industry by inducing them to cultivate portions of the land granted for the general use of the aborigines connected with the Mission .

            There is one point which though it only bears collectively upon the results of Christian Missions in the employment of other means on behalf of the civilization of the natives; not withstanding being viewed as a matter worthy of consideration I take the liberty of referring to it, and suggesting that in the disposal of land - it may be desirable to make reservations for the possible and hoped for establishment of native villages and agricultural pursuits.

            I shall be happy in having the opportunity to afford any further information in my power regarding the mission on behalf of which I have the honour to address Your Excellency.

            Should the multifarious and important engagements which necessarily impose upon Your Excellency allow your early attention to the subject of the letter it would greatly oblige.

                                                            Have the honour to be


                                                                        Your Excellencys

                                                                                    very humble and

                                                                                                most Obedient Servent

                                                                                                Signed - Jos Orton


[355] 3rd May 1838

Rev Mr Orton


the Governor


the mission to

the natives at

Port Phillip


No. 63


[1] We would like to thank volunteer Steve Salter for his meticulous transcription and presentation of the above document.

[2]  Marginal note at bottom of page: Sir George Gipps Governor in Chief &c. &c. &c.

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