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Original Documents on Aborigines and Law, 1797-1840

Robinson speech 1838, VDL

Australian Aborigines Protection Society

Portion of the Report

Public Meeting Held Oct 19th, 1838

In the Hall of the Mechanics' School of Arts [1]

Original Document

Speech of G. A. Robinson Esq.

Commandmant of Flinders' Island, and Chief Protector of Aborigines in the Colony


[3] The adjourned public meeting of this Society was held on Friday, October 19th, 1838, in the Hall of the Mechanics School of Arts.   The attendance, particularly of ladies, was, if possible, more numerous and respectable than at the former meeting. The important statements of MR. ROBINSON were listened to with the deepest interest, and appeared to produce a profound impression.   The speeches of the Rev. Messrs. Saunders and Hunt also produced a powerful effect.

ALEXANDER MCLEAY, Esq., took the chair at seven o'clock, and immediately called upon G. A. ROBINSON, Esq., Commandant of Flinder's Island, and Chief Protector of Aborigines in this colony.

MR. ROBINSON (who was received with loud applause) moved the fourth resolution: -

"That it is not less our interest, than our duty, to raise the "Moral and Civil Condition of the Aborigines of this colony, "by which alone mutual aggressions, which led to the commission of the most revolting and atrocious crimes, can be restrained."

He observed that during the last ten years of his life he had been more associated with savage than civilised life, he must, therefore, bespeak the indulgence of the meeting while he ventured to address them.   It had been suggested to him that he should give an outline of his proceedings in connexion with the removal of the Aborigines of Van Diemen's Land, and their location on Flinder's Island.   It has been stated on the previous evening (by Dr. Lang) that the Van Diemen's Land [4] had formerly been populated with four nations, who each held a particular portion of the island.   This opinion must have originated in the circumstances of his having stated that he had necessarily learnt four languages in order to make himself understood to the natives generally.   But, as regarded nations, he could truly say that that Island of Van Diemen was divided and sub-divided by the natives into districts, and contained many nations. Their divisions he intended at some future period to point out, as he intended to execute a map of the island on Aboriginal principles, with the Aborigines names for mountains, rivers, and localities.   Maria Island, and the whole of Tasman's Peninsula, had also been inhabited, but the different tribes spoke quite a different language; there was not the slightest analogy between the languages.   He should first refer to some official documents which would illustrate the dreadful state of the colony prior to his going out on his first mission, owing to the savage character of the Aborigines; he should next narrate his proceedings on the different missions he undertook for their peaceable removal to Flinder's Island; and he should then be able to describe the results of those measures which had been adopted for their civil and religious improvement.   He might, however, first advert to the character of the natives in their pristine state.   It had been stated by all the voyages who had visited the island prior to its colonization, that the natives were perfectly harmless and inoffensive.   It became, therefore, important to trace out the causes which led to the dreadful animosity which prevailed between the blacks and the whites; and on this there could be but one opinion - the outrages committed by the blacks were solely occasioned by the dreadful cruelties practiced upon them by the depraved portion of the white community.   He had numerous documents in his possession which would illustrate and prove this statement, but he preferred taking as his textbook the volume of official documents which he held in his hand, published by order of the House of Commons.   The Report of the Van Diemen's Land Aborigines Committee contains the following passage: - " It is undeniable that in many former instances cruelties have been perpetrated repugnant to humanity, and disgraceful to the British character, whilst few attempts can be traced on the part of the colonists to conciliate the natives, or to make them sensible that peace and forbearance are the objects desired.   The impressions remaining from early injuries are kept up by the occasional outrages of miscreants, whose scene   [5] of crime is so remote as to render detection difficult; and who sometimes wantonly fire at and kill the men, and at others pursue the women, for the purpose of compelling them to abandon their children."   Mr. Robinson then proceeded to refer to many acts of gross cruelty committed by white persons on the Aborigines.   In the first encounter between the settlers and the Aborigines, soon after the formation of the colony, between forty and fifty natives were killed by the military.   Several witnesses stated to the committee that the natives gave no provocation for this attack, and that this outrage was the origin of all that happened afterwards.   On a later occasion, a party of military and constables got a number of natives between two perpendicular rocks, on a sort of shelf, and killed seventy of them, dragging the women and children from their crevices of the rocks and dashing out their brains.   The Richmond police, in 1827, killed fourteen of the natives, who had got upon a hill, and threw stones upon them.   The police expended all their ammunition, and then charged with the bayonet.   The stockmen used to shoot and hunt the natives.   One of them boasted that he had thrown a woman upon the fire and burned her to death.   Another, named Carrot, having killed a native in his attempt to carry off his wife, cut off the dead man's head, and obliged the woman to go with him, carrying it suspended round her neck.   Another, named Ibbens, had killed half the eastern tribe, by creeping amongst them, and firing amongst them with his double barrelled gun.   It was stated to the committee that the worst characters were the best to send after them.   Lemon and Brown, the bushrangers, committed every species of cruelty upon the natives; they "used to stick them, and fire at them as marks while alive."   A respectable settler, examined by the Committee, gave it as his opinion that the natives should be captured or exterminated ; that Sydney natives, or blood -hounds, would contribute to their capture - had heard it proposed that decoy huts, containing flour and sugar, strongly impregnated with poison, should be used.   The sealers in Bass's Straits stole the native women from the main - some of them had three or four native women; they frequently shot the men, and carried their wives away.   A man, named Harrington, procured ten or fifteen women, placed them on different islands, and left them to procure kangaroo skins for him; and if, on his return, they had not procured enough, you tortured them by tying them up to trees for twenty-four to thirty-six hours together, flogging them at intervals.   He and others, not [6] unfrequently, killed the women in cold blood if they were stubborn.   He (Mr. Robinson) had had an opportunity of witnessing the atrocious conduct of the sealers in Bass's Straits within a recent period, having been employed by the Colonial Government of Van Diemen's Land to effect the liberation of several women kept by the sealers in a state of abject slavery.   He visited, on that occasion, Port Phillip, from whence some of their women had been stolen, and he considered it very desirable that some natives of that place should have accompanied him in his expedition, because it would have tended to suppress a system of lawless aggression upon the New Holland Aborigines, than which no system of slavery can possibly be worse.   In addition to this, it would have been desirable that some of these Aborigines had visited the settlement at Flinder's Island, to have witnessed the comfort, the security, and enjoyment under which the Van Diemen's Land natives were now placed.   This example might have led to similar results as regarded themselves.   He repudiated the notion that the same effects might be produced by the example given them at Port Phillip.   No such advantage had resulted from the promiscuous intercourse of the Aborigines with the European inhabitants, either in Van Diemen's Land, or New South Wales .   It was an indubitable fact that, at Port Phillip, Portland Bay, and other recently formed settlements along the south coast of New Holland, the Aborigines had been most harshly treated, and experienced a series of persecutions from the sealers, whalers, barkers, stockmen, and others, and from men whom a different line of conduct might have been expected.   Their wives and children had been forcibly taken from them, and sent into captivity in distant isles.   A few weeks previous to his visit to Port Phillip, at the beginning of 1837, some shepherds had barbarously murdered a male Aborigine on a sheep station on the Barrabool Hills, binding him to a tree, shooting him through the back, and afterwards through the head.   This circumstance, with other wanton outrages previously committed, and many others whispered as having happened, had engendered a spirit of dire animosity in the minds of the Aborigines.   Their retaliation for these merciless cruelties too often fell upon innocent parties.   This was the case with that much respected gentleman, Mr. Franks, who with his shepherd, had been murdered by the Port Phillip Aborigines; and he might add, Mr. Gellibrand and Mr. Hesse, who had experienced a similar fate.   Intemperance was making rapid strides among these people, and he [7] was much distressed to find many of the Aboriginal females, some of whom were mere girls, suffering from a loathsome disease, contracted from the depraved whites.   Mr. Robinson then recurred to the state of Van Diemen's Land, prior to his going out on his first mission to conciliate the native tribes.   The settlers and the natives were in a state of incessant hostility.   Military parties were sent out against the Aborigines in the course of the year 1828, who drove back the natives for a time; but, on the 31st of October, in that year, the Executive Council declared in their minutes,- "that the outrages of the Aboriginal natives amount to a complete declaration of hostilities against the settlers generally; the civil powers, even when aided by the military, are insufficient to suppress them."   Martial law was again proclaimed in October, 1830, against the natives; and the Governor, Sir G. Arthur, at length determined to call upon the inhabitants to take up arms, and joined the troops in forming a military cordon, by means of which he proposed to drive the Aborigines into Tasman's Peninsula.[Mr. Robinson here exhibited and explained a field plan, illustrative of the military movements.] The inhabitants responded to the call, and an armed force of between 2000 and 3000 men were in the field from the 4th October to the 26th of November, but the attempt entirely failed.   "Previous to this," said Mr. Robinson, "I had formed a plan to conciliate and subdue them, not by the force of arms, but by the force of reason.   I had long considered the subject, which was a fertile topic of speculation amongst the Colonists, and I had come to the conclusion that the subjugation by force of arms was impracticable, on account of the peculiar formation of the country, and the insidious character of the Aborigines.   I considered the natives of Van Diemen's Land rational creatures - that they were God's creatures-called into existence by the same omnipotent power that gave me being, and created for the same wise purposes-and that, although they might, in their savage notions, oppose violent measures for their subjugation, yet, if I could but get them to listen to reason, and persuade them that the Europeans wished only to better their condition, they might become civilised, and rendered useful members of society, instead of the blood thirsty ferocious beings they were represented to be.   This was the principle upon which I formed my plans.   I considered them as rational and accountable creatures, and I treated them as such.   This was the sole secret of my success, if there was any secret in it, the secret is now out."   (Loud applause.) He [8] weighed the plan in his own mind repeatedly.   There were many powerful reasons against his entering on such an enterprise; he had a wife and seven children dependent on him; but his mind was under an impression which he could not resist.   He reasoned the matter over with Mrs Robinson, and with difficulty obtained her consent.   He then proposed a plan to the local government to set out on an experimental visit to the natives of Port Davey, and through them to make himself known to those in the interior, which was acceded to by Governor Arthur, notwithstanding the public voice was raised against the enterprise, which was denounced as that of a mad enthusiast.   "But, Sir," said Mr. Robinson, "I would not give a fig for the man who enters upon any enterprise of moment, unless he possesses some enthusiasm."   (Loud applause.)   He regretted that public opinion operated against his equipment, but it did so; he took leave of his friends, never expecting to see them again.   It was necessary that he should take supplies with him, but all the assistance he could get for that purpose was a long boat risen upon one or two streaks, and rigged, to go round the south-west Cape of the island.   The boat had stranded, and most of his suppliers were lost.   He had been furnished with a smaller boat, which he might have sent back, but for the first time he was afraid of the enterprise.   He was not, however, afraid of the danger, nor of the blacks; but he was afraid to return for more supplies for fear that the Government should refuse to let him proceed; accordingly he pursued his journey overland to Port Davey, fell in with a tribe of blacks, and made an appointment to meet them at a particular mount on the following day.   He repaired to the appointed spot, taking with him two out of the five of the natives of Brune Island who accompanied him.   The tribe he fell in with were very suspicious, having been fired at by the Europeans; and although he carried no arms-nothing, in fact, but a knapsack, containing bread - and endeavoured to explain to them his pacific intentions, they left him on these occasions without any sign of desiring to repose trust in him.   He then determined to bring them up to an understanding or relinquish his design, as he found that, if he wasted so much time unsuccessfully, his tour of the island, instead of occupying twelve months (the time allotted), would last seven years.   Accordingly he assembled them together, and told the chief that he did not like their proceedings, and should leave them; he requested that they would furnish him with guides across the country, and he set off at twelve [9] o'clock at night, and was guided by some of the tribe to a distance from their camp, where he bivouacked. On the following morning the whole tribe joined him, and he thus led them on, and conciliated them, until they were joined by his own people at Macquarie Harbour .   Before the military operations to which he had alluded commenced, he had made the demicircuit of the island; and when he heard of these intended operations he immediately rode across the country and conferred with Colonel Arthur, who expected he was about to go to his home and give up the project; that he was determined to complete his experiment.   Colonel Arthur said that Captain Harvey, of theNimrod, had related that he had seen 700 natives assembled at Cape Portland; he (Mr. Robinson) replied, that the Governor might rest assured that there were not 700 in the whole island.   Colonel Arthur gave him the assistance he required, and he proceeded with his plan; and here, said the Speaker, (laying his hand upon a map of Van Diemen's Land which was spread out before him,) I wish it to be known that all this extensive tract of valuable land, called the new country, was discovered by me.   In 1830 he succeeded in establishing thirty-four of the natives on Swan Island, and he then proceeded to explore the islands, crossing Banks' Strait in a five-oared whale boat, and succeeded in emancipating several native women who were kept by the sealers, and conveyed them also to Swan Island .   The Government then furnished an armed cutter and boats for a second trip amongst the islands, whither he accordingly went for the purpose of further exploring the islands, and liberating any women who might still be held in captivity there by the sealers.   After this he returned to the main for the purpose of resuming his mission, and their Government offered high rewards to any other respectable inhabitants who would join in the undertaking.   No person, however, offered to go on the service, and the duty of conciliating and removing the remaining tribes devolved again solely on him. He removed the Stoney Creek tribe, and then proceeded in quest of a Big River and Oyster Bay tribes, two of the most savage tribes in the island; and in six weeks after his communication with Colonel Arthur he came up with them, and succeeded also and removing them to Hobart Town, whence they were removed to Gun Carriage Island.   In effecting these removals he made use of no compulsion; it was done with their own free consent; in fact, it was not possible to subjugate them by force.   In his evidence before the Council, he went so far as to say, that the whole [10] British Army could not have effected it; at any rate the military force of the colony could not.   The great military operations to which he had before alluded cost the Government £30,000and the entire cost to the Colony was upwards of £70,000, and the result was, the capture of ONE black. (To elucidate these military operations, and the difficulties that presented themselves to his own undertaking, Mr. Robinson read extracts from Col. Arthur's dispatches on the subject.) Col. Arthur had stated in one of his dispatches that no undertaking could be more arduous under any circumstances, or in any country, than to capture savages; and the difficulty was greatly augmented in that colony, the country being, perhaps, the most rugged on the face of the earth. It had a larger extent, in proportion to its area, of wild, unproductive, impervious, rugged, mountains and dense forests, than any other country with which he was acquainted. The meeting could have but a faint idea of the toils and privations he had endured; but some persons present might know that the climate was intensely cold and humid, the rain is falling generally six or eight months in the year, and when he assured them that he had been for days without a dry shred to his back, subsisting on fern roots, and the pith of the shrub, the meeting might have some idea that his undertaking was none of the easiest.   Had he been intent on the survey of the country only his condition would not have been so bad, as he could not have halted at leisure, and he would have had the company of his countrymen, and being provided with dogs and fire-arms to contribute to his subsistence; but in his undertaking he was forced to submit to the greatest privations if he had any hope of succeeding.   Dogs would have frequently prevented him communicating with the natives, and fire-arms would have prevented their trusting him when he did obtain interviews with them.   In all his difficulties his sole dependence was on the Omnipotent Being, and he might truly say that he was led in paths which he knew not, and preserved in dangers by His power alone.   Frequently   had he seen the sun go down without any expectation of beholding it rise again in the morning; and he had been surrounded by savage blacks with their spears presented at him, and had been spared when all hope had fled.   He then had his hand on a place in the chart of the colony where he had a narrow escape.   One evening he discovered some fires of the natives at a great distance, and, accompanied by some of the natives of his party, he set out and travelled during the night[11] through swamps, up to his middle in water, and arrived near to where tribe was encamped.   In the morning he went down to the camp, and the natives immediately began collecting their spears, and evinced hostile intentions, which, probably, would have terminated fatally but for his decision ; the blacks belonging to his escort, who saw that the drive was unfriendly, immediately possessed themselves of some of the spears, and a fight seemed inevitable.   He stepped forward between them, took the spears from his own men, returned them to their owners, sent his escort to a distance, and stood in the middle of the tribe unarmed and ready to meet death; the result was, that they became pacified, and, after a short intercourse with them, put themselves under his protection and followed him quietly.   In the subjugation of the Oyster Bay and Big River tribes the dangers were far greater; they were known to be a furious and blood-thirsty people, and in this matter or so it seemed that Providence interposed between him and the savages.   On approaching the place where they were encamped, they rushed down the hill, their spears poised, and shouting the war cry; Manalargana, the chieftain, fled; the women began to cry, and the yells of the hostile tribes became dreadful.   He knew it was little use to run, had he been so disposed, as the blacks would have soon caught him; so he confronted them and awaited their arrival, looking calmly on.   A parley ensued, and they very shortly placed themselves under his direction.   Mr. Robinson begs to explain that they had heard of him, that he was the blacks' friend, from other tribes, and so were prepared in a manner to treat him kindly.   He accompanied them to their camp and spent the evening with them, making himself understood as well as he could, and acquainting them with his intentions - and a more pleasant evening he never remembered to have spent in his life, from the consideration that these savage tribes had also yielded to his persuasions.   They show him their scars, and there was scarcely one among them - man, woman, or child, but had been wounded by the whites.   The next day the chief gave up to him all their spears, and about sixteen stand of fire-arms taken from the whites; and then the whole tribe accompanied him to Bothwell, the nearest settlement, carrying the fire-arms with them.   On entering the place the strangers were not at all daunted; they bivouacked opposite the military barracks.   He (Mr. Robinson) was asked if he wanted assistance to keep the natives? he said, no.   He himself went to an inn, and slept without any fear that they would leave him; then they [12] remained, perfectly quiet and peaceable, until they finally removed with him to Hobart Town, a march of eight days.   After he had succeeded with these tribes he thought that his work was done, and told Colonel Arthur that the natives he had brought in, few as they were, had done all the mischief which had caused such consternation in Van Diemen's Land ; Colonel Arthur could scarcely credit it, and it was generally doubted.   The only reply he could make was that, time which show, and time had shown.   After he had effected the removal of these tribes he had started to the Arthur River where it was reported that a tribe was out, and here he had another miraculous escape from being killed.   It appeared that the blacks had meditated his destruction, and laid their plans for preventing his escape by placing sentinels all around him.   He was with them when he observed an unusual excitement amongst them; they were agitated, and employed sharpening their spears and other instruments of war.   He addressed them, stating that he could not, nor did he wish to compel them to go with him, against their wills, and if they did not like to accompany him, they might remain where they were.   They began to encircle and close in on him, when for the first time since he had undertaken the mission, he fled from them.   He overtook a black woman, at a wide and rapid river, which he must cross to escape from his pursuers, and as he could not swim, he hardly knew what to do.   The woman advised him to hide himself in the bushes, but he knew too well the keenness with which the blacks tracked the smallest object to trust to that; and as his only hope, he launched a log of wood, on which he leaned, and a kind hearted woman jumped into the water and swam across, drawing the log with her.   He could truly say, that in all his troubles of poor black natives had consoled, fed him, and contributed in all they could to his comfort.   After being out hunting for a long time, they would perhaps return with a single kangaroo; they would bring it and lay it before him.   At other times they would go and fish among the rocks.   What they caught they would bring to him, and would not taste a bit until they were told so to do by him.   They carried his supplies, sympathised with him in his troubles, and cheered him in his solitude.   And here he begged to observe that the country through which he travelled, bore no resemblance to the fine open country of New Holland.   Great part of the country was a dense forest, the trees in some places being sixty feet in circumference and 250 feet high, interwoven [13] with an almost impenetrable brush at the bottom; and for a long time, in traversing these wilds, he was dependent for sustenance solely on the blacks who accompanied him, who caught badges, porcupines, and he not unfrequently had to live upon fern roots, pith of the fern tree, and on grubs.   He also begged to correct an erroneous conception which had been formed with regard to the Sydney blacks, who were forwarded to Van Diemen's Land to assist in the capture of the Van Diemen's Land natives.   He had never received any assistance from them, and had from the first set his face against their being employed, because they knew nothing of the language or habits of the Van Diemen's Land blacks, and would consequently have been a burden, rather than any assistance in the expedition.   He would now proceed to the result of his undertaking -   previous to which, however, Mr. Parker, one of the Assistant Protectors, would read some extracts from the records of the establishment on Flinders' Island, illustrative of the state and condition of the natives on the island previously to his (Mr. Robinson's) taking charge of it.   - (It appeared from the testimony of the Storekeeper, the Medical Attendant, and the Catechist, that before Mr. Robinson went among them they were in as wild a state as when in their own country, much angry feeling existed between them, and it was feared that the hostile tribes would come to blows.   No attempt had been made to civilise them. and their wretched habits and ill course of living had hurried many of them to the grave.   The place exhibited more the appearance of a menagerie, than the habitation of human beings.   The arrival of Mr. Robinson, however, among them had caused a new face of things to spriug up.   The attestations of these officers were highly flattering to Mr. Robinson's management.) -   Mr. Robinson then resumed - He had not brought these attestations before the meeting with any intention of the fixing blame to his predecessors, but simply to show that the blacks were not the degraded, abject beings they were represented to be, but capable of moral attainment; and he drew a deduction, by analogy, that the New South Wales blacks, who had been equally misrepresented, were equally susceptible of higher moral culture.   The Aborigines of Van Diemen's Land had been represented as the lowest in the scale of humanity, differing little from the brutes; but it had devolved upon him to discover and lead them forward in the scale of civilisation, and he had met with flattering success.   He would, as the time was short, briefly touch on the measures [14] he had taken to bring them to their present state of moral and physical improvement at Flinder's Island, where the remnant of the whole black population was now located.   Their present condition could best be described by reading some extracts from his replications to certain queries which had been addressed to him by the Government.   The minds of the Aborigines were beginning to expand; they had more and large views of their present situation, and were grateful for the favours conferred upon them.   In their intercourse with each other they were affable and courteous; the tribes formerly most opposed to each other were now the most friendly.   If excited to anger, a look was sufficient to allay their feelings.   They were placed under no kind of restraint, but enjoyed every degree of personal freedom, consistent with a due regard to their health, and the formation of religious and civilised habits.   They were instructed in the Christian religion; two services were held on the Sabbath, - a catechetical examination for the natives on Tuesday Evenings, and on Saturday evenings a religious exercise conducted by the natives themselves. These services were conducted in the English language which the natives well understood; their attendance was perfectly voluntarily - all, however, attended, and there conduct would be a pattern to many congregations of civilised Europeans.   In sacred melody they had displayed great proficiency; and Mr. Robinson read the commencing lines of several hymns which they were accustomed to sing to regular tunes, the men and women taking their respective parts.   He had established three schools on the settlement -- a day school for boys, a day school for girls, and women, an evening school, and a Sunday school, which was generally well attended; the civil officers, their wives, and his own family, acted as teachers, and they found the natives willing and anxious to receive instruction - by which they improved rapidly. (Mr. Robinson read some extracts from the periodical examinations of the schools.   From these extracts it appeared that some of the native youths were able to answer questions in the leading events of Scripture history - Christian doctrine and duty - arithmetic - the principal facts of geography, and also on several points of general information.   Some very fair specimens of their hand writing were also exhibited: one in particular attracted our notice - an original address from the writer (a native youth, fifteen years of age, who was employed by Mr. Robinson in his office) to his countrymen; it was expressed in simple and tolerably correct language, and breathed a warm spirit of [15] gratitude to Mr. Robinson.   In the schools they had been taught various handiwork, such as knitting in worsted, sewing, &c., and they proved to be apt and industrious scholars.   The work produced to the meeting was the sort of work they were chiefly employed in; and in making shirts, trousers, and other articles of comfort, which they coveted and enjoyed highly. (A quantity of caps, braces, and stockings, of good workmanship, was presented to the meeting as the work of the natives of Flinders' Island; also, a very neat looking braided tunic made by one of the Aboriginal youths, who, it was stated, had been instructed in tailoring, and was able to do an equal quantity of work with an ordinary workman.) They had neat stone cottages, with gardens in which they raised their own vegetables, with cooking utensils, and other useful articles, and they conformed in every respect to European habits, and were particularly careful in copying every domestic arrangement which they observed with the Europeans.   He had established an Aboriginal Fund, which was raised from the proceeds of work done by them, and the sale of certain commodities prepared by them, such salted mutton, birds, birds skins, &c., which were sold at Launceston.   He had also formed an Aboriginal police to preserve order amongst themselves, and to decide all disagreements which might arise amongst them.   He had appointed three of the Chief constables, who, with himself, formed a court, before which all their differences were brought, and to the decisions of which they all acceded.   Of the efficiency of this police he had had frequent experience, in the successful pursuit and capture of runaway convict servants.   He had also established a circulating medium amongst them, which had been attended with the happiest effects, as it gave them knowledge of the right of property; and lastly, and consequent of the latter, he had established a market, to which they brought their produce, and disposed of it to each other, and to the officers of the settlement.   They thus acquired the habits of civilised life, and felt an interest in the acquisition of property, which rendered them industrious and cleanly.   Independent of the other employments, the men had, in three years, cleared the forest, and made a good road, nine miles in length, into the interior of the island, which was last thrown open to enterprise. The women also, besides the usual avocations, had collected many tons of grass for the use of the settlement.   For all their labour they received a pecuniary reward.   The only drawback on the establishment was the great mortality amongst them, but [16]those who didn't survive were now happy, contented, and useful members of society.   He regretted that time did not permit him to go further into detail as he had intended, and from which he had ample materials, but he could no longer trespass on their attention.   In conclusion he must remark, that their duty to the Aborigines of this country was to be found in the Bible contained in every page, and written in every line.

[Mr. Robinson's address which occupied nearly three hours, was listened to with the deepest interest, and at its close, he sat down amid the heartfelt and universal plaudits of the meeting.]


[1] This pamphlet states that it is reprinted from the Colonist, Oct 31st, 1838 by Noyes & Son, Bladud Library, Bath England, 1865. Held in rare books collection Macquarie university library: Ref: DU 120.A8726 1865. References in square brackets are to the pages of the original pamphlet. See also document 32a in the Miscellaneous Correspondence documents.

We chose to reproduce this document on this site because of its similarity to the reports of Threlkeld for NSW.

For other documents concerning the indigenous people of Van Diemen's Land, see here.

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