Sacred Texts  Australia  Index  Previous  Next 

Contemporary Accounts

From the foregoing extracts, which I have selected from the original journals in the British Museum, it will be allowed that the natives of West Australia seem to possess an average degree of intelligence, and cannot be said to belong to the very lowest rank of human beings. In their natural state they cultivate only the qualifications of hunters, and while able to endure privations and fatigue, they are quite unfitted for continuous bodily

p. 16

labour like the whites. In this connection it is laid down by Bishop Salvado, whose authority is unimpeachable, that to condemn a native to hard labour is equivalent to condemning him to death; and he found it necessary to divide the day's employment, giving three hours to mental, and three hours to bodily labour, the rest of the time being devoted to such relaxation as gymnastics, games, music and dancing.

The native diseases do not seem to be amenable to the ordinary course of medical treatment, and native remedies are frequently more efficacious. They pine at times after their wild bush life, and this "home sickness" is best allayed by allowing them an occasional hunting expedition.

Father Carrido, also an excellent authority on everything appertaining to the natives, assures us that they make good stockmen, teamsters and shepherds, and considers that an agricultural life is the easiest and most natural path towards civilization.

Regarding the native girls, Mrs. Camfield, superintendent of the school at Annesfield, Albany, reports that they have a great fondness for music. One young woman, she mentions, who was sent to Sydney, played the harmonium in St. Phillip's Church, and gained her living by teaching. Washing, cooking, and sewing are also very readily acquired by the young women under Mrs. Camfield's care, and many of her charges have left her to marry respectable civilized natives and become excellent housewives.

In the north of the colony, natives largely supply

p. 17

labour on the settlements and in the Pearl Fisheries, and are thus gradually becoming civilized.

It is, therefore permissible to hope that, in the case of our poor aboriginal, he will not, as all other seem doomed to do--die out. The conviction that he will is, very strong among the whites, and is, probably, mainly based upon the sad experience of many, who are witnesses to the frightful havoc wrought among the black, by that terrible gift of civilization--alcoholic drink.

It is often erroneously believed that man in a savage state is endowed with an absolute individual freedom of action, whereas in reality he is subject to a complete system of laws, which not only enslave thought, but allow no scope for intellectual or moral development. These traditional regulations and superstitions keep the Western Australian natives in a condition of barbarism, and cause them to violate many of the most sacred usages of life. For example the female sex are condemned to a degradation which is hopeless, simply because, they are defenceless; and this not the result of momentary caprice, but enforced by unwritten traditional laws, are as binding as those of the Bible or the Koran.

The same, or similar traditions, have on the other hand, taught the children of the bush how to provide for their natural wants, and well-armed intelligent white men will die of hunger, in the desert, where the native will find a sufficiency of food.

Next: Laws of Marriage