Sacred Texts  Australia 

The Aborigines of Western Australia

Albert F. Calvert


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This short essay on the Aborigines of Western Australia is primarily useful as a historical document. Even at the time this was written there were few Aborigines remaining in this area, and so even scraps of information like this are important. The text is particularly revealing as to Victorian attitudes towards Aborigines. Every paragraph of this piece needs to be read with a careful eye for underlying racist assumptions.

That said, the author was well intentioned. Calvert, who lists literally dozens of academic affiliations on the title page, does criticize his contemporaries for their treatment of Aborigines as subhumans. Throughout the essay he attempts to demonstrate that the native Australians have a complete cultural inventory. He notes that many of the Aboriginal beliefs and practices which seem strange to Europeans are not that different than some listed in the Bible. He ends with a plea for protection of the Aborigines. It bears pointing out this paternalistic attitude ironically led to policies which devastated aboriginal culture.

There is some valid data here, however, particularly the linguistic samples and transcriptions of songs.

Production Note: The section headings were added to this text so that it could be broken down into manageable files. They are not present in the original.--JBH

Title Page
Early Accounts
Contemporary Accounts
Laws of Marriage
Land Ownership
Hunting and Gathering
Physical Strength
Religion and Mythology
Old Testament Parallels
Protection of Aborigines