A. L. (Arthur Lincoln) Haydon.

The trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time online

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Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 23 of 32)
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in his great swimming vessel, and landed with his large
animals and his little animals. He came with his " boom-
booms " (double-barrelled guns) and his tents, and the great
white stranger took away the long-inherited hunting-
grounds of the poor Barrabool coolies and their children.'
Then, weeping, shaking their heads, and holding up their
hands in the bitterness of their sorrow, they exclaimed :
' Coolie, coolie, coolie ! Where are our coolies now ?
Where are our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters ? Dead !
all gone ! dead ! ' "

It has been the case with the Australian aboriginal as
with his red brother of North America. The usurpation of
his hunting-grounds and the killing of the game on which he
largely subsisted have pushed him to the wall. The Indian's
plaint was, " White man come, buffalo all gone ! " The
blackfellow has said exactly the same thing, " White man
come, kangaroo all gone ! " For a long time, too, the old
dictum held good, that " The only good nigger is a dead
nigger." How many black camps, it may be wondered,
have been " wiped out," literally, without the knowledge



of the mounted police or any other authority ? Mr. Searcey
relates that he once received a letter from a man who was
attacked by blacks in the Gulf country and was very badly
speared. He recovered in due course. In his letter he
said, " I now shoot at sight ; killed to date thirty-seven."
It is typical of the point of view that is acquired in a country
where nearly every native is hostile. That the black, how-
ever, is not without grounds for adopting this attitude must
be admitted: While the stockman declares that he must
kill to protect his own life, he is well aware of the fact that
he and his kind have committed nameless crimes innumerable
and to a great degree are responsible for the ceaseless war.

The fate of the Tasmanian aborigines serves to show how
quickly a people may be exterminated. In the first years
of the settlement of the island the behaviour of the convict
population towards the natives was such as to call forth the
bloodiest reprisals. When a Commissioner appointed by
Governor Arthur inquired into the state of affairs it elicited
some startling facts. A stock-keeper had been punished
for cutting off a black's finger, which he wanted to use as a
tobacco stopper. Another had murdered the husband of a
black woman he coveted, and had compelled the latter to
follow him with the bleeding trophy of the man's head
dangling from her neck. A later governor averred that he
could not have believed it possible that British subjects
would have so ignominiously stained the honour of their
country and themselves as to have acted in the manner they
did towards the aborigines. The evidence is overwhelming,
conclusive. What followed can be understood. The blacks
returned war with war, until the whole island was aflame.
Martial law was now proclaimed against the natives, and
they were shot down hi large numbers.



One humane man, Mr. George Augustus Robinson, made
a noble effort to stem this wholesale carnage. He went
among the blacks single-handed, with a view to establishing
them on a reservation under Government protection. His
overtures had little effect at first, owing to the suspicion
of the natives and the continuous atrocities perpetrated by
the capture parties, but after a time he was more success-
ful. Governor Arthur had ordered a great " drive." By
means of what was known as the " Black Line," the blacks
were to be swept across the island into Tasman's Peninsula,
there to be kept under a strong guard. The " drive "
was a fiasco, the 30,000 that had been expended thereon
resulting in the capture of one adult native and a boy !
Mr. Robinson now renewed his missionary work with such
good result that in 1835 the remnant of the race less than
three hundred in all were gathered together in Flinders
Island. In this refuge they were tended by their benefactor
and the Government, but any hope of preserving them that
might have been entertained was doomed to disappoint-
ment. By 1847 they had dwindled to forty-four. In 1869
the " last man," William Lanney, died, and seven years
later his wife Truganina, the sole survivor of the race, fol-
lowed him.

There has been no such organised attempt to sweep out
the blacks of the mainland. At various times, however, the
country has been the scene of some massacres on a large
scale. Of these the most notorious were Major Nunn's
" campaign " and the Myall Creek affair, both of which
occurred in 1838. One of them was the first event of this
description to be dealt with in a court of justice. The recog-
nition of a blackfellow's right to live, and of his claim upon
the law of the land, was a point insisted upon by Sir George



Gipps, the Governor of New South Wales. It was a new
point to the settlers, and one that by no means commended
itself to them. The " Border Police Act," which was
devised to afford protection to the aborigines and put an
end to their barbarous treatment, was therefore a bone of
contention between the settler population and the Govern-

Major Nunn, who figures unpleasantly in this war
against the natives, was the commandant of the Mounted
Police of the colony. When the squatters of the Liverpool
Plains asked for protection from the blacks whom they
had provoked into hostility, Nunn was ordered to see to
the matter. He proceeded to the Plains with twenty-three
troopers, and augmented his force there with a number of
stockmen from local stations. Then a merciless campaign
began. The reputed murderers of a farm servant were
given up by the tribe attacked, but this did not satisfy the
stockmen. They seized the opportunity to make an end of
their enemies if possible, and to their lasting discredit the
police joined in the shooting down of the fugitives. It was a
most inglorious victory. Governor Gipps ordered an
inquiry into the affair, but delay after delay occurred and
nothing was done. A few months later New South Wales had
another sensation to talk about.

The actual scene of the second massacre referred to was
the station of a Mr. Dangar, at Myall Creek, about three
hundred and fifty miles north of Sydney. On the run was
encamped a tribe of natives, some fifty strong, who were on
friendly terms with the station hands. There is no reason
to believe that they were otherwise than inoffensive. How-
ever, during the absence of the manager, Mr. Hobbs, a stock-
keeper named Kilmeister and seven others made a descent



upon the blacks for the purpose of " clearing them out."
It was an unprovoked attack, actuated simply by motives
of brutality, although an attempt was afterwards made to
excuse it on the score that the tribe had been spearing cattle.
The unfortunate natives men, women and children were
roped together, and some of them further secured by hand-
cuffs. Then they were driven out some distance, to be
slaughtered in cold blood like sheep.

But for Mr. Hobbs' courage in taking action in the
matter the raid might never have been made public. The
manager returned to the station a few days later and noticed
the absence of the blacks. He obtained an inkling of what
had transpired, paid a visit to a distant part of the run, and
saw a horrifying spectacle. On the ground were the remains
of at least thirty natives, the bodies mangled and half-burnt.
Some were those of children. He discovered in the course
of his investigation that swords had been used by the
butchers as well as pistols, and he discovered that the blacks
had had no chance of fighting for their lives. Mr. Hobbs
reported the matter to the authorities. Without any delay
an inquiry was instituted, and eleven arrests were made.
A twelfth man implicated would have been similarly brought
to justice, but he rode for his life to the coast and escaped
in a vessel to Tasmania, where he lay hid until he deemed it
safe to show himself once more in New South Wales.

The trial of the eleven murderers excited widespread
interest. It was a daring thing in the face of public opinion
to arraign white men on a charge of murdering blacks. The
Government, however, was determined to strike a blow at
the barbarism of the day. It sat tight and sifted the evi-
dence to the bottom. And the evidence was damning. A
station hand told a straightforward tale of how the party



of stockmen had carried away the blacks, of how he had
heard the reports of firearms, and of how the men had
returned with blood-stained swords. The attempt to
destroy all signs of the deed by fire was then described.
" Kilmeister said in the morning (of the next day) that he
was going after his horse which he had left down the creek.
The smoke was from the creek. I never went to the place ;
I did not like to go. Davey went as he came back. Kil-
meister was away in the middle of the day ; he said the horse
was knocked up and not able to walk. I saw him ; he could
have caught him anywhere. I saw the smoke pretty well
all day ; at the first beginning there was a great smoke ;
in the after part of the day there was not much." What
the fire was unable to consume was left to other destroyers.
There were eagles, hawks, birds of prey of all kinds, hovering
over the place. Mr. Hobbs saw them when he went out.

In Sydney at the time of the trial there was much loud
talk. The prisoners had many sympathisers, and no doubt
thought that their acquittal was certain. " We were not
aware," they urged, " that in killing blacks we were violat-
ing the law, as it had been so frequently done in the colony
before . ' ' This plea availed them not. Four of them, indeed,
were discharged for want of evidence that they had
actually taken part in the massacre, but the others were
found guilty. They were sentenced to death and were
hanged, the whole seven of them ; and squatterdom took the
lesson to heart.

In Queensland, in the fifties and sixties, there was similar
wanton killing of the blacks. It is an unpleasant chapter
of pioneering history. To ride down and shoot a mob of
natives was sport for those who supported the policy of
extermination. And it was considered a. legitimate method



to free a run of blacks, as one would free a fowl run of rats, by
poison. There are cases on record in which a barrel of flour
containing arsenic was presented to the unsuspecting victims,
who died in scores and in no little agony. Nor were the
police the native mounted police of the day above re-
proach. In the capture and treatment of prisoners they
were guilty of much brutality. It was, perhaps, too much
to expect that a native would refrain from the opportunity
of hunting and killing members of another tribe, his natural
enemies. The black troopers found the work to their

At the present time the few thousands of natives left in
Australia are being taken care of by the Government so far
as is possible. Each State has its Aborigines Protection
Board. At various points in the country mission stations
have been established, at which the blacks are housed and fed,
and are induced to employ themselves in profitable labour,
while their children are taught in native schools. It is an
uphill task, for the black does not take kindly to regular
work. The Government agents are nevertheless instru-
mental in providing a great deal of relief, and by their vigi-
lance assisted as they are by the mounted police they
succeed in checking many of the prevalent abuses.

In New South Wales the latest census returns give the
number of aboriginals as 2,123 full-bloods and 5,247 half-
castes, making a total of 7,370. Among the former there
has been a marked decrease, but the latter show an increase
on previous years. Under the new Aborigines Bill that has
passed through the Legislature the Government are hopeful
of bettering the condition of the natives. The State Pro-
tector of Aborigines reports as follows :

" Though much has been done in the interests of the


aborigines since the constitution of the Board, by erecting
huts and providing rations and other assistance, it has for
some time been felt that the Board's efforts were to a certain
extent unsatisfactory, inasmuch as, in the absence of legis-
lative sanction, they were powerless to adopt a settled policy
for want of the necessary powers to carry it to a successful
issue. For instance, they had really no control over the
reserves, and the residents could set authority at defiance,
the only available punishment being the stoppage of rations
and other assistance. Now that they have been clothed
with ample powers, the Board propose making radical
changes in the methods of dealing with the aboriginal popu-
lation, more especially in the direction of compelling all
the able-bodied to shift for themselves, and of training the
young so that they may become useful members of the State.
" The Act, which will come into operation on a date to be
fixed by proclamation, provides for the constitution of the
Board, the appointment of local committees, guardians, and
other officers, and their respective duties. The control of all
reserves, with buildings and other property thereon, is
vested in the Board, who are given power to remove any
aboriginal guilty of any misconduct, or who, in their opinion,
should be earning a living away from such reserve. The
law in regard to the supply of liquor to aborigines is amended,
and the provisions of Section 4 (76) of the ' Vagrancy Act,
1902,' relating to the offence of ' wandering with aborigines '
re-enacted. Machinery is provided for the apprenticeship
of aboriginal children, and the parents of aboriginal
children made responsible for their maintenance. Power is
given to' remove any aboriginal from the vicinity of any
reserve, town, or township to such distance therefrom as
the Board may direct. It is made an offence for any

305 x


unauthorised person to have possession of any article issued
by the Government or the Board for the use of the aborigines.
Provision is also made for the inspection of aboriginal stations
and reserves."

Victoria includes 173 full-blood natives and 80 half-castes,
so that the work is lighter than that of her neighbours. Six
reserves making a total area of 9,039 acres have been set
apart for the blacks, who possess cattle and sheep and who,
generally speaking, work their land in a satisfactory manner.

It is when we come to South Australia and Western
Australia that we find the native question pressing more
heavily. In the former province, according to the last
census, the aboriginal population (exclusive of the Northern
Territory) was

Blacks . ,' '.' . <rT ''.''.'. . 2,810
Half-castes 800


The same tale of increase and decrease is told here. The
full-bloods are slowly but surely falling away in numbers.
Five mission stations are under the control of the Board,
and here every endeavour is made to keep the natives in
settled conditions. That there is much yet to be done is
evident from the official report. The need of an Act for
the protection and control of the aborigines and half-castes
has been greatly felt, but it is hoped this will be met by the
passing of the Bill now before Parliament.

The increasing proportion of half-castes leads the State
" Protector " to urge the necessity of steps being taken to
convert these people into useful members of the community,
instead of allowing them to grow up in the black camps,
where they acquire the lazy habits of the aborigines, which



unfits them for any regular occupation. " I am still firmly
of opinion," he says, " that the very best way is to treat them
as neglected children, and have them placed under the care
and control of the State Children's Department until they
reach the age of eighteen years, by which time they should
be able to earn their own living and should no longer be
considered or treated as aborigines. The boys should be
taught trades, and the girls trades or domestic duties. On
the other hand, if left to wander and grow up with the
aborigines they and their offspring will become an ever-
increasing burden. At present, in many parts of the State,
may be seen practically white males and females squatting
in blacks' camps. On the mission stations the same sort of
thing exists after the children have passed the school-going
age, the very time when they should be taught to become
self -supporting . ' '

South Australia's most unmanageable black dependants
have been, of course, the natives of the far north. Of this
burden the State will now be relieved by the new constitu-
tion of the Northern Territory. In that wild and sparsely-
settled portion of the continent the pacification of the native
tribes must necessarily progress slowly.

In Western Australia, where the aborigines reach their
highest number (over 20,000), the chief difficulties present
themselves in the north-western districts. The black of the
Kimberleys is a constant source of trouble through his
predilection for cattle-killing. To combat this evil, native
settlements are being established whereon the blacks may
accumulate their own herds, and thus provide themselves
with meat instead of at the expense of their white neigh-
bours. Of the regularly established mission stations there
are eight, but the number of natives in residence there is not



large. The majority lead a wandering existence, which
renders the task of their supervision a very difficult matter. 1
As in the Northern Territory, the mounted police do a
very big share of the work. The detailed reports sent in
from all quarters testify to the vigilance exercised with re-
gard to natives employed on stations, and to the care that
is taken to relieve necessitous cases. The troopers patrol
the country as thoroughly as their numbers permit. Very
few cases of crime and ill-treatment escape their notice,
and when one takes into consideration the immense area to
be covered, together with the natural difficulties of the
country traversed, their record in all respects is one to be
proud of. How the West Australian police trooper per-
forms these and other arduous duties is the subject of our
next chapter.

1 Under the provisions of " The Aborigines Act, 1905," the sum of
10,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund is. annually placed at
the disposal of the Aborigines Department, in addition to any other
moneys that may be provided by Parliament. The total expenditure by
the Department during the year 1908-9 was 22,559 (being 4,609 more
than for the previous year), whilst the total expenditure on behalf of the
natives during the past ten years has reached the large sum of 139,247.

The total subsidy paid to missions of different denominations through-
out the State last year amounted to over 2,000, being divided amongst
the following : Beagle Bay, New Norcia, Salvation Army Home, Swan
Native and Half-castes, Ellensbrook, and the Australian Aborigines'
Mission. All these missions are doing good work among the rising genera-
tion of the full-blooded and half-caste natives. The Drysdale Mission,
which is a branch of the New Norcia, started operations in the far
North in 1908, the country being practically uninhabited except by
aborigines. The Government have given them a grant of 20,000 acres,
which can be held for all time, provided it is used for the purpose of
a mission station. A similar grant has also been given to the Beagle
Bay Mission, under like conditions. These grants will allow of the mission
work being extended in the direction of tropical cultivation, and of the
formation of native settlements on the same lines as those adopted by some
of the mis -ions in the other States. (Report of Western Australian
Aborigines Protection Board,)




Days of settlement Convicts introduced A military guard Police con-
stables appointed Superintendent Conroy The " Enrolled Force "
The Police Act of 1861 Superintendent Hogan Captain Smith.Com-
missioner Lieut.-Colonel Phillips Captain Fred A. Hare Distribu-
tion of the force The north-west Native troubles "Soaks " and
" Gnamma holes" A tragedy of thirst Trooper Richardson's
murder " Pigeon " at large In the Barrier Range Superintendent
Lawrence The Jasper murder " Major " Police rewards Arms
and uniform Conditions of appointment Pay The trooper to-day.

WE have already seen how Western Australia was first
settled in 1829, when Captain Fremantle hoisted
the British flag on its shores. 1 Thereafter for many years the
story of the colony's progress is one of continuous struggle
against adversity, the emigrants clustering in and around
Perth and rarely venturing forth into the unknown country
beyond without incurring disaster. The scheme under which
the new colony was launched provided for grants of land to
intending settlers ; every one was to be a landed proprietor,
in fact ; and too many began with estates that were un-
manageably big. One gentleman, we read, was given 250,000
acres, " with a possible extension to 1,000,000 acres," and
set about farming and stock-raising on a large scale with
three hundred servants. He lost his all. The soil of the
locality was infertile, his stock strayed away or died in the
scrub, the servants deserted, partly through fear of the

1 See page 30.


hostile blacks,and the place went to rack and ruin. It was
a case typical of many others.

Of the first twenty years of the colony's history there is
little of event to record. No marked change in development
occurred until 1850, when the settlers abandoned their
former views on the subject and frankly asked the home
authorities for convict labour. Previously the experiment
had been made of taking boys sent out from the Parkhurst
reformatory. There were to be no actual convicts, it was
said, no repetition of the troubles of New South Wales ; but
the acceptance of these so-called " apprentices," proved to
be the thin edge of the wedge. A few years of stagnation
convinced the colonists that convict labour was preferable
to none at all, and Earl Grey, the Colonial Secretary, was
petitioned accordingly. So the convicts came, several thou-
sands of them, between the years 1850 and 1868. 1 And
Western Australia went ahead to expand and establish her-
self firmly upon her feet.

With all its apparent advantages the system of assigning
convict-servants to the colonists brought grave evils in its
train. Scenes took place similar to those that had been
witnessed in the older colonies under the same conditions.

1 The Australian Dictionary of Dates gives the total number of convicts
sent to Australia, in the period from 1787 to 1868, as follows



Number of Convicts landed.




New South Wales .
Van Diemen's Land
Western Australia .

Total ....










Prisoners broke gaol, committed robberies and worse
crimes, even took to the bush for what time they could
prey on their neighbours. Outside the towns the brutality
of the assigned men quickly caused trouble with the
natives. Reprisals of a savage nature became more and
more frequent. Up in the Murchison country, and farther
north where many of the early settlers lived in carts until
their homesteads were erected, a number of outrages were
perpetrated. At first only the stock was speared or stolen
by the blacks. It was a common sight to see cattle in the
bush with broken pieces of spears sticking in their sides.
From that stage it was but a step to attacking the settlers

It is from this period that the history of the mounted
police of Western Australia dates. In 1848, when Captain
Fitzgerald, R.N., was Governor in succession to Colonel
Irwin, 1 the Imperial Government had grudgingly sent out
a small military guard to protect the community. The
soldiers performed what police duty was necessary until
the coming of the convicts, with whom, of course, were a
number of warders. In 1850 police constables were ap-
pointed to various districts, ranging from Albany in the
south to Geraldton in the north. By 1852 the force had
grown to eighty-seven all told, being distinguished under
two heads native and convict. The " native " police
numbered twenty-four, of whom eleven were blacks. In
this body were nine white troopers and the same number

Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 23 of 32)