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The history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) online

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people of South Australia are Democratic-Conservatives,
and the minority consists of two factions having nothing
in common but their opposition to the majority."

The second Parliament of South Australia assembled
on the 27th of April, 1860.J The Governor stated,

* " Parties are divided upon particular subjects. There is a
squatting party and an anti-squatting party : ; a Government House
party, and a party opposed to Government House; a religious
endowment party and a party unfavourable to religious endow-
ments ; but as to well-defined lines of political demarcation, you
might as well look for ink-spots in the moon. This want of party
organization has produced a chronic state of ministerial instability.
In the nine years of responsible government in Sou'h Australia,
there have been fifteen absolute changes of Ministry, besides several
changes in individual offices. In order to save the country from
the expense of frequent elections in the event of ministerial crises,
and to facilitate a speedy readjustment of the Government
machinery, it was provided that a member accepting a responsible
office should not be required to go back to his constituents." A.
Forster, 1866.

t The days of meeting for the Council were three in each week,
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday ; for the House of Assembly
four, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; the time of
meeting for the House of Assembly being half-past one.


among other things, that, the volunteer force being
sufficiently strong, the militia would not be called out
at present, although steps had been taken to have it in
readiness. The number of destitute poor had diminished,
and there were not at that time any able-bodied
labourers dependent on the Government for employ-

Before the reply to the Governor's opening address
had passed the House of Assembly, a serious change in
the Ministry was announced, originated by the resigna-
tion of Mr. Finniss as Treasurer. Other changes fol-
lowed. The Hanson Cabinet went out, and Mr. T.
Reynolds took the reins.

As every young man has his escapades of one sort or
another, and has to learn wisdom by experience, so it
is with young Governments. South Australia was
feeling its way, and it had a number of excellent men
pressing to the front, anxious to do good in their time,
and to leave their names inscribed on the scroll of
fame. But no new man could then come to the front
in political life unless he could introduce a bigger pro-
gramme than his predecessor, and this is the one Mr.
Reynolds set before the country :

(1) Retrenchment, the principal part of the policy
of the new Ministry ;

(2) Repeal of the ad valorem duties;

'(3) Abolition of harbour and light dues, and re-
modelling of pilot service ;

(4) Amalgamation of Harbour Trust, Trinity Board,
and Local Marine Board into one body, to be called
the JV1 arine Board ;

(5) Establishment of circuit courts ;

(6) Opening up of Northern Country for profitable
occupation ;

(7) Such alterations in the mode of disposing of the
Crown lands as may be necessitated by the legislation
of the neighbouring colonies ;

(8) Placing the salaries of all members of boards on
the estimates, so as to bring all official expenditure
under the control of the Assembly ;


(9) Eeform of the Civil List for the purpose of
retrenchment ;

(10) Eeform of the Constitution Act by substituting
some lay officer in the Cabinet for the professional one
of Attorney- General ;

(11) Amendment of the Eeal Property Act in accord-
ance with the views of the Eegistrar-General, Lands
Titles Commissioners, and their solicitors ;

And eight other items equally sweeping and radical.

With such a programme as this a long sitting of
Parliament was inevitable. At all events, from the
composition of the new House, the Ministry saw that
the way was clear for many and great reforms, and the
old party that had, comparatively, so long administered
the affairs of the colony, knew by the result of the
elections that the constituencies had determined to
secure, if possible, some radical changes.

The Ministry was decidedly popular, and the two
Houses worked together much more harmoniously than
could have been expected. Moreover, the personal
composition of the Parliament at the close of the session
was precisely the same as at the commencement a rare
circumstance in those days. It indicated a fixity and
settlement in the political condition of the province,
and showed that the constituencies had not, after
all, made an unwise selection of men to represent

In following the story of the settlers we have to
some extent lost sight of the aborigines, and we must
now go back in their history to the time when Arch-
deacon Hale conceived an idea which, more than any
other previously advanced, seemed to meet the need of
the natives. The great difficulty had always been to
check their vagrant habits, and to overcome this evil
the Archdeacon resolved to attempt the establishment
of a native institution in some locality as far removed
as possible from the centres of European population,
and also at a distance from the usual haunts of
the aborigines. By thus isolating the children ot


the natives and forming them into a little colony
he concluded that a mutual attachment would
grow up between the sexes, and in course of time,
after acquiring a moderate amount of education, com-
bined with a knowledge of husbandry and of some
of the most useful trades, they would marry and
continue to practise the civilized habits they had

In May, 1850, the plans of Archdeacon Hale were
sufficiently matured to enable him to commence opera-
tions, The spot selected for his praiseworthy and
self-denying experiment was Boston Island, about three
and a half miles in length, of the average breadth of
one and a half miles, and stretching along the eastern
side of Boston Bay, thus partly forming the harbour of
Port Lincoln, from which township it was about four
miles distant.

The party at first consisted of eleven persons ; eight
natives (four of each sex), the Archdeacon, Mr. Minchin,
and Mr. Eayner. The only accommodation they had was
a tent for the females and another for the stores, and
for the rest a breakwind of wattle branches and the
canopy of heaven for a roof.

" Our object in choosing this locality," said the Arch-
deacon, "was principally seclusion, that we might be
cut off from the society of blacks living in a wild state,
and protected from the unwelcome intrusion of evil-
minded persons amongst the whites. These advantages
we set against the formidable disadvantage that no
permanent fresh water had as yet been found upon the

After a fruitless search for water the island was
abandoned, and Poonindie, on the mainland in Louth
Bay, near the river Tod, was selected as the site for
future operations. Here the Archdeacon and his party
forthwith reared three substantial stone houses and
nine log huts ; a block of about three thousand acres
of surveyed land was rented for the institution, and by
purchasing the sheep depasturing on the surrounding
runs the use of about twelve square miles was acquired

I860.] POONINDIE. 331

as a run. In a few months the settlement was formed,
many acres were cleared, fenced, and sown, and wells
were dug. In all these operations the natives assisted,
being paid at the rate of sixpence a day, which it is
said they never squandered, but expended in clothes
for themselves, or articles for their houses. In process
of time the native school at North Terrace was dis-
continued, about fifty children being drafted from
thence to Poonindie. There a capacious chapel and
schoolroom were erected, and additional huts were
reared for married couples, of whom there were as
many as seven or eight.

The institution grew and flourished, and so long as
the Archdeacon had the superintendence of it the
expenses of management were kept under by the
services rendered by the natives.

In 1856 the appointment of Archdeacon Hale to the
bishopric of Perth necessitated his giving up the charge
of the institute, and Dr. Octavius Hammond became
his successor. When the Archdeacon resigned there
were sixty individuals maintained and under instruc-
tion, but within the subsequent fifteen months no fewer
than twenty were removed by death, and a period oi
depression and anxiety set in.

Meanwhile, in 1858, the " Aborigines' Friends Asso-
ciation " was formed, and the Hon. G. F. Angas was
appointed its first president. The object of the asso-
ciation was " the moral, spiritual, and physical well-
being of the natives of this province." Under the
auspices of this association the Point MacLeay Institu-
tion for Natives was inaugurated, Mr. G. Taplin being
the superintendent. For the first few years it was
tolerably well supported by contributions from the
Government towards food and clothing, and partly by
private contributions. Then came a falling off, due in
great measure to the sad fact, applying equally to the
Poonindie Institute, that there was a great mortality
amongst the native inmates, and the inference could
not be overlooked that the confinement of the schools,
and the comparatively close application of the mind to


study, had a prejudicial effect upon the health of these
children of the bush.

In 1860 a Select Committee of the Legislative
Council was appointed, of which Mr. G. F. Angas was a
member, " to inquire into the appropriation of the funds
set aside from time to time for the use and benefit of
the aborigines, and to suggest such measures as were
likely to tend to the future and permanent benefit of
the natives and the community at large" a broad
subject, but it was taken up heartily, especially by Mr.
Angas, who had been among the first to care for these
poor creatures.*

The recommendations of the committee were ex-
cellent, but, in view of the fact that every previous
effort to permanently benefit the natives had ended
more or less in failure, the prospect of these recom-
mendations being carried out was more than doubtful.
Even Mr. Angas, who from the first had been more
hopeful than any one for the future of the natives, and
had been probably the largest contributor to agencies
working for their good, was forced to arrive at the
following conclusions : " The committee submit as
their strong conviction that permanent benefit to any
appreciable extent from attempts to Christianize the
natives can only be expected by separation of children
from their parents and from the evil influences of the
tribe to which they belong. However harshly this
recommendation may grate on the feelings of pseudo-
philanthropists, it would in reality be a work of mercy
to the rising generation of aborigines." The report
concluded with the old sad story : " All the evidence
goes to prove that they have lost much and gained
little or nothing by their contact with Europeans, and
hence it becomes a question how far it is in our power,
or what is the best possible means of compensating

* It will be remembered that the first systematic attempt to
instruct the natives was made by Messrs. C. G. Teichelmann and
W. C. Schiirmann, who were sent out from the Lutheran Missionary
Society at Dresden, under the auspices and mainly at the expense
of Mr. G. F. Angas.


them for the injuries they have sustained, or of miti-
gating the evils to which, so far as they are concerned,
our forced occupation of their country has led."

Among the causes of their rapid decrease in number
the following were specified : (1) From infanticide to
a limited extent. (2) From certain rites performed
upon young men impairing their physical powers. (3)
From the introduction among them by Europeans of
more aggravated forms of disease than were known to
exist prior to our occupation of the country. (4) From
the introduction and use of intoxicating liquors, a habit
which is prevalent to excess among the natives, who,
despite existing laws to the contrary, are frequently
aided by Europeans in obtaining supplies. (5) From
the disproportion of the sexes.

Some idea of the ratio of decrease may be gained
from the fact that within an area of 2800 miles, the
population, which in 1841 numbered 650, was in 1856
only 180.

The first and only reliable census of the aboriginal
population was taken in 1861, when it was found that
there were 2375 males of all ages, and 2022 females, or
a grand total of 4397.

For several years it was a custom to assemble the
natives at Adelaide on the anniversary of the Queen's
birthday, and give them a feast. It was inaugurated
by Governor Gawler, who gave them the good old
English fare of roast beef and plum pudding, and he
was long remembered by the aborigines as " bery good
Gubner," who gave them " plenty tuck out." Blankets
were also given on these occasions to the aged and
infirm. In the first year, 1841, only 283 persons
assembled, but the numbers gradually increased, till in
1845 about nine hundred presented themselves. This
was inconvenient, more especially as quarrelling and
fighting generally ensued, and therefore the plan of
distributing the Queen's bounty in the native settle-
ments was adopted. But the numbers in attendance
fell year by year, and in 1856 the custom was discon-
tinued. Alas, and the pity of it! the day was fast


approaching when there would be no aborigines left to

Although the natives of Australia were not com-
parable in intelligence to the Maoris of New Zealand,
they were not the degraded set of human animals that
some writers have described. They had in them the
germs of better things, and in proportion as they were
educated, the better qualities came into play. Among
these was generosity and a keen sense of humour
phases of character not generally ascribed to them. An
illustration of both these points may be given in an
anecdote of the experience of the Rev. Reid, a
zealous clergyman, bent on Christianizing the natives
on the Coorong, and who literally died in their service,
as he was capsized in his two-masted open boat when
on a mission to them, and was drowned. On one
occasion he found some of these Coorong natives cook-
ing mullet. As they were about to eat, Mr. Reid,
wishing to improve the occasion, said, " Who gave you
that fish ? " " Me catch'm," was the answer. " No,"
said the pious minister, " God gave you that fish. God
gives black fellow everything." The natives gave some
quick, merry glances, and went on with their meal.
Towards the end, as there was food in plenty and Mr.
Reid was hungry, he said, " You give me some fish."
At once the answer came, " What for me give you
fish ? You ask'm God ; Him give you plenty." Where-
upon there was a roar of laughter ; but, nevertheless,
two or three fish were at once thrust into the clergy-
man's hands.

During the administration of Sir Richard MacDonnell,
many important explorations and discoveries were
made and public works undertaken, which deserve
more than a passing notice here. Let us glance at a
few of these events in detail.

On closing the session of the Legislative Council in
June, 1856, the Governor alluded to a project for con-
necting by rail the capital of the colony with the
Murray that great river which traverses with its


navigable stream of two thousand miles the three
extensive British colonies of New South Wales, Victoria,
and South Australia, receiving tributaries which in
their turn traverse many hundred miles of valuable
country, and afford the cheapest and best of all car-
riage where obtainable in a new country namely,
internal water carriage.

In strong and vigorous language, the Governor briefly
foreshadowed a scheme for carrying into effect his pet
idea. But public opinion was not so strongly in favour
of the great Murray Railway scheme as he was. The
public did not relish the idea of the enormous debt it
was proposed to incur, nor were they unanimous in
considering the undertaking even desirable. By many
the Goolwa and Port Elliot tramway connecting the
Murray with the seaboard was considered amply suffi-
cient for the purposes of traffic, while others recognized
the importance of saving time and distance by direct
railway communication between the upper waters of
the river and the capital! The question was also one
of rival northern and southern interests, as the railway
in the north would, to some extent, affect the trade at
the Goolwa end of the southern districts ; and so, for a
time, the matter was allowed to lapse. Meanwhile,
about the middle of August, 1856, Sir Richard
MacDonnell, accompanied by Lady MacDonnell, the
Private Secretary, Surveyor-General, and Mr. Young-
husband, started for a trip up the Murray. They pro-
ceeded to Moorundie, and there embarked in the steamer
Melbourne, having the barge Eureka alongside with a
cargo of 160 tons, intended principally for Albury.
The Melbourne left Moorundie on the 25th of August,
and on the 25th of September the party disembarked
for the purpose of visiting Beechworth. Here, as at
all other places visited, the Governor was kindly
welcomed with every mark of respect. On the 30th
they left Beechworth and returned to Goolwa by way
of Albury, the distance between these two places
being estimated at eighteen hundred miles. The
party returned to Adelaide on the 23rd of October,


after an absence of over two months. The trip was
taken for the purpose of personally inspecting the
capabilities of this great river for traffic and com-
merce ; but, of course, it did not add much to the sum
of geographical knowledge. It was, however, only one
of many journeys taken by the Governor, who was so
excellent a traveller as to entitle him to a place among
the explorers of South Australia.

From 1857 onwards, a series of explorations was
undertaken by the South Australian Government, and
nearly all of them were in the direction where Eyre
and Sturt had previously travelled. But what was
then called Lake Torrens presented for a long time an
impenetrable barrier to the exploration of the northern
interior ; nevertheless, as we shall see, each successive
attempt helped to make the great discovery of Mr.
J. M. Stuart possible.

In 1856 the Legislative Council voted the sum of
1000 to aid in a search for gold, and Mr. B. H. Bab-
bage, Government geologist, who was entrusted with
the command of the expedition, set forth northwards in
September. He did not find gold, but not far from
Eyre's Mount Hopeless he discovered an extensive
creek, which he named MacDonnell, after the Governor,
and a fresh-water lake, which he named Blanchewater,
in honour of Lady MacDonnell. The country thus dis-
covered was visited in 1857 by Mr. G. W. Goyder,
Deputy Surveyor-General, who was sent out to estab-
lish a trigonometrical survey of the neighbourhood.
Mr. Goyder reported the discovery of a magnificent
and extensive fresh-water lake and a creek, to which
he gave the name of Freeling. To follow up this
discovery, Captain Freeling, the Surveyor-General,
organized a party, and left Adelaide in July by steamer
for Port Augusta, and reached the scene of Goyder's
supposed discoveries. But, unfortunately, he was not
able to confirm Mr. Goyder's report ; on the contrary,
he wrote as follows :

" I much regret that what there is to relate is
decidedlv unfavourable to the extension of discoveries


in the direction mentioned, and by the means proposed.
The extensive bays described in Mr. Goyder's report,
the bluff' headlands, the several islands towards the
north and south shores, the vegetation covering them,
and their perpendicular cliffs have all been the result of
mirage, and do not in point of fact exist as represented."
One of Mr. Goyder's party, who accompanied Captain
Freeling, stated that the water had receded half a mile
since his former visit. The captain and some of the
party waded into the mud for a considerable distance,
and at the farthest point reached, he described the view
as desolate in the extreme, the same shallow waters,
low islands, and mud extending round three parts of
the horizon. So ended a fruitless journey.

In 1856 Mr. B. H. Babbage made certain proposals
to the Commissioner of Crown Lands with reference to
the outfit of an expedition to explore Lake Torrens
more thoroughly, and, after crossing it at a certain point>
to proceed to the north-west as far as possible. The
Government, with the sanction of Parliament, was en-
trusted with the necessary outfit ; Mr. Babbage was
appointed leader of the party, and Mr. Harris, of the
Survey Office, second in command. In February, 1857,
the expedition set forth, the route being through the
districts occupied by the most distant sheep and cattle
stations, from whence the movements of the explorers
were reported disadvantageously, for Mr. Babbage
seemed loth to take a plunge into the wilderness, and
the delay called forth such dissatisfaction from the
people that it became the subject of inquiry in Parlia^-
ment, and eventually of his recall, Major Warburton,
Commissioner of Police, being appointed in his place.
But the whole expedition did not result in any appre-
ciable advantage to the colony, and ended in dis^
appointment to all concerned, as well as with an
expenditure of 5552.

One painful discovery made by Mr. Babbage was that

of the dead body of a gallant explorer. Messrs. W. Coult*-

hard, Brooks, and Scott had gone forth on an expedition

in search of a good sheep country, and when north of

VOL. i. z


Port Augusta announced to some returning travellers
their intention to push forward in the direction of the
Pernatty Lagoon. They were warned of the extreme
hazard of the undertaking, owing to the intense heat
and lack of water, but, disregarding the caution, they
went their way. When searching for water, Coulthard
got separated from his companions and was lost in the
bush. Every possible search was made by Messrs.
Brooks and Scott, but without avail, and no one ever
saw him again alive. But Mr. Babbage accidentally
found his remains, and near to the body a shepherd's
tin canteen, on which was scratched one of the saddest
records ever penned. It was as follows :

" I never reached water. I do not know how long
it is since it is that I left Scott and Brooks, but I
think it Monday, bleeding Pomp to leive on his blood.
I took his black horse to look for water and the last
thing I can rember is puling the saddle off him and
letting him go until now is not good long it may
be wether 2 or 3 days I do not know I am not
shure My Tung is stiking to my mouth and I see
what I have rote and know this is the last time I may
have of expressing feeling Blind (?) altho feeling
exce for want of water My ey Dazels my tong
bum I can see no way God help

The earlier words were firmly and clearly marked,
but towards the end they became almost illegible
scratches, made, it is evident, when the poor fellow,
blind and half mad, was in the agony of death. To
add to the sadness of the story, it was found that
within half a mile of the bush where Coulthard lay
down to die, there was a waterhole with an abundant
supply of water.

About this time (1857-8), a number of explorations
were originated. Mr. Stephen Hack, accompanied by
Mr. Harris of the Survey Department, tried to penetrate
to the north-west, but was unable to pass the dense
scrub. A private party, consisting of Messrs. D.
Thomson, M. Campbell, and C. Swinden, started from
the head of Spencer's Gulf for a trip northwards, and

1859.] UP THE DARLING, 339

came upon the large lagoon called by the natives
Pernatty, two remarkable hills (Bonney's Bluff and
Bottle Hill), and a creek which they named the
Elizabeth. They were only away for a few days, as
they had not much provision with them ; but their
discoveries were important, although it afterwards
transpired that some of the country had previously
been examined.

Of the two expeditions under Major Warburton, the
Commissioner of Police, the one in which he was sent
to recall Mr. Babbage was most fruitful in results. On
his return journey he conceived the idea of crossing the
supposed bed of Lake Torrens, and reaching the settled
districts by this entirely new route. The passage was

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 34)