School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

Permanent URI for this collection

Search Results

Now showing 1 - 1 of 1
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    William Thomas and the Port Phillip Protectorate, 1838-1849
    Crawford, Ian Maxwell ( 1966)
    Between 1839 and 1849 the total number of Aborigines living in the area between Melbourne and Western Port declined by 50 per cent, despite the impact of the most intensive attempt to civilize Aborigines ever made in Australia. Those Aborigines who did survive showed no signs whatsoever of adopting the white man’s culture. The elaborate scheme known as the Protectorate had failed. Various reasons have been put forward for this failure. Some colonials maintained that the “sneaking murdering black cannibals” were incapable of improvement and even many Christians concluded that the Aborigines were suffering under the judgement of God and therefore could not be helped much by human agencies. The Protectors accused the Government of deliberately hindering their activities and of doing nothing beneficial for the Aborigines. The Government — or at least La Trobe, who was “practically the Government” — maintained that conflict between settlers and Aborigines was an inevitable stage in the spread of civilization, that the Protectors were incompetent and that the Protectorate was an unnecessary encumbrance on the Government. And the Aborigines for their part, said that “all White Men Bungalarly”, thereby signifying their contempt for anything white. Was there any truth in all of these mutual recriminations? The truth — in my opinion — lies in the conflict of ideas. The settlers wanted land and were prepared to sacrifice the rights of the few natives to the God of profit. The Government, while pressed by its English overlords to look after the rights of the Aborigines, lent heavily towards the views expounded by the settlers and pursued a vacillating role, sometimes supporting the Protectors in the hope that they would convert the Aborigines into an economic asset, more often turning a blind eye to abuse. The Protectors tried to stamp their own philosophy and religion — a philosophy and religion which had been successfully applied in England for the reform of the lower classes — on the Aborigines. Each of these groups, then, tried to impose a particular pattern of behaviour on the Aborigines, but the Aborigines, having their own ideals and aspirations, regarded all of these groups as hostile and rejected them. This thesis attempts to describe and examine these conflicting ideas, and in particular, to examine the Aborigines reactions to the schemes devised for their reform. (From Introduction)