Christopher Rolleston Report
9th October 1845
To the Chairman of the Committee of The Legislative Council, appointed to enquire into and report upon the condition of The Aborigines
For the information of the Committee now Sitting to enquire into and report upon the condition of the Aborigines and the best means of promoting their welfare. I do myself the honor to offer the following replies to the queries addressed to me by the Clerk of the Legislative Council in a Circular date the 3rd September last. To account for the scanty information it is in my power to afford the Committee, I must premise that the Blacks have within the last 6 months only visited the Stations, and only in small numbers and are yet scarcely reconciled to the Whites.
- The probable number of Aborigines frequenting this district, is very considerable, not less I daresay than 1,000 men, women and children, but I don’t think that the Tribes actually claiming this district as their Country amount to more than 500 in all – I am sorry I can’t correctly state the proportion of females & children, but I should say they amount to one half.
2, 3, 4. This district has scarcely been occupied 5 years, and I can’t positively determine whether the number is diminished or increased, but I should say rather increased.
- The condition of the Aborigines is better than in most other Districts with which I have been acquainted, and their means of subsistence ample.
- I don’t think their ordinary means of subsistence is diminished in the least but rather increased, owing to their having been for the last 3 or 4 years confined to the Scrubs & Mountains, from which came every species of Game and fish, I should imagine must be more abundant, this opinion is borne out by the numbers of Opposums & other Game I have seen them bring to their Camp at night after a few hours hunting.
- Last Winter I applied to His Excellency the Governor for a few Blankets, shirts, Trousers, Tomahawks etc. to distribute with a view to induce the Natives to visit my Head Quarters and give me an opportunity of shewing them the folly of their aggressions and proving to them the friendly feeling of the Whites.
The effect has been more favourable than I was prepared to hope for no aggressions have been made on the Stock or lives of the Whites during the past year, and I am happy to observe not only a friendly feeling but a mutual confidence springing up between the two colors, of which I am inclined to hope the continuance.
I don’t hesitate to say that it will be most advisable to resume the distribution of Blankets next winter. The warmth of the Summer renders the Blacks more susceptible of the cold during the Winter months, independent of this, I consider it advisable, to ensure the maintenance of the friendly disposition at present entertained by them towards the Europeans, until such time as they become perfectly quiet & civilized. And learn to attach themselves & make themselves useful to the different Stations in the District.
- No hospital or Medical treatment has been called for.
- The Natives are as yet too wild to be employed by the Squatters in any way. I only know two instances.
- They are of wandering habits, beyond any blacks I have seen in other parts of the Colony, and have none which can fit themselves for civilized employment.
- There are three or four halfcastes in this District, living with the Whites.
- I can observe no disposition on the part of the white labouring population to amalgamate with the Aborigines so as to form families, indeed they are very jealous of any interference with their Gins.
- The Aborigines are in friendly relations with the Squatters in this District.
- The destruction of property occasioned by the Aborigines during the years 1842 and 1843 was very considerable. Say from 1500 to 2000 sheep and from 2 to 300 head of Cattle, killed and driven away.
- 16. The relations of the Aborigines among themselves is, as far as I can judge, generally amicable.
- Infanticide is said to be common among them.
- The limited acquaintance, I have as yet been able to make with the Aborigines, furnishes me with no facts which can be serviceable to the Committee in its endeavour to promote their welfare.
My experience leads me to doubt whether any Legislative enactment can be efficacious in improving their condition as a class – individually much may be done. I have a Black, belonging to a Tribe from the River Paterson. He has been with me 7 years. I had him as a boy 10 or 12 years of age. I have uniformly treated him with kindness and a better Servant is not easily to meet with in the Bush certainly not a sharper or more willing one. I never have succeeded in getting him to read, although I have often attempted it – He is perfectly happy & contented with me, more so when at work than when idle.
I take the liberty of mention this as an instance of what may be done with individual Blacks – and I believe that only in this way can any good be effected.
I have etc.
(Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society Inc., Initial Settlement on the Darling Downs 1843-1852, a transcription of Rolleston’s Records, p. 30, 2008 [CD]. Reproduced with permission from the New South Wales State Library)