Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/27

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xix
INTRODUCTION.

them, almost forgot the duties their tribal laws imposed upon them when they were brought face to face with strange blacks. They speared the cattle of the settler, stole his stores, murdered his shepherds at lonely out-stations, and, unable to combine and offer determined resistance to the invaders, they were undoubtedly in many cases the more savage and cruel when they succeeded in getting the whites into their power. These offences compelled the settlers to make reprisals—to take measures in short to retain possession of the country; and many of the stories told of the olden time are not much to the credit of the Europeans. Neither the rifle nor the pistol, however, was so effectual in destroying the natives as the diseases and vices introduced by the pioneers. Arms were used, and perhaps very often in righteous self-defence; but it was the kindness of the civilized immigrant that swept off the native population. His spirituous liquors, and his attentions to the black man's wives, soon made havoc amongst the savages.

Very different estimates have been made of the numbers of natives who were living in that part of Australia now known as Victoria when the first white settlers arrived. Sir Thomas Mitchell saw very few natives, and in the parts he explored—amounting in the aggregate to about one-seventh of the continent—he believed there were no more than 6,000 Aboriginals. This estimate is too low. Mr. E. S. Parker thought there were 7,500 in Victoria, Mr. Wm. Thomas 6,000, Mr. Robinson 6,000, and my own estimate, from facts I have collected, is 3,000. The mean of the whole, including Sir Thomas Mitchell's low estimate, is 4,500.

It must not be forgotten that long prior to the explorations of Sir Thomas Mitchell the native population had suffered severely from a horrible disease which, there is every reason to believe, was introduced by the whites. Smallpox had destroyed large numbers; and it is not probable, even after the lapse of forty years, when Sir Thomas explored the Darling and the tributaries of the Murray, that the several tribes had recovered the losses they had sustained by the terrible affliction that first made itself manifest at Point Maskeleyne.

In Gippsland there were certainly more than one thousand natives; now the number is about two hundred. The two Melbourne tribes numbered in 1838 two hundred and ninety-two, and at the present time there are perhaps not twenty left. The Geelong tribe, when the first settler built his hut on the banks of the River Barwon, was composed of one hundred and seventy-three persons at least; in 1853, about twenty years after, only thirty-four remained; and I believe there is now not more than one alive. The "petty nation"—the Jajowurrong, consisting of seven tribes—that once occupied the basin of the Loddon and the country towards the west, has been dispersed, and there are very few of that sept to be found anywhere. The Goulburn tribes, that of Omeo, and many of those that formerly inhabited the banks of the River Murray, have disappeared. There are remnants of nearly all the tribes, however, in various parts of the colony, or persons who by birth are nearly or remotely connected with the extinct tribes; and because of the exertions of the noblemen and gentlemen who have at various times held the high office of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, much has been done to ameliorate