Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/28

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INTRODUCTION.

the condition of the natives that survived the first contact with the vices and contaminations of the whites.

And the Government of Victoria has done much to benefit them. The Parliament of Victoria has been liberal in its grants of money, and stations have been formed, schools established, and lands reserved for the use and for the improvement of the blacks. Missionaries—able, earnest, and thoughtful men—have given their time, their energies, and their abilities to work they believe will have fruitful results. Some of the gentlemen in Victoria—clergymen—who have education and abilities that would place them in the first rank in their profession, have voluntarily sacrificed all hopes of preferment, and have devoted their lives to the task of ameliorating the condition of our native population, knowing that, whatever measure of success may follow on their labors, no reward will be theirs, and perhaps not even a grateful memory of their services will survive.

The natives of Victoria were under the protection of guardians during the period extending from the 1st July 1851 to the 18th June 1860, and the aggregate sum expended under that system was £14,181 8s. The results were not such as to satisfy the colonists. The blacks wandered from place to place, and everywhere readily obtained the means of purchasing intoxicating liquors. There were few children, and the condition of the people generally was deplorable. In 1858 a select committee of the Legislative Council was appointed, on the motion of the Honorable T. McCombie, to enquire into their state, and to suggest means for alleviating their wants; and a report containing many very interesting statements from colonists in all parts of Victoria was printed in February 1859. On the 18th June 1860 a Board was appointed for the Protection of the Aborigines, and on the 11th November 1869 an Act was passed providing for their protection and management.

The moneys expended under this system amount altogether to more than £100,000.

Savages and barbarians are kind to their offspring. When a child is born in Australia, and it is determined by the parents that it shall not be destroyed, every care is taken of it, and the mother also receives for a brief period all those attentions which are proper under the circumstances.

The mother usually carries her infant in her opossum rug, which is so folded as to form a sort of bag at her back; and this is not at all an inconvenient position for the infant, as it enjoys all the comforts which the young of the kangaroo is entitled to when in the marsupium. In the northern parts of Australia—in Arnhem Land—where the natives do not make rugs, the infant's legs are placed over the shoulders of the mother; she holds the legs in her hands when necessary, and the little creature grasps with its small hands her abundant hair.

It is worthy of remark that the practice of placing infants born near the sea-shore in hot sand, from which all sticks, stones, and rough materials have been removed, is known not only in Australia, but also in New Guinea; and adults, on the northern coast, sometimes scoop holes in the sand, cover themselves, and sleep there.