Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/338

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APPENDIX E.


NOTES RELATING TO THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

(By John Moore Davis.)


It is the fashion among many persons to speak of the Australian Aborigines in terms of the greatest contempt, as being far below us in every qualification, both mental and physical; and no doubt the degraded creatures met loafing about the bush public-houses deserve all that may be said of them; but experience teaches that it is no more fair to judge the whole of the Aborigines by the specimens alluded to than it would be to judge the Celt or Anglo-Saxon races by the police reports, or the scum met with in the haunts of vice and infamy; and those persons who have seen much of the blacks in the early days of these colonies can recall many instances of chivalrous daring, benevolence, and patient endurance of hardship and suffering, which perhaps may yet, in the hands of some Australian Cooper, "serve to point a moral or adorn a tale."

That the whole of the blacks scattered over the Australian continent believe in a future state is indisputable; for go where you will—east or west, north or south—you will still find them strong in the belief that though they will die, they will rise again in the flesh, stronger, aye, and wiser than ever.

Their mode of disposing of the bodies of deceased persons differs in various localities. At Encounter Bay in South Australia, and along the coast in that vicinity, the bodies are put on platforms in trees, and so allowed to remain till they fall to pieces. And in cases where a person belonging to another tribe had died among them, the body is gradually smoke-dried in a sort of loft made in their wirley, or temporary abode of the family he lived with; and the body is carried about from place to place, till it is ultimately claimed by the tribe of the deceased. Burying the dead is, however, the most common, particularly in New South Wales, the body being tightly swathed in bark, and placed in the grave in a sitting position, with the face to the east. The grave is then filled up with alternate layers of timber and earth, so as to prevent the body being injured by wild dogs, or exhumed by hostile tribes. Great taste is often shown in the choice of a burying-place, and the writer has often in his travels come upon a grave, or cluster of graves, in some romantic spot—the hieroglyphics carved on the surrounding trees pourtraying, no doubt as truly as our tombstones generally do, all the virtues of those who slept below.

I recollect once, on the banks of the Murrumbidgee, coming suddenly upon a grave in a most picturesque situation; and that the tenant was one who had