Page:Australian aborigines 1838.djvu/12
in No. 2.
PAPERS RELATIVE TO THE
In the list of articles above enumerated, it will be observed that there are no baubles, no trifles, they are what may be termed substantial comforts; and from thence it may be deduced, that a people who can have such desires must, as a natural consequence, be far advanced towards a state of civilized improvement, and which is the more apparent, since these acquirements are only attainable by purchase, and the result of honest and persevering industry.
It now remains for me to show how far the aborigines are employed, and the manner in which their labour is appropriated, and this I purpose doing as under:
1. Male aborigines, how employed.
The labour at which the male aborigines engage is various; the more prominent is road-making, and in this they excel, and are complete adepts; they are fully equal to this kind of labour to the most experienced of the white men on the settlement, and for celerity of movement are greatly superior.
The roads made by the aborigines during the last six months are by actual measurement one mile, six furlongs, and eleven perches, as per schedule (Appendix D.). Those roads have been cut through land densely wooded and uneven, the stumps have been grubbed and holes filled up, and the superfluous rubbish swept away; the entire of which has been done exclusively by the natives and directed by their own judgment, unaided by the advice of any person, with the exception of one road, under the superintendence of Mr. William Robinson. The above experiment I was induced to try, from an impression that they would be equal to the task, and which the results have fully established. Some of those avenues average in width from eleven to eighteen feet, and hence are sufficient for the largest vehicle. The locality of those roads is through a dense forest, in the rear of my quarters, and between them and the beach. Many advantages have resulted to the settlement by opening this forest. It forms now a more ready communication to the beach, by which also the natives are prevented from coming in contact with the prisoners, as heretofore was the practice.
2. It affords them an easy access to collect fuel for their fires.
3. And being contiguous to their new cottages will be found of incalculable advantage preserving them in health, as affording a well sheltered place for exercise and amusement secure from every wind.
The above reasons, together with the extensive and alarming conflagrations which periodically happen during the summer months, induced me to commence these operations, the advantages of which the aborigines duly acknowledge and appreciate. During the last summer this forest was with great difficulty kept from ignition, and which if destroyed, would not only have thrown this settlement open to the prevailing westerly winds, but might have also consumed a great part of the erection on the settlement. To prevent such a calamity as the one alluded to, the aborigines have, in addition to the opening of the roads, commenced clearing away the underwood, and have made considerable proficiency; when this improvement is complete, it will effectually prevent the alarming consequences mentioned, and hence the great anxiety heretofore experienced will be removed.
For this description of labour the aborigines receive from 1 s. to 1 s. 6 d. per diem.
Rural Economy.Tillage is another description of labour in which the aborigines engage, and in the execution of which they have evinced great aptitude and made considerable progress. They dig and plant their own potatoes, and which during the last season averaged between three and four acres. They also assisted in their stowage, and during the harvest, in housing grain. The stakes for 607 yards of fencing, amounting in number to several thousands, have been cut and brought in from the forest by the natives. All the wattles used on the settlement for the new erections were cut by the natives, and the product of their labour. They have likewise brought a quantity of timber from the wreck of the sloop "Harmony," a distance of several miles, and are now busily employed in assisting and bringing in from the bush timber for roofing their new cottages.
The strong desire the natives have evinced for fruit, and the general character of the soil and climate at Flinders to the growth of the strawberry, the exuberance of which is beyond conception, induced me to propose to them to cultivate largely for their own use this luxuriant fruit. A spot was accordingly selected in a central part of the forest above referred to, and where having pointed out the situation, and the extent of its boundary, the natives commenced their operations under the immediate superintendence of their own chieftains; and I must confess that when it was begun, I had considerable doubts whether it would ever be completed; for to such people it appeared to me an Herculean undertaking, and subsequently was both astonished and delighted to witness with what steady and unremitting perseverance they applied themselves to the task; the two chiefs, i.e. King William and King George, alternately coming two and three times a day to acquaint me with its progress, such was the delight they took in the undertaking. The strawberry garden is now complete, and ready for the plants, the setting of which will immediately commence. The extent of this plantation is found by actual measurement to contain near two acres of land. See Appendix (E). The whole of which, when the natives undertook the task of clearing, was densely wooded and overgrown with underwood. It has been well grubbed and broke up by the hoe and spade, and prepared with the rake, and is now ready for setting. The entire of this plantation I enclosed by a substantial fence, averaging in height