Page:The Aborigines of Victoria and Riverina.djvu/11

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From the earliest days of our Victorian colonisation, in fact, long before Australia Felix had attained to the rank of a State, when it was merely Port Phillip, a small appanage of the elder colony of New South Wales, there have been so-called Black Protectorates. The Moravians, too, have had missions to the heathen in various portions of the colony; and in Melbourne there is, and has been for years, a Board, designated the Central Board for the Protection of the Aborigines. Notwithstanding, however, the combined efforts of these bodies, the records of each year show a sad diminution in the numbers of the natives upon those of preceding years. There are many reasons to account for the abortiveness of the attempts to ameliorate the condition, and conserve generally the dwindled remnants of these people, the principal one being found in themselves—viz., entire lack of self-restraint, when any one of their animal instincts chances to be in the ascendant. If it is frequently found, even amongst civilised races, that vice is preferred to virtue, is it wonderful that in most cases these poor savages desire that which we tell them is vicious, instead of that which is good?

Vice and virtue, as a matter of course, are only used here in a conventional sense, the aborigines not having any such arbitrary distinctions. Whatever pleases the preponderating propensity, for the time being, is deemed good, and that which fails to do so is evil according to their ethics. As, for example, most natives would sooner work hard a whole day for a bottle of bad rum, and be half starved as to food, than attend to the teachings of a missionary, though with little labour, and abundance of provisions.