The Aborigines of Victoria/Volume 1

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A Corrobboree.






Natives of other Parts of Australia and Tasmania.







By Authority:



Melbourne, 13th November 1876.


I have the honor to lay before you the work I have compiled on the Habits of the Aboriginal Natives of Victoria.

It is not altogether confined to this colony. There is much in it that treats of the customs observed in other parts of Australia, and some information respecting the race that formerly inhabited Tasmania.

I have the honor to be,


Your most obedient servant,


The Honorable John A. MacPherson, M.P.,

Chief Secretary, &c., &c.


The character of the following work requires that I should mention the circumstances under which I undertook the compilation of it.

When, sixteen years ago, I was appointed Secretary of the Board for the Protection of the Aborigines, it seemed to me to be my duty to collect information respecting the customs of the people who had formerly owned the soil of Australia, and to make accurate drawings of their weapons and ornaments. I did not know then that I was commencing a work which would engage all my leisure for many years, and entail upon me a large amount of labor in correspondence alone. I had no idea, indeed, in the beginning, that the work would be a large one; but even if it had been possible to have foreseen that, and to have anticipated the difficulties I have had to contend with in tracing various customs from one point to another, and in verifying by a number of examples statements that, unsupported, appeared at the first view highly improbable—still I should, on account of the interest of the questions that presented themselves, and from a sense of duty, have labored earnestly in performing the task.

For the proper and efficient treatment of such subjects as I have attempted to deal with, the mind should be wholly devoted to the consideration of them—unembarrassed by other onerous duties—or free, at least, from the anxieties that are inseparable from an official position in a new country. And this compilation should be judged rather as a series of sketches, written in such intervals of time as were available, than as a scientific work pretending to completeness.

All that I have done in connection with it is founded on information furnished by gentlemen who have had frequent and favorable opportunities of observing the habits of the natives. When I commenced to figure and describe the native weapons, I asked the late Mr. William Thomas, who had held the office of Protector or Guardian of Aborigines for nearly twentyfive years, to write down under separate heads all that was known to him respecting the Aborigines; and thus have been preserved numerous interesting facts that would otherwise have been lost. The Rev. John Bulmer, Superintendent of the Aboriginal Station at Lake Tyers in Gippsland, has contributed many valuable papers, and has constantly assisted me, and has made special enquiries into various questions, whenever he has been asked, with a kindness and alacrity which deserve my warmest thanks. Mr. John Green, for many years Superintendent of the Station at Coranderrk, has also furnished a number of papers, and obtained many facts of singular value. He has always responded to every application made to him. The late Dr. Gummow, who was resident on the Lower Murray for some time, favored me with much help, and undertook investigations that few but himself could have made with success.

Mr. Alfred W. Howitt, F.G.S., Warden and Police Magistrate at Bairnsdale in Gippsland, has not only undertaken the compilation of several papers, but has been in constant correspondence with me in reference to the habits of the natives, and has always taken the warmest interest in this work from the very first. His notes on the Aborigines of Cooper's Creek, and his paper on the System of Consanguinity and Kinship of the Brabrolong tribe—which is but a fragment of a more extensive work that, jointly with the Rev. Lorimer Fison, he was to have prepared—are contributions to science that will necessarily be highly valued by ethnologists.

Mr. Philip Chauncy's notes and anecdotes relate to many important subjects; and as this gentleman has had perhaps as large an experience of the native character as any one now living, his remarks are entitled to great weight. He has written a thoughtful and valuable paper; and I esteem myself singularly fortunate in having perhaps by my efforts to preserve some remnants of the history of the Australians secured his co-operation.

Mr. Albert A. C. Le Souëf has recorded some of the many curious facts observed by him during the long period he has resided amongst the natives; and he has likewise furnished information respecting the weapons in use in various parts of the continent.

From the late Mr. John Moore Davis, who was well acquainted with the habits of the Aborigines of the southern parts of Australia, I received a paper containing accounts of events that transpired in the early times of the settlements. Mr. Davis was remarkably well informed on all the subjects referred to in his paper, and he voluntarily gave up much of his time in preparing his sketches for this work.

The Rev. William Ridley, M.A., of Sydney, whose name is foremost amongst those connected with Australian philological researches, has, with extreme kindness, contributed a paper in which he relates a few of the most remarkable traditions that have come under his observation—selecting, as he informs me in a letter, those that seem most emphatically to silence the long-current assumption that the Aborigines of Australia are a race destitute of all ideas concerning the unseen world and of all imagination and hope. No one who has perused the published works of the learned author of the paper which appears in this compilation will need to be reminded that he is the highest authority in Australia on all matters that relate to the Aboriginal natives.

I have received ready assistance also from the Rev. F. A. Hagenauer, the Superintendent of the Aboriginal Station at Lake Wellington in Gippsland; the Rev. A. Hartmann, the Rev. F. W. Spieseke, and the Rev. Horatio Ellermann, of Lake Hindmarsh; the Rev. Amos Brazier and Mr. Joseph Shaw, of Lake Condah; Mr. H. B. Lane, of Warrnambool; Mr. Goodall, the Superintendent of the Aboriginal Station at Framlingham; Mr. Charles Gray, of Nareeb Nareeb; Mr. J. A. Panton, Police Magistrate and Warden at Geelong; the late Mr. W. H. Wright, Sheriff; the late Mr. A. F. A. Greeves and Mr. M. Hervey; Mr. N. Munro; the Rev. H. P. Kane; Mr. A. Sullivan, of Bulloo Downs; Mr. Alfred Telo, Mr. Sydenham Bowden; Mr. F. M. Krausé, Mr. Reginald A. F. Murray, and Mr. Norman Taylor, Geological Surveyors in Victoria; the Honorable Frederick Barlee, M.P., Colonial Secretary in West Australia; Mr. H. Y. L. Brown, Geological Surveyor; Mr. George Bridgman, of Gooneenberry, Mackay, Queensland; the Rev. S. McFarlane, New Guinea Mission, of Somerset, Cape York; Capt. Cadell; Mr. W. E. Stanbridge, Daylesford; Mr. F. M. Hughan; Mr. John W. Amos, Surveyor; Mr. J. Cosmo Newbery, B.Sc; Mr. Suetonius H. Officer, Murray Downs; Mr. Ronald Gunn, F.R.S., Launceston; Mr. Hugh M. Hull, Clerk of the House of Assembly, Hobart Town; Mr. J. W. Agnew, Hon. Sec. of the Royal Society of Tasmania; Miss E. M. a'Beckett, who was so good as to make a drawing of a characteristic Tasmanian plant; and others whose names are mentioned in the work.

In conclusion, I have to refer to the great help and encouragement I have received from Professor McCoy, of the Melbourne University, who has taken much trouble with the papers that have been sent to him from time to time, and has constantly assisted me with his advice. It is impossible for me to say how deeply I am indebted to him.

The Honorable John Madden, LL.D., M.P., Minister of Justice, has very kindly lent aid whenever I have had to make demands on his time.

Baron von Mueller, C.M.G., the Government Botanist, has furnished information respecting the vegetation of the colony, and has made suggestions, also, in relation to other researches.

My obligations to Professor Halford, of the Melbourne University, are very great. His notes containing the results of his examination of the skulls of the natives are especially interesting.

Mr. G. H. F. Ulrich, F.G.S., was good enough to examine the stone implements, and I was glad to avail myself of his assistance, because of his accurate knowledge and large experience as a mineralogist.

Lastly, my thanks are especially due to Mr. John Ferres, the Government Printer, whose high attainments are already everywhere acknowledged; to Major Richard Shepherd, for the care and skill bestowed by him in preparing the greater number of the drawings; and to Mr. F. Grosse, the engraver, for the like attention given to the drawings and the wood-cuts.

Melbourne, 13th November 1876.


Letter to the Honorable the Chief Secretary.
Preface v
List of Illustrations xiii
Introduction xvii
Physical Character.—Height, weight, and size.—Color.—Hair.—Odour.—Senses.—Physical powers.—Use of feet and toes.—Portraits of natives—Victoria and Queensland—Tasmanian—Malayo-Polynesians—Chinese.—Natives of Australia generally.—Half-castes 1
Mental Character.—Capacity and faculties.—Thomas Bungeleen.—Bennilong.—Treatment of whites.—Fidelity.—Courage.—Modes of expressing defiance and contempt.—Modesty.—Affections 22
Numbers and Distribution of the Aborigines.—Estimate made by Sir Thomas Mitchell—By Mr. E. S. Parker—By Mr. Wm. Thomas.—Numbers in the Counties of Bourke, Evelyn, and Mornington.—Character of the country inhabited by the natives.—Available area.—The tribes of the river-basins.—New estimate of the numbers.—Natives seen by Landsborough.—Difficulty of estimating the numbers seen in the bush.—Map showing the areas occupied by tribes.—Names of "petty nations" and tribes.—Number and distribution of natives in 1863 and subsequently.—Number now living.—Number collected at the several Aboriginal stations 31
Birth and Education of Children.—Birth.—Behaviour towards the mother.—Treatment of the infant.—Mode of carrying children.—Nurture.—Procuring food.—Swimming.—Education.—Sports.—Toys.—Natives affectionate and gentle in their treatment of children.—No artificial means used to alter the form of the body of a child.—Infanticide.—Naming children.—Coming of age of young men and young women—Ceremonies in various parts of Australia—Tib-but—Murrum Tur-uk-ur-uk—Jerryale.—Upper Yarra natives.—Lake Tyers.—The Narrinyeri.—Port Lincoln.—New South Wales.—Macleay and Nambucca.—Circumcision 46
Marriage.—Obtaining wives.—Betrothals.—Early marriages.—Elopements—The ordeal.—Condition of a young unmarried man.—Fights.—Maiming the bride.—How matches are made.—Barter.—Meeting of the young man and the young women.—Promiscuous Intercourse not common.—Exogamy.—Classes in Victoria—In South Australia.—Children take the family name of the mother.—A man may not marry a woman of his own class.—Classes at Port Lincoln—In West Australia—In New South Wales—At Port Essington.—Investigations of Fison and Howitt.—Morgan's theories respecting laws of marriage and systems of consanguinity—Bridgman's statements as to the system in Queensland—Stewart's account of that in force at Mount Gambler—Effect of the prohibitions.—Latham's remarks on these laws.—Strezelecki's theory respecting curtailment of power of continuing the species under certain circumstances—Its fallacy exposed.—Statements of Hartmann, Green, and Hagenauer.—A man may not see or speak to his mother-in-law.—Behaviour towards widows.—Marriages of black men with white women 76
Death, and Burial of the Dead.—Carrying the remains of a dead child.—Various modes of disposing of the dead.—A dying native.—Behaviour of the natives.—Death.—Preparation of the body for interment.—Inquest.—Belief in sorcery.—Interment.—Mourning.—The grave.—The widow watching the grave.—Death of a black after sunset.—Revenge.—Burning the bodies of the dead.—Placing bodies in the hollows of trees.—Practices of the Goulburn tribes.—Modes of disposing of the dead on the Lower Murray—Stanbridge's account.—Burial ceremonies of the Narrinyeri—Of the Encounter Bay tribe—Of the Port Lincoln tribe—Of the West Australian blacks— Of the Cooper's Creek tribes—Of the Fraser Island (Queensland) tribes.—Modes of burial of other uncivilized races 98
A Native Encampment and the Daily Life of the Natives.—Travelling.—Cutting bark.—Erection of miams.—Arrangement of camps.—Cooking and eating.—Government of a camp.—Duties of the head of a family.—Domestic affairs.—Punishment of offences.—Messengers.—Visitors.—Welcoming friends.—Great gathering of natives at the Merri Creek.—Respect paid to aged persons.—Kul-ler-kul-lup and Billibillari.—Influence of old men in the camp.—Principal woman of the Colac tribe.—Good haters.—Their affection for their friends.—Bun-ger-ring.—King-er-ra-noul.—King Benbow.—Life during the four seasons.—Natives not always improvident.—Property in land.—Personal rights.—Dogs.—Climbing trees.—Signalling.—Swearing amity.—Fights.—Conveying a challenge.—Dances.—Games and amusements.—An encampment at night.—Traffic amongst the tribes 123
Food.—Hunting the kangaroo.—The opossum.—The wombat.—The native bear.—The bandicoot.—The porcupine.—The native dog.—The native cat.—Squirrels.—Bats.—Smaller marsupials.—The emu.—The turkey.—The native companion.—Ducks and other wild-fowl.—Parrots.—Snaring small birds.—Catching crows.—The turtle.—Reptiles.—Catching fish.—Shell-fish.—Bees.—Pupae of ants.—Grubs.—Eggs.—Vegetable food.—Vegetables that are commonly eaten in various parts of Australia.—Drinks.—Manna.—List of vegetables usually eaten by the natives of Victoria.—Seeds and grinding seeds.—Compungya.—Berries.—Nuts.—Nardoo.—Geebung.—Five-corners.—Nonda.—Bunya-bunya.—Water-yielding trees.—Narcotics.—Food of the natives of Cooper's Creek.—Vegetable food of the natives of the North-East.—Forbidden food.—Mirrn-yongs.—Shell-mounds.—Stone-shelters.—Cannibalism.—The habits of animals as related by the natives 183
Diseases.—Ophthalmia.—Small-pox.—Diseases affecting the natives prior to the advent of the whites.—Native doctors and their methods of treating diseases.—Reports of Thomas and Goodwin on the diseases of the natives 253
Dress and Personal Ornaments.—Dress and ornaments of the natives of the Yarra—Of Gippsland—Of the Lower Murray—Of the natives of North-East Australia—Of the Dieyerie tribe 270
Ornamentation.—Character of the ornamentation of shields and other weapons in Victoria and other parts of Australia.—Pictures on bark.—Design for a tomb-stone.—Ornamentation of opossum rugs.—Pictures in caves.—Pictures on rocks.—Depuch Island.—Colors used.—Raised cicatrices.—Comparison of designs of Australians with those of the natives of New Guinea, Fiji, and New Zealand 283
Offensive Weapons.—Clubs—Kud-jee-run—Kul-luk—Warra-warra—Leon-ile—Kon-nung—Bittergan.—Spears—Mongile—Nandum—Tir-rer—Koanie—Gow-dalie—Worme-goram—Ugie-koanie—Koy-yun.—Spears with stone heads.—Womerah or Gur-reek used for throwing spears.—Throw-sticks—Wonguim—Barn-geet—Li-lil—Quirriang-an-wun.—Various weapons compared.—Boomerangs which return and those which do not return.—Characteristics of the boomerang which returns to the thrower—Its axes.—Errors made in experimenting with throw-sticks.—Egyptian boomerang.—The hunga munga.—The trombash.—The es-sellem.—New boomerang.—Ferguson on the cateia.—Ornamented boomerangs 299
Defensive Weapons.—Shields—Mulga—Gee-am—Goolmarry.—Shields in use at Rockingham Bay 330
Weapons and Implements of the West Australians.—Kylie.—The gid-jee and other spears.—The meero.—The woonda or wooden shield.—The kadjo or stone hammer.—The stone chisel.— The meat-cutter.—The scoop or spade.—Other implements 335
Implements and Manufactures.—Bags and baskets.—Wooden vessels for holding water.—Skins.—Skull drinking cup.—Bark vessels.—Shells.—Tool for scraping.—Tool for carving.—Awls and nails.—The kan-nan.—The nerum.—The weet-weet.—Corrobboree-sticks.—Message-sticks 342
Stone Implements.—Hatchets.—Rocks used.—Quarries.—Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods.—Old axes and chips and flakes found in the soil—Axes not found in the alluvia.—Figures and descriptions of stone tomahawks.—Axe found on Pitcairn's Island.—Uses of the tomahawk.—Chisels and knives.—New Zealand axe.—Chips for spears—For scarring the flesh—For skins and for scraping, &c.—Stones for pounding and grinding seeds.—Sharpening-stones.—Stones used in fishing.—Stones used in basket-making.—Sacred stones 357
Nets and Fish-hooks.—Large net.—Hand-net.—Fibres used in making nets.—Fish-hooks 388
Methods of Producing Fire.—Twirling the upright stick.—Rubbing across a crack with the wooden knife.—Methods of producing fire in various parts of the world.—Holy fires of the Germanic races.—Witchcraft.—Fire produced accidentally.—Volcanoes 393
Canoes.—Bark canoes of the Victorian natives.—How propelled.—Cutting bark for canoes.—Trees yielding bark suitable for making canoes.—Numbers carried in canoes of various sizes.—Natives fishing from canoes.—Statements relating to the canoes in use in various parts of Australia 407
Myths.—Pundjel.— The first men.—The first women.—The dispersion of mankind.— Death.—The man with a tail.—Origin of the sea.—How water was first obtained—The sun.—The moon.—The sun, the moon, and the stars.—Native names of and tales respecting the sun, the moon, and the stars.—The bun-yip.—Myndie.—Kur-bo-roo.—Mirram and Warreen.—Boor-a meel.—The emu and the crow.—The eagle, the mopoke, and the crow.—Mornmoot-bullarto mornmoot.—Loo-errn.—Wi-won-der-rer.—Buk-ker-til-lible.—The River Murray.—Nrung-a-narguna.—Kootchee.—Fire—How Fire was first obtained.—Priests and sorcerers.—Marm-bu-la.—Bowkan, Brewin, and Bullundoot.—Aboriginal legend of a deluge.—The Port Albert frog.—How the black fellows lost and regained fire.—The native dog.—The history of Bolgan 423


A Corrobborre (Frontispiece).
Natives of Gippsland 9
Natives of different parts of Victoria 9
A full-blooded black (male) 10
A full-blooded black (female) 10
Natives of Queensland 11
Native of Tasmania 12
Maories 13
Native of Cook or Hervey's Group- 14
Native of China 15
Diagram—Marriages in New Norcia 88
Native dogs 150
Climbing a tree at Twofold Bay 151
Climbing a tree in Queensland 152
Per-bo-re-gan 176
Turkey snare 192
Nardoo plant 217
Fruit of Bunya-bunya 218
A weir 234
Murri-guile 271
Til-bur-nin 272
Mar-rung-nul 276
Moolong-nyeerd 276
Ni-yeerd 277
Necklace of teeth 278
Necklace of reeds 278
Necklace with pendant 279
Ngungy-ngungy 279
Carr-e-la 279
Oogee 280
Patterns adopted in ornamenting weapons, &c. 284-285
Representation of the human figure 285
Copy of a picture on bark 287
A tomb-board 288
Figure of a reptile 288
Marks on figures in caves 290
Figures of animals on rocks on Depuch Island 293
Patterns adopted in scarring the body 295
Forms of ornamentation in New Guinea 296
Forms of ornamentation in New Zealand 297
Forms of ornamentation in Fiji 297
Marks on Fijian pottery 298
Kud-jer-oong 299
Curved sticks or clubs, Thebes 299
Various forms of clubs 300
Kul-luk 301
Worra-worra 301
Leon-ile 302
Waddy, Cooper's Creek 302
Kon-nung 302
Meero, Queensland 302
Bittergan, Queensland 303
Sword, Rockingham Bay 303
Mongile, barbed with chips of basalt 304
Mongile, with barbs of wood 304
Barbed spear 304
Various forms of the Nandum 305
Reed-spear 305
Fishing spears 306
Ujie-koanie 307
Tir-rer 307
Koy-yun 307
Barbed spear, Central Australia 308
Stone-headed spear, North Australia 308
Paddle-shaped club, North Australia 308
Stone-headed spear 309
Various forms of the Kur-ruk or Throwing-stick 309
Figure showing how the Kur-ruk is used 310
Wonguim 311
Barn-geet 313
Li-lil 314
Quirriang-an-wun 315
Group of leaf-shaped missiles 315
Diagrams showing the form of the Boomerang 317-318
Hunga Munga 324
Trombash 324
Es-sellem 324
Boomerang 324
Belgic Briton 328
Ornamented Boomerang, Queensland 329
Mulga 330
Various forms of the Mulga 331
Various forms of the Drunmung 331
Other forms of the Mulga 332
Various forms of the Gee-am or Kerreem 333
Goolmarry, Queensland 334
Wooden shield, Rockingham Bay 334
Various forms of the Kylie, West Australia 335
Gid-jee, West Australia 336
Light spear, West Australia 336
Barbed spear, West Australia 337
Spear with two prongs and barbed, West Australia 337
Spear with four prongs, North-West Australia 338
Various forms of the Meero, West Australia 339
Woonda, West Australia 339
Kad-jo, West Australia 340
Dhabba, West Australia 340
Meat-cutter, West Australia 341
Waal-bee, West Australia 341
Bag or basket 343
Large bag 344
Bee-lang 344
Flat basket, Western District 345
Bin-nuk 345
Small basket, Queensland 346
Wicker-work bottle, Queensland 346
Tarnuk bullito, Tarnuk, and No-been-tarno 347
Leange-walert 349
Various forms of bone awls 350
Spine of the porcupine 350
Kan-nan 351
Nerum 351
Weet-weet 352
Message-stick, Queensland 354
Message-sticks, West Australia 355
Koorn-goon 356
Section of stone hatchet 363
Hatchet with handle, Yarra Yarra 365
Hatchet with handle. Lake Tyers 366
Hatchet with handle, Lake Tyers 366
Hatchet with handle 367
Hatchet with handle, Queensland 367
Hatchet with handle, Munara District 368
Large stone axe, Daylesford 368
Large stone axe, Lake Condah 368
Various forms of stone hatchets 369
Various forms of stone hatchets—- 370
Fragments of stone axes 371
Stone axe, Winchelsea 372
Stone axe, Dargo River 372
Large stone axe, New South Wales 373
Stone axe, Pitcairn's Island 377
Stone chisel or gouge, Grey Ranges 379
Stone knife, Cooper's Creek 380
Stone knife 380
Chips for spears 380
Chips for cutting scars 381
Chips for skinning opossums 381
Fragment of a tomahawk 381
Fragments of tomahawks, &c. 382
Chip of chert 382
Stones for grinding seeds and fruits 383
Sharpening-stone 383
Sharpening-stones 384
Stone used in fishing, &c. 385
Hand-net 389
Fishing-net, Yarra Yarra 390
Mesh of fishing-net, Queensland 390
Fish-hook, Gippsland 391
Instrument for catching fish, Geelong 391
Instrument for catching fish, Queensland 391
Fish-hook, Rockingham Bay 391
Fish-hook, New Zealand 392
Producing fire by twirling the upright stick 393
Fire-sticks 393
Producing fire with the wooden knife 395
Producing fire 395
Producing fire with the bow, America 401
Procuring bark for a canoe 407
Bark canoes (two forms) 408
Stripping bark for a canoe 409
Diagram showing the form of the canoe 410
Trees from which bark is taken 410
Trees stripped 412
Canoes, Lake Tyers 413
Bun-yip 436
Bun-yip 437
Myndie 446
Map showing some of the areas formerly occupied by the Tribes of Victoria  End of vol.