The Aborigines of Victoria and Riverina/Prefatory note
A twofold reason may be advanced for the publication of this little volume. The first is that the Widow of the Author seeks thereby to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of her late Husband, in carrying out what had long been his cherished intention. In thus putting into a permanent form the results of his labours, she has furnished an appropriate "memento" which cannot fail to be highly prized by the wide circle of his relatives and friends.
But in so far as it may find its way into the hands of the general public it must be judged on altogether different grounds, and must stand or fall on its own intrinsic merits; and as a reliable record of Aboriginal life we think it of unique value. Most of the information on this subject that is met with has been gleaned at second-hand, and wears about it a somewhat legendary aspect. Here, however, everything has been learned at first-hand, and is the result of the Author's personal observation. For a period of twenty-three years—from 1845 to 1868—he enjoyed the very best opportunities of making himself acquainted with the manners and the customs of those numerous tribes that then occupied the Lower Murray and Riverina Districts—and that too at a time when the Natives had been but little influenced by contact with European Settlers. Such a record cannot fail to become increasingly valuable as one of the Headwaters of Australian History —the publication of which is all the more a necessity that now it would be absolutely impossible to collect the information contained therein from the few Aborigines that remain.
With reference to Mr. Peter Beveridge, it may not be out of place to say a word or two. He was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, in the year 1829, and ten years later his family landed in Victoria, and commenced pastoral pursuits near the Township of Beveridge, to which they gave their name, and eventually settled down at Woodburn, near Kilmore, where the Mother of the Author still lives at the ripe old age of eighty-five.
In 1845 Mr. Peter Beveridge, accompanied by his brother Andrew, set out northwards to take up new country, taking with them 1000 head of cattle, a sufficient number of teams and servants, and provisions enough to last for a year. This they were induced to do through the representations of Mr. MacDougal—afterwards widely known as a successful breeder of cattle—who had already visited the Lower Murray, and who undertook to guide Mr. Beveridge into suitable country. The spot on which they settled was called Tyntyndyer, About ten miles below where the Town of Swan Hill now stands, and at that time about thirty or forty miles beyond the most outlying settlers. Here the natives were very numerous, and at first were perfectly harmless. The effect, however, of intercourse with the station employees, many of whom were ex-convicts, speedily generated a hostile feeling against the white man. To this Mr. Andrew Beveridge fell an innocent victim—thereby cutting short what promised to be a noble and useful career. Before joining his family in. the colony, he had completed his studies in the University of Edinburgh, and had taken the Degree of Master of Arts, and in accompanying his brother northward it was his intention not only to help forward the undertaking, but also, as far as possible, to sow among the natives the Precious Seed of the Gospel.
As a matter of course, situated as he then was, Mr. Peter Beveridge was brought into daily contact with the Tribes that frequented his neighbourhood; and gradually acquiring their language, he gained their confidence to such an extent that he was permitted to learn at the very fountain head, much that was accessible to perhaps no-other white man. Even the discovery of the goldfields in 1851, and the disorganization that it entailed but ministered the more fully to what had now become Mr. Beveridge's favourite study—for being, compelled to utilise native labour in order to carry on the work of the station, he had full and frequent opportunity of observing all the phases of Aboriginal life. By 1883 he had amassed a large amount of information, which he put into the form of a Paper, which was read before the Royal Society of New South Wales, and printed among their proceedings. This paper may be regarded as the skeleton of the volume which is now given to the public.
In 1868 he removed from the Murray, and some time thereafter settled in French Island. It was there that he prepared for the press this little work, the manuscript being found amongst his papers after his death, and it is now issued just as it came from his hands.
As a man, Mr. Beveridge was frank, genial, and companionable. His clear intelligence and force of character rendered him a conversationalist of no mean order, his remarks frequently lit up with the gleam of humour and the sparkle of wit—altogether a man for whose loss the world feels poorer.
For some time before his death, he suffered from a painful internal ailment, which he bore to the end with Christian fortitude and patience. Hoping for some benefit from the change he came to Wood burn, but the malady refused to quit its hold. And thus, in the home of his family, tended by the loving hands of wife and mother, he died on October 4th, 1885.
J. STEELE, M.A.
The Manse, Kilmore.