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Settler Colonial Governance in Nineteenth-Century Victoria

Settler Colonial Governance in Nineteenth-Century Victoria

Leigh Boucher
Lynette Russell
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Settler Colonial Governance in Nineteenth-Century Victoria
    Book Description:

    This collection represents a serious re-examination of existing work on the Aboriginal history of nineteenth-century Victoria, deploying the insights of postcolonial thought to wrench open the inner workings of territorial expropriation and its historically tenacious variability. Colonial historians have frequently asserted that the management and control of Aboriginal people in colonial Victoria was historically exceptional; by the end of the century, colonies across mainland Australia looked to Victoria as a ‘model’ for how to manage the problem of Aboriginal survival. This collection carefully traces the emergence and enactment of this ‘model’ in the years after colonial separation, the idiosyncrasies of its application and the impact it had on Aboriginal lives.

    eISBN: 978-1-925022-35-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Colonial history, postcolonial theory and the ʹAboriginal problemʹ in colonial Victoria
    (pp. 1-26)
    Leigh Boucher and Lynette Russell

    In 1835, members of the Kulin confederacy of the Woiwurrung (Wurundjeri), Boonwurrung, Wathaurung, Taungurong and Dja Dja Wurrung noted the arrival of strangers with some trepidation. The European intrusion was probably not a complete surprise; from the moment they arrived, members of the settlement parties lead by John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner thought they were watched ‘warily’ by people who lived on and around what would soon be (mis) named the Yarra River. Moreover, recent work by Robert Kenny suggests that the Kulin were far more knowledgeable about the white interlopers than historians previously thought, prompting a rethinking of...

  6. 1. ʹTickpenʹ, ʹBoro Boroʹ: Aboriginal economic engagements in early Melbourne
    (pp. 27-46)
    Lynette Russell

    European colonisation of south-eastern Australia brought Aboriginal people into contact with a vast array of new material culture items. These were often first introduced via ‘gift giving’ and exchange in an attempt to create and cement social alliances. Many Aboriginal people engaged in the new economy including the cash economy via trade and exchange, employment and what the Europeans described as begging. For the most part such engagements have not been systematically studied or analysed. In Melbourne, Kulin people used a form of economic action that Europeans perceived to be ‘begging’ as a means to engage with the settler economy...

  7. 2. ʹThus have been preserved numerous interesting facts that would otherwise have been lostʹ: Colonisation, protection and William Thomasʹs contribution to The Aborigines of Victoria
    (pp. 47-62)
    Rachel Standfield

    Robert Brough Smyth, Chairman of the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines, published hisThe Aborigines of Victoria: with notes relating to the habits of the Natives of other parts of Australia and Tasmania, compiled from various sources for the Government of Victoriain 1878.¹ Smyth’s work is an example of an early Australian anthropological text. It is a large work, over two volumes and 938 pages, and collected together information gathered from multiple observers of Aboriginal life and society in Victoria and further afield. Smyth, as a noted colonial scientist as well as chairman of the Protection Board,...

  8. 3. The 1869 Aborigines Protection Act: Vernacular ethnography and the governance of Aboriginal subjects
    (pp. 63-94)
    Leigh Boucher

    In 1864, Theo Sumner, Vice-President of the Victorian Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines (CBPA) noted with some frustration that members of the Board worked ‘under severe disadvantages at present [and] many of their schemes are thwarted’.¹ According to his annual report, the instantiation of the Board at the request of the Governor after an 1858 Select Committee represented a chance to ‘attend to the wants of the blacks’ who were clearly struggling for survival in the wake of the violent transformations of settler colonial dispossession and its continuing effects.² However, Sumner argued the CBPA occupied an untenably ambiguous...

  9. 4. ʹThey formed a little family as it wereʹ: The Board for the Protection of Aborigines (1875–1883)
    (pp. 95-116)
    Samuel Furphy

    In October 1876, James MacBain rose in Victoria’s Legislative Assembly to explain why he had resigned from the Board for the Protection of Aborigines (BPA) after more than a decade’s service, including several years chairing its meetings. After an absence overseas, he had returned to the board in January to discover a radically altered policy towards Aboriginal administration, making his membership untenable: ‘During [my] absence in England,’ he said, ‘four new members of the board were appointed; they formed a little family as it were; and they appointed a gentleman as inspector … for doing what [I do] not know’.¹...

  10. 5. Managing mission life, 1869–1886
    (pp. 117-138)
    Claire McLisky, Lynette Russell and Leigh Boucher

    In settler colonies such as Victoria, missions and reserves were the sites where colonial legislation and missionary/humanitarian ambitions encountered Aboriginal people and their own goals, where theories about race, conversion and ‘civilisation’ were translated into everyday practice. Colonial power, in the words of David Scott, ‘came to depend … uponthe systematic redefinition and transformation of the terrain on which the life of the colonized was lived’,² and as the primary physical location in which these transformations were carried out, missions and reserves were laboratories both of Christian evangelical theories and of colonial rule. Granted astonishingly broad powers over Aboriginal...

  11. 6. Photography, authenticity and Victoriaʹs Aborigines Protection Act (1886)
    (pp. 139-164)
    Jane Lydon

    As Darwinism took hold among the global scientific community during the 1860s and 1870s, visitors to Australia such as the Darwinist Enrico Giglioli (in 1867) and Anatole von Hügel (in 1874) followed a well-beaten path around Victoria. Under the auspices of colonial officials such as Robert Brough Smyth and Ferdinand von Mueller, they pursued authentic Indigeneity and Aboriginal ‘data’ including photographs, which subsequently played an important role within their arguments about Aboriginal identity and capacity. This paper examines how photographs became a powerful form of evidence for Aboriginal people, in turn shaping global debates about human history and what Tony...

  12. 7. Women, authority and power on Ramahyuck Mission, Victoria, 1880–1910
    (pp. 165-182)
    Joanna Cruickshank and Patricia Grimshaw

    By the late nineteenth century, Christian missions in the Colony of Victoria, as in many other settler colonies, had become central to the governance of Indigenous people. While missionaries generally saw their aims as distinct from those of the settler administration, in practice missions provided a focus for colonial efforts to control and assimilate Aboriginal people. Missions are thus central to the task of understanding colonial governance and its impact on Indigenous people in Australia. Voluminous mission and bureaucratic archives, containing records produced by missionaries, colonial administrators and Aboriginal mission residents, provide rich sources for analysing how colonial policies towards...

  13. 8. How different was Victoria? Aboriginal ʹprotectionʹ in a comparative context
    (pp. 183-202)
    Jessie Mitchell and Ann Curthoys

    Scholars of settler colonial governance in Victoria have tended to characterise the colony as distinctive. It was, most agree, shaped by unusually intensive efforts to govern, survey, ‘civilise’ and control Aboriginal people, rather than to destroy or simply neglect them, although the latter certainly occurred too.¹ Here, we wish to scrutinise the idea of Victorian exceptionalism, focusing on the late 1850s and early 1860s, the years shortly after the achievement of responsible government in 1856. With responsible government, Britain lost control over Aboriginal policy, and, just as importantly, British humanitarian societies lost their lines of direct influence on policy. In...

  14. 9. The ʹMinutes of Evidenceʹ project: Creating collaborative fields of engagement with the past, present and future
    (pp. 203-224)
    Jennifer Balint, Julie Evans, Nesam McMillan, Giordano Nanni and Melodie Reynolds-Diarra

    The preceding chapters of this collection demonstrate how nuanced and critically informed analyses of historical evidence can deepen and refine our understanding of nineteenth-century Victorian society. In this chapter, we seek a similar outcome; but we shift the focus towards the task of using historical materials to engage a broader public audience. In doing so we consider the potential benefits of expanding the field of engagement with the past through an innovative collaboration which aims to bring Victoria’s history ‘back to life’ through theatre; by (re)citing its historical archive, and taking the words ‘off the page’ and voicing them out...