[Editor: An article about the Australian Natives’ Association in Mount Gambier. Published in The Border Watch, 21 April 1888.]
Australian Natives’ Association.
On April 27 the Mount Gambier branch of the Australian Natives’ Association — the pioneer branch of South Australia — will have been a year established. In the twelve months it has progressed satisfactorily. Its membership has risen to 125, and it has become very popular with Australian born young men, who in the course of another generation will form the great majority of the leaders of our political, religious, and social life. To this fact the geniality and energy of its President (Mr. H. H. Barrett) and the active and judicious management of its Committee and officers, no less than the aims and objects of the Association itself have largely contributed.
Thursday last was the regular meeting day that fell nearest the anniversary date, and the President decided to give a “smoke social” to mark the foundation of the branch. All the members were notified of it and expected to be present, and invitations were sent to a large number of residents, who, although not native born, are nevertheless, as the Mayor very happily put it, Australians as thoroughly in interest and in sentiment as any who are. The invitations were well responded to.
About 110 gentlemen assembled on Thursday evening at 8 o’clock, in the Town Hall Assembly-room. Of these about half were Natives. In answer to the frequent enquiry why more of the members were not present, it was explained that many are absent on visits to other parts of the colony, that some have left the district permanently, and that others were unable from business and other reasons to put in an appearance on that particular evening.
Mr. Barrett had made full preparation for the enjoyment of his guests. Numerous small tables, provided with boards for chess and draughts, cards, &c., were distributed over the room, and a programme of music and elocution had been prepared to beguile the time for those visitors who might prefer to converse rather than play. Mr. D. B. Adamson, who made an efficient conductor of the musical part of the programme, played the overture, after which the President opened the business of the evening by a short address.
The object of the gathering, he explained, was chiefly for the purpose of enabling the Association members and its friends to join in celebrating the anniversary of the Mount Gambier branch; and at the same time, he might say, it happened to be the 17th anniversary of the foundation of the Association itself. So as far as the members were concerned they, therefore, felt it was of double importance. It was decided that the celebration should take the form of a smoke social, in which all friends who were not eligible to be members could join with the members in observing in a most pleasant way that important period in their history.
Many people had some peculiar ideas as to the objects and designs of the association. They would know its objects fully by-and-bye, but at the present time it might be necessary to acquaint those who did not know them. In the first place it was to create among Australian natives, who had no national feeling or sentiment such as existed among Scotch people, Germans, and Irish towards their native country and themselves, such a feeling for their native land. Australian born people appeared to have no such feeling, and this Association was primarily organised for the purpose of creating among them such a national spirit. (Applause.) And for some years that desirable feeling had been increasing — slowly, but yet surely.
It had received a lot of opposition from those who wrote and spoke as if Australian natives were desirous of depriving their ancestors of the honor of having discovered and peopled this new land. They did not wish to take any honor from them, but they felt that if things were to go on without any organization to create a national feeling they would become mere nobodies; but if that feeling was fostered they believed that at some future time the Australians would prove themselves a nation equal to other nations on the northern side of the Equator. (Applause.)
For the last seventeen years there had been scarcely a reason visible why they should be a nation in the sense of which he spoke, but during the past twelve months he thought it must be very patent there had been a reason for the entertaining of a national feeling, and some organisation too, among Australians. He alluded to the Chinese question. (Loud applause.) This was an important subject to Australian natives and Australians generally. Of course, no fear of a wholesale inundation of Chinese was entertained by residents in Scotland or England or Germany because the resident population were in possession of all the land, and would keep it. But in Australia, where colonization was but 100 years old and much of the land was still unoccupied, it appeared to him the Chinese, if not deterred, would simply walk in and take from us what our ancestors had secured for us — would come in behind us to take what was really our birthright — (cheers) — and the inheritance of those European races of which we were so justly proud. (Applause.)
He then read apologies from a number of gentlemen who were unable to be present at the social, among whom was Mr. J. L. Purves, President of the Association. He telegraphed — “Regret impossible to attend. Congratulate you on the rapid strides of the Association and proud of South Australia.” (Applause.) Amongst others there were apologies from Mr. D. Livingston, M.P, Mr. J. P. Stow, S.M., and several clergymen. The President then thanked the gentlemen present for their attendance, and hoped they would enjoy themselves.
Cigars were handed round, and for a few moments there was the crack of numerous lucifer matches, and majority of the company were soon smoking over games of cards, chess, draughts, &c. While these were proceeding the programme of music and recitations was carried out. Mr. G. A. Reinecke sang “Country, home, and Queen,” a stirring patriotic song; Mr. Pavis sang “Messmates;” Mr. R. Hood (to whose approaching departure from the district the President referred with regret) read an exceedingly humorous piece — “The debating society at Black Wolf mine;” Mr. A. James sang “Drinking,” for which he was recalled; Mr. F. Wheeler sang “Only to see thy face again;” and Mr. Harford recited “Patriotism” (Scott) very ably.
The Mayor (Mr. W. Thurston, J.P.), at the President’s request, then addressed the company. He said he considered it a great honor to be invited to the social to celebrate the anniversary of the branch, at the inauguration of which he had the pleasure of being present, and he thanked the President for it. Such gatherings as these tended to a vast amount of social good. Unfortunately, he was not himself a native of Australia but he felt it an honor and pride that he could say for himself and others who were not Australian born, that although not natives they were Australians. (Applause.) He was more than pleased to see that from a social gathering of this sort the clergy were not excluded, and that some were present that evening; and that they attended and joined with the members in the pleasure of the evening augured for good. He hoped this, the first South Australian branch of the Association, would continue to prosper, and that Mr. Barrett would be spared to preside over it for many a year to come. (Applause.)
The President, replying to the Mayor’s remarks, said he appreciated the interest that gentleman had shown in the branch since its establishment. He was pleased he was present that evening, and also so many others, who, although not Australians by birth, yet were, as the Mayor said, Australians in feeling. It encouraged the natives in the cultivation of an Australian national spirit. (Applause.)
Three cheers were then given for the President.
The Rev. T. Harrington said a few words in reiteration of the sentiments uttered by the Mayor and the President. Although not an Australian native he was an Australian, (applause), and had as much love for the land of his adoption as any native; and had as great a desire for its political, spiritual, and social progress. (Applause.)
A humorous reading, “Moral courage,” was then given by the Rev. Mr. Harrington, after which coffee and cakes were handed round. This interruption over, the games and the music were resumed. Mr. Welwood J. Anderson contributed a humorous recitation. Besides the opening overture Mr. Adamson played several pieces on the pianoforte in the course of the evening. Shortly after 10 o’clock a vote of thanks to all who had assisted in the social was proposed by the President, and cordially carried by the company. A verse of the Song of Australia was sung and then a verse of the National Anthem. Cheers were given for the Queen, and the social broke up.
The Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA), 21 April 1888, p. 3
[Editor: Corrected “J.P” to “J.P.”, “which The” to “which the”; “twelvemonths” to “twelve months”.]
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]