Mr. Campbell and the blacks [7 October 1910]

[Editor: Donald Campbell, Member of the South Australian parliament, was a defender of the rights of the Australian Aborigines. The second last paragraph of this article indicates that some Aborigines were voting in South Australian elections at that time. Published in The Advertiser (Adelaide), 7 October 1910.]

Mr. Campbell and the blacks.

Mr. D. Campbell, M.P., has had a good deal of experience with the blacks, and he has a kindly feeling towards them. On Thursday he delivered a most interesting speech in the House of Assembly concerning the Aborigines Bill introduced by the Government, which is now at its second reading stage. Among other things he said the aboriginal sense of decency was often finer than that of the so-called white people who came in contact with them. The half-caste problem was always difficult. The half-caste was crucified in the sight of two races for the sins of one and the innocence of the other.

The various native missions had done excellent work. Sympathy and fitness were more likely to exist in the missionary than in the official. He had a high appreciation of the aboriginals with whom he had been brought into close contact since boyhood. He still received with some embarrassment the effusive greetings of the old native nurse who had charge of him in his infancy.

Some people, however, considered the aborigines as infinitely lower than white men and even as animals to be shot down, poisoned, or destroyed as a pestilent nuisance. From the first settlement of Australia history had been darkened by, atrocities in connection with the blacks. In the early days the Queensland squatters put poisoned mutton in the bush to kill the natives. Minor wrongs were suffered by them every day. It was difficult with such a bias in official channels to effect much good. Some of the spirit to which he had referred was reflected in the Bill.

That the aboriginals were not lacking in intelligence was proved by the experience at Point McLeay, yet powers as arbitrary and as awe-inspiring as any ascribed in the most blood-curdling novel to a Russian autocrat were to he handed over to the Chief Protector. Persons whose skin was whiter than that of members of the House of Assembly would come under this clause and be liable to be enclosed in an aboriginal reserve. There were women at Point McLeay who but for the taint of aboriginal blood were fit to take a place in any drawing-room in South Australia.

One case, by no means isolated, had come under his own notice of the high attainments which the aboriginals could acquire. A full-blooded South Australian aboriginal come to him and asked him to obtain an absent voter’s paper. “Can you write your name?” he asked, and the aboriginal wrote it in a clerkly hand which made his own writing look worse than ever. He found that this aboriginal corresponded in shorthand with Sir Isaac Pitman. That was not a solitary instance of the persons with whom Point McLeay had to deal.

The aboriginals were but a small section in the mission stations at Point McLeay and elsewhere. The largest proportion were half-castes. Mr. Campbell, who was listened to with much attention, will support the Bill, but will try to amend it.

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Friday 7 October 1910, page 10

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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