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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 22 / G98
June 17 1886
Your letter of Feb 26th reached me shortly before I left Australia, and I have waited until my arrival in England to reply to it hoping to be able to arrange as soon as I could to see you and talk over with you the whole question of our dealings with the aborigines of W. Australia. I return to London tomorrow and will endeavour next week either on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon to call and see you.
There are not very many of the aborigines left in the southern portion of the Colony, but in the northern and more recently settled districts, as in those now being opened up to settlement, they are very numerous, and are already largely employed by the settlers as shepherds, shearers, teamsters, and in the pearl-shell fishery along the coast as divers and boatmen. I believe, both from my own observation and from careful enquiry, that as a rule they are kindly and fairly treated by the settlers, for whose interest it is so to treat them. Nothing, however, has as yet been done to instruct them or to raise the tone of their social and domestic life, which is one little removed above that of the animals; tho they are quick in acquiring practical civilized arts and thoroughly capable of receiving higher teaching. It is true, I fear, yet further that the settlers generally are opposed to any attempts to raise and improve their condition. Our Government on the other hand are ready to aid to the utmost every such attempt, and have already given me considerable assistance in the commencement which I have been making of some more regular efforts on their behalf. It is one of the objects of my present visit to England to obtain the funds which are necessary to the carrying out of their efforts, and I shall be thankful to have the support of the Aborigines’ Protection Society in the matter.
The Rev Mr Gribble is taking up the work very zealously in the Gascoyne District, but has judged the settlers, I think, hastily and unfairly (as I shall hope to explain more fully to you) in … to their treatment of the natives, take a few exceptional instances as tho they were samples of the … practice. He has acted injudiciously too in proclaiming at once open war against the whites in consequence of the opposition of some. But he is an earnest good man, with his whole heart in the work, and I still hope that he may do good service in it. I have thought it right to give him my strong support, and am still prepared to do so, despite any errors of judgement at his first starting; because the settlers have many of them behaved very badly towards him, and for the work’s sake.
My address during the next few days will be 14 Langham Place. I hope to send you with this some papers which will show you a little more what are the lines on which we are proposing to work.
I am, dear Sir,
Very faithfully yours,
To F. W. Chesson, Esq