The war years saw that voices of Aboriginal dissent were silenced. But with the return of peace, a clear statement demanding justice for Australia’s first peoples. Interesting, though, that it is what you might expect to be Australia’s conservative institutions – the church and, still more shocking, the Country Women’s Association – that are hosting such a talk.
The article has been transcribed as:
A PLEA FOR THE ABORIGINE Our Gradual Extinction Is Sure,” Says Speaker Indictment of The White Man’s Treatment CHALLENGING ADDRESS BY MR. SHADRACH JAMES The essential justive of the cause of the Australian abor- igines was pleaded both sincerely and eloquently by Mr. Shadrach L James, a member of the Board of Aborigines Protection League, in the Horsham Town Hall Supper Room on Thursday night. The fervour of the speaker and the merit of his cause warranted a larger attendance, but those present were keen Iy interested in the challenging case presented.
The lecture was sponsored by :the Horsham branch of the Country Wo- men’s Association, and the Mayor (Cr. SR. Lawrence) was chairman. Mr. James, who studied law as the Melbourne University, is the son of a school teacher, who has been a member of the Education department for 42 years.
In his address Mr. James said:
“The gradual extinction of the natives is almost sure; it is an open sore to the world, an ulcer eating away the life and loveliness of this wonderful continent, and can any man doubt that when justice is done to the aborigines, the entire world will not contribute richer gifts to humanity than will the down-trodden aborigines themselves.
Dr. Donald Thompson’s articles just recently published in the “Herald” are a revelation of the hatred and prejudice which exist against our people in the northern parts of Australia.
“I cannot imagine more cowardly and brutal actions meted out to poor defenceless natives by people who boast of their high standard of de- mocracy, where freedom and frater- nity are the foundation stones ; where white and colored boys fought side by side to maintain tlhe high standard of democracy and promote the true spirit of brotherhood.
LOW OPINION OF WHITES. “The aborigines are no worse than any other people, socially, morally, in- tellectually, spiritually, or any other way. The white man to the uncivilised natives is a most immoral, wicked person; their judgment of you is, in fact, crippled by much the same limi- tation that prejudices your judgment of them.
“There is the same curious admixture of good and bad qualities in them as in others; it is merely a distinction of mind and a question of degree.
The aborigine is in short an untrained child of nature, and want of self- control or of character, generally the product of civilisation, naturally ac- centuates his failings. Only those who have lived wiith him learn his excellent qualities of heart and mind.
“Dr. Rentoul said, ‘He is a loving and lovable man.’ Dr. Capell, Anthropologist and lecturer at the Sydney University, said, ‘We should repudiate the agreement made by men who nei- them know nor care for the rights of the aborigines.’ Statements by eminent men are no idle tales, but are the re- sults of careful investigations.
“The Hon. H. V. Johnson, Minister for the Interior, said, ‘The aborigines in the northern parits of Austialia are living in a state of’ virtual slavery.’
“It is now time that the Church raised its voice and urged an immedi- ate inquiry into allegations made by men who have really lived amongst the natives. Murder; frape, cruelty. chain- ing, disease. have been exercised con- stantly by merciless tyrants who have exploited them in almost every way.
APPEAL TO CHURCHES.
“It is any wonder then that our souls cry, ‘Oh, Righteous God, where is Thy justice? Oh, Christ, is Thy mercy a mockery? Are our prayers the mockery of fools?’
“I have often asked myself the ques- tion-are we the victims of some bale- ful destiny placed in the groves of some destroying fate, of circumstances far beyond the realm of human volition, smelted and shaped in the rolling mills of destiny, forming the tramway along which already the car of doom thun- ders?
“If only our white brethren would take us into their confidence and give us the help and encouragement for ad- vancement in modern civilisation, what a difference it would make. I am sure we would make good.
“It has been said that the aborigine’s mentality is weak and defective and that he cannot understand anything but the rudimentary things of life; that it is only a waste of time teaching him something that is of no value to him and that he should be segregated and allowed to live his own life. “I am totally against segregation, for I believe that the aborigine is in that stage of life whiere he is sensitive to the least idea, be it progressive or degenerate, and for that reason he ac- quires civilisation, be it good or bad.
“‘He should be brought into touch with civilisation. Too few of your own race can conform to the ac- cepted standard of an educated person. The need of freedom from: ignorance, prejudice and provin- cialism, religious discrimination, race trouble, definitely show that there is something wrong with the system of education.
“Teachers to-day in aboriginal schools on reserves are more or less appointed by the State Board, and in many cases are unclassified. They work with a mutilated syllabus, and reading, writing and arithmetic, which stand first in the curricilum of every school throughout the Commonwealth are not regularly and systematically taught We should receive better facilities fori mproving our primary, secondary and technical education and should be given the right to enter Universities. ENVIRONMENT. I am convinced that there is no difference in the races of mankind, but what circumstances and en- vironment have produced, and that if all men were fed and clothed ae, educated alike and lived alike, there would be no differ- th mentally, morally or physi- cally. That man is one in an eter- nal truth and it is nowhere better shown than by the products of the mind. The mind is the standard of the man of all countries and colours, and universal education will ere long demonstrate it through its literature.’
Continuing, the speaker said that when a Melbourne daily’s reporter was sent to ascertain the mental standards he went to the northern area of Cen- tral Australia, to the wild tribes who had not had any opportunities of em- bracing civilisation.
Had he gone to such men as the Rev. James Noble, David Uniapon the inventor, Doug. Nichol, or Harold Blair (the aborigine singer who has been training at the Melbourne Uni- versity Conservatorium and who is shortly to leave for America), he would not have made the statement that they could not understand anything but the rudimentary things of life.
These men and many others had proved that with equal opportunity with whites they could hold their own, but the Government and the people generally had not accepted their re- sponsibility to the natives. The State Governments had greatly assisted, but more understanding was needed. It was expected that a referendum for State or Commonwealth Government control would be held, and the speaker said he hoped that people would vote for the former, as it was only through the State Government that they had been given any real help.
Speaking in reference to the proposed Rocket Range in Central Aus- tralia, Mr. James said he felt sure that the tests were a necessity for the fu- ture welfare of Australia, and he had the assurance of Mr. Chifley that the area to be used would not cause hard- ship to the natives, and in view of this he would not be in opposition to the tests.
In conclusion Mr. James said : “We feel that we are no longer a back num- ber, but are alive to the possibilities which confront us from time to time. We have merged into civilisation, we can think and act like you. We want to join you in the march to progress and to nationhood. It is up to you to help us.
“It would lie as well for the Govern- ment to adopt tile same administration as given by the Queensland State to the Torres Strait Islanders, then I am sure we would achieve a definite pur- pose. We would have a certain amount of self-government, the system would certainly create within us a spirit of independence. You have a magnificent possessionl entrusted to you to admin- ister, be true to that trust, and if some of your brethren have been enervated by the torrid rant, coloured by the sun’s rays or are uncultured for want of opportunity, you highly favored ones act fairly and charitably towards them. It is your duty for unto whom much is given, of them much will be requir- ed–and God requireth that which is past.”
A vote of thanks to Mr. James was moved by the Rev. F. I. Fielding, whose remarks were supported by the Rev. E. Appelt, after which the speaker re- turned thanks to the Mayor, the presi- dent of the C.W.A. (Mrs. Price), and the Horsham branch. and his host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Hoffmann, for their hospitality to him. A voluntary collection realised £11 15/6.