# The Australian Race

The Australian Race  (1886)
by Edward Micklethwaite Curr

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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THE AUSTRALIAN RACE:

ITS ORIGIN, LANGUAGES,

CUSTOMS,

PLACE OF LANDING IN AUSTRALIA,

AND

THE ROUTES BY WHICH IT SPREAD ITSELF OVER

THAT CONTINENT.

BY

EDWARD M. CURR,

Author of "Pure Saddle Horses" and "Recollections of Squatting in Victoria."

IN FOUR VOLUMES.

VOLUME I.

MELBOURNE: JOHN FERRES, GOVERNMENT PRINTER.
LONDON: TRÜBNER AND CO., LUDGATE HILL.

1886.

THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED

BY THE AUTHOR

TO THE HONORABLE JONAS FELIX LEVIEN,

MINISTER OF MINES,

CONTENTS OF VOLUME I.

1.  PAGE
2.  List of Illustrations------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ viii
3.  Preface------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ix
4.  Introduction------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ xiii

BOOK THE FIRST.

1. Chapter I.
2.  Remarks on the Aboriginal Languages of Australia------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 3
3. Chapter II.
4.  Remarks on some of the Words of the Vocabulary------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 27
5. Chapter III.
6.  The Aborigines of Australia; their Manners and Customs------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 36
7. Chapter IV.
8.  Marriage------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 106
9. Chapter V.
10.  Weapons and Implements------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 143
11. Chapter VI.
12.  Origin of the Australian Race------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 152
13. Chapter VII.
14.  The place and period at which the forefathers of the Australian Race landed, and the routes by which their descendants spread themselves over the Continent------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 190
15. Chapter VIII.
16.  Diseases and Decline of the Aboriginal Race------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 208
17. Chapter IX.
18.  Remarks on some of the works which treat of the Aborigines of Australia------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 235

BOOK THE SECOND.

 No. PAGE Prefatory Remarks 247 1. Port Darwin Tribe P. Foelsche 250 2. Adelaide River Tribe ${\displaystyle \scriptstyle {\left\{{\begin{matrix}\ \\\\\ \ \end{matrix}}\right.}}$ A. J. Todd 260 Anonymous 264 3. Port Essington Tribe C. Pasco 268 4. Raffles Bay Tribe P. Foelsche 270 5. Caledon Bay Tribe M. Flinders 276 6. Roper River Tribe J. Lowre 276 7. Cape York Tribe F. L. Jardine 278

BOOK THE THIRD.

No. PAGE Prefatory Remarks 287 8. De Grey River Tribe C. Harper 287 9. Shaw River Tribe Col. Sec., W. Australia 294 10. Nickol Bay Tribe A. K. Richardson 296 11. Tribes from N.W. Cape to 30 miles south of Gascoyne River Lord Gifford 302 12. Shark's Bay Tribe F. Barlee 306 13. Tribe at Month of Murchison River A. Oldfield 310 14. Northampton Tribe R. T. Goldsworthy 314 15. Champion Bay Tribe R. T. Goldsworthy 316 16. New Norcia Tribe R. Salvado 318 17. Victoria Plains Tribe H. J. Monger 322 18. Newcastle (W. A.) Tribe G. Whitfield 324 19. Perth Tribe W. E. Knight C. F. Armstrong J. Gilchrist 328 20. York District Tribe E. R. Parker 336 21. York District Tribe D. E. Hackett 342 22. Pinjarra Tribe R. Scott 346 23. Kojonup and Eticup Tribe W. H. Graham 348 24. Bunbury, &c., Tribe F. Barlee M. B. Small 358 25. Blackwood District Tribe E. G. Hester 360 26. Lower Blackwood Tribe Lord Gifford 362

BOOK THE FOURTH.

No. PAGE Prefatory Remarks 367 27. Irwin and Murchison River Tribes J. Perks 368 28. Upper Sandford Tribe Lord Gifford 375 29. Tribe 200 miles North-East of Newcastle T. Adam 380 30. Mount Stirling Tribe R. T. Goldsworthy 384 31. King George's Sound Tribe W. A. Spencer A. J. Hossell W. A. Knight 386 32. Kent District Tribe G Chester 390 33. Tribe occupying the coast from Doubtful Bay to Isrealite Bay C. Taylor 392 34. Eyre's Sand Patch Tribe W. Williams 394 35. Eucla Tribe W. Williams 400 36. Tribe at the Head of Great Australian Bight E. J. Eyre 407

BOOK THE FIFTH.

Prefatory Remarks 411 37. Alice Springs Tribe J. H. London J. F. Mueller 411 414 38. Charlotte Waters Tribe J. F. Gillen R. E. Warburton 416 420 39. Macumba River Tribe E. F. Belt 422

List of Illustrations, Volume I.

1.  A Corroboree------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Frontispiece.
1.  PAGE
2.  Spears------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 143
3.  Wommeras------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 145
4.  The Wommera in use------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 145
5.  Boomerangs------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 146
6.  Clubs------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 146
7.  Shields------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 146
8.  Tomahawks------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 146
9.  Knife------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 146
10.  Chisel------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 146
11.  Canoes------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 141
12.  Flint Knives and Scabbard------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 148
13.  Message-sticks------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 150
14.  Bags------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 150
15.  Calabashes------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 150

PREFACE.

In presenting this work to the public, the writer feels it to be both a duty and a pleasure to acknowledge the weighty obligations he is under to a large number of gentlemen, scattered through the Australian Colonies and Tasmania, some of whom have kindly sent him contributions on the subject of our Aborigines and their languages, and others used their influence to induce persons resident in the bush to furnish him with particulars of the sort. To the gentlemen who have assisted him in either of these ways the writer now desires to acknowledge the obligations he is under and to offer his warmest thanks. As regards those who have favored him either with vocabularies of our languages or descriptions of the manners of our tribes, it will be unnecessary to particularize them on this page, as the reader will find their names attached to their contributions in every instance, save one or two, in which a wish has been expressed that they should be withheld. The names of the gentlemen to whom the writer is indebted in other ways, in connection with this publication, are as follow:—

• His Excellency Sir Frederick A. Weld, Governor of Western Australia.
• The Honorable Sir Bryan O'Loghlen, Bart., Chief Secretary of Victoria.
• The Honorable Sir Henry Parkes, Colonial Secretary, New South Wales.
• The Hon. Sir John Robertson, Colonial Secretary, New South Wales.
• The Hon. Sir Arthur Blyth, Colonial Secretary, South Australia.
• The Hon. William Morgan, Colonial Secretary, South Australia.
• The Hon. Sir Arthur H. Palmer, Colonial Secretary, Queensland.
• Lord Gifford, Colonial Secretary, Western Australia.
• The Hon. Frederick Barlee, Colonial Secretary, Western Australia.
• The Hon. Roger Goldsworthy, C.M.G., Colonial Secretary, Western Australia.
• J. Boothby, Esq., Under Secretary, Adelaide.
• Baron Miklouho Maclay.
• H. J. Andrews, Esq., Under Secretary, Adelaide.
• Frederick Rawlins, Esq., Under Secretary, Brisbane.
• J. R. Gray, Esq., Under Secretary, Brisbane.
• H. H. Massie, Esq., Under Secretary, Brisbane.
• Sir George Grey.
• Sir Samuel Wilson.
• A. J. Skene, Esq., Surveyor-General, Victoria.
• Charles Todd, Esq., C.M.G.
• Henry Field Gurner, Esq.
• Christian S. Ogilvie, Esq.
• Albert A. C. Le Souëf, Esq.
• G. B. Scott, Esq., Government Resident, Palmerston.
• P. R. Gordon, Esq,, Chief Inspector of Stock, Brisbane.
• C. J. Valentine, Esq., Chief Inspector of Stock, Adelaide.
• Gresley Lukin, Esq., Editor of the Queenslander.
• Robert Sheridan, Esq.
• William H. Stephen, Esq.
• Henry Gullett, Esq., Editor of the Australasian.
• Thomas H. Fitzgerald, Esq.
• Eccleston du Faur, Esq.

In addition to the above-named gentlemen, the writer desires to offer his thanks to the Editors of the South Australasian Register, and of several other newspapers in the colonies with whose names he is not acquainted, but whose kindness in inserting his letters in their columns contributed so materially to the accomplishment of his object. Indeed, it is certain that without the support both of the press and of the several Colonial Governments, it would not have been possible to extend the inquiries on which this work is based sufficiently to enable either the writer, or perhaps posterity, to obtain any comprehensive information on the subject.

INTRODUCTION.

In the compilation of this work the author has had in view two objects; to collect as much information as possible in connection with the manners, customs, and languages of the Australian Blacks, from one end of the continent to the other; and to demonstrate from the materials collected a number of facts connected with the long past history of this section of the human family.

Not having made ethnology a study, the writer thinks it desirable to say a few words in explanation of his having taken upon himself an important inquiry belonging of right to the adepts in that science.

It occurred in this way. In 1866 a number of gentlemen in Melbourne were busying themselves with the collection of Victorian vocabularies, and the writer was invited to join in the undertaking, which, however, on several grounds, he excused himself from doing. But a trifle will sometimes change one's views. In 1873, being in conversation with a Blackfellow of the Swan Hill neighbourhood, the writer was surprised to meet with a word used by the Ngooraialum tribe, whose country was a hundred and fifty miles away on the Goulburn, which he was aware was not found in the language of the Bangerang, who occupy (or lately did) a portion of the intervening country. Struck by a circumstance so contrary to his preconceptions, he collected for his own information, as occasion offered, a number of short vocabularies of the languages of the tribes whose territories surrounded those of the several Bangerang septs. From these he learnt that the latter people were encircled by a number of tribes, which spoke related languages, which differed materially from theirs. The result of this little discovery was, not only to sweep away some loosely-formed ideas about the migrations of our tribes, but to convince the writer that something positive might be learnt from language in connection with the past history of the Australian race. Then came curiosity, and without any view to publication (for it was understood at the time that Mr. R. Brough Smyth had been long engaged on the subject, which was afterwards found not to be the case), the writer got a vocabulary printed of a few common English words, which he managed to get filled up by stock-owners here and there, other facts new to him becoming apparent from the collation of his little collection. As he now commenced to discover some order in what had heretofore appeared a mere jumble of related tongues, the inquiry grew to have a certain fascination for him. Finding it necessary, if curiosity was to be satisfied, to extend inquiry, the writer addressed himself to the several Colonial Governments, the press, and a number of stock-owners, and asked their assistance in the collection of materials for the undertaking which he had begun to contemplate. As the inquiry progressed, the original words were altered two or three times, and to the last list were added God, ghost, boomerang, hilly, milk, eaglehawk, wild turkey, and wife, a circumstance which will account for their being untranslated in many of the vocabularies.

As raisons d'être for this publication then, it may be pointed out that when the author drifted into his undertaking, many tribes were passing away, leaving no record behind them, and no one seemed likely to step in and do what was necessary for ethnology. Besides, the vocabularies which were actually in print at the time did not perhaps exceed 40, and were of little use for comparison, in consequence of the want of agreement in the words they contained. In this way, in the absence of some one fitter, the writer found himself on the threshold of an ethnological work, touching the inhabitants of a large portion of the earth's surface, without any previous preparation. This want of training and more still perhaps of sufficient leisure, will, it is hoped, be some excuse for any short-comings.

Of what the writer has to say of the origin of our tribes, he has much pleasure in acknowledging that his inquiry on this point was suggested by a paper read before the Anthropological Institute, London, by Mr. Hyde Clarke, one of the Vice-Presidents of that body, in which he drew attention to certain affinities between the Mozambique and Australian languages. In addition, the writer is under no small obligation to that gentleman for the kindly interest he has evinced in this undertaking.

In some instances the writer has not hesitated to insert two versions of the same vocabulary. In doing so he has had several objects in view, for instance, to show the areas over which our languages prevail and also their minor dialectic differences. Another reason has been that the Australian languages have not unfrequently two words in the same sense, whilst few of the writer's contributors have given more than one. Of this lâche, indeed, no one has been more frequently guilty than the writer himself, who, however, it will be remembered, collected the vocabularies which appear with his name to them before he had any thoughts of publication, and when he only took a minor interest in the subject. This defect a variety of versions will to some extent remedy. Besides, on many grounds, the whole subject is of sufficient importance to render it desirable that the evidence connected with it should be as complete as it can be made, even if making it so involves partial repetitions, particularly when we bear in mind how improbable it is that any one will ever again go over the same ground.

It is a subject of regret to the author that he has been unable to obtain more than a few vocabularies from the north coast, and none from the western interior. This defect, however, it was impossible to remedy, as we have as yet only a few scattered settlements in the first and none in the second named portion of the continent.

In connection with the accounts of tribes given in these pages, it should be stated that, with the exception of a few cases specially mentioned, they have been drawn up by the writer from replies sent by his correspondents to a series of questions circulated in print.

In a number of forms of speech, all sprung from one, especially when the vocabularies are short ones, it is difficult to decide when the differences between them are such as to render them distinct languages for the purpose of ordinary conversation, and the writer is aware that in some instances he has classed as one, a pair of vocabularies which the Blacks themselves hold to belong to distinct languages.

In addition to what we learn from our languages, very important information concerning the past history of the Australian race has been obtained from a study of its customs and their comparison with those of the Negroes.

The reader will notice, if he compares some of the vocabularies in this work with those collected by the early settlers, that they differ considerably. This may be accounted for in several ways. For instance, it was a popular idea thirty years ago (though our earliest writers knew it was an incorrect one) that the Blacks had but one language; and as some terms used by the Sydney tribe had become generally known to the Whites, we find them introduced into other vocabularies, as collectors did not trouble themselves to ask about words which they believed they were already in possession of. Then the Whites who made inquiries on the subject of language, and the Blacks who replied, constantly misunderstood each other, in proof of which the well-known fact may be mentioned, that many of the names of places which Major Mitchell obtained from the Blacks, and gives in his works, turned out subsequently to be incorrect. As an instance, the Blacks who dwelt on the Goulburn near Seymour called that river Waaring, but Mitchell relates, from inquiries made on the spot, .that its name is Bayungan. No doubt the Black from whom he made his inquiry replied indunga, that is, I don't understand, and that the Major took down the phrase, as nearly as he could, as the name of the river. Between Bayungan and indunga there is a good deal of similarity. Another mistake of exactly the same kind seems to have occurred in connection with the word Moneroo, a name which it may be remarked is and always has been pronounced by the Whites, Manēra, the Crown Lands Commissioner of the day probably being answerable for the accepted spelling. Now in connection with this name, Manēra Plains, one suspects it at once, because, though the tribes have names for every remarkable spot in their territories, they have seldom collective names for large areas. What seems probable is, that the Englishman who first saw the plains had a Sydney Black in his party, who on being asked their name replied manyer, or I don't know (see the vocabulary in Captain John Hunter's Historical Journal.) Or this answer may have been given by a Black of those parts, as the Sydney and Manēra languages have much in common. Hence the difficulty of making themselves understood was what the first inquirers had to contend with: our difficulty in the old settled districts is that the languages, like the tribes, are now but mixed remnants.

In connection with mis-translations, one not unfrequently meets with arguments based on such foundations. One instance occurs in Jukes' Voyage of H.M.S. Fly, vol. 2, p. 317, where the author gives porene as the Pine Gorine (e.g., Bangerang) equivalent for arm, instead of borinya.

A few words must also be said concerning the map in Vol. IV., in which the positions occupied by the various tribes are shown. As our Blacks do not mark the boundaries of tribal territories, or determine them with any exactness even on river frontages where land is the most valuable for their purposes, and as they have very loose ideas concerning them in the unwatered spaces which intervene between the rivers and creeks, no accuracy in mapping is possible. The writer's practice in this matter has been to learn as far as practicable the principal geographical features embraced by the territory of a tribe, and to surround them on the map with a line. Frequently there is a space between the acknowledged lands of two tribes the ownership of which remains doubtful. The width of such lands seems to vary from half-a-mile in good country to twenty miles in poor districts. There are also waterless areas of 100 miles or more across, which are quite uninhabitable. When questioned by our people on the subject of their territorial possessions, the members of a tribe will not unfrequently in these days describe as theirs, lands to which their ancestors made no claim, in consequence of which the boundaries of tribal lands, as described by the writer's correspondents, constantly overlap. These discrepancies it has been endeavoured to reconcile.

The plates with which this work is illustrated have for the most part already appeared in Mr. R. Brough Smyth's work The Aborigines of Victoria, which, like the present one, was printed at the cost of the Government of Victoria.

Many efforts have been made to obtain for insertion, photographs of a number of our Blacks, but up to the time of this page being written they have entirely failed of success.

When the summaries of the various subjects which occupy the first nine chapters of this work were sent to the printer, a few facts were overlooked. These have been set out when dealing with the tribes in connection with which they were observed.