Appendix 6 ~ The Civilising Project
It began on 21 February 1840, when an informant from Penwortham passed the news onto The South Australian Register. Which then alerted to Governor to the fact that the newspaper was about to publish this story. This pre-warning allowed the Governor sufficient time to make a considered response to the news. Consequently, Gouger gave the impression that something was being done by the government before the story broke. The following day, on 22 February 1840, The South Australian Register carried the details of the story.
Three items in this report that summarise the feelings of the settlers towards the indigenous land owners at the time.
The first item was the settlers perceived right to apprehend indigenous people at whim. They used the brute force to undertake the arrest of a person without any respect of British or Kaurna law. Nothing in this story indicates that indigenous people had a right to their land or have sovereignty over the land. The police acted in the role of occupying forces carrying out orders without regard of any established international legal principles of occupation.
Next there is no mention as to either the gender of the "native" nor the circumstances for the arrest of the "native". The tenor of the article suggests that this issue is of no importance since the "natives" are likened to vermin and their rights dissmissed out of hand with the phrase: "No amount of forbearance can stand out against the annoyance they inflict".
Finally, there is the moralising aspect of the article. The reporter states with sanctimonious piety that: "We have before remarked on the imprudence of settlers in the far bush allowing natives to approach their stations at all."
There was only one reason why the indigenous people and the shepherds came together at all. It was to trade. Each had an abundance of items the other desired. The shepherds had food which replaced that which was chased away or destroyed by the grazing of the sheep. In exchange, the Kaurna had women.
European women rarely wished to share the squalor of the shepherds' life. Thus, only indigenous women were available. The attitude of the Kaurna towards sexual intercourse ensured that there was no moral dilemma arising from this transaction. This prostitution was generally the fate of most Kaurna women. Moorhouse, a former Protector of the Aborigines, betrays a sadness at the waste of the lives of the girls. In 1860,  he made the following observations about the lot of the girls from his school in testimony:
To cover himself from any ramifications of this action and the questions that might be raised, Robert Gouger wrote to Horrocks on 21 February 1840  requesting further information about this incident. He was more concerned about accounting for the death than undertaking any process of justice. At no stage is there any request for an arrest warrant for the crime of murder. There is not any serious attempt to examine the matter. The shepherd was only required to make a statutory declaration before a magistrate to clear up the matter. In view of the two hangings of Kaurna men the year before for murder, this action seems extremely lenient and biased.
The final outrage in this whole matter is the person who was murdered. It was the woman who was promised food. She is the victim in this whole affair. Her family was cheated. On good faith, she prostituted herself to satisfy the desires of the shepherd. In return for these sexual favours she was to be rewarded with a sheep. The shepherd sent her away from his hut empty handed. This led her family to seek compensation that was only natural under Kaurna law. In accordance with Kaurna law, they exacted recompense. To end the argument, the shepherd saw a good opportunity to kill the woman he had abused the day before. At no stage in the above two reports that there is any concern for the woman. No one cared. As an object for sexual gratification, she was desired but as a human, she was considered to be vermin and only fit for destruction. Such was the nature of British culture and justice.
In reflection about this situation of shepherds and the rape of indigenous women, Wyatt, a former Protector of the Aborigines, stated in testimony before the Select Committee on Aborigines in 1860  when he said:
It was upon the sheep’s back that the wealth of Australia grew. European men and women jointly benefited from the results. Consequently, there was a gender coalition and conspiracy to remove the indigenous people from the land through fair or foul means.
Women were even more vigorous in suppressing the indigenous people. This stemmed from the competition of gender resources. The lack of European women within these areas ensured the popularity of indigenous women as consorts for the men. To reduce this competition, European women worked hard to segregate the indigenous people from the broader community through the use of native reserves.
In South Australia, the various missionary societies tried hard to remove the indigenous people from the land. The missionary societies were composed mainly of women. In contrast to the men who were happy with the prevailing circumstances, the missionary societies were desperate to stamp out the rampant immorality provoked by the indigenous women. One attempt was to remove the indigenous people to Kangaroo Island. Another more successful effort was to create a holding facility at Poonindie. Other places for collecting the indigenous people were created at Point Pearce and Port McLeay.
Both European men and women had their reasons for suppressing the indigenous people. Each worked in harmony to decimate the prevailing indigenous culture and population. The suppression of the indigenous people was not a gender related issue but an action of common cultural purpose with the stated objective of removing one group of people from their land and replacing them by a stronger group. This is a repetitious historical theme which is still being played out today in Bosnia- Hercagovinia, Cyprus, Rwanda, Israel, Iraq and Indonesia to name just a few places. The perpetrators are no better, no worse than those in the other lands. When the European "boat people" see their actions within this historical paradigm, then the resolutions of the resource conflict will become ever so much easier.
1. The South Australian Register, 22 February 1840, p. 4D. Return to text
2. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt Printer, qq. 2494 - 2495, p. 95. Return to text
3. Letter dated 21 February 1840, GRG 24/4, D224, No. 39. Return to text
4. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt Printer, qq. 636 - 638, p. 28. Return to text
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McGrath, A., 'Black Velvet', Daniels, K., (ed.) All That Hard Work.
McGrath, Ann et al (eds) 'Aboriginal Workers', Labour History No. 69, pp. 75 - 101.
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Scanlon, T., 'Pure and Clean and True to Christ: Black Women and White Missionaries in the North'. Hecate. Vol. 12. No. 1/2, 1986. pp. 82 - 105.
The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt Printer.
The South Australian Register, 22 February 1840.
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