Chapter 6 ~ Aboriginal Land Grants
The care of the indigenous people within the proposed South Australian colony occupied some attention. The South Australian Commissioners were very aware of the current occupation of the land by the indigenous people. They had the experience of New South Wales, Van Diemanís Land and Western Australia to refer to when undertaking their deliberations.
With great feelings towards protecting the current inhabitants against any depredation of the expected settlers, the Commissioners established the position of Protector of the Aborigines. The proposed officer was given extensive powers to intervene upon the behalf of the indigenous people. On paper, the powers appear greater than those of the Government in relation to the transfer of land. Furthermore, it gave the Protector the ability to make treaties with the Aboriginal people. The Protector was also charged with the responsibility to ensure that the treaties or bargains were faithfully adhered to when settlers acted upon the terms and conditions.
The intentions of the South Australian Commissioners was clearly spelt out in the "Instruction to Resident Commissioner" found in the Appendix attached to the Second Report of Commissioners on Colonisation of South Australia.  The relevant clauses state:
Clause 34 was contentious and depended upon the desire to actually enforce it. Under its strictest circumstance, the indigenous people were in full possession and occupation of all the lands in South Australia. This sense of ownership by the Aboriginal inhabitants was well acknowledge. However, because of the nomadic lifestyle of the indigenous people, the dilemma for the Europeans was understanding the nature of Aboriginal land tenure. Since the Europeans could see no building or institutions to which they could relate, they assumed that the territory was composed of "waste lands".
With this potential conflict built into the instructions, the Protector of the Aborigines was placed in an unenviable position. He was to protect the interests of the Aboriginal people while at the same time ensure that the indigenous inhabitants ceded their land without any recompense for the purposes of European settlement. On both sides, the Protector was squeezed. In the end, the Protector was only able to document the demise of the people he was sworn to protect. As Protector, the position was a failure.
At the commencement of settlement, there was some enthusiasm for giving assistance to the dispossessed indigenous people. In pursuance of that goal, one-tenth of the proceeds of the sales of all "waste lands" was set aside for the Aboriginal peopleís benefit. The funds raised was placed in the colonyís general revenue accounts of the Treasury and was accordingly administered in favour of European concepts of Aboriginal assistance.
The strict enforcement of the ten per cent rule dissipated after the sale of the North Kapunda Mine in 1841 for £2,000. From the proceeds of this sale, a school room for Aboriginal children was built at a cost of about £400.  Subsequent to this, it was felt that too much money was flowing into the Aboriginal fund which should be allocated to better purposes. From this time, a definite proportion ceased to be set aside.
During the early period of settlement, some 8,000 acres were set aside as reserves for the Aboriginal people. The ostensible goals laying behind this plan was naive. The objectives were premised upon European concepts of agricultural husbandry rather than understanding the Aboriginal method of land care. The Commissioners hopes that the indigenous people would suddenly cast off their traditional methods of food gathering and settle down to sedentary cultivation of the soil. Needless to say, the experiment was a complete failure. Only three lots of eighty acres each were ever given to the Aboriginal people. The balance of the 8,000 acres was leased out to the settlers bringing in some £1,000 per annum.
In 1860, the Select Committee on Aborigines considered this issue. Their sad conclusions tended to indicate that the Aboriginal people had very little time left as the inhabitants of South Australia. The subsequent report states:
However, this comment anticipates history. In 1841, attitudes were different. At this time, changes occurred in government policy towards Aboriginal people of South Australia. The Governor was keen to set aside prime agricultural land to allow the indigenous people to settle down and undertake pastoral and agricultural activities similar to that done by the Europeans. The principles for the creation of these Aboriginal reserves were detailed by the Protector of Aborigines on 15 February 1848 when he said:
The implied aim was to create a new class of a bucolic and rustic Aboriginal yeomanry. In so doing any Aboriginal resistance to European settlement would diminish and the Aboriginal people would identify with the superior civilising ideas offered by the British way of life.
Without any great understanding and being people of their times, this was the limit of the Governor's imagination. The policy recognised that white settlement severely disrupted the traditional Aboriginal economy. To overcome this disruption, they attempted to rectify this situation. The only solution seen was to change the Aboriginal population. At that moment, the Aboriginal people were seen as primitive savages. The aim was to train them to become acceptable British subjects in the same manner that the Negroes in the Americas were acceptable peasant farmers.
In keeping with the changes to government policy, the Governor invited the Protector of Aborigines, who at this time was Moorhouse, to select land for the purposes of Aboriginal cultivation. Moorhouse became The Protector of Aborigines in 1839 after the resignation of the second Protector, Dr W. Wyatt. He was to remain in this position until it was abolished in 1857.  The Governor gave permission for Moorhouse to tour the countryside for the specific purpose of examining potential sites which were suitable to be declared as Aboriginal Reserves. On 7 October 1841, Moorhouse wrote to the Commissioner of Crown Lands that he:
After being encouraged by the Colonial Secretary to pursue the setting aside of this property for the purposes of the Aborigines, on 9 October 1841, Moorhouse requested that the land be transferred to him under trust.  Supported by the recommendation of the Colonial Secretary, the Governor, on 27 October 1841, agreed to Moorhouse's request. Instructions were subsequently issued to the Commissioner of Crown Lands to undertake those administrative activities that would result in Section 346 being duly transferred to the control of the Protector of Aborigines. Moorhouse writes:
In a return of lands held on behalf of the Aborigines sent to the Governor in 1842, Moorhouse acknowledges that the section was now under his trusteeship and available for distribution or lease. This was sent in a report to the Governor upon the subject of Aboriginal reservations. The following is a list of properties set aside for this purpose.
Compiled by M. Moorhouse on 16 April 1842 for the Governor
Letter dated 16 April 1842, GRG 52/7/1, p. 51.
It was recognised that Aboriginal males would probably not avail themselves of the land but women who had white husbands might. In so doing, they would act as human conduits to bring into the world a new breed of racially superior people. Their mixed offspring were considered to be the hope for the new breed of people. Great importance was placed upon the proper education of the offspring. This policy was given specific voice by Charles Bonney, the Lands Commissioner when he gave testimony to the Select Committee on Aborigines.  Bonney states:
Gaining currency at this time was a genetic theory that supported this notion of creating a new racial class of people within South Australia. Europeans could only look at the evidence about the Aboriginal response to settlement. The numbers diminished rapidly. Resulting from these overt observations and anecdotal evidence, a curious theory about the strength of Aboriginal genetic material began receiving serious consideration. Count Sir Paul Edmund de Strezlecki gave the theory full articulation. He hypothesised that, after an Aboriginal woman engaged in sexual intercourse with a white man, the woman no longer could become pregnant through sexual intercourse with an Aboriginal man.  The implied suggestion is that white virility and its various manifestations, in this case sperm, are so strong that weaker races are unable to compete. Thus once inseminated with a white man's sperm, the reproductive organs of an Aboriginal woman became conditioned to receive such powerful sperm. Consequently the Aboriginal woman's organs become conditioned to reject any inferior sperm, especially from Aboriginal men. Accordingly, great emphasis was placed upon the retraining of the children from these unions.
Since "half-casts" were considered to be superior in intelligence and ability, there were both legal and economic sanctions available to remove these children from their parent. In 1841, the South Australian government promulgated an Ordinance which gave the Protector the power to remove half-cast and quarter-cast children from their natural parents. The law gave the parents no rights over their children. Moorhouse admits that the law gave the Protector in loco parentis powers over all the Aboriginal people.  In addition, the institution at Poonindie was established to separate Aboriginal children from their parents to ensure that European culture would prevail in an isolated setting.
It was into this pot of ideas and people that the marriage of Kudnarto and Adams was initiated and lived. They were circumstances which looked overwhelming but, despite all the pressure, the marriage did survive. Examining the lives of both Kudnarto and Adams gathers together the enigma that the inarticulate and dispossessed lead the way for the wealthy and powerful towards greater understanding and conciliation between the Kaurna and European peoples.
1. Second Report of Commissioners on Colonisation of South Australia, Appendix, p. 16. Return to text
2. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt. Printer, qq. 2512 - 2520, p. 96. Return to text
3. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt. Printer, pp 2 - 5. Return to text
4. Letter dated 15 February 1848, GRG 52/7/1, pp. 209 - 210. Return to text
5. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt. Printer, q's. 2466, and 2467, p. 94. Return to text
7. Letter dated 9 October 1841, GRG 52/7/1, pp. 32 - 33. Return to text
8. Letter dated 27 October 1841, GRG 52/7/1, p. 35. Return to text
9. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt. Printer, qq. 972 - 973, p. 43. Return to text
10. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt. Printer, q. 378, p. 20. Return to text
11. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt. Printer, q. 2581, p. 99. Return to text
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