Chief Protector of Aborigines

Public Record Office Victoria
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Full description

The employment of Protectors in the Australian colonies was first recommended in the report of the Select Committee into the Condition of Aboriginal Peoples tabled in June 1837. For New South Wales, five protectors were proposed with their activities confined to the Port Phillip District. Lord Glenelg proposed to the Governor, Sir George Gipps, the appointment of G A Robinson as Chief Protector of Aborigines and Edward Parker, William Thomas, Charles Sievwright and James Dredge as Assistant Protectors with these appointments being confirmed in December 1838.

Port Phillip District was divided into four protectorates:

1. Geelong or Western District with C Sievwright as Assistant Protector with headquarters at Mount Rouse.

2. Mount Macedon or North Western District with E Parker as Assistant Protector with headquarters on the Loddon River at the foot of Mount Franklin.

3. Goulburn or North Eastern District with J Dredge as Assistant Protector with headquarters on the Goulburn River. Dredge resigned in 1840 and was succeeded by William Le Souef.

4. Westernport or Melbourne District with W Thomas as Assistant Protector with headquarters at Narre Warren.

G A Robinson was stationed in Melbourne.

The duties of the Protectors, as outlined by Governor Gipps, were:

a. The Protector was to attach himself to the people in his district moving with them until they can be induced to assume more settled habits of life and endeavouring to make friends with them.

b. The Protector was to watch over the interests of the Aborigines, prevent encroachment upon their property or mistreatment and, if necessary, make representations for them to the Government of the Colony or the Chief protector.

c. If able to be settled in one place, the Protector was to encourage them in developing cultivation, in building suitable Habitations for themselves and in whatever else [might] conduce their civilization and social improvement.

d. Of primary importance was to be the education of the children.

e. The Protector was to promote and instruct in the Christian religion.

f. The Protector was to learn the language of the people.

g. He was to be accountable for any provisions or clothing for distribution.

h. The Protector was to conduct a census of the Aborigines in his district.

In 1842, LaTrobe reported that the protectorate system was doomed to failure due to the inadequacies of the protectors and the anomalous character of their duties. This opinion was endorsed by Governor Gipps and the Colonial Secretary, Lord Stanley. As a consequence, the budget for the Protectorate was severely cut. An 1845 Select Committee was set up to assess the effectiveness of the attempts to assist the Aborigines. A second Select Committee, established in 1849, recommended the abolition of the protectorate system.

Location of Records

Consult the List of Holdings section 16.5.0.

Data time period: [1838 TO 1849]

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