Aborigines in South Australian History


Did You know.... That an Aboriginal school in South Australia was opened in 1839 by the German Lutheran Missionaries near the Torrens River, in the Adelaide Parklands. In 1840 it was reported that 'a number of Aborigines had been employed in constructing houses on the park lands and had already made considerable progress in learning the art of pieze wall-building. Several of them are also employed in the Survey Department at Yankalilla and Aldinga. At the fishing station at Encounter Bay a whaling boat is manned entirely by an Aboriginal crew'.

That the first marriage in South Australia between an Aborigine, Kudnarto, and a European, Tom Adams, was solemnised on 27 January 1848. Kudnarto, who could read and write English would later teach her illiterate husband to write. Both of them would have been proud of their great, great, grandson Uncle Lewis O'Brien.

That Ben Murray, born in 1891 had an Aboriginal mother and an Afghan father. When he was five years old he lived with his mother at Muloorina Station, about fifty kilometres north east of Marree.

When Ben was about sixteen he moved to the Aboriginal mission at Killalpaninna on the Birdsville Track. By the time he was twenty-three Ben had his own camel team carting wool for the nearby stations. However he was also one of several young Aborigines who volunteered to fight in the first world war. He was at Gallipoli fighting the Turks but in Palistine his luck ran out when he was taken prisoner by the Turks.

When released on Armistice day he returned to Australia and worked along the River Murray and in the Murray Mallee. Eventually he returned to the north of South Australia and was still working well past the age of eighty years, hunting dingoes on horseback. When he finally retired he devoted most of his spare time helping anthropologists and linguists to map and record important Aboriginal sites. When he died he was well over a hundred years old. Although very old, he was not the oldest Aborigine in South Australia. This honour belongs to Johnnie Merty the last known member of the Yantrawanta tribe. Merty was born on Tinga Tingana Station on the Strzelecki Track in 1861 and died on 15 August 1976. His remains were buried at Lyndhurst.

That...Not all South Australians agreed with their government's actions in relation to the treatment of Aborigines? In October 1897, the Adelaide weekly The Critic, wrote; That nigger trash again! Some of the blacktrackers in the South Australian Police Force are rigged in smart uniforms a la white troopers, whereat the said troopers are kicking. They want the Government to draw the colour line'.

Believe it or not, it is true.

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