Major Mitchell's regrets
Sir Thomas Mitchell (1792-1855) was Surveyor General of New South Wales from 1827 to his death. He explored widely over south-eastern Australia, providing information helpful to the colonists' expansion of their land base. His reflections on the results of this process led him to pen the following lines.
'Reply of the Aboriginal native to the white man (freely translated)
"That Yarra tree was here before
The White man came amongst us,
The water is ours, and not enough
For these large thirsty monsters.
You'll leave us not a kangaroo,
Nor yet a drop of water,
Nor could we call a gin our own,
If once a white man caught her.
Then preach no more the white man's faith
Nor tell of Eve and Adam.
No tree of knowledge e'er grew here,
We'd burn 'em if we had 'em.
No fig leaves have we ever join'd
Our nakedness to cover
Nor have we till'd one bit of ground
In all this Island over.
To us that curse does not apply
For eating fruit forbidden:
You bring it here, and force on us
That knowledge which was hidden.
Those damned guns, the blackman's dread,
Resonant with stolen thunder;
That Iron which the lightning seeks,
May be old Adam's plunder.
You give us iron tomahawks
More clubs and spears to finish,
And so the fruit of knowledge here
Must soon our race diminish.
But mind what you are at, old boy!
We'll sell our birthright dearly,
Nor join your universal plan:
We hate it most sincerely.
Our wants are few and all supply'd:
We wish for nothing further!
The white man's presence is our curse -
Our only care - his murder.
His cattle range the forests wide,
Our kangaroos forsake them.
If emus venture on the plains
The white man's dogs soon take them.
All canting bigotry we hate:
Full well we understand it!
The Debil-Debil is our friend
And never will he stand it!
That white men shall black men put down
And give their runs to cattle.
Without enough of broken heads
And many a stockyard battle." '
Keywords: coexistence, colonial warfare, colonialism, colonists, cultural preservation, culture, First Fleet, Mitchell, Sir Thomas, Sydney, 1792-1855
Baker, DWA 1997, 'The Civilised Surveyor: Thomas Mitchell and Australian Aborigines', Melbourne University Press pp 153-5.
Author: Rowse, Tim and Graham, Trevor
Source: Mitchell, Sir Thomas