Was the Mission Station at Poonindie Successful?

Written by Joanna W.



Mathew[1] Blagden Hale (1812-1895) founded Poonindie, an institution for the continuing education of Aborigines who had left the mission schools in the Adelaide and Port Lincoln areas in 1850. The aim of Poonindie was to be a self-sufficient agricultural community and continue the Christian education of the Aborigines who lived there as well as discouraging them from returning to what the missionaries saw as a ‘savage’ way of life. Poonindie was also significant as it was one of the first places to encourage assimilation through segregation instead of assimilation through direct contact.[2] The items at the University of Bristol archive consist of several reports and letters relating to Poonindie as well as letters from the Aborigine inhabitants themselves. From these I hope to be able to access how successful Poonindie was as an institution and how it affected the lives of those who lived, stayed and visited it. There are other numerous primary sources to draw upon. Poonindie is specifically mentioned in two sets of British parliamentary papers on the state of Britain’s colonial possessions in 1856 and 1862. Evidence of the pattern of daily life at Poonindie comes from several sources. Firstly, there is Hale’s memoir of the Poonindie institution, The Aborigines of Australia written in 1889 and Bishop Short’s pamphlet The Poonindie Mission published in 1853. Both these acted as propaganda for the cause of educating the Australian aborigines but do give important insights into what life was like there. Another important and less biased source is letters of residents, which have managed to survive and have come to be deposited in the University of Bristol archives. Most of those available to me are from November 1871, from residents of Poonindie who had been transferred there from Albany, Western Australia and offer fascinating insights into their lives at Poonindie. Newspaper reports also sometimes give a glimpse of the lives of those at Poonindie, especially several articles published in the South Australian Advertiser in the late 1850’s and early 1860’s. Finally, there were three inspections, which took place at Poonindie during 1858 and 1859. The trustees and superintendent of Poonindie were at this point hoping that the government would increase Poonindie’s grant from £500 to £750 in order to help with the debts incurred from the building programme, something that the trustees were understandably far keener upon than the government were. The least partial of these inspections was the first, undertaken by Edmund King Miller, an Anglican clergyman in early 1858. Miller was convinced that the residents were genuinely religious but also concerned about sanitary conditions and the high death rate at Poonindie. The second undertaken by G.W. Hawkes in September 1858 is the most complimentary of the institution and the only one to be preserved in Hale’s papers at the University of Bristol. Hawkes was a magistrate based in the Adelaide area and closely affiliated with Poonindie, he also served as a trustee of Poonindie and he and his wife still seem to have been frequent visitors there in 1872.[3] As he had a great deal of personal interest in the institution his report comes out as entirely complimentary; none of Miller’s health concerns from a few months before are mentioned. The final report was that of Edward Hitchin, written in March 1859, who had been commissioned by Francis S. Dutton, the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Immigration, to report on the mission.[4] The South Australian Advertiser’s article on Hitchin’s visit to Poonindie leaves little to the imagination about the government’s intentions. The anonymous writer, before printing extracts of Hitchin’s report engages in a discussion on how best to deal with the aborigines, pointing out that institutions such as Poonindie may be entirely worthless as many see such attempts at social elevation as ‘hopeless’ and such money would be better spent on assisting the aborigines in the bush by giving them rations and avoiding their hunting grounds.[5] Although at least two of the reports are extremely biased they do contain valuable information about Poonindie in the 1850’s, which I intend to use objectively in the dissertation.


The secondary literature provides a vital backbone to my study of missions and missionary education in Australia during the nineteenth century. The secondary literature provided a much needed clarity on the reasons for the dramatic decrease in Aboriginal population at the time, and important issues such as reported infanticides amongst various tribes. Also, in debates about the Aborigines those debating these issues were not above exaggeration and secondary literature is a vital weapon for correcting this.

South Australia was seen as being relatively liberal in attitude compared to the rest of Australia. The original proposed constitution had been written by Jeremy Bentham and many of the original settlers had been Low Church dissenters. However both Brock and Hale’s biographer, Robin, note that the establishment in South Australia were primarily concerned from a early stage about educating and therefore converting aborigine children to aid assimilation into Western society instead of focusing on the entirety of the aboriginal population, although Scrimgeour notes that this may have more to do with the lack of success that the colony had in inducing native adults to adopt a European lifestyle in the 1830’s. Douglas Pike wrote in 1957 a comprehensive study on South Australia Paradise of Dissent: South Australia 1829-1857, which focuses on the formation of the colony as a ‘radical utopia’ and the successes and failures thereof. Many other authors recognise the importance of the unique position of South Australia, such as Barry who notes that although South Australia put a lot of their concern in aboriginal welfare into the education of aborigine children they were soon convinced that these children were equal in intelligence to whites and were concerned that the children seemed to only want to return to their families and tribal life after their education was over, a situation that gave rise to the setting up of Poonindie.[6] Such theories of education and civilisation are of vital importance to putting Poonindie itself in context.

Missions and missionary life in nineteenth century Australia certainly are another part of the background Poonindie was created in. Alan Lester, Norman Etherington and Peggy Brock have written articles on missions to Australia. According to Lester, in many cases it would appear that the missionaries defended the aborigines from the wrath of the settlers, such as Lancelot Threlkeld who maintained a mission at Lake Macquarie and who complained of settlers’ attempt to get rid of aborigines on ‘their’ land by any means possible.[7] Norman Etherington meanwhile looks at the policies employed to encourage aborigines to settle down in one area of land instead of reverting to their nomadic lifestyles. He notes this ideal was rooted in an idealisation of self-sufficient agriculture and village life, which was already dying off in Europe but was seen by individuals such as Hale as the ultimate ideal simple Christian existence.[8] Brock also notes the importance missionaries put upon having a permanent base, despite the nomadic nature of the aborigines using resources such as food, employment, education and health care in attempts to attract them, meeting mixed success. It is clear from the above studies that the aim of the majority of missions to Australia was to encourage the aborigines they encountered to lead settled lives as they viewed their nomadic nature to be a symbol of their lack of civilisation. Also, missions were often closely related to the establishment, unlike in other areas of the empire, such as Backhouse’s and Walker’s travels around Australia in the 1830’s or even Poonindie itself and the vital support it received from the Bishop of Adelaide and the Governor of South Australia. The nature of the Aborigines could therefore mean that closer involvement between the missionaries and government was needed, unlike in other areas of the British Empire and this shaped the actives of places like Poonindie significantly.


There is a considerable amount of secondary literature that relates to Poonindie itself. Peggy Brock, of the Department of Aboriginal and Intercultural Studies at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia has done a significant amount of research into missionary life, mainly focusing on indigenous missions in Southern Australia and Canada. Two of these works are either devoted to or contain vital research about Poonindie, firstly with Doreen Kartinyeri, Poonindie, The Rise and Destruction of an Aboriginal Agricultural Community (1989), and Outback Ghettos: Aborigines, Institutions and Survival (1993) which devotes two chapters entirely to the subject of Poonindie and life there. Sadly, it appears to be impossible to find a copy of the former of these works in the UK, however luckily Outback Ghettos contains the majority of Brock’s research into Poonindie as well as putting Poonindie into context with the environment of Southern Australia and the events leading to its creation. Brock also provides vital information on the daily lives of the residents of Poonindie from Hale’s diaries and her own research into pupil’s lives. Brock relates to both success stories and the policy of arranging marriages between residents. On the dark side Brock also looks into the stories of pupils who were dismissed from the institution. Brock also goes through Poonindie’s history and its eventual decline and closure. Apart from Brock, several others have contributed to research about and around Poonindie in recent years. Amanda Barry’s 2004 paper ‘A Matter of Primary Importance: Early Missionary Educational Attempts at Ramahyuck and Poonindie’ focuses on missionary education in South Australia and how education contributed to the process of colonisation instead of individual lives. Poonindie is one of two examples Barry looks at, the other being Ramahyuck in Victoria. Barry looks into early missionary attempts at educating the aborigines and compares interactions with the white settlers and missionaries and the Aborigines in Victoria and South Australia.  John Harris also devotes a section to Poonindie in One Blood: 200 Years of Aboriginal Encounter with Christianity (1990); however Harris’s book is a more comprehensive study which looks at numerous missions from all across Australia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Both John Daly and Bernard Whimpress use the more congenial subject of Cricket at Poonindie to study the institution and the aboriginal cricketers it produced. Whilst Daly focuses on cricket being a means to ‘civilise’ the aborigines and encourage contact with whites, Whimpress’s article looks specifically at the lives of the Adams family and the cricketing careers of both Tom and Tim Adams. Both Daly and Whimpress note that Augustus Short, Bishop of Adelaide; Hale’s superior saw the game as proof that the aborigines of Poonindie had become civilised. Another original take on Poonindie is Bill Woerlee’s book Kudnarto (1995), a biography of the Adams brother’s mother, Kudnarto, which looks into her tribe, the Kaurna and the events surrounding her marriage to Thomas Adams, an white English shepherd in 1848, the first marriage of a white man to a aborigine woman in South Australia, as well as the later lives of Thomas Adams and their sons Tom and Tim after Kudnarto’s premature death in 1855. Woerlee is able to, through primary sources, question Hale’s claim that Kudnarto taught her husband to read (this claim was part of Hale’s arguments in favour of the aborigines), proving that it was unlikely that Kudnarto was able to write since she signed the wedding certificate with her mark and produces a letter Adams wrote in February 1848 to prove that Adams could read and write, albeit not very well.  As well as vital background to Poonindie the secondary literature also needs to include studies of the leading personalities in its story. On the life of Mathew Blagden Hale, Arthur De Quetteville Robin wrote a biography of him in 1976, including one chapter on Hale’s contribution to Poonindie. Robin details the early success of Poonindie, despite problems such as a high mortality rate, a shortage of labour and inflation and the change in Poonindie from a further education establishment to more of a school as the Adelaide aborigine school declined. He also looks at Poonindie’s weaknesses such as the buildings falling into disrepair by 1857 and the rare ‘cases of grievous falls.’[9] Robin also points out that much of Poonindie’s success had a lot to do with Hale’s personal convictions and willingness to put his own money into the scheme as well as his friendships with influential personalities, such as the Bishop of Adelaide and Sir Henry Young, the Governor of South Australia from 1848 to 1854. After Hale’s departure in 1856 Poonindie was never quite as successful as it had been under his direct management. 

For other institutions that affected Poonindie’s history, Harris’s One Blood provides a detailed account of the Albany Institution and Robin dwells on Hale’s influence there. Rowan Strong’s article ‘The Reverend John Ramsden Wollaston and Colonial Christianity in Western Australia’ also provides background on the subject and the links between Wollaston, the Camfields and Hale. For Ramahyuck, where several inmates at Albany were sent and subsequently kept in touch with their friends at Poonindie, the research of Patricia Grimshaw fills in the background. Her essays ‘Faith, Missionary Life and the Family’ in Philippa Levine’s Gender and Empire, which provides background on how the girls came to be at Ramahyuck and their subsequent fates and ‘Interracial Marriages and Colonial Regimes in Victoria and Aotearoa/New Zealand’ examines the life of Bessy Cameron (nee Flower).


Although the secondary literature on the subject of Poonindie is reasonably solid and the books and articles are thorough and well-researched, many make significant mistakes. For example, John Harris mentions Ellen Trimmer, an assistant mistress at the Albany Institution, whom he describes as an ‘aboriginal’. Joanne Harris comments in her 2008 essay ‘‘To Exercise a Beneficial Influence Over a Man’: Marriage, Gender and the Native Institutions in Early Colonial Australia’ that this fact cannot be verified by other sources available for the Albany Institution. A likely source for Harris’s mistake is Robin’s biography of Hale which mentions the fact that in March 1871 Hale arranged for the children at Albany to be transferred from there to near his home in Perth, who were under the care of ‘Miss Trimmer, and a half-caste girl from the Vasse.’[10] Most likely, Harris simply misread this sentence as ‘Miss Trimmer, a half-caste girl from the Vasse’, missing out the crucial ‘and’. Another similar mistake is made by Brock who speculates that Tom Adams was in fact not the son of Kudnarto on the basis of one vague document written in the 1870’s. If she had looked at all the other extensive correspondence referring to the Adams brothers dating back to the 1850’s (when such a fraud would have been far more obvious as Brock’s theory would have Tom being at least eight years older than his supposed age), she would have realised this is highly unlikely. Far more damning than the small errors made by Harris and Brock, however, are the numerous ones made in Rowan Strong’s article ‘The Reverend John Ramsden Wollaston and Colonial Christianity in Western Australia’. Firstly Strong claims that Wollaston lived until 1863, when all other sources state 1856, including the Australian Directory of Biography and numerous primary sources, such as Rhoda Tanatan’s description of Wollaston’s grave printed in the South Australian Advertiser in 1857. Strong’s sloppy scholarship is also demonstrated by referring to Anne Camfield as Amy Camfield and talk of Wollaston spending his entire life before his emigration to Australia in 1840 in the Cambridgeshire countryside. In fact Wollaston was born in London and studied at Cambridge, therefore his world was far less narrow than the one Strong depicts. Strong does however, bring up some good points about the Christian missionary obsession with eradicating nomadic lifestyles and makes connections between Empire and Christianity. Strong’s assertion that all attempts to bring the gospel to the aborigines were cruel and wrong can also be challenged. Harris, whose father was a missionary to the aborigines, sees it as the ‘duty of the Christian church’[11] to bring the gospel to the aboriginal peoples of Australia. Where Harris goes on to point out that in some circumstances it was wrong to bring the gospel to the aborigines at certain times and on occasion criticises the ways in which the Christian message was put across, Strong automatically dismisses the entire Christian operation in Australia as cruel, backward and non-progressive. If anything, the Christian missionaries were often the only people giving charity to the aborigines in certain areas. Poonindie, for example, gave much needed medical care to many aborigines in the Port Lincoln areas, regardless of whether they were part of the institution or not. Despite the missionaries being misled by the notion that finding religion and culture meant the eradication of the aborigines’ own, their help, charity and wish for their charges to get somewhere in life was vastly preferable to the colonists’ opinions ranging from killing on site to kicking aborigines off their ancestral land and leaving them effectively destitute. Further weaknesses in the key texts on the history of Poonindie centre on how they cover the lives of the residents. Robin effectively ignores them, focusing on the deeds of Hale, despite the fact the aboriginal residents of Poonindie were his main preoccupation and source of companionship between 1850 and 1856. Although Brock looks into the lives of the residents in greater detail, she fails to link the stories of residents’ together, instead handling them all individually, regardless of context. She also almost entirely ignores the Albany Group who arrived at Poonindie around 1870 and whose letters provide a remarkable snapshot into life at the institution. However, although these letters will probably have been kept for posterity because they show Poonindie in the best possible light, they are still relevant for the details they contain about the residents’ daily lives and their attitudes towards Poonindie. I also hope to use this evidence as a means of assessing to some extent the success of Poonindie.

Hale primarily saw Poonindie as a mission to the aborigines, and thusly saw the success of the institution in terms of the inmates accepting Christianity. In his biography of Poonindie, The Aborigines of Australia Hale makes it clear that he took the most pride in the residents who developed the greatest religious awareness. Therefore Poonindie must first be assessed in terms of success as a religious mission to the aborigines. Also, the residents must be looked upon as individuals, were they happy at Poonindie? Did they manage to make a life for themselves there? Did they allow Poonindie to entirely define their identities or did some look to the world beyond the mission stations? Although Hale originally envisioned Poonindie as an entirely self sufficient Christian village, by the 1870’s many residents took work from farmers outside Poonindie, especially sheep sheering, which they were particularly good at, some went on extended visits to friends and family nearby, however they always returned. Therefore it is necessary to access Poonindie on a personal level in the first place through Hale’s criteria of leading residents towards a Christian way of life, and secondly on a more personal level, as in career opportunities and family life.


Missions in Australia and the Beginnings of Poonindie

‘…a Christian village of South Australian natives, reclaimed from barbarism, trained to the duties of social Christian life and walking in the fear of God…’

Augustus Short, Bishop of Adelaide[12]

Mathew Blagden Hale was born on 18 June 1811 at Alderley, two miles south of Wootton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire. He came from a well-off upper class family; the ancestors of his father, Robert Hale had lived at Alderley since the sixteenth century and his mother, Lady Theodosia Bourke came from Irish gentry, her father being Reverend Joseph Deane Bourke, third Earl of Mayo and Bishop of Tuam.[13] He was older than most of the undergraduates being nearly twenty when he entered Trinity College, Cambridge[14]. At this time Hale recognised his ambition to become a missionary. Initially he had fallen into a ‘bad’ crowd at Cambridge, whom he later described as an idle ‘non-reading set’, however this changed after witnessing the tragic early death of a friend and himself nearly being drowned at Inveraray.[15] The incidents gave Hale a new sense of purpose and solidified his ambitions to become a clergyman. Also, significantly, slavery was abolished in British Domains in 1833, which as Hale later reflected was an opportunity for Christianity:

…slaves, when freed from the compulsory control of those who had been their masters, would be subject to no control at all, unless some powerful moral influence could be brought to bear upon them in place of the physical restraint from which they were being relieved.[16]

Although such logic sounds incredibly racist to modern ears Hale clearly took these sentiments seriously, even going as far as to visit the offices for the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel at Cambridge in 1835 to discuss service in the West Indies. However what he heard there discouraged him. Hale tried to put forward his ambitions once again in a letter to his father but he still found family opposition so strong that he was forced to put his missionary ambitions aside.[17] Therefore on 5 June 1836 Hale was ordained by Dr. J.H. Monk, Bishop of Gloucester and assigned a curacy at Tresham, a village only two miles away from the family home.[18] Although it appeared on paper that Hale had put his missionary ambitions aside in favour of family interests he later admitted that his ‘interest in missionary work…never faded from my mind’[19]. Despite his misgivings Hale’s career as a Gloucestershire curate appears to have, at least initially, flourished. After Tresham, he was appointed the additional curacies of Hawkesbury and Hillsley in 1837 and left these two for Wootton-under-Edge in 1838 and finally became curate of Stroud in 1839, a position he was to remain in until 1845.[20] Whilst in the curacy of Wootton-under-Edge Hale had met Sophia Clode, the sister of the vicar of Wootton-under-Edge, Benjamin Perkins’s wife. They were married at St Pancras, London on 25 February 1840 and the marriage was a happy one, apart from Hale’s constant anxiety over his wife’s fragile heath. In five years of marriage they had three daughters, the eldest of whom died in infancy. Hale was correct to be anxious about his wife’s health. Sophia died on 27 March 1845 leaving Hale to bring up their two infant daughters alone.[21] Sophia’s death seems to have caused Hale to suffer some kind of nervous breakdown, which must have been impacted by the death of his mother that August. As he described it, the ‘effect upon my mind of a great sorrow’[22] caused him to resign his curacy at Stroud and move back home to his father. In 1846 his father moved to Atworth in Wiltshire, accompanied by Hale and his daughters. At this point in his life Robin speculates that he must have felt he was at a crossroads in life, not sure whether to listen to his instincts or return to a comfortable Gloucestershire curacy. In July 1847 Hale was invited to Pyrton, Oxfordshire to meet the new Bishop of Adelaide, Augustus Short, who had been consecrated at Westminster Abbey the month before. It appears that during the visit Hale and the Bishop found they had much in common, including a concern for Australia’s native inhabitants. The Bishop offered Hale the position of Archdeacon to Short himself. Hale accepted, stating ‘I could see that there really was not good and sufficient reason why I should not obey the call which seemed to be thus sent to me.’[23] For years beforehand, Hale had addressed meetings of the Church Missionary Society and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, urging the importance of service overseas.[24] There is some evidence that by the time of his wife’s death Hale was finding his stance somewhat hypocritical:

From time to time, I said to myself, ‘It is one thing to stand on a platform and to hold forth about the duty of going to the heathen; but it is quite another thing to go oneself’…[25]

In 1864, as Bishop of Perth Hale became a teetotaller on the basis that it was hypocritical of him to even enjoy a glass or two of wine when alcohol was causing such grave social problems in Western Australia, including amongst a few of his own chaplains.[26] As Robin notices, Hale was remarkable for his lack of hypocrisy and the double standard presented to him in the 1840’s over his family desires and his own probably contributed to his nervous breakdown caused by the death of his wife. However, Robin glosses over his family’s attitudes to Hale’s reawakened missionary enthusiasm, noting that Hale’s brother John returned from India around the time Hale left for Australia so could therefore take upon responsibility for their ageing father[27] and it might have been his late mother who objected more anyway. However, later in life Hale seems to have kept in closer contact with the family of his first wife than his own. It was Sophia’s sister, Eliza Clode, who looked after Hale’s daughters by that marriage, Amy and Mary, who were in England to complete their education, from 1857 to their marriages a decade later.[28] Sophia’s brothers were also close to Hale. Nathaniel managed Hale’s business affairs in England and Charles frequently advised Hale on official and legal affairs.[29] Further evidence of a possible estrangement with his own family comes in the fact that Hale did not visit England from 1867 until his retirement in 1885, two years after his elder brother Robert’s death.[30] Despite potential familial disapproval Hale was to sail to South Australia with his daughters less than two months after Short made his offer, on the Derwent on 2 September 1847.[31]

Upon his arrival in South Australia Hale was satisfied by the standard of education being offered to the aborigines, but was concerned by the fact that absentees were common and there was no provision made for the children once they had outgrown the school.[32] This lack of care at an impressionable age Hale noted meant they were ‘lost’ to civilisation forever. To Henry Edward Fox Young, the Governor of South Australia he wrote:

If these young people are left to their own way for the next eight or ten months, there is every reason to suppose (because the same thing has happened over and over again with their predecessors) that they will by that time have become vitiated and corrupted, either by being drawn away again to their former wild habits of life or by associating with the dregs of the population of the city.[33]

The trouble was that in all such schemes set up in Australia during the earlier part of the nineteenth century there was a lack of opportunities for educated aborigines in white society. The aborigines who had been educated were also, unfairly, expected to turn others towards the path of Christianity and civilisation. In 1838, Elizabeth Shelley, the wife of William Shelley who had run the Native Institution at Parramatta was interviewed by the Committee on the Aboriginal Question and responded:

Several of the girls had married black men, but instead of having the effect intended, of reclaiming them, they eventually followed their husbands into the bush, after having given away and destroyed all the supplies with which they had been furnished by the government. Since that period, some of them have visited me, and I found them relapsed into all the bad habits of the untaught native.[34]

In the Adelaide area there had been schools set up for the aborigines since 1839 by Lutheran missionaries, firstly the Location School across the River Torrens at Adelaide for the Kaurna people operated by Lutheran missionaries Christian Teichelmann and Clamor Schurmann. From June 1843 it operated as a boarding school, limiting children’s contact with their uncivilised kin. In a similar fashion, another institution briefly flourished at Walkerville from 1844 to 1845. In July 1845 these two institutions were merged to form the Native School Establishment which Hale would compliment a couple of years later.[35] This school was sponsored by the local government, showing their interest in the education of aborigines and meaning greater resources could be drawn upon. The new school was located next door to the Governor’s own residence, could take up to 150 pupils and was the biggest of its kind in Australia.[36] One of the biggest problems in this period was that it was difficult to persuade the aboriginal people to give up their children voluntarily to be educated at these schools. In 1843, Moorhouse noted the fact that four children had been sent to the Location School voluntarily as noteworthy as ‘for all the children that had previously been received had to be taken almost in direct opposition to the wish of the parents.’[37] The opposition from their elders may explain why the children were often taken away to the schools for long periods of time and the forced separation from their families made it less likely some of the pupils would settle down to a Christian way of life in the future.

Therefore Hale became convinced that something had to be done to keep the pupils of the Adelaide School in the confines of Christian civilisation and under a good moral influence. As Hale reported to Governor Young in August 1850 several of the pupils at the school were growing out of it and although four couples had been sent as servants to good families in the Port Lincoln area by Moorhouse[38] a more permanent solution was needed. Hale and Bishop Short’s solution was to set up an institution in an isolated rural area so that these young people could live in their own settled community away from any negative influences. This idea echoed the Location School, which had also functioned as an agricultural community, and John Ramsden Wollaston’s ambitions at Albany. However, where these were aimed at children, Hale’s institution would centre around young adults, encouraging them to conform to a Christian mode of life, making a living for themselves through working on the land and representing the Victorian ideal of a simple rural existence divorced from the troubles and immorality of the city or an ‘uncivilised’ life.

According to Harris, Hale’s proposal was ‘relatively modest’. Firstly, Hale did not expect to be given a salary himself, intending to support himself on his own private income, which was substantial. In 1850 he had already received £1,700 inherited from his mother, a legacy of £3,500 from his father, and additionally a farm in England let at £296.12.0 per annum and all his father’s land in South Australia.[39] His request to the government asked for a grant of land, an advance of £600 of which £200 was to be repaid within eighteen months and the remainder to be a gift. After the institution had been set up he would need £300 per annum from the government for rations and salaries for teachers, a matron and a farm labourer.[40] Hale was fortunate to already have supporters within the government, including Henry Fox Young, the Governor of South Australia, a practising member of the Church of England who was keen on missions proposed by his own denomination. Young backed Hale’s proposal to the Colonial Office recommending Hale as someone whose ‘character, station, zeal and disinterestedness afford every chance of success in the project.’[41] Hale, through well connected friends such as Bishop Short and Governor Young, had managed to gain support for his proposal and receive much needed government backing in order to get Poonindie off the ground. The only trouble he appears to have encountered in setting up the institution was acquiring a suitable location, which needed to be remote as well as fertile. The first site considered had been Boston Island, just outside Port Lincoln harbour. Hale even went as far as to land on the island on 10 September 1850 with a schoolteacher, a builder and five young married aboriginal couples. However, it soon came apparent that the site was unsuitable, mainly due to a lack of fresh water. Fortunately land was soon found at Poonindie, which was quickly declared a native reserve by the government and rented out for £1 per annum.[42] As soon as the location had been settled Poonindie was soon populated. By the end of 1850 there were nineteen aboriginal residents,[43] and it quickly settled into a busy and enterprising community.

To understand the unusualness of Hale’s success and good fortune to be setting his venture in South Australia his career can be compared to that of John Ramsden Wollaston (1791-1856). Wollaston’s legacy, the Albany Institution’s history would run against Poonindie’s, in fact many previous Albany residents would from the 1870’s onwards be transferred to Poonindie. Wollaston had, like Hale begun is ecclesiastical career tending to a rural parish, in his case as Vicar of West Wickham, Cambridgeshire. However, Wollaston’s motivation to emigrate to Australia was not a missionary calling, but money. He and his wife Mary had five sons and two daughters by the time they left England for Australia on 26 November 1840[44] and his position at West Wickham had proved insufficient to support the family. However, what Wollaston did not realise was that Western Australia was one of the poorest parts of the colony and there was no appointment, house or church for the Wollaston’s when they finally reached their new home in May 1841. The family was forced to spend their first night on the beach under a tent made of sailcloth held down by their baggage.[45] Because of this Wollaston would continue to lack funds throughout his Australian career. From 1842 onwards Wollaston toyed with the idea of creating an institution for aborigine children on Rottnest Island, realising the importance of ‘reculturisation’ in evangelisation. Like Hale he saw children as the key to the future of missionary endeavour. Hale observed that aborigine children learnt quicker than adults, whilst in Wollaston’s experience adults tended to be reluctant to give up their traditional nomadic lifestyle, something missionaries in Australia almost universally disapproved of. Strong theorises that both Hale and Wollaston were influenced by the rural ideal that existed in England during this time, the idea of an agricultural community entirely unaffected by the negative influences in the world, these negative influences being both European and aborigine. Wollaston found an enthusiastic supporter of his plan in Henry Camfield, the new Government Resident and his wife Anne who would ultimately go on to run the school for most of its twenty year existence. More support came in the form of Hale himself and Bishop Short who visited Western Australia in 1848 and would remain in touch with Wollaston from this point on. Also around this time Wollaston’s attitudes to the aborigines changed. In the early 1840’s he had seen them as little better than animals, claiming that aborigine parents would be perfectly happy to send their children to him as their ties to them were no better than the ties animals formed with their offspring.[46] However, by the late 1840’s Wollaston knew that the cannibal stories that were being reported in pamphlets such as William Westgarth’s ‘On the Condition and Prospects of the Aborigines of Australia’ were clearly untrue and protested against occurrences such as the aborigines being ‘hunted and shot’ like animals by his fellow colonists.[47] The Albany Natives’ Institution opened in 1852 under Henry and Anne Camfield; Wollaston’s most enthusiastic allies and supporters. Despite Wollaston and the Camfield’s progressive attitudes, funding was a massive problem. Western Australia was far less well off than South Australia, and at the time of their visit Short commented that ‘there is ten times the wealth in South Australia.’[48] Unlike Hale with Poonindie, Wollaston was unable to secure any form of government support for the institution. In his diary on Easter Sunday 1853 he complained:

On enquiry at bank found (but not to my surprise, well knowing the colonial prejudices to be overcome) that as yet the result of my appeal for the Aborigines was, as we used to say at Cambridge, -0.[49]

Unlike Hale Wollaston was not independently wealthy, nor did he have any sufficiently rich supporters. The Albany institution was never as big as Poonindie, which had around 40 to 100 residents at any given time; only fifty-five aborigine and mixed race children in total were admitted to Albany from 1852 to 1868.[50] Wollaston died only four years into the project in 1856 and Henry and Anne Camfield were left to carry on the venture alone until Hale took over responsibility in 1870. In comparison with Albany, therefore, Poonindie was fortunately situated and lucky to have wealthy supporters such as Hale, and later dedicated trustees who successfully got Poonindie out of debt in 1861.[51] The dream of Poonindie was clearly lucky to have got off the ground in the first place.


Life at Poonindie

‘I cannot tell you how I love you for taking us out of the bush & making us what we are’

Bessy Flower to Anne Camfield, July 1867.

As Poonindie was an agricultural settlement the residents were required to work on the land and learn basic farming tasks. The men were put to work as ploughers, shepherds, shearers and general labourers whilst the women stayed at home and worked on domestic accomplishments such as sewing. Hawkes confirms this impression, noting that the women and girls attended classes in both the mornings and afternoons learning ‘reading, writing, spelling and sewing, also arithmetic, are taught’ and that ‘most of the women make their own dresses’, proving that they were accomplished needlewomen.[52] Bishop Short described a typical day for the male residents in 1853 thus:

At half-past six in the morning, and after sun down, all assemble at the Archdeacon’s cottage, for the reading of Scripture and prayer…After breakfast they go to their several employments: the cowherds milk & c.; some were engaged in putting up posts and rails for a stockyard; the shepherds were with their flocks; two assisted the bricklayer, one preparing mortar, the other laying bricks…Six hours are the limit of the working day…The younger children attend school; the married women wash, and learn sewing clothes, making and mending…[53]

Short goes on to state that the work done at Poonindie was typical of any station in the Australian outback. However, Edward Hitchin complained that the aborigines at Poonindie were too lazy; only eight had ‘positive regular avocations’ those being the three shepherds, one cook, two horsebreakers and two female house servants. He also commented that the residents of Poonindie had it easy with their six hour working day compared to the ten hour days usually worked by European labourers.[54] Hitchin’s comparison between Poonindie and the European working day is unfair: in the 1850’s many of the residents were ill or dying of various ailments and therefore struggled to work even six hours. In addition, many were still learning how to work the land, being that Poonindie’s other prime purpose was education. Also, Hawkes comments that the men had to attend school in the evenings as well as working in the fields all day, something European labourers were not required to do and would require considerable energy. In fact Hawkes comments:

How many English labourers, after a heavy day’s toil, will leave their fire-side to attend school?[55]

The daily routine changed little in the forty year history of Poonindie; when the children from Albany arrived there in the early 1870’s they mentioned the same tasks being completed, such as the harvest and milking cows. However in 1871 John Gamble told Hale that there were ‘all kinds of mackines’[56] at Poonindie. These may have been wool presses, which Hale said were ‘out of the question’ for Poonindie in the 1850’s as Poonindie only had a small number of sheep,[57] but since Alexander Watherston had been appointed by the government as overseer in 1862, the flock had increased to 9,300[58] from its previous total of 3-4,000 in 1853.[59] Also, the task of milking cows, which Hawkes noted in 1858 was ‘chiefly’ done by the boys,[60] but now the girls, specifically, Charlotte Miles and Eliza, had taken over this task[61], perhaps because the increase in resources had made Poonindie a busier place. Hale also noted that in the 1870’s, Tom Adams was much in demand as one of the best shearers in the district and a report from Joseph Shaw, the superintendant of Poonindie from 1878 to 1882 which praises the residents’ ploughing abilities:

We have two or three very good ploughers, and, at a ploughing match in the district, some months ago, the natives succeeded in obtaining all the best prizes, much to the surprise of every one, particularly of the competitors, who were farmers of long standing in the district.[62]

Although it is clear that the aborigines of Poonindie were skilled labourers, from 1882 the same complaints that Hitchin had made in the 1850’s cropped up again, this time voiced by the new and unpopular overseer, J.D. Bruce. Of Tom Adams he complained that he was firstly being paid too much (15 shillings a week, instead of the usual 10) for doing hardly any work. On 10 February 1882, Bruce commented that:

[Tom Adams] said he felt faint, I know what that means, but it won’t go down just now, I mean to keep him going as long as I can get a…out of him.[63]

Residents like Tom Adams who had been popular and well-respected at Poonindie resented Bruce as he insisted on absolute obedience and questioned the capabilities and competence of long term residents such as the Adams brothers who we know to have been skilled labourers and good workers. Although the Poonindie working day was perhaps not as long or arduous as that of their European contempories, the residents certainly worked well, they were good ploughers and shearers, and found time and energy to educate themselves in the evenings. It is clear that some exhibited a lazy streak, it is also clear that Hitchin had an agenda when he criticised the residents and that Bruce’s methods for dealing with the aborigines were overly harsh and authoritarian and therefore hardly likely to get the best results.


Despite busy days filled with work, education and religion the residents do seem to have found time for more leisurely pursuits. They were clearly well-fed, critics of the institution complaining that they found time for three meals a day, including a two hour long breakfast.[64] Hawkes noted that the aborigines also enjoyed fishing, ‘generally spending their holidays in this way’.[65] In the 1850’s some of the residents had enjoyed yearly paid for visits to Adelaide to see friends and relatives, although from 1859 onwards they had to pay for these out of their own funds.[66] In the 1870’s the residents enjoyed an annual four week holiday during the shearing and harvest seasons and even on a normal day found time for daily walks and a bathe at four every afternoon.[67] Bishop Short remarked upon the residents’ enjoyment of European products and satisfaction in spending their wages, listing the purchases of Kewrie on a visit to Adelaide which included shoes, trousers, a packet of currants and raisins for puddings and a flask of salad oil for his hair.[68] To Short these purchases were proof of Kewrie and the other residents being civilized by European, Christian influence. To the modern reader they also show a concern over his appearance and a sweet tooth. The residents’ leisure time was not just limited to relaxation, holidays, and food. In terms of physical activity the men at least clearly enjoyed competing against one another and others, as previously seen by their involvement in a ploughing contest in 1880. In 1871 Louisa Connolly mentioned that the men had a ‘flat race’ amongst themselves every Saturday after work.[69] Most recent historians have, however, picked up on the fact that Hale taught the boys to play cricket during his time there and Poonindie’s subsequent reputation for producing aboriginal cricketers. Part of this must be down to the memorable portrait of ‘Nannultera, a Young Poonindie Cricketer’ painted by J.M Crossland in 1854. Also, Poonindie was frequently mentioned in the press due to their annual game in Adelaide against St Peter’s School, whom they often beat. Bishop Short, at least, saw it as a way of encouraging courteous, Christian behaviour amongst the residents:

I was pleased at watching, with the Archdeacon, two native Australian ‘elevens’ and [observed] not only their neatness in fielding and batting but what was far more worthy of note, the perfect good humour which prevailed throughout…no ill temper shown, or angry appeals to the umpire as is generally the case in a match of whites.[70]

 Bernard Whimpress points out that these matches were a reward for completing work and good behaviour; the match referred to in the quote above took place after a church service, whilst another match described by Short in 1872 was arranged after the completion of the wool-carting.[71] The cricket matches also filled another useful purpose: as well as being a reward for good behaviour they served to promote the institution to the outside world. Poonindie natives may have excelled at ploughing or sheep shearing, but these activities were only really noticed by neighbouring farmers. Cricket was an activity that could be enjoyed by potential patrons and allowed for an excuse to travel to Adelaide to show the cricket team off to them. The journalist at The Register was one such impressed commentator, albeit a patronising one. In February 1854 they were pleasantly surprised to report:

…The Port Lincoln natives from Archdeacon Hale’s establishment are very fine fellows. They speak pure English, without the slightest dash of vulgarism and are in truth far more gentlemanly than many…The bowling of Sam senior was exceedingly good… The batting…of Charlie was much admired…[72]

Cricket, unlike the other leisure activities the residents indulged in, had the advantage of promoting them to others outside the institution. However, it is clear that work, religion and education came first at Poonindie over these more frivolous pursuits.


The institution of marriage and the importance put on the family was vital to the survival of Poonindie, especially during the early days of the community. As Poonindie was originally an institution for young adults who had graduated from the Adelaide School and therefore had a Christian upbringing, but little incentive to remain in the Christian community, steps had to be taken to keep them from returning to the bush. Marriage was an important part of this. Previous missions such as The Parramatta Native Institution had failed because their charges had soon after finishing their education returned to the bush and to what their protectors saw as a primitive and uncivilized way of life. According to their own traditions their return to the bush symbolized a rite of passage as an adult; girls to be married at around the age of twelve to fourteen and boys from the ages of fourteen to sixteen to undergo initiation ceremonies designed to give them the secrets of manhood.[73] Although the boys were from thereon considered adults, the older men in their tribes usually prevented them from marrying until they were at least in their mid-twenties and the Protector of the Aborigines in South Australia, Matthew Moorhouse, had heard boys as young as fourteen talk of how they wanted to be married and proposed that they hold ‘out a distant hope, that they might possibly be able to procure some of the older girls as wives’[74] to keep the boys from returning to the bush. However, it soon became clear that unbaptised boys could not be married by Christian rite and as minors they could not do so without parental consent, which was unlikely to be forthcoming. However a few years later several such marriages occurred amongst the early residents of Poonindie. Neechi and Kilpatko were married by Bishop Short in the presence of Governor Young shortly before arriving at Poonindie in 1850 and both Narrung and Manyatko along with Kandwillan and Tandatko were married by Hale himself on 17 October 1851.[75] As well as these three marriages several other couples were created at Poonindie. Around 1850 to 1851, at the same time the earliest residents began to arrive at Poonindie, there was a significant drop in the number of older girls at the Port Lincoln institution as a result of relatives learning of such marriages having occurred and not wanting this for their daughters. Despite opposition from the children’s families these marriages went ahead because it was felt that marriage would bind them to Christian society. When some of the residents of Poonindie wished to visit friends in Adelaide Hale was happy to let them on the condition they paid him back their fares and as long as no couple travelled together[76], giving both the boys and girls an incentive to return. Under the watchful eye of Moorhouse it was clear Hale’s approach had worked:

They left their wives behind and after being a fortnight in town, they expressed anxiety to return.[77]

It is clear that these early marriages had motivated the students to remain at Poonindie, perhaps as these marriages had given the students a replacement kin group away from their tribes in the bush or, as Barry Patton suggests, that they could remain with their friends from the Adelaide school kept them there, and the early residents soon persuaded several of their old school friends to join them at Poonindie.[78] The latter explanation is perhaps more likely based on the pieces of evidence on the success of these early marriages at Poonindie. Hale was soon concerned as many of the couples at first refused to live together, a reflection of aboriginal patterns of behaviour.[79] As these marriages had been, at least to a certain extent, arranged by Hale and Moorhouse some couples took a while to show affection for each other. Of one of the early couples, Narrung and Manyatko, Hale noted that it was only after a year of marriage that they showed any real attachment to one another; however Mayatko’s death in May 1852 affected Narrung positively in that he began to show an increased commitment to Christianity.[80] In August 1852 Kandwillan was temporarily suspended from Poonindie for an unknown transgression which had been reported by his wife, Tandatko, however according to Hale’s diary she was not happy to see him go:

My sense of grief and suffering has been very great over Kandwillan. His poor wife was inconsolable, she sat out of doors in the cold and wet nearly the whole day…I received joint petition from all boys together I consented to receive him back.[81]

Other couples clearly did not manage to form an attachment to one another. A month before Kandwillan’s suspension in July 1852 Neechi requested to be sent to an outstation as a shepherd claiming that his wife, Kilpatko, was bad tempered and that he needed a break from her.[82] Others resisted Hale’s encouragement to marry. Monaitya, another former pupil of the Adelaide school, refused to commit himself to his proposed marital partner, Puiscumba. This, and complaints about his behaviour resulted in his dismissal in April 1851.[83]

Despite some early failures marriages were still encouraged amongst the Poonindie residents, especially women, as there was usually a surplus of men and wives were very much in demand. In 1870 William Holden, the resident missionary at the time, complained that two girls who had recently joined the mission from Western Australia, Amelia McDennett and Amy Sterling, had refused offers of marriage they had received within months of their arrival. Amy continued to resist Holden’s pressures to marry for three years, refusing two more marriage proposals and ignoring Holden’s complaints that she was too fussy and was in danger of missing out altogether. Eventually she married Andrew Hamilton from Point McLeay in 1873, which must have been a relief for Holden.[84] 

By the 1870’s Poonindie was lucky in that there was some choice in whom they could marry. At other missions, such as Anne Camfield’s school in Albany the futures of the pupils were in far more doubt. The school had only really been kept running by Mrs. Camfield’s dedication and devotion to her charges. The principal backer of the scheme, John Ramsden Wollaston commented in his report to the SPG in 1853:

I have always found the majority of our colonists and the Imperial Government indifferent towards the Aborigines as fellow creatures and fellow subjects…The most niggardly excuses are made in justification of the refusal of trouble of any kind in the matter, whilst the poor natives have, to their cost, imbibed nothing but the worst vices of the white population…[85]

Despite having such responsibility somewhat thrust upon them, the Camfields rose to the task at hand; known as ‘Martie’ and ‘Missie’ by the children, they seem to have been regarded as surrogate parents by their charges. A letter from one of the pupils, Rhoda Tanatan, to Wollaston’s wife in November 1857 and published in several newspapers and journals in 1858 to promote the school describes a typical Victorian middle class domestic upbringing complete with excessive description of the late Archdeacon’s gravesite, chatter about the horses, Queech and Ninny and local gossip. However, Rhoda’s opening comment ‘Missie says she knows you won’t be offended by my writing to you because I am such a little girl,’[86] perhaps shows an awareness of how many regarded aborigines as inferior beings. Although most of the girls were trained up to work as domestic servants, many of the older girls doing part days at various homes in Albany,[87] the problem remained of whom the girls would marry. Clearly, ex-convicts or ticket-of-leave men were considered entirely unsuitable for well-educated young women brought up in a sheltered environment. One solution Mrs Camfield did find was to send the girls to other Christian missions as marriage partners there, as men were often in surplus. In July 1867, she sent four girls to Ramahyuck in rural Eastern Victoria, a Presbyterian mission run by Reverend Friedrich Hagenauer who was looking for brides for residents; of these Bessy Flower was primarily sent as a teacher, the others her younger sister Ada, Rhoda Tanatan[88], Nora White and Emily Peters were there purely as brides to be. Two other girls, Carry and Emma had been sent there two years earlier, but both died on the way there at Melbourne[89]. The two girls who were not underage[90], Nora and Emily were married almost immediately after their arrival at Ramahyuck, Bessy reporting to Mrs Camfield that both girls were ‘enchanted’ with their intended grooms.[91] In a similar vein, several other pupils of Mrs Camfield’s school were sent to Poonindie a few years later, although clearly they were not married off quite so hastily as Nora and Emily were. It was not surprising that several pupils from the Albany school should have ended up at Poonindie, as Hale took a great interest in the school after having become Bishop of Perth in 1856 and after Mrs Camfield became seriously ill in 1870, even proposed to take it over. However, this idea was unpopular with Hale’s parishioners at Perth and he was forced to content himself with moving the school next door to his home in Perth and sending the older pupils to other missions such as Poonindie and Ramahyuck.


These marital arrangements were no doubt made to eventually create a new generation of civilized, Christian aborigines. However the scheme met with problems at Poonindie due to the apparent fertility problems of these couples. When E.K. Miller visited Poonindie in January 1858 he commented that although there were twelve married couples at the institution:

I was informed that during seven years but three births had occurred, and that two or three of these were premature -there now remained but one child born at Poonindie.[92]

As far as Miller was concerned this was very disturbing, not because of any concerns for the health of the inmates but because it affected how useful the institution could be as a place where ‘a band of natives might, from the earliest infancy, have been trained up and made instrumental in bringing others of their race under the influence of civilization and Christianity.’[93] Also it made Poonindie entirely dependent on voluntary additions to the institution in order to keep its numbers up. However when G.W. Hawkes visited Poonindie in September of the same year a child was born during his stay there, a girl to Panulta and his wife, christened Edith Poonindie Panulta,[94] proving that the aborigines were using Christian naming conventions and also that the residents were fertile. However, Hawkes also noted that this birth was ‘the third born since Mr. Hammond has been in charge of the mission.’[95] If both Miller and Hawkes are getting their figures right this means that there had been, as of September 1858, four births since Poonindie was set up in 1850. Of these births three had occurred after 1856 when Hammond took over the institution, and two of these births, the ones that took place before Miller’s visit, had been premature[96]. There could be several reasons for the apparent fertility problems, premature births and high infant mortality at Poonindie in the 1850’s. The first woman to get pregnant at Poonindie was Nantilla, the wife of Popjoy, but after a difficult labour, the child was stillborn in August 1852.[97] Of the other early marriages both the spouses seem to have died young, which almost certainly contributed to the lack of births, particularly the wives; Manya, the wife of Narrung died in May 1852 after what Hale described as ‘a long illness’[98], Kilpatko, the estranged wife of Neechi followed her to the grave the next year. There were significantly fewer women than men at Poonindie, however only one woman was judged fit enough or had survived long enough to be baptized by Bishop Short in 1853, Martha Tanda[99], the wife of Kandwillan, and even she died in December 1856. It is also worth noting that all these women’s husbands were dead by 1860. The poor health of the early couples at Poonindie cannot have done much to help their fertility. In his 1856 report on the aborigines, Richard Graves Macdonnell commented that within fifteen months of being ‘civilized’, 20 out of 60 inmates of Poonindie had died.[100] Macdonnell concludes that the aborigines were inferior to whites; however Miller offers a more detailed report into the deaths at Poonindie. From 30 September 1856 to 31 December 1857 there were 21 deaths[101], of these one was accidental, and two were premature births. Miller identifies a pattern, noting that 11 deaths occurred in the last two quarters of 1856, showing that several could probably be put down to an epidemic of some sort, most likely tuberculosis. Mr. Hawson, the superintendant also testified that many aborigines in the surrounding area had died; tribes of one or two hundred were now down to thirty or forty people. This statement was supported by ‘questioning some of the more intelligent natives in the institution.’[102] A couple of years earlier in 1854, the district surgeon, George Lawson had noted high mortality rates amongst the natives in the Mount Liverpool area.[103] Hammond, who was a qualified medical practitioner[104], assured Miller he had never discovered any hint of syphilis, which would have explained the residents apparent infertility, but he had found that on admission many residents were suffering from ‘cutaneous disease’ or skin complaints.[105] Such complaints were common amongst the aborigines; in 1802, Nicolas Baudin, the French explorer had documented the symptoms of a similar skin disease:

[The aborigines] seem to be subject to a type of yaws, for several had ulcerated legs. We discern no trace of smallpox on their faces or bodies, and they are possibly fortunate enough as well not to know syphilis.[106]

Josephine Flood concludes that this disease was treponarid, a temperate form, which gave the aborigines immunity from syphilis, but not other venereal diseases.[107] Clearly in the 1850’s several residents were suffering from this complaint, which presumably led to a risk of infection, and this coupled with pulmonary diseases severely affected the mortality and fertility of the residents. Miller also noticed that many of the huts that had been built in Hale’s time; were by 1858, falling into disrepair:

Some of these are very small and low, the ridge of the roof being but six feet from the ground, and are all are much dilapidated from the sheaoak logs rotting in the ground. The floors of these huts –bare earth –having worn lower than the surface of the exterior ground, their occupants must in winter often sit or sleep over a foot of water or mud. Under such circumstances, colds, and with the natives there are so often fatal consequences cannot be wondered at; nor can the people be blamed for often making their fires and sleeping outside the huts.[108]

The inadequate housing was by the time of Miller’s visit being improved by building proper brick cottages for the residents. Such poor living facilities must not have, as Miller observed helped the mortality rate; which notably declined as proper brick houses were built. George Lawson, as well as making observations about the mortality of aborigines in the Mount Liverpool area, noted that when residents at Poonindie caught colds they were prone to throw off their clothing and live in a state of nudity, which cannot have helped.[109] Lawson also suggested that a change in diet and living conditions had contributed to the poor health of the residents. By the 1870’s the apparent health and fertility problems amongst the earlier residents had apparently corrected themselves. The cottages, which only consisted of two small rooms each, were getting increasingly cramped for some residents and their families; by the mid-1870’s both John Newchurch and Tom Adams had five or six children each. In 1878, Tom Adams was given permission to add another room to his cottage[110], as he and his wife would eventually have nine children together, and she had two more by her first marriage, this room would be very much needed. Although there were still occasional epidemics at Poonindie, such as a measles epidemic in 1875[111] and typhoid in 1878[112]. Although these did claim lives, on the whole the residents enjoyed better health and morality rates were far lower than in the 1850’s.


Another vital part of life at Poonindie was the staff. The most important official at Poonindie was the superintendant, of whom there were five between 1850 and the institution’s closure in 1895. Of these men we know the most about Hale who acted as superintendant between 1850 and 1856 and his immediate successor, Octavius Hammond who was superintendant of the institution from 1856 to 1868, and remained at Poonindie in an assisting role until his death in 1878[113]. When the institution was first set up in September 1850, it consisted of five young couples who had already been sent to Port Lincoln by Moorhouse. By the end of the year the number of residents had increased to nineteen.[114] By the time Hale left Poonindie in June 1856 to take up the position of Bishop of Perth one hundred and ten residents had passed through Poonindie and the population of the institution stood at around 60.[115] In this venture Hale was supported by Henry Minchin, the schoolmaster and a building superintendant, Mr. Raynor.[116] In April 1851 Hale was finally joined at Poonindie by his family, which by now included his second wife, Sabina, the daughter of John Molloy of Western Australia, who had been staying at Port Lincoln whilst a weatherboard house was being built for them by Hale at Poonindie.[117] Around the same time Hale also obtained the services of George Wollaston, a son of Archdeacon Wollaston as Farm Overseer. As well as having valuable experience of cultivating the Wollaston family land at Picton[118], the hiring of George Wollaston provided yet another link between Hale, Poonindie and Albany. Henry Minchin clearly did not stay at Poonindie long, as in 1853 Bishop Short mentions the schoolmaster was now a Mr. Huslop, who led the singing at evening services at Hale’s house.[119] He had also left in 1854, as this year another significant addition to the staff was made in the form Joseph Provis as schoolmaster.[120] Hale had met and befriended Provis when he was living with his father at Atworth, Wiltshire in 1846 and 1847.[121] The Provis’s were at Poonindie until 1856, when Provis established a wheat farm at Tumby Bay. His wife, Janetta, acted as matron, and was apparently popular on account of her medical knowledge.[122] Despite having a competent staff and decent financial resources a drought led to the failure of the wheat crop in 1854[123] and a high mortality rate and a lack of births amongst the residents’ was another cause for concern. Hale was evidently popular amongst his charges; in July 1872, sixteen years after Hale had left four residents wrote to him hearing a rumour he would be visiting Poonindie telling Hale:

Dear father we have not forgotten you although we have been parted for many years...[124]

Part of Hale’s popularity was perhaps due to his willingness to get involved in the day to day running of Poonindie. Harris comments that Hale never allocated a task he had not carried out himself first.[125] According to his diaries, he helped Wollaston mark out a well and waterhole in the March of 1851 and after Wollaston left Poonindie in the following year to go to the goldfields Hale took on the task of teaching the residents to farm with much enthusiasm, frequently remarking upon his charges’ progress. For example on 10 March 1852, Ngullar Ngullar and Charly did very well as a ploughing team and a few days later, on the 17th, Popjoy went out ploughing for the first time and ‘as a learner got on remarkably well’.[126] Hale was also obviously devoted to the residents, taking his task to convert them to Christianity and introduce them to European culture extremely seriously, even refusing to baptise any one old enough to understand the process who did not show true belief. As he was about to depart Hale called the residents together to tell them that they should look after Poonindie as the land belonged to them.[127] Although Hale obviously meant well his idealistic parting words would cause trouble in years to come.

Hale’s replacement, Reverend Octavius Hammond, had arrived at Port Adelaide on 7 November 1849 aboard the Duke of Wellington with his wife, three children and additionally a daughter who had been born on the ship on the 4 September.[128] According to Canon Poole, a teacher at Poonindie from 1867-8, Hammond had originally set up a medical practice at Adelaide and was convinced to take up the position at Poonindie in order to improve the health of the residents.[129] He described in a positive light by both E.K. Miller, for his medical knowledge and by G.W. Hawkes who commented that ‘Mr. Hammond appears to be a person well selected to succeed Bishop Hale.’[130] Mrs Hammond was also ‘a very great favourite with the natives’, they always went to her when they were ill and she was also ‘very kind to the native children, with whom she takes much trouble.’[131] However Brock comments that Hammond lacked Hale’s administrative abilities or talent for public relations. During his time there, the building programme he established put the institution into debt. Also, Edward Hitchin’s report on Poonindie in 1859 was especially critical; Hitchin being quick to see fault in almost everything he observed at Poonindie; although both Miller and Hawkes agreed that the residents’ behaviour was genuinely pious; Hitchin on witnessing an evening service at Poonindie commented:

….their knowledge of the duty and gratitude they owe to their Maker extended in their minds, so as to make them more cheerfully duteous and grateful to their benefactors; that would, I think, evidence that their hearts were touched.[132]

Hitchin therefore saw the religious devotion of the residents of Poonindie, not as piety but as an expression of gratitude for their good fortune. The other implication is that Hitchin believes the aborigines to be mentally incapable of understanding religion. He goes on to point out that ‘attempts to teach the males the art of numeration had been given up as hopeless’[133], despite aborigine children apparently being easily taught such ideas. However, Hawkes, when observing a Bible class for the men, was impressed by their reading and ability to answer questions on Biblical texts. Hawkes also notes that it was often difficult for strangers to talk to or question the residents. As they knew Hawkes quite well they were happy to answer his questions, albeit ‘timidly, fearing to give the wrong answer.’[134] Hawkes also mentions that arithmetic was on the curriculum in September 1858, something that was unlikely to have changed by March 1859, however Hitchin may have been observing a class of grown men rather than children; Hale had observed that educating adults with no previous experience of schooling was usually impossible and their progress extremely slow, so this may well be the cases Hitchin was alluding to.

This critical report led the government to cut its grant and appoint a farm overseer responsible to the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Investigation.[135] This measure led the residents to be denied responsibility as the government appointment overseer; Alexander Watherston believed the aborigines to be lazy and untrustworthy and instead employed five white men to assist him, an assistant-overseer, a cook and three shepherds.[136] Despite these problems, Hammond’s time at Poonindie was reasonably successful; Poonindie’s financial situation was improved by the trustees in 1861 by selling the lease of Toolilee Run and its stock to pay off the institution’s debts. From this time Poonindie managed to be entirely self-supporting.[137] Also, Brock misses the point that the building programme had been entirely necessary, the wooden huts, due to becoming worn, had begun to let in over a foot of water and mud,[138] and because of this were bad for the residents’ health. Unlike Hale, Hammond was keen to employ native language to spread the gospel. In 1858 a newspaper report mentioned that he was attempting to draw up a native version of the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.[139] George Taplin, Hammond’s contemporary at Point McLeay, possessed a talent for languages and learnt Ngarrinyeri in order to get closer to those he hoped to convert.[140] Despite mainly positive reports and an obvious concern for the progress and welfare of his charges, Hammond’s time at Poonindie was tinged with personal tragedy. His eldest son, Arthur, died in February 1859 at Castle Gap, near Kanyaka of sun stroke[141] and a daughter, Ada Maria died at Poonindie on 31 January 1861 aged just 2 ½ .[142] The worst blow, however, must have been the suicide of his eldest daughter Ellen, who drowned herself in the River Tod in December 1860 over the discovery that her fiancée, Joseph Hannum Provis, a policeman, a son of Joseph Provis, the one time schoolmaster at Poonindie[143] having secretly being engaged to another woman, Emma Dutton. Her parents had disapproved of Provis and only allowed her to become engaged to him after she had reached her 21st birthday. This news was clearly devastating to Ellen. Albeit tragic, Ellen’s story tells us about attitudes during Hammond’s time at Poonindie. Accompanying Ellen on her visit to Emma Dutton’s was a ‘native girl’, Mary, possibly a servant to the Hammonds or a resident of Poonindie, whom Ellen told to go home without her once they reached the crossing-place of the Tod River on their journey home. Although Ellen offered the excuse that she intended to go to a Mr. Weatherstone’s, she was by now crying. Despite the fact that Ellen was clearly in a mentally fragile state[144], Mary seems to have felt unable to disobey Ellen’s orders. Although the Hammonds treated the residents with kindness and respect, they were still the superior ones in the relationship. The residents also helped search for Ellen once it was clear she had gone missing and helped retrieve her body from the river.[145] Her death clearly had an effect on the residents, many years later a descendant of a Poonindie resident who ended up at Point McLeay told of a legend that the grass at the spot where the girl was laid when brought from the water never died but always remained green.[146] The same source also states that Ellen was bright and intelligent but disconnected from life at Poonindie; however Hawkes’s report in 1858 mentions that Ellen herself took up the duties of schoolmistress there[147], which argues against this. The background to Ellen’s death and the aftermath does show that the Hammond’s were regarded with affection at Poonindie, but the relationship between resident and superintendent was far from equal.

The government’s decision to appoint their own Farm Overseer at Poonindie led to a simplification of the role of Superintendant and consequently Poonindie appears to become more of an institutionalized community and less of a mission. The financial problems and resulting inspections of the institution had left it financially independent but led to the appointment of superintendants more interested in meeting government approval than the spiritual welfare of the residents. William Holden, who served as Superintendent from 1868 to 1876, encouraged the talents of men such as Tom Adams and also made attempts to recruit new converts, such as a trip up the River Murray in 1869, in which he was accompanied by Daniel Limberry who had been at Poonindie in the 1860’s. Although the trip was unsuccessful because the aborigines there were afraid to come to Poonindie because of the rumours concerning many aborigines dying there Holden was nevertheless impressed with the respect shown to himself and Limberry on their trip there.[148] Joseph Shaw who was there from 1878 to 1882 also took pride in the residents’ achievements, such as a Ploughing Competition they won in 1880. J.D. Bruce, however, who was appointed superintendent in 1882, was less concerned with the welfare of the residents than in their absolute obedience to him and his regime. As we will see this attitude led to Poonindie’s ultimate destruction.


Poonindie, a Success Story?

‘We are very sorry to hear that the place is to be taken from us. It is very hard to be turned away from what has been our home…’

Poonindie Petition, 2 February 1894

Hale singled out the keenest converts for the greatest praise and held them up as examples for the rest of the community. In his memoirs of the early days of the institution he promotes aboriginal education schemes mentioning that early education could create ‘a Christian of a high stamp and a truly spiritually minded person,’ mentioning ‘unhesitatingly’ Narrung, Toodko and Mudlong.[149] Of these three, all baptised by Augustus Short, the Bishop of Adelaide in April 1853 both Narrung and his brother Toodko made especial efforts to evangelise amongst the Port Lincoln Aborigines and their own people on the Murray River[150] as praised by Hale in his report in June 1853:

Another thing which makes this general attention to the things of God still more deeply interesting is the way in which the good work has been promoted and helped forward by some of the more influential of the young men themselves. The pious efforts of two in particular [they were Narrung and his brother Toodko] have been productive of much good and have been attended with most beneficial results.[151]

Others followed Narrung and Toodko’s pious example. Brock mentions that both Todbrook and James Wanganeen also later became evangelists and Kandwillan was trusted to lead services at Poonindie in Hale’s absence and Wirrup and Wanganeen frequently assisted with services and prayers.[152] G.W. Hawkes also mentions Kandwillan and Tolbonco leading services in Hale’s successor Hammond’s absence, as well as leading hymns with their flutes.[153] The Christian sentiments of the early residents of Poonindie are perhaps best expressed by a poem written in either 1852 or 1853, according to Hale either by Mudlong or Tartan expresses the writer’s thankfulness for being at Poonindie, faith in God and the fact the Poonindie residents looked down on ‘poor wild natives’:

            Whenever I take my walks abroad

            How my poor I See

            What shall I render to my God for all his gifts to me[154]

It is clear from these lines that it was seen as a privilege to be a member of the Poonindie institution. This is also obvious when one looks at the story of Charlie Neruid. Neruid was somewhat of an anomaly in the history of the Poonindie institution. Hale was convinced that it was impossible to educate and convert anyone who had not had any early education and instruction by whites. This was important as:

I learnt from my long intercourse with some of the amiable well-disposed Port Lincoln natives…if the intellect is not stimulated in the early years, not cultivated, nothing set before the mind to help it on in expansion and growth, it becomes hopelessly dwarfed and stunted. There is a time for growth and expansion. But if that time is lost it can never be recovered.[155]

Beginning the process of education as early as possible not only stimulated the mind it made it easier to convince those who were being instructed to accept Christian thoughts:

…if the truths of Christianity are fittingly put before him his natural simplicity of mind  and his docility will dispose him readily to receive those truths, and that he may, by the grace of God, become not only a Christian, but a Christian of high stamp and a truly spiritually minded person…[156]

Neruid had no early education. When Hale first encountered him in Adelaide around August 1852 he was about seventeen or eighteen years of age and had developed a profound desire as Hale later put it to be a ‘Poonindie native’. G.W. Hawkes notes that to be a ‘Poonindie native’ appeared to make the residents superior to their fellow aborigines, who Hawkes observed they ‘evidently look upon…as inferior beings.’[157] Another compelling reason to go to Poonindie may have been the fact that there was clearly some kind of epidemic killing off the aborigines in the Port Lincoln area at the time; Poonindie was well known for having food, medical knowledge and medical supplies.[158] Neruid was apparently related to Popjoy, who was at Poonindie from 1850 to 1852 which is probably how he knew about the institution. Whilst Hale was in Adelaide Neruid followed him around constantly asking to be let into the school, not discouraged by Hale’s refusal to do so and his explanations why. Eventually Hale relented:

However, I endeavoured to explain to him what going to school would mean: that he would have to sit quietly and obediently amongst the children, and try to learn lessons, &c. He most readily promised compliance with any commands which might be given to him; and his anxiety about the matter was so great that I pleaded his case and obtained his admission to the school.[159]

Hale must have been nervous about admitting Neruid to Poonindie; at around the same time Neruid was accepted his relative, Popjoy, who had also had no formal education before going to Poonindie had been dismissed for his violent behaviour. Hale later admitted that his admittance had been somewhat of an ‘experiment’ and although he was clearly a good worker, his age[160] and temper meant that bringing him to ‘civilisation’ ultimately failed.[161] However, Neruid fortunately appears not to have inherited his relative’s violent temper and quickly took Christianity to heart, being baptised less than a year after his arrival on August 6 1853.[162] He also impressed Hale by his conscientious attitude, once having committed what Hale described as having ‘sinned in thought and intention’ and immediately punished himself, as to Hale’s example by confining himself in his hut.[163] Although Neruid clearly took Christianity to heart and was at over six feet tall a strong and useful worker, his lack of early education meant he never made much progress in his reading. It was force of will that had got him to Poonindie, but although ‘anxious to learn’ he ‘could not at all keep pace with the children’ and did not make much progress.[164] Rev. E.K. Miller, who visited Poonindie at the beginning of 1858, noticed that although the children learnt better than older pupils, the older ones were better at music[165], maybe Neruid was amongst these musical students. Despite perhaps never being particularly literate he remained at Poonindie for almost twenty years until his death on February 9 1871. In a letter to Hale in July 1872 several of his fellow residents spoke of their sadness over his passing:

…the last one God took away from amongst us was our dear friend Charlie Neruid and he died believing in Christ, and he hast left a good example…[166]

Ultimately, Neruid endeavoured to come to Poonindie and be accepted within the institution due to sheer force of will despite having had no prior education and presumably no prior exposure to Christianity. His story also shows that attaining the status of being a ‘Poonindie native’ was seen as something to aspire to.

Although many of the early residents’ lives at Poonindie could be termed as successful by Hale, many of them did not live beyond their early twenties. In the 1850’s Poonindie was hit by some kind of epidemic, which at its height claimed 20 out of the 60 inmates in just fifteen months.[167] Consequently some of the keenest converts such as Narrung and Toodko never had much of a chance to develop and expand upon their religious beliefs. Even Neruid, who died in February 1871, would not have been much more than 35 or 36 at the time of his death, which is hardly elderly even by nineteenth century standards. It is therefore necessary to examine the lives of later inmates of the institution to properly examine the full range of what life had to offer at Poonindie.

When Poonindie had first been set up in 1850, in order to preserve what he saw as a necessary separation from the outside world, Hale was determined to only admit children from the Adelaide schools and maybe unmarried women and adult married couples from the Adelaide area.[168] In 1852, Hale was informed that if he wanted continued government support for Poonindie he would have to accept all children of mixed descent sent there by the governor. This coincided with the closure of the Adelaide school after the seven remaining pupils ran off to the Yorke Peninsula and the closure of Clamor Schurmann’s school at Port Lincoln and the transfer of the pupils there to Poonindie.[169] Two residents of mixed descent admitted under this policy were brothers Tom and Tim Adams, the sons of a white English Shepherd from Leicestershire, Thomas Adams and his aboriginal wife Kudnarto. Both lived at Poonindie for over thirty years before moving to Point Pearce in the late 1880’s. Their lives are also surprisingly well documented, partly because the marriage of their parents in May 1848 was the first marriage between a white man and native woman to take place in South Australia[170] and also due to their cricketing and shearing abilities. But mainly their lives are of such significance because of the brothers and their father’s campaigns to have the land at Skylogolee Creek given to Kudnarto at the time of her marriage by the government on an unwritten understanding from the Protector of Aborigines Matthew Moorhouse that the land would go to her heirs on the event of her death, although the official documentation hinted that this grant had been made only during her lifetime[171] and it was therefore taken back by the government. After Kudnarto died on 11 February 1855[172] their father took Tom and Tim to Poonindie in May of the same year.[173] Hale also noted that Tom and Tim were both young enough to be baptised by the rites of Infant Baptism.[174] According to an official declaration signed by their father on 11 January 1869 Tom was born on 19 June 1849 and Tim on 11 October 1852[175]. Brock speculates that Tom might have in fact been the result of an earlier relationship of Adams’ as a Poonindie record shows Tom to be 36 in 1877, i.e. born in 1841.[176] However, I think this record is likely to be a mistake; no-one doubted Tom’s parentage in his lifetime and Hale was unlikely to have baptised Tom in the rites of Infant Baptism if he was as old as fourteen when he arrived at Poonindie. Also all of the Adams family correspondence dating back to the 1850’s referring to the land grant and Poonindie refers to both the brothers as the children of Kudnarto in plural[177] and it is very unlikely the authorities would have backed up what would at the time have been a very obvious attempt at deception. The first years Tom and Tim spent at Poonindie did not always run smoothly. By 1858 their father was writing to Richard Graves Macdonnell, the Governor of South Australia requesting the return of both boys:

…I placed [Tom and Tim] in the Training Institution at Poonindie then under the charge of Archdeacon Hale, in order that they might have an opportunity of obtaining a little learning but I now find that although they have been there upwards of three years, they might just as well have been in the bush all the time for the knowledge they have gained during that time… [I] found them as regards cleanliness and clothing worse then the Native children roaming about the bush - Finding this the case, and that they have no protector but myself I have taken them away…[178]

However, according to Hammond, Thomas Adams’ statements were inaccurate:

…During about the period he mentions he has occasionally visited the children, and has more than once expressed a wish to take the elder of the two with him, for the purpose of being…a companion to him in the bush, while he undertook a shepherd's situation…until rather more than two months ago he came and expressed a wish that I would take him into my employ at Poonindie, as shepherd so that he might have the boy with him.

This, on various grounds I declined doing; and he then again said he should like to have the elder boy with him, for a time, as a companion… The result was that he took the elder boy; leaving the younger…where…he still remains with us…[179]

Despite the inaccuracy of Adams’ statements and his downright exaggeration of the facts, Hammond was forced to admit that Tom’s personal hygiene was bad:

Now the truth is that the elder boy has always manifested great carelessness and want of cleanliness in his habits…the frequent destruction of clothes given to him rendered it necessary to confine him to such as were at once durable and inexpensive.[180]

Part of the trouble was that Thomas Adams senior was an alcoholic, as early as 1848 he was writing to Moorhouse promising to stay away from alcohol ‘for I have seen my foley,’[181] which explains Hammond’s reluctance to let Adams work near Poonindie or release the boys into his custody. Also, according to E.K. Miller, many of the residents seemed to have trouble understanding the value of clothes:

…In the matter of clothing considerable expense in incurred, the natives in general being careless and destructive of clothes…[182]

Therefore it is likely Tom picked up his bad clothing habits from his fellow residents. Despite this early turmoil Tom soon returned to the institution and both he and Tim became respected residents. When Hale visited Poonindie in 1872 he noted that the owner of one of the largest flocks in the Port Lincoln district regarded Tom Adams as the best wool shearer at Poonindie[183] and Tom himself in one of his many letters of application for land wrote that:

I have been living at Poonindie for over twenty years, and I understand farming and can drive a reaping machine and plough and do all farm work. I believe the Government can give me a grant of land, as they have done for other Natives – and if they will do so I can work on it, and the Trustees of Poonindie will give me some farm tools and some seed wheat…[184]

Brock notes that during the 1860’s and ‘70’s Tom was regarded as one of the most dependable and capable men at Poonindie.[185] However, this shining reputation did not bring the brothers the land they felt was their right to inherit from their late mother. For example, their 1875 application was rejected on the grounds that there was ‘no legislative authority for making a gratuitous grant to an Aboriginal.’[186] Despite these setbacks the Adams brothers enjoyed life at Poonindie in the 1870’s; they were both amongst the more senior members of the institution who wrote to Hale in 1872 after hearing rumours of his planned visit there[187] and were key members of the Poonindie cricket team. Tom was captain of the team in 1872, 1874 and 1876[188], whilst Tim was described as a ‘first-rate bowler who would have done credit to any Club in Adelaide’[189]. Tom married Louisa Milera (nee Roberts), the widow of Frederick Milera, who was also of mixed descent. The marriage took place in 1867 and Hammond officiated at the ceremony.[190] Louisa had two children from her first marriage and a further nine by Tom. In 1878 he had to apply for permission to add another bedroom onto their cottage[191] and by 1889 he had become a grandfather.[192] Tim however was to be married four times. In 1871 he was recorded as married to Fanny from Franklin Harbour, she was dead by 1877, most likely before 1872, as at the former date he was married to Bessie and they had four children, the eldest of whom, Lewis was five. In 1878 she too died in an epidemic. In 1880 Tim married Esther who came from Kingston. She must have died sometime after 1884 when Tim left Poonindie as he married again at Point Pearce sometime in the 1880’s or 1890’s.[193]

Tom and Tim were considered successful and respected residents of Poonindie during the 1870’s, however, after William Holden was replaced as superintendent by J.D. Bruce in 1882, who had been appointed farm overseer in 1878.[194] Bruce demanded complete subservience from the residents. This did not go down with established and respected members of the institution such as Tom and Tim Adams. In yet another application for land, Tom communicated that he believed Bruce was responsible for his latest round of applications being rejected as:

…many kind friends of mine who are farmers themselves have offered to start me and help me in every possible way I believe Mr Bruce has been trying to prevent me from having it and makes out that it is too close to Poonindie …Mr Bruce have been treating me very wrong and unjustly it is not too close to the Mission because I have seen natives down Pt McLeay having land within 2 miles of the Station…[195]

Tom and his family moved to Point Pearce under great pressure from Bruce to leave Poonindie in 1887, where his brother Tim also eventually settled. Tom finally did get a land grant in 1907. However he was too old to get started yet again and Louisa refused to leave Point Pearce where most of their children were settled. They both died there at some point afterwards and Tim also died at Point Pearce on 5 March 1908.[196] Tom and Tim’s eventual ousting from Poonindie however had nothing to do with their abilities or lack thereof; they were the victims of an overzealous overseer who refused to acknowledge anyone who did anything less than completely obey him.

The Adams brothers represent the first generation to live long enough to grow up and establish themselves at Poonindie. Since the closure of the schools in the Adelaide and Port Lincoln areas in 1852, Poonindie had been required by the government to accept anyone they sent there, as well as actively seeking educated recruits from elsewhere due to the lack of schools in the Port Lincoln and Adelaide districts. As explained in the second chapter, several children who had originally been pupils at Mrs. Camfield’s school in Albany arrived at Poonindie in the 1870’s due to the link between Poonindie and Hale, now Bishop of Perth, had taken a keen interest in the Albany institution. These young people and children, having experienced a Christian upbringing in a school run on familial lines were a tight knit group who seem to have remained close after arriving at Poonindie. The histories of the children sent to Poonindie from Albany, which included several boys, were to some extent parallel their friends who had been sent to Ramahyuck as seen in their surviving letters to Mrs. Camfield. These letters were all written in November 1871, most of them on the eighth, around the time of John Gamble, an ex-pupil of Mrs Camfield’s, visit and return from Albany via Adelaide. From these letters we get an intriguing snapshot of life at Poonindie in the early 1870’s, especially those of the girls’, and the close bond of the young people who had come to Poonindie from the Albany institution. Charlotte Green, like Bessy Flower before her at Ramahyuck, took on teaching duties at Poonindie,[197] although for the other girls marriage and domestic duties were seen as the primary purpose of their education. As part of their education, many of the girls were trained as domestic servants, some of the older ones spending part of their day as domestics in Albany homes.[198] The Lucy mentioned in the letters of John Gamble and Mary Amelia Nouinda is most likely the same Lucy who was married to John Solomon, the son of a white man George Solomon and his aboriginal wife, Rathoola, whom Brock mentions came from Western Australia.[199] She clearly excelled at domestic tasks, as she was also the only person at Poonindie the superintendent’s wife, Mrs Holden, trusted with her washing and domestic work.[200] Mary Amelia Nouinda’s life at Poonindie was also primarily domestic. By early 1871 she had married and was happy to report to Mrs Camfield in November she now had a daughter, Bertha, born on 11 March.[201] There were also several boys from the school who had ended up at Poonindie, including John Gamble, Frank, Edward and David.[202] Their concerns, from John Gamble’s letter, were more to do with work and the harvest than domestic, Gamble making sure to mention ‘reaping’ and the fact that there were ‘all kinds of mackines here’[203] the other day.

However, one of the most interesting things about this series of letters is how the residents at Poonindie from Albany were keeping in touch with their old friends from there who had ended up at Ramahyuck. Mary Amelia Nouinda mentions that she and Lucy ‘get letters every mail from the girls at Melbourne’[204], whilst Charlotte Green had recently heard from both Rhoda and Nora[205] and Louisa Connolly had received photographs from Rhoda.[206] Their friends were the five girls mentioned in the previous chapter who had been sent out to Ramahyuck in 1867 as wives; Rhoda Tanatan, Emily Peters, Nora White and Ada and Bessy Flower, the latter of whom also took up teaching duties there. The correspondence between the girls at Poonindie and those at Ramahyuck seems to have been extensive and primarily concerned with their health, general wellbeing and domestic activities. In November 1871 it was clear that Rhoda had been in contact most recently. She had sent photographs of herself to both Lucy and Louisa. Although Louisa seems to think she ‘looks very well’[207] Mary Amelia seemed concerned for her health after seeing the picture sent to Lucy telling Mrs Camfield:

…she looks thin and she says that she is going to Sydney to stay with Mr William Lawson on account of her health which is failing…[208]

Sadly, we do not know anything of Rhoda Tanatan’s subsequent fate, although we do know quite a bit about her earlier life before she went to Ramahyuck. Mrs Camfield told Wollaston in the 1850’s that her father was deceased[209] and a letter she wrote to Mrs Wollaston in November 1857 was published in the South Australian Advertiser on 2 August 1858 to promote the Albany institution. However it is almost certain she was married by the early 1870’s. Even Bessy Flower, who had primarily been sent to Ramahyuck as a teacher in 1867 was by 1868, when she was just seventeen, being encouraged by the authorities at Ramahyuck to marry. She did, to Donald Cameron, mission educated and of mixed descent, in November that year, although the mission establishment preferred their own candidate, a white farmer from Albany.[210] Therefore perhaps Rhoda’s ill health had something to do with pregnancy or childbirth, which might also account for Louisa’s more positive reports on her health. Children and lots of them were certainly encouraged by the authorities at Ramahyuck. Bessy Cameron had the first of her seven or eight children just eleven months after her marriage.[211] In the early 1870’s her childbearing was clearly a regular occurrence as Mary Amelia comments that ‘Bessy had another little baby girl her name is Christine Elizabeth.’[212] The parallel lives led by the girls at Poonindie and Ramahyuck clearly gave them much common ground to talk about in their letters to one another. Another link between Poonindie and Ramahyuck was Harry Flower. He was certainly a relation of Bessy and Ada, most likely their brother as Grimshaw mentions their father, one of the Nyungar people, was ‘a very faithful native servant’ in the home of Henry and Anne Camfield[213] which also happened to be the home of the Albany institution where the Flowers were educated. At some point in the 1870’s Harry Flower was an aboriginal teacher at Poonindie[214], however he is also mentioned as being at Ramahyuck by Richard Broome who comments on his and Bessy’s correspondence with Charles Darby, a captain on the Melbourne-Gippsland Lake routes whom they wished to exchange ‘likenesses’[215] with.[216] As it is clear that Harry Flower spent time at both Poonindie and Ramahyuck, creating more links between the two aboriginal communities in two different parts of Australia it is also clear that the vision of Hale for an isolated Christian community had failed. The community by the 1870’s was Christian and agricultural but far from isolated.

However not everyone was happy at Poonindie. In the 1850’s there were a few dismissals of disruptive residents and later on several left over clashes with the overseer, J.D. Bruce. In the 1850’s, under the regimes of Hale and Hammond it appears no-one voluntarily left Poonindie. E.K. Miller reported:

It does not appear that the natives who once settle at Poonindie ever desert it. Mr. Hammond assured me he had not known a single instance of desertion. Some have been expelled for misconduct, and others, chiefly those from the Port Lincoln tribes, will occasionally absence themselves for a few weeks –as they allege, to visit their relatives –but invariably return. Those from Adelaide and the Murray are sometimes allowed to visit their friends also, but so far from taking advantage of these opportunities to desert, they always come back, often bringing others with them to join the institution…[217]

On the face of it the residents desire to always return to Poonindie looks like they had a genuine attachment to the institution. This assumption is partially correct. Miller goes on to remark that if any of the residents were taken ill away from Poonindie they always tried to get back there as quickly as possible:

…the desire to die and be buried there being apparently very strong in all. I should have thought they would have preferred being buried with their tribes; but it is not so. Several instances have occurred of a return under such circumstances being almost immediately followed by death.[218]

The collective desire to be buried at Poonindie shows that the residents were genuinely attached to the institution and also that they were genuinely attached to their Christian faith; if they died amongst their tribes they were unlikely to get a Christian burial. Another reason residents rarely deserted Poonindie was the fact that they, if married, did not travel with their spouse, men and women visiting separately.[219] Also, at least when visiting Adelaide, they were under close supervision. The two visits in 1851 were closely supervised by the Protector of the Aborigines, Matthew Moorhouse, whilst later on yearly visits to Adelaide by the institution’s ‘leading men’ included many visits to friends of the institution such as Bishop Short.[220] The lack of runaways from Poonindie probably also has a lot to do with the fact that the pupils were there through their own choice, even if by today’s standards the policy of arranging marriages for teenagers is somewhat morally dubious. Despite this, it was an improvement upon the mission schools of the 1840’s where it was exceedingly unusual for pupils to be admitted through the choice of themselves or their parents.

In The Aborigines of Australia Hale candidly discussed the reasons he had for dismissing residents who did not conform to the rules of Poonindie. As when discussing the case of Neruid Hale emphasises the value of education. Hale strongly believed that Poonindie’s primary purpose should be a continuance of education after early training. Firstly those who had been educated at least had ‘the idea of being under control,’[221] which is why he initially rejected any candidates who had not at the very least spent some time in the Adelaide School. Even those who had left it to go back to the Bush proved themselves to be some of the institution’s best workers. However, others like two men Hale was forced to dismiss:

They had, apparently, associated with white men of a low class after they left the school and before they came to us. They gave us a great deal of trouble, and did much harm while they were with us; and we found that matters went on much better and more quietly after they had been sent away.[222]

In the cases of these two men, the problem was not that they had spent time in the Bush after they left school, but their associating with less than desirable whites. A few years later G.W. Hawkes recorded the high moral tone expected at Poonindie:

…during my sojourn at Poonindie I never heard any swearing or offensive language used by any one there. Not that the natives generally are ignorant of that vile habit, which has been acquitted through intercourse with careless and profane white men…[223]

The moral behaviour expected from the residents was one reason for the few dismissals; another case Hale illustrates is that of Maria who had in the 1840’s been a servant to Governor Robe and was observed in a positive light by Bishop Short in 1848. However, sometime between that date and her arrival at Poonindie in October 1850 she had ‘fallen into disreputable habits of life’[224], having given birth to a mixed race son seven months before. Although Maria initially appeared to want to ‘retrieve her character, and become a respectable woman’[225]she had always been, from the accounts of both Bishop Short and Hale, strong willed and short tempered. Even when working as a servant in the 1840’s Short wrote:

…If she is treated harshly, or offended, she will walk off for a day or two then come back. [226]

Given her earlier behaviour it is unsurprising that she did not quickly conform at Poonindie. Hale says he was forced to send her away after a few months as:

She conducted herself in such a way that it was quite certain that she was not trying to reform her own habits; and that she, would, do much harm as an inmate of the Institution.[227]

Hale concludes her story stating she was ‘quite willing’ to leave her baby son, Charlie, at Poonindie. Brock disputes this, noting that Hale’s diaries show her to not be quite so happy with this arrangement.[228] In Maria’s case it is clear that she simply did not fit into the mould of Poonindie, she had a mind of her own and chose for unknown reasons not to comply with the rules of the institution. The final dismissal Hale mentions is that of Popjoy in 1852. Hale uses Popjoy as an example of the value of early training and education, as Popjoy was around a decade older than the later residents and uneducated. Unlike his cousin, Neruid, who later prospered at Poonindie, Popjoy was less willing to conform. Despite being a good worker he clearly had a bad temper:

He has been always extremely difficult to manage, and, on account of the ungovernable violence of his temper, he has set a very mischievous example to the other inmates. Indeed, his paroxysms of rage were at times by no means without danger of those with whom he was enraged…[229]

Popjoy’s temper and his lack of ability to control it are seen by Hale as a good example of why education and training of aborigines in childhood was vital to their acquiring religion and civilisation. However, the later success at Poonindie of Popjoy’s cousin Neruid suggests that Popjoy’s temper was more to blame for the failure of this ‘experiment’ of Hale’s.

In the 1850’s it appears only behaviour that was seen to be immoral or violent and dangerous behaviour were considered to be grounds for dismissal. However, after William Holden left Poonindie in 1882 Poonindie seems to lower its high moral standards. The financial problems and resulting inspections of the institution had left it financially independent but led to the appointment of superintendents more interested in meeting government approval than the spiritual welfare of the residents. For example, John Solomon appears to have conducted an affair with Charlotte Yates, the wife of Robert Yates, in the 1880’s, which did result in a temporary dismissal from Poonindie. This probably had more to do with his clashes with Charlotte’s husband and her husband’s family than the affair itself. However, he was allowed back on that occasion and another in 1887, mainly because Solomon and his brothers were in favour with Bruce, who clearly found his ploughing, shearing and horse-breaking abilities useful.[230] Daniel Limberry and his wife, Mary, who had been in favour with Holden, clashed with the authorities from 1877 onwards; this was mainly due to Mary’s conflict with the matron, Mrs. Randall, who knew about Mary’s wild past[231] and suspected Mary had been drinking frequently.[232] The Limberry’s fortunes went from bad to worse during Bruce’s time as superintendent, both had affairs and eventually separated and left Poonindie, Daniel taking up farming on the south east coast and Mary having a series of disastrous relationships; the last we hear of her is in 1895, living with a man on the Yorke Peninsula who mistreated her but not allowed to join a mission station on account of her lax morals.[233] It is clear that their clashing with authority was the prime mover in their being forced to leave the institution; in the case of Tom and Louisa Adams, it was their conflicts with Bruce and the matron respectively[234] which led to them leaving Poonindie as there is no hint either had an affair or got drunk, therefore the Poonindie community had changed from being of a missionary nature to a hierarchical one; those who did not like it left or were forced to leave.

In some ways the situation at Poonindie in the 1880’s and 1890’s echoes the experiences of the Albany group’s friends at Ramahyuck. In 1879, Charley Foster and James Brindle, the husbands of Nora White and Emily Peters, complained to the Board for the Protection of Aborigines about mission treatment and the meagre support they were allowed in comparison to the lands rewarded to white settlers. The reaction of the missionary, Friedrich Hagenauer, was to dismiss the Fosters from Ramahyuck for six months and blame Nora for her husband’s complaint, branding her ‘one of the worst women at the station’ and recommend that all of Nora and Emily’s children over three be put in an orphanage, presumably away from their mothers’ perceived negative influence.[235] A similar complaint was made by the residents’ of Poonindie against Bruce in a form of a petition sent to Mr. Hamilton, the Protector of Aborigines in 1887 wherein they described Bruce as a ‘tyrant master’ and complained that the trustees ‘take no notice of us.’[236] They were correct as the protector also ignored their complaints and sent them straight to Bruce. Bruce, like Hagenauer, was determined to punish the culprits, and although he had his suspicions he was never able to pin the blame on anyone specifically; he assumed Tim Adams was the instigator, however Tim had left Poonindie in 1884, which made him difficult to punish, and only occasionally returned, in Bruce’s view, only to create trouble.[237] At Ramahyuck, even the behaviour of Bessy Cameron (nee Flower), Mrs. Camfield’s former protégé, was criticised. Mission authorities complained about her housekeeping skills, her preference of reading books to doing the housework, how she dressed her children and her independent way of talking. They were especially critical when she left her husband over him having an affair, eventually going to great lengths to persuade her to reconcile with him.[238] In a similar vein, under Bruce’s regime, any flicker of independent thought was punished, residents such as Tom Adams who clearly preferred to go about their business their own way were discriminated against by Bruce in a similar way to that in which Bessy Cameron was treated at Ramahyuck.

Since 1859, there had been complaints by Europeans over the aborigines being allowed so much land in the Port Lincoln district. In the economic depression of the 1890’s these complaints became more serious. In 1893, an article in The Register highlighted the plight of unemployed whites and theorised that if the land at Poonindie was made available to them, their homes could avoid being broken up. The government supported these notions and Poonindie was broken up.[239] Although the numbers at Poonindie had decreased during Bruce’s time, eighty residents remained. Despite a petition on 2 February 1894 asking for ‘3,000 acres more or less of the poorest land’ on the south side of the Tod to be set aside for the residents[240] this request was ignored and the majority of the residents moved to either of the other two mission stations in the district; Point McLeay or Point Pearse. Only Emanuel Solomon managed to gain Poonindie land when it was reallocated. J.D. Bruce was also given land. Other aborigine applicants were told, when they inquired as to why they had been unsuccessful, that others had a stronger claim to the land.[241] It is difficult to see how the claims of people who had lived on that land for over forty years could be dismissed so lightly. It is therefore clear that discrimination and racism led to the end of Poonindie and the negative attitudes displayed both there and at Ramahyuck to those who challenged white authority.



The Poonindie mission was, many contemporaries agreed, a surprising success. This was mainly due to Hale’s dedication to the project and the liberal attitude and resources that South Australia had to offer. Hale’s original vision had been of an institution that functioned as an isolated agricultural community, protecting the residents from both their ‘uncivilised’ relatives and the negative influences prevalent in the settler community. Although Poonindie would be an agricultural community with a strict moral code Hale’s isolated vision was soon discarded; within a couple of years the residents as we have seen were taking regular trips to Adelaide to visit friends and family. As the institution got bigger it embraced the outside world instead of shutting it out; residents frequently took jobs with other farmers in the area, who valued them for their shearing and ploughing skills. Also, visits home were never seemed to have stopped; John Gamble returned to Albany in 1871 and others went to even more isolated regions to visit their old tribes. However, as previously noted they always returned. Even though Hale failed to isolate his charges from the outside world, he did manage to convert them to Christianity and successfully introduce them to European civilisation. It is clear from both their letters and Hale’s later accounts that the residents accepted Christianity and many were devout. Also, despite some early hygiene issues and unconventional living arrangements all quickly adopted European ways. On a personal level Poonindie was also successful. E.K. Miller noted that Poonindie residents always returned there if ill to guarantee they died there, showing their commitment to Christianity and a feeling of belonging to the institution. Practically, many had successful careers as labourers; Tom Adams was respected for his shearing skills, John Solomon won many competitions for ploughing and others such as Narrung and later James Wanganeen found their calling in preaching.

However, Poonindie was ultimately a victim of its own success. J.D. Bruce abused his position as superintendent, attempting to put down many perfectly capable individuals. Although there had been financial problems in the late 1850’s and early 1860’s Poonindie was eventually shut down on the basis of outside pressures and internal resistance directed towards a ‘tyrant master’. Although some of Hale’s attitudes such as attempts to eradicate Indigenous Australian culture and the belief that separation and institutionalisation of aborigines were necessary for their survival have since been disproved, and acquired extremely negative connotations in the twentieth century, I believe Poonindie was, in its own day, a success. Hale’s charity towards an undervalued group of people who would have had no opportunities if Poonindie had not been set up to give them one was certainly a well intended act. Also many of those who lived there were thankful for their good fortune. Therefore, in its own time, Poonindie was ultimately, a success.



Primary Sources

Primary Manuscript Sources

Bristol, University of Bristol, Papers of Mathew Blagden Hale

London, Parliamentary Papers, Instructions for Promoting Moral and Religious Instruction of Aboriginal Inhabitants of New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land (23 September 1831).

London, Parliamentary Papers, Reports to the Secretary of State on Past and Present State of H.M. Colonial Possessions (1856).

Parliamentary Papers, Reports to the Secretary of State on Past and Present State of H.M. Colonial Possessions: Part II (1862).


Primary Printed Sources

Anon., ‘Australian Ethnology: Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on the Aborigines; Together with the Proceedings of Committee, Minutes of Evidence, and Appendices’, The North British Review (February 1860), pp.366-388.

De Strezelecki, P.E., Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land (London, 1845).

Hale, Matthew Blagden, The Aborigines of Australia: Being an Account of The Institution for their Education at Poonindie in South Australia Founded by the Ven. Archdeacon Hale, a Missionary of S.P.G. (London, 1889).

Short, Augustus, The Poonindie Mission, Described in A Letter from The Lord Bishop of Adelaide to the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel (London, 1853).

Westgarth, William, On the Condition and Prospects of the Aborigines (1848).

South Australian Advertiser

Died’, Saturday 28 May 1859

‘Died’ Tuesday 12 February 1861

‘Melancholy Suicide of a Young Lady’, Tuesday 15 January 1861

‘Native Schools’, Monday 2 August 1858.

‘Parliamentary Paper: Port Lincoln Mission, Extracts from Letters by Rev. ‘E.K. Miller and G.W. Hawkes, Esq. in reference to the Native Training Institution at Port Lincoln’, Monday 20 December 1858

Untitled (Edward Hitchin Report Extracts), Thursday 5 May 1859.


Secondary Works

Attwood, Bain, & Andrew Markus, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History (New South Wales, 1999).

Barry, Amanda, ‘“A Matter of Primary Importance”: Early Missionary Educational Attempts at Ramahyuck (Victoria) and Poonindie (South Australia)’, TransTasman Missions Conference ANU (October 2004), pp.1-16.

Barry Amanda, Joanna Cruickshank, Andrew Brown-May and Patricia Grimshaw, eds., Evangelists of Empire?: Missionaries in Colonial History (University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre, 2008).

Broome, Richard, Aboriginal Victorians: A History Since 1800 (Sydney, 2005).

Brock, Peggy, ‘Mission Encounters in the Colonial World: British Columbia and South-West Australia’, The Journal of Religious History, 24 (June 2000), pp.159-179.

Brock, Peggy, Outback Ghettos: Aborigines, Institutionalisation and Survival (Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Brock, Peggy, ‘Two Indigenous Evangelists: Moses Tjalkabota and Arthur Wellington Clah’, The Journal of Religious History, 27 (Oct 2004), pp.348-366.

Daly, John, ‘Civilising’ the Aborigines: Cricket at Poonindie, 1850-1890’, Sporting Traditions (1994), pp.59-67.

Darwin, Charles, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (London, 1901).

Etherington, Norman, ed., Missions and Empire (Oxford University Press, 2005).

Flood, Josephine, The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People (New South Wales, 2006)

Grimshaw, Patricia, ‘Interracial Marriages and Colonial Regimes in Victoria and Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 23 (2002), pp.12-28.

Harris, John, One Blood: 200 Years of Aboriginal Encounter with Christianity: A Story of Hope (Sutherland, 1990).

Holmes, Brian, ed., Educational Policy and The Mission Schools: Case Studies from the British Empire (London, 1967).

Jupp, James, ed., The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins (Cambridge University Press, 2001).

Levine, Philippa, ed., Gender and Empire (Oxford University Press, 2004).

McGregor, Russell, Imagined Destinies: Aboriginal Australians and the Doomed Race Theory, 1880-1939 (Melbourne University Press, 1997).

Pike, Douglas, Paradise of Dissent: South Australia 1829-1857 (London, 1957).

Robin, Arthur De Quetteville, Mathew Blagden Hale: The Life of a Pioneer Bishop (Melbourne, 1976).

Rowley, C.D., The Destruction of Aboriginal Society: Aboriginal Policy and Practice –Volume I (Australian National University Press, 1970).

Scrimgeour, Anne, ‘Notions of Civilization and the Project to ‘civilise’ Aborigines in South Australia in the 1840’s’, History of Education Review (2006), pp.1-14.

Strong, Rowan, ‘The Revered John Wollaston and Colonial Christianity in Western Australia, 1840-1863’, Journal of Religious History 25 (Oct 2001), pp.261-85.

Whimpress, Bernard, ‘Poonindie, Cricket and the Adams Family’, Sporting Traditions 10 (1994), pp.69-76.

Winks, Robin W., ed., The Oxford History of the British Empire Volume V: Historiography (Oxford University Press, 1999).


Online Sources

‘A Brief History of the Poonindie Mission: Notes on the Reverend Octavius Hammond’   http://www.portlincoln.net/poonindie/history.htm

‘Provis Family in South Australia’, http://users.picknowl.com.au/~robertel/Provis.htm

‘The Ships List’


Woerlee, Bill, Kudnarto (1995).




[1] I have chosen the spelling ‘Mathew’ over the more popular ‘Matthew’ as this is the way his biographer Robin spells it and how Hale himself spelt his first name in contemporary documents.

[2] B. Whimpress, ‘Poonindie, Cricket and the Adams Family’, Sporting Traditions 10 (1994), p.69.

[3] DM 130/216 Thomas Adams, Swamp Charlie, John Nawp & Timothy Adams to M.B. Hale, 8 Jul 1872

[4] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.34

[5] South Australian Advertiser, Thursday 5 May 1859

[6] A. Barry, ‘A Matter of Primary Importance: Early Missionary Educational attempts at Ramahyuck (Victoria) and Poonindie (South Australia), TransTasman Missions Conference (Oct 2004), pp.8-9.

[7] A. Lester, ‘Humanitarians and White Settlers in the Nineteenth Century’ in N. Etherington, ed., Missions and Empires, p.73.

[8] N. Etherington, ‘Education and Medicine’ in N. Etherington, ed., Missions and Empires, p.264.

[9] A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale: The Life of an Australian Pioneer Bishop, p.53.

[10] A de Q Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.148

[11] J. Harris, One Blood, p.9.

[12] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.25.

[13] A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, pp.1-3

[14] Ibid, p.5

[15] Ibid, pp.5-7

[16] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.1

[17] A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.9

[18] Ibid

[19] DM130/3, quoted in A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.10.

[20] A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, pp.15-6

[21] Ibid, p.18

[22] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.3

[23] Ibid, p.2-3

[24] A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.17

[25] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.2

[26] A de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.102

[27] Ibid, p.20

[28] Ibid, p.108

[29] Ibid

[30] Ibid

[31] Ibid, p.20

[32] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.4.

[33] M.B. Hale to Governor Young, 17 Aug 1850 quoted in J. Harris, One Blood, p.336.

[34] Report from the Committee on the Aborigines Question with the Minutes of Evidence (1838), quoted in J. Cruickshank, ‘ “To Exercise a Beneficial Influence Over a Man”: Marriage, Gender and the Native Institutions in Early Colonial Australia’, in A. Barry, J. Cruickshank, A. Brown-May & P. Grimshaw, eds., Evangelists of Empire?: Missionaries in Colonial History, p.117.

[35] B. Patton, ‘ “From the Influence of their Parents’”: Aboriginal Child Separations and Removals in Early Melbourne and Adelaide’, in A. Barry, J. Cruickshank, A. Brown-May & P. Grimshaw, eds., Evangelists of Empire?: Missionaries in Colonial History, pp.128-9.

[36] Ibid, p.129

[37] Ibid.

[38] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.6.

[39] A de Q Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.111

[40] J. Harris, One Blood, p.338

[41] Ibid

[42] Ibid

[43] Ibid, p.339

[44] R. Strong, ‘The Reverend John Ramsden Wollaston and Colonial Christianity in Western Australia, 1840-1863’, Journal of Religious Studies 25 (Oct 2001), p.261.

[45] Ibid, p.264.

[46] Ibid, p.279

[47] Ibid, p.280

[48] Short to Hawkins, 26 Dec 1848 quoted in A de Q Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.33

[49] J.R. Wollaston, Wollaston’s Albany Journal, (1954), p.180 quoted in J. Harris, One Blood, p.262

[50] A de Q Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.145

[51] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.36

[52] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, September 18 1858

[53] A. Short, The Poonindie Mission, p.15.

[54] South Australian Advertiser, Thursday 5 May 1859

[55] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, September 18, 1858

[56] DM 130/217, J. Gamble to M.B. Hale, 8 Nov 1871

[57] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.75.

[58] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.36

[59] A. Short, The Poonindie Mission, p.7.

[60] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, September 18, 1858

[61] DM 130/217, J. Gamble to M.B. Hale, 8 Nov 1871

[62] Government Gazette, February 12 1880, quoted in M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, pp.76-7.

[63] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.50

[64] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, September 18 1858, SAA, Thursday 5 May 1859

[65] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, September 18 1858

[66] South Australian Advertiser, Thursday 5 May 1859

[67] DA130/220 Charlotte Green to Anne Camfield, 8 Nov 1871

[68] A. Short, The Poonindie Mission, p.17.

[69] DM130/218 Louisa Connolly to Anne Camfield.

[70] A. Short, The Poonindie Mission, pp.19-20.

[71] B. Whimpress, ‘Poonindie, Cricket and the Adams Family’, Sporting Traditions 10 (1994), p.72.

[72] The Register, 7 February 1854 quoted in J. Daly, ‘ ‘Civilising’ The Aborigines: Cricket at Poonindie, 1850-1890’, Sporting Traditions, p.62.

[73] B. Patton, ‘Aboriginal Child Separations and Removals in Early Melbourne and Adelaide’ in A. Barry, J. Cruickshank, A. Brown-May & P.Grimshaw eds., Evangelists of Empire?: Missionaries in Colonial History, p.129.

[74] M. Moorhouse, Dec 1846 Quarterly Report quoted in ibid.

[75] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, pp.28-9.

[76] Four boys visited Adelaide early in 1851 and their wives during November and December.

[77] M. Moorhouse, Mar 1851 Quarterly Report quoted in B. Patton ‘Aboriginal Child Separations and Removals in Early Melbourne and Adelaide’ in A. Barry, J. Cruickshank, A. Brown-May & P.Grimshaw eds., Evangelists of Empire?: Missionaries in Colonial History, p.135.

[78] ibid.

[79] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.29.

[80] Ibid, p.28.

[81] Hale’s Diary, 21 Aug 1852, quoted in P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.29.

[82] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.28.

[83] Ibid, p.31.

[84] Ibid, p.43.

[85] J.R. Wollaston to Secretary, SPG, 19 May 1853 in J.R. Wollaston, Wollaston’s Albany Journals, 1841-1856 (1954), pp.198-9 quoted in J. Harris, One Blood, p.263.

[86] Rhoda Tanatan to Mrs. Wollaston, 30 Nov 1857 in ‘Native Schools’, South Australian Advertiser, Monday, 2 August 1858.

[87] J. Harris, One Blood, p.264.  Grimshaw mistakenly records her surname as ‘Toby’.

[88] Ibid, p.266.

[89] Ibid.

[90] In this case over the age of 17, within a year of her arrival the mission were strongly encouraging Bessy to marry, P. Grimshaw, ‘Interracial Marriages and Colonial Regimes in Victoria and Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Frontiers 23 (2002), p.17.

[91] P. Grimshaw, ‘Faith, Missionary Life, and the Family’, in P. Levine, ed., Gender and Empire, pp.260-1.

[92] E.K. Miller, ‘Parliamentary Paper: Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Advertiser (Mon, 20 Dec 1858).

[93] Ibid.

[94] DM130/176, G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’.

[95] Ibid.

[96] E.K. Miller, ‘Parliamentary Paper: Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Advertiser (Mon, 20 Dec 1858).

[97] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.31.

[98] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.49.

[99] A. Short, The Poonindie Mission, p.18.

[100] Parliamentary Papers, Reports to the Secretary of State on Past and Present State of H.M. Colonial Possessions (1856).

[101] E.K. Miller, ‘Parliamentary Paper: Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Advertiser (Mon, 20 Dec 1858).

[102] Ibid

[103] A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.52

[104] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.35.

[105] E.K. Miller, ‘Parliamentary Paper: Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Advertiser (Mon, 20 Dec 1858).

[106] J. Flood, The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People, pp.89-90.

[107] Ibid

[108] E.K. Miller, ‘Parliamentary Paper: Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Advertiser (Mon, 20 Dec 1858).

[109] G. Lawson to M.B. Hale, 22 Apr 1856 in A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, pp.52-3

[110] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.48.

[111] Ibid, p.44

[112] Ibid, p.46

[113] Ibid, p.37

[114] G. Lawson to M.B. Hale, 22 Apr 1856 in A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, pp.52-3

[115] A de Q Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.48

[116] Ibid, p.47

[117] Ibid, p.49

[118] Ibid, p.48

[119] A. Short, The Poonindie Mission, p.15.

[120] A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.52

[121] Ibid, p.18

[122] ‘Provis Family in South Australia’, http://users.picknowl.com.au/~robertel/Provis.htm

[123] A. de Q. Robin, Mathew Blagden Hale, p.52

[124] DM 130/216, Thomas Adams, Swamp Charlie, John Nawp and Timothy Adams to M.B. Hale, 8 Jul 1872

[125] J. Harris, One Blood, p.340

[126] PRG Hale’s diary quoted in P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, pp.32-3.

[127] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.36

[128]South Australian Register, Saturday 10 Nov 1849 quoted in ‘The Ships List’, http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/dukeofwellington1849.htm

[129] ‘A Brief History of Poonindie Church: Notes on the Reverend Octavius Hammond’, at http://www.portlincoln.net/poonindie/history.htm

[130] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, Sept 18 1858

[131] Ibid

[132] South Australian Advertiser, Thursday 5 May 1859

[133] Ibid

[134] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, September 18 1858

[135] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.36

[136] Ibid

[137] Ibid

[138] E.K. Miller, ‘Parliamentary Paper: Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Advertiser, Mon 20 Dec 1858

[139] ‘Native Schools’, South Australian Advertiser, Mon 2 Aug 1858

[140] J. Harris, One Blood, p.363

[141] South Australian Advertiser, Saturday 28 May 1859

[142] South Australian Advertiser, Tuesday 12 Feb 1861

[143] ‘Provis Family in South Australia’, http://users.picknowl.com.au/~robertel/Provis.htm

[144] She also expressed a desire to kill herself twice whilst at Miss Dutton’s, ‘Melancholy Suicide of a Young Lady’, South Australian Advertiser, Tuesday 5 Jan 1861

[145] ‘Melancholy Suicide of a Young Lady’, South Australian Advertiser, Tuesday 5 Jan 1861

[146] ‘A Brief History of Poonindie Church: Notes on the Reverend Octavius Hammond’, at http://www.portlincoln.net/poonindie/history.htm

[147] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’

[148] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.45

[149] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.67.

[150] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.28.

[151] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.74.

[152] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.38.

[153] DA130/76 G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, Sept 18 1858.

[154] DM 130/224.

[155] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, pp.67-8.

[156] Ibid, p.67.

[157] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, September 18, 1858.

[158] E.K. Miller, ‘Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Advertiser, Monday 20 Dec 1858.

[159] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.41.

[160] He was around a decade older than the majority of the other residents, so around late twenties.

[161] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, pp.49-50.

[162] Ibid, p.41.

[163] Ibid, p.42.

[164] Ibid, p.68.

[165] E.K. Miller, ‘Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Register, Monday 20 Dec 1858.

[166] DM130/216: Thomas Adams, Swamp Charlie, John Nawp & Timothy Adams to Matthew Blagden Hale, July 8 1872.

[167] Parliamentary Papers, Reports to the Secretary of State on Past and Present State of H.M. Colonial Possessions (1856).

[168] J. Harris, One Blood, p.388.

[169] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.26.

[170] B. Whimpress, ‘Poonindie, Cricket and the Adams Family’, Sporting Traditions 10 (1994), p.69.

[171] B. Woerlee, Kudnarto (http://kudnarto.tripod.com/ch13.htm)

[172] Ibid.

[173] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.76.

[174] Ibid.

[175] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.61. Kudnarto was 16 at the time of her marriage in January 1848, meaning that if Tom was born around 1841 she would at only 9 or 10 be far too young to be his mother, B. Woerlee, Kudnarto.

[176] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.61

[177] B. Woerlee, Kudnarto.

[178] State Records, Adelaide GRG 52/1, 16/69: Thomas Adams to Richard Graves Macdonnell, 6 Dec 1858 quoted in B. Woerlee, Kudnarto.

[179] Mortlock Library ref. 1380 Somerville Collection Volume 2, pp.175-176: O. Hammond to Bishop Short, Archbishop of Adelaide, 16 Dec 1858 quoted in B. Woerlee, Kudnarto.

[180] Ibid.

[181] State Records, Adelaide, GRG 24/6, A (1848) 196: T. Adams to M. Moorhouse, 6 Feb 1848.

[182] E.K. Miller, ‘Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Register, Monday 20 Dec 1858.

[183] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.75.

[184] State Records, Adelaide GRG 52/1/1875/157: T. Adams, 8 June 1875 quoted in B. Whimpress, ‘Poonindie, Cricket and the Adams Family’, Sporting Traditions 10 (1994), p.73.

[185] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.52.

[186] State Records, Adelaide: GRG 52/1, Covering Note: Aborigines Office 157.7 8 Apr 1875 quoted in B. Woerlee, Kudnarto.

[187] DA130/216, Tommas Adams, Swamp Charlie, John Nawp & Timothy Adams to M.B. Hale 8 Jul 1872.

[188] B. Whimpress, ‘Poonindie, Cricket and the Adams Family’, Sporting Traditions 10 (1994), p.70.

[189] South Australian Register, 9 Apr 1870 quoted in B. Whimpress, ‘Poonindie, Cricket and the Adams Family’, Sporting Traditions 10 (1994), p.70.

[190] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.52, & State Record, Adelaide, GRG 52/1, 16/69, T. Adams to the Commissioner of Crown Lands, 9 Jan 1869, quoted in B. Woerlee, Kudnarto.

[191] P, Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.52.

[192] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.76.

[193] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.53.

[194] Ibid, p,50.

[195] T. Adams, Point Pearce Mission to Mr. Hamilton, Protector of Aborigines, South Australia, 1888 quoted in B. Attwood & A. Markus, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History, p.54-5.

[196] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.52-3.

[197] DM130/220 Charlotte Green to Anne Camfield, 8 Nov 1871.

[198] J. Harris, One Blood, p.264.

[199] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.53.

[200] Ibid

[201] DM130/219 Mary Amelia Nouinda to Anne Camfield (undated).

[202] DM130/217-220.

[203] DM130/217 John Gamble to Matthew Blagden Hale (Nov 1871).

[204] DM130/219 Mary Amelia Nouinda to Anne Camfield (undated).

[205] DM130/220, Charlotte Green to Anne Camfield (8 Nov 1871).

[206] DM130/218, Louisa Connolly to Anne Camfield (8 Nov 1871).

[207] Ibid

[208] DM130/219 Mary Amelia Nouinda to Anne Camfield (undated).

[209] J. Harris, One Blood, p.263.

[210] P. Grimshaw, ‘Interracial Marriages and Colonial Regimes in Victoria and Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Frontiers 23 (2002), p.17.

[211] Ibid

[212] DM130/219 Mary Amelia Nouinda to Anne Camfield (undated).

[213] P. Grimshaw, ‘Interracial Marriages and Colonial Regimes in Victoria and Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Frontiers 23 (2002), p.14.

[214] ‘A Brief History of the Poonindie Mission’, http://www.portlincoln.net/poonindie/history.htm

[215] Photographs

[216] R. Broome, Aboriginal Victorians, p.141.

[217] E.K. Miller, ‘Parliamentary Paper: Port Lincoln Mission’, South Australian Advertiser, Monday 20 December 1858.

[218] Ibid

[219] B. Patton ‘Aboriginal Child Separations and Removals in Early Melbourne and Adelaide’ in A. Barry, J. Cruickshank, A. Brown-May & P. Grimshaw eds., Evangelists of Empire?: Missionaries in Colonial History, p.134. 

[220] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.28.

[221] Ibid, p.23.

[222] Ibid

[223] G.W. Hawkes, ‘Poonindie Mission’, September 18 1858.

[224] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.24.

[225] Ibid

[226] Ibid

[227] Ibid, pp.24-5.

[228] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.31.

[229] M.B. Hale, The Aborigines of Australia, p.50.

[230] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, pp.55-6.

[231] She was of mixed descent and had been brought up by a ‘vile’ white woman & had been known as Agnes Hooper at Point McLeay, the common-law wife of Jack Hooper, P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.45

[232] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.45

[233] Ibid, pp.45-6.

[234] Ibid, p.52

[235] P. Grimshaw, ‘Faith, Missionary Life, and the Family’, in P. Levine, Gender and Empire, p.275.

[236] ‘Residents of Poonindie to Mr. Hamilton, Native Protector, South Australia’, 8 January 1887 quoted in B. Attwood & A. Markus, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History, p.54

[237] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.51

[238] P. Grimshaw, ‘Interracial Marriages and Colonial Regimes in Victoria and Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Frontiers 23 (2002), p.18

[239] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, pp.55-6

[240] ‘Poonindie Petition’, 2 February 1894, quoted in B. Attwood & A. Markus, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History, p.55.

[241] P. Brock, Outback Ghettos, p.56

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