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Name Extended Essay
Candidate Number History
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Word Count: 3,918
Extended Essay - History
How did the public response to the outcome of the Myall Creek massacre
trials cement the unequal treatment of Aboriginals before the law, and
subsequent exclusion of Indigenous Australians from the 1901 census?








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Abstract

The Myall Creek massacre of 1838 resulted in the hanging of seven white men for the
murder of Aboriginal Australians, sparking public response that diminished the legal rights
of the Aboriginals. After I began investigating the case, I found that it was an anomaly in the
history of the treatment of Aboriginals by the Australian courts.
This investigation was carried out with the purpose of answering the question: How did the
public response to the outcome of the Myall Creek massacre trials cement the unequal
treatment of Aboriginals before the law, and subsequent exclusion of Indigenous
Australians from the 1901 census? I began by noting the distinction between white
colonists and Aboriginal people from the time of settlement, and the impact of this on the
attitudes of the Australian courts towards Aboriginal rights. I also found that Governor
George Gipps was influential in implementing new British policies on the treatment of
Aboriginals and the prosecution of the murderers. The response of the colony and the
media during the two trials is discussed to establish the effects they had on the outcome
and the approach of the Government to Aboriginal legal rights from that time onwards. This
essay is limited by the consequences of the Myall Creek massacre trials to 1901, particularly
the decision of the Australian Government to exclude Aboriginals from the 1901 census. The
attitudes and response of the colony at the time of the massacre and trials were determined
using primary resources, including letters from Governor Gipps and newspaper articles from
the time. Secondary sources were used to research the continuing issues surrounding
Aboriginal legal rights.
I reached the conclusion that the public response to the trials prevented the Government
from establishing equality of Aboriginals, which led to the exclusion of Indigenous people
from the 1901 census.

Words: 299

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Table of Contents

Abstract ............................................................................................................... 2
Table of Contents ................................................................................................ 3
Introduction ........................................................................................................ 4
Australian Race Relations from Settlement ........................................................ 5
Background to the Area ...................................................................................... 7
The Massacre ...................................................................................................... 9
The Role of the Governor ................................................................................. 10
The First Trial..................................................................................................... 11
The Second Trial ................................................................................................ 13
Legal Fallout ...................................................................................................... 14
Political Fallout .................................................................................................. 15
Social Fallout ..................................................................................................... 15
The Census of 1901 ........................................................................................... 16
Conclusion ......................................................................................................... 17
Works Cited ....................................................................................................... 18
Appendix A ........................................................................................................ 21
Appendix B ....................................................................................................... 22
Appendix C ........................................................................................................ 23





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Introduction
Since the arrival of British colonists on Australian soil in 1788, the rights of the
Aboriginal
1
people have been largely disregarded, despite the fact that Captain James Cook
was given explicit instructions from the British Government to treat any native people as
equal subjects. As the colony spread, violence on the frontier became increasingly common
and was the primary method of removing Aboriginals from their land. Massacres of
Aboriginal people were widespread and were ignored by the Australian courts.
One exception was the massacre at Myall Creek in 1838, following which seven
colonists were trialled and hanged for the murder of 28 members of the Wirrayaraay tribe.
Such trials were unusual at the time; hence, they received a great deal of media coverage
and public attention. Governor of New South Wales, George Gipps, was determined to use
the trials as an example of the correct treatment of Aboriginals under the law. However, the
infuriated Australian public placed sufficient pressure on the Government and courts that
the practice of hanging white men for killing Aboriginals on the frontier was discontinued.
Even after the trials, Aboriginals remained in an unequal position in Australian
society, prompting the question: How did the public response to the outcome of the Myall
Creek massacre trials cement the unequal treatment of Aboriginals before the law, and
subsequent exclusion of Indigenous Australians from the 1901 census?
In order to answer this question, this investigation firstly examines how the British
colonists dismissed the rights of the Aboriginals from the time of settlement through the
declaration of terra nullius. Violence and maltreatment of the Aboriginals persisted and
became generally accepted, allowing convicts to evade punishment for the murder of
Aboriginals. The British Government began to call for new policies that would bring about
the protection and equal treatment of Aboriginals, which were supported by Governor
Gipps. Following investigation of the Myall Creek massacre, the case was identified as an
opportunity to set a precedent of conforming to the new policies, and the murderers were
twice brought to trial to ensure that they received punishment for their crimes.

1
The indigenous people of Australia, unlike those of other colonised countries, were not given a European
name to refer to all groups. The correct terminology for an indigenous Australian person is an Aboriginal. This
is capitalised to show respect.
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However, the Australian public remained fiercely opposed to the punishment of
white men for the murder of Aboriginals, which was evident in the overwhelming public
response and media coverage during both the first and second trials. The hangings did not
have the desired effect, rather the colonists on the frontier developed more evasive
techniques for murdering Aboriginals, whilst the Australian courts reverted to lenient
treatment of colonist. Importantly, this investigation demonstrates how the legal, political
and social repercussions had a lasting effect on Aboriginal rights in Australia, which was
seen in the exclusion of Aboriginals from the 1901 census following the federation of
Australia. This highlights how public opinion and media had the capacity to influence and
overpower the Australian Government and courts in relation to the treatment of
Aboriginals, and ultimately secured their unequal position in modern Australian society.

Australian Race Relations from Settlement
In January of 1788, the First Fleet landed on the shores of Botany Bay, New South
Wales carrying British convicts to settle the land. Upon arrival, they declared terra nullius
2
,
which disregarded the occupation of the Aboriginals for over 40,000 years. Although the
Aboriginals gave some resistance to the invasion of the white convicts through hostile
attacks, the convicts maintained the view that the Aboriginals held no claim over the land
3
.
In 1838, The Sydney Herald stated:
[The aboriginal society] belonged generally to every body but particularly to nobody... the
ground was in common and no part of it was the permanent property of any particular man
4


2
Terra nullius is a Latin term that translates to land belonging to no one, suggesting that the Aboriginals had
no rights over it.
3
Reynolds, Henry and Bruce Dennett. The Aborigines. (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2002), 72.
Professor Henry Reynolds is a prominent Australian historian. As a revisionist historian, his work is
controversial since it suggests that much of Australias history was hidden or misinterpreted, and that
the British in fact invaded Australia, as opposed to the widely-held perception of settlement. As a
result, the text presents strong bias towards the Aboriginals, and portrays them as victims of the
invasion of the convicts.
4
Sworn to no Master, of no Sect am I. The Sydney Herald, 5 December, 1838: 2. Accessed 30 June, 2011:
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12859164
As a newspaper article from the time of the trials, this is a valuable primary resource that
demonstrates the ideas of the time. The article shows clear bias towards the convicts, and the author
clearly felt that the murderers should not have been punished for killing Aboriginals. They argue that
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Using the claim of terra nullius, the British colonists disregarded the authority of the
Aboriginal leaders and began to occupy the land without offering any compensation
5
. With
this attitude, the colonists validated the forcible removal of Aboriginals from their
traditional lands
6
. In fact, the colonists generalised that they were no more than aggressive
savages who could only be controlled by violent methods
7
. The degrading attitudes of the
colony were already allowing for unfair treatment of Aboriginals.
The conflict on the frontier can be seen to have officially begun when Governor
Phillip and armed settlers attacked a group of Indigenous people to warn them to keep
away from their settlement
8
. Coupled with the harsh conditions on the frontier, the fear of
retaliation from the Aboriginal tribes made the colonists more insecure and anxious of the
Aboriginal people
9
. By 1792, settlers were allowed to use force against them under the guise
of protecting themselves
10
. Even if prosecuted, most colonists were able to escape
punishment using the excuse of self-defence
11
.
Despite widespread opinion, attacks from Aboriginals were normally not out of
savageness, but in response to murder, rape or failure to fulfil obligations on the part of the
whites
12
. The massacre of Aboriginals was not a rare event; however, such attacks were
disguised under the euphemism of dispersion
13
. The white response was frequently
disproportionate to the harm inflicted by the Aboriginals, with some estimates suggesting
that up to 10,000 Indigenous Australians may have been killed in such massacres
14
.

Australia was not owned by the Aboriginals before the arrival of the British, and that they
consequently have no rights over it.
5
Pattel-Gray, Anne. The Great White Flood: Racism in Australia. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998), 16
Being an Aboriginal, the author shows bias towards Aboriginals. This book was valuable for illustrating
the events that caused Aboriginals to lose their rights.
6
Stubbins, Ted and Paulette Smith. The Myall Creek Massacre: Its History, Its Memorial and the Opening
Ceremony. (Bingara: Edwards Printing, 2001), 1.
7
Reynolds, Henry. Frontier: Aborigines, Settlers and Land. (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1987), 42
8
Ibid, 30
9
Ibid, 12
10
Australian Heritage Database. Place Details: Myall Creek Massacre and Memorial Site. Accessed February
3, 2011, http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=105869
11
Ibid
12
Horton, David. The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia. Vol. II. (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1994),
668.
A valuable reference for factual information on the Myall Creek massacre and massacres in general at
the time, demonstrating very little bias.
13
Ibid
14
Ibid.
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In 1833, slavery was abolished in Britain, which influenced the British Governments
encouragement of more humane Aboriginal policies
15
. The Supreme Court in Sydney
implemented these ideas in 1836, but the distance to the frontier meant that the same
attitudes were not adopted. The tension on the frontier mounted as the settlers felt that
they were receiving inadequate protection from the Government, and had great difficulty
communicating with the Aborigines
16
. The language barrier meant that Aboriginals could
not understand British laws, and when arrested, could not be tried properly because the
white people did not understand their language
17
(Appendix A shows an attempt by
Governor Davey to present the laws visually in the hope of overcoming this barrier).
The tension between the settlers and the Indigenous population was further
exacerbated by the influence of newspapers, which depicted colonists as courageous
pioneers who were victims of the harsh conditions on the frontier
18
. The settlers began to
see themselves as helpless and isolated, and needed to defend themselves against the harsh
conditions of drought, poverty and attacks from Aboriginal tribes
19
. As a result, the British
colonists continued to expand across the country without regard for the rights of the
Indigenous people.

Background to the Area
During the early settlement era, high demand for Australian wool and other products
led to rapid expansion throughout New South Wales
20
. The Masters and Servants Act of

15
Reynolds, Henry and Bruce Dennett. The Aborigines. (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2002), 111.
16
Reece, R. H. W. Aborigines and Colonists: Aborigines and colonial society in New South Wales in the 1830s
and 1840s. (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1974), 143.
This book was controversial as it highlights the Great Australian Silence, presenting the idea that
Australian history had been misinterpreted. The book does not fully consider Aboriginal perspectives,
using only white sources.
17
Ibid, 144
18
Wood, Rebecca. Frontier violence and the bush legend: the Sydney Heralds response to the Myall Creek
massacre trials and the creation of colonial identity. History Australia 6.3 (Essay, Student Resource Center -
College Edition Expanded via Gale [A215515639], 2009), 67. Accessed September 15, 2010.
http://find.galegroup.com/gps/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002&
prodId=IPS&docId=A215515639 &source=gale&srcprod=CCRE&userGroupName=61schools&version=1.0
19
Ibid
20
Reynolds and Dennett, Aborigines, 110.
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1828 protected the interests of squatters
21
, giving them the power to threaten and punish
Aboriginals
22
. Massacres were a frequent occurrence and in 1837 - the year before the Myall
Creek massacre - 200 Aboriginals were killed in Gravesend, NSW
23
, and in January of 1838,
40 Aboriginals were massacred at Waterloo Creek
24
. In both cases, the perpetrators were
allowed to walk free.
George Gipps was appointed Governor of New South Wales in 1837 and found that
communication between Sydney and Whitehall was slow and uncertain
25
. Despite the
general feeling amongst the settlers, he fought for more humane policies for Aboriginal
people
26
. In discussions with Lord Glenelg, Gipps agreed that conflict would be reduced if
they could demonstrate that the Aboriginals and colonist were equally protected by the
law
27
. In spite of his diligence in implementing policies reflecting his beliefs, the colony
appeared to view Gipps as a weak governor and did not value his authority. Gipps soon
became unpopular with the colony, as they degraded any leader who attempted to improve
the conditions of the Aboriginal people, viewing it as detrimental to their safety
28
. The
influence of the colony became clear when Gipps instructed the Chief Protector of
Aborigines that the Governments goodwill for the Aboriginals should not outweigh the
focus on economic growth
29
.
In 1837, the same year that Gipps became governor, Henry Dangar set up the Myall
Creek Station about 400km from Sydney and was managed by William Hobbs
30
. This

21
Squatters were those who took claim on land without legal title, usually for grazing livestock.
22
Blanch, Russ. Massacre: Myall Creek Revisited. (Delungra: Grah Jean Books, 2000), 22.
Detailed investigation of the Myall Creek massacre, with bias towards Aboriginals. Source provided
insight into the events of the massacre.
23
Racism: No Way!. Key Dates. Last modified November 15, 2005.
http://www.racismnoway.com.au/library/keydates/index-1800s.html#1830.
Heavily biased site that portrays Aboriginals as victims at the hands of white colonists.
24
Ryan, Lyndall. A Very Bad Business: Henry Dangar and the Myall Creek Massacre 1838. The University of
Newcastle. Accessed February 3, 2011. http://www.newcastle.edu.au/Resources/Schools/Humanities%20and
%20Social%20Science/Research/SCCRG/Henry%20Dangar%20and%20the%20Myall%20Creek%20massacre.pdf
25
McCulloch, Samuel Clyde. Gipps, Sir George (1791-1847). Australian Dictionary of Biography Online.
Accessed February 3, 2011. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010412b.htm?hilite=myall;creek
26
Ibid.
27
Connor, J. The Australian Frontier Wars 1788-1838. (Sydney: The University of New South Wales Press,
2002), 113
28
Reynolds, Frontier, 185
29
Ibid, 41
30
Stubbins and Smith, Myall Creek Massacre, 2
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distance from Sydney meant that messages could take months to pass between them
31
.
Three ex-convict men were employed on the station under Hobbs management, who would
later be involved in the massacre: Charles Kilmeister, George Anderson and Andrew
Burrowes
32
. The men were very isolated on the station, which caused them to adopt the
same fear and prejudice as the rest of the colony: they constantly armed themselves for
protection from the Aboriginals, despite the fact that they never had any problems with
them
33
. The negative attitudes towards the Aboriginals were not based on experience, but
fear.

The Massacre
New South Wales entered a period of drought and economic difficulty around 1837,
which placed additional strain on those working on the stations on the frontier
34
. By May
1838 the drought in McIntyre region meant that 50 Aboriginals from the Wirrayaraay
people had to move to a location with water
35
and Kilmeister convinced Hobbs to allow the
tribe to stay on the Myall Creek station. Based on letters from Gipps, there was no evidence
that the Aboriginal tribes had done anything to provoke or harm the settlers in the area
36
.
After the arrival of the Aboriginals, Hobbs and Burrowes went away from the station and
left Anderson in charge, and on June 10, the men of the tribe left to work on another station
cutting bark, with only the women, children and old men remaining
37
.

31
Blanch, Massacre, 36
32
Milliss, Roger. Waterloo Creek: The Australia Day Massacre of 1838, George Gipps and the British Conquest
of New South Wales. (Ringwood, McPhee Gribble, 1992), 277.
Very useful and detailed account, covering the events before and after the massacre. Book shows
evidence of extensive research, cited in many other texts.
33
Ibid, 279
34
Reece, Aborigines and Colonists, 142
35
Ryan, Very Bad Business, 5
36
House of Commons - Parliament - Great Britain. Copies or extracts of despatches relative to the massacre of
various aborigines of Australia, in the year 1838, and respecting the trial of their murderers. (London: House of
Commons, 1839), 34
Excellent primary resource containing letters and reports from Gipps and other people involved in the
investigation, trial and hangings of the seven convicts. Biased to the views of those writing the letters,
who were white settlers, giving important insight into attitudes and ideas of the day.
37
Ryan, Very Bad Business, 5
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John Fleming was determined to punish the Aboriginals for conflict on other stations,
and assembled the group of killers
38
(Appendix B contains the map showing the route taken
by the men). Fleming and the group arrived at Myall Creek station on Sunday 10
th
June
1838, roped the remaining Aboriginals together and led them away from the station, joined
by Kilmeister. Two of the old men were shot in the stockyards, and the rest were massacred
with swords
39
. At Andersons request, some of the tribe had remained behind, who were
allowed to escape once the killers left; however, the men pursued and murdered them.
Following this, the killers returned to Myall Creek station to burn the bodies and hide the
evidence of the murders
40
.
When Hobbs returned and saw the tribe missing, he questioned Anderson and
Kilmeister over what had taken place, and eventually discovered the burned bodies. After
discussions with a neighbouring settler, Hobbs sent Frederick Foot to report the massacre to
Sydney in July 1838
41
.

The Role of the Governor
Once Governor Gipps received report of the massacre, he immediately recognised it
as an opportunity to implement the new policies of the British Government and set an
example of offering equal legal protection for the Aborigines
42
. Gipps sought to
demonstrate to the colony that the Aborigines would receive the same treatment as the
convicts, and sent Police Magistrate Edward Day with the mounted police for find the killers,
who had a reputation for executing the law with justice and integrity. Although John
Fleming could not be located, Day arrested eleven of the men and reported seeing the
massacred Aborigines
43
. Following the arrest, various newspapers such as the Sydney Herald
accused Gipps of not adequately protecting settlers on the frontier
44
. In reality, the settlers

38
House of Commons, 34.
39
Horton, 746
40
Stubbins and Smith, 5
41
Blanch, 82
42
McCulloch
43
House of Commons, 35
44
Blanch, 115
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felt that Gipps should condone the killers action simply because they were white, and the
Aborigines did not deserve to have equal protection.
However, the letters between Gipps and Lord Glenelg show that Gipps was acting in
direct response to the instruction of the British Government, coupled with his views on the
equal importance of the lives of Aborigines
45
. Glenelg supported Gipps response to the
massacre, especially since the settlers had clearly been acting aggressively towards the
Aborigines, and were not merely retaliating as the law allowed. These letters sent before
the trials demonstrate the Governments determination punish the convicts and create
better equality between the colonists and Aboriginals.

The First Trial
The eleven captured killers were brought to trial before the Supreme Court on the
15
th
November 1838: Charles Kilmeister, William Hawkins, John Johnstone, Charles
Toulouse, James Lamb, Edward Foley, James Parry, James Oates, George Palliser, John
Russell and John Blake
46
, charged with the murder of the Aboriginal male, Daddy. even
though the body had not been recovered and there were no witnesses to the specific
crime
47
. The prosecution was lead by Attorney-General John Hubert Plunkett, who was
known for his belief in equal protection of Aborigines before the law
48
.
Aside from the testimony given by Hobbs of seeing the bodies, no substantial
evidence could be brought forward, since Daddys body was not recovered and no witnesses
could testify with absolute certainty that they had seen his remains
49
. On this basis, the jury
deliberated for a mere fifteen minutes, and found them not guilty, to the cheers of the
court. Nonetheless, John Plunkett was not satisfied, and immediately requested another
opportunity to prosecute the men and revise his case.

45
House of Commons, 33
46
Ibid, 35
47
Stubbins and Smith, 8
48
Suttor, T. L. Plunkett, John Hubert (1802-1869). Australian Dictionary of Biography online. Accessed
February 3, 2011. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A020299b.htm?hilite=myall;creek
49
Stubbins and Smith, 8
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Before the investigation had even begun, Gipps realised the pursuing the case would
result in uproar from the colony, but was prepared to face this in order to fulfil his duty and
strive for equality. As expected, there was a great deal of hype among the colony over the
trial. It was clear that the negative views of the colony had in fact affected the outcome of
the trial, with one of the jurors commenting:
I look upon the blacks as a set of monkies, and the earlier they are exterminated from the
face of the earth the better. I would never consent to hang a white man for a black one. I
knew well they were guilty of the murder, but I for one would never see a white man suffer
for shooting a black.
50

Clearly, the prejudices against Aboriginals held by Australian society were influencing the
treatment of Aborigines before the law.
The newspapers became quite divided in their treatment of the trial, with some
minor newspapers supporting the Government in their determination to give the Aborigines
equal treatment. The Sydney Herald, on the other hand, took the stance of idealising white
settlers in order to defend the actions of murderers
51
. In fact, the day before the trial, the
14
th
November 1838, they published the following statement:
We say to the Colonists, since the Government makes no adequate exertion to protect
yourselves; and if the ferocious savages endeavour to plunder and destroy your property, or
to murder yourselves, your families, or your servants, do to them as you would do to any
white robbers or murderers - SHOOT THEM DEAD, if you can.
52

The Sydney Herald was noted for its influence on public opinion, building on the idea of
white supremacy by dehumanising the Aborigines and taking a firmly negative stance on
Aboriginal rights. The jury were well aware of the point of view of the colony and the media
at the time, which evidently impacted their decision. Despite the efforts of the Government
to improve the legal rights of the Aborigines, public opinion and media influences had
sufficient power to change the judgement of the court.


50
To the Editor of The Australian. The Australian, December 8, 1838, 2
51
Wood, Frontier Violence and the Bush Legend
52
The Sydney Herald. Sydney Herald, November 14, 1838, 2
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The Second Trial
According to Plunketts request, a second trial was held on 27
th
November, in which
seven of the men were charged with the murder of an Aboriginal child: Charles Kilmeister,
William Hawkins, John Johnstone, Edward Foley, James Oates, James Parry and John
Russell
53
. Due to the increasing excitement over the case amongst the citizens of Sydney,
the court had difficulties finding people who were willing to serve on the jury
54
. There was
some debate over whether the convictions were actually the same as those of the first trial,
using the plea of autrefois acquit
55
. The jury decided that the trial was different, with the
judge ruling that there was sufficient evidence of the description of the child for them to be
accused
56
. The trial continued two days later on 29
th
November before a different jury, with
evidence given from Thomas Foster, Hobbs, Day and Anderson
57
. The seven men were
found guilty, with the three judges unanimously deciding to support this decision, and the
seven men were sentenced to death. They were hanged at 9:00am on 18
th
December
1838
58
.
Plunkett had hoped to bring the remaining men to trial at a later date, but in the
wake of public pressure after the second trial, it did not take place
59
. The general public
became resentful to the issue of Aboriginal rights as they felt the hangings were simply the
result of the British Government meddling in Australian affairs
60
. A first-hand account from a
settler, Alexander Harris
61
, who lived at the time of the massacre describes the aftermath of
the trials. He suggests that the hangings did not improve the relations with Aboriginals
because the authorities did not fully understand their behaviour and only made matters

53
R. v. Kilmeister and others. 110 (Supreme Court of New South Wales, 26 November 1838)
54
Reece, 151
55
House of Commons, 35
56
Stubbins and Smith, 9
57
Ibid
58
Ibid, 10
59
Goodall, Heather. Invasion to Embassy. (St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1996), 31
60
Ibid, 46
61
Although it is attributed to Alexander Harris, the author of the text is in fact unknown, as the original
manuscript identified him only as An Emigrant Mechanic. The editor of this edition, Manning Clark,
commented that much of the authors self-description appeared to be false, and that he probably used a
different name on all his records, with Alexander Harris as his pen-name. Since all the records from the original
publishing company had been destroyed, there was no way of knowing who he was. However, the text
remains one of the most detailed accounts of everyday life in the early Australia colony.
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worse
62
. Settlers became more hostile towards Aborigines and were less welcoming of them
on their land. In addition, the colonists became more secretive about the murder of
Aborigines, ensuring that murders were performed away from the notice of officials and
that any evidence was removed, often using poison to hide the cause of death. The officials
appeared to realise that they had gone too far by hanging the men, and the situation in the
colony was allowed to reach a worse state than before the hangings.
The second trial also received a great deal of publicity, with the media attacking
Governor Gipps for failing to introduce sufficient measures against the Aborigines and
increasing the public ill-feelings for them. The Sydney Herald and Commercial Journal
particularly encouraged the release of the prisoners. Plunkett realised the impact of the
media on the jury and requested a court order to prevent the Sydney Herald from writing
further articles on the case, but Judge Burton refused
63
. Nevertheless, Plunketts request
emphasises just how significant the role of the media was in determining the treatment of
the Aboriginal people.
Reconciliation for the events at Myall Creek was finally made on 10
th
June, 2000, on the
162
nd
anniversary of the massacre with the erection of a memorial stone.

Legal Fallout
Before the trials, the murder of Aboriginals was not seen as a punishable crime.
Although Plunkett was able to overcome the opposition from the colony to obtain the
desired outcome, his success did not teach the lesson that Gipps was hoping for
64
. Instead
of preventing further violence, the settlers made efforts to conceal their actions and avoid
being caught
65
. Prosecution of white men was rare and it appeared that the courts gave up
on controlling the violence and conflict on the frontier.
The Aborigines continued to receive unequal treatment before law and being
punished beyond the levels of white men: 90 Aborigines have hanged themselves in

62
Harris, Alexander. Settlers and Convicts. (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 1964), 221
63
Reece, 150
64
The late Hon. J. H. Plunkett. The Argus, May 12, 1869, 7.
65
Blanch, 116
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Australian prisons between 1982 and 1988 alone
66
. The fact that Australian courts
continued to regard Aborigines differently from white men indicates that the power of
public opinion was not isolated to the Myall Creek trials alone; it demonstrates that these
attitudes have had a lasting impact on the entire legal system, and continued to affect the
treatment of Aborigines even 150 years after the event.

Political Fallout
The prosecution of the perpetrators of the massacre was fuelled by a political
agenda to create precedent for the new policies being implemented by Gipps and the British
Government. Governor Gipps saw that the circumstances between the colony and the
Aborigines had returned to its original state, and declared:
All we can do now is to raise, in the name of Justice and humanity, a voice in favour of our
poor savage fellow creatures, too feeble to be heard at such a distance.
67

The former Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, stated in 1992 that:
We have made too little progress in Aboriginal affairs, primarily because the State opposes
it
68
.
Both statements, although over a century apart, recognise that the situation was beyond
the control of the Government because of the huge influence of public opinion on the
relations with Indigenous people.

Social Fallout
The public flooded Gipps and Plunkett with angry response to their actions,
demanding that Plunkett resign from his position as Attorney-General
69
. The colony

66
Reflections on Nation-building. Sydney Morning Herald (online), January 26, 1988.
http://www.fugitives.com.au/fugitives-articles/1988/1/26/reflections-on-nationbuilding/
67
Reynolds, Frontier, 40
68
Pattel-Gray, 44
69
Reece, 147
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Candidate Number History
16

responded to the hangings by employing tactics for evading legal retribution and the hatred
towards Aborigines mounted.
There were still some colonists who were sympathetic towards the Aborigines,
including Eliza Dunlop, who published a compassionate poem entitled The Aboriginal
Mother just before the hangings (see appendix C). However, such people formed a minority
and their support for Aboriginal rights was too insignificant to make any difference. The
decline in race relations after the trials solidified into nation-wide racism that removed any
prospect of closing the divide between Aboriginal and white Australians.

The Census in 1901
In 1901, Australia had its federation, which saw all the states uniting as one nation.
That year, the first census was taken of the Australian population, but it did not include
those of indigenous descent. In addition, the White Australia and assimilation policies
were implemented, essentially forcing Aboriginals to adopt and conform to European
customs, and leave behind their own language, history and culture
70
. At the time, the
general public saw the Aborigines as a problem that merely wasted their resources in their
efforts to protect them
71
. It was not until 1967, after a federal referendum, that
Aborigines were counted in the census; however, the Aborigines were never given a vote or
say in whether they would be counted
72
. This illustrates that the attitudes of white
Australians and the Government had not changed: Aborigines were still regarded as subjects
to the more supreme and powerful white people, and were not given equal treatment to
other Australian citizens.



70
Ibid, 29
71
Ibid, 30
72
Simmons, Gary. The Other Side of the Rabbit-Proof Fence.Australian Screen Education. (Essay, Academic
OneFile [A108050391], 2003), 42. Accessed October 13, 2010. http://find.galegroup.com/gtx/infomark.do?&
contentSet=IAC-Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002&prodId=AONE&docId=A108050391&source=gale&
srcprod=AONE&userGroupName=61schools&version=1.0
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17

Conclusion
This investigation asked the question: How did the public response to the outcome
of the Myall Creek massacre trials cement the unequal treatment of Aboriginals before
the law, and subsequent exclusion of Indigenous Australians from the 1901 census? The
historical research demonstrated that the equal treatment of Aboriginals during the Myall
Creek massacre trials provoked an overwhelming negative response from the colony, which
caused race relations to rapidly decline from that point. As a result, when Australia had its
federation in 1901, the Government chose to exclude Aborigines from the calculations,
illustrating that they were still not valued as equal citizens in Australian society.
From the arrival of white colonists in 1788, the Aborigines were degraded and
denied equal rights. Myths and misconceptions of their behaviour meant that the
Aborigines were feared and hated by the settlers. By the time of the Myall Creek massacre
in 1838, the colonists perceived themselves as victims, causing outrage from the public and
the media when the killers were brought to trial. Although Governor Gipps intended to use
the trials as a way of demonstrating the equality between the Aboriginals and the convicts,
the hangings only caused greater resentment towards Aborigines from the colonists, and led
to a decline in their relations. With these negative attitudes firmly engrained in Australian
society, the Government chose to exclude Aborigines from the 1901 census, whilst
implementing the White Australia and assimilation policies to further degrade their
position in society. The Myall Creek massacre did not just affect those immediately involved:
the outcome of those trials sparked a public reaction that would come to define the
Australian nation and influence the treatment of Aborigines before the law for centuries to
come.





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Works Cited
Primary Sources
1. Harris, Alexander. Settlers and Convicts. Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 1964
2. House of Commons - Parliament - Great Britain. Copies or extracts of despatches
relative to the massacre of various aborigines of Australia, in the year 1838, and
respecting the trial of their murderers. London: House of Commons, 1839
3. R. v. Kilmeister and others. 110. Supreme Court of New South Wales, 26 November
1838
4. Sworn to no Master, of no Sect am I. The Sydney Herald, 5 December, 1838: 2.
Accessed 30 June, 2011: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12859164
5. The late Hon. J. H. Plunkett. The Argus, May 12, 1869, 7.
6. The Sydney Herald. Sydney Herald, November 14, 1838, 2
7. To the Editor of The Australian. The Australian, December 8, 1838, 2

Secondary Sources
1. Australian Heritage Database. Place Details: Myall Creek Massacre and Memorial
Site. Accessed February 3, 2011, http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-
bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=105869
2. Blanch, Russ. Massacre: Myall Creek Revisited. Delungra: Grah Jean Books, 2000
3. Connor, J. The Australian Frontier Wars 1788-1838. Sydney: The University of New
South Wales Press, 2002
4. Goodall, Heather. Invasion to Embassy. St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1996
5. Horton, David. The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia. Vol. II. Canberra: Aboriginal
Studies Press, 1994
6. Milliss, Roger. Waterloo Creek: The Australia Day Massacre of 1838, George Gipps
and the British Conquest of New South Wales. Ringwood, McPhee Gribble, 1992)
Name Extended Essay
Candidate Number History
19

7. McCulloch, Samuel Clyde. Gipps, Sir George (1791-1847). Australian Dictionary of
Biography Online. Accessed February 3, 2011.
http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010412b.htm?hilite=myall;creek
8. Pattel-Gray, Anne. The Great White Flood: Racism in Australia. Atlanta: Scholars
Press, 1998
9. Racism: No Way!. Key Dates. Last modified November 15, 2005.
http://www.racismnoway.com.au/library/keydates/index-1800s.html#1830.
10. Reece, R. H. W. Aborigines and Colonists: Aborigines and colonial society in New
South Wales in the 1830s and 1840s. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1974
11. Reflections on Nation-building. Sydney Morning Herald (online), January 26, 1988.
http://www.fugitives.com.au/fugitives-articles/1988/1/26/reflections-on-
nationbuilding/
12. Reynolds, Henry and Bruce Dennett. The Aborigines. Melbourne: Oxford University
Press, 2002
13. Reynolds, Henry. Frontier: Aborigines, Settlers and Land. Sydney: Allen & Unwin,
1987
14. Ryan, Lyndall. A Very Bad Business: Henry Dangar and the Myall Creek Massacre
1838. The University of Newcastle. Accessed February 3, 2011.
http://www.newcastle.edu.au/Resources/Schools/Humanities%20and
%20Social%20Science/Research/SCCRG/Henry%20Dangar%20and%20the%20Myall%
20Creek%20massacre.pdf
15. Simmons, Gary. The Other Side of the Rabbit-Proof Fence.Australian Screen
Education. Essay, Academic OneFile [A108050391], 2003, 42. Accessed October 13,
2010. http://find.galegroup.com/gtx/infomark.do?& contentSet=IAC-
Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002&prodId=AONE&docId=A108050391&source
=gale& srcprod=AONE&userGroupName=61schools&version=1.0
16. Stubbins, Ted and Paulette Smith. The Myall Creek Massacre: Its History, Its
Memorial and the Opening Ceremony. Bingara: Edwards Printing, 2001
Name Extended Essay
Candidate Number History
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17. Suttor, T. L. Plunkett, John Hubert (1802-1869). Australian Dictionary of Biography
online. Accessed February 3, 2011.
http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A020299b.htm?hilite=myall;creek
18. Wood, Rebecca. Frontier violence and the bush legend: the Sydney Heralds
response to the Myall Creek massacre trials and the creation of colonial identity.
History Australia 6.3 Essay, Student Resource Center - College Edition Expanded via
Gale [A215515639], 2009, 67. Accessed September 15, 2010.
http://find.galegroup.com/gps/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-
Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002& prodId=IPS&docId=A215515639
&source=gale&srcprod=CCRE&userGroupName=61schools&version=1.0















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Appendix A
In an attempt to clarify the governments position on the treatment of aborigines under the
law, the following proclamation was made in 1816 by Governor Davey
73
:






73
Blanch, Russ. Massacre: Myall Creek Revisited. (Delungra: Grah Jean Books, 2000), 133
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Appendix B
Map showing the movements of the killers, led by John Fleming
74
.


74
Milliss, 305
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Appendix C
A poem written by Eliza Hamilton Dunlop in her outrage over the Myall Creek massacre.
Oh! hush three - hush my baby,
I may not tend thee yet.
Our forest-home is distant far,
And midnights star is set.
Now, hush thee - or the pale-faced men
Will hear thy piercing wail,
And what would then thy mothers tears
Or feeble strength avail!

Oh, couldst thy little bosom
That mothers torture feel,
Or couldst thou know thy father lies
Struck down by English steel;
Thy tender form would whither,
Like the kniven on the sand
And the spirit of my perished tribe
Would vanish from our land.

For thy young life, my precious,
I fly the field of blood,
Else had I for my chieftains sake,
Defied them where I stood:
But basely bound my woman arm
No weapon might it wield:
I could but cling round him I loved
To make my heart a shield.

I saw my firstborn treasure
Lie headless at my feet,
The goro on this hapless breast,
In his life-stream is wet!
And thou! I snatchd thee form their sword,
It harmless passd by thee!
But clave the binding cords - and gave,
Haply, the power to flee.

To flee! my babe - but whither?
Without my friend - my guide?
The blood that was out strength is shed!
He is not by my side!
Thy sire! Oh! never, never,
Shall Toon Bakra hear our cry:
My bold and stately mountain-bird!
I thought not he could die.
Now who will teach thee, dearest,
To poise the shield, and spear,
To wield the koopin or to throw
The boommerring, void of fear:
To breast the river in its might:
The mountain tracks to tread?
The echoes of my homeless heart
Reply - the dead, the dead!

And ever must their murmur
Like an ocean torrent flow:
The parted voice comes never back
To cheer our lonely woe:
Even in the region of our tribe,
Beside our summer streams,
Tis but a hollow symphony -
In the shadow-land of dreams

Oh hush thee, dear - for weary
And faint I bear thee on -
His name is on thy gentle lips,
My child, my child, hes gone!
Gone oer the golden fields that lie
Beyond the rolling cloud,
To bring thy peoples murder cry
Before the Christians God.

Yes! oer the stars that guide us,
He brings my slaughtered boy:
To shew their God how treacherously
The stranger men destroy:
To tell how hands in friendship pledged
Piled high the fatal pire;
To tell - to tell of the gloomy ridge!
And the stockmens human fire.