The Register, Adelaide, Friday, December 21, 1923

The Aborigines’ Plea.
Opposition to New Act.

The Aborigines (Training of Children) Act, which was passed last session, has caused much heartburning amongst the natives, and a deputation of three of them came to Adelaide from Point Macleay, to present a petition to his Excellency the Governor, praying for the repeal of the measure. They will return today.

The Treasurer (Hon. W. Hague), in introducing the Bill to the House of Assembly on September 20, stated that the attention of the Government had been directed to the problem of training aboriginal and half-caste children. It had become patent that the children would have to be taken in hand while comparatively young. The Bill provided that the Protector of Aborigines, who would be the guardian of all such children under the age of 18 years, was empowered to transfer them to the State Children's Council for training. There would be no obligation for him to make the transfer if he were satisfied that it would not be to the child's advantage. No transfer could be made unless the child were over 14 years, or had passed the qualifying examination. In the case of a female child, the Governor might extend the time of supervision until the age of 21 years had been attained. The children would be put to a trade, or otherwise put to work under the supervision of the council. The Bill was supported by both sides of the House, and was carried on the voices.

Three Ambassadors

The Point Macleay deputies - Willy Rankine, Leonard Campbell, and John Stanley - called at The Register office on Thursday, and explained the aborigines' attitude to the new law. Campbell, the bearer, as he informed an interviewer, of a Scotch name, is a splendidly built man of 47 summers, and he related with pathos, the fear of the native men and women that their young ones will be taken from them [original has 'tehm']. "We don't mind the Government taking them and training them," he said. "We want them to get on and be useful. But we want to feel that we still have full rights over them, and that they are our own children. There are a lot of times when a woman with only one daughter is unable to get about, and if the girl is taken from her, there is no one left to help her, and she has to borrow the daughters of other women. We do not wish to help burden on the State, but our children have never been State children, and we don't want them to be. The people at Point Macleay would rather give up their mission station than sacrifice their children. We are sorry that we did not see His Excellency, for we think he would have helped us."

A Remarkable Petition

Campbell produced a memorial, which had been prepared and written by E.N. Kropinyeri, at Point Macleay, to express the feeling of mothers on the question. The document is reproduced here, exactly as it was written:--- PORT MACLEAY. December 16. The hon. members of Parliament of South Australia.--- Dear Sirs, The Bill has passed, legalising the Act of taking away the children from their parents. This Act, like a mysterious creature of ill omen, is casting a gloom over this one little mission home. Yes, this Bill has passed at last, and the passing of it provides food for serious consideration. And the first that presents itself to the mind, is the fact that, an Act, which, hitherto had been illegal and I believe, punished by law, is now legal and supported by law, which produces a reverse effect upon the past legal law, as for instance, in the past any one taking a child away from its parents without their consent, will be liable to punishment by law. But to-day, any desiring to return and live with their parents, will be dealt with by the laws contained in the Act. Here we have a queer conglomeration of laws, through some unaccountable way, the wild cat of confusion, has effected or gained an entrance into the dovecote of legal harmony, and caused such utter confusion among the inmates, to such an extent, that some, if not all, of them cannot with any degree of accuracy, claim each their respective relationship either to the legal, or illegal origin. However this is not the matter on which I wish to write. It is mother's love, its claims, its rights, its demands. Now it is understood that a refusal to comply with the demands of an ultimatum of one nation to another, is an acceptance of condition of warfare whatever those conditions may lead to, so the passing of that Bill is a declaration of war between right and wrong. And there is only one right, and only one wrong, which of the two contending party (sic) is right. We will see presently. Mark well, the two forces, arrayed against each other. There stands the advocates, and supporters of the Bill that has passed, strongly fortified, their guns of "intellect" trained and ready for action, they represent "Right." There, on the opposite and facing them is the rank of the enemy, strongly opposing the Bill, a very strange army, possessing no weapons of war, no intellectual powers, no Parliamentary eloquence, not a grain of science in the whole body, that makes the army of motherhood. The only piece of artillery which that army possesses is the weapon called love. And thus equipped, the army of motherhood has taken up their position in opposition to the Bill. The invader of those Godgiven and therefore sacred dominions of mother's love is its claims, its rights, its demands, a possessin (sic) voted for them in the parliament of heaven, sealed with the image and superstition of His Majesty, whose name is "Love". This army also represents Right. Thus we see the two contending forces each striving for precedence in their claim of Right, and we ask, who is going to win the day? And the reply comes from the ranks of Intellect, "victory is ours", and relying on their weapon of attack, Intellect, they thunder forth their intellectual arguments again and again, propelled by the full force of scientific facts. Poor motherhood, how are you going to retain the beauties and glorious possession of motherhood, the right, the claims, the demands of love amid such fearful intellectual bombardment as this, and seeing that you are armed with nothing more than the crude and primitive weapon, love, the invention of which dates back in the past eternity. It is true we are indeed poorly equipped, and we know not how we are going to fare in this fearful struggle, but - and just then a thin spurt of smoke is seen issuing from the ranks of motherhood, and we knew that love, motherhood's weapon spoke, and that its claims, its demands, and its rights, in their threefold unity is speeding its unerring way to the ranks of the foe, bearing the seal, the hallmark, and the mandate of the majesty on high (the majesty of love). Hon. members (jurymen). The question is asked, Who wins? The bar of eternal justice, truth and righteousness awaits your verdict! What say you?


After a while the talk drifted to early days and early ways. The three men were unanimous in their praise of the Rev. George Taplin, who founded the Point MacLeay Mission Station in 1858, and died in 1877. "There has been nobody like Mr Taplin," sighed Rankine who is 61 years old and has lived at the station most of his life. When asked, "Do you like working in white fellow way better than black fellow?" the trio showed some discomfort at the "pidgeon English" and Campbell replied, "We like to work if we get a fair wage". "But don't you like to have a 'walk about' occasionally ?" "We frequently go to the Coorong and fish. Our boat is smashed, so we go in a 'flatties'. Those who can't get in have to walk most of the way." The bream, they said, had left the Coorong, because there were no weeds there for them to feed upon. Pigface and muntalies (little apple-like shrubs) abounded, and altogether they had a good time. "I would rather work a certain time and then have a holiday than do nothing all the time," Campbell declared.

Going to School

With a little persuasion Rankine, a spare-haired, solemn old man, was induced to talk about himself. He said he did not discover until he was 22 that his father was John Nelson, and that he had been given the name of his step-father. It was too late then to rectify the mistake, so he had borne the title of Leonard Campbell (sic) ever since. When asked to tell something of his early recollections, he thought profoundly, and then related the following:--- "The earliest I can remember," he mused, "is my school days. I was living with my grandfather and my grandmother, in a camp under an apple tree near Milang. We had shifted in from my grandfather's place, which was 12 miles from Milang. One day, when I was a very little boy, the school teacher came to our camp and asked my grandfather whether he would let me go to school. My grandfather said, "All right." So when I came to my grandfather he told me I would have to go to school the next morning. I said, "All right." The next thing was to get some clothes to wear. My grandfather found a Government blue shirt, which he put on me. He then got the inside of a munnukerie plant, a sort of flag, and chewed it until it was like string. The he tied it around my waist. The next thing was to have a hair cut. When my grandfather had done this he got a sharp-pointed stick and ran it all through my hair to comb it. Next thing was to oil my hair. My grandfather took some Murray cod's fat, heated it well on the fire, and then, after chewing it in his mouth, sprayed over my hair. A ribbon was then tied around my head, and I was ready. My grandfather said to me, "You are going to school, and whatever you do, try to be a good boy. When you go in there, do everything you are told and sit quiet." When I went into the school the teacher told me where to sit, and I sat down. Then she came near and smelt the cod oil on my hair. She asked me what oil I had. I was very frightened, but she said, 'Don't be frightened. Go home to your grandmother and tell her to wash your hair.' When I told my grandmother that, she and [original has 'any'] my grandfather left the camp under the apple tree and went back to our home on Lake Plains. I didn't go to that school any more!"

Hunting Ducks

Rankine described a duck hunt with "my grandfather." He related how he and the old man went out hunting for ducks on the lake. In the canoe were spears, made of --- but he wasn't sure of the name, and it wasn't safe to ask grandfather, who might hit him with the waddy. There was also a stick about 9 ft. long, at the end of which was a loop of munnukerie string. "After we had gone some distance," Rankine proceeded, "my grandfather said, 'Do you see those ducks there? You stay still and I'll get them. (He liked to get a lot at once to save trouble.) He tied the canoe to a reed and slipped into the water which came up to his neck. On his head he had some clay, with grass stuck in it, and when he walked in the water that was all you could see. I saw him getting away from me, and I decided to follow. I stepped quietly out of the canoe into water far above my head, and in struggling to the surface I made such a splash that the ducks moved off some distance. Grandfather came back, and, lifting me high above his head, ducked me three times. Then he said, "Keep still next time, or I'll hold you under the water !" Then he went off after the ducks, and, creeping close to them, with his long stick and the looped string, dragged them under. He got 21 that day."

"White Brother"

How he went to school when he was six, and how he stayed there for 10 years, and the adventures on the lake, were interesting topics, but Rankine ended his narrative by saying sadly, "I wish I'd worked harder at school, and I'm glad my children are doing so well and learning so much."

"Didn't you back to your grandfather's place near Milang ?" "No," replied the native. "My grandfather's land was given to him by his grandfather, and it had always belonged to our family. Now it is not mine. My white brothers have it. It wasn't much of a place," he added; but in his eyes was the pitiful longing of the man without a home.


Above are depicted the three natives sent from Point McLeay mission Station to petition the Governor to repeal the Aborigines (Training of Children) Act of 1923. Their names are John Stanley (43), Willy Rankine (61), and Leonard Campbell (47). An interview with the three ambassadors is published this morning. (This was brought to the light of day by research by Ms Karen Hughes).


What has been the ongoing legal and equitable impact of the South Australian Governments' "shack owners" and Crown land freeholding policy on salt water and fresh water Aboriginal people around the coast ?

The policy has been of parliamentary and media interest since 1993. In the election of a Liberal Government in 1993 shack owners were promised freehold title to their shacks, which were on Crown Land at the 1993 election. From 2002 the Labor Government extended the impact of this on Aboriginal people through a like policy for Crown land leaseholders.

In 1999 a spokesperson for the Shack Owners Association advised shack owners on radio that the legal period for purchase of the freehold of their shacks from South Australia was fast expiring, and also complained that it was the value of the government's asking price that was delaying the final purchase for some shack owners, who were delaying because of the cost.

There was a similar reaction on cost to the Crown lease freeholding policy.

These policies raise relevant issues for all future negotiations by Aboriginal people with the South Australian Government over the future security of Aboriginal heritage and the ongoing protection of Aboriginal land interests.

Were the Ngarrindjeri Traditional Owners officially advised by either of the former Liberal and now Labor Governments of the equitable and legal ramifications for the Ngarrindjeri Traditional Owners of these Government policies of freeholding of Crown land and shacks on Ngarrindjeri lands ?

The shack owners were given the right to upgrade their licences or leases to freehold and this right is being extended to other Crown leaseholders.

There are coastal and waterside shacks all around the Coorong, River and Lakes, which have been freeholded. These shacks are on Ngarrindjeri lands and are around or on burial grounds and significant cultural, dwelling and food sites. There are also Crown leaseholds, which may be being considered for freeholding.

Have the Ngarrindjeri Traditional Owners received the full benefit of the Mabo package: the Native Title, Social Justice and Indigenous Land packages, promised directly to several members of the Ngarrindjeri Tendi for South Australian Aboriginal people by the Commonwealth Government through the Director of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement at an adjourned Tendi meeting at Tauondi in November 1993, as part of the Mabo negotiations to enable Ngarrindjeri dispossessed people to repurchase their lands ?

These questions pose significant issues for a Ngarrindjeri equity strategy to negotiate with the South Australian Government for a Ngarrindjeri Social Contract to secure a set of guaranteed equity rights with South Australia.

Aboriginal negotiations to provide for ILUA's (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) should not only ensure reparations for extinguishment of native title. They should also ensure the equitable provision of a complete economic component to meet the unfulfilled promise of this Social Justice package. Compensation for the loss of land and rights from the shack and Crown land freeholding policies needs a Social Contract to guarantee it. Reparations are needed to remedy all the losses that have been suffered by the Ngarrindjeri people, including the legal infringement of their equity.

If the Ngarrindjeri people's equity cannot be confirmed in ILUA negotiations with the Government, then only a indentured Ngarrindjeri Land Act based on the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act, with "inalienable" title by Parliamentary Indenture could guarantee a suitable Ngarrindjeri regional land agreement.

The indentured Land Act would compensate for the loss of equity and the right to negotiation, which would otherwise have been part of native title.

Only an economic component can fully rectify the rightful land aspirations of Ngarrindjeri people in the legal absence of full Native Title with equity.

The shack and Crown lands "freeholding" policy also has implications for augmenting a minimum component Social Contract or Charter with a third component relating to maintaining cultural heritage rights and interests.

The Ngarrindjeri Traditional Owners have the right to obtain legal advice regarding the equitable, legal and other non-Native Title common law rights of the Ngarrindjeri people in order to have their burial and other sites protected on all Crown leaseholds and shack owners new freeholdings.

A Social Contract or Ngarrindjeri Charter guaranteeing the Native Title of the Ngarrindjeri people in an indentured recognition of their equitable, legal and other common law rights may settle Ngarrindjeri claims for justice from SA.


The fundamental relationship between the governed and government in South Australia has never been politically achieved in a democratic, equal and just process over the life of the State, because Aboriginal people lack due Constitutional recognition for their original land rights in the State.

The Constitution of the Parliament of South Australia was drafted by a 19th Century Premier of South Australia, without the full democratic involvement of the people or the community, and without Aboriginal input.

Of main concern for the better future of South Australia is the just, equal and democratic treatment of all South Australians by government, and especially of all Aboriginal people, and in recognition of their prior equity.

At the heart of the principle of a social contract between the people and Government is the right of the community to determine its future by making society accountable to the State, within a just system of laws.

South Australia began in an 1834 Act of a colonising British Parliament in London half- way around the world, and it determined all local Aboriginal people to be persona nullius, despite their inherent proprietary rights.

The founding legislation for South Australia was an ignominious start to a 167 year history of infamy for the Aboriginal people, who have never been asked to establish any form of legal relations with the colonising State.

Central to the Wakefield Plan for colonising the Aboriginal lands of South Australia was a repugnance for slavery and the securing of a privileged English social contract for a few, while dispossessing Aboriginal land owners.

Slavery had been abolished in Britain and its colonies from 1833, and the worst fear of the emigrants to South Australia was being found guilty of enslaving the Aboriginal people. To avoid any legal penalty for slavery and to avoid any allegation of slavery, Aboriginal people were deprived of any right or equity to their lands and were refused a social right to work.

This was a specific design especially incorporated in the establishment of South Australia. Although Aboriginal people were British subjects by law, this was only nominal justice, because taking their lands was justified.

The legal doctrine of terra nullius refuted by the Mabo judgment was developed by English law to permanently entrench this injustice in the State's legal and constitutional framework, and to deny Aboriginal equity.

There is an urgent need for the people of South Australia to recognise this ignominy of the past and to go forward together with all local Aboriginal people for a better and more just future in community upholding respect.

It is up to the community to extend the hand of partnership and co-operation to all people and groups in the State, and to reform South Australia to be inclusive of everyone's rights.

The traditional way to achieve unison of this nature, both for Indigenous and immigrant cultures alike, is for a social compact or contract to be formulated to establish the peace.

The whole community must be consulted and all interest groups must have a legal right to negotiate with government in the make-up and terms of a rewrite of the State's Constitution.

A bright and just future for all is only based upon an equal and democratic negotiation by all.

To the Honourable the President and Members of the Legislative Council,

In this present Parliament assembled-

The humble Petition of the undersigned residents of South Australia

Respectfully sheweth:-
That false claims that the Ngarrindjeri people fabricated their culture has had a detrimental effect on the reconciliation process in South Australia. That it is the place of a government to 'walk its talk' in order to see reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal South Australians is achieved.

Your petitioners therefore pray that your Honourable House will
Make an official apology to the Ngarrindjeri people which will then mark the beginning of a new process of healing and reconciliation for all South Australians.

And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.


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