Aboriginal Settlement of St. Joseph, Burragorang

Camden/Burragorang. Aboriginal Settlement of St. Joseph, Burragorang. During the year 1877 the aboriginal tribe of Burragorang, numbering sixty souls, has been settled upon the farm of St. Joseph, where they have made some progress in civilisation. The Rev. Father Dillon, R. C. Pastor, Camden, has lately issued an appeal on behalf of the movement for the preservation and instruction of the last aboriginal tribe left in the neighbourhood of Sydney; and he gives the following information concerning the origin and the progress of the work :-

"When," he says, "I was placed in charge of the mission of Camden nine years ago, I felt bound to attend to the aboriginals, as well as the whites, for two reasons. First, although the aboriginals were to the last degree uninstructed and demoralised, yet nearly all the children, and a large proportion of their mothers, had been baptised in infancy, through the compassionate care of the settlers. They, therefore, had the strongest claim - all the more strong because of their degradation - upon the minister of Jesus Christ. Moreover they were, from their wandering and immoral habits, a plague and a nuisance in every part of the district, and a facile source of corruption to innocent country youth. They were, in fact, just such as the other tribes are in the colonies, the fast dying out victims of the vices of the whites. Yet they had many good qualities. They loved their children with an intense love, and with the same kind of affection they loved their tribe and their native valley. Wander where they would, they never could be long kept from their mountains and rivers.

"The many wants of the Camden district, in 1869, as to educational means, forced me to establish small schools in every part of the Mission, and by 1871, eighteen of these schools, some aided as Provisional, some as Half-time, and many not so aided, were in operation. Of these nine were situated in the district of Burragorang. Wherever the tribe wandered they were sure to meet a school, and I cannot bear too high a testimony to the anxiety of the teachers and the settlers in doing all they could to attract the children to these little schools. The female teachers, aided by respectable farmers' daughters, every Sunday, visited the women in the camp, and instructed them in religion. By degrees, the children began to relish going to school, and to advance, in some cases, very rapidly, in reading, writing, and singing. One of the teachers, Mr. James Murphy, now in charge of the Mount Keira public school, had such success in advancing the children, that a large portion of the tribe settled within reach of his school during the whole period of his stay. Mr. Murphy, and other teachers, took the greatest pains in instructing the adult males in religion, out of school hours. The rosary was recited round the camp fire every night. The children, in a little time, were able to instruct their parents better than whites could. The result was, that in 1874, all, with, the exception of five, were baptised, and prepared for the reception of the other sacraments. The women, with scarcely an exception, were reformed, and not a single instance of immorality has been known among the young girls who, since 1869, have grown to womanhood. The men, I am sorry to say, relapse occasionally, when exposed to the temptation of drinking in towns. As the children progressed, the whole tribe grew fonder of industry, the women gladly accepting needlework, washing, and such employments as were afforded them, the men seeking work as fencers, stockmen, and useful farm hands. This led me to believe that if a farm, sufficiently cleared and enclosed, were provided for them, and if one of the schools were placed upon it, they would work it and remain upon it permanently. "The farm, purchased from a settler, together with the means of working it, and expenditure for rations tools, carriage of material, &c., while the tribe were engaged in constructing dwellings for their families and in cultivating the soil, has already cost about £500. Through the labour of the blacks alone it has yielded during the past year about 300 bushels of corn and 150 bushels of wheat, besides a large quantity of potatoes and other vegetables ; and, what is best of all, it has largely contributed to withdraw the tribe from their nomadic habits and to teach them indus- trial pursuits, which, under direction, they follow with fair steadiness. It has also taken them from their wretched camp life, and induced them to live after the manner of whites. A good school-house, with teacher's residence, is built upon the farm, and adjoining it is the Church of St. Joseph, which is regularly visited from Camden, and serves both the aboriginals and the white settlers of the locality. To meet the present liability on this farm his Grace the Archbishop of Sydney has contributed £100, his Lordship the Bishop of Maitland £50, their Lord- ships the Bishops of Bathurst and Goulburn £25 each, W. A. Duncan, Esq., £10, and I myself £100, making in all £310. This falls short of the sum already expended by £190. As, however, the farm only contains 70 acres of land, of which but one-half is fit for cultivation, a further sum would be needed to give the tribe sufficient arable land to support themselves without the necessity of seeking to supple- ment their resources by labour among the whites- a continual source of demoralisation to the men from the facility with which they get drink when away. A few head of cattle would be also a great boom to them. "At present nearly all the children are fully as advanced in education as white children of the farming classes are in any part of the colony. One young man, aged 19, receives the ordinary wages of a stockman, and gives his employer entire satisfaction. He remits his wages regularly to his parents. Another, a girl, aged 17, was for some years in the service of Mr. Vardy, of Menangle, and gave the greatest satisfaction. She is now housemaid with Dr. Goode, in Camden, where she receives the wages of a white servant. Both these children read and write well. A third, the eldest son of the last chief of the tribe, a pure black, for several years supported his widowed mother and her three children. Though continually travelling in the employ of his master, Mr. Edward Moore, he was never known to drink. His mother is provided with a house and garden on the farm, and his brothers and sisters, who attend the school, promise to be as good as he was. Two young female children who, when first I met them were wild and almost naked, are now, after nine years, preparing to be teachers, and may succeed. One resides with Miss Quinlan, the teacher, and assists in the duties of the school. All the children promise to be fully equal to these in time. (Trove: Australian Town and Country (NSW: 1870-1907).