Aboriginal people and the law

Legislation, regulations, gazettes, committee reports, law

Committee reports - Victoria

These reports have been digitised and are available through the AIATSIS website, as well as through links to Parliamentary Papers - linked below.

Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on the Aborigines. Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 1858/9. Vol.1, D.8
Following on from the demise of the Protectorate, this committee inquired into the "best means of alleviating [the Aborigines] absolute wants." Their reduction in numbers was deemed due to 'the general occupation of the country by the white population [and] to vices acquired by contact with a civilised race." Conditions on the reserve and mission stations are described and illustrated anthropological reports included. The Committee recommended setting aside land for Aboriginal people to live on.

Royal Commission on the Aborigines. Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 1877, Vol.3, No.76. p.431-579.
This commission was charged with investigating the present condition of the Aborigines, and delivering recommendations for their care. The report describes conditions at the stations at Ramahyuck, Lake Tyers, Framlingham, Lake Condah, Ebenezer and Coranderrk and includes the minutes of evidence, correspondences, reports on the school at Ramahyuck and the regulations under the Act.

Improvements to the current regime were suggested: increasing the reserve system with a view to self sufficiency, improving the amenity of buildings, addressing proper payment of wages and offering training opportunities. The commissioners wrote that life on the stations was preferable to life off: "leaving them alone is in fact abandoning them to lower and lower stages of degradation." They saw the care of Aboriginal people in terms of a sacred duty, and that the actions of parliament have redressed "the last pages of history of the Aborigines of Victoria [which] would [otherwise] have been written in characters of reproach to the colonists"

Report of the Board Appointed to inquire into and report upon, the present condition and management of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Station, together with minutes of evidence. Victorian Parliamentary Papers 1882. Vol.2, No. 5.
The report noted that the reserve was "clean and tidy and the Aboriginals orderly and to all appearances well fed and clad". However, the resident Aboriginal people called for the abolition of the Board and direct management from the Chief Secretary's department, with John Green as overseer. Queries about the lack of food led to the charge that too much time was spent on hop production, even though it generated a significant income - and that more time should be spent on self sufficiency. A request was made for the installation of a hospital as more specialised medical treatment required long and traumatic vists to Melbourne. "Half caste" and "quadroon" girls and boys over 13 were encouraged to seek out paid work, but the report considered it reasonable that "full blooded blacks" be maintained in comfort.

The report had a dissenting addendum attached, restating the dissatisfaction with the Board, inspector and manager and their lack of activity. Employment off the station should be encouraged, but it could still be considered home. Further, the group belived that the station should where possible be manned by Aboriginal people.

Minutes of evidence are included.

Board of inquiry upon the operation of the Aborigines Act 1928. Victorian Parliamentary Papers 1956/58. Vol.2, No. 18.
This report provides a significant overview of the administration of the reserve system and Aboriginal affairs generally as it was administered under the 1928 Aborigines Act. The inquiry was charged with making recommendations on the future of Lake Tyers; "the capacity of people of Aboriginal blood to live and maintain themselves and their families according to the general standards of the Victorian community"; the identification of mitigating factors against "absorption" and the form in which administration should continue.

Comment is made on the conduct of the board and the "considerable diminution of apparent interest and some avoidance of its responsibilities over recent years". While recommending continuation of Lake Tyers for those aged, sick and infirm, the progression of the assimilation policy was reinforced.

The inquiry saw the "improvement of [the] home environment being fundamental in any plan for their absorption into the community". It recommended the promotion of education and training with accommodation and financial support and the closure of segregated schools.

The inquiry states the basic aim of Government policy is to bring about a status of equality, acknowledging that there are white citizens who present similar problems for society. Any "sympathetic treatment must be allied with firmness, their morale must be strengthened, and their readiness to accept the general concept of their inferiority removed."

Protectors' reports - Victoria

The various acts created protection boards who administered the legislation and regulations. The reports have been digitised by AIATSIS as part of their online exhibition To remove and protect: laws that changed Aboriginal lives.

Protectors' reports (1861-1959)


The Library also holds a range of their publications, listed here under their changing names with publication dates:

Useful links

Great Britain

New South Wales
Report from the select committee on the condition of the Aborigines  - published in 1845, after two failed committees sat, still did not make any recommendations, but reported evidence already received