Alice Springs news
Alice Springs news; NewspaperNT
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Community newspspers; Australia, Central; Alice Springs (N.T.); Newspapers
v. 10 issue 44
Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.
First, there was a need for creation of statements that would counter missionary McGregor's criticism of the use of English to order Aborigines to stop when none of the Aboriginal suspects understood it, and numbers of his other statements, including that the taking of Aboriginal women was a key cause of Aboriginal anger and attacks. Secondly, it is evident that Police Paddy had had it drilled into him that he must mention that he had obtained handcuffs from Constable Murray at every sighting of Aboriginal suspects, and that he always attempted to arrest people. Thirdly, Sergeant Noblett must have made George Murray realise that he was liable to be found guilty of murder unless he always stated that, after initial attempts to peacefully arrest men, he always dismounted to make an arrest, whereupon he must also state that he was attacked by Aborigines resisting arrest, and had had to fight for his life. Fourthly, it must have been planned to state as often as possible that every Warlpiri or Anmatyerre person shot or fatally injured was one of the marauding, murdering group who had attacked Fred Brooks, or otherwise attacked or threatened pastoralists and their stock. Fifthly, it must have been decided to state that the "Wallmulla" (Warlpiri) and Anmatyerre had a universal propensity to be "cheeky", and had threatened to drive all pastoralists from their country, independent of seasonal conditions. I reiterate that these are my suppositions based on a close reading of the evidence, so can be called into question by others who read the transcripts, with alternative interpretations being given. (Police Paddy may always have requested and been given the exactly required sets of handcuffs by Constable Murray; Constable Murray may always have dismounted and attempted arrests; and so-on). It must be remembered that this was a Board of Enquiry, not a Royal Commission or a trial, even though the people who gave evidence were all under oath to tell the truth. And even if the members of the board were very much handpicked, none of them were fools. All of them knew that, however much they were meant to consider broad issues to do with Aboriginal conditions and frontier relationships over the previous three years, it was the "stewardship" of the police party about which the press was salivating. The public perception was of a single punitive expedition rather than a lawful expedition to arrest perpetrators of crimes and, as Barry Hill has indicated in his remarkable 2002 book, "Broken Song" (primarily the story of Ted Strehlow), it was the "charge of general intent upon massacre'", that was of greatest interest. If proven, the board would surely have headed their recommendations with the need for certain people to be tried for unlawful acts leading to the deaths of people (some innocent) by shooting, with some members of the police parties being tried for murder. Any trial that followed would certainly also have looked beyond Constable Murray to who gave him his orders. SUMMARY Several select aspects, of many which could be considered, are now briefly discussed. The enquiry was held from 30th December, 1928 to 16th January, 1929, with a summary presented and the enquiry formally closed on 7th February, 1929. The bare bones are that 30 witnesses were examined, and: "The Board travelled by motor car approximately 2,500 miles principally over country never previously traversed by car and evidence was taken very often under most difficult conditions." That a cause for violence by Aborigines was the taking of Aboriginal women by settlers was very much skimmed over. Those local bushmen who were asked about this absolutely denied it, despite the presence of children of AboriginalEuropean descent at the "Bungalow" school in Alice Springs. There was no attempt to question any of the members of the police patrol about this: under oath at least three of them, and possibly Constable Murray too, would have had to admit to sexual relationships or perjure themselves. (The board specifically quashed any discussion of the rumour that George Murray was associating with an Aboriginal woman). The Hermannsburg Mission representative, who might normally have been expected to support lay missionaries Annie Lock and Athol McGregor, undermined any such support by providing an on-the-spot invented throw-away line about Miss Lock's preference for an Aboriginal husband. A similar throw-away line about Aborigines by the same truly dedicated and well-regarded mission worker, when he had become exasperated with them, wasn't all that appropriate seven years earlier, and it is just possible that the circumstances caused it to be repeated: "They are like the hammers of hell and nothing but a bullet will stop them." If the genuine "good guys" could make such utterances, the board was not likely to get much balance in the perspectives that they were given in their other interviews! With local Stuart Town Pastor Kramer also taking a stance against missionary Annie Lock, the two new "outsider" missionaries' evidence about anything at all didn't stand a chance of being other than ignored by the board, nor did that of two other itinerant missionaries. Indeed, the board stated that the "reasons for the Aboriginals' action" included "unattached Missionaries wandering