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SEMINAR | Dark Angel? Archbishop W.G. Broughton and the fate of the Tasmanian Aborigines


History Seminar Series

Start Date

19th Apr 2018 4:00pm

End Date

19th Apr 2018 5:00pm


Room 548 Humanities Building, Sandy Bay Campus

RSVP / Contact Information

ALL WELCOME. For enquiries, please contact Dr Kristyn Harman

History Seminar_Chapman_28 Sep 17

About the Seminar

In Van Diemen’s Land in 1830, confronted with the crisis which was to lead to the ‘Black Line” military operation, Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur, perturbed by a conflict in which he felt “all aggression originated with the white inhabitants”, and anxious to leave “no stain upon my administration”, convened a committee to review the situation.  This was the Aborigines Committee and was chaired by then Archdeacon W.G. Broughton. Whilst noting the Aborigines had been provoked by the white colonists it nevertheless concluded, extraordinarily, that “acts of violence on the part of the Natives are generally regarded not as retaliatory … but as proceeding from a wanton and savage spirit inherent in them” and that this was the real source of the conflict.

In 1838 the Myall Creek Massacre occurred in New South Wales when some 22 Aboriginal people were killed by shepherds. The government responded by enforcing a trial which resulted in the execution of 7 shepherds, an episode which polarized bitter division within the colony. In these circumstances (not unlike Arthur in 1830) Governor Gipps commissioned a committee to consider the matter of the expatriation of the Tasmania Aborigines to New South Wales (of which Port Phillip was then a district). Remarkably, the Committee was again chaired by Broughton, having now become Bishop of Australia. Some partisan witnesses appeared before it who had earlier opposed the execution of the murderers at Myall Creek. More remarkably the committee concluded with almost the same words appearing above Broughton’s signature in 1830, “the same evil disposition may be lurking in their minds”.

The question arises how far did Broughton (and others) contribute to the colonial mentality which made successful reconciliation with the Aborigines all but impossible in the 1830s? 

About the Presenter

Adjunct Associate Professor Peter Chapman is General Editor of the resumed series of Historical Records of Australia, and through editing the volumes which cover the Black Line Operation and the expatriation of the Aborigines, is interested in the associated issues arising from these events.