Telling Places in Country (TPIC)

Robinson's Biography

Background to Friendly Mission

George Augustus Robinson

George Augustus Robinson (1791-1866), emigrated from Britain to Australia in 1823-1824. Shortly after his arrival in Hobart he became involved with the local Methodist community, through which he gained employment as a bricklayer/brickmaker. He was, however, careful to also maintain his attachments to the established Church.

Robinson was appointed 'Storekeeper' at Bruny Island in March 1829, a position he won because of his connections to the Church Missionary Society, London. Robinson was employed to distribute rations to the local Aborigines, but he also took it upon himself to attempt to educate the children (using the Bell's system), and to introduce Christianity to them.

By late January 1830 Robinson had departed on a mission to Port Davey, the first of his 'Friendly Missions'. These 'Missions' ultimately led to the removal of the majority of the Aboriginal people from the mainland of Tasmania to the islands in the north east, and later to Oyster Cove. The removal is now a hotly contested subject, with Robinson's motives, role, and actions being much revisited and debated.

In 1838 Robinson left Tasmania for Port Phillip, Victoria, where he was appointed the 'Chief Protector of Aborigines'. By 1849, however, the Protectorate system had failed. After a brief visit to Tasmania in 1851 (during which Robinson paid a final, disconcerting visit to the remaining Aborigines at Oyster Cove), he departed for his homeland.

After remarrying in London in 1853, Robinson toured the continent and spent time in Paris. In 1858 he retired to Bath, where he purchased a house high on Widcombe Hill. It was at this house, 'Prahran', that he spent his final years. During this time Robinson organised his papers in order to write an account of his work in Tasmania (including a vocabulary), but died before it could be written. He is buried at Bath Abbey Cemetery with his second wife and two of their children.

Jacqui Darcy