39[“Treatment of the Aborigines”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 03 February 1905, page 6]
TREATMENT OF THE ABORIGINES.
DR. ROTH’s REPORT SUPPORTED.
Interviewed with regard to Dr. Roth’s report on the condition of the natives, Mr. H.C. Prinsep, Chief Protector of the Aborigines, said:—
“I do not mind saying that the report echoes to a great extent what I have for some years been pressing upon the Legislature. There may be some few Incidents here referred to that are now seeing light for the first time, but the great bulk of information has already been known to the department, and as much action taken as its powers permitted. It may be said that after so many years, and with the knowledge at hand, the department should have repressed tho evils which are rife, but without power legally the department is thrown back upon its moral strength, and this has been exercised in many cases almost to the point of bounce. The police and very few of the public generally have been found willing to help, and they have been worked as far as possible. I have tried to devise means of quelling the evils by moderate action. A man would be a fool who thought he could stop these evils altogether in a country so large, and so full of hidden fastnesses as is this State, but by restricting the employment of natives to reliable people, and by preventing interference or intercourse with the natives by unreliable people, as sections of the Act aim at, is in my opinion the best way of gradually bringing those irresponsible, but some day useful people to a higher level. It is no use being tho protector of a race in name without being so in fact; and it is very galling to feel that one knows of all sorts of things which need correction without having the power to take one step to insist on that correction. With regard to the charges against the police, this is a matter on which I have frequently approached tho Commissioner, but, as I have to depend entirely upon the courtesy of that department to carry out nearly all my official work of charity and relief in sickness and distress, it is very difficult for me to pat with one hand and to slap with the other. If I were threatened by a refusal of the police and squatters to help me carry out my duties I should be in a sorry plight.”
The Commissioner of Police, commenting today on Mr. Prinsep’s endorsement of Dr. Roth’s report on the aborigines question, said:—
“If my memory serves me rightly, I have never heard any complaint by Mr. Prinsep, except one, a few days ago. I asked him to send along a specific charge, but up to the present I have heard nothing further of the matter. No one knows better than he that the police are bound by the law and commanded to assist him in his work. I certainly never expected to have to combat wandering statements by a brother officer.”
With reference to the statements of the Commissioner of Police at Perth that the evidence was secured from the riff-raff of the north in connection with his inquiry into the condition of the aborigines, Dr. Roth points out that evidence was taken from Inspectors and members of the police force, gaolers, magistrates. Government medical officers, and even from the Commissioner of Police himself.
I love this final observation re “the riff-raff of the north.”