46[“Cattle Killing in the North”, The West Australian, Monday 15 January 1912, page 8]




The attention of the Commissioner of police (Captain Hare) was on Saturday drawn to a report in that day’s “West Australian” stating that cattle killing by natives in the North was becoming exceedingly rife, and that recent police instructions were considered to be a farce. “My reports,” said the Commissioner, “show that cattle killing is going on to a certain extent, but the police are faced with great difficulties in their efforts to check it. If they arrest natives for cattle killing the owners and managers of stations will not go into Court to prosecute, although they know that the old system under which the police were allowed to prosecute in such cases has been abolished. It seems to me that the station-owners and managers of the Kimberley district expect the Government to take all the trouble and incur all the expense of such prosecutions without going to any expense or trouble themselves. The police are willing to do as much as they can to suppress the depredations, but are hampered by the refusals of the owners to take proceedings against the natives.

“On December 23 last I received a letter from Mr. J. H. Noble, secretary of the W.A. Pastoralists’ Association, stating that a complaint had been received by him in regard to depredations by natives at La Grange Bay, and that his informant had asserted that gaol was only a pleasure resort, and not a place of correction for natives. The letter also stated that the native question was more serious now than it had been at any time during the past five years. I replied to Mr. Noble on December 24, requesting him to let me know the nature of the depredations referred to in his letter, and whether they were confined to the locality mentioned. I have only just received a reply to that communication, and I do not feel inclined to discuss it until I have had an opportunity of studying its contents.

“If,” the Commissioner continued, “station-owners would employ more white labour, and look after their stock better, they would find that the natives would not make so many depredations as they are alleged to be making at the present time. I know for a fact that on some stations there is no supervision over the stock, which is mustered only once every six months. It would seem that many owners expect the police to act as boundary riders, and look after their stock for them.”



Mr. Arthur Male, M.L.A., who is familiar with the conditions in the north-west, remarked to a representative of the “West Australian” on Saturday that cattle killing by the natives was as bad as ever it was, more particularly round and beyond the Leopold Ranges country, which has been opened up within comparatively recent years. During his trip up there, in August and September last, Mr. Male made inquiries at the stations and along the track, the answers being in each case to the effect that the natives were very troublesome indeed. They appeared to enter upon the depredations almost as a hunting relaxation, and on killing animals rarely removed more than the tongue and kidneys. The number killed, however, was small in comparison with those injured and rendered wild and untractable through continuous chasing. Being unfenced country the natives forced the cattle into gorges and made onslaughts upon them with spears. It was difficult indeed to catch the offenders, on account of the vast extent of country to be traversed. Mr. Male considers that a station and depot, similar to those at Hall’s Creek for the supply of meat to the blacks should be established in the Leopold Ranges country. If that method failed to prevent the depredations, other means should be enforced to protect the squatters against heavy losses. He understood the police instructions were that unless offenders were caught red-handed, the police would take no action. The Aborigines Department probably considers the fact that only a few natives were in prison spoke well for the system of dealing with them, but in the opinion of squatters, while the present indiscriminate killing continues, it is taken to be a sign of the reverse. In any case, prison did not seem to teach any salutary lesson to the offenders, many of whom seemed to enjoy the temporary incarceration, and certainly came out fatter than when they went in. If the north west cattle country is to go ahead, Mr. Male considers that something should be done to protect the squatters.