From the Melbourne Argus, 18 March 1939. My great Uncle, George Patten, speaking on behalf of black Australia, a few days after the arrest of his brother, Jack (my grandfather), at Cummeragunja.
PLEA FOR ABORIGINES
Moved by an aborigine's description ofconditions among his people, MelbourneUniversity students yesterday decided toapproach the Premier of New South Wales to seek an independent inquiry into the administration of the Aborigines' Protection Board.
Mr. George Patten addressing members of the University Labour Club said that although aborigines were retarded in their education and allowed to rise only to the third grade, they had shown marked aptitude for education at the mission stations. Dr. Donald Thomson was he said, the only anthropologist to plead for them but his suggestions had not been accepted by the Government.
More on the Cummeragunja Walk-Off, from the Melbourne Argus, Saturday, March 11, 1939.
NSW MISSION STATION
ECHUCA, Friday. Intense interest was shown by a large crowd which assembled at the Moama Court today when John Thomas Patten, compositor, of Redfern, Sydney, was charged with having enticed and persuaded Aborigines to leave the Cummeragunga Mission Station, at Barmah (N.S.W.).
Patten, who pleaded not guilty, wasconvicted and discharged on enteringInto a recognisance to be of good behaviour for three months.
First-constable Arthur McAvoy, ofMoama, said that he visited Cummeragunga on February 3, and told Patten about inquiries being made into the manager's complaints that Aborigines had been pursuaded to leave the station. Patten replied, "They are being starved." Patten produced a letter signed, "Secretary, Aboriginal Protection board," authorising a visit to the reserve to address meetings.
When told that he had no authority to tell Aborigines that the reserve wouldbe made a compound, Patten replied that he had that morning telegraphed to the Premier and others that Aborigines were leaving because of victimisation and starvation.
Constable McAvoy described the arrestof Patten, and said that as the policecar departed Patten shouted, "Go to it,boys! Now Is your chance to leave thereserve. I will get all the publicity I want now!" The crowd was hostile, andtrouble might have occurred.
Arhur James McQuiggin, manager ofthe station, said that he was presentwith Constable McAvoy when Patten said that the Aborigines were being intimidated, victimised, and starved. Two families had left after the meeting.
Patten said that as President of theAborigines' Progressive Association, hehad never tried to induce residents ofCummeragunga to leave the reserve. Hebelieved that the people left because ofintimidation by the manager "who droveround with a rifle on his lorry and lookedat them in a hostile manner."
Mr. Hawkins said that he was satisfiedwith the police evidence, which evidencefor the defence had corroborated. Hebelieved that Patten frightened and incited people with the Inevitable consequences that they left. The Aboriginal problem was certainly very difficult, and he gave Patten credit for honestly trying to do his best for his own people although he had adopted a hopelessly wrong method. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12106282
Over the next few weeks I’ll be presenting a series of articles. Each will be among those that I’ve found relating to various ancestors whose lives have been recorded in some small way, in the online newspaper archives of the National Library of Australia.
Due to the poor quality of some of the article scans, I’ll be reproducing the transcripts that I’ve placed onto the archive site.
In chronological order, I'll begin by posting the articles relating to the struggles at Cummeragunja (various spelling variants), and the eventual walk-off by a majority of the residents following my grandfather's arrest.
The following article is from the Melbourne Argus, Saturday - 4 March, 1939.
Natives Leave Station
SYDNEY, Friday. Reference to unrest at the Cummerogunga Aboriginal station which had resulted in the departure of several Aborigines, was made in the Legislative Assembly today.
The Chief Secretary (Mr Gollan) was asked by Mr Davidson (Industrial Labour, Cobar) whether he had called for a report and if not whether he would have an independent inquiry regarding Aborigines who had left the Cummeragunga aboriginal station and crossed the Murray River into Victoria and whether they had migrated to Victoria because of mental hardship imposed upon them by the Administration.
Mr Lawson (UCP, Murray) asked Mr Gollan vvhether he would inquire whether a good deal of the trouble was due to a person from Sydney visiting the area and causing trouble. If so would he take steps to see that there was no repetition of it.
Mr Gollan replied that there had been a little unrest at the Aboriginal station but it was not a fact that the Aborigines had moved because of unkind treatment. It was due to a great extent to a certain man who had been given permission to address the Aborigines at the station. He had had that permission cancelled.
He added that every consideration had been shown to the Aborigines and if they returned to the station they would be treated in the same generous manner as the Aborigines at other stations. This particular man named Patten, who was not a full-blooded Aborigine, would be brought before the Court on March 10.
As per usual, I’m late with my reply to the ‘Saturday Night Genealogy Fun’, as has been dished up by Randy Seaver over on his blog, but as everyone knows; it’s never too late to have fun!
In his latest offering, Randy asked:
1) Pick one of your four great-grandparents - if possible, the one with the most descendants.
2) Create a descendants list for those great-grandparents either by hand or in your software program.
3) Tell us how many descendants, living or dead, are in each generation from those great-grandparents.
4) How many are still living? Of those, how many have you met and exchanged family information with? Are there any that you should make contact with ASAP? Please don't use last names of living people for this - respect their privacy.
5) Write about it in your own blog post, in comments to this post, or in comments or a Note onFacebook.
1.I’ve chosen my great grandparent’s on my direct paternal line, John James PATTEN b. 1874 – d. 1942, and Christina Mary MIDDLETON b. 1885 – d. 1954.
2.I made a descendant chart in Family Tree Maker 2006 (I’ve tried every later version, and still prefer 2006).
3.Their descendants, as best as I can tell, number in each generation as follows:
1.Children: 16 (none living, last died in 1983)
2.Grand Children: 26
3.Great Grand Children:39
4.2 x Great Grand Children: 37
5.3 x Great Grand Children: 5
4.With every generation there are gaps yet to be filled. Records have clearly pointed to my great parents having had 16 children, with only 6 of those having reached adulthood, but I can find records naming only 11 of the children.
The grand children are easiest to trace, but I know that there are still gaps in this generation.
I’ve met most of those that are still living, from each generation.
A busy few weeks, I’ve been dividing my time between work, studies and calm birth classes (we’re currently at week 29), so there hasn’t been a lot of time for genealogy. Despite that, I have slipped in a few moments here and there, including some time dedicated to helping a friend with her own research inquiry.
I’ve been digging through New South Wales and Victorian Police and Government Gazettes among other files, hoping to find traces of my great grandfather, and I’ve had some success, although, as expected I didn’t come across his photo anywhere.
Apparently, a photo of my great grandfather at one stage was on the wall of the police station at West Wyalong, in Western NSW, where he served as a tracker, but today there appears to be no trace. Hopefully that photo still exists, somewhere, and hasn’t been thrown out, like many photos are, ever so thoughtlessly.
My favourite site for research at the moment is the Australian newspapers website http://newspapers.nla.gov.au I’ve been checking it out, on and off since its inception, but until recently it has been of very limited use, containing a limited number of newspapers, focused on a particular swag of years, which are less than helpful.
That however has been changing lately with the introduction of Argus newspapers from Melbourne, and a greater number of files from the Canberra Times. In the last two days I’ve also noticed that the Sydney Morning Herald files for late 1842 to about 1846 (possibly further) are also coming online, once they have been checked for quality.
The Argus files have been a goldmine, with many articles dedicated to both my grandfather, “Jack” John Thomas PATTEN and his younger brother George Middleton PATTEN. Most articles relate to the Cummeragunja Walk-Off of 1939, the Aboriginal Day of Mourning, and both brothers speaking about Aboriginal Australia, pushing for citizen’s rights and for a chance to determine their own futures. In addition, I also found a few mentions of George having been an actor in a play.
I’ve yet to really find much on my mother’s side of the family in the archive, but I’m sure that I’ll be more successful as more editions of the Sydney newspapers and those from Western NSW come online.