Article 4 & the Bendhu Atrocity

“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

-Article 4, Universal Declaration of Human Rights


as reported in the West Australian Sunday Times
(Perth, WA : Sunday 2 June 1901)







The Melbourne “Age”, dealing with
the standing scandal connected with
the mockery of “protection” of the
aborigines as administered in this
State, says:-“Since we drew atten-
tion a fortnight ago to the inhuman
treatment of the Western Australian
blacks, the subject has been taken
up by several correspondents. Their
letters strongly support the contention
that the condition of the aboriginal
inhabitants of the Western State is
one which calls for inquiry; while the
almost contemptuous attitude adopted
by Sir John Forrest on the subject
furnishes additional reasons in favour
of action by the Federal authorities.”
It is well known that the daily papers
in Perth will not publish letters on

The Cruelties Perpetrated

upon the aboriginals by Nor’ West
squatters. The columns of the “Age”
however, and, we need scarcely say,
the columns of this paper are open to
all who will humanely endeavour to
mitigate the physical sufferings and
allay the mental agonies of an unfort-
unate race against whom a cruel
“civilisation” has declared a relentless
war of extermination. The notorious
Bendhu murders by the brothers
Anderson were referred to in the
“Age,” and Sir John Forrest had him-
self interviewed there. He gave
himself away most lamentably. He
set up the miserable defence, that
because the Andersons were natives of
Victoria, W.A. could not be held res-
ponsible for the disgrace attaching to
the Bendhu Atrocity, and that the
blacks were not treated more harshly
in the Western State than they had
been elsewhere. This line of argument
provoked the ire of the Melbourne
Press, and Sir John’s broad shoulders
have since then had to bear the
flagellation which they richly deserve.
For the information of many of our
readers who may not have heard of
this Anderson case we will briefly sum
it up : Two brothers of that name
owned a station in the Nor’ West.
Five aboriginals whom they “owned,”
or appropriated, attempted to escape
from their

Illegal Bondage.

the brothers tracked them to the next
station, 40 miles away, chained them
by their necks to their saddles, and
dragged them back to their “home”
station. No water was allowed them
on the way, or even when they reached
their destination. They were then
flogged with a knotted rope, with the
result that three of them–a man and
two women–died. The other two
(girls of 10 and 12 years respectively),
after they had been mercilessly beaten,
were turned adrift in such a condition
that death would have been a mercy.
After several abortive efforts, the
Andersons were at length arrested by
order of the Government yielding to
pressure, and were brought to trial on
a charge of murder. One of them died
in gaol before the trial. It came out
in evidence against the surviving
brother–Ernest–that the man, and
one of the women killed, had each a
shoulder blade broken, and that both
shoulder blades of the other woman
had been smashed. No defence was
offered, counsel contenting himself
with pleading that since a knotted
rope could not be expected to cause
death the offence must be considered
as manslaughter. Although Chief
Justice Onslow in his summing up
“felt it his duty to tell the jury that
the attempt to reduce the crime to
manslaughter had absolutely failed,”
yet the lesser verdict was returned,
and then the Chief Justice once more
stigmatised the crime “as nothing but
a brutal, base, and cruel murder–the
murder of a man, two women, and the
flogging of two mere girls.” Anderson
was sentenced to the highest penalty
within the power of the judge to

Servitude for Life.

This act of justice was an accident.
Had the Government not been urged
to take action, nothing would have
come out of it, and this unspeakable
atrocity would have been buried in
oblivion as, we may fairly presume,
hundreds of cases of its kind, have
been before and since. Had the
Andersons but stayed their hands a
little, and had their unfortunate vic-
tims been flogged and tortured within
an inch of their lives, the outside
world would have known nothing about
it. The hushing up business in the Nor’
-West is of daily occurrence. If the
blacks in their exasperation turn upon
their tormentors and yield to the
instincts of revenge, the whole world
is immediately apprised of it ;
but the crime and cruelties com-
mitted against them by the brutalised
white man are conveniently kept in
the dark. When the Andersons were
brought before the local court they
were fined £2 and cautioned not to be
so severe in future. The inquest on
the dead blacks was just like that on
Durack–nothing but a sham. It was
described by the Chief Justice as “not
a verdict of sensible men.” Besides
this there had been two trials, the first
jury, although there was no defence at
all, failing to agree, whilst the second
brought in a verdict of manslaughter
only, in defiance of the judge’s legal
definition. “The difficulty,” says the
“Age,” “in getting a pair of

Inhuman Scoundrels

adequately punished for their brutal
savagery is “prima facie” evidence that
the original owners of the soil are not
treated fairly by the white men who
have dispossessed them ; that Western
justice, if blind, is not color blind. Sir
John Forrest is too astute to imagine
that this contention is in any degree
affected whether the Andersons were
new arrivals or old residents,–whether
they were born in the West or had

[column 2]

come from Victoria.” Sir John Forrest
did not attempt to absolutely deny,
when questioned in Melbourne, that
gangs of blackfellows have been worked
on the Roebourne-Cossack tramway
with chains round their necks. He
said he thought their hands were
chained to the barrows ; and that is
not so. He attempted to excuse the
inhumanity by saying that if they were
not so chained, they would run away.
Comment is unnecessary. It is evi-
dent that the place where it is neces-
sary to chain human beings by the
neck and compel them to work for
paltry offences, must be nothing short
of a hell upon earth. A correspon-
dent states that he has worked among
the blacks on the Cossack to Roe-
bourne road, where almost all the
work is done by the “niggers.” They
are compelled to work in the broiling
sun all day, with a white boss stand-
ing over them,

Carrying Heavy Chains

around their necks, and if they once
flinch or complain, they are reported to
head quarters and their tobacco js [sic]
stopped if they are fortunate enough
to get the usual allowance of
one stick of twist per week.
On some of the stations in the Roe-
bourne district–the district where
Mr. “Protector” Prinsep would have
“Banjo” and “Roger” “sat upon” by a
jury–the blacks do all the shearing.
A white shearer cannot get a chance
there at all. The blacks earn 13s. per
man per day and get nothing for their
labour but starvation fare–a piece of
damper and a lump of mutton. Our
informant is prepared to take oath
that the above statements are true, as
well as the following :–He was once
shearing on a station in the Roebourne
district where 40 blacks were at work.
The area of the station was about
1,000,000 acres. lt was managed by
one white man as overseer, and another

[column break]

white man as “nigger” boss.
This latter was a big powerful man. On
one occasion he called a black fellow
to come to him, and without any pro-
vocation kicked him until he left him
to all appearances: lying dead on the
ground. Such atrocities as this are of
almost daily occurrence in the land of

Sin and Sorrow,

for which Connor, M.LA., wants
more police protection. It is gratify-
ing and significant that our represen-
tatives in the Federal Parliament–
Sir John Forrest being the only excep-
tion–have the matter in hand, and
are demanding a Royal Commission of
Enquiry in reference to the subject
of the treatment of the blacks in this
State. This course is specially grati-
fying to the SUNDAY TIMES, which has
never missed an opportunity of expos-
ing the iniquities of the meat mongers
of the North, whose total extermina-
tion would be a blessing to the white
race as well as to the black. There
are a few honorable exceptions, and
only a few. A Mr. Hancock, who is
a squatter in that land of Canaan,
has assured the writer that he has never,
during the course of many years, had
the slightest trouble with the aborigi-
nals, and that if treated humanely
they will give no trouble. Mr.
Hann, perhaps the best qualified in
the State to give an opinion on the
matter, says the same. Our represen-
tatives in the Federal Parliament
have been supplied with information
incriminating the prospector in this


have been chained to trees for days
and fed on salt beef in order to force
them to find water. We will not
deny that such a course in extreme
necessity is justifiable. But they do
far worse. On of our informants,
Mr. Hancock, assures us that the fol-
lowing is a matter of common occur-

[column 3]

rence in the Nor’-West :–Several
prospectors, well subsidised by wealthy
companies, come along. One of them
purchases a horse not worth more than
£10 in the market. He pays £25 or
more for it, and a young gin is selec-
ted–sold, in fact–and carried off by
the prospector. What becomes of her
finally no person can tell. One thing
is certain. She never returns to her
own country. She is sold from hand
to hand like any other chattel. It is
fully time we had a Royal Commission
of Enquiry. It is fully time, also,
that the so-called “Protection” Depart-
ment in this State were wiped out of
existence altogether.

Aboriginal prisoners in chains are photographed outside Roebourne Gaol., Western Australia. 1896

Aboriginal prisoners in chains are photographed outside Roebourne Gaol., Western Australia. 1896


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