State Library of Victoria \ Dig: the Burke & Wills research gateway
Skip to main content
» "Blacks and Exploration"

"Blacks and Exploration"

Transcribed from The Argus, 10 July 1861, p. 5
View this article online at the National Library's "Australian Newspapers" website

To the Editor of the Argus 

Sir, - Will you give publicity to what I have to say relating to the exploring party?

Some eight months ago I saw Mr. Burke and party leave here on their arduous undertaking, for arduous I admit it to be. 

I then stated that the end would be grief, as I plainly saw the men were not up to the achievement of the great task they had undertaken; for they omitted one of their most essential requirements, and which men accustomed to their work never would have been guilty of – they neglected to take blacks with them. Such men as Leichhardt, Mitchell, Kennedy, and others, knew too well the worth of the natives, in bush travelling, to go without them. 

For the truth of what I state I refer you to history, for even the aboriginals are historical. In what position would the lamented Leichhardt have been, in hundreds of instances, had blacks not been of the party? 

The only man saved out of Kennedy’s party was the black Jaka Jaka; and Sir Thomas Mitchell in all his expeditions had blacks with him.

I am so convinced of the valuable services of these men on such expeditions, that I would never think of starting without them; and had Mr. Burke taken these men with him, both himself and his party would have been in a different position at this moment; we should not have to send relieving parties after him. 

Well known to every old colonist, who has travelled in Australia, is the inestimable value of the blacks - their intuitive instinct in finding water, food, in tracking, and their knowledge of the habits of other tribes, and their facility of obtaining information from them, which is perfectly out of the power of the whites to do, unless half aboriginals themselves by training – something like the volunteers are like soldiers of the line. 

And now, Sir, to show you what faith is (by experience), I would start for the Gulf of Carpentaria to morrow, with a party of eight (four whites and four blacks), at one-tenth of the cost of the late expedition. Yes; accomplish it, too. There should be no “ifs” in the case; succeed I would. 

I beg to remain yours faithfully,

SOHOBEN