Ghost Dreaming

George Augustus Robinson

George Augustus Robinson (22 March 1791October 18 1866) was a builder and untrained preacher. He was the Chief Protector of Aborigines in Port Phillip District (now known as the state of Victoria) from 1839 to 1849. Prior to his appointment as the Chief Protector of Aborigines by the Colonial Office in Great Britain, he had been called upon to mount a "friendly mission" to find the 300 remaining aboriginals in Tasmania.

Early life in England

Robinson was born on 22 March 1791 to William Robinson, a builder, and Susannah née Perry. He married Maria Amelia Evans on 28 February 1814 and had five children in the next ten years. He decided to emigrate and sailed for Hobart Town, Australia on the Triton arriving in January 1824 and setting up as a builder. His wife and five children joined him in April 1826.

Time in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania)

Conflicts between settlers and Tasmanian Aborigines had vastly increased during the 1830s, which became known as the Black War. Robinson was to be brought in as a conciliator. His mission was to repatriate the Aboriginals to the camp of Wybalenna on Flinders Island.

Robinson befriended Truganini, to whom he promised food, housing and security on Flinders Island until the situation on the mainland had calmed down. With Truganini, Robinson succeeded in forging an agreement with the Big River and Oyster Bay peoples, and by the end of 1835, nearly all the aboriginals had been relocated to the new settlement.

Robinson's involvement with the Tasmanian Aboriginals ended soon after this, though, and the Wybalenna settlement became more akin to a prison as the camp conditions deteriorated and many of the residents died of ill health and homesickness. Because of this, Robinson's place in history is generally viewed as negative, especially within the current Aboriginal community. Most historians agree that his initial intentions were genuine, but his abandonment of the community is viewed as a turning point for the worse for the Tasmanian Aboriginals.

Chief Protector of Aborigines in Port Phillip (Victoria)

Robinson became Chief Protector of Aborigines in March 1839, managing the Protectorate of Port Phillip with the help of four Assistant Protectors, William Thomas, James Dredge, Edward Parker and Charles Sievwright. Maria, Robinson's wife died in 1848, the Protectorate was abolished on 31 December 1849 and in 1852 he returned to England.

His journals are regarded as amongst the most important of early documents of the early years of Victoria, being significant for its observations on Koorie culture, early Melbourne personalities, landscape and settler society.

Return to Europe

In 1853 Robinson got remarried to Rose Pyne, they spent the next few years living in Europe before returning to England in 1858. Robinson died on 18 October 1866 in Bath.

Semi-fictional accounts of Robinson's travels are included in Matthew Kneale's book English Passengers and in T.C. Boyle's short story "The Extinction Tales". There is a reference to Robinson in the book "The Lost Diamonds of Killiecrankie" by Gary Crew and Peter Gouldthorpe. Robert Drewes' 'Savage Crows' also incorporates the work of Robinson into the plot. See also Mudrooroo's critical portrayal of Robinson in Doctor Wooreddy's Prescription for Enduring the Ending of the World, Master of the Ghost Dreaming and his Vampire Trilogy: The Undying, Underground and The Promised Land.


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