Notions of civilisation and the project to 'civilise' Aborigines in South Australia in the 1840s

Anne Elizabeth Scrimgeour

    Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


    Throughout the 1840s the dispossession of the Indigenous people of South Australia through colonisation was accompanied by the implementation of a 'civilising' project aimed at achieving their incorporation into colonial society. Attempts made in the years following the colony's foundation in 1836 to induce Indigenous men and women to adopt a European lifestyle were quickly abandoned as the focus of the project shifted to the education of children. The school that was established in the colony's capital, Adelaide, in 1839 was a collaboration between the colonial administration, through the agency of a Protector of Aborigines, and German Lutheran missionaries who had been invited to South Australia to undertake the Christianisation component of the project. Initially the collaboration was unproblematic, but with the appointment of George Grey as governor in 1841 the administration's approach began to diverge from that of the missionaries. Although these differences of approach were in part politically driven, they were also underpinned by different ideological positions of the missionaries and the governor respectively, particularly with relation to the notion of 'civilisation'. While the missionaries and Grey held common beliefs and assumptions about the nature of human difference which underpinned their shared belief in the moral and practical imperative, and the feasibility of undertaking the 'civilising' project, they held different ideas about the 'civilisation' that was the objective of their efforts, and about the means that should be employed to achieve their goal. This article compares George Grey's view of 'civilisation' with those of the German missionaries, to develop an understanding how these views impacted on the form of education provided to Aboriginal children.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)35-46
    JournalHistory of Education Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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