Daly River (1886-1899)

Also known as: 
Queen of the Holy Rosary Station, Old Uniya (1886-1891) Sacred Heart Mission, Serpentine Lagoon (1889-1891) St. Joseph's Mission, Uniya (1891-1899) Nauiyu

On the 'barbarous frontier' of the Daly River Austrian Jesuits conducted three missions on the Paraguayan model of Reductions, exercising intransigence and straining to suppress contact with Chinese, but were neither able nor willing to support their residents year-round.



Life on the Daly


After rich copper deposits were discovered near Mt. Haywood in 1882, a mining settlement emerged at the Daly River supplied by regular services from Darwin. Woolwonga people were employed around the mine-site and it was most likely Woolwonga who killed four Europeans on 3 September 1884. This was avenged by the infamous Coppermine massacres led by the mine manager Sachse and others over several years, decimating the Malak-Malak and almost annihilating the Woolwonga people of the Pine Creek/Mount Bundy area. Possibly 150 Aboriginal people were killed in reprisals at Blackfellow Creek on the boundary of Sachse's property.1 In March 1888 Sachse was still waging a war on the Woolwonga according to the Daly River mission diary, and many of them settled near the mission.2 Charlie Yingi, one of the four Aboriginal men sentenced to death for the Coppermine killing also settled at the mission. He had been cleared of the charge in a re-trial with a Chinese prisoner as interpreter. The legal defence of double jeopardy saved the others from the death sentence, but two of them died in custody and the third was jailed in Adelaide.3


The coppermines bounced from boom to bust with a high staff turnover and by mid-1895 they were deserted.4 A number of German speakers were associated with them, such as Harry Scholl, Albert Droscher (who replaced Sachse as mine manager) and Joachim Brenner, the captain of the steamer supplying the mine. Chinese market gardeners established themselves close to the mine to supply the Europeans with fresh fruit and vegetables5, and Chinese-Aboriginal sexual liaisons became the stuff of local legend.6 There were also violent encounters between Chinese and Aborigines, such as in August 1884 and April 1890.7 When the Europeans were leaving the mine the Chinese began to orientate themselves more towards the mission and the indigenous people in the Daly, buying and selling produce and food, and doing contract work for the mission. Peter Forrest claims that in 1892 there were only two Europeans besides the Jesuits on the Daly.8


When the Jesuit mission closed in 1899 the Daly River Cattle Station (later Tipperary) started up and copper mining resumed. Most projects in the Daly, including the mines, the missions, and the farms lasted around a decade each. Aboriginal people had to adjust quickly to the opportunities and dangers they offered, and without the wise counsel of Elders with prior experience in such things. Life expectancy was, at any rate low. Of the oldest men appearing in the Daly River mission diary, Barramundi was still producing offspring, and 'old Bede' died at age 55.



 Jesuits at Daly River
 The first and last image of New Uniya, taken in June 1899 (presumably by Fr. O'Brien)
when Fr. Milz announced that the mission was to be given up.

Back: Brothers Scharmer, Haelbig, Melzer, Longa, Girschnik, Pfalzer

Middle: Fathers Marschner, Milz, Conrath, Fleury

Seated: 'houseboys' and schoolboys

Source: David Strong SJ The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-1998,
Archives of the Society of Jesus, 1999:236.


Jesuit mission policy


The Jesuits thought of their stations as Reductions, on the model of Jesuit missions in Paraguay. The idea was to form a core community of Christians couples by allocating small agricultural blocks. At New Uniya these were on three lots, each subdivided into four two-acre plots, making room for (ideally) twelve couples of 'colonists', each with their own small garden and hut, which the men were supposed to build themselves. The couples had to adhere to monogamous marriage and send their children to the school. They were not maintained by the mission but were given tobacco, and sometimes flour. These private spaces were organised around communal spaces including a communal kitchen, a school and church (or chapel), dormitories for school children and a school garden, as well as workshops and machinery for irrigation. The main building accommodating the Fathers and Brothers was fenced and gated, forming a clausura. Adults other than colonists were seasonally employed as workers, to clear bush, fell timber, erect buildings, herd goats, carry provisions, and other work as required, and lived in camps outside the mission. Until 1891 school children also performed domestic chores and herded cows and horses,9 and some of the older boys worked as domestics. Entry to the Reduction was at the acquiescence of the mission superior, and colonists and children also required permission to leave. Bush food was the staple diet supplemented by purchased provisions such as flour, sugar and tea, and occasionally a goat or bullock from the mission herds. The gardens were to supply fresh fruit and vegetables like corn, potatoes, and bananas.


This orderly model was disrupted, of course, by all kinds of practical difficulty. The huts, for example, could not look like some humpy in a bush camp, they had to be of a certain standard and made from approved building materials like iron, wood, bamboo and sheet bark. The Aboriginal men were supposed to build them themselves, a coming of age ordeal to demonstrate their capacity to support a family. To practise, one man was given the job of erecting a roof over the path in front of the main residence, which collapsed four months later.10 As Deborah Rose observed, it was usually Fr. Kristen who finished the projects commenced by the men.11 The mission diary records that during January 1889 Kristen roofed Zachary's house, finished Joseph's hut, built huts for Daly and the widow Rosa, and finished the huts for Pine Creek and Finiss.


The missionaries judged the young men ready for marriage before they underwent circumcision. After they were married and settled into the colony the young men were called away for circumcision, which meant an absence without leave, sometimes of several months, so that by the time the young men returned, the missionaries had usually allocated their gardens to someone else. This short-stint agriculture did not promote the idea that gardening was a feasible economic alternative, it was merely something that the missionaries required as part of the daily activities.


The main source of food was at any rate bush-food like yams, yillik (waterlily), goose-eggs, kangaroo, geese, ducks, and an occasional crocodile (if it was not a man-eater). In one instance 120 fish were netted in one day at Woolianna12 and the Brothers devised ways of preserving fish with varying success. After moving to the New Uniya site the diary records that 'Since we came here in August nearly a year ago we have shot about 550 kangaroos, 600 geese, 30 pelicans and 50 ducks'.13 As Deborah Rose observed, this intensive resource use was not sustainable.14 The mission residents were eating themselves out of their ecological niche, and land-owning conflict between different groups erupted. Within a year the main source of yillik, at Nauerain, was exhausted. One day Fr. Kristen came back from Nauerain reporting that the Wagait had moved away 'as there is no food at their place, and that Nauerain is overtaxed'. The Wagait had posted men to guard the yillik patches because 'if they do not let outsiders come, there will be food there for a month. When this stock is exhausted, it is hard to see where the natives will find anything to live on this year'.15 The following month the mission children were shifted to another temporary site at Meryö, from which they returned after four weeks because the yillik was 'all eaten up'.16


The supply line provided by the Coppermine steamer and a Chinese sampan was unreliable and occasionally the missionaries desperately awaited their arrival. When Fr. Kristen was told during a hungry period that the sampan was not going to arrive for at least another two weeks he was moved to write 'So little do people think of us in our poverty!'17 At such times the missionaries felt compelled to send almost everyone away, having to make tough decisions about who could remain on the mission, usually the children and the most loyal colonists. Those who were sent away risked starvation.


At other times of the year, too, people came close to starvation in the bush. In March 1895 an absconding couple was recaptured 'in the jungle almost starving', and in September 1896 a woman was brought in 'nearly dead with starvation'.18 Rose comments that the ecology of the Daly region had already been seriously disrupted.19 All the more important was it to be on good terms with the mission. The difficulties and hardships for both the local people and the missionaries documented in the mission diary make it heart-rending reading.


1892 was a particularly difficult year. With the withdrawal of the government subsidy 'the economic state of the mission is very very serious'20 and by mid-year there was 'not a penny in the house'.21 The mission was without basic supplies like flour and sugar for weeks, and the missionaries were becoming ill from a diet consisting only of meat. Almost all residents had been sent away, but bush food was also scarce, and two of the most promising converts starved to death in the bush. It was a year of sickness, misery, grief, and guilt. The following year the Jesuits bent their iron policy and decided to hand out food (instead of tobacco only) to their workers.22


Marriage rules


Regulating marriage was a core mission policy. The Christian commitment to monogamous marriage placed young women in difficult positions, and much conflict ensued from competing claims over women. In June 1888 the missionaries proclaimed that schoolgirls could not be given in marriage by their parents without the consent of the missionaries. In August 1888 one of the women in the prime of her life returned three months after being taken by her husband to the Chinese camp, and 'she was barely recognisable, having been ruined in body and soul! The poor creature could scarcely look us in the face.'23 This triggered the missionaries into more drastic action. Three weeks later they had


29 August 1888: 'A memorable day. ... Fr. Conrath freed the girl Helen from her destined husband ... excessively stupid and quite on in years, to whom she had been promised by her father. This man, after he had been satisfied with a small gift of tobacco and a piece of vari-coloured cloth, resigned the girl publicly ...[naming all the witnesses]... swearing fidelity to this arrangement.'24


An intertribal council followed soon after, presumably to deliberate on how to respond to the mission policy. While Helena might have been freed from her tribal obligations, it left her vulnerable to claims from other men. At Helena's betrothal in January 1891 Fr. Conrath gave gifts to Helena's father 'which made him gladder still.'25 He seemed willing to accept further gifts from other men also. Perhaps the naming of Helena, over whom wars of almost Hellenic proportions were fought, was not entirely coincidental. Helena's wedding in 1892 was the first Christian marriage at New Uniya. Reconstructions of the lives of various residents from the mission diary (see Daly River Stories below) suggest that hardly any of the colonists were able to maintain an abiding commitment to monogamy.


Prohibitions and punishments


Attendance at ritual gatherings was not permitted. The Caramal (aka Karamalla) corroboree usually held in March/April at the Coppermine Landing (aka Paramalmal) drew the mission residents away from their usual tasks, and from attending mass, and was therefore liable to be punished.26 Fr. Conrath even broke up one event:


10 April 1898: 'Easter Sunday. At sunrise there was great shouting from the spectators of the Caramalla games, for which about 250 persons had assembled. A Father and Brother went to the place near the Reduction where the celebration was taking place and dispersed those taking part in the barbarous rites. As the colonists (all but 2) were present at these games, we held no public games at the Station, by way of penalty.'


More disturbing still was the Tyaboi festival. In August 1890 the mission men wanted to take some of the older girls along to the festival. Fr. Conrath firmly disallowed it. He suspected that the festival involved objectionable rites and commented later, when visiting a dying woman at Paramalmal:


20 April 1891: 'Her husband Jacky fell a victim to the diabolical Tyaboi. She had then led an evil life, and had contracted a horrible disease, from which she had been almost cured by medicines which we supplied.'


In 1893 the festival ran from 17th to 31st October:


17 Oct 1893: 'Tyaboi begins, and the fight of the devil with Christ for the blacks. Benbenyaga (blacks), Chinese garden, Chinese, Coppermines, all mixed up in it - so we have heard from a Christian boy sufficiently grown up to known, and various circumstances prove the evil that is going on.'


Deborah Rose adds that the Tyaboi most likely also referred to the Jesuits themselves. She explains that the Tyaboi, which was only celebrated every few years, and had disappeared by the 1930s, functioned as a contact cult to incorporate the new, unknown, and unpredictable in indigenous cosmology, and so to tame it. There had been questions raised at the mission about whether Jesus was a Malak-Malak, in other words, whose side he was on. Fr. McKillop ventured that the Tyaboi involved human sacrifice.27 Rose discounts this possibility but suspects that the 'evil spirit' (or Jin-man) to whom sacrifice might be made, was God himself, 'the Father who killed his own son', meaning that the concept of human sacrifice was actually introduced by the missionaries themselves. 28 A large cross had been erected on the mission hill beneath which the mission superior held his important speeches, and occasionally mission residents were 'called to the cross' individually to be lectured and corrected. Aboriginal people understood the massive cross as a device to hang them up as punishment.29 Images of Jesus on the cross and the invocation of God's wrath would have served to validate this idea.


The missionaries disapproved of the circumcision ritual. In the case of Anthony Taruak, one of the pillars of the colony, they resolved that 'As the ceremonies connected with circumcision are forbidden, Anthony Taruak did public penance for submitting to it'.30 They sought advice from the Provincial on the matter and received the reply that


19 May 1895: 'we are to do as we have hitherto done; i.e. regarding the adults not to interfere, regarding young men to dissuade them from the rite, and if anything is done in this connection which is in itself 'shameful and impure', to forbid it.'


The diary records one case of infanticide and several abortions disguised as still-births or other mysterious illness, for fear of punishment from the missionaries, who considered abortion a crime. For example, the 'premature birth' by the wife of Captain in January 1889 was revealed in February as an abortion, and Captain was sent away shortly afterwards.


11 January 1893: 'Dominic's wife has for some time been seriously ill. We learned that the cause of her trouble was an abortion. When she discovered that we knew of the crime she vanished, yesterday towards nightfall, with her husband's connivance, and even by his arrangement. Dominic, though admitting the abortion, told Fr. Conrath he knew nothing of his wife's going away. This was plainly a lie, as one of our Brothers saw him in the evening taking his wife to the river and signalling to a party on the opposite bank.'


Helena was found with symptoms described as disturbance of the menstrual flow accompanied by severe constipation and a chill - in other words presumably uterine bleeding, abdominal pain and a temperature.31 The death of Helena's mother Millie after a 'still-birth' was ascribed to 'unsatisfactory childbirth'.


Dismissal was the ultimate punishment, but other disciplinary measures included the demotion from colonist to worker, withholding tobacco rations that had been designated as reward for gardening, exclusion from Catholic rites, or physical punishment. In some cases offending men were given the choice of traditional punishment or delivery to the criminal justice system. Adulterous women were punished by their husbands and vice versa, and on the question of physical punishment for adults the missionaries and the indigenous people were often in agreement:


13 November 1890: 'Leo has reduced his wife to a more peaceful frame of mind by giving her a beating. She well deserved it, as for a long time she has been a burden to him, and to others too, by her constant quarrelling.'


12 August 1892: 'A Christian wife, who seduced a Christian boy, was given a beating. She wanted to leave, but her husband brought her back.'


8 September 1892: 'The wife, who did not show herself sufficiently on her husband's side, was beaten by him, to her great benefit.'


15 March 1895: 'Andrew is being punished by his wife.'


If young adults felt unjustly punished they left the mission in protest:


3 March 1897: 'Casey [a lay helper seeking admission to the novitiate] seems to have been imprudent in punishing the young men, which is not within his competence - hence they were discontented and left.'


14 March 1895: [the married woman] 'Dumboil was found with Paul and punished, and Paul too was soundly beaten. Enraged by this, he destroyed his garden and left the Station.'


22 June 1893: 'The matter [of a rape] was thrashed out, and when it had all become sufficiently clear punishment was meted out with a stick to the domestics [adolescent Aboriginal males]. Two of them submitted to it; the other two ran away.'


8 August 1892: 'three Hermithill youths were lightly punished for causing a disturbance yesterday evening during Benediction - this morning they went off after breakfast.'


Death, Dying, Magic and Sorcery


The Jesuits understood saving souls as their main task and spent much effort on deathbed baptisms, even dashing off in the middle of night.32 If they could not baptise someone before death they felt that they had 'let them down', and they much regretted if they arrived too late to give the necessary instructions and obtain the proper answers to perform the rite. Indigenous people were in general quite happy to take out this free next-world insurance at the last moment, but baulked at having their bodies consecrated according to Christian burial. They occasionally misled the missionaries about the whereabouts of the dead or dying so that a traditional burial could be performed.


13 Jan 1893: 'The boy died today at 10am. ... His father, against our express wish, took the body to the camp of the pagans across the river, and so deprived him of Christian burial.'


22 February 1897: 'News came of the death of Fanny Taitmiab ... Fr. Marschner, on Wednesday of last week, judging her to be in danger of death, went with the Holy Oils to the hut where she lived. As he was about to enter he saw that many others were running in to shelter from the rain which had begun to fall; so he decided, and said, that he would come back next day and bring her the sacraments, and also (as on previous days) her daily food. Next day, when about to go there, he heard that she had been taken to another place, Tyinkaverang, to be able to get fish there to eat. He promised tobacco both to the women and to the one who took her there if she were brought back again in the canoe. As she was not brought back, Fr. Marschner was on the point of going to her in the boat when he heard that she had died last Saturday. Such was her life, and such her death. R.I.P.'


The black frocks became recognised experts in death and dying, and they had powerful magic, including holy oils, holy waters, special incantations, relics, saints, and food taboos such as during Lent. Several people survived their deathbed baptism and Fr. Conrath felt that Catholic baptism could not only save the soul for the next life, but also prolong this life:


10 February 1897: 'His wife a year ago was near death, and after baptism (if not through baptism) was cured of her sickness in an almost miraculous way.'


17 June 1898: 'Bruno's infant son at Wunelen was baptised near death and is now recovering.'


Disobedience to God's rules could invoke His mortal blow, as was demonstrated with the death of 'old Bede' that was recorded with the comment:


31 June 1898: 'Nine weeks ago Fr. Conrath told this man not to go to the Karamala which is a pagan festival, threatening him with the punishment of Almighty God if he did go. "I shall go", said the native, "let God punish me".'


And so it came to pass. The Catholic spirit world could also be appealed to, to direct the fortunes of the mission. When the Fathers feared about the future of the mission and good news finally arrived, Fr. Conrath recorded that these outcomes 'are rightly attributed to the intercession of St. Joseph, the Patron of this Station'.33 Special incantations were deployed to combat epidemics:


12 February 1897: 'We have begun a novena to avert disease from our animals.'

20 February 1897: 'Today is a black day for us - it saw a bull and a cow dead of the same disease, though it is the last day of the novena.'


In times of flood a prayer to St. John and the 'A domo tua' against storms was added to the Litanies, and the relics of St. Nepomuk, protector from floods and drowning, gifted by the Archbishop of Prague, were exposed to halt the rising waters.34 The relics were also used, together with holy water and incantations of exorcism, when Helena had a fit:


13 November 1891: 'In the evening Helen [sic], the Christian girl, became deaf-mute ('nabba'). She seemed not to know what she was doing, made various gesticulations and rushed about the room. The other girls got hold of her and held her fast, and she collapsed on the ground. When questions were put to her she gave no answer, but simply stayed there with a look of astonishment, her eyes fixed in a strange stare. We used the prayers for private exorcism, the touching with relics, the sprinkling with holy water and giving it to her to drink - and finally she came to herself again and got back the use of speech and hearing. When she was then asked what was the cause of all this, she said it was a devil!'

14 February 1891: 'Helen is better and the effect of yesterday's obsession or diabolical influx (as it seems to be) are gradually leaving her.'


Fits of 'nabba' were quite common on the Daly. On 12 July 1893 Flora suddenly became 'nabba' 'owing to some strange affliction' and 'her husband affirms that she will stay like that for a day'. On 4 July 1894 the brother of a boy who had just died became 'nabba' 'with convulsive movements of his body, so that Fr. Conrath summoned the Christian adults to watch over him during the night'. On the evening of 5 April 1895 the boy Robert suddenly went 'nabba', and on 7 April 1895 it was recorded that Dominic had been 'nabba' for two weeks. Helena's father was called Nabba because he was deaf and mute.


The natural environment unleashed its own wonders. 'One of the goats gave birth to a monster with only one eye, and that in the middle of the forehead!'35 The mission community also witnessed the curious phenomenon of a fireball descending on the mission:


4 December 1895: 'During the heavy rain we heard a sudden crash accompanied by a brilliant light in the rooms of the house from the lighting - a fiery globe fell on the roof, from which it came down towards the verandah, following the iron sheeting to the water tank and so by the pipe to the ground very close to where Fr. McKillop, Fr. O'Brien and the boys were standing. God be thanked that it did not actually go on to the verandah itself, where about 30 to 40 workmen and the school children had taken refuge. After reaching the ground, the fire-ball made straight for the river; but when it came to the tree where the bell was hung it was attracted by the iron wire which we use to ring the bell. Led in this way on to the tree by the iron rope, it split into three parts, blazed and went out. This fire ball had a diameter of about 18 inches.'


Just before Christmas 1895 'a comet was seen yesterday in the west'.36 This surely triggered a lesson about the meaning of Christmas.


Indigenous people had their own explanations for some such phenomena. Snake bites and crocodile attacks often claimed animals and people, and could lead to revenge killings - 'killing for superstitious reasons'.37Armed with sacred objects, incantations and the spiritual support of saints, the Jesuits strained against the unfathomable superstitions of the locals. When one of them, referred to as Työt, died from the bite of a poisonous snake also called Työt, Fr. Conrath commented:


23 November 1895: 'our blacks have a superstition that a man is not bitten or eaten by an animal which is his Auel (patronal animal, on account of their having the same name). Today's sad event should teach them better.'


But the indigenous explanation persisted:


24 November 1895: 'The blacks explain yesterday's death by another superstitious belief - the man died because his fat had been removed by invisible weapons or sorcery; if the man had had his fat, the bite would have been innocuous - so our doctors say.'


This explanation called for a revenge. Revenge killings often troubled the mission community. Soon after the shift to New Uniya one Djerait boy was taken by a crocodile, and the next day four Hermithill boys ran away and 'all the Uniya natives are afraid' in the face of vengeance threatened by the Djerait for Raphael's death.38 Soon afterwards Tobias at the Coppermine Landing was reputedly killed to avenge the death of Solomon, who had been killed there by Ah Sam.39 Again in 1896, after three ritual punishments at or near the mission had resulted in death:


24 June 1896: 'Blacks of the Marennungo, Matngella, Ponga Ponga and Wanggar tribes gathering round the station on all sides. There is going to be a fight next week in connection with the three murders committed from December of last year to the present date. The friends of Damian, Latinde and Eva will so avenge their murders. Much shouting last night.'


In March 1889 four men accused Jacob of causing the death of Miranda by drawing out her fat, and fatally speared him. The missionaries treated Jacob's wounds, baptised him and gave him a Christian burial, which the Fathers were 'incapable' of attending, but they observed that 'the blacks omitted all wailings and shoutings, only his wife wept'.40


In another instance, Fr. Fleury, who had only recently arrived and knew little of Aboriginal customs, followed up on a child's tree burial. He found a parcel of paperbark on a low tree, opened it and found ashes and a bone that seemed to have been carved into pointed ends. Fearing 'malefice', he hurriedly buried the parcel in the grave that he had dug for it without any prayer.41


Misinformation and guesswork often clouded the accounts of traditional actions and reactions. In September 1895 a report arrived that two men, the fathers of two schoolboys, had been killed because they had tried to harvest palm fruit in Wagait country ' a thing strictly forbidden by tribal law.' The following day this was corrected to the news that the attack was to avenge the death by sorcery of a Wagait, but the victims were not the two reported earlier. Three men were attacked, of whom two died and one was mutilated, 'the head, arms and legs hacked off'. Later again the report of the mutilation was found to be untrue, but by now 'all the men of the Station have gone off in fear across the river'. Two days later the story was corrected again - the Wagait had nothing to do with the killing. The following day four people were definitively named as the attackers, all from Anthony Lagoon, because the death that was avenged was that of Zangerle of Anthony Lagoon who had died of snakebite. Later it was claimed that the avengers were not from Anthony Lagoon.


The missionaries responded to all this trouble by 'preparing to unite the Wanggar tribe which is that of our region, with Marenungo [Maranunngu] and Cherite [Djerait] who have been working here for several months' and eventually also with the Ponga-Ponga.42 This response is difficult to understand, since it was precisely this mixing of groups that had already led to the disintegration of the Rapid Creek mission, and that had been carefully avoided in the 1880s by running two separate Daly River missions. Perhaps it was an attempt to address the decline in mission population.


Occasionally the priests had to accommodate local beliefs, such as when they realised that a different place had to be found for the cemetery, 'the present one being too close to the Station'.43 Casting around for a diplomatic solution to the tensions arising from the clash of cultures three young men 'asked that they may be circumcised without the usual ceremonies'44 and Leo Gorop, who wanted to absent himself and his family from the mission without giving up his garden, kept coming back every Sunday to attend mass.


But if people expressed fear of the consequences from associating too closely with the mission, their concerns could easily be dismissed as superstitions:


7 April 1895: 'We are told that a baby girl baptised some time ago has died 'because her father has been digging in the field' - one of the superstitions of our people here.'


20 Nov 1895: 'The funeral was held of a girl who died the day before yesterday - at least the body was given ritual burial. The parents of this child had been filled with superstitious fear, thinking that the body of this infant at the breast must be put up in a tree - if it were buried in the ground, the death of the mother [Mathilda] would follow. The father, Aloysius, rejected this superstition, being warned that otherwise he would lose his garden.'


The mother of this baby was torn between Christian and traditional obligations. When Mathilda came 'of marriageable age' the priests forced the issue about her marriage. She refused to give up her promised husband and was therefore 'refused baptism' and 'sent away' together with her father and promised husband.45 The following year she was married to Aloysius who was loyal to the Christian missionaries46 but the promised husband tried to claim Mathilda back:


8 September 1892: 'Yesterday evening a pagan native tried to take Aloysius' wife Mathilda for himself. He threw a spear at Aloysius and came within an ace of killing him. The man was punished and summarily ejected by Fr. Kristen. The wife, who did not show herself sufficiently on her husband's side, was beaten by him, to her great benefit.'


Mathilda subsequently allowed herself to be baptised47 but clearly feared reprisals from neglecting traditional obligations and rites. Submitting to the Christian rites was a condition of living on the mission and to be expelled from the garden in November, with the onset of the wet and hungry season, would have been a great hardship. The question of her baby's burial confronted young Mathilda with a choice between two sets of intransigent rules.


The Jesuits had mighty icons inscribed with spiritual powers, relics of St. Aloysius and St. Nepomuk, a huge cross towering over the hill, a black Madonna, and a life-size statue of St. Ignatius. They brought smallpox vaccinations, snake oil remedies and Lourdes water, and performed powerful prayers and baptisms. All these things, and the huts, the gardens, and the tobacco, were benefits of the mission. But what good was a mission that could not feed its residents in times of need?


Queen of the Holy Rosary Station, Old Uniya (1886-1891)


The first Jesuit outrigger station on the Daly River was established in 1886 in Malak-Malak country, reputed for its better soil and greater distance from European settlement than Rapid Creek. The site, leased for a peppercorn rental for 21 years, had 5 miles of water frontage on the western bank of the Daly River and extended for about 20 miles west from the river. Fr. O’Brien with Fr. Kristen and two mission boys set off by buggy from Darwin on 2 September 1886. Their two Aboriginal guides deserted them at Knuckey’s Lagoon the next day, and when the shaft of the buggy broke Fr. O’Brien walked back to Rapid Creek to seek help. Br. Scharmer and Br. Eberhard came to assist, and Br. Scharmer now accompanied the two priests to the new site while Br. Eberhard turned back at Elizabeth Creek to accompany the supplies that were shipped on the Zuleika servicing the copper mines.48


Their month-long overland trip gave the missionaries some impression of their new neighbourhood. One settler, Mr. Johnston on the Darwin River, provided them with fresh supplies and a horse. They stopped at White Hawk, Collett Creek, Rum Jungle, the Hump, and Adelaide River. On 15 September 1886 they reached Bridge Creek but did not cross the bridge because of a 'rowdy public house' on the other side. They then detoured to visit Mr. Sachse who was ‘not at home’, and came to Blackfellow Creek on Sachse's boundary.49 This was the site of a massacre following the Coppermine killings of four Europeans on 3 September 1884.50 Perhaps it is not entirely surprising that Sachse was not there to meet two Jesuit friars who had undertaken a special detour to meet him, and who were probably coming to the Daly because it was so violent. The small group reached Coppermine Creek on 22 September, where they met up with Br. Eberhard and the mission supplies in charge of Captain Dunstan in late September.51


The missionaries occupied their new site on 1 October 1886, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, and named it the Queen of the Holy Rosary Station (later known as Old Uniya). The soil was sandy and poor and the terrain was flood-prone, so they built on high ground on the western side of the River where the Malak-Malak became the focus of their attention.52 (Later they found that the mission was not actually on the land that had been granted to them.53) The wet season started on the very day when they finished the roof on their house, and they endured a difficult season with a leaky house, and the land beneath them turning into a lake. Their flour turned mouldy and they suffered from lack of food except for the ducks that now occupied the newly-formed lake before them. Br. Scharmer developed a fever and was treated with quinine, so presumably he had already been infected with malaria.


As at Rapid Creek, the missionaries commenced by employing Aboriginal people for wages, performing deathbed baptisms and starting a school and religious instruction. Eventually they attracted some fifty permanent residents and settled some of these as couples in a colony of thatch-roof bamboo huts each with their own garden. By 1888 they had 40 goats and 50 fowls, and were growing maize, beans, chicory, and potatoes.54 Fr. Conrath always referred to the mission as a ‘Reduction’.


Three more staff strengthened the Jesuits in the north in November 1886 with the arrival of Br. Alois Pfalzer, Br. Bernhard Kunerth and Fr. Donald McKillop, who had been the third recruit at Sevenhill college when it started. (For brief descriptions of the staff see Jesuits in the Northern Territory ). Fr. McKillop took charge of the missions while Fr. Strele was in the south and in Europe (most of 1886 to 1889). In March and April 1888 thirty Woolwonga families arrived at the Sacred Heart station because they feared further reprisals after threats from Sachse.55 The mission's mailman Tommy informed the missionaries of Sachse's hostility. Tommy had 'taken a dislike to Mr. Sachse owing to the shooting of two of the blacks'.56 Shortly afterwards some Woolwonga stole fish from old Nabba and he, enraged, asked the missionaries to 'shoot the thieves':


26 March 1888: 'Fr. Kristen summoned 'Mail Tommy' to the Cross, and asked him what had happened; he confessed that the blacks had eaten them, but they were only small fish, and he begged me not to shoot the thieves - those Wilwongas had nowhere to go, as Mr. Sachse was an enemy of their race. It seemed a good occasion to point out to them what they would come to if they did not have the refuge we gave them at the foot of the Cross of Christ. If they did not listen to us, we would go away, and their destruction would follow. He understood, and perhaps the boys standing by did also; indeed it was a strong and stringent argument for their conversion to protect themselves from the anger of God who sent among them bad white men.'


The Woolwonga, with the encouragement of the missionaries, requested a mission on their country, which they said was on the east side of the river. Six of them were already 'working at their garden across the river' in May 1888.57 Rapid Creek had been afflicted by tribal fighting in 1887, and the missionaries were now very mindful of such enmities. Fr. McKillop began to plan for a third mission on the other side of the Daly River and for the arrival of Sisters to take care of the girls.


The relationship with Woolwonga continued to trouble the Malak-Malak at the Holy Rosary station (Old Uniya). In April 1890 some Woolwonga, who were 'seeking asylum' after committing thefts at the Howley railway siding, were turned away. In December there was a 'rumour that the Wilwongas have some hostile design' and in April 1891 the 'Wilwongas have taken some fire from the place where William usually spends his day' and consequently the dormitory girls were so afraid that they 'asked permission to sleep in the washhouse'. Again in June 1891, during the removal of the Rapid Creek mission to New Uniya, fears were expressed 'that Wilwonga might abduct marriageable girls' so these were sent 'to the other station' (Serpentine Lagoon).58


Crop failures and epidemics also beset Old Uniya. From 1888 it was swept with malaria, whooping cough and influenza that killed many Malak-Malak residents and in 1890 incapacitated all but one of the Brothers. The missionary activity ceased and the children were sent to the new site at Serpentine Lagoon. Stanley suggests that the deaths made it difficult to resume the mission at Old Uniya.59 Still, in August 1889 building was in progress and a new domestic chapel was consecrated on 1 September. In November 1889 the diarist noted with a palpable sense of frustration that Br. Hulka had to break off his building work for lack of materials.60 Presumably something had gone amiss in the ordering of supplies, and any shortage, such as of nails, could bring building work to a standstill. In June 1891 the diary records, not for the first time, that 'many natives are sick with sores or wounds.'61 Soon afterwards, in September 1891, the site was given up after exactly four years of struggle in favour of a new amalgamated mission at New Uniya.


Sacred Heart Mission, Serpentine Lagoon (1889-1891)


According to the mission diary Barramundi Taruak alias Ngologorok from Komorkye had invited the missionaries to his land62 where the population was estimated at about 70 Woolna people.63 The new mission was established after Fr. Strele's return to the north with five new staff, and after Fr. Strele had been shown the proposed site during his visitation (18 July 1889 to 4 August 1889 - too late to start the new mission on the Feast of the Sacred Heart). From 1890 the name Komorkye appears in the mission diary as referring to Serpentine Lagoon.64 Uniya was understood to be the native name of the Hermithill region.65


Fr. McKillop and Fr. Marschner, accompanied by Aboriginal carriers, set off for Hermithill in late September 1889. They got only as far as Crystal Hill when they had to send back to Holy Rosary station to call for help.66 They set up Sacred Heart Station with a tent and some mosquito netting at the top of the lagoon under a large tree. Their horses and two dogs bolted and found their own way back to Old Uniya, swimming across the river.67 Plants from the government gardener, the Hanoverian Maurice Holtze, arrived in October and were picked up by a party of four Aboriginal men from the new station.68 Brothers Melzer and Pfalzer joined the new station in December and began building.69


Serpentine Lagoon employed up to 40 Aborigines. They 'dug a canal 170 yards long, 8 ft wide and 12 ft deep' to irrigate the gardens.70 The mission recorded a good harvest of rice in its first season, but subsequent rice harvests failed from various reasons and by April 1891 Fr. Kristen noted that rice was 'only sown in obedience', meaning that they had given up hope but were fulfilling the instructions from their superior.71


The mission had no permanent buildings other than an all-purpose shed, and since bush tucker was plentiful local people didn’t settle.72 They also showed considerable resilience to the Christian teachings. Fr. Conrath portrayed the response from an Elder after a long instruction on the need for baptism for the salvation of the soul: ‘Very good. Now I am saved. For a long time I was not sure of my salvation. When I am at the point of death you will give me baptism.' Another Elder proudly announced that he had now taken a third wife, Oshinni, and Conrath reprimanded 'You already have one too many, why do you take a third?' to which the man countered ‘One of them might die. What name will you give my new wife?’ Conrath told the man that ‘Probably you will die first, and then, by and by Oshinni will die’. Later that man asked for some clothes and Conrath promised to give him some ‘by and by’, to which the man replied 'That is not good. Give it today. By and by I die and then I need no more clothing'.73


By April 1891 the missionaries admitted that the Sacred Heart station was not as fertile as they had hoped it would be, and in September it was removed to the new amalgamated station of New Uniya. According to Fr. Strele the 'first and last' Woola woman was baptised in the last year of this mission, and the missionaries were glad to leave this place:


'Ours have toiled and wasted in this station of sorrows, a station altogether destitute of hope, abandonded by a just judgement, according to the word of the Lord, on the feast day of St. Francis Xavier.'74


This ended the Jesuit's attempt to provide separate missions to different tribal groups and languages. Rose observes that the Jesuits only became properly aware of the rapid population decline they witnessed, towards the end of their period on the Daly.


St. Joseph’s Mission, New Uniya (1891-1899)


In 1891 all three locations, Rapid Creek and the two Daly River sites, were surrendered in favour of a new site on the other side of Daly River, about 20 miles downstream from Old Uniya. Br. Scharmer at Holy Rosary station built a river boat that made it easier to pick up provisions from the steamer and to ply between the stations, and it was launched in June 1891 as the Uniya.75 The allotment of 270 acres76 was ninety miles from the nearest white settlement at the railway line. It had been the site of a former copper mine where Chinese miners had been engaged, and it already had a windmill. Some Chinese were still in the area and began interacting with the mission.


The superior Fr. McKillop arrived with medical inspector Dr. Lynch (‘a good Catholic’) from Darwin on 31 August 1891 (perhaps to administer smallpox vaccinations) and the next morning the move to the new site at New Uniya commenced with Fathers Marschner, Kristen and Conrath, and Brothers Pfalzer, Haelbig, Melzer, Longa, Hulka, Sboril and Scharmer. They lived on kangaroo meat until the goat herd was large enough, and other provisions were freighted in from the Chinese merchants in Darwin - if they arrived on time.


Within a few years the New Uniya mission took on the shape of a Reduction. The missionaries erected workshops and installed a steam-powered saw and constructed a temporary church, a school, dormitories and a monastery. With the help of Chinese workers they dug wells and underground aqueducts, and connected a pump to the steam engine to make possible the cultivation of 60 acres with maize, yams, sweet potatoes, pineapples, caffir corn, watermelons, Indian beans, tobacco, bananas, coconuts, papaws, and mangoes. Fr. Marschner began to experiment with crops and cured tobacco. Half of these gardens were fenced two-acre blocks for married couples, who had a house and a few goats each, to form the 'colony' of the Reduction. In addition to the main buildings and cottages there were stables, tool sheds, a granary, a sawmill, a forge, and a printery. They had 150 cattle, 130 pigs and 33 horses and killed up to 20 goats per week.77


The goat herd was possibly their most successful venture, but the missionaries jealously guarded their treasure. Goats from Old Uniya were brought to Serpentine Lagoon in June 1890, and from there to the New Uniya station in October 1891.78 In January 1892 'Ah Sam, who had done a great deal of work for little pay, was given a goat to help him celebrate the Chinese New Year'.79 In May 1892 about 50 goats were lost due to 'foot trouble'80 and in September 1892 'our young goatherds are said to be neglecting their duty and leaving the herds too much to themselves.'81 By May 1895 there were 1,350 goats, and in February 1889 they numbered 1,701, but the four mission residents who took four goats for themselves were named with disapproval.82 In January 1899, while the flood was rising towards the mission, it was discovered that 'only' 1,877 goats were left and 87 missing 'presumably stolen by blacks' and when the river reached an unprecedented 36 feet above its normal level and everyone feared for their lives in the face of the rising waters the diarist noted with disapproval that 'some of the goats are being sold by the native herders, some lost by them through negligence, others stolen'.83


Many residents of the former two missions came to the new site and it soon had fifty permanent residents84 supervised by three Fathers and five Brothers.85 An early trauma was suffered when six-year old Raphael was taken by a crocodile, which ensued in threats of revenge killings. It was decided that two Brothers would supervise the children during afternoon recreation, and in the evening one of the Fathers would take turns to keep an eye on them.86


A truly desolate year of suffering unfolded in 1892 with a drought, and then an influenza epidemic, which struck down forty and killed twelve residents in. To add to the trauma, it was also the year when the government grant was withdrawn. One of the Brothers evacuated the children to shield them from infection and they lived on bush tucker and goat meat for two months at a billabong87 in tents and temporary shelters. By December the mission had run out of flour, sugar and vegetables and was affected by an outbreak of malaria.88 Almost everyone was sent away and those who remained at the station were practically all sick. The old man William was brought back 'almost starved to death'89 and two of the most promising Christians, who had been sent away, Zachary and Amand, starved to death within weeks of each other, causing the missionaries much pain and regret.90


Despite all these setbacks, the missionary presence on the Daly was extended after an official visitation by the South Australian Jesuit superior, Fr. Anthony Reschauer in June 1892. The missionaries stocked up on provisions ready for the next wet season and began to pay their workers in food rather than only tobacco. This attracted a large number of Malak-Malak to the mission from the copper mines.91 The Depression forced the European farmers away from the Daly and the last two or three on the east bank of the river left by 1894.92 The Jesuits leased another 900 acres from the government and purchased implements from the derelict Coppermine.93 They also acquired a freehold property of 435 acres from a failed pastoralist (Brown) and laid out garden plots (at Woolianna, Benderang, and Sevinge) in June 1894. Woolianna, a former Chinese garden, was a corroboree and circumcision place and a good fishing site, and the missionaries occasionally visited the sick and old people at Woolianna and harvested its gardens.94


Chinese contact


At New Uniya contact with Chinese increased because as the copper mines were winding down Chinese men came to trade for food and ask for work at the mission. The first Chinese came in September 1891 to cut wood, working for food and tobacco.95 A few Chinese were also engaged for several months at a time to sink a well, construct underground aqueducts and install the steam-powered pump to drive the irrigation and saw, and to extend the mission buildings. In November 1891 two Brothers returned from the Coppermine


'full of indignation at the impudent immorality of the Chinese, corrupting the black women. Apparently the Chinese boat has been stationed here again for a long time - this has been the custom in former years too, for a month at a time.'96


The captain of the sampan mollified the priests by inviting them to breakfast with him, introducing himself as a Catholic and expressing his high regard for the Jesuits in China whom he had personally known for eighteen years. The Chinese workers at the mission followed up with a dinner invitation the same day.97 One of them, Ah Sam, subsequently made claims on Helena, one of the most promising young women at the mission (see Daly River stories, below).


In the press the Jesuits sought to distance themselves from the Chinese. A news report in 1893 described the move to New Uniya as an attempt to move out of reach of Chinese contact, and the goal of the mission to train Aboriginal people to replace the Chinese 'coolie labour'.98 A report in the Catholic Press even suggests that the Chinese were strategically bought out of the mission area:


Though the presence of the white population was a menace to the mission, the Chinese were even worse in every respect than the Europeans, and finally, for the moral safety of the station, it was found necessary to buy out the Chinese from the territory, which was accordingly done. 99


This representation (neither strictly true nor entirely false) expressed the stance the missionaries wanted to be seen to be taking towards the Chinese.


Fundraising tour


Fr. McKillop turned to the press during a southern fundraising tour from 23 October 1892 to 15 July 1894. Two mission boys accompanied him. The two departing with Fr. McKillop were Charlie, 'a Cherite boy' [Djerait] and Johnny. 100 Johnny was the son of the first adult Christian at the mission, Zachary Pambari, who had died just a few months earlier. Johnny had prayed with his father in his dying hours and later told the missionaries 'how Zachary at the end made the sign of the Cross and said "Banunga Kandolan" i.e. I am going to heaven'.101 However Johnny was so reluctant to go on the journey that he ran away when he heard of the travel plans.102 Charlie was back at the mission four months later, when he 'and the whole family of John, whom Fr. McKillop has taken with him to the South, were given flour and tobacco - they are depressed and sad, and have been asking us what has happened to him.'103 It is possible that Charlie was sent home early and was replaced with another boy, because according to Dalton SJ the second boy on the voyage was Tommy104 and another author claims that 'at least three young Aboriginal men had been sent south to Jesuit schools for an education. On their return to the Daly River, however, they disappeared into the bush'.105 The mission diary only partly supports this claim. Charlie remained a faithful and loyal mission youth, who led the early morning excursions to gather yams during the wet season. He stayed back when others ran away for ceremonies, but in March 1895 he felt so threatened that he also disappeared for ten days for his circumcision.106 He sustained a knee injury from his ordeals and was sent to Darwin hospital, from where he returned nine months later.107 The two boys who returned with Fr. McKillop after 21 months in July 1894 received a triumphal welcome. Fr. McKillop brought a monkey for Charlie,108 which lived at the mission for three years.109 Much later 'Johnnie, who has been for a long time in the bush, was summoned by Fr. McKillop and has returned to the Station. He publicly admits the scandal he has given by his absence from Sunday Masses, and repairs the scandal.'110


Not only Johnny's family anxiously awaited the return of Fr. McKillop, but the missionaries also bemoaned suffering from an 'absent superior'.111 Just two weeks before McKillop's return, two Norwegian scientists arrived as guests at the mission, Professor Knut Dahl, a naturalist at Christiana University and his assistant Holmes. These two 'have shown no signs of religion - alas!' and rather overstayed their welcome, finally leaving in October.112


The need for Sisters


Part of McKillop's purpose with his lengthy southern tour was to obtain approval to bring Sisters to Uniya. By the time he came back in July 1894 three mission girls were already pregnant - Martha (who gave birth on 14 December 1894), Purgin (17 January 1895) and Margarita (29 January 1895). Fr. McKillop began to plan for the imminent arrival of the Sisters but the question would ricochet for years as the future of the mission was under question. At the end of 1894, when the three pregnancies were now plainly obvious, the missionaries felt that they had 'enough timber to build a church and a convent for the Sisters'.113 McKillop felt he could simply not wait any longer:


'We have found that these girls need some extra training, lest through the instability of their character they fall into vice, and we cannot wait any longer till Sisters arrive to look after them.'114


The girls would from now on be supervised by a Father and a Brother during recreation time. But matters turned worse still when nine days later Margarita had a white baby, throwing the Jesuits into confusion and embarrassment and confirming their worst fears.115 (See Daly River Stories - Margarita, below). The incident weighed heavily on the Jesuit community. The Jesuits expected that their mission would be wound down as a result of this scandal. The girls' dormitory was disbanded116 and the girls would have to live with responsible 'colony' families who were willing to send them to school.117 The Fathers and Brothers were now locked up at night with an extension of the clausura fence.118 (See Jesuits in the Northern Territory)


Clearly there was a need for Sisters to ensure the continuation of the mission. In May 1895 McKillop, who had received an extra £50 government allowance, resolved to dedicate the already existing mission house to the Sisters, so that he could send the telegram summoning the Sisters at once.119 He was intercepted, though, by a telegram from the Provincial disallowing the introduction of Sisters.120 The Provincial was consulting with the General Superior whether the mission should be closed completely. Fr. McKillop felt that the 'temporal and spiritual condition of the Mission has never been better', but feared 'the probable destruction and end of the mission'.121 A further menace arose from a planned leper station at Perron Island. McKillop was able to head off the leper station,122 and obtained approval to continue the mission, but permission for the Sisters, who were so necessary, was not granted. McKillop left the mission in June 1896 at the end of an official visitation by Fr. Kenny.123 In June 1897, the newly appointed Provincial124 visited the mission. He removed the third of the accused Brothers and lifted the rigid clausura imposed by Fr. McKillop. Permission to invite Sisters arrived again in April 1898, and was withdrawn again in June 1898.125


Glossing all these tensions beneath the surface, the mission looked like well-functioning Reduction buzzing with artisanal activity. Minna and Martha made clothes126 with the sewing machine Fr. McKillop had brought.127 A Catholic Filipino family joined the mission community for ten months (from 28 August 1897 to 16 June 1898). Mr Engracio, his wife and their two children had suffered a wagon breakdown nearby at which the Brothers assisted them and so Engracio offered to work for board and lodging. Among other things he produced marketable cigars from the mission-grown tobacco. The mission plantations included tobacco, coconut, sugar cane and vegetable gardens. Leather was produced from its herds of cattle, goats and pigs. This busy mission life was witnessed by another scientific visitor, the German Dr. Eilmann in July 1897.128


Trouble looming


Fr. Marschner, returning to the mission after several years of absence, reported in March 1895 that the number of school children was as high as thirty, 19 young men were in agricultural training and twenty young families were settled on individual agricultural blocks. The mission was staffed by four priests and seven Brothers.129 This account hardly allows a glimpse into the turmoil at the mission just at that moment. In addition to the 'grief and pain', which occasioned the removal of one of the Brothers two days later, the schoolhouse was so infested with midges that 'one cannot stand for an instant in the doorway without being attacked'. School was held in the printing office and the children washed the whole building out several times but without success.130 Later that year the missionaries resolved to extend the mission beyond the Malak-Malak by inviting the Maranunngu, Djerait and Ponga-Ponga people, and to teach in English.131 Presumably this was to compensate for the departures after four of the seven families in the colony left in the wake of trouble at the mission.132 Despite the effort to draw in a greater range of people, the following year it was only '12 or 14 families' settled on their plots of land (not twenty) and 15 (not thirty) children at school. 133


Official visitations in 1896 and 1897 called the troubles at the Daly River to attention in Rome, with the mission's future hanging in the balance. The tropical environment also dealt its blows, like the epidemic that decimated the cattle herd in February 1897, insect infestations and floods. In the wet season of March 1898 the 'river rose 17 inches in 24 hours'. The gardens were flooded, the yam storage shed was under water, a torrent was rushing through the Reduction and the few families who were still there had trouble finding food and neither could they escape.134 As an unusual measure food from the mission store was doled out twice a day. On 4 April the river had reached '39 1/2 feet above its dry season level'. On 6 April the water began to recede. On 8 April, Good Friday, 'we are getting in the African corn' - or what was left of it. Four more staff arrived from Europe the following year, two in time for the next big flood in early 1899, but two were sent too late to reach the mission.


Retreat from the north


Fr. Fleury and Br. Girschnik arrived just days before two weeks of heavy and incessant rain inundated the mission (8 -22 January 1899) and the river broke its banks again rising to 36 feet (16 January 1899). A two-foot high dam was quickly built around the mission residence. Some colonists fled to Howley and the domestics were running away while the priests scouted for higher ground and considered establishing a second colony at Guna Karala. Two Brothers accompanied the new owners of the copper mines to inspect and repair the damage there.135 'Frequent disturbances in the colony' were chronicled as the residents still left at the mission became agitated, and on 2 March 1899 the river again began to rise. On 23 March the water depth was 2 feet at the mission house and 13 feet at the riverbank. A subsidiary levee was raised around the mission house on 25 March and washed away almost immediately. The priests fled to higher ground and saw most of the mission washed away.136 At its highest point on 27 March 1899 the river rose to 41 feet above its normal level. All that was visible above the few elevations was roaring and rushing water all around. There was no rescue team on the way to whisk the stranded flood victims off the desolation. In the despair and tension one of the women threw a stone wounding Br. Haelbig.137


The water began to subside on 4 April 1899 and repair work started next day. In May the area was navigable again. The Brothers commenced on a buggy track across Eight Miles Creek to prepare for the evacuation to a safer site. Fr. O’Brien came from Darwin on 15 May to inspect the damage and sent a telegram to Fr. Milz at Sevenhill to obtain permission to relocate the site. Rome was consulted. The mission diary kept by Fr. Marschner breaks off on 14 June, which must be when Fr. Milz arrived. The Provincial made the last entries on 20 and 21 June declaring that not only the mission but the whole Northern Territory project was to be abandoned.


Postmortem of a mission


Nature had provided an exit option. Despite the hasty reorganisation instigated by Fr. Milz in 1897, insisting on a Jesuit presence in Darwin and renewed emphasis on the Catholic community, the diocese was lost to the Jesuits in February 1898, so the Northern Territory was unlikely to offer an expanding field of Jesuit presence. The conclusion was that twenty years of mission work in the Northern Territory had not produced commensurate results. In this period the Jesuits had baptised a total of 362 persons.138 But in 1899 only five families, consisting of 29 Christians, lived at the mission. Over £15,000 had been spent, of which only £1,330 was from the government.139 Austrian support had dried up (at about £5,000), Australian support had been modest (around £7,000 was raised overseas and in Australia), and the Jesuit mission's land allocation policy was not supported by the government.


The mission land reverted to the government, the vehicles, tools and other assetts were offered for sale at bargain prices. W. J. Byrne of Brocks Creek, purchased 170 head of mixed cattle, 37 horses, 1,500 goats as well as machinery and other property.140 A new set of Whites took the place of the missionaries. Niemann as overseer occupied the site with his wife and two children and started to employed Aborigines as trappers, and gardeners and to butcher some of cattle.141 In Br. Melzer's opinion this family 'would make a good set of Catholics if they only could be converted'.142 But one of the Catholics resident on the station cohabited with young Aboriginal girls.143 Anglican missionaries from Adelaide explored the option of stepping into the void left by the Jesuits.144


Some Chinese also re-entered the area to start mining and smelting and employed Aborigines, paying them in kind with food, clothes, alcohol, tobacco and opium. (They, too disappeared again in 1911.) Within months Byrne, who had paid the Jesuits £100,145 on-sold the movable property to a tin-mine company in Darwin146 for £250 and all the buildings except the church were dismantled and transported away.147 Daly River Cattle Station (later Tipperary) was set up on former mission land.


Most residents remained at new Uniya and with the new activity emerging there, several more moved into the area, leading to conflict. When Brother Melzer visited in November 1899 he reported that '10 or 11' of the former mission residents had died since the mission closed. Three young men and Clare, widow of Zachary, and her child had all been speared, and ' Antony killed his lubra Lucy'.148 The natives had 'reverted to nakedness'149 and 'if one had not lived there for many years one would have hardly recognised the place. All over the place heavy grass, the Bananas looking yet sickly seem still to suffer from the former floods'.150 Three of the former colonists had already taken a second wife151 and the miners paid in tobacco and food for access to the women. 'From all the work of Ours very little remains.'152 The local press featured a debate about the failure of the mission asking why the missionaries could not live at the Daly River all year round when the 'natives were pefectly capable' of doing so, with a Wesleyan priest in Darwin coming to the defence of the missionaries.153 The press accused, and the Jesuits conceded, that the mission had little impact.


Anthropologist disagree with this view. Owen Stanley observes that the missionaries had introduced new ideas, new skills, new lifestyles and had promised more goods and rewards for those who submitted to their authority. Indigenous people had moved from place to place with the shifting missions and had engaged in fighting over access to the missions. Suddenly, after thirteen years, the missions and all their promise disappeared. 154


Deborah Rose goes further in her indictment. She argues that the suggestion that the Jesuits had 'no impact' merely relieved them of any blame for the changes they had wrought. They had changed authority structures, altered marriage arrangements, intervened in mortuary rites, and reordered social relations. They also had a noticeable impact on the environment, which constrained indigenous lifestyle options. When the buildings were dismantled, the goatherds sold, and the irrigation to the gardens was turned off, for all those who had taken the promise of the missionaries seriously, 'the work of their lives was put up for sale.' The withdrawal of the missionaries to other assignments underlined 'the final expendability of Aboriginal people'. 'The missionaries and everyone else could rest assured that their departure had no consequences because their presence had had no effect'.155


G.J. O’Kelly JS suggests in their defence that the Daly River missions were perhaps too grand a project. They involved more natives than any South Australian mission including Point Pearce, Poonindie, Point McLeay, Killalpaninna, Hermannsburg and New Norcia, the only other Catholic mission a the time. It was conceived on a larger scale and had a broader scope of activity than the other missions, offering schooling, trade training, agricultural employment, and individual housing and gardening plots within tribal territories and capable of maintaining language communities.156 However detailed accounts of the mission do not quite bear this out. Schooling in the Malak-Malak language was given up in May 1895 and the idea of tribal territories was clouded at Rapid Creek and relinquished with the establishment of New Unyia in 1891. The number of residents actively participating in the mission fluctuated from season to season and often fell to very low levels. The trade training was confined to a few individuals, limited by the number of Brothers available to impart skills. F.J. Dennett JS eloquently described the Daly missions as 'a valiant and inspiring failure which was not so very far from being a triumphant success'.157


What former mission resident Matthew told Ronald and Catherine Berndt in 1946 sums up how Aboriginal mission residents might have assessed the impact of the missionaries. In his account the promise of Christianization was a chimera, because Jesus was on the side of the white people, and after all the effort invested on all sides, 'only the Aborigines had nothing. ... That is the dreaming for all you lot'.158


From 1912 to 1918 the federal government conducted an experimental farm to attract small-scale growers, which led to the establishment of several peanut farms, also employing Aboriginal workers, and some of the farmers married Aboriginal women. When anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner visited the area in 1923 he found that the population had gathered around the remaining farms while the country between the Daly and Fitzmaurice Rivers was practically empty. Bush tucker was scarce, the local Aborigines had lost their hunting skills and were addicted to alcohol, tobacco and opium in desperate dependence on White economies. He found life at the Daly 'shot though with violence and degradation' with the authority of the old people in decline, and many were in a state of spiritual crisis or despondency.159


A new Catholic mission at Daly River known as Nauiyu started in 1955, but this did not involve German-speakers.160


Daly River Stories


The following stories are reconstructed from the Daly River Mission diary (DRM) to give a glimpse of what it may have meant for Aboriginal people to be on the mission. Here is a brief description of the persons appearing in the stories below to help the reader through the maze of names:


Anthony Taruak

son of Marawunger and Barramundi alias Ngologorok from Komorkye (Sacred Heart Station)

brother of Luke, Thekla (died August 1893), and a younger sister

betrothed to Margarita Dandam April 1893

married to Lucia Wurrotyak April 1894 (who absconded several times and possibly had a baby with Leo Damo)


Margarita Dandam

daughter of Analkan, patriarch of the Dilk161

cohabited with Tobias at Coppermine Landing 1891-92

promised to Anthony Taruak April 1893

possibly wanted to marry Polycarp November 1893

had a baby with one of the Jesuit Brothers January 1895

married to Gabriel Dugmül April 1896

was re-admitted to the colony after the death of the baby

 Go Back

Teresa Nimbali

daughter of mission residents Marianne and the nearly blind old William

promised to Paul Tyedburo

summoned by Ah Sam February 1892

absconded twice in May 1892

married to Paul June 1892

eloped with Damian (February 1895) who was speared to death

under death threat from her husband's people, March 1897

absconded several times possibly to be with her mother in 1898


Paul Tyedburo

married Teresa Nimbali June 1892

eloped with Harry's wife Dumboil March 1895

possibly killed Damian who eloped with Teresa, and

was saved from revenge by the missionaries, November 1895


Helena Bayi

daughter of mission residents 'Nabba' (starved to death September 1898) and Millie (died from an abortion April 1895)

sister of colonist Jackie Wannon (married to Olivia)

betrothed to Edward January 1891 (called off due to indigenous protests)

summoned by Ah Sam February 1892

hurriedly married to Matthew February 1892, first Christian wedding

was at Copper Mine October 1893 and retrieved in a war-like action by Paul Tyedburo, 'Captain', and Charlie Yingi

was at Chinese Gardens and retrieved by her brother Jackie March 1894

presumably at Chinese Gardens June to September 1894, May 1895

punishment by Matthew and his brother Pine Creek was averted by Paul Tyedburo and Helena's brother Jackie Wannon

nearly died from an abortion February 1897

received extreme unction after bashing from her husband Matthew October 1898

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Anthony and Lucia

Anthony Taruak was the son of Barramundi alias Ngologorog from Komorkye, who 'offered us the place for the Sacred Heart Station, their own home' (DRM 18 September 1893). Barramundi and both his sons Luke and Anthony were baptised, but not the women in the family, Marawunger and two daughters. This family spent periods of time with the missionaries at the new site at New Uniya across the river from Komorkye, but did not give up their own home completely, and Barramundi did not necessarily want Christian burials for his family. When Luke was ill with fever at the mission Barramundi took him, without consulting the missionaries, across the river to Komorkye (13 Jan 1893). At this time 'the blacks of Anthony's Lagoon (near Komorkye) ... were discontented because they did not get flour which, they said, had been promised them, and so they had inflicted various kinds of damage on the Station of the Sacred Heart, and had threatened more to come.' (27 January 1893). During a drawn-out illness Barramundi's daughter Thekla Taruak and her two daughters were cared for at the mission (24 August 1893) and after Thekla's death Barramundi took Thekla's children off the mission (18 September 1893).


During 1893 negotiations took place between Barramundi and Analkan, the patriarch of the Dilk, about the betrothal of their children, Anthony and Margarita. In April there was a 'serious dispute' over this issue, in which Fr. Kristen interceded to settle the matter (20 April 1893). Analkan intended his daughter for Anthony, but Margarita made it known that she wanted to marry another young man (Polycarp) and settled the matter by disappearing in November 1893.


Anthony was instead married to Lucia Wurrotyak, the festivities involving breakfast with their relatives, and games in the afternoon (3 April 1894). Six months later Anthony was taken away for circumcision (10 Sept 1894) and when the young neophytes returned after three months they were refused re-admission 'to make them understand that the Station is not just a dove-cot' (21 December 1894).


Anthony's exclusion was not a tenable option. The Taruak family was at the core of the mission, and Anthony was supposed to be one of its twelve pillars, a family man leading by monogamous example by farming one of the allocated garden plots. Anthony's younger sister was accepted into the school (8 January 1895) and another Taruak baby was born (23 January 1895, recorded as the child of Barramundi and Burgina - either a second, younger wife, or the baptismal name of Marawunger). The missionaries could not object to circumcision, but they did object to the rituals and beliefs surrounding it, and found a way to save face. After Anthony 'did public penance' for submitting to the forbidden ceremonies associated with circumcision, he was 'given the school garden to cultivate for himself' (13 January 1895).


Again the monogamous dream foundered on the resistance of the chosen woman. Within a fortnight of Anthony's return, Lucia ran off with the young domestic Leo Dhamo (29 January 1895). Adding injury to insult, Leo nearly killed Anthony with a stone throw that caused a serious neck wound. A posse went after the couple and brought them back, presenting Leo Dhamo first to Anthony's father Barramundi for punishment, and then to the missionaries. Lucia was handed over to her husband Anthony 'to be dealt with'.


Anthony wanted to leave Lucia but Fr. McKillop 'effected a reconciliation'. He allocated garden plots to both Anthony and his father, and Barramundi brought the missionaries three large melons from his garden to express his appreciation for the hut that had been built for him (6 February 1895). Young Anthony duly attended his garden, but Lucia soon took off again (13 February 1895), so Anthony joined his family at Komorkye (15 February 1895). This caused the missionaries to comment that 'Anthony Taruak, who used to be an excellent young man, has turned out quite unreliable' (21 March 1895). Little did they realise that it was their Own who were being unreliable just at this time.


When the wet abated Anthony given his garden back, and Damian was to help him cultivate it (19 May 1895). Lucia's pregancy was beginning to show, and exactly nine months after she had first run off with Leo she gave birth to a son (28 September 1895). Clouds started to gather when Anthony received death threats (7 October 1895) and while the mission community was now shaken by rumour and innuendo Barramundi gave up his garden (November 1895). Three of the six unmarried mission girls were heavily pregnant (Margarita, Martha, and Purgin) and two monogamous marriages in the colony were disrupted by adultery. The missionaries told everyone who had shared a house with the adulterers not to come back until they had found the guilty parties (26 November 1895) and asked the trusted Charlie Yingi to bring them back to the mission. He 'shirked' at the responsibility (29 November 1895), presumably because feelings were running high. The punishment of the seducers resulted in the death of Damian (8 December 1895). Shortly afterwards the missionaries themselves came under suspicion as Margarita gave birth to a white baby (29 January 1895). Four of the seven families in the colony, including Anthony's, left the mission as a consequence of all this turmoil (23 March 1896).


The missionaries called back Anthony and Lucia in March 1896, and the jealousy between Anthony and Leo promptly re-kindled. Anthony speared Leo Damo (18 May 1896) and soon afterwards Anthony's hut was burnt down (13 July 1896). During the 1897 wet season Anthony was seen stealing maize from Matthew's garden (19 March 1897) but despite everything Anthony was considered one of the twelve core colonists, the living example of the Daly River mission's success (5 September 1897). He had worked his own plot for six months (from his marriage to his circumcision) then the school garden from January to February 1895, then his own plot from May 1895 to the turmoil of December 1895, and again from March until perhaps July 1896 (from when he was brought back to when his hut got burnt). He was allocated another garden allotment in September 1897. In November 1899, after the mission had closed, Anthony speared his wife to death.



Margarita and Gabriel


Margarita (Ngandan) was baptised at Rapid Creek on Christmas of 1890. Her father Analkan was an elder of the Dilk people from the Marenungo (Marranunggu) area. Jesuits referred to him as the patriarch, who was able to command the labour of young men for clearing bush, and to decide which boys were sent to the mission school. Analkan himself never joined the mission. From 1891 to 1892 his daughter Margarita lived with Tobias near the landing of the languishing copper mine which had recently been abandoned and where the Chinese were now eking out an existence. Tobias was a 'tough guy', a smoker and an opportunist. He had been found breaking into the mission house at Hermit Hill and was suspected of trying to kill Fr. McKillop, who then evicted him from the mission. He was later re-admitted and in a quarrel over a pipe accidentally killed his own father, and was again expelled from the mission. Presumably Margarita's body was earning Tobias the tobacco he needed during the year they spent at the copper mine Landing. Suddenly their routine was exploded when the Chinese Ah Sam shot the Aboriginal man Solomon, was charged with murder and acquitted. Tobias was reportedly killed in retribution by Aboriginal people. In the fracas Margarita also sustained a spear-wound in her foot and took refuge at the Jesuit mission in February 1892.


Ah Sam began asking for girls and in April 1892 four men at the mission plotted to carry off the mission girls. They were the married man Barthel who did not accept the authority of the missionaries; Paul, who felt he had a claim on Teresa Nimbali; Polycarp who felt he had a claim on Margarita; and the fourth was a young man called Tobias (perhaps the news about the revenge killing of Tobias at the Coppermine landing was a mere rumour). A long-running disputation over Margarita's marriage obligations unfolded during 1893. Some argued that she was to be married to Polycarp, but her father Analkan wanted to give her to the young Christian man Anthony, perhaps to please the missionaries and tame the young girl. Margarita ran away in November 1893, so Anthony was married to Lucia in April 1894. Margarita returned to the mission and fell pregnant in March 1894.


By December 1894 three of the mission girls had round bellies: Martha (confinement on 14 December 1894), Purgin (17 January 1895) and Margarita (29 January 1895). The priests knew that they must make some changes in the management of the girls, there were still no Sisters. They engaged Margarita with Gabriel just two weeks before her confinement. Gabriel needed to be tied more closely to the mission. He and Norbert had run away together, not for the first time, and were brought back by 'Captain' (Buckley) in October 1894. Now Gabriel was allocated a two-acre garden plot so that he could feed himself and his bride.


When Margarita's child was born (29 January 1895) everyone noticed how white it was. The missionaries were strongly implicated and exerted pressure on Margarita to disclose the father of her baby. She was faced with the choice of either telling, or leaving the mission. Margarita was 'cast off' by her husband and left the mission with her white baby. To whom could she now turn for help? The Chinese could afford no protection, nor was a lactating woman likely to be of much attraction, her father's wishes had been ignored, and she had been forced off the mission that provided her with a husband.


A few days after Margarita's expulsion from the mission Gabriel also left (March 1895), perhaps he was looking for her. On his return to the mission at the end of the wet season (May 1895) he found that his garden had been given to Leo Gorop. Gabriel helped Jackie Wannon on his plot so that he might claim at least a small share of the corn harvest. In August news arrived that the white illegitimate baby girl had died at Benduong, covered with ulcers.


Half a year later, in April 1896, the missionaries' marriage plans were implemented: Gabriel Dugmül and Margarita Dandam were married and became mission colonists with an allocated garden. From September Gabriel was absent for several months in connection with his circumcision (together with Norbert) at Parinyö. At Christmas 1896 Gabriel returned, but his garden had already been given to Matthew. Gabriel and Margarita remained at the mission until November 1898, the time of year when food was usually in short supply and the missionaries sent workers away.


So Gabriel had the benefit of his own two-acre plot from January 1895, the date of his engagement, to March 1895, when his fiancée was sent away and he also absented himself for two months. He again received a garden from his marriage in April 1896 to September 1896 when he started to prepare for his circumcision. Perhaps he even had a share in a garden from January 1897 to November 1898. The couple does not reappear in the diary of the mission, which closed in June 1899. If the 'ulcers' that covered Margareta's baby now manifested in her, the couple would have been sent off the mission.


Teresa and Paul


Paul Tyedburro was one of the first young men at the mission (present in January 1889) and among the first to be baptised (March 1891). In October 1891 he received a garden plot. Plots were also given to Ned and the nearly blind old William with his wife Marianne and daughter Teresa Nimbali.


After the fracas at the Coppermine, from which Margareta fled to the mission, the Chinese no longer had Aboriginal women living with them (2 February 1892). Ah Sam suggested to old William that they didn't need to go hungry if only they would send Teresa, Helena or Martha to the Coppermine (22 February 1892). In April 1892 the missionaries discovered that four men, including Paul, to whom Teresa had been promised, plotted to carry away the mission girls. Paul was allowed to keep his garden, but would no longer receive a stick of tobacco, and was told that he had now lost his right of betrothal to Teresa Nimbali.


During May 1892, while yams were still scarce, more and more girls ran away from the mission. First Agnes, Claudie and Domitilla bolted with Norbert and Gabriel after the boys had been punished for something (2 May 1892). Next Teresa bolted with Amand and Adolf, who had been scolded (8 May 1892). Ten days later three girls tried to run from Uniya, but were brought back. Then Lucia 'went off' (22 May 1892), and when Munyon was bitten by one of the mission dogs, kept to safeguard the premises, Claudia and Teresa ran away with Munyon.


To put an end to her bolting, Teresa Nimbali was engaged to Paul Tyetburo (29 May 1892). They were unceremoniously married two weeks later (13 June 1892) with 'no public festivity as the parties concerned did not merit this. Henceforth Nimbali must be kept at her husband's expense'. It was a hungry year. Teresa's father was found in July 'almost starved to death' (10 July 1892) and Paul was commended for staying 'true to his Christian principles' - had he handed over his wife to the Chinese 'he would have had plenty to eat'. Paul apparently objected to lending Aboriginal women for trade to outsiders. In November 1893 he was involved in a shoot-out with the manager of the copper mine, when a small party of men from the mission tried to reclaim young Helena from there. Old William died in December 1894, and Teresa's mother Marianne moved off the mission.


In March 1895 the Christian marriage of Teresa and Paul was in turmoil. Paul was found with Dumboil (Harry's wife) and 'soundly beaten' by Fr. McKillop and Br. Scharmer, who had a reputation with his Martini Henry rifle. This so enraged Paul that he destroyed his garden and left the station together with his relative Leo Gorog and family. Teresa in turn ran away towards Hermit Hill with Damian, recently circumcised (25 February 1895). At the mission life was getting uncomfortable for the women after three of the mission girls had babies and the missionaries were interrogating the women (15 March 1895). Paul returned to speak to Fr. McKillop about his future, and next day Tobias set out to bring back the two adulterous women Teresa and Dumboil. Two days later Paul and some other young men took off to find and punish Damian. They located Damian and Teresa in the bush, 'almost starving'. Teresa received three spear wounds and Damian was nearly killed by the enraged husband Paul (17 March 1895). In November that year Damian was caught on another fling, punished by spear, and died from his wounds four days later. In March 1896 five men turned up armed with stone-tipped lances, on a mission to kill Paul. The missionaries sent them a message that they would be handed over to the police to be hanged. The avengers retreated, but three months later a massive war gathering of three tribes (24 June 1896) vowed retribution for the killing of three of their people at the mission in recent months, one of them Damian.


Paul returned to his life at the mission. He was bringing in much timber, and in return had his field ploughed for him in return (30 November 1896). Having been strong-handed in his punishment of his own wife's adultery a year earlier, he now stood up for Helena, also accused of adultery, intervening when Helena's husband Matthew was about to cast a stone spear at her (1 December 1896).


But there was still a score to settle with Teresa Nimbali. Acting in conspiracy with Paul, Old Bede hurled a knife at her while she had her back turned to him (25 March 1897). It looked like a fatal wound, the task seemed accomplished. Yet three days later Bede reaffirmed that he would kill Nimbali 'today at 11'.162 Bede was captured and tied to a stake until the knife with which he tried to kill Nimbali was produced. On 30 March the knife was brought from Paramalmal. Both Bede and Paul were 'chastised', and once Bede had recovered from the punishment, he was 'sent away free' (31 March 1897). The 'old man' Bede died at age 55 the following year (31 June 1898).


Teresa recovered from the attack and fled the mission. The missionaries feared that Paul was not letting matters rest. When he absented himself for three weeks in April 1897, they thought he had left for good, gone 'probably to kill his wife' (19 April 1897, 10 May 1897). But he brought Teresa back to the colony. In September 1897, during a general lack of food, Paul and Teresa had a domestic argument and Paul left. The mission was now so short of supplies that they had to send away everyone except those working their own plots, and Paul was given a plot in the re-allocation, in the hope of attracting him back to the domestic arrangement aspired by the missionaries.


Presumably the couple arranged themselves again for another nine months until Nimbali ran away again (17 July 1898). When she returned two months later she was punished, ran away the following day but was captured and brought back. The following month Paul and Teresa are mentioned for the last time in the diary: 'Nimbali, Paul's wife has left him, called by her mother' (29 Oct 1898).


Helena and Matthew

Helena Bayi 's story runs for nearly ten years, from her first menstruation in January 1889 to receiving extreme unction after a beating from her wedded husband in October 1898. She was among the first children to be baptised at Daly River in June 1889 and soon afterwards betrothed to Edward (January 1891). The missionaries maintained that the two 'chose each other of their own accord' and presented gifts to Helena's father Nabba, 'which made him gladder still'. Shortly after Edward was baptised (May 1891) objections to the betrothal were raised and came to a head in June 1891, so Edward was married to another woman. The missionaries found it a ' grave disappointment' that three marriages that year did not eventuate after regular engagements because the persons concerned 'have given grave scandal' (31 December 1892). Caught between competing expectations Helena had a fit in November 1891 which the locals interpreted as 'nabba', and which the priests treated with exorcism, holy water and touching with relics.


She was at this stage staying with her parents, Millie and Nabba, and the missionaries were concerned that she was not well guarded at night (17 November 1891). They engaged her to Matthew Neddagone (or Bedagone) (31 January 1892) who had been baptised together with Helena in June 1889, and planned for the first Christian wedding on the mission, a triumph of missionary effort for which the manager of the Coppermine was invited to attend as public official (28 February 1892).


The Christian wedding was to rescue Helena from the clutches of her father, who would possibly lend her to the Chinese working near the copper mine (Ah Sam). When a large stash of tobacco was found in Nabba's possession (22 February 1892), the missionaries demanded to know where he had obtained it, and discovered that Ah Sam from the Chinese gardens near the copper mine had sent two plugs with a demand for Helena. Ah Sam and other Chinese men had been performing work at the mission from September 1891 to January 1892, and since then Ah Sam had set his sights on Helena. According to Helena's brother Jackie, Ah Sam pointed a pistol at Jackie's head to find out where Helena was. At around this time Ah Sam was accused of killing Solomon (for which Solomon's people blamed Tobias, and Ah Sam was acquitted). Ah Sam, a skilled craftsman and overseer, may have been in a high state of agitation over some issue that is not recoverable from the sources.163


It was an unusually hungry year, and almost everyone had to be turned away from the mission. As a result two of its most promising boys, Zachary and Amand, both died in June 1892. The missionaries were sure that if they sent away any of the girls they 'would have either to starve to death or submit to sin' (July 1892) whereas Matthew and Helen would be 'killed by the blacks' if they were sent off the mission. These two were so fearful of an attack that they sought shelter with Helena's brother and obtained the missionaries' permission to share the hut of Jacky Wannon and Olivia (17 July 1892). Helena helped Jacky and Olivia in their garden under instruction from Br. Sboril (25 August 1892) who was later dismissed in disgrace.


In October of the following year there was trouble with this promising young couple. Instead of attending mass, Matthew stole into the mission while the others were at Sunday service, helped himself to some potatoes and stole off again. This time it was the police constable who demanded to have Helena. The constable claimed that Helena 'wished to go' to the railway siding (with him) but Matthew alerted the missionaries that the police had 'kept her under the pretext that he needed her as an interpreter before the judges'. Some sources at the copper mines were claiming that Helena had left her husband, but others denied this, and the mission residents were becoming angry with the way in which they were getting misrepresented by certain people at the copper mine. Fr. Kristen tried to clear the matter up with the mine manager, and obtained a response that was 'couched in language by no means friendly, though not openly hostile' (12 October 1893). The inquiry achieved nothing except ill feeling between the missionaries and the copper mine administrators, so the mission men took matters into their own hands and made a raid on the copper mine to take Helena back. The mine manager Albert Droscher confronted them with a gun and shot at them as they were fleeing. Captain and Paul were lying on the ground as Droscher re-loaded, so Captain snatched up Paul's hunting rifle and fired back. Droscher did not want to become embroiled in police business. He and Constable Brookes went to the mission, 'left some tobacco for the natives', and implored Fr. Conrath 'to say nothing about what has lately been going on'. Droscher wanted to wash his hands of the whole business of the abduction of the beautiful Helena and the war it had caused.


In March 1894 Helena was missing again, reportedly taken to the Chinese Gardens (9-13 March 1894). She turned up a week later accompanied by another woman and followed by her brother Jackie. In June she was absent again ' for reasons unknown' while her husband remained at the mission. When she came back in September she was refused admission 'as a punishment for her bad living and bad example' (28 September 1894). Three other mission girls were pregnant and beginning to show at this time. Helena's banishment was lifted on 8 December 18984 when 'Matthew and Helena are reconciled, pardoned, and received once more into the colony' but the peace lasted only two months before 'Matthew and Helena have been ejected from their farm for laziness' (8 January 1895).


Helena's mother had a still-birth, possibly by abortion, from which she died in April 1895, while her husband Nabba was away on a lengthy errand from mid-February 1895 to September 1896. Neither was Helena at the mission for her mother's funeral. She arrived back in late May: 'Helena Bayi has returned contrite, having travelled a great part of the journey back alone, to confess her fault and be reconciled to God and to her husband. Matthew says that he will be reconciled to his wife when she has made her confession' (20 May 1896). The reconciliation was effected two days later.


After Matthew underwent some tribal business (21 November 1896) he became more violent towards Helena. The missionaries at first thought that he was undergoing circumcision at Korondye, but later concluded that there had been a tribal council ('conciliabulum at Gorondyo') that decided that Helena had to be killed as punishment for adultery, and that it was Matthew's brother Pine Creek who counselled him like 'an evil spirit'. Matthew was about to cast a stone-tipped spear at Helena when her brother Jackie Wannon and Paul intervened and diverted the throw (1 December 1896). Two days later the couple was reported as being 'really reconciled' and Matthew was allocated a garden at Christmas (23 December 1896).


In February 1897 Helena was ill from mysterious causes that sound like an abortion. She had uterine bleeding ('a menstrual flow disturbance'), abdominal pains ('constipation') and a temperature ('perspiring from a chill'). She was 'praying day and night' and received Extreme Unction, but survived. Her father died in 1898 during a period of food shortages and after several bouts of illness (May 1897, 17 Nov 1897, 4 September 1898) and one month later Matthew beat up Helena so badly that she was close to death and again received extreme unction, the last mention of these two in the mission diary.


Deborah Rose thinks that Matthew Melbyerk, a main informant for Ronald and Catherine Berndt in 1946, who was a young man at the mission, may be this same man. He gave a 'pitiless' account of the meaning of Christianity for Aboriginal people of the Daly. They began by being fed at the mission, then returning to their gardens, then sharing food with the missionaries but then realised that 'all of this is for white men' because 'Jesus Christ was on the side of the white people.' Chinese and white men traded rice and flour and 'each bought from the other. Only the Aborigines had nothing.' 164 Matthew, if this is the same man, was one of the few who sincerely tried to live up to the standards imposed by the Jesuits without violating his traditional standing.



Charlie Yingi

Charlie Yingi, sometimes referred to as 'famous Charlie' or in the press as 'long-legged Charlie', tried his best to fit in with the missionaries. He had been accused of the coppermine murder some years ago but not convicted, and knew the value of powerful friends. The missionaries wanted this family men to settle down with garden plots and build their own huts. Charlie was first asked to construct a roof over the path leading to the mission house, a job he finished in October 1889. The structure stood for more than two months before it collapsed (4 January 1890). Charlie allowed Br. Scharmer to treat one of his two wives, Annie, for sores (28 November 1889) and for his baby Dora to be baptised (17 January 1891).


Perhaps Charlie tried to teach the missionary about the ethics of mutual obligation: 'Charlie and the other Leo got back from their journey quite worn out; why they were so worn out we do not know - what they said was that they had contracted this weakness in our service, and they demanded food in compensation. We did not agree.' (2 January 1893). But eventually the missionaries gave in and gave him flour and tobacco (16 Feb 1893).


Charlie participated in a range of traditional 'family business' matters while also trying the new lifestyle of an agriculturalist. In November 1893 he was part of the armed raid on the copper mine to recapture the beautiful Helena. In May 1894 he had a spear-wound in his foot, and the following month he and his wives were living at the camp of the Dilk patriarch Analkan during a period of general sickness (11 June 1894). By January 1895 he was too weak to do gardening and gave up his plot. At the end of the year the missionaries asked him to retrieve two women who had run away from their husbands (presumably one of them was Teresa), but this time Charlie was 'shirking' the task (1 December 1895). In August 1896 he gave up his garden again, and moved to Pondergangynnga, where he survived the bite of a deadly snake (tyüt) in December. By February 1897 he was 'quite restored to health' and was employed at the mission, but he was not admitted as a 'colonist' with his own garden plot (perhaps because he did not commit to monogamy). Charlie soon caused mischief by inciting a group of young men, who had been excessively punished by the neophyte Casey, to leave the mission (3 March 1897). His wife Annie died on 27 July 1898.



Notorious Captain

Captain, also referred to as 'notorious Captain' and 'Captain Buckley', was sent away from the mission shortly after his younger wife had an abortion. She stayed with Clara and Zachary and was treated for a sore hand (January and February 1889). In November 1893 Captain participated in the armed raid to recapture Helena, and in March 1894 he became part of an expedition to see whether Helena's father Nabba, who had been missing for some months, needed any help. In November 1896 he seduced Marawunger, the wife of old Barramundi Ngologorog 'again' (27 November 1896 - it seems that she had a baby in January 1895). In February and March 1898 he participated in raids on the mission goats, claiming six of the mission's 1,701 goats.


Leo Damo

Leo Damo was a baptised (14 May 1893) domestic worker at the mission, when he eloped with Anthony's wife Lucia (29 January 1895). He seriously wounded Anthony by throwing a stone at him (2 February 1895) and so a posse of Aboriginal men was organised to bring him to justice. They first took Leo to Anthony's father Barramundi (Taruak) to mete out his punishment (3 February 1895) and then brought him to the missionaries, who gave him the choice between a judicial trial in Darwin or tribal punishment. Leo chose to face up to the family men on the mission, who each gave him four blows in public. All was forgiven and Leo received his first communion (2 June 1895), but Lucia Berit gave birth to a son exactly nine months after the elopement (28 September 1895). In May 1896 the issue came up again: ' In the evening there was a disturbance connected with the crime committed some months ago by Leo Damo' (18 May 1896).


A year later another young woman set her eyes on Leo Damo: 'Minna, disobeying her father's command did not return home yesterday evening, but has gone away - report says with Leo Damo whom she wishes to marry' (28 March 1897).

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1 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985.

2 'Diary of the Station of St. Joseph of the Mission of the Society of Jesus on the Daly River, in the Northern Territory of Australia' translated by Paddy Dalton SJ, revised and typed by F. J. Dennett SJ August 1982, in Archives of the Society of Jesus, Hawthorn. The diary covers Old Uniya (Queen of the Holy Rosary Station) from 1888 and New Uniya (St. Joseph’s Mission) for its entire duration(1891-1899). Subsequently referred to as DRM.

3 Strele 1886 in Anton Strele SJ, Annual Letters from the Jesuit Mission in North Australia 1886-1889, translated by F. Dennett SJ, Archives of the Society of Jesus, Hawthorn.

4 DRM records that plans to extend in February 1888 faded in May 1889 with the news that work at the coppermine had stopped when 'Mr. Cokayne' and Captain Reynolds were departing, leaving 'Captain Dunstan in charge at the Mine'. The Chinese gardeners were offering the missionaries cheap vegetables in 1889 because they had nobody else to sell them to. In November 1891 Mr. Slater from Wheal Danks bid his farewell with the news that the mine was to be abandoned, in February 1892 Mr. Heydn was the mine manager, in September the mine was selling off derelict items, in October Albert Droscher was manager, who announced his intention to leave in December 1893. In June 1894 the mission purchased the Chinese gardens at Woolianna and other allotments at Benderang and Sevinge, and in June 1895 the last Chinese had left and 'Coppermine is deserted'. DRM July 1889, 25 November 1891, 28 February 1892, 18 September 1892, 26 June 1894, 26 June 1895.

5 According to Stanley (1985) the Chinese gardeners arrived in 1890, however the mission diary already mentions Chinese gardeners offering vegetables at rock bottom prices in mid-1889 because they no longer had anyone to sell to.

6 Regina Ganter Mixed Relations UWA Press 2006:174.

7 'The Native Difficulty In The Northern Territory', South Australian Register, 7 October 1884: 5. Retrieved January 19, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page3620824

8 The figure is near enough to the truth, although three Europeans are mentioned in DRM that year: Heydn was mine manager in 1892, Droscher is mentioned from 1890 to 1893, and Guilfoyle from Fountain Head came to kill a steer on 18 September 1892. Peter Forrest The Spirit of the Daly, Daly River Community Development Association, 1994:66-67.

9 At the end of 1891 the mission superior decided that school children would no longer need to do domestic service or look after cows and horses. DRM 11 December 1891.

10 DRM 4 January 1890.

11 Deborah Bird Rose 'Signs of Life on a barbarous frontier: intercultural encounters in North Australia', Humanities Research, 2, 1998:17-36.

12 DRM 12 November 1896.

13 DRM 17 July 1892.

14 Deborah Bird Rose 'Signs of Life on a barbarous frontier: intercultural encounters in North Australia', Humanities Research, 2, 1998:17-36.

15 DRM 30 August 1892.

16 DRM 7 November 1892.

17 DRM 9 December 1993.

18 DRM 1 October 1891, 20 September 1896, 17 March 1895.

19 Deborah Bird Rose 'Signs of Life on a barbarous frontier: intercultural encounters in North Australia', Humanities Research, 2, 1998:17-36.

20 DRM 29 April 1892.

21 DRM 20 July 1892.

22 DRM 17 November 1893.

23 DRM 10 August 1888.

24 DRM 29 August 1888.

25 DRM January 1891.

26 DRM 17 March 1895, 29 March 1895.

27 D. Mackillop 'Anthropological notes on the Aboriginal tribes of the Daly River', Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 17, 1892-93:254-64, p. 262.

28 Deborah Bird Rose 'Signs of Life on a barbarous frontier: intercultural encounters in North Australia', Humanities Research, 2, 1998:17-36.

29 A. Kristen, Aboriginal Language, 1899: 197, MS 1239 AIATSIS.

30 DRM 13 January 1895.

31 DRM 17 April 1895, February 1897.

 32 On 17 May 1890 (DRM) Fr. McKillop was called to Vunellen for a deathbed baptism and arrived back at the mission at midnight with bare feet so sore that he could not walk for two days.


33 DRM 30 April 1898.

34 DRM 16 May 1891.

35 DRM 22 December 1891.

36 DRM 22 December 1895.

37 DRM 14-17 September 1895.

38 DRM 8 and 9 November 1891.

39 DRM 13 February 1892.

40 DRM 18 March 1889.

41 Fr. Fleury, recently arrived from Germany, was told 'that the body of a Christian child was hanging somewhere behind the goat-yard on a tree. ... the following day I look for it, and found a parcel of paperbark on a low tree. I took a spade in order to make a hole and burry the child's body; before putting it in the earth I opened the parcel to look for the content; but I found nothing but dust and a bone with 4 or 5 points, that seemed to have been made purposely. I was said [told] that the bones are often taken away and carried about in baskets, and also used for malefice. Not knowing what was the content of the parcel, I put the whole into the ground without any prayer. Fleury to Milz 10 May 1900, DRM.

42 DRM 14-17 September 1895.

43 DRM 17 April 1895.

44 DRM 16 November 1896.

45 DRM 13 April 1891.

46 DRM 14 January 1892.

47 DRM 7 May 1893.

48 Paddy J. Dalton SJ ‘History of the Jesuits in South Australia 1848-1948’ Unpublished MS, 1948:39.

49 Paddy J. Dalton SJ ‘History of the Jesuits in South Australia 1848-1948’ Unpublished MS, 1948:39.

50 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985.

51 Paddy J. Dalton SJ ‘History of the Jesuits in South Australia 1848-1948’ Unpublished MS, 1948.

52 According to Stanley the high ground on the west side of the Daly River, on which Old Uniya was established, was believed to be border area of Malak Malak, Woolwonga and Agaquilla. Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:7.

53 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:8.

54 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:7.

55 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985. The DRM merely mentions on 8 April 1888 that 'many Wilwongas came from their camp', and that a girl called Mannock, who previously lived at the Coppermines, 'told us she had no father or mother and wished to belong to Fr. Kristen's school and have him as father "all day". '

56 DRM 2 March 1888. See also a brief mention of a Woolwonga man found dead at this time http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/47264920?>

57 DRM 15 April 1888, 25 May 1888.

58 DRM 14 December 1890, April 1891, 28 June 1891.

59 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985.

60 DRM 11 November 1889.

61 DRM 13 June 1891.

62 DRM 24 August 1893.

63 DRM August 1889.

64 On 22 October 1890 Fr. Conrath at Holy Rosary station (Old Uniya) recorded that the boy Peter left Old Uniya to go to school at Komorkye (presumably Serpentine Lagoon). Later references are to 'Anthony of Komorkye' and his father Barramundi from Komorkye (Gorondye or Gorondyo) referred to as a tribal meeting place.

65 DRM 18 December 1889.

66 'Br. Pfalzer went with the buggy to help the unfortunates. He left the Station in the afternoon, and an hour after we saw Fr. McKiIllop returning exhausted.' DRM 26 September 1889.

67 DRM 9 October 1889.

68 DRM 13 October 1889.

69 Paddy J. Dalton SJ ‘History of the Jesuits in South Australia 1848-1948’ Unpublished MS, 1948.

70 ‘Blacks v. Coolies – Hope for the Aboriginal’ South Australian Register 30 June 1893:6.

71 DRM 20 April 1891.

72 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:8.

73 Paddy J. Dalton SJ ‘History of the Jesuits in South Australia 1848-1948’ Unpublished MS, 1948:42.

74 The feast day of St. Francis Xavier is on 3 December, whereas Strele's 1891 letter describes the duration of the Sacred Heart mission as October 1882 to November 1891. The mission diary has removals beginning in late September. Anton Strele SJ, Annual Letters from the Jesuit Mission in North Australia 1886-1889, translated by F. Dennett SJ, Jesuit Archives, Hawthorn.

75 DRM 22 June 1891.

76 G.J. O'Kelly, 'The Jesuit Mission Stations in the Northern Territory 1882-1899', History Honours thesis, Monash University 1967:43.

77 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:8.

78 DRM June 1890, 1 October 1891.

79 DRM 28 January 1892.

80 DRM 24 May 1892.

81 DRM 6 September 1892.

82 DRM 21 May 1895, February 1898, 23 March 1898.

83 DRM 10 January 1899, 22 January 1899.

84 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:8.

85 DRM 27 September 1891.

86 DRM 13 December 1891.

87 The mission diary refers to this removal in terms of the scarcity of food, particularly yillik, rather than a quarantine measure as suggested by Stanley (1985).

88 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:8.

89 DRM 10 July 1892.

90 DRM 26 June 1892.

91 DRM 17 November 1893.

92 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:8.

93 DRM 18 September 1892.

94 Woolianna is variously spellt Ulicanna/Uliyenna/ Ulyanna/Uliyanna/ Uloyenna in the mission diary. DRM 28 August 1893, 12 November 1896, 26 June 1894, 28 July 1894

95 DRM 2 September 1891, 27 September 1891.

96 DRM 21 November 1891.

97 DRM 22 December 1891:

'Fr. McKillop and Fr. Marschner were invited by the captain of the sampan to breakfast with him, and were treated very well. The special reason of this honour soon appeared - the captain is a Catholic who for 18 years in China had constant friendly relations with priests and has a special reverence for them. While still a pagan, he noticed that the ministers of the sects seemed largely to go to China to make money and then return to Europe, whereas the Catholic priests did not do this. ... In the evening the Chinamen who are engaged in getting timber for us invited the Fathers to supper.'

98 ‘Blacks v. Coolies – Hope for the Aboriginal’ South Australian Register 30 June 1893:6.

99 ‘Daly River Mission Station, Northern Territory’, The Catholic Press, 7 November 1896:10. Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104409512

100 DRM 22 December 1891, 23 October 1892.

101 DRM 4 July 1892, 9 July 1892.

102 DRM 5 September 1892.

103 DRM 16 February 1893:

'Charlie and the whole family of John, whom Fr. McKillop has taken with him to the South, were given flour and tobacco - they are depressed and sad, and have been asking us what has happened to him.'

104 Paddy J. Dalton SJ ‘History of the Jesuits in South Australia 1848-1948’ Unpublished MS, 1948:52. No source given. The only Tommy in the mission diary is Tommy Ponga Ponga, who had his three-months old son baptised on 29 March 1895. This makes it unlikely that he was one of the two boys who returned with Fr. McKillop on 15 July 1894.

105 No source is given. Wendy Beresford-Maning, 'Men With no past? Researching Religious Lives', Journal of Northern Territory History 20, 2009.

106 DRM 16 February 1893, 21 March 1895, 29 March 1895.

107 DRM 9 May 1895, 5 December 1895.

108 DRM 24 November 1894.

109 DRM 12 April 1897 'a monkey is killed'.

110 DRM 24 December 1895.

111 At Christmas 1893 Fr. Kristen noted that 'Fr. Superior has within 10 years been absent from the Mission 3 times for a year or more'. DRM 25 December 1893.

112 DRM 6 July 1894, 19 October 1894. When a report came that 'a young man was circumcised and then killed at the Coppermine by Davie and Peter, natives of the Woolna tribe', 'Dr Dahl went to the coppermines, [and] found the bones of the young man killed and cremated yesterday.' DRM 28-29 September 1894; see also Knut Dahl In Savage Australia London, Philip Allan & Co. 1926.

113 DRM 30 December 1894.

114 DRM 20 January 1895.

115 'Br. Hulka is now sleeping at Ulyanna [Woolianna] so that Br. Sboril may not be left there alone.' DRM 27 September 1894.

116 DRM 27 March 1895.

117 DRM 25 November 1895.

118 DRM 2 September 1896.

119 DRM 23 May 1895.

120 DRM 26 May 1895.

121 DRM 2 June 1895.

122 DRM 28 October 1895.

123 Fr. Timothy Kenny from the Irish Jesuit province visited from 20 May to 8 June 1896, because a merger of the Austrian and Irish Jesuits in Australia was being considered.

124 Fr. Joseph Milz, the former Austrian Provincial, was appointed as Superior of the Australian missions in March 1896.

125 DRM 30 April 1898, 9 June 1898.

126 DRM 31 August 1896.

127 David Strong SJ The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-1998, Archives of the Society of Jesus, 1999:228.

128 Eilmann was not very forthcoming about his intentions on the missions he visited. The Jesuits merely knew that 'A man called Eilmann, a German, came and pitched his tent opposite the Reduction. He says he has come to see the district.' (DRM 25 July 1897) and 'Dr Eilmann went to the Copper Mines where he will meet Fr. Marschner and Br. Scharmer in the afternoon to go on an excursion to Mt. Tolmer and view that region.' (DRM 2 August 1897). On 15 August 1897 'a European came from Mt. Tolmer to buy horses, but left on the 16th without having bought any'. Eilmann also visited Hermannsburg mission, as recorded in the 9 December 1898 Minutes of the Mission Committee held at Lightspass (Lutheran Archives Australia).

129 ‘The Jesuits In The Northern Territory, Freeman's Journal, 16 March 1895:15. Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111110660

Br. Sboril left 18 March 1895.

130 DRM 12 March 1895.

131 The resolve to extend beyond the Malak-Malak is recorded on 17 September 1895, and the resolution to teach in English on 23 May 1895 (DRM).

132 DRM 23 March 1896.

133Daly River Mission Station, Northern Territory’, The Catholic Press 7 November 1896:10. Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104409512

134 DRM 28 March 1898.

135 DRM 16 January 1899, 22 January 1899, 20 February 1899.

136 ‘Daly River Mission’, The Advertiser, 20 May 1899:6. Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article29501919>

137 DRM 1 April 1899.

138 F. Flynn MSC '40 ans chez les Aborigènes Australiens - l'évêque aux 150 épouses' Annales de Notre-Dame du Sacré-Coeur, December 1960:266-269.

Dalton gives this figure as 325. Paddy J. Dalton SJ ‘History of the Jesuits in South Australia 1848-1948’ Unpublished MS, 1948:62.

139 Dalton (1948) gives the figure as £16,558. A news report in July 1899 wrongly refers to £50,000, but a response to this in June 1900 gives the figure as £15,000. With a government subsidy of £100 per year for twenty years, and weak support from Australian collections, the figure could not have been £50,000. Paddy J. Dalton SJ ‘History of the Jesuits in South Australia 1848-1948’ Unpublished MS, 1948:62; and ‘Daly River Mission to be Abandoned’, Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 7 July 1899:3. Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4267179

140 ‘Daly River Mission to be Abandoned’, Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 7 July 1899:3. Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4235572

141 Mrs J.H. Niemann, An Australian Lotus Land, Reminiscences of Life in the Northern Territory of Australia, compiled and edited by Muriel E Farr OBE, occasional articles in the Leader 1 May 1920 to 3 July 1920. Cited by Barbara James in an address to the Historical Society of the Northern Territory, 14 September 1998.

142 Melzer to Milz, 13 May 1900, DRM.

143 Fleury to Milz, 10 May 1900, DRM.

144 'Some time ago a gentleman got round by boat who stiled himself to be Missioneer for the Blacks. We suspected him to be a Weslyan yet we were wrong in that. He and another man are send by certain reach people in Adelaide to teach blacks industry and seem to belong to the Anglican Church. Well one of them, while he was waiting for his companion who was to come overland, went to the Daly and we were strongly inclined to think they intend to carry on their work there; yet their ambition is, as they say, to teach wild blacks to work and that even without tobacco.' Melzer to Milz 30 November 1899 DRM.

145 DRM 20 June 1899.

146 Fleury to Milz, 23 December 1900, DRM.

147 Fleury to Milz, 7 Oct 1900, DRM.

148 Melzer to Milz, 30 November 1899, DRM.

149 Fleury to Milz, 10 May 1900, DRM.

150 Melzer to Milz ,13 May 1900, DRM.

151 Fleury to Milz, 23 December 1900, DRM.

152 Fleury to Milz, 23 December 1900,

153 ‘Aborigines And Mission Work’, Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 15 June 1900: 3. Retrieved March 8, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4267179; ‘Daly River Mission’, Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 20 July 1900, July 20: 3. Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4268773

154 Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:8.

155 Deborah Bird Rose 'Signs of Life on a barbarous frontier: intercultural encounters in North Australia', Humanities Research, 2, 1998:26-27.

156 G.J. O'Kelly, 'The Jesuit Mission Stations in the Northern Territory 1882-1899', History Honours thesis, Monash University 1967:I.

157 Preface by F.J. Dennett, 1982, DRM:II.

158 'Fr. Kristen spoke well of a young man named Matthew who is probably the same person'. Deborah Bird Rose 'Signs of Life on a barbarous frontier: intercultural encounters in North Australia', Humanities Research, 2, 1998:36, note 32. Indeed the mission diary does not seem to refer to two different persons by the name of Matthew, although in DRM reference is to Matthew Neddagone (or Bedagone) while Rose's source refers to Matthew Melbyerk.

159 Deborah Bird Rose 'Signs of Life on a barbarous frontier: intercultural encounters in North Australia', Humanities Research, 2, 1998:27 citing W. Stanner White Man Got No Dreaming ANU Press 1979:80.

160 Our Story - The Catholic Church in the Northern Territory http://www.darwin.catholic.org.au/our-story/history-nt-church.htm accessed 23 February 2012; and ‘New Aboriginal Missions’, The Catholic Press 23 August 1934:28. Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104374971

161 Stanley refers to the people of the Marranunggu area as Maranunggu. The term 'Dilk' can not be verified. Owen Stanley, ‘The Mission and Peppimenarti: An economic study of two Daly River Aboriginal communities’ North Australia Research Unit, Darwin 1985:2, 38.

162 DRM 29 March 1897:

'message that old man Bede will kill Nimbali today. On being captured and tied up, the man confessed that he had said this, but only in joke, and that he was lying. Fr. Conrath heard Ngolmeriyen speaking as follows to the boy Gregory at 11: 'Yerra ngiskuia' The Father asked the boy: Did he begin by saying 'Nimbali'? The boy said yes. He asked the man: 'Are you talking of Nimbali?' the man said yes. So what the man had said was 'Nimbali yerra ngiskuia?' that is to say 'Is not Nimbali already dead?' Bede, captive, is to be kept safe tonight and tied to a stake till the knife is brought to us, which he is said to have taken from Numorogarrua and which is at Paramalmal.

163 22 February 1892:

Today 7 plugs of tobacco were found in the bag of Nabba, Helena's father. He said he got them from his daughter. He had arrived yesterday at the [mission] Station. Investigating, Fr. McKillop discovered that Nabba had acquired 5 plugs legitimately, but that the other 2 were given him by Ah Sam the murderer (who, in the absence of convincing evidence, escaped a capital sentence). Ah Sam, while on his way to Howley [railway station], met Helena's brother and asked him where his sister was; he at first said he did not know, but with a pistol pointed at his head confessed that she was at the Mission Station. Then this murderer said to him: take these 2 plugs to her, and tell her to come to me. Jackie then said he could not give them to Fr. McKillop for Helena because of the 'growl' he would get, and then Ah Sam told him to give them to Helena's father. Helena told her father that she had never seen the man. Later we found out that this rascally Ah Sam had told the old man William to bring [Teresa] Nimbali and Martha to the Chinese garden - he would send to them at the Station some red kangaroos.

164Deborah Bird Rose 'Signs of Life on a barbarous frontier: intercultural encounters in North Australia', Humanities Research, 2, 1998:29.