The Aborigines of Victoria
Information and Artifacts of Victorian Aboriginal Culture of Australia
Robert Brough Smyth’s compilation, The Aborigines of Victoria volumes I and II, arose from his efforts to gather information and artifacts of Victorian Aboriginal culture of Australia at a time when their vestiges were fast disappearing.
Robert Brough Smyth (1830-1889) was a successful Melbourne-based mining engineer and civil servant whose international contacts included the geologist Adam Sedgwick. He also spent 16 years as Secretary of the Board for the Protection of the Aborigines. In this study of the society and customs of indigenous Australians in the Victoria region, first published in 1878, he combines his own observations with those of others who lived or worked closely with the Aboriginal population.
Volume I of the The Aborigines of Victoria discusses the Aborigines’ physical and mental characteristics, demographics, social interaction, rituals, daily life and mythology. Comparisons are made throughout with other indigenous populations, particularly those of nearby Pacific and Indonesian islands. Illustrated throughout, the book takes into account the changes forced on the native population by the arrival of European settlers in the late eighteenth century and preserves much information that might otherwise have been lost.
The principal focus of The Aborigines of Victoria volume II is language. Smyth discusses the similarities and differences between regional dialects, grammatical rules and the use of sign language, and the vocabularies of different regions. The nine essays by European settlers which form the appendices explore a variety of anthropological topics and shed light on the complex relationship that existed between the indigenous Australian population and the European immigrants. A final chapter outlines the customs and characteristics of the Aborigines of Tasmania.
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