On Maloga and Cummeragunja

Steve Atkinson tells the heart-breaking story of one Aboriginal mission.



Steve Atkinson tells the heart-breaking story of one Aboriginal mission.


Cummeragunja and Maloga are really two completely different places I believe, even though all the schoolhouse, all the houses and picket fences and everything that were at Maloga, were all pulled down and brought up here.

The obvious difference is Daniel Matthews, being a Christian missionary, started Maloga off his own back, being a humanitarian wanting to see better for the Aboriginal people. Daniel Matthews, because he’s saying the Aboriginal Protection Board and things that were set up in Victoria and that Coranderrk was getting rations and finance through the government, he thought New South Wales should have an Aboriginal Protection Board.

So he pushed the New South Wales government to create the Aboriginal Protection Board or the Aboriginal Protection Agency, I think it was called in New South, and in 1883 that was created. By 1885, the Aboriginal Protection Agency sent a manager to manage the Aboriginal mission that Daniel Matthews started, to start to take away the power and the good that Daniel Matthews had done. And by 1888 they had completely removed all the people and all the buildings away from what Daniel Matthews had started off his own back and with his own finance.

He’d done amazing things and to have that all stripped away in a matter of three years and taken five kilometres upstream from where he’d started it and have no contact with the people after having the people there for 14 years on his own property. It wasn’t like Daniel Matthews done it with government help. This is what people have got to realise, Daniel Matthews started that mission, him and his brother bought I think 80 acres of land. He set aside 20 acres of his own property to create a mission to help Aboriginal people. It wasn’t anything to do with the government, with no one’s help, he done it off his own back.

The more people he got, the more he had to do, the more houses he had to build, the more fences he put up. They reckon it was like a little township, you know, it had its own streets and picket fences out the front of all houses, it must have been beautiful. But to have all that, what he’d done off his own back stripped away by the government and brought up here and then have no contact, it would have been absolutely heart-breaking.

I believe the government may have taken the people and everything away from Daniel Matthews, from Maloga, because he was doing such a great job. He was empowering the people, he was educating them to a standard better than what the state schools were doing in the towns. So he was actually building up the people and giving them the confidence to be whoever they wanted to be and they were starting to really make waves in the town. Not only were they great sportsmen but they were great speakers, they were educated, and I think they may have started to become the envy of a lot of white people in the towns. So he was doing too good a job, they needed to try and stop that I think. They didn’t want all these educated blackfellas running around and running the businesses and running the towns in the future, they wanted to slow us down, I believe.