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South Australia Lakes

South Australia / September 28, 2020

Lake Hope was discovered by S.J. and R.J. Stuckey in October 1859 and given that name "because we hope for better fortune in the future". Its Aboriginal name was pando penunie, or great lake. After having been shown around the area by Stuckey, Thomas Elder took up a pastoral lease over the area in 1860 and appointed Henry Dean as manager of Lake Hope Station in 1861. Soon agitation started for the establishment of police protection but P.E. Warburton, Commissioner of Police opposed the idea in 1863. As far as he was concerned people should look after their own property first.

On 1 January 1864 Thomas Elder took up another three pastoral leases in the Lake Hope area creating much ill feeling among the Aborigines who now became troublesome and at times killed some of his stock. During the debates in the Legislative Council on 4 August 1865 Captain Bagot wanted to know what the government was doing, or had done, about police protection in the north. He was told that a police post would be opened at the Hamilton Creek.

To protect the pastoralists, who had moved even further from the settled areas in their search for land and wealth, from the local Aborigines, who were not impressed with strangers moving into their territory, a police station was finally opened at Lake Hope in 1865. It was one of 52 stations in South Australia at that time.

It was Police Trooper Samuel Gason, one of the 212 members of the police force, who established the police post and remained there until it closed. Although it was also the start of a severe and long-lasting drought, Gason recorded a flood that year in the Cooper Creek which filled lakes Killalpaninna and Kopperamanna.

Early in 1866, when there were one corporal, two constables and five horses at the station, a group of German Moravian and Lutheran missionaries arrived in South Australia hoping to establish a missionary station in the far north at or near Lake Hope, where they arrived in December. They were soon persuaded by Gason to established their mission at either Killalpaninna or Kopperamanna instead of Lake Hope, where the natives were far from being friendly. They took his advice and the Lutherans settled at Killalpaninna while the Moravians moved to Kopperamanna. Other Moravian missionaries had already established Ebenezer Mission, near Antwerp, about 20 km from Dimboola in Victoria, in 1859.

That same year a post office was also opened at Lake Hope with Henry Dean taking care of the services. Thomas Elder would be paid 150 pounds a year to carry the mail between Blanchewater and Lake Hope once a fortnight. A year later the contract was awarded to H.D. Ryan who was paid 128 pounds.

In February 1867 it was reported that 'the natives were so lawless and so treacherous' that the lives and property of white men could not be sufficiently protected. Apart from keeping the peace between the Aborigines and the few white settlers, the main problem the constables had to deal with was cattle duffing by both Aborigines and white men. Although there were few men to patrol the area offenders were caught even 800 kilometres from the crime scene. On 26 April 1867 Mounted Constable E.N.P. Catchlove arrested J. Mc Innery for cattle stolen on the Birdville Track.

Soon after the missionaries had set up at their respective camps they became very worried about their safety and asked for police protection. This did not impress George Hamilton, the Police Commissioner in Adelaide. With a very small budget to run his department he was worried about the cost involved and wrote to the Chief Secretary 'that these gentlemen had gone into the bush beyond the settled districts to convert the Aborigines from paganism to Christianity'. Obviously he had forgotten, or ignored the fact, that the white settlers had done exactly the same thing and were the reason for the the Lake Hope police camp in the first place.

However he continued his letter stating that 'they had met with hostile natives and feared for their lives'. As they refused to shoot them, Hamilton feared that the 'ruthless savages' would soon become emboldened by their peaceful attitude and proceed to rob and murder them. According to Hamilton two or three troopers supported by armed bushmen could repel any number of natives and keep them in order.

Unfortunately the same number of troopers could not so well protect white men who refused 'to draw a trigger in their own defence'. This meant that more troopers would be needed and why should the police department have to pay for the conversion of 'Heathen Natives to the religion of the civilised European'. To gain a better understanding of the situation the Sub-Protector of Aborigines, John Parker Buttfield from Blinman, and a number of troopers visited the missions and Lake Hope.

On 30 May 1867...