20th February 2018

Thanks to Campbell for bringing this button to my attention. Although made in Britain, it has an unique, if troubling, Australian story. 

According to the description given in Trove, it dates to 1842-1856:  ‘The name ‘New Holland’, which was not widely used to describe Eastern Australia after 1840, suggests that the button dates from the early years of the native police. If so, the button would come from either the native police force that operated in Port Phillip until 1852, or more likely the force that operated in the northern frontier of N.S.W. from 1848.’

Aborigines/VR’ police uniform button 2016, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 20 February 2018, <https://ma.as/85030>

The British used armed indigenous forces  throughout their colonies. Native patrol troops, usually under a white officer, were used as cheap, brutal and effective forces. Such troops were set up in all mainland colonies of Australia in the 19th century. Troops were recruited far from where they were to be deployed to ensure lack of tribal sympathies and to provide a disincentive against desertion. The use of native troops was also a clever ploy to reduce revenge attacks against white settlers.

The first government funded troops were in the Port Phillip District from 1837.  It was hoped that this employment would have a civilising effect for the aboriginals.  Unfortunately these troops were used to commit violence and  to aid in the dispossession of the aboriginal people. Colonisation of the mainland would have taken much longer without these troops. Eventually, the use of these troops were called into question, but not before decades of murderous behaviour.

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1 thought on “20th February 2018

  1. Carol Fenselau

    Thank you Cathy and Campbell for bringing the Aboriginal Police button and the historical story to my attention. I have read with interest, shame, sadness and now a greater knowledge of a bit of history I was not so well informed of.


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