Media response to the Roth Report

The following newspaper articles are responses to the Roth Report, recorded in Western Australian newspapers. The newspaper and date are followed by the headlines as written in the article and brief outline of what is contained in the article. Click on the date to go to a PDF version of that item.

The West Australian
30 Jan 1905
The Aborigines Question
The Investigations by Dr Roth
A Comprehensive Report
Drunkenness, Disease and Crime
Important Recommendations
This article is part one of three, and provides a lengthy summary of the Report, which does not include specific editorial comment; however, note that although the focal point of the report was a scathing indictment about the ill-treatment of Aborigines by Anglo-Australians, the headlines ignore the findings of abuse and neglect, highlighting instead negative Aboriginal behaviours that were not prevalent in the Report itself.
7,900 words

The West Australian
31 Jan 1905
The Aborigines Question
Dr Roth’s Investigations
Treatment of Aboriginal Prisoners
Charges Against the Police
This lengthy article is part two of three, focussing on issues related to sentencing and the treatment of Aboriginal offenders.
6,043 words

Daily News
31 Jan 1905
Aborigines of the West
Dr Roth’s Report
Backblocks Methods Condemned
A Terrible Indictment
This item focusses on issues regarding the police, and sentencing and imprisonment of Aboriginal offenders.
1,700 words

Kalgoorlie Miner
30 Jan 1905
Treatment of Aborigines
Indenture System Condemned
Grave Abuses
This item does not refer to the main findings of abuse, neglect and corruption by Anglo-Australians recorded in the Report and focusses only the abuses of Aboriginal labour by Asians working in the pearling industry.
214 words

The West Australian
31 Jan 1905
Editorial
The editorial focusses on the upcoming legislation that results from the Report. It also highlights the “problem” of Asians in the pearling industry:
“The condition of affairs…is mainly due to Asiatic aliens allowed into the State as pearling boat’s crews…mostly Malays, Manilamen, and Japanese…The contact with Aboriginal women with Eastern Asiatics can only be shocking and demoralising from every point of view…the half-caste offspring of such unions, if any there be, can have no abiding or respected place in the scale of humanity… There can be no question whatever that all practical steps should be taken, by legislation or otherwise, to prevent such moral atrocities.”
1,378 words

Daily News
31 Jan 1905
Topics of the Day
This editorial refers to Walter Malcolmson, an Irishman who wrote to many British newspapers complaining about the maltreatment of the Aborigines based on his own experiences in the north-west, whose opinions are seemingly vindicated by Roth’s Report.
887 words

Rev Riley (source ADB)

Bishop Riley (source ADB)

The Daily News
01 Feb 1905
Treatment of Aborigines
Dr Roth’s Report
Criticised by Bishop Riley
Rev Charles Riley, the Anglican Bishop of WA, “recognised as an authority on all questions concerning the aborigines of Western Australia,” refutes the Report as unreliable because none of the evidence of witnesses, described as “scum and riff-raff,” was given under oath. This article is based on an interview conducted by a reported at The Daily News, but a more comprehensive response to the Roth Report by Bishop Riley was published in The West Australian the following day.
700 words

The West Australian
02 Feb 1905
The Aborigines Question
Dr Roth’s Report
Statements by Bishop Riley
“More or Less Wasted Time”
A longer report than The Daily News (above), in which Bishop Riley condemns the Roth Report.
3,515 words

The West Australian
01 Feb 1905
The Aborigines Question
Dr Roth’s Investigations
The Indenture and Contract Systems
Alleged Abuses
The Mission Stations
The third and final instalment of the summary of the Roth Report focusses on the issue of working contracts and apprentice agreements made (or not made) with Aboriginal workers in the north-west. Also summarises the evidence given for the principal missions in WA: New Norcia, Beagle Bay, Swan Native Mission, Sunday Island, Broome.
6,039 words

Kalgoorlie Miner
01 Feb 1905
Dr Roth’s Report on Aborigines
Statement by Commissioner of Police
Denial of Charges
The Commissioner of Police, Captain Frederick Hare, “strongly denies the statements in connection with the manner in which native prisoners are arrested.”
382 words

Kalgoorlie Miner
01 Feb 1905
In the Waste Places of WA
This editorial comments on the abuse of apprentices contained in the Report. It refers to a previous attempt to investigate the ill-treatment of apprentices in the Goldfields, during the time of Governor Sir Gerard Smith in the late 1890s; it is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek and amusing description of the pompousness of the British Raj:
“It will be remembered how some years ago rumours of the treatment of the aboriginal apprentices by some of their owners reached the old country and the Home Government deputed Governor Sir Gerard Smith to [investigate]. This he undertook personally and thoroughly. People on the borders of civilization bear vividly in mind how he and his retinue started out into the wilds with all pomp and circumstance of camels, cane lounges, umbrellas, cooking utensils, and what not – possibly a tennis set – and how small boys cheered and gave patronizing encouragement to the expedition into the great unknown. What the result of this well-equipped inquiry was is not generally known. The leader certainly returned safely or his disappearance would surely have been notified, but a great reticence was observed, and no noticeable change has since taken place. The rattling of the pots and pans on the camel’s back perhaps warned the men expected to be caught, and time was thus given them to wash and clothe the apprentices and bind up their wounds and pour in oil and wine. And there was leisure for the children to be taught hymns and catchisms and to learn how to say how happy they were.”
1,128 words

The West Australian
01 Feb 1905
Editorial
In this editorial, Roth’s credibility as Commissioner is undermined by referring to complaints made against him Queensland for “accepting hearsay” and never “taking any trouble to extract any evidence on behalf of the party assailed.”

The Daily News
02 Feb 1905
Topics of the Day
This editorial is very supportive of Roth’s credentials as being “competent to give a reliable and honest opinion…The only alleged crime of which he has been convicted is that he is a humanitarian who does not believe that the natives, whom we have driven from their lands, should be treated as dogs.” And, because of this, the entire State needs to pay attention to the painful truths of the Report.
1,081 words

The Westralian Worker
03 Feb 1905
Slavery in the West
This item totally endorses the Roth Report, focussing on Police corruption: “The poor disappearing relics of the black races have been harried and tormented by brutal police and unscrupulous squatters, and the report of the Commissioner sheds official light on some very undesirable doings.” Notice, however, that the article assumes the position of Social Darwinism in presuming that the extinction of the “black races” is inevitable.
291 words

 

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