Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the reference documents attached to this article contain names of people who have died.
List of names of Aboriginal workers at the Victoria River Downs station, 1832 - 1950
Many Aboriginal people have worked on pastoral stations in Australia for little or no pay. They rarely appear in surviving station archives except in books documenting the tea, flour, clothing and other rations they received. Even then the names recorded were often imposed on them by station management. Victoria River Downs, near Daly Waters in the Northern Territory, took a different approach to documenting its Aboriginal workers from the 1930s until 1950.
Victoria River Downs was formed in 1879 when the South Australian Government granted Charles Brown Fisher and J Maurice Lyons a lease over 15,890 square miles of land to form a cattle station. Financial difficulties led them to take out a mortgage with R Goldsbrough and Company in 1886. After an attempt by the Northern Australian Territory Company Ltd to buy the land fell through Goldsbrough Mort and Company became the property's owners in 1887. In 1900 Goldsbrough Mort sold the station to a syndicate comprising Forrest Emmanuel and Company, Kidman Brothers, GS Yull and R and BJH Richards. The station was then bought in 1909 by Bovril Australian Estates Pty Ltd which sold the station to William Lionel Buckland in 1955. In 1960 it was sold to the Hooker Investment Corporation Ltd who in 1984 sold it to Peter Sherwin. The station has been owned by the Haytesbury Pastoral Company since 1989.
Between 1932 and 1950 management at Victoria River Downs used a printed 'Natives' ledger to record more than basic information about an Aboriginal worker. This could include the names of their spouse and parents, their camp, the nature of their employment, their Indigenous name and the group of which they were a part. Not all information was collected for each worker.
The reason for having these books printed is unknown and only two volumes were produced with the third in this series being a more common list of just names. In any case they are a rich source of information about some of the Aboriginal Workers at Victoria River Downs.
This page contains links to indexes of the information-rich volumes one and two and the less informative volume three of this series of 'Native' ledgers. There is also a sample page from the first volume. ANU staff are working on digitising these volumes and making them available to researchers online.