Aboriginal Australians: Black Responses to White Dominance, 1788-2001

By Richard Broome | Go to book overview
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Stifling Aboriginal

The ability of the Aborigines to adapt their traditional skills to European ways was symbolised in the 1860s by the cricketing prowess of some Aboriginal men from the Madimadi and Wutjubaluk people of the Wimmera and Mallee areas. After several Aboriginal stockmen played successfully for the Edenhope cricket team, an Aboriginal team was formed which played both in the district and in Melbourne. Two of its members, Cuzens and Bullocky, were subsequently selected to represent Victoria in inter-colonial competition. The Aboriginal team attracted sufficient attention for promoters to organise several tours within Australia and finally one to England in 1868.

Although 10 matches were scheduled in England, the team proved sufficiently popular for the tour to be extended to 47 matches. It was far more strenuous than modern cricket tours as the team had fewer reserve players; played for longer hours on rougher pitches with fewer breaks; and spent more hours travelling in bone-shattering coaches over poorer roads. English observers held mixed views of their abilities. However, their cricketing inexperience was balanced by the skills and agility possessed by the hunter-gatherer, which enabled them to win 14 matches, lose 14 and draw 19 against experienced district teams throughout England—a creditable record. The doyen of English cricket, W.G. Grace, commented that they ‘acquitted themselves very well’ and that some had shown ‘conspicuous skill at the game’. No doubt his last remarks were directed to Mullagh, Lawrence and Cuzens, who took 609 of the team's 714 wickets and made 4212 of the team's 7555 runs.

Each match was followed by a sports carnival at which Dick-a-Dick always won the backwards sprint; Mullagh usually won the high jump reaching 1.70 metres on his best jump; and the Aboriginal cricketers invariably won the cricket ball throwing competition. These events were followed by a boomerang throwing exhibition by Charley Dumas and a mock battle of spear throwing in traditional dress. Most spectacular of all was Dick-a-Dick's prowess at dodging the cricket ball. Using his shield, wooden club and his traditional skills of spear dodging, he


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