The ‘Proper Settler’ and the ‘Native Mind’: Flogging Scandals in the Northern Territory, 1919 and 1932

by Ben Silverstein

View publication

In the interwar period, controversy attended allegations of violence perpetrated against Aboriginal workers in Australia, particularly in the Northern Territory. This chapter examines two such scandals, in the course of which many settlers argued, on the basis of their knowledge of the ‘native mind’, that violence was a privileged element of the proper relationship between settlers and Aboriginal people. Their instrumentalised claims about Aboriginal people—who were considered both childlike and subjects of an ordered normative system—echoed and contributed to a debate among anthropologists and psychologists regarding the nature of the ‘native mind’. The knowledge that incited violence was scientific; it was to become the official knowledge of Australian settler colonialism.