Aborigines and alcohol

Aborigines and alcohol. Governor King was the first to offer liquor to Aboriginal people. When travelling up an inlet in early 1788 he made contact with Aborigines and gave two a glass of wine, which they spat out. Bennelong quickly took to European food and was the first of his people to show a fondness for spirits (Willey, When the Sky fell Down, 1979, 43, 143).

Aboriginal men increasingly helpless to maintain themselves and their families in the customary way, seek work with Inn keepers to clean out the brandy and rum casks. During the 1830s in Brisbane Water, Rev Threlkeld observes that Aboriginal addiction to liquor is in character with the general habits of the settlement: “Rum is the strongest inducement that could be offered to the [A]borigines to make them work. It was a Rum-national-education to reform criminals by Rum and stripes. The Aborigines became adept scholars…Drunkenness seemed to be considered by the [A]borigines as a sort of accomplishment. Rev Threlkeld’s very close relationship with Biraban at his mission is severely damaged by his attraction to alcohol: “Biraban seldom visits me, he displays his knowledge at Newcastle town, where drink has attractions far more strong than my study possesses at the Lake” (Threlkeld in Gunson, 53; Threlkeld, 1836, 6th Report, courtesy of Wollombi Historical Society)