Introduction by Laurie Bamblett
The newsletters collected here, Our Aim and Australian Evangel give important insights into the power of classifying people in the act of colonisation. They tell us something about Aboriginal cultural strength, patriotism and resistance.
Written in these pages is an earlier version of the story of Aboriginal inferiority that justified the demand that Aborigines accept a destiny as an imitation of the coloniser. There is an obvious story here that Aborigines are elevated according to how well they adapt to the religion of the coloniser. Of course these newsletters should be read as wrong in assuming that white people’s religion was superior to Aborigines’ religion. That fact is beyond argument.
If we look beyond the racism we find a lot of genealogical information and life stories that may be crucial to people trying to reconnect disrupted families. The newsletters give detailed outsider accounts of one aspect of life within Aboriginal communities. They may be more instructive now than they would have been then for readers who knew little of Aboriginal people.
They also reveal new insights to people with intimate knowledge of the communities where the Aborigines Inland Missions laboured. That means they are a wonderful research tool for individual and group interviews with senior people. We can read much in the language used, the descriptions and the images published. They report on movements of Aboriginal people. Although not stated in these reports, working with the AIM helped Aborigines maintain connects to people and places even during the harshest restrictions of the managerial system employed by government. There is much to mine from the omissions.
These pages, like all documents produced about Indigenous people, tell us at least as much about the people who wrote them as they do the subjects. They do reveal glimpses of Aboriginal responses to colonisation. On their own, as propaganda, the newsletters give a one-sided view of Aboriginal people. Critically analysed today alongside other sources, they tell us something about Aboriginal resistance and patriotism as a foundation to current efforts to regenerate culture.
Do the Aboriginal patriots reveal themselves to you in these pages?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that these collections contain images, voices and names of deceased people. Where possible, names of Aboriginal people have been removed throughout however they are still a part of the Our AIM and Australian Evangel newsletters.
About the Aborigines’ Inland Mission and the newsletters
The AIM and Evangel newsletters were published by the Aborigines’ Inland Mission (AIM); an evangelical Christian mission which began in 1905. AIM’s first location was in Singleton, New South Wales (NSW), but missionaries quickly established locations close to many Aboriginal reserves across Australia.
AIM avoided involvement in institutions that took children from their parents. AIM's sole concern was salvation, and helping those 'eager to read God's word'.
AIM’s action in NSW was distinctive because its missionaries were mostly female. AIM’s missionaries were sent to live by themselves among people who had settled in reserves and maintained as much as possible a sense of community.
The readership between the AIM and Evangel newsletters differed greatly. AIM was targeted towards evangelical Europeans living in Australia, promoting the Aborigines’ Inland Mission’s work within mainly Aboriginal communities. Evangel was written directly to mainly Aboriginal people to promote the benefits of an evangelical Christian belief system.