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Exhibition 1842 
Policing in Australia Since 1788 - In the Line of Duty
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Native Police, brass button

VIC 1842
'Aborigines/VR' police uniform button
Powerhouse Museum

Aboriginal men served as troopers in various native police forces in colonial Australia. These forces, which consisted of uniformed, armed and mounted Aboriginal troopers under the command of white officers, were created to keep peace between Aborigines and white settlers in frontier districts. In reality, they helped to put down resistance and open the land to European settlement.

The men were valued for their superior knowledge of the bush and their ability to track, but were distinct from the black trackers employed by colonial police forces.

The Native Police Corps formed in Port Phillip District (Victoria) in 1842 under the command of H Dana was so effective that New South Wales formed its own native police force in 1848. Over the following 10 years 175 Aboriginal men were recruited. Control of this force passed to Queensland when it became a separate colony in 1859. The Queensland Native Mounted Police was not disbanded until 1900. Many of the records for this force have been destroyed, but historians agree that they had a reputation for violence and played a large part in crushing Aboriginal resistance.

The button could be from any of the Native Police corps, but it is inscribed on the back 'New Holland', a name not used to describe eastern Australia after 1840, so it is likely from one of the early groups, either in Victoria or New South Wales.

The success of recruitment into the Native Police Corps is thought to be linked to the access it gave men to firearms, horses and a uniform.

Road safe between Sydney and Melbourne
Civil protection in Queensland
Forming the Corps: Letter from Superintendent of the Native Police Corps, H E Pultney Dana, to Superintendent Port Phillip District, 1842. 1 0f 6
H E P Dana, Superintendent of the Native Police Corps
Letter from Superintendent of the Native Police Corps, H E Pultney Dana, to Superintendent Port Phillip District, 1842. 2 of 6
Letter from Superintendent of the Native Police Corps, H E Pultney Dana, to Superintendent Port Phillip District, 1842. 3 of 6
Letter from Superintendent of the Native Police Corps, H E Pultney Dana, to Superintendent Port Phillip District, 1842. 4 of 6
Letter from Superintendent of the Native Police Corps, H E Pultney Dana, to Superintendent Port Phillip District, 1842. 5 of 6
Letter from Superintendent of the Native Police Corps, H E Pultney Dana, to Superintendent Port Phillip District, 1842. 6 of 6