State Library of NSW

Aboriginal proclamation, 1830


Equality in Tasmanian law

Equality before the Law?

Aboriginal proclamation, 1830This is one of the painted Huon pine boards which were tied to trees in Tasmania around 1830 as a means of communicating with the Aboriginal people. The four panels, based on drawings by the Surveyor-General, George Frankland, were intended to show that Aboriginal people and Europeans were equal before the law. The top two panels show the two races mixing in harmony; the lower two panels show their receiving the same punishment, the death penalty, for murder. In fact, although many Aboriginal people had been executed in Tasmania, no white person had even been charged, let alone convicted and hanged.

Lieutenant Governor George Arthur authorised this means of communication as part of his attempt to bring to an end the escalating interracial violence. Arthur had declared martial law in 1828 and later, in 1830, inaugurated the infamous Black Line which attempted to round up all the Aboriginal people on the island.
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