This series consists of a letters and reports relating to the Port Phillip Protectorate from 1839 to 1841. They were written by Chief Protector George Augustus Robinson, who was based in Melbourne, and his Assistants - William Thomas (Melbourne & Westernport districts), James Dredge (Goulburn district), Edward Parker (Loddon district), and Charles Sievwright (Western district). The Chief Protector of Aborigines (VA 512) and his Assistants were set up in order to ensure minimal conflict between European settlers and the Aborigines, and to provide a means to assist the Aboriginal people to become 'civilised'. The Protectorate was to provide Aboriginal people with an understanding of the principles of Christianity, with skills relating to European agricultural and house construction methods, and other elements of European culture, which were reflected within the correspondence.
The records were obtained by an auction firm from an unnamed deceased estate and advertised for sale along with a number of other records. Under sub-section 16 (1) of the Public Records Act, 1973, 282 of these records were declared as being prescribed public records by Orders-in-Council in April 1991 (Government Gazette No. G 14, p 1003-1008). The Minister for the Arts authorised the sale in August of 1991, and the records were subsequently purchased by the Stegley Foundation, a philanthropic trust set up to assist disadvantaged and minority groups. The Stegley Foundation were interested in the records due to their significance for Victorian Aboriginal people, and wanted to ensure that the records would remain within the public domain so that they would be accessible to Koorie communities and other interested parties.
The Stegley Foundation retained ownership for the initial period after the purchase of the records, and agreed to place them on load to the Museum of Victoria under the guidance of the Aboriginal Advisory Committee. In 2001, Mr Brian Stegley informed PROV of his intention to wind down the foundation. At the conclusion of the Stegley Foundation and after consultation with members of the Koorie community, the records were transferred to Public Record Office Victoria. This occurred in 2002.
The letters and reports within this series detail the policy, responsibilities, and operations of the Aboriginal Protectorate, and the various relationships between Aborigines, settlers, squatters, and the Protectors. They discuss various incidents and issues which impacted upon the Aboriginal People of Victoria, such as conflicts, dispossession, abuse, slaughter, the spread of pastoralism, hunger, and European diseases. In order to perform their duties, the Protectors were required to travel with the Aboriginal groups that they were assigned to protect, to learn their languages and customs, and to compile various statistics regarding aboriginal names and words, differences between Aboriginal tribes, and general population census information such as gender, age, and the numbers of births and deaths &c, which were duly reported to Robinson. Their correspondence was often written in the field, and provides an insight into the frustrations and issues Protectors faced in their everyday role as mediators between Europeans and the Aboriginal People within their Protectorate.
Correspondence relating to the Aboriginal Protectorate may also be located in VPRS 4 Inward Registered Correspondence, VPRS 10 Registered Inward Correspondence to the Superintendent of Port Phillip District relating to Aboriginal Affairs and VPRS 19 Inward Registered Correspondence.
Annual Reports sent from Robinson to the Superintendent of Port Phillip District can also be located in VPRS 10 Registered Inward Correspondence to the Superintendent of Port Phillip District relating to Aboriginal Affairs, VPRS 19 Inward Registered Correspondence, VPRS 4410 Aboriginal Protectorate Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly and Annual Reports and Journals and VPRS 4399 Duplicate Annual Reports of the Chief Protector of Aborigines.