Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Parker, Edward Stone (1802–1865)

by H. N. Nelson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Edward Stone Parker (1802-1865), assistant protector of Aboriginals and Methodist preacher, was born on 17 May 1802 in London, son of Edward Stone Parker and his wife Mary. Apprenticed to a printer, he became a Sunday school teacher and a candidate for the Methodist ministry. He broke the conditions controlling probationers by marrying Mary Cook Woolmer in 1828. Suspended from the ministry, he turned to teaching. In 1838 he was in charge of a Methodist day school in Greater Queen Street, London, when the Colonial Office appointed him assistant protector of Aboriginals in the Port Phillip District, one of four to serve under G. A. Robinson. The protectors were to prevent conflict between black and white, teach the Aboriginals to cultivate the soil, promote their 'moral and religious improvement' and build 'suitable habitations'.

Parker sailed with his wife and six sons for Sydney and then moved to the Port Phillip District. In early 1839 he first attempted to contact the Aboriginals of the Loddon area. He travelled widely, collecting information about the Aboriginals and investigating clashes with settlers. He often found that complaints against Aboriginal 'depredations' were exaggerated but, when convinced that Aboriginals had been murdered, he was unable to obtain convictions in the courts. He held that the Aboriginals had a right to the 'soil and its indigenous production', and his attempts to intervene in cases where Aboriginals were ill-treated brought him into conflict with neighbouring squatters and station hands.

In 1841 Parker established the Aboriginal station of Larnebarramul (Jim Crow) at Franklinford in central Victoria. It flourished for a time: the white staff included a teacher and several free and assigned labourers; the protector's homestead was constructed among several out-buildings; and the presence of up to 200 Aboriginals gave the station the appearance of a populous village. But by 31 December 1848 the protectorate ended; only twenty or thirty Aboriginals were then on the station and only a handful had learnt to read and write or acquired a trade. Parker lived on at Franklinford, retaining his interest in the Aboriginals and farming some of Larnebarramul. The influx of population with the gold rushes reduced the few remaining Aboriginals to mendicants on the edge of the white community.

From his arrival in Port Phillip Parker was a leading layman and preacher in the colony's Methodist community. He served on the Council of the University of Melbourne in 1853, was a nominated member of the Legislative Council in 1854-55 and in 1857-62 an inspector for the Denominational Schools Board.

Parker was the most understanding of the Port Phillip Aboriginal protectors. He believed fervently that 'the permanent civilization of the savage is dependent on the influence of Christian instruction' and that the Aboriginals' failings were moral, not physical or mental. Above all his Christianity led him to believe in the common origin and brotherhood of all mankind. Perceptive and humane, he wrote to Robinson and La Trobe describing the plight of the Aboriginals and arguing for a more generous policy. Before government inquiries he testified that the Aboriginals would respond to education or opportunities to develop their land if they could see some advantage and not just in the interest of white intruders. Parker learnt the language and observed the customs of the Jajowurrong or Loddon Aboriginals. His lecture on 10 May 1854 to the John Knox Young Men's Association was published as The Aborigines of Australia. His writings preserved in the La Trobe Library are a valuable source of information about these people.

Parker's first wife had died in 1842; she had given birth to one daughter in Australia. He died on 27 April 1865 at Franklinford, survived by his second wife Hannah, née Edwards, whom he had married in 1843, and by ten children.

Select Bibliography

  • W. L. Blamires and J. B. Smith, The Early Story of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Victoria (Melb, 1886)
  • E. J. B. Foxcroft, Australian Native Policy (Melb, 1941)
  • E. Morrison, Early Days in the Loddon Valley (Daylesford, 1965)
  • T. M. O'Connor, ‘Edward Stone Parker: pioneer and protector’, Heritage, 15 (1963)
  • Wesleyan Chronicle, 20 July 1865.

Citation details

H. N. Nelson, 'Parker, Edward Stone (1802–1865)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/parker-edward-stone-4363/text7093, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 27 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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