Skip to main content

Coming to visit? Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage your visit so please book ahead. Need to cancel or rejig? Email bookings@npg.gov.au

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Arthur Phillip

In their own words

Arthur Phillip
Audio: 2 minutes

Your Lordship has been informed that some of the convicts have been killed and wounded by natives, but that has I believe, never happened but when the convicts have been the aggressors. I have always found the natives friendly, and still retain the opinion I first formed of those people, that they do not betray a confidence placed in them.

In December 1788, one of the natives was seized for the purpose of learning the language and reconciling them to us, as mentioned in my former letter to your lordship, none of the natives having for some months come near the settlement. The man who was taken for that purpose appeared to be about 24 years of age and in three months was so reconciled that he was freed from all restraint and lived with me perfectly satisfied with his situation.

In the beginning of the following April, numbers of the natives were found dead with the smallpox in different parts of the harbour. It is not possible to determine the number of natives who were carried off by this fatal disorder; it must be great. And judging from the information of the native now living with us, and who had recovered from the disorder before he was taken, one half of those who inhabit this part of the country died. And as the natives always retired from where the disorder appeared and which some must have carried with them, it must have been spread to a considerable distance, as well as inland as along the coast. We have seen traces of it wherever we have been.

That they have some idea of a future state appears from their belief in spirits and from saying that the bones of the dead are in the chase, but the body in the clouds. And the question has been asked, do the white men go thither?

Acknowledgements

Phillip, Arthur (1790) Official dispatch to Lord Sydney, 13 February 1790, State Library of New South Wales

Attribution

Voiced by Christopher Baldock

Related people

Arthur Phillip

Related information

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

Visiting the Gallery
Visiting the Gallery
Visiting the Gallery
Visiting the Gallery

Plan your visit

Timed ticketing, location, accessibility and amenities

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency