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Victorian Aboriginal Group

Founded in 1933 after beginning as a study group under the guidance of A.S. Kenyon and R.H. Croll, the Victorian Aboriginal Group aimed to promote the welfare of Aboriginal people and influence public opinion in their favour.

It was a small organisation of middle-class white men and, more especially, women (like its stalwarts, Amy Brown and Val Leeper), who were active in Christian and community organisations and had a paternalistic sense of duty towards Aborigines. The Group worked for rather than with Aborigines. Among its affiliates were missionary societies and women's organisations such as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and it was linked with influential humanitarian bodies in Sydney and London.

In its early years, the Group advocated a policy of protection (particularly inviolable reserves), federal control of Aboriginal affairs and a uniform policy, the use of 'expert' anthropological advice, and the deployment of trained personnel, including women, as protectors. Later, it recommended assimilation whereby Aborigines would be helped by being absorbed into European culture, and opposed segregation since its members saw no future for Aboriginal culture.

The organisation pursued its objectives through accepted political means: letters to government and newspapers; deputations to politicians; correspondence with missionary organisations and welfare bodies; annual meetings and reports; and lectures to schools and organisations. It also had depots for selling 'traditional' Aboriginal handicrafts and artefacts, and provided practical educational assistance to mission schools and opportunities for Aboriginal students to receive further education.

Basically reformist, it was reluctant to confront government or be involved in controversy. As a result, the Group had little influence, even before its decline in the 1960s and eventual demise in 1971. Yet its members typify the opinions of many non-Aboriginal people in Melbourne who were dedicated to the cause of Aboriginal welfare between the 1930s and 1960s.

Bain Attwood