5th March 1866
The Intercolonial Exhibition to be held in Melbourne about the month of August next, offers a favourable opportunity for collecting materials relating to the history, traditions, customs, and language of the aboriginal natives of Australasia.
In illustration of these, weapons and implements employed by them should be procured : authentic accounts upon which reliance may be placed touching their ideas with regard to the Supreme Being, a future state -rewards and punishments- and such of the affections, social relations, moral obligations and sentiments as they are capable of understanding and explaining,- and also skeletons and skulls, as many as possible, with photographs of individuals of each sex and of all ages- should be obtained.
Respecting the language, it is especially desirable that careful inquiries should be made.
In many instances these hitherto prosecuted by navigators who have touched at these coasts, by travellers who have passed rapidly through the country, or by residents who have proceeded in a desultory, and not always in a scientific manner, have not proved satisfactory.
More regular and matured investigations have been made at leisure, by missionaries, ministers of religion, persons connected with the protection of the natives as well as by others of acknowledged scientific ability, competent to undertake the work ; this is the case especially in New Zealand, where the native language as spoken, written, and printed, is so well under-stood.
The results of these labors have been published. Copies of all printed grammars, dictionaries, and lists of words and phrases should be brought together.
Nevertheless, all existing vocabularies are alike open to the objections, that they have been compiled by persons acting independently, at different times, at places remote from each other, within areas of different extent, more or less populous, inhabited by one or more tribes, using different dialects or varieties of forms of speech, and each author has proceeded according to his own views, guided by the particular object in which he was at the moment engaged.
Thus, however valuable as local hand-books of interpretations, they are not as useful guides to the elucidation of the general laws of Philology, which may govern, many if not all of, the language or dialects spoken in Australasia, as might be produced if such an inquiry were conducted simultaneously on a simple uniform plan throughout the length and breadth of the continent.
I have the honor therefore to submit to you the advisability of seizing the occasion about to be presented, in order to gather from all parts of South Australia [hand written] all the evidence on these subjects which the intervening time will allow.
The task will not impose much trouble on those good enough to undertake it : and a distribution of the labor amongst the clergy, missionaries, resident magistrates, inter-preters, schoolmasters, gentlemen engaged on the surveys, officers of native police, and such of the gentry as will devote a small portion of their spare time to the matter, with the enlightened assistance of the press, will considerable lesson the burden of the duty, and afford, what is of infinite importance, multiplied opportunities of "comparing the words given by one person with the testimony of others, correcting any defect or peculiarity of pronunciation," and thereby ensuring a symmetrical and homogeneous result.
In many cases the work is already done, and all required will be to collate the list of words, verify the vocal sounds, and modify the pronunciation or spelling in accordance with the scheme suggested by Sir John Herschel, in his addendum to the article on Ethnology in the Admiralty Manual. It is hardly necessary to impress upon the intelligent auxiliaries whose assistance is invited, that in order to ensure for their labors a real value, an exact compliance with these instructions is indispensable.