Archibald Meston

Archibald Meston was originally a journalist and politician but is best known for his role as the Protector of Aborigines for Southern Queensland 1897-1904. Meston was also the author of the ‘Report on the Aboriginals of Queensland’ which was the basis for the Aborigines Protection Act, 1897 (Queensland).

Biographical background

Archibald Meston (1851-1924), journalist, civil servant and explorer, came with his parents to Sydney in 1859 and lived at Ulmarra on the Clarence River where his father taught him the rudiments of farming.

With an early interest in exploration, Meston had climbed Mount Kosciusko in 1860. This pastime brought him into contact with the Aborigines whose customs, habits and languages he studied. An observer of natural history, he led a government party in January 1889 to the Bellenden Ker Range and explored its summit, finding a new plant of the mangosteen family; it was named Garcinia mestonii in his honour. The report on this exploration was published and his successful journey led to other official engagements.

In 1894 he was commissioned by Horace Tozer, colonial secretary in the Nelson ministry, to prepare plans for improving the lot of Queensland Aboriginals. His proposals were embodied in the Aboriginals Protection Act of 1897. Meston was made a justice of the peace and from January 1898 to December 1903 was Protector of Aboriginals for southern Queensland which later included the central division.

Language information

Meston collected words and wordlists from sites across Queensland – these were later collated into various notebooks and cuttings. Meston was a prolific contributor to the Queensland newspapers writing various articles and snippets on Aboriginal words and their meanings.

This material is valuable to language researchers and community language workers as often it may be the last remaining language material for a language group or clan.

Genealogical information

In addition to language, Meston also documented cultural information including notes on individuals and families in the sites he visited, including Aboriginal Missions, fringe camps, towns, etc. Often his notes would document Aboriginal families, outlining their traditional language names as well as English names.

This content is particularly valuable for community members as it identifies ancestors as well as their location.