Battles of the Aborigines: A pitched battle took place between a tribe of the Melbourne and the Goulburn blacks. The scene of warfare was in the vicinity of Sydney Road, about seven miles from town; about 80 blacks on either side placed themselves at a distance of about ten yards apart, two ropes placed at that distance, separating them from each other; the more courageous of either party occasionally advanced within the open space intervening, and were immediately selected as targets by their opponents.
At a short distance from this scene, some forty or fifty women and children, belonging to the respective tribes were also engaged in a similar occupation.
Mr Robinson, the Protector, upon being informed of the circumstance hastened to the spot, and immediately despatched a messenger to town for Dr Thomas, who upon his arrival found between thirty and forty wounded, some dangerously, and one man, belonging to the Melbourne tribe, hopelessly so, having received a spear in his breast, which had penetrated a considerable depth, inflicting a frightful wound. A lubra, belonging to the Melbourne tribe, also received a dangerous wound on the cheek with a boomerang.
Mr Robinson's horse was speared, and when our informant left, the courage and animosity of the belligerents appeared unabated, notwithstanding the severe injuries received on either side. (Bell's Life in Sydney, February 7th, 1846)
I found this little item some years ago when I had the opportunity to browse through the colonial papers held in the State Library of Victoria.
The Aborigines appeared to have had a ritualised kind of warfare. If I remember correctly, similar battles, with the warring tribes lined up at a set distance from each other, were still taking place in the Northern Territory in the 1930s. The injury rate from these battles was considerable; in the case of the Melbourne battle, 30 or 40 were injured in a battle involving 160 men and 40 to 50 women and children.
Young Australian readers should take note of the response of the white settlers. The Aboriginal Protector, George Augustus Robinson, was summoned and he rode close enough to the battle for his horse to be speared. He called a doctor to treat the Aboriginal wounded. The newspaper report is sympathetic both to the courage of the combatants and to those who sustained injuries.