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Memento : Issue 21
16 memento september 2002 In 1910 the vast expanse of the Northern Territory and its people came under the control of the Commonwealth government. Knowing little about this part of Australia, the government sent a scientific expedition to report on its potential for development. One member of the group was W Baldwin Spencer, an anthropologist who was known for his studies of Indigenous Australians. Over the next two decades, Spencer received further government commissions and requests for advice on Australia's Indigenous people. In 1911 he was appointed Special Commissioner and Chief Protector of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, with the role of 'safeguarding the welfare' of Indigenous Australians who lived and worked in the territory. Spencer's reports are amongst the records in our collection relating to the early administration of the Northern Territory. While his reports often identified issues of concern, they also reflected the paternalism and prejudice of the time towards Indigenous people. Among the issues Spencer was asked to investigate were living conditions on mission stations and reserves, and the so-called 'problem of the half caste'. In 1912 he visited the Hermannsburg Mission station run by the Lutheran Church, on the Finke River south of the western MacDonnell Ranges. Members of the Horn Scientific Exploring Expedition, 1894. Professor Baldwin Spencer is standing fourth from the left. NAA: A3, NT1913/7138