Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts Honours
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
Dr Penelope Heatherington
This thesis explores and examines in some detail the lives of a little known Anglican missionary couple in early colonial Western Australia. Henry Camfield and Anne Breeze came to the Swan River colony separately: Henry as farmer-settler and Anne Breeze as governess. They married, moved in the higher echelons of Perth society and later went to Albany where Henry took up the position of Government Resident. Subsequently they both became involved in raising and "Christianising" Aboriginal children in an institution known as Annesfield. While some prominence has been given to a well-known pupil of that institution, Bessie Flower (later Cameron), little has been written about the Camfields. This research places the Camfields, particularly Anne Camfield, more prominently within Western Australian colonial historiography. Confusions m the secondary literature over the details of the lives of the Camfields led to a closer examination of their characters and motives and their worldview. It is the purpose of the work to see how closely the thinking of the Camfields reflected the ethos of nineteenth century evangelism in Britain. That ethos, according to Hall in White, Middle Class and Male, influenced numerous aspects of Victorian cultural life, so much so that evangelical values came to be seen as Victorian values. At the same time, Anne Camfield stepped outside the constraints imposed upon middle class women prescribed within that model. She corresponded with government officials in her own right and contributed to Florence Nightingale's inquiry into the conditions of Australian Aborigines. Her views on Aboriginal people frequently melded with the belief of her contemporaries in the superiority of white civilisation and the necessity for the Aboriginal people to be integrated within that civilisation, although she displayed a shrewd insight into the problems of such a course of action. Her sympathy and affection for children contrast with the detachment displayed in her official correspondence, as do her comments on traditional Aboriginal women contrast with her injunctions to her pupils to remember and respect their parents. The Camfields were devout in their adherence to the belief that all should be saved on this earth for participation in a life to come. Although tempered by their intimate relationships with the children living within their home, their ideology was initially that of the dominant colonial hierarchy. Their entire world was shaped by a powerful Christian· ideology that was willing, even determined, to incorporate 'the other' within it and could accept no alternative existence: a determination that continues to resonate, in one form or another, within western society today. With the growth of the colony, however, changes in attitude towards Aborigines altered the nature of mission work. As religion became more pragmatic, the Camfields' vision faded into obscurity.
Groves, J. (2006). The Camfields : "The Comforts of Civilisation" in Early Colonial Western Australia. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses_hons/1267