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Image Distribution of blankets to Indigenous people in Brisbane, 1863

TLF ID R9203

This pen-and-wash sketch, dated 24 May 1863, shows the distribution of blankets to Indigenous men and women in Brisbane, Queensland. A group of Indigenous people, mostly men, are waiting in line or sitting off to the side as police distribute blankets in front of the Police Magistrate's Court. There appear to be two mounted troopers on the left next to a number of non-Indigenous people. The Indigenous men mainly wear European-style clothes, the women blankets. The sketch is one of many illustrations by Donald Sydney Thistlethwayte.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The distribution of blankets was a government service and as such police were required to keep records, known as 'blanket lists', of the receivers' details. Information recorded included English and Indigenous names, age, language group, residence and number of wives and children. Today, the lists where they still exist provide a base for Indigenous family and community research.
  • The Indigenous people depicted in this illustration were under considerable stress, forced away from their traditional ways of life by the spread of pastoralism in the Brisbane area in the 1860s. As a result of the loss of their lands the Turrbal and Jagera peoples of the Brisbane area had suffered a considerable loss of numbers and were forced into increased dependence on the goods of European society to replace their own sources of food and clothing.
  • The Indigenous men in this illustration are wearing European-style clothes, a reflection of the extent to which non-Indigenous settlement had led to changes in Indigenous cultures in the Brisbane area. Shirts, trousers, dresses and sometimes rations were handed out as well as blankets. The increased dependence on non-Indigenous society gave officials the opportunity to issue instructions to the Indigenous population and drew Indigenous people into the outskirts of towns, where the distributions occurred.
  • The official distribution of blankets to Indigenous Australians was an annual event started by Governor Macquarie in 1814 in the belief that Indigenous people should adopt European attitudes to clothing - in particular to clothe nakedness. The distributions were also intended to encourage Indigenous people to be more cooperative with settlers. The event was generally held in May on the then Queen's birthday.
  • The scene depicted in this illustration was the outcome of a letter from the police magistrate in Brisbane asking the colonial secretary for 600 blankets - not in order to assist Indigenous people, but in the hope that they would disperse after the distribution. The magistrate claimed that there were about 900 Indigenous people camped around Brisbane and that he was responding to complaints from non-Indigenous residents.

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Donald Sydney Thistlethwayte
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Donald Sydney Thistlethwayte
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
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  • Device independence
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements