Edward Curr

Edward Curr

Edward Micklethwaite Curr (25 December 18203 August 1889) was an Australian pastoralist and squatter.

Curr was born in Hobart, Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen's Land), the eldest of eleven surviving children of Edward (1798-1850) and Elizabeth (née Micklethwaite) Curr. His parents had moved to Hobart from Sheffield, England in February 1820, where Curr's father went into business as a merchant. Curr's father left Tasmania for England in June 1823, and on his return voyage wrote "An Account of the Colony of Van Diemen's Land principally designed for the use of Emigrants", which was published in 1824, he later returned and became the chief agent of the Van Diemen's Land Company, and in November 1827, the family moved to the Circular Head region, where the company held substantial lands.

Curr was sent to England for his schooling, and was educated at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, from 17 December 1829 to 10 August 1837, and the following year boarded in northern France to study French. Curr returned to Tasmania in January 1839.

Curr accompanied his father on a 1839 visit to Melbourne in the Port Phillip District (what is now the state of Victoria, which separated from New South Wales in 1851, after a campaign in which Curr's father was an important participant). From February 1841 Curr returned to the District to manage a handful of his father's sheep farming properties in northern and central Victoria, including several in the Goulburn Valley region. Curr also managed one property in a partnership with his brother William. Curr managed the properties until the end of 1850 and early 1851, when following his father's death the properties were sold.

In February 1851 Curr and two of his younger brothers sailed to England, with Curr then embarking on travel around parts of Europe and the Middle East, before marrying Margaret Vaughan of County Kildare, Ireland, on 31 January 1854. Curr returned to Victoria in August 1854, staying in Melbourne for just a month before moving to Auckland, New Zealand, where he ran a business importing Australian horses. From 1856 to 1861, Curr made two unsuccessful attempts to return to work as a pastoralist, firstly in Queensland and then around the Lachlan River in central New South Wales.

In November 1862 Curr traveled once more to Victoria, moving to a house in Chapel Street, St Kilda. In Victoria he worked as a government inspector of sheep, ultimately becoming chief inspector of sheep on 17 May 1864. 1863 he published a book on "Pure Saddle-Horses", and in 1865 won a prize Of £150 for "An Essay on Scab in Sheep". This was published in the same year, and the measures advocated by Curr were used with such success that the disease became rare. Curr was promoted to chief inspector of all stock on 16 January 1871, and in this role helped to stop outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in 1872 and of scab disease in sheep in 1876.

Curr died in 1889 in St Kilda, and was buried in the St Kilda General Cemetery.

Curr published many reports and several books throughout his career, including "Pure Saddle Horses" in 1863, an account of his travels through Europe and the Middle East in the early 1850s, and "" in 1886. However, his most widely known work is "Recollections of Squatting in Victoria", which was first published in 1883 but republished as an abridged version in 1965, recounting Curr's experiences managing his father's properties in northern Victoria forty years earlier, including his interactions with the local Aboriginal Australians.

The "Recollections" gained notoriety in academic circles after they were relied on almost exclusively by Justice Olney of the Federal Court of Australia in the infamous Yorta Yorta case, concerning a native title claim over land around the Murray River. In the case, Olney uncritically accepted Curr's accounts of the Aboriginal inhabitants of the area (or as Curr referred to them, his "sooty friends"cite book | last = Curr | first = Edward | title = Recollections of squatting in Victoria, then called the Port Phillip District (from 1841 to 1851) | publisher = George Robertson | year = 1883 | location = Melbourne ] ) even though published records from the time often directly conflicted with Curr's recollections,cite journal | last = Barwick | first = Diane | title = Mapping the Past: an Atlas of Victorian Clans 1834-1904 | journal = Aboriginal History | volume = 8 | issue = 1/2 | pages = 100–131 | year = 1984 | accessdate = 2006-11-27 ] and even though Curr, whose interest in ethnography only began in 1872, was publicly criticised by his contemporaries for his ignorance about Indigenous Australians.cite journal | last = Pitty | first = Roderic | title = A poverty of evidence: abusing law and history in Yorta Yorta v Victoria (1998) | journal = Australian Journal of Legal History | volume = 5 | issue = 1 | pages = 41–61 | year = 1999 | accessdate = 2006-11-27 ] . Several scholars have pointed out that Curr's work may have been influenced by conflicts between his shepherds and Aboriginal people as he expanded his sheep farming operations,cite journal | author = Kerruish, Valerie & Perrin, Colin | title = Awash in colonialism: a critical analysis of the Federal Court decision in the matter of The Members of the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community v The State of Victoria and Ors (1998) | journal = Alternative Law Journal | volume = 24 | issue = 1 | pages = 3–8 | year = 1999 | accessdate = 2006-11-27 ] and have noted that Curr did not write the book until well after the events described, nor did he keep any notes at all during the period he wrote about. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission questioned why the evidence given by Aboriginal elders was dismissed, because it was uncorroborated oral testimony, while Olney "had no apparent difficulty in accepting the uncorroborated observations of the pioneer Edward Curr, whose evidence could not be tested by cross-examination."cite web | title = Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Website: Legal Information | publisher = Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission | date = 2002-05-15 | url = http://www.hreoc.gov.au/legal/guidelines/yorta_yorta.html | accessdate = 2006-11-27 ]


*Dictionary of Australian Biography|First=Edward Micklethwaite |Last=Curr|Link=http://gutenberg.net.au/dictbiog/0-dict-biogCl-Cu.html#curr1

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