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Research Guides

A Nation's Imagination: Australia’s Copyright Records, 1854–1968

Frederick Thomas Askins

Frederick Thomas Askins (CP 164) was born in Britain and came to Australia at the age of 22 in 1908 when he joined the South Australian Government Administration in the Northern Territory. When the Northern Territory became the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government in 1911, he became a Commonwealth public servant.

He held a number of posts in the Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia until his retirement in 1948. Mr Askins wrote three books, the manuscripts of which are held in the National Archives: 'Retrospection', an autobiography covering Mr Askins' life in the Northern Territory from 1908–18; 'Dark Night, What of the Dawn: History Story of Australian (Northern Territory) Natives 1605–65'; and 'Footprints on the Sands of Time: A History Story of the Northern Territory of Australia'.

Series relating to these manuscripts and Mr Askins' copyright registrations are dealt with in detail below. Nothing in these series indicates whether the manuscripts were ever published or to whom they might have been sent for editing or prospective publication. A search of library databases failed to locate any published works. Background material for his manuscripts may be located in M1702, M1703 and M1704. Researchers interested in Mr Askins' non-literary career will find these three series and M1701 of interest as well.

Further information may also be found under the Commonwealth person registration for Mr Askins (CP 164) and in records created by the agencies in which he worked, for example the Australian Customs Service (South Australia), the Sub-Treasury (Northern Territory), the Superannuation Fund Management Board, the Pensions and Maternity Allowances Office (Central) and the Director of Social Services (South Australia).

Draft and Research notes for 'Footprints on the sands of time', 1856–1963

This series contains an alternative first chapter for the manuscript, first drafts and notes related to the chapters and subject matters covered. The series is ordered by subject categories, then numerically.

Many of the notes list summaries of related sections of parliamentary papers, annual reports and other sources from which information could be extracted for use in the book. A full list of the subjects covered is provided in the notes for this series, but they range over land matters from exploration and geological surveys to settlement and tenure, to dingo destruction, the arsenal at Port Darwin, immigrants and Indigenous Australians.

Mr Askins did not restrict himself to 'pure' history, but embellished and enlivened his narrative with some (not always well executed or punctuated) literary flourishes:

Then the Leader flinging himself from the saddle wandered down into the surf where he washed his face and hands, took off his stirrup worn boots and paddled in the foreshore and why. Before leaving Adelaide he had promised Sir Dominic Daly, Governor in Chief of South Australia, he would do just that and his promise was satisfied.

'Exploration (Land), J MacDouall Stuart – South to North Australia', imagining Stuart's arrival at the northern coast, p. 22.

Series: M1697
Quantity: 0.09 metres
Recorded by: Frederick Thomas Askins (CP 164)
Manuscript of book – 'Footprints on the sand of time' (Copy), 1965–69

This series consists of a manuscript, the second of three copies of an unpublished book by Askins about the history of the Northern Territory of Australia.

The contents of the manuscript are arranged by topics, with a chapter devoted to each, ranging over matters such as land settlement, the Northern Territory Mounted Police and air transport. The work is not restricted to a narrative or an analysis of the period 1863 (the date of the Territory's annexation to South Australia) to 1963, as the writer makes clear in Chapter 1A, 'Navigators of the Nations', which begins with the Portuguese search for the 'south lands'.

… Sailing southwards 'Cano' made the discovery of some islands under the Tropic of Capricorn. He considered these islands to be about one hundred leagues from 'Timor'. Later navigators considered the land Cano had seen was actually the Western Australia coast line, between Onslow and Carnarvon. The Victoria subsequently arrived in Europe with a compliment [sic] of twenty persons, all sick.
(Chapter 1, p. 1.)

The original manuscript was donated to the Port Darwin Lodge (Grand Lodge of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of South Australia), and another was submitted to the Attorney-General's Department, Canberra in 1963 for copyright purposes.

Series: M1698
Quantity: 0.09 metres
Recorded by: Frederick Thomas Askins (CP 164)
Manuscripts of 'retrospection' (copies), 1908–18

This series consists of copies of the manuscript of Askins' unpublished book, 'Retrospection: A Story of the Northern Territory of Australia, 1908–18'.

The principal copy of the manuscript contains a number of loose items, four of which are letters (three from Percy Kelsey to Askins, all in 1960, and one from Tom Turner to Askins). The remaining loose items are photographs, including one of Askins and three other men, and one of the Darwin Cable Guard (1912), most of whom are identified on the back of the photograph.

Unlike Askins' other writings, 'Retrospection' is a very personal reminiscence by a lifelong administrator with a keen eye for circumstance and detail, especially about public occasions. The style owes something to that of boys' adventure books, as in Askins' description of an early Darwin 'character', which precedes an account of a prank the 'white lads' (including Askins) played on him:

Clan was aged about 45 years; he lived alone in a small cottage – no trimmings on the building. I do not know how he was catered for, but his home was spotlessly clean, and he always looked well fed. I guess the Chinese had a hand in this, although they resided in Chinatown, half a mile away. Women of all sorts and nationality were 'taboo in toto'. He wore moleskin trousers, always clean, a heavy type of washable workman's shirt, a snakeskin belt, a pair of knee-high gumboots, and – I nearly forgot – an old felt hat with two bullet holes, east and west, or was it one bullet hole west or east? However, that was his rig-out. One could never get from Clan, how came the bullet holes? He was totally dumb on this matter. He had a mania to see that when he was wearing the hat those bullet holes were pointing east and west.

But Clan had one great passion, it dominated all else; he worshipped at the shrine of Bacchus by way of square-faced Dutch gin.

'White Lads Play',
Chapter 3, pp. 9–10.

Series: M1699
Quantity: 0.14 metres
Recorded by: Frederick Thomas Askins (CP 164)
Notices of registration of copyright, 1964–66

This series contains the notifications of registration of copyright issued to Askins for his unpublished literary works. One registration is No. 65560, issued on 23 July 1964 for 'Retrospection: A Story of the Northern Territory of Australia, 1908–1918' (see M1699, above); and the other is No. 67737, issued on 12 May 1966 for 'Footprints on the Sands of Time' (see M1698, above).

Series: M1700
Quantity: 0.09 metres
Recorded by: Frederick Thomas Askins (CP 164)
Miscellaneous photographs, postcards and cuttings, aspects of life in the Northern Territory, 1908–63

This series contains approximately 135 original photographs, postcards and copies of photographs related to Askins' manuscripts held in M1698 and M1699.

The National Archives has placed most of the material in this series into photographic binders. Previously it had been held in folders and string-tied bundles with annotations such as '… odd photographs from Reports, etc. which may be used – otherwise by Archives Department, Darwin'; '… my own photographs left over (these were mostly taken 1908/1918 period) …'; and '… a few more not really mine but left over from some already used …'.

The photographs document a wide range of subjects, including Indigenous Australians, Darwin buildings and landscapes, and several of Askins himself. The images of Darwin may be of interest to researchers wishing to document or reconstruct the early development of the city. Some photographs are regarded as culturally sensitive and are not available for viewing.

Series: M1705
Quantity: 0.09 metres
Recorded by: Frederick Thomas Askins (CP 164)
Manuscript of 'dark night, what of the dawn', 1965–69

This series consists of three copies of Askins' manuscript 'Dark Night, What of the Dawn: A History Story of Australian (Northern Territory) Natives, 1605–65'. One copy is the handwritten draft, another is a typed carbon copy and the third is a photocopy of the typed version. Copyright was not registered for the work as Askins was awaiting settlement of a legal case. The photocopy of the typed script was to be sent to the Attorney-General's Department, Canberra, with the application for copyright.

This manuscript deals with the administration of Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory. While the terminology and paternalistic philosophy can now be recognised as offensive, this manuscript provides a useful overview of administrative changes from the point of view of one who witnessed them at first hand. The following extracts come from Chapter 2, 'Part/natives in the Northern Territory':

In the Northern Territory the mating of a native with any person other than a native was legally prohibited. The mating of coloured aliens with any female part/native blood was also debarred. The main idea was to breed out the colour by elevating part/native to European standards by mating European with native part/native.
Page 45, re: policy c1933.

During 1934 there had been a large increase in the number of inmates of the part/native institutions. This was due to the act of protectors bringing into the homes all part/native children they had obtained knowledge of.
Page 46.

In June 1949 254 part/native children were attending public schools and 781 of similar classification were in convent missions. A call for urgent need of the recasting of a curriculum for students entering secondary schools was awaiting reply. The next few years were holding years, feeding, housing, educating the part/native children.

During this period the Government completed the erection of 24 residences for part/native families in Alice Springs.
Page 49.

The series also contains a folder of photographs and previously published copies of photographs that were to accompany the manuscript. The photographs have mostly been annotated with details such as a title, date and indication of what folios in the manuscript they were to face. There are many images of Indigenous Australians in traditional settings and under government and mission administration, on mainland and offshore areas, for example, Bathurst Island, the East Arm Leprosarium and the Retta Dixon Home.

The images of Indigenous Australians also include identified individuals. Some of these photographs are regarded as culturally sensitive and are not available for viewing.

Series: M1706
Quantity: 0.14 metres
Recorded by: Frederick Thomas Askins (CP 164)


Chapter 5
Searching Further Afield in the Archives