A L P Cameron was born in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne in 1845. In 1864 Cameron left the colony of Victoria for Penola in South Australia and then Queensland where he ‘pursued a somewhat adventurous life in the far west of the northern colony.’ In 1878 he moved to the Riverina area of New South Wales, working initially as a storekeeper and eventually becoming station manager. In 1879, with two of his brothers, Cameron took up selections at Conargo, north-east of present day Deniliquin. An 1894 news report noted it was this experience that ‘first drew his attention to the land laws of the colony’, and over the following years he regularly wrote to newspapers about land legislation and settlement. In 1884 he moved to Mossgiel and over the years ran unsuccessfully for office and was viewed as a local community leader, being ‘frequently selected at public meetings to represent his district’ on matters such as land leasing, railways and the costs of land management (such as controlling rabbits) on smaller landholders. In his later years he retired to Waverley, Sydney. Cameron died in 1908.
Howitt acknowledged Cameron as one of the ‘certain gentlemen to whom I am especially indebted’ in the introduction to his 1904 book The Native Tribes of South-East Australia. Cameron provided information on Barkinji (Barkindji or Paakantyi), Ithi-Ithi (Yitha Yitha), Muthi-muthi (Mutti Mutti or Muthi Muthi), Ta-tathi (Dadi Dadi), Wathi-wathi (Wadi Wadi), Wiradjuri, Wonghibon (Wangaaypuwan) and Unghi (Gunggari community or Kogai community) people. Cameron was described as having ‘the welfare of the aborigines at heart’ and being ‘instrumental in securing reserves for their benefit, and few were better acquainted with their vocabulary and habits.’ Besides his collection of information for Howitt, Cameron undertook his own anthropological pursuits and writings. He was a member of the Anthropological Society of New South Wales and a contributor to their journal Science of Man. He had articles about Aboriginal people of New South Wales published in the local press and developed his own group of informants, who corresponded with him in his role as an Honorary Corresponding member of the Anthropological Society of New South Wales. Notably, in the same issue of the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland that Howitt had his article about the Jeraeil of the Gunaikurnai published, Cameron had his article ‘Notes of Some Tribes of New South Wales’ published.
Whilst Cameron was valued amongst the settler community for his knowledge about Aboriginal people, his knowledge came from his role within the colonial process. Cameron was cognisant of this to a degree, noting in his 1885 article that ‘our present position in respect to the original occupiers of the soil is not an equitable one, is beyond dispute. We have taken from them a country, where, after their own fashion, they were contented and happy, and in return we have bestowed on them a civilisation which destroys them.’ This did not prevent him from engaging in the removal of items from country. In 1907 Cameron gifted the Anthropological Society of New South Wales some ‘mill stone and crushers’ (grinding stones) that he had found near Mossgiel. He noted these stones were used for ‘grinding grass and other seeds’ but his description of ‘olden times’ being when these items were used both served to justify their removal and was yet another indication of the disruption of colonisation to Aboriginal people.
‘Mr. A. L. P. Cameron’, The Hay Standard and Advertiser for Balranald, Wentworth, Maude, 24 February 1894, p. 2, accessed 16 July 2019,