Racism in early Victoria

by Monica Hammond

35 Africans who were on board the steamship Commodore, which pulled into Victoria Harbour in April 1858, decided to make Victoria their home. Edward Cridge visited the ship and discovered that one of the families was Christian. He invited them to join his congregation at Christ Church.

This shocked some of the members of the congregation. One letter to the editor of the Gazette referred to the parishioners being insulted “by crowding negro men into the same seats with white and respectable women” (The Home: p. 27). Other angry letters to the editor followed, some submitted anonymously.

Edward Cridge responded, in his own letter to the editor, saying that he thought little of racist statements and that he would say so in any discussion promoting racism.

Actions like these, which weren’t popular with everyone, show that Edward and Mary Cridge were determined to champion the rights of all residents of their new community of Victoria.

This piece is based on the work of Vernon Storey, Terry Worobetz and Henry Kennedy in their book The Home: Orphans’ Home to Family Centre: 1873 to 1998. Copies of the book are available for purchase at The Cridge Centre for the Family.