Albert Alexander Cochrane Le Souef was born on 17 April 1828 in Kent, England. His father, William Le Souef, was later protector of Aborigines on the Goulburn River. Le Souef was educated at the Moravian Mission School in Neuwied, Germany and later privately. He arrived in Melbourne at the age of 12 and the following year, 1841, he travelled with his tutor to the protectorate station on the Goulburn River. He spent three years there and learned valuable information about Aboriginal culture and bushcraft. He became interested in pastoral pursuits and ran sheep and cattle stations throughout Victoria's northeast before settling in Melbourne and becoming a politician, founding director of the Zoological Gardens, and active member of the Aborigines Protection Board. In 1853 he married Caroline Cotton, who had grown up on her father's Doogalook station on the Goulburn, and who became an accomplished painter and decorative artist while raising a family of nine children.

Although actively involved in the dispossession of Aboriginal land, Caroline and Albert Le Souef valued their interactions with Aboriginal people, and recorded traditional Aboriginal life and customs. By the 1850s, traditional Aboriginal life had been dramatically disrupted by dispossession of their land, disease and the removal of children. Keen to record that culture, Caroline and Albert Le Souef created three decorative boxes in the 1860s, filled with miniature Aboriginal weapons Albert had made. Caroline decorated the boxes with scenes of Aboriginal life, while Albert carved, meticulously numbered and catalogued each weapon (from across Australia) on the inside lid of the box. This box was displayed at the 1866 Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne. It reflected a growing nostalgia by Europeans towards Aboriginal culture, and the start of a widening enthusiasm for collecting Aboriginal artefacts. The Museum Victoria collection today contains a list of miniature weapons handwritten by Albert Le Souef, 1866; decorated box and selection from 49 miniatures of weapons, 1866; ink drawings by Caroline Le Souef; miniature weapons by Albert Le Souef; and 'Corroboree on the Goulburn River', 1841, by Caroline Le Souef.

Le Souef died at Royal Park on 7 May 1902, at the age of 74. Four daughters and five sons survived him.

Exhibition: White Perspectives on Black Culture: Caroline and Albert Le Souef
Australian Dictionary of Biography.

More Information