First police station, Darwin
Inspector Paul Foelsche
First Police Station, Darwin, 1873.
National Library of Australia
Inspector Paul Foelsche (1831-1914) combined police duties with a passion for photography and an interest in anthropology. His record of the developing town of Palmerston (now Darwin) gives a rare insight into frontier life, and his portraits of Aboriginal subjects has become a most significant archive. Inspector Foelsche commanded the Northern Territory police force for 34 years. He and his small group of officers had to build their own police station when they arrived at Port Darwin in January 1870. As the settlement grew, conflict between the settlers and Aboriginal people increased. In response to the Protector of Aborigines recommendation that he act in cases of violence among Aboriginal people, Foelsche allowed his deputy, Corporal Montagu, to mount reprisal expeditions. After the Daly River killings and reprisals of 1884, Montagu faced a full government enquiry and Foelsche was publicly criticised. On his retirement in 1904 Foelsche was the longest-serving public official in the Territory’s history. He was awarded the Imperial Service Medal, and received an illuminated address from his fellow officers.