Eyre’s achievements at Moorundi were astonishing, as was confirmed by high profile contemporaries. The plaudits continued to roll in long after he had sailed away.
Francis Dutton, a stockowner who was later to become Premier, observed in 1846: “Mr Eyre has certainly succeeded to an eminent degree…. At the same time, a great moral control and influence has been obtained over the more distant and warlike tribes.” This was in sharp contrast to what had happened at Port Lincoln and other trouble spots throughout Australia during the same period. For example, in late 1844, John Charles Darke led an exploring party outwards from Port Lincoln. He was speared and died from his wounds. Only in the regions of Eyre’s influence did true security prevail.
Sturt described Eyre as a “Guardian Hero” to the Aborigines and that “He has done more to soften the natives on its banks [the Murray] than all the missionaries and protectors would effect in a thousand years.” Sturt observed these remarkable changes for himself when he led the Central Australian Expedition in 1844 northwards through previously hostile territory wherein twice before Aborigines had been within a whisker of taking his own life. He thereby understood better than anyone the amazing success of his friend, writing: “Instead of the Murray being the scene of conflict and slaughter, its whole line is now occupied by stock-stations and tranquillity everywhere prevails.”
The newspapers also continued to sing his praises. For example, when it was suggested that the police station at Moorundi be removed as a cost cutting measure, The South Australian of July 11th 1845 responded with a telling comparison between the Moorundi district and elsewhere:
We believe there is but one opinion in the colony as to the admirable effects of the policy pursued at Moorundi. The settlers in that neighbourhood state that the tribes there, the most powerful and previously the most savage and lawless, are now the most peaceable and the best behaved in the province, and that for years there has been no complaint, either on account of theft or outrage.
When we compare the state of affairs in that district with the wholesale robberies, battles and other outrages in the south-eastern district and throughout New South Wales, we consider not only that the protection is cheaply purchased, but also that it would be an act of folly to abandon the natives….