your use Committee Coordinators
Workers Growing in
|Growing in understanding: History|
The arrival of Lieutenant James Cook, and then Arthur Phillip in 1788, marked the beginning of ‘white settlement’.
From 1788, Australia was treated by the British as a colony of settlement, not of conquest. Aboriginal land was taken over by British colonists on the premise that the land belonged to no-one (‘terra nullius’).
The history of Aboriginal dispossession is central to understanding contemporary Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations. Colonial takeover was premised on the assumption that European culture was superior to all others, and that Europeans could define the world in their terms. A colony could be established by persuading the indigenous inhabitants to submit themselves to its overlordship; by purchasing from those inhabitants the right to settle part or parts of it; by unilateral possession, on the basis of first discovery and effective occupation.
Possession of Australia was declared on the basis of unilateral possession. The land was defined as terra nullius, or wasteland, because Cook and Banks considered there were few 'natives' along the coast. They apparently deduced that there would be fewer or none inland. Their observations were soon proven incorrect. The governors of the first settlements soon found that Aboriginal people lived inland, and had special territories and associations with land on a spiritual and inheritance basis. Nonetheless, they did not amend the terms of British sovereignty.
In the first hundred years there was no consensus about
the basis of British sovereignty. “ Deaths in Custody Australia’s colonisation resulted in a drastic
decline in the Aboriginal population.
Source: Face the facts p 45
The Frontier War
The pattern documented at and around Port Jackson - of initial friendly contact, followed by open conflict, reduction in the size of the Aboriginal population and then acceptance of and dependence on the whites by any survivors - was repeated time and time again as the frontier spread across the continent.
Many past histories made it appear as if the Aboriginals simply 'faded away' before white occupation. However, this was not the case. While some Aboriginal people accepted or adjusted to white occupation and some sought to survive as best they could by adapting to the new conditions, many others fought to retain their land and their culture.
Due to the nature of Aboriginal society, resistance took the form of guerrilla warfare - individuals or small groups of settlers were ambushed, isolated settlements attacked, crops, buildings and countryside burnt. In south-eastern New South Wales this type of resistance, organised by people such as Pemulwy around Sydney and Windradyne of the Wiradjuri around Bathurst, continued into the 1820s.
As white settlers moved further away from the centre of government, random shootings of Aboriginals and massacres of groups of men, women and children were common. The most infamous massacre in New South Wales occurred at Myall Creek station in 1838. Twenty-eight Aboriginals were murdered in cold blood by stockmen. The murderers were eventually tried and some were hanged - an unprecedented event which caused an outcry in the white community. Sometimes Aboriginal water- holes were poisoned, or Aboriginal people given flour, sugar or damper mixed with arsenic.
These practices, common in the 19th century, continued into the first half of the 20th century in some parts of Australia. Because of the 'moving frontier' and the different reactions of Aboriginal people to white settlement, the nature of the relationship that existed between black and white was not the same in all parts of the State at anyone time. The fight varied in intensity at different places and at different times.
Source: Aboriginal Australia Aboriginal People of NSW
Royal Commission into Aboritinal Deaths in Custody
This web site was developed within the Upper Hunter Community. The following are some of the stories of Aboriginal and European contact
Significant dates and events
1787 - Before departing England, Phillip’s instructions of 17 April 1787
included the following:
1789 - a disease akin to smallpox decimated the Eora people.
1795 - an outbreak of measles spread amongst the Eora, particularly affecting the Kamergal (Cammeraigal) who lived on Sydney Harbour’s North Shore
1802 - Van Diemans Land (now known as Tasmania) was settled. In 1804 settlers were authorised to ‘shoot aborigines’ in response to their resistance.
1814 - Governor Macquarie established a native institution at Parramatta
to’ civilise, educate
1824 - Martial law is proclaimed in Bathurst to quell the Wiradjuri resistance to the white settlers.
1834 - Five thousand men lined up across the breadth of Van Diemans Land and walked the length of the island to force the Aborigines into the Tasman Peninsula. The Aboriginies were forced to Flinders Island, where many died. The remainder were moved to Cape Barren Island.
1834 - The Pinjarra massacre in Western Australia is said to have wiped out an entire tribe. The official death count was only fourteen.
1835 - The Myall Creek Massacre in NSW the first of the massacres where (white) offenders were punished under law. 28 Aboriginal people were shot and burnt, mainly women and children.
1835 - A treaty was made between John Batman and the Aboriginal people in 1835. There was an exchange of goods and blankets for 250,000 Ha of land. This treaty was never recognised by the authorities. (Some say that this was because the Governor would not recognise a treaty made in the absence of a declared war, others say it was because you cannot make a treaty with natives who are lower on the evolutionary ladder than you).
1837 - the British select committee finds that the treatment of Australian Aboriginals is very poor. A ’Protector of Aborigines’ was recommended to be appointed.
1848 - NSW sent troopers to Queensland to ‘open the land for settlement and kill natives’.
1863 - Labourers from the Pacific Islands were brought to Queensland.
1863 - The first international sporting team from Australia
goes to England to play Cricket. The team was Aboriginal,
it is said
side won the tour.
1876 - Tasmania’s Truganini dies.
Source: Australian Museum