Aboriginal People Under British Control

Essay by lilchisy January 2006

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More than 210 years after British imperialists declared the continent terra nullius and colonized it aboriginal Australians continue to suffer, Treatment of the indigenous people during this time can only be described, at best, as sad. Indigenous communities are now the most disadvantaged in the country. History has seen a self-determining, semi-nomadic race of hunters and gatherers transformed into dependent, settled, unskilled laborers denied their fundamental rights.

The invasion began with the first settlement in 1788. New South Wales was far from terra nullius, an empty unoccupied land. Current estimates account for a native population of around 750000. Long isolated from the rest of the world the aborigines were particularly vulnerable to western diseases and their numbers were soon decimated. The initial colonists treated the aborigines with complete disregard. There was no invitation to share in a unified future.

After the initial penal period, New South Wales was opened up to free settlers and to convicts who having done their time were forbidden to return to England.

The need for land was intense. The aborigines were driven from their land. Vast areas were seized for farming and after the 1820ˇs for sheep grazing. Land was the key to the frontier conflict that developed as settlement expanded despite the bitter and prolonged guerilla war fought by the aborigines.

Occupation of northern Australia after the 1860ˇs saw some changes in the process of dispossession. Cattle not sheep were the main focus. The climatic conditions meant less intensive land use. Attitudes towards aborigines began to change. Now that they were largely dispossessed of their land, they were no longer considered a serious threat. Appreciation of their labor potential for the pastoral industry meant that extermination was not carried out to the same extent as in the south.

Between 1880 and 1930, there prevailed...