First People and Socials Essay
You are required to post a 500 word discussion “starter” post on a topic covered in Topics 1-3 of this course by the due date for this assignment. You should select a topic that you are deeply interested in that relates to your lived experience or career direction.
Drawing on Topics 1-3 course content and readings, your posts should:
1. Explore the implications of colonisation for First Nations’ Peoples in Australia;
2. Express an understanding of the diverse identities and experiences of First Nations’ Peoples in Australia; and
3. Apply social justice theory to topics of discussion.
? Explores the implications of colonisation for First Nations’ Peoples in Australia (5 marks);
? Expresses an understanding of the diverse identities and experiences of First Nations’ Peoples in Australia (5 marks); and
? Applies social justice theory to topics of discussionTOPIC 1-3 STARTS HERE.
• The first thing to consider is that all the terminologies that we will explore have been imposed in one way or another. Before the British came to Australia, there was no such thing as an ‘Aborigine’ or ‘Indigenous’ person. Instead, the land was made up of a multitude of First Nations with different ways of referring to themselves in their own languages (as depicted by the map below). One of the challenges with using terminology like ‘First Australians’ or Indigenous is that it tends to homogenise what was a multicultural continent. It’s a little like looking at a map of Asia and saying that all the various ethnic groups within that large land mass are ‘Asian’. This is incorrect and doesn’t really mean a lot. A Japanese person is quite different from a Korean person for example. They have different language, cultural practices and identities that the term ‘Asian’ doesn’t capture.
Here are some generally accepted contemporary collective terms used to describe First Nations’ Peoples:
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
• Indigenous Australians
• First Peoples
• First Nations’ peoples
These are all generally accepted terms but they do not reflect the true diversity of First Nations’ Peoples’ cultures and identity throughout Australia. Despite colonisation, First Nations’ Peoples remain a diverse group of peoples. Hence wherever possible you should use the specific language group a person belongs to e.g. Bundjalung, Larrakia, or Nyungar or whatever term a First Nations’ Person uses to identify themself. The terms used above have been layered over such diversity, but for First Nations’ Peoples in Australia, the map above is a contemporary truth. In terms of which word to use, any of the above terms is generally accepted. For the purposes of writing in this course, it’s best to choose one of the above terms and stick with it rather than using multiple terms within the one piece of written work.
The map below illustrates the cultural groups in the Torres Strait Islands and you can see that it remains a very multicultural area. Many people are unaware of the significance of the Torres Strait in terms of the movement between it and Papua New Guinea, which has been occurring for centuries as well as trade occurring from this area with peoples as far as China.
The term ‘First Australians’, whilst tolerated, is fairly meaningless as the word ‘Australia’ came into existence at Federation in 1901. This is the point where those that colonised the country became citizens of Australia. It’s ironic that at that time, First Nations’ Peoples were not considered citizens or indeed considered full human beings and were therefore not considered Australian. The land existed long before the word ‘Australia’ as did the people who lived here.
Inappropriate and unacceptable terms include:
• ‘Aboriginals’ or ‘Aborigines’: instead use Aboriginal people or another term
• ‘Natives’- Historically used in a racist and derogatory way. First Nations’ People in Australia have rejected the term natives.
• ‘Our’ First Nations’ Peoples (or any other term used) – the term ‘our’ connotes ownership and paternalism and is generally not accepted for use by non-Indigenous peoples
• ‘The’ Indigenous – this term refers to First Nations’ Peoples as a thing and hence dehumanises and objectifies
These terms are historically and currently used in a racist, derogatory, or unconscious way by non-Indigenous Australians and should not be used in the context of this course.
Please note: Always capitalise Indigenous or any other term referring to First Nations’ Peoples. Other terms such as Elder should also be capitalised as a mark of respect.
Please read this additional information on appropriate terminology use. It details ways to avoid common deficit ways of describing First Nations’ Peoples and why it is important to capitalise terms such as Indigenous.
You should draw on all of the advice regarding terminology included in Topic 1 when conducting assignments in this course.
• People and Identity
There are currently just under 600,000 First Nations’ People of Australia, as identified by the Census (ABS, 2011). There are likely many people that get missed out on, particularly those in remote areas and those that won’t formally identify as First Nations’ People, due to past experience engaging with the Australian Government. Prior to colonization, there was no ‘Pan Aboriginality’, which means no broad notion of a unified First Nations’ identity. Identity was defined through relationship and identity as opposed to a set concept of ‘race’. The idea of race is a social construct and has been disproved by scientists around the world. The power of race as a social construct however, and the meanings associated with it, is a much harder idea to discredit. Since the idea first took hold, it has been recognised that it has been used to reinforce existing notions of race superiority, that one group is better than another. The science of racism was essentially invented to justify the exploitation of some people and the privileging of others.For First Nations’ Peoples and cultures, the concept of race has never been used, but rather levels of relationship and affiliation exist. If you met someone who wasn’t affiliated with you, the cultural requirement was to affiliate, to include. Within First Nations’ worldviews, the whole world is connected and there is really no such thing as strangers. You would just work out who people were and where they were connected in the web of interconnectivity. Therefore, culturally, the idea of race is outside of First Nations’ worldviews.
Outside of First Nations’ society, the notion of who is ‘authentic’ is a common one. Arguments about who is authentic tend to exist outside of First Nations’ cultures, and this occurs globally. This leads to First Nations’ peoples feeling that both historically and today, they are being defined and identified by others for their own purpose. Within Australia, in the space of a couple of hundred years, there has been over 167 definitions of Aboriginality used in various different State and Federal legislation for different purposes. Prior to the Racial Discrimination Act (1975), a person could be identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in one State, cross the border and not be identified in the other. This would have profoundly affected your entire life’s opportunities, choices, experiences and identity. These imposed definitions have created incredible levels of trauma. The system in Australia shaped and re-shaped identities for particular purposes and we will explore more on this during the trimester.
We now briefly explain the concept of Intersectionality, as depicted in this graphic below:
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Intersectionality refers to the situation where a person belongs to a number of different groups that aren’t treated very well in society. It captures the idea that different types of discrimination interact. When we look at the diagram above and think about First Nations’ Peoples in Australia, we can see that the disadvantage they experience might be felt in many or all of the areas in this diagram (education, race, class, culture etc). For example, an First Nations’ Australian who is disabled, gay and Christian will find themselves layered with multiple levels of disadvantage in our society. People experience sameness and difference in the intersections of their identity and this cuts across all the areas of our lives. We will discuss this more in detail when we cover content on privilege in Topic 5.
You may have heard or read about the importance of Country to First Nations’ Australians. The notion of Country, the relationship of Country and the identity with Country is the absolute cornerstone of First Nations’ Australian cultures and identities. Australia is recognized internationally as having one of the most diverse biological land and water masses in the world. Aboriginal people in Australia have shaped and sustainably managed one of the world’s most biologically unique and diverse regions uninterrupted in human history. This biodiversity has sadly been threatened through environmental degradation and unsustainable practices. For First Nations’ Australians, country forms the basis of a range of cultural practices and relationships. This is evident in many of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages that have the same word for people, identity and country. When you go to the north of Australia, some of the Creole languages see people being referred to as country. So if you’re saying hello to someone, you might say ‘hello country’. There is a term to capture the inclusion of country into community and this is ‘Eco-kinship’. This demonstrates that people relate to their physical environment in the same way they relate to family and kin, as opposed to them being separate spheres. Relationship to country, care of country and having access to country is critical for many First Nations’ Australians.
Culture is very closely related to country. You will know from your studies in the first year that culture refers to ways of thinking, seeing, doing and valuing. Remember that culture is a fluid concept. We can all be part of various cultures at the same time. First Nations’ Australian culture is not a static thing but rather it changes and moves over time. There is no one authentic First Nations’ culture and it can be frustrating for First Nations’ Australians to feel that they must be locked into a cultural identity from the past and judged on whether they are being ‘cultural authentic’http://www.indigenousinstyle.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/aus_map_covered_text_lined.jpg
The map above illustrates that there are currently 250 nations representing 250 distinct languages. This map has seen changes over our colonial history with the suggestion that there was likely double this many nations and languages at the point of colonization. Language tends to be a good indicator for culture and many languages often equal many different cultures. The global move to English as a ‘world language’ suggests to some that we are seeing the homogenization of culture around the globe. As an international phenomenon, we are also seeing that the loss of language is happening at the same time as the loss of biodiversity. Those areas that have the least diversity in language also have the least biodiversity and this suggests some kind of relationship between the two.
You might like to look at the map above and name the nations where you were born or have lived on.
• Group and individual diversity
It is important to recognise the significant cultural, linguistic, spiritual, geographical and experiential diversity of First Nations’ Peoples communities and cultures in Australia. First Nations’ Peoples are often mis-identified as one single culture or as belonging to one single language group. As such, First Nations’ Peoples inhabit a vastly misunderstood ‘social identity group’ in Australia. Social identity groups refer to collectives or categories of individuals who are grouped together either accurately or falsely as having common traits, behaviours, experiences, values, or cultural outlooks. Social identity groups often form the basis for privilege and oppression in a given society. That is, your relationship and affiliation to one group or another determines the degree to which you experience unearned privilege in a society and hence access to resources, entitlements, opportunities, power, and so on.
Examples of commonly referred to social identity groups are:
• First Nations’ Peoples
• Non-Indigenous peoples
• People with disabilities
• Able bodied peoples
• Immigrants and refugees
• People with mental illness
• Working class people
• Heterosexual people
• LGBTIAQ+ people
Please refer to Image 1.3. Roots of Privilege and surrounding text in the Topic 2 required reading by Morgain and Capous-Desyllas titled Intersections of Social Work and Social Justice for more detailed information.
The importance of individual diversity – a person centred approach
While appreciating the diversity between distinct First Nations’ communities, it is also important to recognise the individual level of diversity for each individual First Nations’ Person. By this, we mean that while an individual may identify strongly with a given social identity, such as being a Wiradjuri or First Nations’ Person, they cannot be assumed to automatically have the same preferences, behaviours, values, or experiences as other people who also identify with that social identity.
Key practice sensibilities of cultural safety and cultural humility remind us that we must always be open and flexible to responding to individuals as unique beings. Just as cultures evolve over time, so do individuals. We must hence also recognise that any person can change over time and that their preferences, for example, around the ways they are referred to in terminology will evolve over the period of our interactions with them.
• The Deficit Paradigm
This paradigm locates people as inherently disadvantaged rather than structurally or purposefully disadvantaged. This captures the belief that people are born disadvantaged based on their race. This notion can be described in a whole range of different ways. It relies heavily on racial archetypes and stereotypes. The deficit paradigm doesn’t take into account the structures that exist outside of the individual that lead to disadvantage. There is no doubt that through a majority of Australia’s history, through the implementation of government policy, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were and are structurally and purposely disadvantaged.
The deficit paradigm places focus on ‘helping’ the disadvantaged rather than stopping the disadvantage occurring. This is an important point for future workers in the human service field, who will be involved in implementing government policy and ‘helping’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Deficit Paradigm is inspired by social and political histories of racism and oppression as people see what they are taught to see. It is supported by mainstream media and dominant governance systems, legislators and policy makers. When that teaching is broad, dominant, powerful and constantly reinforced in our places of learning, it is very easy to accept it.
• Media Resources
Please start to follow First Nations’ Peoples led sources such as:
National Indigenous Times
Indigenous X website and social media
Black Feminist Ranter on Facebook
Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy on Facebook
• Our Approach in This Course
This course is informed and inspired by First Nations’ approaches to teaching and learning. The teaching team bring their lived experience and their professional experience to designing and teaching this course. The course recognises that contemporary Australia remains a neo-colonial experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and societies. Senator Peris’ speech in the video above captured this. The course supports the belief that de-colonisation is the only process that will enable equitable social justice outcomes for all people in Australia and it takes an anti-colonial approach to teaching within this course. An example of an anti-colonial approach within this course is not to simply perpetuate the status quo by training you to go out and work within the existing framework, but rather to equip you to be a part of a discussion about building better practices.
First Nations’ learning and teaching approaches have a lot to offer mainstream education and you will learn more about what this approach means as we proceed through the course.
Within this course we will be using narrative and story to explore (new) ways of knowing, seeing, doing and being. The experience will be embodied and emplaced and involve compassion and conflict, in recognition that at times, it can ‘hurt to heal’. Some of the content we cover in this course may be very new to you and this may take you to emotional places that feel very uncomfortable and even painful. To be a part of the process of decolonisation, you will need to allow yourself to visit those places, to learn and to grow.
The course is also concerned with cultural safety, non-homogeneity, self-agency, care and respect. If you have previously undertaken 1028HSV, you will have already come across the term cultural safety. Briefly, cultural safety refers to having the willingness and openness to learn about other cultures in a non-judgemental way. It also encompasses the concept that you yourself feel safe to be who you are and express yourself in a way that is true to you. With this comes the idea of self-agency, which means you are responsible for your own cultural safety and feel able to express your needs in an appropriate way. Cultural safety means not assuming sameness but instead assuming diversity. To do this, you will need to have an awareness of your own culture, your level of privilege and how these impact on your values and beliefs.
There are a lot of terms in the above paragraph which might be quite new to you and that’s fine. As we move through the course, you will build your understanding of what these terms and perspectives mean.
The course supports embodied social work practice, which can quite simply be understood as ‘getting out of your head’. As we move through the content, you will be asked to do more than engage with it on an intellectual level. Instead, you will be asked to allow yourself to be moved and changed by both the content and experience of learning and to take this experience with you into your practice. This is a very worthwhile pursuit that you may not have the time or space to do once you are working in the field after university. This course presents an opportunity that you are invited to immerse yourself in.
The teaching team promote engaging with people and communities holistically and flexibly in the recognition that an open mind is a beautiful mind! It’s also important to recognise that First Nations’ ways of being, seeing and doing are not just for First Nations’ Peoples. This course was developed with consideration of concepts of:
• shared power,
• respect for Elders and family, eco-sustainability and
• deep listening.
These are valuable to all of us both personally and in practice.
As a participant in this course, you will be asked to:
• Listen to yourself and others – reflect and be aware of what’s going on for you
• Reflect on your personal and particular relationship to an issue or theme. How is it influencing your thinking?
• Include and support each other
• Ask for help and support
• Do the research before challenging the research
• Social JusticeBy this point in your studies, you should be familiar with the term social justice. Broadly, it describes a situation where people are enjoying their fundamental human rights and experiencing equity in a society. A lot of our work in human services and social work settings is about promoting or advocating for social justice. In seeking social justice we acknowledge that different groups within our societies are not equal and, indeed, that some will prosper from, and control, the same social and economic systems that both overtly and covertly devalue, exclude and harm others. While some of us are automatically privileged by the systems, circumstances and environments that govern and shape our collective lives; others are systematically disadvantaged by these things (see for example, Crenshaw 1991; Goodman 2011). In health terms, we know for example that residents in wealthy areas are far less likely to be exposed to negative environmental determinants of health such as forced removal, pollution, violence, racism and overcrowding. Residents in poor neighbourhoods, by contrast, are far more likely to be exposed to these things (see for example, Schulz & Northridge 2004). At the same time we know that unequal societies produce negative outcomes across the full spectrum of advantage and disadvantage: we are all worse off in more unequal societies (see Wilkinson & Pickett 2009).
Importantly, a social justice lens offers a “social model” of disadvantage: one that moves away from blaming individuals for their lot in life toward acknowledging the complex socio-historical and economic factors that shape all of our lives for better and worse. A social justice approach assumes that social and economic disadvantage is not “inherent” to particular individuals and groups because they are “less than” others (as for example ableism, sexism or racism would assume) but, rather, that that disadvantage is due to social, political, economic and cultural choices that are socially reproduced over time (Goodman 2011).
In seeking social justice we are often concerned with distributive justice: putting in place formal mechanisms via which those who are disadvantaged within a system may come to take a more equitable place in society and achieve a better quality of life (Miller 1999). Human rights practice and advocacy is one area that is hence often associated with social justice. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was established in 2007. This document captures fundamental Human Rights as identified and accepted by First Nations’ Peoples collectively at a global level. It took about 25 years to come into creation and saw the involvement of many First Nations’ Peoples from around the world who came together to explore and define what they believed their basic human rights to be. You might be wondering what the difference is between rights for First Nations’ Peoples and non-Indigenous Peoples . Briefly, First Nations’ Peoples globally have had the experience of mass colonisation. This has resulted in the layering over of traditional First Nations’ cultural practices, which continue to exist despite attempts to squash them. This document seeks to acknowledge the pre-existing and co-existing laws, practices and rights of First Nations’ Peoples . Australia was not a signatory on this document and it took a significant amount of time for it to be ratified by Australia. Despite signing on to this document, our government breeches it daily, and the UN provides our government with feedback to this effect each year. So on the one level, this document is very important and Australia being a signatory to it matters, but on the other hand, we must move beyond this to critically evaluate what is actually happening in relation to First Nations’ rights on the ground.
Social justice reporting in Australia
Australia has two annual reports that highlight what is actually going on in terms of social justice and First Australians. These are the Close the Gap Report and the Social Justice and Native Title Report Both of these reports establish that there is much to be done in relation to the rights of First Australians as they table poor reports on incarceration, health and wellbeing. First Nations’ Australians have the highest rate of incarceration of any group that measures incarceration in the world. In Western Australia, the youth incarceration rate is close to 90% First Nations’ Australians, despite the population of WA being only 3% First Nations’ (Aboriginal and Torres Islander Social Justice Commissioner, 2014). You can explore these reports in more detail in the links to them under the Web Resources section at the end of this topic. The important point to make is that there is no lack of accurate, reliable information on the lives of First Nations’ Australians. Government is well informed about the range of serious issues.
A good starting point in relation to exploring social justice issues for First Australians is to understand that these have historically been defined and controlled by non-Indigenous Australians. Additionally, there is a history of poor results. Issues of suitability, relevance and authenticity remain in regards to focus, action and accountability. Most of what is happening in this realm is still being done by non-Indigenous people to First Nations’ Australians. First Nations’ Peoples have the clearest and most informed understandings regarding the barriers and opportunities for equitable social justice outcomes.
• The nature of injustice
o FPSJ Topic 2 the nature of injustice.pptx FPSJ Topic 2 the nature of injustice.pptx – Alternative Formats (388.381 KB)
Please review this additional Powerpoint slide which summarises information from Topic 2 course readings on the nature of injustice and some common ways that it is maintained in a society.
Image source: https://www.forwardpress.in/2016/03/what-is-social-injustice/
• Current social justice Commissioner
June Oscar AO
June Oscar AO is a proud Bunuba woman from the remote town of Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. She is a strong advocate for Indigenous Australian languages, social justice, women’s issues, and has worked tirelessly to reduce Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).June has held a raft of influential positions including Deputy Director of the Kimberley Land Council, chair of the Kimberley Language Resource Centre and the Kimberley Interpreting Service and Chief Investigator with WA’s Lililwan Project addressing FASD.
These media resources will be helpful for your ongoing learning and assessments. If you are a social media user please consider following our current Social Justice Commissioner.
• June Oscar AO on Twitter: @June_Oscar
• June Oscar AO on Facebook
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice section of Commission website
Previous social justice commissioners for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice include:
• Professor Gillian Triggs: 2016-2017 (Acting)
• Robynne Quiggin (Deputy Commissioner): 2016 – 2017
• Mr Mick Gooda: 2010-2016
• Mr Tom Calma: 2004–2010
• Dr William Jonas AM: 1999–2004
• Ms Zita Antonios: 1998–1999 (Acting)
• Mr Mick Dodson AM: 1993–1998
In 2011, Mick Gooda the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner in the Australian Human Rights Commission, delivered this inspiring speech at a conference in Fremantle, WA.
Please read through the speech and take note of all of the social justice issues that the Social Justice Commissioner raises. You might be surprised by how far reaching these issues are.
Echo Center | Video | Audio | Download PPT File Download PPT File – Alternative Formats
Please download the 10 year review report for the Close the Gap policy at the following URL. The CTG policy remains the Council of Australian Government’s primary policy initiative in relation to First Nations’ Peoples in Australia. It is often presented as a direct attempt to promote equality and distributive social justice across a range of priority areas.
In your opinion does the Close the Gap initiative achieve social justice, including concepts of restorative justice, Indigenous/post-colonial justice, and post-modern justice as discussed in the first mini lecture for this Topic? Why? Why not?
Aboriginal and Torres Islander Social Justice Commissioner. (2014). Social justice and native title report. Retrieved from
Holland, C. (2014). Close the gap: Progress and priorities report. Retrieved from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/ctg-progress-and-priorities-report.pdf
United Nations. (2007). Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved from
Invasion and Colonisation
Australia’s colonisation is a story of invasion and resistance to invasion. There are many myths in relation to colonisation and these have been perpetuated through our formal education system. You may not know that First Nations’ Peoples knew about Europeans long before the British Invasion in 1788. The first undisputed sighting of Australia by a European was made in early 1606. The Dutch vessel Duyfken, captained by Willem Janszoon, followed the coast of New Guinea, missed Torres Strait, and explored part of the western side of Cape York, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, believing the land was still part of New Guinea. On 26 February 1606, the Dutch made landfall near the modern town of Weipa and the Pennefather River, but were promptly attacked by the First Nations’ People. Janszoon proceeded down the coast for some 350 km. He stopped in some places, but was met by hostile natives and some of his men were killed. At the final place, he initially had friendly relations with the natives, but after he forced them to hunt for him and appropriated some of their women, violence broke out and there were many deaths on both sides. These events were recorded in Aboriginal oral history that has come down to the present day. Here, Janszoon decided to turn the place later being called Cape Keerweer, Dutch for “turnabout” (Howgego, 2003; Scott, 1928).
The British decided to come to Australia, because they needed to quickly secure a new colony after the loss of the American War of Independence. By this time in British history, there were a significant number of incarcerated British convicts and the plan had been to send them to the America’s. With the loss of the option of American territory, a new place was needed to house this growing number of incarcerated Brits, who were being housed in ‘hulks’. These were large ships that had been gutted to house many thousands of British convicts on the river Thames. The original plan was to send these convicts to America as labour to build the new colony. Now that this had fallen through, a new solution was desperately needed. There was also a need to secure Australia as many other countries were well positioned to grab what was considered the last vast continent available to colonise.
The decision to establish a penal colony on Australia was a quick decision that was not officially sanctioned by the British Crown. The British Crown had instructed the colonisation of Australia to be a peaceful, negotiated settlement as opposed to a violent invasion or conquest. Unfortunately, what played out in reality was very different. What happened was a violent frontier movement that lasted over at least 150 years. The invasion was consistently met with resistance and not passive acceptance and we don’t tend to hear a lot about this. You may have knowledge of the resistance movements by American Indians and Maori peoples, as these stories have been turned into movies and stories. There is little public knowledge of the fight put up by First Nations’ Australians however. There is also no evidence of treaties or negotiations taking place prior or post the frontier violence. The British had a history going back centuries of making treaties with First Nations’ populations, including treaties made in America, Canada, Southern Africa and India.
Phases of Invasion and Colonisation
Invasion and colonisation of Australia can be broken down into three phases. The first is the initial invasion. This involved the period of invasion of the territories of First Nations’ peoples. This initial period was met by First Nations’ curiosity and attempts at negotiation on the part of Aboriginal people, especially in the Sydney Cove area. The documents of the officers of the First Fleet show attempts made by both groups of First Nations’ men and groups of women to negotiate. You may have heard of Bennelong, and First Nations’ man who took on the role of negotiator. His wife was also involved in negotiations.
At the same time as attempts to negotiate were being made, there was also First Nations’ resistance at the frontier points. The Sydney Cove area was not a site of intense fighting, but other areas were. The British also bought with them many diseases that they had developed immunity to, that the First Nations’ population did not have immunity to. Small pox, sexually transmitted infections and other common illnesses was responsible for many First Nations’ deaths, particularly in those areas that were heavily populated by the British, such as Sydney Cove. Interestingly, according to the surgeon’s reports on the First Fleet, no one on the First Fleet was an active small pox carrier. However, there is evidence that the fleet brought with them glass jars containing the small pox virus and had used these in warfare in other parts of the world. You can watch a video below that explores this issue and suggests that the British used the small pox virus as biological warfare.
Other methods used during the invasion included destabilisation of First Nations’ economies and dispossession of First Nations’ land owners. Because of stereotyping about ‘primitive people’, there is a belief that First Nations’ people didn’t have a sophisticated economy and instead just wandered happily through the bush. This is completely incorrect, as Aboriginal people had a structured society with a clear subsistence economy that involved sustainable management of their environments. They traded for resources both locally and through established trade routes and had clear governance structures. The process of colonisation saw land clearing, fencing, and the stocking of land with pastoral animals and this destabilised the existing First Nations’ economies.
The first couple of years of the arrival of the British saw them experiencing starvation as many of their crops failed, in part due to First Nations’ actions of targeting the crops and destroying them. Within a decade, this had changed, with the First Nations’ population experiencing starvation instead as a result of having their economies destabilised.
Australia was declared at the time of the British arrival as ‘terra nullius’. This means ‘empty land’. The legal notion of terra nullius was maintained until 1992 and we will explore this more in weeks to come.
During this early period, the British had a strong reliance on First Nations’ labour and knowledge and used First Nations’ people to guide them and assist them with expeditions to new areas. The British sometimes captured First Nations’ children to undertake this role. You may be familiar with the expedition of Burke and Wills, explorers who refused to use Aboriginal trackers and all but one of the explorers ended up dying.
Watch the mini-lecture below to learn about the second phase of invasion and colonisation, occupation of First Nations’ lands.
Timeline based on:
1987, ‘Timeline’, in A just & proper settlement, Collins Dove, Blackburn, Vic, pp. 28-30. Provides a timeline of colonisation and major events in Australian Aboriginal history between 1788 and 1988
Continued Indigenous resistance
The final phase of invasion and colonisation is the colonial establishment period. This phase saw a large increase in the colonial population and continued military and infrastructure support for colonists. First Nations’ resistance continued, with a movement towards using the British system to resist, through taking out petitions and becoming more politically active. Colonial aggression towards First Nations’ landowners continued and there was a decreasing reliance on First Nations’ labour and knowledge, particularly in the South East. The North of Australia continued to use First Nations’ knowledge, with First Nations’ labour essentially running the whole economy in the North. It wasn’t until the late 1960’s that this changed, with the Fair Wages decision, which was the result of striking by First Nations’ stockman who fought for 10 years for wages. The whole industry had been running on free labour with First Nations’ workers being paid in rations. When the Fair Wages decision came down, First Nations’ pastoral workers were forced out of their jobs and off the stations that they had been living on. This meant whole communities and families were dispossessed and were forced onto the fringes of townships. This led to incredible poverty, which has continued in some of these areas today. In the place of First Nations’ workers, white workers were bought in and paid.
What developed after 1901 was a growing formality around the regimes of control of First Nations’ people. A regulated system of apartheid developed through a formal State and then Federal system of control of the First Nations’ population post Federation. Legislation and policy was developed to control the First Nations’ population.
Through all of the phases of invasion and colonisation, a common thread has been the ongoing resistance of Aboriginal Australians.
Howgego, R. (2003). Encyclopedia of exploration to 1800. Potts Point NSW: Hordern House.
Scott, E. (1928) A short history of Australia. UK: Oxford University Press