Colonisation Of Australia Essay Paper

Well, here’s proof that I HAVE been going to school! Just finished this paper…wasn’t too proud of it, but Mona did me a big favor in proof-reading it and telling me to make it more formal…Now I dig it! Hope you enjoy it, and please leave your opinions!!!!

GEO262-Tutorial Paper

In choosing a research question that at its core has no finite answer, and one that cannot be exhausted or successfully responded to in any length of paper, one must explore both sides of the issue. In the following essay the argument for the British invading Australia will be outlined, followed by a rebuttal from the school of thought that Australia was merely settled, and not invaded, by the British.

The concept of terra nullius is essential to this discussion. Terra nullius is Latin for “land belonging to no one.” In the day of the colonial powers, a country was required to determine a territory as terra nullius before it was annex or colonized.

In 1785 the British Government declared that Australia was a terra nullius (Attwood 1996, p viii). The government determined that it was not previously occupied and that it was open for colonization. However, it is a possibility that the Brit’s actions were in fact illegal under their own law, as settlement or annexation of a land found not to be of the terra nullius distinction was illegal. It would be somewhat understandable if Captain James Cook, one of the discoverers of Australia, had made brief contact with Australia, seen what many Europeans of the time felt was inhabitable land, and declared terra nullius. As history shows, this was not the case.

Cook actually made his first contact with Australia in April of 1770. A diary entry written by Cook, dated 22 April 1970, reads “(we) were so near the Shore as to distinguish several people upon the Sea beach. They appear’d to be of a very dark or black colour but whether this was the real colour of their skins or the C[l]othes they might have on I know not” (Cook n.d.). This entry proves the notion that Cook as well as the British Crown knew of previous humans inhabiting Australia. The seizure of land inhabited by other peoples is, by all accounts, an invasion.

In 1791 the British began their colonization of Australia. At first, relations between the Aborigines and the English were relatively peaceful. This all changed when the Aborigines came to realize that the English weren’t just visiting. According to the Australian Government’s website, Aborigines began to fight back, with “clans people of the Eora group in the Sydney area (undertaking) a campaign of resistance against the English colonisers in a series of attacks” which lasted from 1790-1810 (Australian Government n.d.).

This resistance led the English settlers to become violent towards Aboriginals, treating them like animals and shooting at them without thought. According to a report by Lyndall Ryan, author of the essay “Abduction and Multiple Killings of Aborigines in Tasmania: 1804-1835”, Aborigines were shot at for reasons such as motioning for a settlement party to leave, appearing on a hill behind an English outpost, and just simply existing. A visiting missionary is quoted as asking “’Why are there no natives seen in the town?’ the answer given was – ‘We shoot them whenever we find them’” (Ryan n.d.).

To their credit, the government did outlaw “the habit of maliciously and wantonly firing at, and destroying, the defenseless Natives or Aborigines” (Ryan n.d.). Nevertheless, the killing continued but went unreported.

Diseases brought by the English were devastating for the Aborigines. This is not a characteristic of an invasion per se, but more of an unofficial invasion. In his book review of Keith Windschuttle’s The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, Steven Churches writes that in some instances Aboriginal “death rates from disease, presumably influenza, (rose to) 50 per cent in as little as 11 days” (Churches 2003, p. 117).

There were a few shining moments in Aboriginal-English relations as not all of the newly-arrived colonizers treated the Aborigines poorly. In 1835, a farmer named John Batman “signed two ‘treaties’ with Kulin people to ‘purchase’ 600,000 acres of land between what is now Melbourne and the Bellarine Peninsula”  (Australian Government n.d.). He felt that the Aborigines owned the land, and attempted to purchase it by trading goods for the land. However, his good deed was expunged when the governor of New South Wales Sir Richard Bourke was alerted to this news. He legally “established the notion that the land belonged to no-one prior to the British crown taking possession” (Australian Government n.d.). After this act, all Australian land not occupied by settlers was seized by the British government, relegating all Aborigines to squatters on land that they had occupied for thousands of years. The invasion was in full force.

With all of these terrible facts and realities it is quite easy to let emotions dictate this discussion. Yet one must remember that there are always two sides to every argument. At the time of colonization, many Brits felt that the Aborigines were “‘inhabitants’ but not the ‘proprietors’ of the land” (Attwood 1996, p x). Because many of the Aborigines were nomads, they did not use the land in what western thinkers viewed as ‘”a progressive manner”’ (Attwood 1996, p x). They ‘roamed homeless’ and therefore, in the western point of view, had no claim to the land. From this perspective Australia was terra nullius, legal and available for the British to colonize.

In the book titled “In the Age of Mabo” written on Australian land rights, the author quotes Tasmanian historian John West, who spoke of the Aborigines as “wandering hordes (who) engross vast regions…which would feed millions where hundreds are scattered” (Attwood 1996, p xi). For many this may not seem to be a valid point, but one must frame the idea with the current global economical situation; a shortage of land as well as a shortage of food. The question now becomes whether it would have been responsible for the British to NOT have settled Australia due to the fact that it was previously inhabited. Australia is an incredibly fruitful land and is essential in global food production. Imagine what the global situation would be like without it.

On whether it is a ‘black armband’ or ‘guilt-promoting’ version of Australian history to learn about white-black conflicts, the answer is no. Whenever the facts of history are accurately represented and conveyed, it is never guilt-promoting; it’s called proper education. However, when people enhance certain aspects of history in order to further their own agenda, it is very possible that the history turns into ‘black-armband’ and ‘guilt-promoting’ propaganda. And if the history in all of its reality is a ‘black-armband’ affair, there is nothing wrong with that; the act of remembering and commemorating the dead and the traditions of the past should be honorable.

As with most hotly-contested arguments, the answer lies somewhere between both sides. Australia was settled by the English using methods of invasion. Instead of meeting with the Aborigines and respecting them, the British seized their land, yielding them homeless, and killed them for no valid reason. The British did settle the country of Australia in the eyes of westerners, as they began to utilize precious resources that prior to their arrival had barely been tapped. They installed an infrastructure to aid in the civilization of a new land and brought new knowledge of undiscovered nature to the western world. However, in the eyes of the Aborigines, their culture and way of life was ruined, they were brutally murdered, and their land was stolen and destroyed. The only universal resolution to this conundrum-riddled question is that the answer wholly depends upon the perspective of the individual.


Attwood, B 1996, In the age of mabo: history, aborigines, and australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

Australian Government n.d., European discovery and the colonization of australia, viewed 16 March 2009,

Churches, S 2003, ‘The fabrication of aboriginal history; vol 1, van diemen’s land 1803-1847’,  Adelaide Law Review, The, Volume 24, Issue 1; viewed 18 March 2009,

Cook, J n.d., Cook’s journal: daily entries, viewed 16 March 2009,

Ryan, Lyndall n.d., Abduction and multiple killings of aborigines in tasmania:

1804-1835, viewed 16 March 2009,’Why+are+there+no+natives+seen+in+the+town%3F’+the+answer+given+was+–+‘We+shoot+them+whenever+we+find+them…&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au

Aborigines In Australia Essay

Aborigines in Australia Aborigines are believed to have lived in Australia for between 60,000
and 40,000 years, their early ancestors coming from South-East Asia.
Precise population details for the period before European colonization
are unavailable, but it is estimated that there were between 300,000
and 1,000,000 Aborigines in Australia when European settlers first
arrived in 1788. The relationship between the aboriginals and the
settlers were an issue that would haunt history for more then two

The process of colonization by European powers, as might be expected,
has had a radical effect on Aboriginal culture, and return created a
relationship between the natives and settlers. The settlers viewed the
natives as barbarians, seizing tribal land and, in many cases,
following a policy of pacification by force. Many others died of
disease, starvation, cultural dislocation and neglect. Today, there
are fewer than 230,000 Aborigines in Australia, less than 2% of the

Some two centuries ago, Australia came under British rule. Possession
of the land was justified under the astonishing legal fiction of "Terra
Nullius" - the notion that Australia was effectively unoccupied before
British colonization. The lack of indigenous systems of land ownership
(in the European tradition of private land ownership) was used to give
credence the idea of Terra Nullius, this itself gives insight to the
relationship that maybe forecast from this predicament. The basic idea
was that it was impossible to rob Aboriginal people of land, as they'd
previously never owned land. Over two centuries, the continent was
progressively stolen from Aboriginal people, as well as two
significant dispossessions. Settlers moved in and appropriated the
overwhelming majority of Australia - either for private use or in the
name of the British Crown.

Even after Australia was declared independent in 1901, Aborigines
continued to be marginal to the new nation and were barred from
becoming citizens by the 1902 Australian Constitution. Using the
notion of racial supremacy, and showing the inferiority of the
Aboriginal race in the settler's eyes. Citizenship was granted to
Aborigines only following a national referendum in 1967.

Attempts have been made by the Australian government to protect
Aboriginal culture, beginning in the late 1920s with the creation of
special reserves; this is when the notion of paternalism came into
play. Aborigines are now officially recognized as Australian citizens,
and since 1948 a policy of assimilation has been pursued. Some
Aborigines, however, fear that assimilation will result in a total
loss of Aboriginal cultural identity, and opt instead for integration,
insisting on...

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