Nationhood and the ‘Pure’ Race (part 2)
The Early Thought
Many historians argue that the celebrations of our centenary of Federation masked several truths about why the colonies chose to federate. Among a variety of reasons, these historians declare that one of the prime motives behind federation was the emerging sense of nationhood. Or rather, that the need to maintain and consolidate a sense of ethnic identity was possibly more of a factor. This thesis explores the level of significance accorded to ethnic identity in Federation.
The Australian colonies were always unequivocally a part of the British Empire, but it is well documented that they did not share the Imperial Government’s views about ‘race’. The position of Aborigines is herein important. Whereas Aborigines were considered to be subjects of the British Empire, and as such free to claim the same privileges that this citizenship availed, to the colonial Australians the Aborigines were a doomed people who were to hold no place in a landscape of an emerging Australia.
The then British Governments had made a serious effort to ensure that Aborigines – as British subjects – enjoyed certain rights. Conversely, this imperial framework of rights was discarded in the era of Federation. This thesis considers arguments that identify the competing ‘racial’ discourse between the British Government and the colonists related ‘racist’ ideology, and that the ideology held by the colonies become dominant within Australian political and intellectual life.
Whilst the British endeavours are indeed pertinent, this thesis does not give this issue much coverage. Preferably, this paper considers the ideological issues – both popular and perceived – held by the colonial Australians. Subsequently, it is recognised that Federation offered the opportunity to categorically doom Aboriginal people.
Many historians have demonstrated that the popular media of the day endeavoured to exhibit that the Chinese were a threat comparable to that the Indigenous people posed to the heredity succession of the emerging Australian type. ‘White Australia’ as a national ideal reflected public consciousness and echoed the sentiments of the popular press. This thesis only briefly comments on this position. Nonetheless, the attempts to prevent or restrict non-European immigration to Australia can be seen as a parallel process to the construction of the various colonies’ racially motivated political and social systems that were applied to Aborigines in the latter half of the 19th century. It was argued that both movements sought to secure a White Australia, and this thesis examines this argument.
As indicated (in Part 1), one of the moves behind federation was the emerging sense of nationhood, or rather; the need to maintain and consolidate a sense of ethnic identity was conceivably more of a factor. As it were, towards the end of the 19th century racism and nationalism had become almost synonymous, and the fundamental reason for the adoption of the subsequent White Australia policy, tellingly, was the preservation of a British-Australian nationality.
Notions of ‘race’ and the mythology of white supremacy had helped shape early constructions of nationhood. “Central to the move towards Federation of 1901 was a class accord around race and nation” (Mary Kalantzis, 1998b:2). Kalantzis does not doubt that the ideologies held in colonial Australia were based upon an indulgence of racial superiority. The ebullient, nationalistic rhetoric of the 1890s and the period of Federation clearly established national unity on the basis of race, defined as essentially white and British. To define their unity as a nation, Australians had to define themselves against others of lesser races. The Australian of 1901 was reportedly a racist construction.
Identification as British and as a part of the British Empire was obviously a convenient basis upon which to define the identity of Australians at the time of Federation. The colonists, being principally British Australians, wanted it kept that way (Markus, 1979:xiii). Federation was the vehicle. Subsequently, “… 1901 was a moment of nationalism, and with that came racism, isolationism, and the exclusion of Aboriginal peoples” (Mary Kalantzis, 1998b:2).
‘Race’ and nation – and racism and nationalism – were theorised in their modern forms, significantly, around the period leading up to Australia’s Federation. Racism was interpreted – which fits the construct of this thesis – as the doctrine that the world’s population is divisible into categories based on physical differences which can be transmitted genetically. Invariably, this leads to the conception that the categories are ordered hierarchically so that some elements of the world’s population are superior to others. David Goldberg (1990:295) fittingly identified that: “The link between racism and race is generally considered to be discrimination against others in virtue of their putatively different racial membership.” Such an ideology justified the Australian colonial situation.
It is also pertinent that the emergence of racism was prevalent in the age of European expansion. As the indigenous peoples of other continents were encountered, Europeans categorised them into racial groups and sought to explain the diversity of relative social or industrious achievements of humankind. In its most strident form, Australian racism argued that Aborigines (and other non-Europeans) were genetically inferior; less advanced, and would only debase the British-Australian population.
The publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859 had a further profound impact on European thought. Darwin suggested that all species were not permanently fixed: they were under-going change by natural selection. Darwin argued that if a species did not adapt successfully it was doomed to extinction. Only the favoured survived and prospered in the struggle for life. Herbert Spencer’s theory of evolution in the social sciences – Social Darwinism – indoctrinated that the principles of biological evolution should also be applied to human society. Spencer, a laissez-faire liberal argued that societies evolve from simple to more complex forms based on Darwin’s concept of natural selection – survival of the fittest and suggested that the nineteenth century perceptions of Aboriginal intellect and active powers was ‘remarkably consistent’ with this theory and provided powerful rationalisation for European supremacy.
The ideology of Social Darwinism subsequently caught the imagination of the public and entered the discourse (in particularly through the popular media) of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Intellectual fashions in Social Darwinism and eugenics, it was argued, sought to purify and secure a white Australia. The Indigenous population was perceived as a threat to this ‘purity’ and thus considered dangerous to the colonial society and an emerging Australian identity. The Indigenous Australians, who nature had supposedly chosen for extinction, inspired the doctrine of Social Darwinism.
Contemporary scientific techniques were also adopted to classify the physical characteristics of the Indigenous Australians: skull shape, bodily proportions, and other variables. Not surprisingly, researchers who were convinced of the superiority of the European type found data to authenticate their assumptions.
It is important that in Australia, as in other colonial contexts, Europeans imagined the indigenes as the Other, those fashioned or constructed which is outside and opposite, and a collective identity was forged through a discourse that set them apart from Europeans. White (1981:64) suggests that the idea that it was possible to isolate national types was one of the most important mainstays supporting the colonial ideas about national character that developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Similarly, Pettman (1988:3) argues that:
Aborigines were constructed as ‘the Other’ in ideologies of race and nation … they were not only placed outside of the nation, but also outside humanity, by virtue of their supposed primitiveness, and the inevitability of their demise … in accordance with Social Darwinism.
It is pertinent that European institutionalisation of scientific research and methods took place at a time when rapid and aggressive imperial expansion necessitated a devaluation of Indigenous cultures. Not surprising, much European knowledge of Indigenous people was hence dependent on representations that construct the Aborigines or the ‘first natives’ in their absence. Attwood and Arnold (1992) pursued the idea of discourses, drawing on Said’s Orientalism as the basis of discussion. Said’s study examined the way in which Europeans constructed a range of essential ‘truths’ or stereotypes about the East (Orientalism); Attwood and Arnold applied a similar analysis to Western constructions of knowledge about Aborigines (Aboriginalism). They defined a number of different Aboriginalisms and also proposed to subject Aboriginalism to a Foucaldian discourse analysis so that the value of the knowledge it produces can be critically assessed and the relationships of power in which this is embedded can be revealed. In introducing their book Power, Knowledge and Aborigines Attwood and Arnold write that their book was indeed:
… concerned with European Australians and our ways of knowing the Aborigines. In particular it considers both Aboriginalism as a mode of discourse which, like Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’, produces authoritative and essentialist ‘truths’ about indigenes, and which is characterised by a mutually supporting relationship between power and knowledge (Attwood and Arnold, 1992:i).
They suggested that knowledge is acquired for a purpose, contingent, and constructed by relationships of power and that we need to consider who has produced this knowledge, when and where, for what purpose, in whose interests, how and in what form. This is pertinent when looking at the reasons behind Australia’s Federation. As a parallel, in his study of how Europe constructed an archetypical image of the Orient, Edward Said argued that, far from reflecting what the countries of the Near East were like, ‘Orientalism’ was the discourse by which Europeans were was able produce the Orient sociologically, ideologically, scientifically and imaginatively. Within the framework of western hegemony over the Orient, Hall argued that there emerged a new object of knowledge, a:
… complex Orient suitable for study in the academy, for display in the museum, for reconstruction in the colonial office, for theoretical illustration in anthropological, biological, linguistic, racial and historical theses about mankind (Hall, 1997:259).
This form of power is closely connected with knowledge, or with the practices of what Foucault called ‘power/knowledge’. For Foucault power is productive of knowledge. Power forms knowledge and produces discourse. Edward Said’s discussion of Orientalism closely parallels Foucault’s power/knowledge argument: a discourse produces, through different practices of representation a form of racialised knowledge of the Other deeply implicated in the operations of power. Identifying the power/knowledge relationship to Said’s argument, Stuart Hall summarises that power:
… produces new discourse, new kinds of knowledge (ie Orientalism), new objects of knowledge (the Orient), it shapes new practices (colonisation) and institutions (colonial government). Power is to be found everywhere. Power circulates (Hall, 1997:261).
Even before colonisation, the construct of the Aborigine – the Other – was seen as positioned in the landscape as a savage: a subsequent depiction that evolved in the minds of European imagination. The English, especially, considered themselves well credentialed. As the first Englishman to encounter Aborigines, William Dampier instilled in other Englishmen’s minds the preconceptions about these people when he wrote that they were “the miserablest [sic] people in the world” (Donaldson and Donaldson, 1985:37). And the image of the Aborigine was to leave no impression of excitement or significance on Cook, a later visitor, merely accepting the Aborigines as Dampier had earlier reported. Cook had also brought with him images of indigenous peoples as ‘noble savages’, largely the antithesis of Europeans. Cook was probably influenced by the writings of Rousseau, whose saw ‘native’ peoples as unadulterated by the evils of civilisation. These idealistic views were modified after 1788. However, these early explorers saw no, and reported no:
… positive attributes among the Aboriginal people and believed in their own superiority. The land was declared terra nullius … and the various Aboriginal nations declared uncivilised. (Bourke et al, 1994:4)
Historians suggest that such reports simply confirmed prejudices based on doctrines of evolutionary and intellectual difference. These reports were to lend support to the European scientific discourse of the Great Chain of Being, which arranged all living things in a hierarchy, beginning with the simplest creatures, ascending through the primates and to humans. It was also practice to distinguish between different types of humans. Through the hierarchical chain the various human types could be ranked in order of intellect and active powers. The Europeans – being ‘intelligent and God-fearing’ – were invariably placed on the top, whilst the Aborigines – as perceived savages – occupied the lowest scale of humanity, slightly above the position held by the ape. Such ideas were carried to and widely circulated in the Australian colonies and helped shape attitudes towards the Aborigines. So dominant was the concept that it helped … “develop pre-conceived attitudes towards – and arguably the fate of – the Aborigines even before the colonisation” (Henry Reynolds, 1987:108). Reynolds argues that the image of the Aborigine simply confirmed prejudices based on doctrines of evolutionary difference and intellectual inferiority. These prejudices, he endeavours to suggest, were based on a construction of Aborigines where the Europeans were more credited with knowing more about the Aborigines than the Aborigines knew about themselves.
Attwood, B; and Arnold, J. (1992), editors Power, knowledge and Aborigines, La Trobe University Press, Bundoora, Victoria.
Bourke, C; Bourke, E; and Edwards, B. (1994). Editors Aboriginal Australians. University of South Australia.
Bourke, E; and Edwards, B. (1994), editors Aboriginal Australia: an introductory reader in Aboriginal studies, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Queensland.
Cashmore, E; and Troyna, B. (1990), Introduction to race relations, 2nd edition, The Falmer Press, London.
Castles, Alex; and Harris, Michael (1987), Lawmakers and wayward wigs: government and law in South Australia, Wakefield Press, Adelaide.
Donaldson, Ian; and Donaldson, Tamsin (1985), editors Seeing the first Australians, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.
Evans, Raymond; Saunders, Kay; and Cronin, Kathryn (1993), Race relations in colonial Queensland: a history of exclusion, exploitation and extermination, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia.
Evans, R; Moore, C; Saunders, K; and Jamison, B. (1997), editors 1901 our future’s past; documenting Australia’s federation, Pan Macmillan, Sydney.
Gibb, D. (1973), The making of ‘white Australia’, Victorian Historical Association, West Melbourne.
Goldberg, David (1990), editor Anatomy of racism, University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota.
Hall, Stuart (1997), editor Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices, Sage Publications, London.
Hollinsworth, D. (1998), Race and racism in Australia, 2nd edition, Social Science Press, Katoomba, NSW.
Hofstadter, Richard (1955), Social Darwinism in American thought, Beacon Press, Boston.
Jupp, James (1991), Immigration, Sydney University Press, NSW.
Kalantzis, Mary (1998a), ‘Reconsidering the meaning of our Commonwealth (part 2)’ on the Women’s constitutional convention website (Online, accessed 9 Apr. 2001). URL:http://www.womensconv.dynamite.com.au/kalantz2.htm
Kalantzis, Mary (September, 1998b), ‘Working to our cultural advantage’ in hotTYPE, volume 2, (Online, accessed 8 Aug. 2001). URL:http://www.rmit.edu.au/About/hotTYPEv2/
Kearney, G. (1973), editor The psychology of Aboriginal Australians, John Wiley and Sons, Sydney.
Markus, A. (1979), Fear and hatred: purifying Australia and California 1850-1901, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney.
Markus, A; and Rasmussen, R. (1987), editors Prejudice and the public arena: racism, Monash University, Melbourne.
McConnochie, K; Hollinsworth, D; and Pettman, J. (1993), Race and racism in Australia, Social Science Press, Australia.
McGrath, Ann (1995), editor Contested ground: Australian Aborigines under the British crown, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards.
Pettman, Jan (1988), ‘Whose country is it anyway?: cultural politics, racism and the construction of being Australian’, Journal of intercultural studies, Volume 9(1), Pages 1-24, in Race Relations in Australia: Theory and History Readings Part 2, University of South Australia, Adelaide.
Reynolds, Henry (1987), Frontier: Aborigines, settlers and land, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.
Russell, P; and White, R. (1994). editors Pastiche 1: reflections on nineteenth century Australia. Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.
Stephenson, P. (1997), ‘Race’, ‘whiteness’ and the Australian context, (Online accessed 28 Sep. 2001). URL:http://www.arts.uwa.edu.au/MotsPluriels/MP297ps.html
van Toorn, Penny (1995, July), ‘Mudrooroo and the power of the post alternative inscriptions of Aboriginalist discourse in a post-Aboriginalist age’ in the Southern review, Volume 28, Number 2, pages 121-139.
White, R. (1981), Inventing Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.
Willard, M. (1967), History of the white Australia policy to 1920, 2nd edition, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
Yengoyan, Aram (1999), Racism, cultural diversity and the Australian Aborigine, University of California, Davis.
Continued tomorrow: Ideology and the Indigenous Australians
Link to Part 1
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Greed, arrogance, entitlement writ large … and yet they considered themselves the pinnacle of the evolutionary process. And still do. 🙁
Sometimes it also feels as though there is an intensely childish insecurity behind it. You have to be insecure – whether an individual, a community, a nation – to build your own self-image upon the belittlement and denigration of others. Is Homo supposedlysapiens ever going to grow the fuck up?
You saved the most extraordinary bit for the end: ‘… credited with knowing more about the Aborigines than the Aborigines knew about themselves.’ The sheer arrogance is breath-taking.
Thank you so much for this series, Michael. I wish I could say I understand it all. The response to your Part 1 has been truly enlightening, with so many bits and pieces of information coming from the commentators. So much that I never knew about. I’m truly grateful to you, and to all concerned.
One of the most interesting things going on in my head, having read Parts 1 and 2, is how we human beings, having once got an idea into our heads, will bend our intellects over backwards to make any subsequent ‘information’ fit the already established idea. Of course, it’s much easier to see when it’s other people who are doing it!
Yes, the colonists knew everything, or so they thought.
When Cook arrived in 1770 he thought he knew everything about Aborigines because he’d read everything about them in William Dampier’s book, especially the bit where they were labeled the the most miserable of people. And that’s the view he brought with him.
It must be borne in mind that the very values prevailing at the times being discussed were the same ones being inflicted on the general populations within the very societies from which the colonists originated.
They are the values of the priviledged and wealthy minority which exist in the top strata of all countries – not those of the hoi polloi, although lesser folk are often predisposed to imitate the behaviours of their “betters” if they can percieve some benefit in doing so.
When you refer to “…the colonists…”, Michael, you should qualify extactly to who within the prevailing social strata you are referring: Generally it is the priviledged few, often rejects from their own social circles and/or elevated families who went to the colonies “…to seek fame and fortune…” when their own cohorts and clans could not or would not continue to endure and/or support them.
Their lawlessness in relation to the patents and instructions which were issued to them by their governments is fundamental to the murder and violence which they imposed on indigenous peoples.
It has been my long held opinion that much of the academic opinion surrounding race which was promugated at the time was merely a concoction of nonsense and which was broadly supported in order to justify their imperiousness: Such behaviours have long established histories, especially within societies dominated by Abrahamic religions.
Hi, Drake. This will tell you who I’m referring to as the colonists:
Indeed, Michael, but what or who constitutes the “British Empire”? (Or any other Empire, for that?)
Remember the evil East India Company which was almost entirely independent of British governance; a Company entirely beholden to its shareholders until Britain was forced to take control in its later years.
Much of that which occured in the early days of British dominance of New Holland happened contrary to the instructions which had been given to the Governors by the Crown.
Drake, we are talking about the Australian colonies (now states), who until Federation were part of the British empire.
I’ll refer you to Part 1 which states that this series is based on my Honours thesis, the title of which was:
By the end of Part 5 you’ll see it all come together. 👍
Remember, the slave trade was huge at the time for Great Britain. It wasn’t abolished until 1807. Denigrating brown people paid well for them. Here they had an existing brown population to exploit – claim the land as your own and make them work for nothing. It was a great wealth builder…..for some.
I’d warn against totally throwing out the baby with the bathwater here. I would warn against the notion that it is categorically impossible for outsiders, in certain circumstances, to develop a better and more accurate (synoptic?) understanding of people and their interactions with their environment than the insiders themselves. This is, for example, the basis on which outside management consultants are contracted, or why external ICACs are such a good idea. And why we don’t leave cancer treatment up to the cancer patients themselves, but task qualified oncologists.
An anthropologist may well generate insights about Australian Aborigines, and how their lives and circumstances compare to indigenous populations elsewhere, that would have remained inaccessible to localised indigenous populations and their individual members themselves.
I genuinely believe that the main problem lies not in the gathering of inaccurate information, but in how that information was used, and for what purpose. Namely, the usurpation, expropriation, exploitation and colonisation of indigenous populations that went hand in hand with the colonisers’ questionable anthropological efforts and “insights”.
Indeed, Kaye, it was. There was an English lord (whose name escapes me) who owned a pastoral station upon which dwelled a community of about two hundred Aborigines (British subjects, btw 😡). There was one water faucet for the whole community. Meanwhile, the rose garden at the homestead had three. (If I remember the Lord’s name I’ll add it later. Watch this space for an amendment at around 3am. It could have been Lord Vesty, but I’m not 100% certain).
And speaking of the slave trade…
The things you learn on a tour. Penny Lane, the song by the Beatles of the same name, caused a bit of angst and horror amongst the locals (and probably Beatle fans everywhere) when the council decided to change its name. Penny Lane was named after James Penny, a wealthy local slave trader in his day and the Liverpool council wished to disassociate itself from Mr Lane’s disgusting past.
And now the benefits of consultation…
The locals, the council, (and no doubt some Beatle enthusiasts) came up with a brilliant idea to resolve the conflict. The name of the lane would remain Penny Lane, and the council would build a museum as a reminder to present and future generations of the horrors of slavery.
Btw, in Penny Lane there is a barber selling photographs. 🎶
It is not necessary to racially denigrate people to profit from their enslavement. Brown people have enthusiastically enslaved one another, and the occasional white person, for centuries. Millenia, even! In fact, they still do so now.
Not sure about the brown enslaving the white but I get your point.
Uhm ….. Michael, I think you may have references here that take a retrospective view of the historical events rather than the necessary contemporary view. The legal history of Aboriginal relations with the English legal system adopted in Australia is far more tortured than your article suggests.
Ceck out Alex C Castles (1982) An Australian Legal histpory [Law book Company Ltd Sydney ISBN 0455 19609 5] Chapter 18 especially. Castles was Professor of Law at Adelaide University, so the book may be still available in the AU Library.
Arnd, in Aboriginal Studies at uni we developed a deep dislike of anthropologists of the day because of their Eurocentric views. There were of course some great ones, such as Norman Tindale, but they were far and few between. A number of them were in the employ of the government, and their findings would form the basis of government policies. That policies of the day were disgusting and racist; segregation, protectionism, assimilation, and the forced removal of children can all be tied back to the findings of white, male anthropologists. Is it any wonder we disliked them?
There was a cartoon in one of our text books: let’s ask some white people what’s best for the Aborigines.
I remember a quote from a Native American who said he’d rather face twenty cavalry than one anthropologist. Brilliant.
@Michael Taylor/ Kate Ahearne: Uhm … I doubt that Cook had anything to do with the settlement of Sydney Cove in 1788 because by that time he had been killed in the South Seas by ”natives” upset at the scourge of diseases that devastated their island communities after Cook’s first two visits.
NEC, I have that book.
What I’m presenting here in these five parts are only a percentage of my Honours thesis and I did say it was written twenty years ago. Much has been written since, which I’ll snap up should I decide to write a book or return to uni.
And indeed, the treatment of Aborigines was (and is) far, far, far, far far worse than what I’ve offered. My thesis was more about policy.
I am officially an historian, and what we learned at uni was to not focus on historical events, but on what was in the minds of the people who played out those events. Example: Cook arrived in 1770, everyone knows that. But what was his ideology? What was in the man’s head?
History gets more interesting when you try to get into someone’s head.
NEC, we know that Cook had nothing to do with the settlement of Sydney Cove, we’re not silly. But he was in the chain of events.
It was Cook who declared the continent terra nullius – which gave England the legal lie to take custody of it.
So yep, dead or not by 1788 he it was he who got the ball rolling.
As an aside, I grew up on Kangaroo Island, which wasn’t a British colony until 1804. Flinders beat the French by three days. If Flinders had have taken a wrong turn, I’d be speaking French.
@Kaye Lee; Re Slavery ….. Phillip refused to allow slavery or slaves in Sydney Cove from the time he received his commission.
Slavery was finally abolished in 1833(?) by Lord Mansfield and resulted in the crash of the West Indies sugar industry and the transfer of English investment moneys to the Australian wool industry.
Even so, as you observe, some English agricultural entrepreneurs continued practices that amounted to slavery well into the 20th century; for example Vesteys meat processors in NW WA that was only resolved after the Aboriginal walk-off in about 1965 (?).
@Michael Taylor: RE Tera nullius …. Uhm … NO Cook did NOT declare New Holland “terra nullius”. That was the result of a Queensland Court decision about 1870 to protect the interests of local graziers.
The concept of ”terra nullius” originated in South Africa when the Africaans ”settlers”/invaders moved out of Cape Town and discovered rolling grasslands without any population on them due to a serious local Indigenous war. I think the Move North was mid 19th century, and it remains celebrated in South Africa today.
This concept then found its way into Australian grazing society and made a useful, if factually incorrect basis, for displacing Aboriginals from their lands.
It ranks with the European idea that Aborigines were lazy because they were able to satisfy their basic needs in a very time efficient manner allowing much time for other activities. In contrast, the Europeans were used to being worked long hours by the lords & ladies so that the workers could get shelter and food for their families. This is/was the basis of parasitic capitalism.
You got me there on a technicality. He didn’t declare it terra nullius, but rather under the doctrine of “no man’s land”, (which was later to be known as “terra nullius”), noting to his superiors that the continent wasn’t overly populated. So I stand corrected. Nonetheless, his instructions were to take possession of the continent with the consent of the Indigenous occupants (he didn’t bother with the latter).
PS: It was 1835 before it was officially proclaimed terra nullius.
I’ve used a different foundational story of the racist Australia.
When a lot of very oppressed people that were rejected by Britain, they found themselves in a new country where the law (as imposed) seemed to be on their side for the first time in their lives. Granted 30 acres, 20 more if married to convicts after they did their time was in Instructions to Phillip 1787.
The imposed law also was quite clear that Aboriginal People were not worthy of property rights, since the lands to be granted out were assumed to be the Crown’s to grant out. So the trespassers/settlers developed a world view that Aboriginal People were not worthy of being seen as human. The law said so.
In legal advice on 8th July 1805 from the New South Wales Judge-Advocate on the admissibility (or not) of Aboriginal witness testimony. King submitted a lengthy despatch to Camden in July 1805 that enclosed advice from the NSW Judge-Advocate, Atkins, that Aboriginal witness testimony was inadmissible and therefore should be disallowed. Britain never reversed or amended this advice.
There were a few trespassers who referred to the unfairness to the “Sovereigns of the Soil” but they were a small minority who are not well remembered in the colonial myth making.
Cook never got Consent. The Crown made no effort to negotiate Treaties, Purchases or Rentals which they had done in the 13 Colonies before 1776, and what they also attempted to do for an island on the .Gambian River in 1786 where they hoped to start their prison colony.
The Gambian proposal was rejected even after money was paid out, since the crims were protesting about “being eaten by cannibals” and Magistrates were pardoning many sentenced to Transportation.
Thus it became imperative to see the Botany Bay venture as a “Peaceful Settlement” of a sparsely populated land mass.
When trespassers/settlers found otherwise, they made the reality on the ground match the Guvna’s Instructions.
In reality, the decision makers at the Home Office only had some 16 year old reports from Joseph Banks, about people near the beach fishing.
Thank you, Graeme. That was interesting. I learn so much when I listen to other people, and I’ve now learnt something from you.
Graeme, Cook really screwed it up:
Even back in London there were letters to Newspaper Editors more truthful than the concocted history we get told.
Morning Herald, 23 September 1786
Mr. Editor, The transportation of felons to Botany Bay, seems the most extraordinary of all the extraordinary measures adopted by the present immaculate administration. The climate is said to be good, but the inhabitants inhospitable. Those, therefore, who are the pests of Society in this country, are to be favored with a settlement in a much more delightful region than that from which they are removed; and the natives because they are justly and naturally jealous of such invasion, must be destroyed by the armed force which is sent out with the convicts, to support the occupancy of lands not their own. I should have thought that a slight regard to the common rights of mankind might have prevailed in the breasts of the ministers who consulted upon this plan; and that they would have revolted at the idea of so much human blood being spilled in such unjustifiable acquisitions.
More letters to the editor pages 9 to 11 here
Wow. Thanks for that, Graeme.
Townsville and mackay are living monuments to slavery. Tassie is the most successful at extermination with VIC/SA close behind. Our convict-less state, michael, arguably the cruellest of eliminators and most deep-seated of racists. There is no doubt the Aborigines were(still are up here) 100s of diverse groups, indeed more diverse, in language and culture than the countries of pre-roman europe. Yet they are lumped under one size fits all with no access to individuality as afforded to other Australians.
When the 9 education systems discover there are learning opportunities FROM Aborigines and ‘the booers’ admit they are racist, there may be progress for Aboriginal Australians.
ps the french are arrogant vicious overlords so there was no ‘people’ for them to subjugate, to enslave and to rule over so the frogs wouldn’t have stayed long enough for you to learn more language than ‘merde’.
I’ve always been a bit of a Eurocentrist myself. Implicitly so for most of my life, inasmuch as I always maintained some underlying awareness that the European Miracle, aka Great Divergence does beg for a tractable explanation (and none had been provided so far) – and explicitly so since about June 2014, when I stumbled over an explanation that I do consider sufficiently tractable.
And yes, white, male, Eurocentrist anthropologists producing a whole lot of prejudicial material, underpinned in by both motivated reasoning and a patent inability to distance themselves from their own subconscious preconceptions is a problem that throws a long shadow and needs to be reckoned with.
Having at some lengths attended to the question whether my own now much superior and benign understanding of such matters is truly as objective as I like to think, or whether there is not a possibility that I am just repeatedly exchanging one set of preconceptions with another, I had to admit to myself that, once again, like so often in life, there are no guarantees!!
It’s a large part of what informs my anarchist stance: we all are wrong probably more often than not – so let us at least agree on not using coercive pressure to impose our own misconceptions on others against their will.
I did, about twenty years ago, entertain some hypothetical imaginations about how settler/aboriginal interaction might have played out if it had been conducted on anarchist terms of engagement. Michael, I’ll see whether I can find it, and email it to you for possible publication on the AIMN. As a rejoinder to your series.
Very much looking forward to the next installment.
I’ve just read my way through the comments on yesterday’s Part 2. You certainly have provoked lots of fascinating information from your readers. It really is a shame how little most of us Australians know about our history, both before and after colonisation/invasion/takeover.
My comment about the ending of Michael’s Part 2 was made from within the tight parameters that Michael had set. It was all about the context. ‘These prejudices, he (Henry Reynolds) endeavours to suggest, were based on a construction of Aborigines where the Europeans were more credited with knowing more about the Aborigines than the Aborigines knew about themselves.’
Of course it was arrogant, and we’re still doing it, and still making mistakes.
Living on the Atherton Tablelands of Far North Queensland I am frequently asked by visitors some of the history of this region ; a subject on which I am woefully deficient .
The other day a visitor raised the name of Tam O’Shanter Point in the Mission Beach area and its history and this sent me scurrying for information which, in turn led to the journals of those accompanying Edmund Kennedy on his ill fated expedition to explore Cape York : the barque Tam O’Shanter together with frigate HMS Rattlesnake disembarked the party at Rockingham Bay to commence their journey in 1848.
Their interactions with the local aboriginal people and information on their hunting and fishing practices and their living arrangements (gunya construction) is instructive coming first hand from William Carron (1821-1876), the botanist on this ill prepared journey of exploration – in many respects their lack of adequate and appropriate preparation for the country and its conditions mirrors that of Burke & Wills.
Well worth a read :
Narrative of an Expedition, Undertaken Under the Direction of the Late Mr. Assistant Surveyor E. B. Kennedy, for the Exploration of the Country Lying Between Rockingham Bay and Cape York – 1848
by William Carron
Michael @ October 3, 2021 at 3:50 pm
My contention is that “Empire” refers to an homogenous entity whereas, in reality it is no such thing.
The ruling classes, those with power and priviledge are the Imperialists, not the general population of the countries which they administer and control.
In reality, the hoi polloi are merely pawns in the power games of those who have historically misused their advantages for personal gain.
So when Britain, or any other nation, is described with justifiable contempt because of its colonial history it is not the country itself which needs to be the target, but the ruling classes which control it; especially where actual democracy did not exist.
As a scion of Welsh peasants, I object to being grouped with the vile Norman Lords who dominated the country from the beginning of the 12th Century 😉
Have a look at the centuries-long history of Barbary pirates menacing the Mediterranean, and regularly extending their slavery raids to England, Ireland, the Netherlands, and as far as Iceland.
I go so far as to state that slavery has been accepted as integral and perfectly legitimate aspect of the human condition for all of recorded human history.
And that it was the Eurocentric scientific approach to cognition which, with its failed endeavour to endow the practice of slavery with a logical and rational justification, played a large part in recognising the humanistic abhorrence of this practice.
Christians becoming more rigorous and steadfast about the principles of their faith played another large, and well documented part in the eventual abolition of slavery.
G’day Michael, just to salute your scholarship and to thank you for this series that I hope will ultimately reach the wider community in book form. I’m stockpiling your knowledge big time. Your work will become a point of reference.
Onya Michael !
More please !
I do not buy your unilateral moral condemnation of the 1% of colonial times. “In reality”, then as now, the perfidious overlords would have had no chance of extending their hegemony without the enthusiastic pro-active support of many of the lower classes, who, in many cases correctly, perceived that their own immediate fortunes were better served by throwing in their lot with the establishment, rather than confront it.
I haven’t checked, but I boldly suggest that many scions of Welsh peasantry might have put themselves into the services of those presuming to lord it over them, whether of Norman, or any other provenance.
Sure. And it is precisely my point that these parameters are too tight, and point in a potentially problematic direction.
Was it really dodgy anthropology that enabled Australian colonisation, considering that the practice of usurpation and (colonial) expropriation long precedes the advent of scientific anthropology?
Of course, it is important to call out, correct and generally update unsupportable scientific notions. But I hold that, for all practical (political, legal social, economic) purposes, it is more congruous to work off the assumption that usurpers will usurp, and that they, to the more often than not very limited extent that they bother with ethical justifications at all, will avail themselves of any intellectual construct that can be bent to their purposes.
What we should be calling out in the first instance, then, is usurpation. And not the threadbare pseudo-intellectual justifications offered in support of usurpation. All you achieve with the latter is to throw out a challenge to reactionary “thinkers” to double down on, and better support and more closely reason, their ill-conceived versions of the naturalistic fallacy. Or else to cease intellectual engagement all together, and just baffle everyone with ever increasing quantities of reactionary bullshit.
“I haven’t checked, but I boldly suggest that many scions of Welsh peasantry might have put themselves into the services of those presuming to lord it over them, whether of Norman, or any other provenance.”
Just a few, Arnd, Just a few.
As always there are some, but not many, who seek to gain personal advantage at the expense of their peers.
That’s how the 1%ers continue to succeed to this very day, except that the “few” seem to be in greater proportion than previously.
I can’t presume to speak for Michael, but as I understand his work here, he is not arguing that it was only ‘dodgy anthropology’ that enabled colonisation. Rather, he is exploring the role of Social Darwinism. He doesn’t seem to me to be saying that there are not any other ‘enabling’ factors. In this particular work, though, he has made it quite clear that he is working within specific parameters, as any thesis must do.
And comparing this role of Social Darwinism in the 1800s to visiting an oncologist in the 2020s strikes me as a very long bow to draw.
Drake, the same with Scotland. But have things really changed? We’re still a class society which is controlled by the wealthy elite.
At the time of the Scottish referendum vote a few years ago some townsfolk wanted to remove a statue of a cruel English lord from a nearby hill. The townsfolk finally decided to leave it there as a reminder of how cruel the English had been.
I was recently telling an old lawyer friend that history has only given us four good Englishmen, I joked.
“John, Paul, George and Ringo.”
We decided to add William Wilberforce.
Arnd, please do send it in. I’d love to see it.
Thank you, Tess. I am encouraged that so many people are getting something out of this series.
History has too often been written by the winners, at the exclusion of those who’ve been made to suffer at their hands.
Kate, you are so right.
I cannot claim that alleged racial superiority was the sole reason for Federation, but I do argue that it was a driving force.
There were other reasons that would be beneficial to a united Australia, such as defence and trade.
I grew up in Germany. Born in 1961, barely one and a half decades after the adoption of a singularly virulent version of social Darwinism had seduced the whole country to committing industrialised mass murder, and had led it to complete ruin. I ended up giving social Darwinism a lot of thought over the years, and my contributions to these discussions are motivated by whatever insights I generated through these reflections. Such as they are …
Maybe you could compare some notes with Dr Ranjana Srivastava:
Of course, Ranjana’s article speaks to the exact inverse to the problem at the centre of Michael’s observations: it is not about how public policy was detrimentally influenced by bad science, but how individual decision making is detrimentally influenced by a refusal to accept good science – see also anti-vaccers and climate change sceptics. Nevertheless, I contend that some highly instructive parallels can be extracted.
I visited Dachau in 2018 and learned that every German school student is required to take a tour of the camp as a lesson of the country’s cruel episode, and that it is never to be repeated.
Meanwhile, in Australia, our cruelty to the First Australians has been ignored. So few know about it. So few hear about it. But many don’t care.
A very close friend – a lady in her eighties – is of German birth and her work has seen her live and work in six countries. She confided that all her life she has been treated as though the war was her fault, and I imagine it is/was the same for every German who was alive at the time of the war. And possibly for many who were born since the war.
But me? Germany is one of the most beautiful counties I have ever visited and Carol and I have always been made to feel welcome. (For over two years I’ve had a posts in drafts about the most amazing place imaginable: Bayerischer Wald).
Anyway, back to our Aboriginal people… I was in a small community in the Flinders Ranges (where my work would take me) called Iga Warta. Sitting with axes in their hands were three young German girls trying to make boomerangs. They were telling me that everywhere they’d been in Australia they were told to watch out for those “bloody Abos”.
Yet here they were in Iga Warta having the time of their lives. They wanted to know why the Indigenous Australians are treated so poorly and saddled with so many untruths about them.
What could I say?
Arndt, Why do I feel like I’m in danger of falling down a rabbit hole?
Kate, you’re safe with me around. No rabbit holes for you.
Michael, there’s always a rabbit hole when you least expect it!
Just ask Alice…
Mind you, it’s not all bad about rabbit holes. I wouldn’t mind a conversation with Lewis Carroll’s White Queen about how she is able to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
I went down a rabbit hole once. Nothing but a bunch of mad hatters down there.
No need to ask the White Queen Kate..
Ask Morrison instead, he comes out with at least 12 impossible promises before breakfast…😁
Gosh Michael, you went down a rabbit hole where the Liberals were having their Tea Party…😁
BB, I bet you were grinning like a Cheshire Cat when you wrote that.
Michael and BB,
Ha ha! Mad hatters, mad hatters everywhere – even here sometimes.
So BB is really CC. I did think that BB must surely be a pseudonym. Now the truth is out there!
I swear that I haven’t read Alice in Wonderland since Grade 3. And neither have I had someone read it to me since then.
I’m blessed with a photographic memory.
Yet I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. ☹️
Michael, perhaps you should read your breakfast instead of eating it.
Has anyone met Roswell, our ex-admin/moderator?
I read my tea leaves. Is that good enough?
Dear Waltz, a good link.
I had friends retire to Atherton after the cyclone and we would drop their daughter off for xmas, on our long drive to Adelaide.
My nth queensland rabbottians all cite the local Aborigines(proper noun??) as regularly eating chinese miners and occasionally whites.
We have been to germany several times last century.
Based in Bad Willdungen using Eurail to travel the country.
Like you, we found Germans both friendly and helpful. Especially when they discovered we were Australians not septics.
wam, Carol and I caught the train from Munich to Grafenau, which included two connecting trains. In Germany if the timetable says there’s two minutes to get from one train to the other, then two minutes it is.
In Germany if the train timetable says it’s to arrive at 10am, then it arrives at 10am. If it says it’s to leave at 10:02am, then it leaves at 10:02am.
Meanwhile in England… we’re sorry that the train’s running late, but Freddy didn’t call in for work today.
I found my hypotheticals from twenty years ago I mentioned earlier. They are my take on exactly that question. Crap formatting, though. Scanned documents. Probably will have to re-type the lot in Word before emailing it to you.
At your leisure, Arnd. These things can take time.
Maybe because you are a very perceptive woman! Because that is exactly what we are doing: beating around the entrance to a rabbit hole. In fact, it’s not just one rabbit hole, but a huge warren, with plenty of twists and turns, unexpected junctions, promising branches that end in dead ends, and dizzying arrays of re-entrants, loops, and loops inside of more loops. And yes, there’s plenty of mad hatters, hookah-smoking caterpillars and White Queens down there, too.
I’ve taken myself down there quite a few times, and have gotten lost repeatedly. But I was young then, and my curiosity always trumped any safety concerns I might have had.
But I do get why others are reluctant to climb down. I just don’t think we have much choice. Left unattended, those burrows become the breeding ground for ever stranger creatures, spewing forth a potentially limitless succession of Lying Rodents, Beetrooters, Vicious Tubers, Blathering Gas Bags, Two-Faced Operators, critters that can talk nonsense out of both corners of their mouths simultaneously …
I always left a trail of breadcrumbs eh, when venturing down those dark holes and wayward ways and was able to escape.
“critters that can talk nonsense out of both corners of their mouths simultaneously …”
Burrows, a breeding ground for strange and dangerous critters uttering glossolalia
When I was a jackeroo in SA many many many moons ago, rabbits & warrens were eradicated using three main methods.
1). We went out at night spotlighting. We used to sell the rabbit pelts for $1.50 a pair. Your classic Akubra hat…
NoNo Kate, I am not CC, I am the real me, BB. (Michael will vouch for me…) 😎
Aye Michael, good one, I was indeed grinning… 😁
Too late, CC. The ‘cat’ is out of the bag.
Arnd, I don’t think I’ll be having any of what you’re having! Eek!
No Kate, sorry but you are barking up the wrong tree.
For real I am not CC, whomever s/he is, ok, so please don’t get stuck in thinking such, it’s not wise to presume or assume what you are not certain of, you’ll only end up down a 🐇🕳️…🙄
I’ve been here now at AIM for only a few months, and often correspond privately with Michael via email.
BB are the 1st two initials of my full real name…
And as such they are a nickname that I have been called by many in the seven decades I have been alive…
You have a great day now… 😎
Why is it always “barking up the wrong tree”? Why can’t it be meowing or squeaking or oinking or some other animal calls. To use a Bluebottleism: thinks, what sound would a banana make?
Whoops, Sorry BB. I was having a little joke in response to Michael’s little joke: ‘BB, I bet you were grinning like a Cheshire Cat when you wrote that.’ The CC was for Cheshire Cat. To make matters worse, I later made another little joke along the lines of ‘The cat’s out of the bag’.
Looks like my little joke fell flat. Too clever by half? Not clever enough?
Apologies. I’ll try to steer clear of little jokes for the rest of the day. No guarantees, though.
Ahhhh, phew, lol…That’s quite ok Kate, I missed your little joke, went right over my head, yep too clever for little old me…
I really though you were alluding to somebody called CC who is/was a correspondent here at AIM.
Being a newbie here I am not familiar with all who have graced these hallowed halls…
Indeed yes CC, Cheshire Cat.. Very good…😊
“Historical usage. Barking up the wrong tree became common use in nineteenth century America in reference to hunting raccoons with a hunting dog. When the nocturnal animal takes to a tree, the dog is supposed to remain at the base of the tree until its owner arrives. However, in the dark, if the dog mistakes the tree where the raccoon has taken refuge, the hunter may lose it.”
BB, dogs never bark up the wrong tree, bark bark goes the woofer, tree laughs.
‘Ahhhh, phew, lol’ from me, too. Now that I’m forgiven, does that mean that I don’t really have to try not to make any more little jokes for the rest of the day? Or do you think it would be character-building?
You go for it Kate, after all we live in a country that is full of “jokesters”, just cast your eyes up to capital hill..😑
Thanks, BB. I am mortified that I caused you anxiety.
Anxiety….. I’ve been absolutely horrified that someone could think I was CC and not BB..
Didn’t sleep a wink last night, bathed in sweat thinking about it… After all B comes before C.
I should know better than to presume or assume there is any intelligence on these pages…. 😁
BB, when I was a kid on Kangaroo Island I watched a fairly stupid Jerry Lewis movie called “Visitor to a Small Planet”. All I can remember of it is the appealing name of a firm, “B.B.D.D.J.J. and W”.
Hey, BB and Michael. Do you know this one?
A B, C D Goldfish?
M N O Goldfish!
O S A R.
C D B D Is?
O, A R Goldfish!
Hi, Kate. I don’t know that one.
It looks like thinking is required. That puts me right behind the 8-ball. 😁
That was one of the best episodes. 😀
Wonderful, BB. That is the series that will never die. (Some Philistines have been known to say stuff like, ‘Couldn’t kill it with a stick’.
Would you like translation of the A B, C D thing? If so, here it is. If not, close your eyes now.
Abie, see de goldfish?
‘Em ‘n’t no Goldfish.
Oh ‘es, ‘ey are.
See de beady eyes?
Oh, ‘ey are goldfish.
(It works best with an American accent.)
Or, if you prefer, in something closer to grammatical English:
Abie, see the goldfish?
Them ain’t no goldfish/
Oh yes they are.
See the beady eyes?
Oh, they are goldfish.
Kate, I think lockdown must be getting to you, otherwise known as “cabin fever”.
I recommend some light reading to distract.
Speaking of sticks…
When working for ATSIC, a little town near the Flinders Ranges I used to stay in before heading off to some Aboriginal communities is Copley. Copley had a pub, a bakery, and a couple of other business. Nothing more than that. So the sign heading into town always amused me: “Copley. More services than you can poke a stick at.” 😳
BB, Haha. I remember that story from long, long ago! Not sure what the moral might be in the present context, though. Anyway, I’ll have you know that here in beautiful Tassie, we’re not in lockdown. There is no cabin fever. So, no excuse for my peculiar behaviour, except that I thought I should make an effort to bring a smile to your face after The Great BB CC debacle. Hence my little A B C D joke. (It’s an oldie. I used to use it to amuse my students in the good old days. Perhaps they thought I was mad?)
Michael, thanks for reminding me of that old ‘stick poking’ saying – it’s one from my childhood.
And Ian Dury and the Blockheads? I’m a little bit worried about how quickly you were able to lay your hands on that clip!
And maybe lockdown IS getting to me, because I wrongly attributed the bit about ‘wonderful’ Fawlty Towers to BB and not to Michael. Bedtime, I reckon.
Ahh, you’re from overseas, that explains your peculiar behaviour…😐
I live rural, coastal bush, a few acres, I am also unaffected by lockdown.
Aye the stories are indeed oldies, but then so am I..
These old stories illustrate how we can remain uncomplaining during setbacks in life,
with hope and keeping busy, we can accomplish change for the better in our lives.
Guess there’s a few morals floating around somewhere in them, eh…
The present context being covid has us all by the short and curlies….
All students think their teachers are mad, well I certainly did….
I always have a smile on my dial, facetious, candid, I enjoy a humble lifestyle..
“waste not, want not”…😎
I had a look at google map for Copley, yeah a very small place, indeed, not much to poke a stick at, but I see not far away a massive coalmine, Leigh Creek Coalfield, closed now isn’t it, but I bet it’s still a mess. And also not really that far away from Woomera and Maralinga where they tested the atom bomb during the war?
You will have a few interesting stories from your time there yes.
I lived in SA for a few years, but way down south near Bordertown..
Bordertown. Know it well. Part of the Tatiara District Council. Tatiara means “good country” in the local Aboriginal language.
I had a debate with my oldest brother over Copley. He said that’s it’s south of Leigh Creek as when he used to go rabbiting with Dad up that way they would drive through Copley on the way to Leigh Creek.
He wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to tell him that Copley was north of it. Turns out that the town was dismantled and moved south when the mine dried up.
The make things more confusing the pub in Copley is called the Leigh Creek Hotel. But there’s a good reason for it. It was named after Leigh’s Creek – a nearby pastoral station.
The Open Cut Cafe in Leigh Creek makes the best hamburgers ever. Even beats the Oodnaburger from the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta – the only hamburger I know that could feed a family of five.
And speaking of Oodnadatta, the Aboriginal community there – who owns the pub and the general store as well as provide municipal services for the town – is called Dunjiba. Dunjiba comes from the word “township”.
Try it – township, townshipa, downshipa, dunshipa, Dunjiba.
Township >>> Dunjiba, good one Michael, makes perfect linguistic sense.
ha ha ha, a hamburger that will feed a family of 5 eh, so definitely not a MuckDonalds burger then… Unless they were making one pounders… lol.
Goodness, fancy having to move a whole town eh.. I read somewhere about a town that got moved because of sinkholes, turned out that they were caused by old mine shafts under the town that nobody knew about, or had forgotten. Mining eh….
Aye, I can understand that the area around Bordertown was called Tatiara, the good country, as compared to up North where Copley is, chalk and cheese. Yep I worked as a jackerro on some sheep, cattle and farming land, close to Bordertown, at a little small place called Frances. I was 19, had only just emigrated to Aust from a faraway country. I had decided to get off the ship in Fremantle and make my way across the continent as an adventure rather than go to Sydney which is what 95% of folks did back then. Turned to be a wise choice. Reminds me of another reference to ‘sticks’… On my 21st birthday, I was working in a newly cleared paddock, after the trees had been bulldozed, the windrows had been burned, and the now clear paddock was almost ready for sowing a crop, we had to walk all over it picking up by hand all the remaining little sticks…. I had lots of great times there, one of the things we did, for fun, was spotlighting for rabbits.. The rabbits were so numerous back then that when driving anywhere it used to be bump bump bump as running over a rabbit on the road was unavoidable, that was in daylight…!! Ah eh, memories of dem good ole days…