There’s been a lot of talk about racism in this country and how it is being applied in the political and social landscape. This is not a recent phenomena. Rather, an ongoing one that has weaved throughout our society for over 200 years. To understand our racial attitudes I thought I’d take a look at our racist heritage. As an historian, I’m not interested in what our forefathers did on such-and-such a day, but what was in their minds that drove them to do it. In particular, why were they intent on ridding the country of the first Australians. My research concludes that in the minds of our colonial forefathers the demise of the Aborigines was ordained by a higher order, and with due thanks to Mother Nature the pair colluded to wipe them off the face of the earth. The colonists were quite happy to hurry things along, content with the notion that “they’re gonna die out anyway”.
This is not a short read, but I hope for those who have the time and patience to read through it will gain something.
Australia was determined to maintain what it believed was its racial homogeneity. If the indigenous peoples continued their perceived decline towards extinction (and other migrant races were excluded or expelled), a ‘pure race’ could logically result.
Even before colonisation, the construct of the Aborigine saw them 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 people in the world.” And the image of the Aborigine was to leave no impression of excitement or significance on James 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.