“ It has now been accepted that the indigenes did not
cede any of their land. As the famous poet Oodjaroo
Noonuccal said, “We are but custodians of the land”.
Whilst the settlers saw themselves at war, and killed to
acquire land, officialdom (later supported by local jurists)
preferred occupation to conquest. Occupation follows discovery,
of a presumed empty land. How were the natives
to establish ownership without a Titles Office?
Because the morally political Australian rejected the idea of an invasion,
a Senate Committee came up, in the early 1980s,
with prescription. This apparently applies when there is no
clear title to sovereignty by way of treaty, occupation or
conquest. An extended occupation, and an exercise of sovereignty
were apparently enough to vest title in the Crown.
But, prescription requires a show of authority on the one
side, and acquiescence on the other (says Prof. Reynolds,
the renowned contributor to the nation’s enlightenment
on this black subject). Since the natives never acquiesced
to anything, voluntary abandonment was claimed.
The Senate’s clever semantic exercise seemed to accept that
being killed or driven away is tantamount to voluntary
abandonment! A prominent white Australian sociologist
reminded me that cities such as Melbourne and Sydney
represented the most effective sites of ethnic cleansing;
and that every fence in Australia encloses land that was
once the soul, or the shared possession of a particular
group of Aborigines.”
(This paragraph is suggestive of the more recent takeover of Palestine. To their credit, the British, to my knowledge, claimed no gift from anyone – they just took whatever they wanted – the nation of exceptionalism of yesteryear.
The extracts above are from ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity,’ which seeks the eventual achievement of the Family of Man, however ridiculous that hope may appear today. Yet, we need to accept that we stand on the detritus of an inglorious past as we reach out to the concept of a universal ethic – as now sought by the Dalai Lama.)