Britain needed Australia as a new settlement for its so-called criminal class. The process looks to me to be more like cultural cleansing. Petty thieves, mostly (presumably) driven by poverty, were initially locked up in jails or in large unused ships. Later, they were settled in North America. When that outlet was denied, Australia took its place. Ironically, it was only in the late 1960s that some Australians discovered a certain pride in claiming a convict heritage! Is that really surprising, since one of the national icons is a highwayman?
The Aborigines were driven away from desired land (especially the land which subsequently became the fenced suburban blocks of Sydney and Melbourne – as said to me by an academic sociologist). The record shows that some were shot, yet others were poisoned; the rest virtually ‘enslaved’ on cattle properties; or placed in ‘settlements’ which mixed up the indigenes, irrespective of tribe, under the control of the churches. This displacement had an adverse effect on potential claims in the distant future for Native Title Rights: how could the applicants demonstrate an unbroken link with their traditional lands? Conversion to Christianity also did nothing for them, as happened in Britain’s colonies elsewhere.
The indigenes were also not counted as persons (human beings) in the national population Census until the late 1960s. Fair-skinned children were ‘stolen’ (that is, taken away) from their mothers, only to be trained as servants, while those Aborigines who had survived the invasion by Britain were expected to breed themselves out (or words to that effect). That policy seemed to have been spoilt by randy white men. Later, the inevitable occurred, as also in the colonies. Those with mixed ancestry married one another; some married whites.
Now, Aboriginality is so respected, that many of those who had ‘passed’ into white society (for protection) as tinted Europeans have chosen to identify themselves as Aboriginal. At last, there is tribal and cultural pride. If anyone in this (now) multi-ethnic nation has a right to hold onto their tribal ancestry, it is the Australian aborigine!
However, many of those now living on their tribal lands are described by the media as societally dysfunctional. Government after government makes promises which, like the millions of taxpayer funds involved, are like the rising mist on a sunny morning. In suburbia, many Aborigines are seen to be walking around during the day, presumably living on welfare. Yet, inspiringly, as with my generation in colonial territories, there are Aborigines raising themselves into academe, the professions, and business enterprises.
Yet, justice for those who need an education, training, and employment opportunities seems to be sorely lacking. How could a civilised nation, a Christian one at that, not do its utmost to bring its indigenes into this otherwise successful multicultural polity? When I remember the millions of dollars over which I had policy oversight for so many years, which were directed to assist immigrants to settle into the country, I wonder whether we can now have less unbelievable talk and more pragmatic action to uplift the previous occupants of this great land to parity with other Australians.