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Since the beginning, Australia was said to be a colony of settlement, not of conquest. The legal fiction of terra nullius- the land belonged to no one with no official negotiations, no treaties was how the land is said to be the basic injustice on which modern Australia was built.
The High Court of Australia overthrew this ruling in 1992 when it said that Australia’s common law recognised indigenous people’s property rights. The Mabo judgement, as it was called, due to the large association famous aboriginal Eddie Mabo had in it, was a huge step in Aboriginal Rights.
In 1788, the first fleet arrived on our shores. The arrival of the Europeans saw the beginning of the Frontier War and the start of very poor treatment of the Aboriginal people. The aborigines were shocked when the Europeans confronted them. This was not apart of the folklore of the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. It was like us today coming in contact with aliens.
It is thought that around 20000 Aborigines were killed in the war. This figure may be a little higher with 2000 white people being killed in the process. Victoria alone was home to 1200 Aborigines murdered in the frontier war. This violence could have been avoided s the two cultures met. The main reason for violence was the battle for the Aboriginals land. The law of terra nullius was crucial as it said that the land belonged to no one so the aborigines were defenceless.
The assimilation process was extremely racist as it said that the aboriginal parents were not qualified enough to take care of their own children. The children were almost stolen from their parents and put into white families. The mothers of the children were lied about the whereabouts of their kids and told everything was fine. In fact nothing was fine, and only due to the deceitful government was this legal. The aboriginals were seen as inferior to the whites, much similar to the Jews in Germany. This was quite a shameful secret in our country for many years. Now there is National Sorry Day in August to apologise to the Aboriginal people for the terrible treatment. The effects on the children of these families must have been devastating. They were forced to work terribly hard to earn very small amounts of money and food. They were treated little better than slaves. The effects on the parents would have been extremely hard to live with. To have a child taken away from you for no reason except that you were of a certain nationality is appalling.
There is very little, I believe, that can be done to console these parents and children. National Sorry Day is a start but it has taken a long while to come. The performances of the hundreds of Aboriginals in the sporting and entertainment fields have made thousands of Aboriginals proud. Cathy Freeman, Jimmy Little, Jeff Farmer and Nicky Winmar are just a few of the names that have made it a little easier to live and be respected in the country that was there’s and there’s alone just over 200 years ago.
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