The invasion of Australia

“We have been encouraged to believe that the occupation of this continent was essentially peaceful – a kind of infiltration, scarcely resisted, in the face of which the Aborigines declined; inevitable victims of evolutionary progress. This picture is false. Day by day the evidence accumulates.

Once it became clear to the Aborigines that the new arrivals intended to remain and to occupy territory, they were met with armed resistance in a kind of guerrilla warfare, which went on intermittently until Aboriginal capacity to resist was beaten into submission by the power of a technology overpoweringly superior in the destruction of life …

The Aboriginal Australians occupied and used for their livelihood and as a basis for their culture, the whole of the continent. Its lands were held by various land-owning groups under a system of ownership governed by clear rules for occupancy, use, care and inheritance as precise as any in the world. The people were hunter-gatherers sustaining themselves from the seasonal yield of the natural flora and fauna. But it is not true that they did no more than harvest this product. They followed a regime, which was a combination of practical and religious measures designed to modify, protect and conserve their habitat, and within the limits of their need and knowledge, to maximise its yield …

The continent, too, was criss-crossed by clearly defined trade routes along which travelled goods, and materials, cultural and spritual which expressed the capacity of the separate land-owning groups to collaborate in their common affairs …

[There was] a structured society with laws and institutions for the conduct of its affairs adequate to the needs of its constituent communities. There can, at least in the light of present knowledge, be no justification for regarding this land as having been ‘desert and uncultivated’ or in any real sense as empty or unused”

– Dr. H.C. (Nugget) Coombs. in National Times 8/6/1980

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