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'Belonging' in the Land Down-Under

 article about Australia
2004-03-15 16:31:11
After 200 years or so of European settlement in the Land Down-Under many Australians assume that this country, in comparison with others, is one lacking in both culture and history. What many dont realize however is that Australia has claim to a unique culture that precedes the arrival of Captain Cooks First Fleet by 40,000 years and more.

To be Australian is to be part of a multicultural society that began with the crossing of the Indonesian land bridge by Aborigines, was perpetuated with the arrival of the First Fleet and was further developed hereto.

When Aborigines migrated to Australia, from what is believed to be Asia, they began to form a very distinct and unique culture. Aboriginal culture as we see it today was largely something that developed gradually after the trials and tribulations of a race that survived millenniums on a continent as trying as Australia.

When British colonists arrived in 1788, the fleet for the most part comprised of convicts. After the loss of the British colonies in America and the increase of crime due to the agricultural revolution, Britain desperately sought new land in order to house this excess of criminals. Australia was of course the perfect choice for such a purpose.

The Europeans believed the indigenous people who already occupied the land were simple savages and branded the Aborigines as little more than animals. Too many failed to recognize that they had an amazing understanding of this diverse and unique environment, and that their culture was exceptionally rich in law, spirituality and many other aspects.

The British pirate William Dampier, after voyaging to Australia in 1688 stated:

They inhabitants of this country are the miserablest people in the world and setting aside their humane shape, they differ but little from brutes. (Dampier as cited in White, 1981)

It wasnt until cook arrived that Europeans began to discover the tranquil state in which the aborigines lived. Most assumed they encountered endless hardships and were therefore miserable and wretched. But in truth aborigines were on the most part content with their lives and quick to smile, often laughing at the complexity of European life.

After leaving the Australian Coast to return to Britain Cook Observed:

They may appear to some to be the most wretched people on the Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Eurpoeans. (Cook as cited in White, 1981, pg.14)

Despite this the colonialists did not understand their way of life. Australia was therefore considered Terra Nulius, meaning land of no-one, and was occupied. Aborigines and Europeans clashed for the better part of a century and whole Aboriginal communities were exterminated, amongst other atrocities.

This had a huge bearing on the development of Australia to date. If the original occupants of this country had any bearing on the colonization of their land they would maintain a higher status today. Any claim the Commonwealth has presently could be non-existent.

As an Australian of convict stock I find it disappointing and heart breaking to discover that an amazing culture that survived over 40,000 years was reduced to a whisperthrough British Imperialism and crappy ideology. Its a familiar story isnt it?

What should be more widely known throughout Australia and the rest of the world is the fact that the British did invade a country already inhabited by a people with an incredibly rich culture, history, and system of beliefs, laws, family structures etc.

Also a better understanding of Aboriginal culture and its importance in the development of this country should finally be made known.

To live in Australia is to live inamongst people of all creed, race, color, nationality and so on. The saddest truth though is the probability that more is known of other more recent cultures to come to Australian shores than that of the first inhabitants and major contributors to the development of this country, the Aborigines.

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