Australia's Aboriginal Roots
Any educated American student knows that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and founded America. Only later do they learn that America already had an indigenous population that Columbus, by his own error, named Indians. Pre-existing populations were forced off of their lands and placed on reservations, effectively changing – and in many cases destroying – life and culture as they knew it. This kind of history is not exclusive only to America. Even fewer people know of the pending extinction of the indigenous culture in Australia – the Aborigines.
The undisturbed Aboriginal people, by today’s standards, would be classified as “primitives.” In fact, during the early periods of modernization in Australia that is exactly what they were known as. Primarily a hunting and gathering society, the traditional Aborigine male would hunt game while the female would scavenge for virtually everything else. Some historical references credit the female gender for finding most of the food for the tribal society.
Then, in 1770, English explorer James Cook “discovered” Australia in a very similar fashion as Columbus “discovered” America, looking for trade routes.2 16 years after Cook became aware of the continent, the British government decided to begin colonizing Australia with transport convicts that were no longer being accepted in America due to the Revolutionary War. Although the government claimed its directive to establish a convict colony in Botany Bay was purely a response to the loss of the American colonies, many had already begun to speculate the strategic choice of Australia. The natural resources in Australia held great potential, and as more people – not just convicts – began to inhabit the continent, the “economic theory” of motivation began to gain ground. Slowly and quietly England sent more people to Australia, eventually establishing the English Colony of New South Wales. Politically, this move was critical in order to prevent France from occupying the continent.
But what of the people who already lived in Australia for more than 40,000 years, the Aborigines? During the initial colonization by the English, the Aborigine culture was for the most part ignored. Only a century later were the first inhabitants of Australia noticed by activists who witnessed a culture that had been inundated with crime, violence and drug abuse.3 Seeing the once thriving culture now on the verge of complete destruction, the Australian government decided that the Aboriginal culture was doomed and determined that the best alternative was to absorb Aboriginal children into the new culture. Between 1910 and the 1970s, well over 100,000 Aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their parents, often times by a method of elusive abduction and kidnapping, and were placed in white families. These children became known as the “stolen generation.”
The Aborigines have survived, but they have witnessed a great...