Tag Archives: Tasmania

A White Australia

By Shane Aurousseau

Traditional tin roofed homestead with rustic wooden fence from the 1800s in the Australian outback

A film that always struck me for catching the mood of Australia during WWI was Gallipoli with Mel Gibson. In particular the rather naïve conversation between the two young sprinters Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson) while crossing the desert in Australia prior to joining the Gallipoli expeditionary force and the Australian Light Horse. The reason for joining very simple just what you should do, they or them over there might end up over here. They had no real comprehension of what they were fighting for or who they were fighting let alone where Turkey was on the map. As for what the Ottoman Empire was that was a bridge very far away. It was only at the end that the futility dawned but only on Frank as Archy died with only one thought to run well and block all else out as he knew his death was imminent. The waste of a young life so valuable to a country with a population under 5 million.     

The naivety of a young country trying to fit in with far more powerful countries and honour its allegiance to God King and Country was well presented in the film. I doubt that even the Australian hierarchy fully understood the political issues mainly the expansion of the British Empire certainly in Turkey and a right royal row. The military hierarchy certainly did not and probably weren’t even interested.

I grew up in Australia after WWI and WWII (born at the very end of WWII) however throughout my young years through the 50s almost to contemporary times I still see that ignorant innocence that has been slow to change in Australia thus my photographic series Australia a museum of the 1800s.

Australian Outback Towns and Country -A museum of the 1800s

Growing from Childhood to an adult in the Australian system there have been myriad influencers forming the Australian psyche that I experienced in my own Australian education.

On May 13, 1787 Captain Arthur Phillip led a fleet of 11 ships on. a 252-day journey halfway around the world from Portsmouth, England, to New South Wales. They were heading to the recently discovered by English speaking people land of Australia to create a new penal colony. The Fleet arrived in Botany Bay on January 18, 1788. A country to contemporary times of European colonisation only 232 years ago and totally dependent upon Britain and its empire. A country not uninhabited but habited by a sophisticated indigenous people with a culture dating back 50,000 years occupied only 232 years ago by white English speakers. The first fleet had an umbilical  cord firmly attached to Britain and its empire.

By 1850, within sixty-two years of the founding of the penal settlement, the Australian colonies had secured the right to rule themselves. By 1860 five of the six had the machinery of responsible representative self-government at work. The sixth (Western Australia) got it in 1889, and similar machinery was set up when the federation came into being in 1901. Yes Federation 1st January 1901 only 119 years ago!

The identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in official statistics and other data: Critical issues of international significance. Statistical Journal of the IAOS, 35 (1), 91-106. The realisation for Indigenous people in Australia to be counted in official statistics occurred in 1967.

From the first federal electoral Act in 1901 to 1967, when the last state changed its law, tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were subject to regulations which prohibited them from voting at federal and state elections.

It wasn’t until 1984, 36 YEARS AGO that Indigenous people were finally treated like other voters and required to enrol and vote at elections.

Massacres of Indigenous Australian People taken From Wikipedia but there are many sources that I have read that will confirm this data it was simpler to use this quite accurate source.

A project headed by historian Lyndall Ryan from the University of Newcastle and funded by the Australian Research Council, has been researching and mapping these massacres.[3] A significant collaborator toward this project is Jonathan Richards from the University of Queensland.[4][3][1] Criteria such as defining a massacre as the killing of six or more people are used and an interactive map as an online resource is included.[5][6][2] As of 3 January 2020, at least 311 frontier massacres over a period of about 140 years had been documented, revealing “a state-sanctioned and organised attempt to eradicate Aboriginal people”.[2]

Massacres were conducted by the following forces: British ArmyNew South Wales Mounted Police, groups of armed colonists, Border Policenative police, officers of the Western Australia Police and Northern Territory Police and others. Most massacres were perpetrated as summary and indiscriminate punishment for the killing of settlers or the theft and destruction of livestock. There are over nine known cases of deliberate mass poisonings of Aboriginal Australians.[5]

June 1926Forrest River massacre: Western Australian police constables, James Graham St Jack and Dennis Hastings Regan led a month long punitive expedition against Aboriginal people living in the Forrest River region. After the local mission station reported around 30 people missing, a police investigation was organised. This investigation found that at least 16 Aboriginal people were killed and their remains burnt in three purpose-built stone ovens. The police investigation led to a Royal Commission the following year. During the proceedings of this Commission, the suggestion of the evidence of a native being equal to that of a white man was openly mocked.[186] Despite this overt attempt to protect the perpetrators, the Commissioner still found that somewhere between 11 and 20 people were killed and St Jack and Regan were subsequently arrested for murder.[187] Instead of going to trial, the men were brought before police magistrate Kidson who, in spite of the findings of the two previous investigations, deemed that the evidence was insufficient to go before a jury.[188] Regan and St Jack were released and the Premier, Philip Collier, even re-instated them to their previous positions in the Kimberley.[189]

The year of Federation saw the introduction of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901  an Act of the Parliament of Australia which limited immigration to Australia and formed the basis of the White Australia policy which sought to exclude all non-Europeans from Australia.

. “The United Nations Charter of 1945, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965 all imposed obligations on Australia relating to the elimination of racial discrimination,” the report says[1].

British colonial policies were based on white supremacy and that the aboriginal race would sooner or later die out. These policies intensified as Australia gained independence from the United Kingdom.

The escalation of violence in the late 1820s prompted Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur to declare martial law—effectively providing legal immunity for killing Aboriginal people[8]—and in late 1830 to order a massive six-week military offensive known as the Black Line, in which 2200 civilians and soldiers formed a series of moving cordons stretching hundreds of kilometres across the island in order to drive Aboriginal people from the colony’s settled districts to the Tasman Peninsula in the southeast, where it was intended they would remain permanently confined.

The “patrol teams” chased and killed Tasmanians as the soldiers had the authority to immediately kill any Tasman they found in the settled areas. Afterwards, a price was set for native heads: five British pounds for an adult, two pounds for a child caught alive.

The colonial journalist and barrister Richard Windeyer called it “the whispering in the bottom of our hearts”. The anthropologist William Stanner described a national “cult of forgetfulness”. A 1927 royal commission lamented our “conspiracy of silence”.

Between 1910-1970, many Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families as a result of various government policies. The generations of children removed under these policies became known as the Stolen Generations. The Stolen Generations refer to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were removed from their families by Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions between 1910 and 1970 through a policy of assimilation.

Church in Lightning Ridge, The Church involvement in the Stolen Generations.

Today seventy-five per cent of Australians hold an implicit bias against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, a study has found. 

The study, published in the Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, is based on more than 11,000 unique responses to an implicit association test over 10 years. 

According to Australian National University researcher Siddharth Shirodkar, the results show that “most Australian participants on average – regardless of background – hold an implicit bias against Indigenous Australians”.

 Shirodkar said: “The result implies that the level of implicit bias that Australian residents have toward Indigenous Australians is comparable in magnitude and direction to the implicit bias that US residents have towards African Americans.”  Guardian Monday 8 June 2020

Most things in this world can be disputed however as an Australian with a family on my mother’s side dating back to the to the first fleet. My ancestor being William Roberts who arrived on the first fleet and subsequently married Kezia Brown who arrived on the Neptune 1790,the second fleet. I would find it difficult to dispute the quotes from the survey mentioned above.

But calls are growing for a national truth-telling process. Such wishes are expressed in the Uluru statement from the heart. Reconciliation Australia’s 2019 barometer of attitudes to Indigenous peoples found that 80% of people consider truth telling important. Almost 70% of Australians accept that Aboriginal people were subject to mass killings, incarceration and forced removal from land, and their movement was restricted.

Modern Indigenous art Broken Hill

My childhood was spent in the remnant of this world a time of the white Australia policy. It was a time when Indigenous people could not attend my school, in the cinemas it was indigenous people to the front and whites to the back. The Saturday afternoon pics that we all attended starting with the black and white serial probably Roy Rogers all badly shooting guns and missing each other, then before the song chasing each other round and round the same rocks.

My parents never mentioned the indigenous people from my point of view and my education they never existed. On the way home to lake Illawarra (Indigenous name as are a great many of Australia’s towns) I had to pass the Indigenous community. In the US this community would have been called a reservation. We knew nothing of the people who lived in that community apart from the odd joke aimed generally at the indigenous people that was made in passing a place we knew nothing about or had any interest in knowing.

Most indigenous people were just considered a bunch of drunks who you saw lying around in front of the local off-license. There was little respect for a civilisation 50,000 plus years old. A civilisation with one of the great art styles of the world and a strong understanding of animal anatomy the land and the bush among other in depth understandings built up over a period far longer than the British Empire.

My education consisted of English history and how the white predominantly English speaking amazing explorers of the 1800s opened up the country to so called civilisation. I knew more about how much pink there was on the map of the world making every other country’s lower class people better off Bass and Flinders and Burke and Wills than anything about the great civilisations of the globe or the highly creative people who shared my continent Island.. At this stage I should point out that my education thankfully through extensive travel went beyond this narrow outlook. I would like to also point out at this stage that just before the Raj in India the Indian economy was the world leader at 24% of global GDP in 1950 it was 4.2%

Add to this thinking the immigration Restriction act 1901 only 119 years ago repealed only in 1973 – 47 YEARS AGO. Much of the older generation of British decent in Australia still have white Australian views which to some degree have been handed on to their children the current generation. When I visit Australia I still hear derogatory remarks about Indigenous people by Australians. The Australian education system was limited to white only history in particular English history with a vague refence to global events . To be blunt a tribal propaganda approach to history.

The Immigration Restriction act did three things it made the white community have less respect for the indigenous community, all other coloured communities and immigrants other than natural white English speakers. This act hard wired many contemporary white English speaking Australians into the neural network of racial ignorance.  

In my quest to document my thoughts on the issue of the Indigenous people of Australia I have used material from sources only to convey dates of actions in order to outline my case. There are many more documented cases of indigenous ethnic cleansing in Australia and I’m sure many undocumented.

I have only tried to outline the issue. I should add that the issue of racial prejudice is prevalent in most countries, whether in the tribal issues of Africa, Middle East, China/Asia or the global religious tribalism and cultural issues that exists in the USA, Europe and still in Britain (one of the world’s centres for the slave trade) – there is blood on all hands. It is a guilt that the world must carry. There is no logical reason for racial prejudice only ignorance lack of education and lack of engagement with neighbours. The only reason is dominance and greed and that is not a logical reason! In the long term it benefits no one and we should be colour blind. We all originated at the same source and leave this world as one species, we are all cousins and stronger when we work together!

You can’t change the past get on with the future ” Stop calling me a blackman and I will stop calling you a whiteman”- Morgan Freeman

Shane Aurousseau