“Aboriginal People Did Not Give Up Their Land Without a Struggle” Discuss the Causes and Nature of Aboriginal Resistance to White Settlement in the Period 1788 -1850

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When white settlement of Australia began in 1788 the continent was already inhabited by Aborigines. Aborigines did not have permanent homes; they lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle constantly moving to where food and resources would be. They did not build shelters or dwellings; nor did they wear clothing and they had tools and weapons made only of either stone or wood. They lived off the land and regarded it very highly as a part of themselves. To Europeans however this meant Australia was terra nullius meaning since there were no dwellings and limited residents, Australia was free for the taking . In taking the land they ignored the Aboriginal peoples rights to land they had occupied for thousands of years. They had little regard for Aborigines as they saw them on the lowest rung of society, even lower then convicts. Initial contact between Europeans and Aborigines appeared to be peaceful. But as settlements were becoming established and farmland developed; conflict was inevitable. This was the start of Aboriginal resistance to white settlement in Australia.

Initially, the Aboriginal people greeted explorers and early settlers with friendship and hospitality. It soon became obvious to the Aborigines however that the Europeans intended to permanently stay on their land. The Aboriginal people were not okay with this. When European settlers took over Aboriginal peoples land; they destroyed vegetation and indigenous wildlife without a single thought for the Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people’s ceremonial and religious life was disrupted and important sacred Aboriginal sites where destroyed by settlement. They also forced Aborigines to move onto less then desirable land; generally away from water usually forcing them inland. As depletion of indigenous flora and fauna continued Aborigines turned their attention to European sources for food. Aborigines felt there was nothing wrong with what they were doing because they were now sharing their land with the settlers. The settlers did not see it this way however; they saw it as an act of defiance and something they would not put up with. Many misunderstandings like this occurred between Europeans and Aboriginal people early in the colonisation of Australia.

The differences between the European and Aboriginal cultures were very apparent even to the early settlers. Misunderstanding existed on both sides. The Aboriginal people had no knowledge of European customs and values. They did not understand the European idea of ownership. In the beginning, they were willing to share details of their lives and knowledge of the land with Europeans. In return they expected the settlers to share their tools, animals and food with them . When this didn’t happen they started to make surprise attacks on isolated settlers; they would generally spear sheep and cattle before disappearing back into the landscape. Europeans lived in small numbers; so these tactics created widespread fear. The settlers sometimes became defeated and ended up abandoning their farms. At times whole communities felt the impact of Aboriginal hostility. Aboriginals had a deep knowledge of the land; they appreciated it and used it for religious and spiritual life as well as food survival. Europeans however saw it as a commodity. They believed that the economic value was far too important to let Aborigines get in their way.

Desecration and dispossession were not the only reasons for aboriginal resistance to white settlement. Aboriginal women were also a major cause of conflict between white and black during the early years of settlement. It is estimated at the time of Europeans arrival, there was only one white woman to four white men until after 1820. Being that most of these men were convicts; this was not a good thing for the Aboriginal women who faced the very likely prospect of sexual assault and rape . In saying that however, initially Aboriginal men thought they were being hospitable when they would...
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