Terra Nullius

Topics: Indigenous Australians, Indigenous peoples, Indigenous peoples of the Americas Pages: 3 (967 words) Published: September 8, 2008
History Essay on Terra Nullius
Terra Nullius, was how Cook described Australia and how it was officially viewed until the last 20 or 30 years of Australia’s history. In 1788 the First Fleet arrived, after this, the British took over all of the land in sight without any thought to its original ownership. They forbade the fact that there were Aboriginals in Australia and they declared it empty. Legally this meant that no one lived on the land and because of that no one could claim rights of it under English law. This was not what had happened in other countries that Britain had colonised - in Canada and New Zealand treaties were signed with the Indigenous people in order to transfer over the land. Though these treaties were very biased towards the British and the Indigenous peoples of those countries were not treated any better than the Aborigines were. The fact that treaties existed meant that there was no such Terra Nullius as shown in Australia. In English law the Aboriginals didn’t exist, and therefore their right to the land in Australia did not exist either. The removal of land from the Aboriginal peoples started in 1788 and continued through the frontier war, and the setting up of the reserves a hundred years later. When the Indigenous people were given reserve lands they had been told it would be theirs to keep, but by the 1960s the Commonwealth government had simply reclaimed much of the land for housing and commercial projects such as mining and agricultural use. Indigenous protests over how reserve land was managed and how it was being taken away became more and more frequent, until in the 1960s it erupted into a country wide movement for land rights. Not only did the Indigenous population of Australia want to preserve the land they already had, but they wanted to be recognised as the legal owners of their traditional lands so that no one, not even the government could take them away in the future. In 1966, at least 200 Aborigines left the cattle...
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