Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Neglected History of This Volatile Country - Aboriginal Resistance [draft]

"...the remainder were gradually picked out of their concealment by the crossfire from both banks, until 25 or 30 were left dead on the field and in the river..."
Diary of the colonial official, C. F. Moore. Describing Governor Stirling's mounted attack against Aboriginal people at Pinjarra, WA in 1834. The armed expedition trapped the Aborigines between the banks of a river and shot them as they tried to hide in the water...

[Note: This article is a draft of a longer work in progress - any feedback welcomed: cheers brother_x]

From the moment European explorers arrived on geographic Australian soil, the interactions between new arrivals and traditional owners have been volatile. In the last 220 years of occupation, an underlying policy of Genocide can be noticed.

From around 1810 Aboriginal people were moved to mission stations to be taught European beliefs, trained in Western White ways and used as cheap labour. A policy of "absorption" of the Aboriginal population was adopted - whereby the reproduction of Aboriginal peoples could be "controlled".

West Australian Aboriginal resistance was led in the early 1830s by people like Yagan and Calyute. The White invaders tried to break the resistance by imprisoning recalcitrants on Rottnest Island or sending them to remote missions like Moore River and Carrolup.

Across the Nation, conflict between European settlers and Aboriginal people escalated in 1824. Over 100 Aboriginal people are killed in a massacre at Bathurst, NSW and martial law was declared.

In the 1830s, according to British law and practices, NO treaties are made with the original owners of the land. Aboriginal people in Tasmania are forcibly removed and settled on Flinders Island. The living conditions lead to many deaths. Later the community is moved to Cape Barren Island.

A "Protector of Aborigines" was appointed in 1837, after a Parliamentary Select Committee examined reports of genocide of Indigenous peoples in British colonies. A massacre of Aboriginal people occurred at Gravesend, New South Wales with over 200 killed.

Myall Creek massacre [1838] NSW - 28 Aboriginal people are killed by settlers, 7 of whom are later hanged. It is the first massacre of Aboriginal people in Australian history where the offenders are punished by law. In 1840 a massacre of Aboriginal people occurred at Long Lagoon - the entire community was killed.

Around 10,000 deaths via massacre and battles of Aboriginal resistance have been recorded by various historians.

However, with little resistance to outbreaks, the biggest killer was Disease. In particular, chickenpox, smallpox, influenza, venereal diseases, and measles decimated the Aboriginal populations throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

It is now estimated that some 90% of the Aboriginal population decline was due to disease spreading in advance of the European colonists.

Robert Bropho said in 1997, "There was genocide, massacres, raping, kicking our childrens heads off, killing our children by swinging their heads against trees. lt is in the history books and white people close their minds to that..."

"One only has to look at Fowlers Bay where Aboriginal people were forced over the cliffs to their deaths, or the Great Massacre at Pinjarra, or the Mistake Creek Massacre near Turkey Creek, or the Busselton to Margaret River and Wonnerup Massacres where killing expeditions by the Layman Brothers took place every 3 months, or Boronia Gully at Collie, or Nightwell Massacre past Borden in WA. All this has to be left alone and not rewoken."


Forrest River: Phillip Knightley on the Forrest River Massacres of 1926: "The men moved from camp to camp along the Forrest River for the next week, killing as they went. When they entered a camp they first shot all the dogs, then the men, then the women and children. At one camp the women were chained to trees and forced to watch their menfolk being shot and the bodies burned. They were then marched for several miles before being shot and burned themselves. Estimates of Aboriginals killed ranged from 20 to 100..."

Exploration, invasion and massacres - early contact between Europeans and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the many resultant killings and massacres of Indigenous people...


Kooriweb History/Culture

Australian Aborigine - Wikipedia

Brief Aboriginal History Perth


In 1830 Thomas Peel, an early Western Australian entrepreneur, established a settlement at the mouth of the Murray River. Pinjarra was heavily grassed and the soils were rich loams. The European settlement of the area was met by strong resistance from the local Aborigines. Pinjarra is noted more for its infamous treatment of Aboriginal People. The Battle of Pinjarra, in 1834, is perhaps the most notorious massacres of Aborigines in Australian history.

In Bruce Elder's book Blood on the Wattle: the Massacres and Maltreatment of Australian Aborigines since 1788 the so-called battle is recorded as follows:

They might have called it the Battle of Pinjarra but like all of the massacres of the Aborigines it was more a case of wholesale slaughter than of some equally poised, European-style battle. it was the same story which had been enacted on every frontier: the same overreaction to black atrocities; the same desire to "teach the blacks a lesson"; the same random killing.

Ever since the small band of settlers rowed up the Swan River looking for good pastoral land there had been "trouble" with the Aborigines. The local people had resisted the white advance. Cattle had been speared. The occasional white had been speared. Life on the frontier was fraught with dangers. The settlers developed a sense of antagonism and hatred. They were happy to attack and kill Aborigines whenever the opportunity arose. Two years before the Battle of Pinjarra a Swan River settler declared that he was prepared "to watch and attack the natives, and kill, burn, blow up and otherwise destroy the enemy".

It was in this kind of hostile environment that Captain James Stirling, Governor of the Colony of Western Australia, responded to continuing requests for military protection from a small group of settlers on the Murray River. Stirling formed a party of about twenty-five whites. The group was a mixture of police, soldiers and a few settlers. Their plan was to "punish" (ie. massacre) any Aborigines in the local area in order to drive home the message that white settlers and their cattle must not be attacked or speared.

One account of the massacre explained the rationale for the attack as simply that "the moment was considered propitiously favourable for punishing the perpetrators of such and other diabolical acts."

The party came across a group of seventy Aborigines. The Aborigines, sensing trouble, fled into the bush. Stirling divided the party and attempted to encircle the fleeing group. They caught them at a river crossing and when the Aborigines showed signs of retaliation, Stirling and his men opened fire.

No one knows how many people were killed. Estimates vary from fourteen to thirty. Those who had not been shot cowered helplessly as the posse advanced.

Then, with the scent of victory in his nostrils, Stirling called out for the bugle to be sounded and for his troops to cease firing. The Aborigines many not have seen the massacre as a battle but Captain Stirling, who had seen action in the West Indies, South America and the American war, declared his forces victorious.

The remaining Aborigines were rounded up and taken prisoner but soon after this Stirling decided to set them free "for the purpose of fully explaining to the rest of the tribe the cause of the chastisement, that had been inflicted."

The "battle" was regarded by both Stirling and the settlers as a success - it certainly did much to break the will of the local Aborigines.


Yagan: an Aboriginal resistance hero



PRE 1901 - Wikipedia

Settlement or Invasion?



The "Windshuttle" Spin
More Windshuttle Whitewash
Debate rages over "peaceful" white settlement

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