Settlement or Invasion?
One example of this is John Street, who moved to Australia, “…John Street – an instance before us of what a man even with little energy and small capital can do. He is now possessed of 2000 acres of fine land, 1600 sheep and cattle, a house and all the comforts he can expect and desire. ” (quote from Bassett, The Hentys, pp. 34-36) There was lots of land on offer and the amount of land one owned dictated social status. John Batman, leader of the Port Phillip expedition, selected eight natives and claimed them to be ‘chiefs’ of the tribe.
He had his assistants explain to them that he wanted to purchase 600, 000 acres of ‘their’ land, in return for blankets, tomahawks, knives, scissors, handkerchiefs, shirt and other clothing. Not only was this deal completely one sided, there were lots of other tribes occupying the land and it was not theirs to sell. The Aboriginals couldn’t actually understand what they were saying and they had a spiritual connection to the land that the British didn’t acknowledge.
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Due to the nomadic lifestyle of the Aboriginals, they believed one area of land was just as good as any other.
Batman brought out the paperwork and almost forced them to sign it. “Each of the eight Aborigines was taught to hold a pen … his fingers were guided in making wavy strokes against his name. ” (Year 9 Resource Booklet, p. 48) The first settlers had no malicious intentions coming to Australia, but their method of ‘settlement’ was ignorant and could be seen as an invasion rather than a settlement. Whether intentional or not, British settlement made an impact on the Aboriginals. When the Europeans moved to Australia, they brought diseases such as smallpox along with them.
The Aboriginals immune system could not cope with the foreign diseases and many died as a result. They introduced alcohol to the Aboriginals. The alcohol was deadly because it had never been in their system and it also caused conflicts and fights. They captured young Aboriginal men and tried to integrate them into their society by teaching them ‘civilised and industrious’ habits. Because of Batman’s treaty, the Aboriginals had no rights to the land, and they were kicked out.
However, “even where squatters only dispossessed the blacks and forced them on to other tribal territory, the result was death and destruction” (Year 9 Resource Booklet, p. 68). After dispossessing the Aborigines of their land, they were also denied jobs. Driven off their traditional hunting lands by men who now considered the land to be their own, the Aboriginals had few options. The Aboriginal way of life was changed drastically by British settlement, against their will. There was lots of violence and conflict between the British and the Aboriginals.