History wars focus on the commitment of the historians and the demands of nationalism. These wars emerge when historians are accused of disloyalty especially when they challenge the national story. In the Australian context, history war presents the experienced conflict over the understanding of the history European settlement in the Australia and the establishment of the modern Australian society (Broome, 2010). The arguments over this issue have particularly focused on the effect of the British colonization of Australia Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal Australians. The major protagonists include Geoffrey Blainey, Keith Windschuttle, Carole Ferrier, Anne Clark, Sturt Macintyre and Robert Manne. Elites like Ferrier and Clark who supported the documented historical account of the Australian past argued that only racists criticized the presented history while the people who agreed with the history of the development of the modern Australia were race egalitarians (Flood, 2006). In contrast, the group opposed to the history of the development of the modern Australia challenged the reliability of the sources and the focus assumed by the people who explained the history of the Australia. For example, scholars like Windschuttle conducted comprehensive evaluations to show that historians such as Reynolds and Lyndall Ryan altered the available statistics to support their arguments. Conductive an extensive review of the history of the Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders would be essential in developing knowledge of the history wars in Australia.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the period during which European settlement spread across the Australian continent
The modern Australia is a multicultural nation that comprises people from various backgrounds and different parts of the world. All these cultures have essentially defined the current Australian way of life. Consequently, there exists high diversity in relation to the foods, races, businesses and religions in Australia. Besides, Australian history has majorly been developed from its indigenous people. Therefore, the best way of understanding the contemporary Australian history entails acknowledging and trying to understand the history of the original Australians. The Australia’s original inhabitants include the Aborigines and the Torres Strait Islanders. Presently, these people account for about 2.4% of the Australia’s population (Broome, 2010). Before the invasion of the Australia by European settlers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders inhabited Australia. The Aborigines inhabited the Australian mainland while the Torres Strait Islanders inhabited the islands between Islands and Papua New Guinea. Presently, there exists various different groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; they speak different languages and have diverse cultures and tradition. The Aborigines was not essentially the name of these people, but it was a term used by the Europeans to refer to the Australians, meaning the original residents of the country (Read, 2000).
In the time of the settlement of the Europeans in Australia, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were already organized into distinct civilized groups. These people had already established their own well-defined culture. Studies account that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait cultures are among the most popular and oldest cultures of the world. These studies estimate that about 750 000 people inhabited Australia at the time of first European contact with Australia (Read, 2000). Although the British colonization of Australia was characterized with rapid changes and pronounced erosion of the cultures of the indigenous inhabitants, the cultures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ people still exist. Initially, the aboriginal Australians practices hunting and gathering. The men hunted big animals while the women and the children hunted small animals while gathering fruits and other plants for food. People mainly migrated from place to place to survive the fragile environment due to seasonal variations (Read, 2000).
The Aboriginal Australians identified land as an important resource for their wellbeing. In this context, these community identified land as the core of all spirituality. This means that the land is of great relevance the development of the Australians history. Numerous historians have attempted to establish the relationship between the land and these people; but this remains unclear. However, it is acknowledgeable that this relationship is the core to the all the concerns that are important to the indigenous Australians up to date (Read, 2000). The Aboriginal Australians assume high pride in their personal and community identity. In the contemporary Australian community, indigenous groups maintain their cultural heritage by practicing their art, rituals, speaking and teaching their languages and safeguarding cultural materials and other historic sites and objects. Similar to any other culture of the world, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures have changed and grown over time. In particular, the settlement of the Europeans in Australia meant the incorporation of the Western culture into the Aboriginal’s lifestyle. In consequence, the Australia’s modern culture is a blend of the Aboriginal’s culture and the European’s lifestyle. Broome (2010) states that the indigenous community has been influenced by diverse range of cultures over time; however, the colonization of the Australia introduced rapid and catastrophic changes to the Aboriginal community and rapidly affected the Aboriginal land their lifestyle.
Settlement of the Europeans in Australia initiated with a mass movement of Europeans to Australia in 1788. The first group to settle in Australia comprised of eleven ships sailed to the country under the command of Captain Arthur Philip. Through this shipment, about 780 British convicts settled in Australia. Later, two more convict fleets arrived in the country by 1791. However, the trend was temporarily checked by the 1868 ban that restricted the transportation of more fleets to Australia. The immediate effect of the British settlement included the emergence of a wave of Old World epidemic diseases that erupted few weeks after the Europeans’ arrival. Another immediate effect of the British settlement included the exploitation of land and water resources. The combined effects of the emergence of diseases and conflicts due to land loss reduced the Aboriginal population by about 90% by 1900 (Flood, 2006). In few years time, all fertile land of Australia was appropriated and the indigenous groups reduced to indigent remnants inhabiting the fringes of Australian society or land viewed unsuitable for settlement. Many aboriginal Australians assumed the European culture as they worked as laborers and stock hands.
The European settlers mainly understood poorly the sophisticated and diversity of the Aboriginal cultures. Policies and governing regulations enacted by the European government failed to account for the interest of the Aboriginal people. Most of these policies benefited the Pastoralists. These pastoralists established large farms and animal stations in which they employed indigenous Australians as their labors. Poor knowledge of the Aboriginal’s culture and the appropriation of their land prompted serious conflicts between the Aboriginal people and the European. Consequently, the land was the central factor that fueled conflicts between the settlers and the Aboriginal Australians.
Indigenous cultures are considerably very strong, but the European misunderstanding and apathy have affected them. The European viewed the Aboriginal culture as archaic and misinformed. In particular, the Europeans despised Aboriginal Australians for engaging in practices such as gathering and hunting that were the characteristic of the Stone Age people. In Europeans’ view, the aboriginal Australians presented an uncivilized community that resembled fossils that remained unchanged for decades. In this context, the Europeans viewed their culture as superior to that of the Aboriginal Australians. Therefore, the Europeans assumed the responsibility of ensuring that the Aboriginal Australians got “civilized” by teaching and imposing their superior culture to them (Flood, 2006).
The Europeans also interpreted the simple lifestyle of the Aboriginal culture to mean that they valued landless and did not know how to use it effectively. Reliable studies have linked this perspective with the argument that the indigenous Australians owned no land but wandered around. The myth may have developed because the indigenous Australians identified their lands in a manner that was obvious to the Europeans (Broome, 2010). In essence, the indigenous people hand not marked their lands with visible boundaries such as fences like it was the custom in the European culture. However, this was a misconception because the aboriginals had their own unique method of marking their land. The indigenous people marked their land using traditional geographic borders such as lakes, mountains and rivers. Therefore, it becomes apparent that the identified myth that was popularized by the Europeans may be viewed as a biased assumption utilized by the Europeans to justify their course. The fact remains that the Europeans grabbed the Aboriginal Australians’ land but not that the indigenous people did not own land.
Full Reconciliation depends on recognition that the alienation and disadvantage experienced by some Indigenous Australians are attributable to dispossession experienced in the past.
In view of the discussed scenario, it is apparent that a full reconciliation will essentially depend on the recognition that the alienation and disadvantage witnesses by some indigenous Australians are attributable to the dispossession experienced in the past. Is discussed earlier, the dispossession of witnessed by the indigenous Australian left them paralyzed. The Europeans grabbed and exploited resources belonging to the indigenous Australian community in serving their own interest. Consequently, the Europeans continued to develop economically and socially at the detriment of Indigenous Australians who were inferior to them, thus could hardly stage a successful resistance against the settlers. For example, the Europeans grabbed all the fertile land pushing the Indigenous Australian to settle in the unfertile and the land essentially viewed as unsuitable for settlement. Moreover, the legislation and policies assumed by the colonial government failed to save the interest of the Aboriginal Australians. The only opportunity offered by the Europeans to the indigenous Australians was a chance of working as labors in their firms. These factors are attributable to the pronounced disparities that are witnessed among the contemporary Australian community.
Biased or prejudiced perspectives that fail to account for the effect of British colonization on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders cannot be justified. In contrast, only liberal perspective that acknowledges that effect of the alienation and the disadvantage experienced by the indigenous Australians can realize full reconciliation. With the massive annexing and exploitation of the Aboriginal Australian’s resources, the witnessed disparities in the contemporary Australian community are expected. It becomes apparent that the history wars in Australia can hardly end if the mainstream community continues to ignore this fact. Keating in his speech is aware about this fact as evident in his assertion that Australia cannot claim to have succeeded until the moment that it will be able to grant the indigenous people of Australia the opportunities and support that they deserve (Keating, 1992). The Europeans have constantly provided different accounts of the development of the Australian contemporary society. Despite little knowledge and lack of experience in the Aboriginal way of livelihood, different people continue to arbitrate on issues not well researched. Consequently, the stated issues affect instructors as they could be giving out wrong information unknowingly. Elites and policies makers should shed racial perspectives and view the situation of the rational and logical viewpoint.
Arguments about Indigenous Australians continue to be mediated by those with little or no cultural experience of Aboriginality.
People with little knowledge or no cultural practice are mediating various claims of the Aboriginality. These claims implicate classroom work since the various perspectives are not correct. There is no clear knowledge on the Aboriginality traditional economic activity though the Europeans claims that they were nomads as well practiced agriculture and were hunters and gatherers. With the activities stated, there is no clear indication of their main economic activity. The Europeans state that there were grouping that were there before their coming and consisted of around 400 people. This information could be inaccurate, as the Europeans have no direct experience of the livelihood of the Aboriginality. Wrong information may make a teacher look inexperienced and lacks professionalism. Differences experienced in the historical accounts of the Australia affirm the presence of bias in the documented information (Attwood & Foster, 2003). This affect classroom work as it misguides the teachers and students. It is suggested that the Aboriginality did not value land since they were nomads. This perspective could be wrong, as even nomads need land for the survivals of their livestock. This is through articles that are not well researched. A teacher could as well be passing biased knowledge to students, thus misleading them. This highlights the significance of exploring the subject of the development of the history of the contemporary Australian community from a critical viewpoint.
Attwood, B. & Foster, S. (2003). Frontier conflict: The Australian experience. Canberra National Museum of Australia, pp. 1-30
Broome, R. (2010). Aboriginal Australians: A History Since 1788. St Leonards NSW: Allen & Unwin.
Flood, J. (2006). Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal people. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
Keating, P. (1992). Redfern Speech. Retrieved on 26th May from https://antar.org.au/sites/default/files/paul_keating_speech_transcript.pdf