History of European Contact Essay

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History of European contact With evidence of occupation over 60,000 years, the Aboriginal and Islander peoples of Australia may be the world’s oldest people in the world’s oldest land. But their place in Australia’s history is only now being properly acknowledged and recorded. By 1788 around 500 Aboriginal tribes or nations occupied the Australian landmass, with efficient and sustainable systems for living off the land. They achieved a balanced diet by hunting and gathering, moving seasonally between camps as food supplies dictated. Fire was used methodically to burn old growth and encourage new. Being mobile, possessions were minimal. They had complex religious beliefs, sophisticated social relationships and trading links across the continent. In 1788 the first European settlement - Britain’s latest penal colony - was established at what is now Sydney. The effects were catastrophic. With the convicts, soldiers and settlers came diseases to which Aboriginal people had no resistance - typhoid, flu, smallpox and venereal disease. The next hundred years saw Aboriginal people forced out of their country, dispossessed of habitable land, shot, poisoned and massacred as successive waves of British settlers sought land for building, agriculture, grazing and mining. Rape and abduction of Aboriginal women and girls were common. Some tribes at first welcomed or tolerated the newcomers, but as it became clear that the British intended to stay, conflict escalated. Aboriginal groups mounted effective guerrilla campaigns but were eventually overwhelmed by the new repeater rifle, horsepower and the armed might of colonial governments. Removed from their land, deprived of their traditional bush food and devastated by disease, malnutrition, poverty, alcoholism, violence and despair, most Aboriginal people existed on town fringes and pastoral properties or were herded onto

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