Australia, Invaded or Colonised?

Try and read this first. My whole case here can be boiled down thus, compare the Russian invasion of Germany, with the Russian colonisation of Crimea (and genocide of Tartars). What happened in Australia should be grouped with the second and not the first.

The University of New South Wales, UNSW, has a set of guidelines that dictate Australian history should be discussed with the division of time as the pre-, during, and post-English invasion. To me, this seems to be more about using strong language to convey the suffering of Aborigines caused by, mostly, the English and encourages white guilt and division. However, the platonic content of the word is incongruent with this situation, and it does a poor job of explaining modern, and much of historical, Australia. Of course, at the university level people should have acquired a better knowledge of Australia than a single word, particularly if it’s where they call home but it’s one word I just don’t like.

The guidelines also aim at removing discovery from the terms used to describe Australian history. These seems to be an effort to place the reader in a position of universal humanity, as opposed to a more realistic position. To the English, it was new and did constitute a discovery. To the then Australians, it was a home tens of millennia old. Whether it is better that university students position themselves to connect to the oldest humans first, and so to place the sole possible discovery of Australia in pre-history, or to those more culturally, historically and genetically immediate and so to validate the discovery of Australia from that perspective, is a question for the reader.

More problems of language abound in the guidelines, in that Australia must not be spoken of as being settled, but instead it was occupied. If a person moving into a new home can do it with a moiety of occupying or settling into their new home, violently or peacefully respectively.

Invasion, Google will give multiple definitions, one of which is an unwelcome intrusion, invasion will mean for this writing, a movement of military for warfare (state organised violence). This definition is consistent with one of the Google definitions. For this writing, colonisation means movement of civilians for civilian purposes. I am adamant that throughout the entire history, including prior to Europeans and after the penal colonisation, such as the arrivals of Asians and Americans during the Gold Rush Era, movement of people to & fro has been civilians moving for civilian purposes and that this does not exclude suffering.

The First Fleet, and the Second, were the beginning of the English population in Australia. These fleets came with marines, and they did kill Aborigines. However, the objective of the marines was not confrontation but security of the penal colony, which required seizing land from its traditional owners. If undemocratic loss of land constitutes an invasion, recent land purchases by Chinese entities mark invasion anew, despite the USA being the  most common foreign investor. This should be contrasted against more traditional forms of invasion, Saddam invading Kuwait, USA invading Japan.

English elite of the time, those in whos mind the decision was made, made a decision to establish a penal colony. Aborigines were given no more thought than a tree, if the English elite considered violent consequences of the plans, they were deemed acceptable but not an objective. This is colonisation, from the beginning it was colonisation. Some hear colonisation and think elevation of civilisation, and find it unbearable that the various, historic Aboriginal peoples should at all be considered worse than historic English and that colonisation excludes any cruelty or violence. To avoid making a relative judgement, accepting that colonisation involves anything unrighteous, and to promote awareness of Aboriginal suffering, invasion is de rigeur.

What sort of invasion carries mostly convicted criminals and builds prisons first? Some of the invaders had no choice in the matter after being violently kidnapped, and that’s just the marines who were press-ganged into military duty. The first colonisers, the convicts, had no choice, no weapons, no training, no violent or military objective, no freedom to pursue violent conflict and surely those attributes are required to be an invader. If they are not required to describe an invader, it follows that the right wing community are well justified in calling Islamic refugees the fore guard of the Islamic invasion.

Many of the later colonisers had those attributes of an invader, and there were violent lynchings by vigilantes (i.e. farmers revenging livestock against human life), as well as pitched battles between the military and the Aborigines. Clearly however, the majority of new arrivals had not departed home to be able to hunt Aborigines, nor was the majority of the general population involved. It is better understood as the establishment of a penal colony, with outbursts of violent racism and extravagant retaliation.

Invasion means war and modern Australia requires peace, but no peace treaty exists. If the convicts of the First Fleet were invaders, despite having no choice & no weapons, than any who came to Australia on the authority of the past or present governments, even if they come without choice or weapons (i.e. refugees), are invaders. There is no historical Aboriginal body to validate a refugee program, and any modern body which does so, does so within the establishment of the invaders and may simply be dismissed as state puppetry. To continue the invasion perspective, the Gold Rush Era saw an influx of invaders to Australia, not migrants not colonisers, and this attitude must extend fully to the present moment, to Congolese refugees. This attitude is divisive, it necessarily places all non-Aborigines in a classification with some of the most vile moments of history.

UNSW should amend the guidelines it promotes. Australia was not invaded by the reasonable definition of military moving across borders for warfare. Loss of land occurs without invasion. Racist policies, genocidal policies, occur without invasion (these examples are drawn from Australia, it would be distasteful to reference Nazi Germany here). The perspective of invasion is a weak explanation of Australian history and is an intellectual obstacle to peace. Colonisation is a strong explanation, offers a better perspective to understand Australian history and does not exclude terrible stupidity, selfishness & suffering. The Gold Rush Era, and the convicts are a historical source of identity for Australia ranging from the lionisation of Ned Kelly to the frequency of the Eureka Stockade flag in tattoo parlours.

I take the position, which verges on racism, that Aboriginal communities of history, although of a higher form than the contemptible flora & fauna policy, trees don’t make tools or tell tales, that those societies were less good than relative European societies. Both had disgusting brutalities as banal realities, and neither anchor us down from hiking towards the future paradise. We might get there a little faster if the media sought to hear Aborigines speak about their modern sufferings, racist and otherwise, rather than the elites of education searching for the perfect frame for history.


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