History of Indigenous Australians before the arrival of the First Fleet

In the late 18th century, Australia is said to have had a population of about three hundred thousand aborigines whose lifestyle was mostly that of a nomad. The aborigines are also rumored to have been in the continent for close to over ten thousand years.

Aboriginals occupied most areas of the Australian continent and they had a number of languages and had a wide range of lifestyles and traditions which formed clans amongst them. These clans were regarded as highly sophisticated (considering the time in which they existed) and this made them quite attached to their land.

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The Aboriginals seemed to have simple yet comfortable lives which were free of diseases and conflicts. They had simple governing structures that enabled them to co-exist peacefully. They really seemed to have no knowledge of any existence of any other world outside that which they lived in. The Aborigines later on came to discover that they were not the only people living in the world when they started doing barter trade with Asians and oceanic mariners (Jupp, 2001).

At first it is rumored that the aborigines were reluctant to do business with unfamiliar people for they were a reserved lot. However, they slowly opened up upon discovering that they were also benefitting from the goods they were getting from the Asian and oceanic mariners. Some of this commodities included salt, glass, and ivory which is said to be used in decorations. They also got beads which their women turned into jewelry (Bosworth, 1998).

The aborigines’ way of life was viewed to be somewhat dim by the first Europeans who set foot in their land. They were termed as a group of people who did not have any fixed form of civilization. This was engineered by the fact that they still slept in caves which they kept warm by having bonfires in them for two reasons; to keep warm and also provide light in the dark and sometimes the fire was used as a defense mechanism to keep wild animals away.

Invasion into the Aboriginals land seems to have started in the later years of the eighteenth century probably in the seventeen eighties. England was the first to claim the lands of the Aboriginal people and this was a strategy to make the French and the Spanish governments from taking it.

The English decided to form some sort of fleets so as to sail all the way to the Aboriginal lands which is now referred to as Australia. The sailing crew was to comprise of a group of convicts who were deemed as social outcasts probably because of the nature of crimes they had committed (Henningham, 2004).

This new adventure was not an easy one and it took quite some time to organize and the first fleet set sail after the eighth month. Among the fleet were officers, women, and children who did not know what to expect in the new world. It also included some administrators who would be in charge of the new colony and some London Slum criminals who had been kicked out of the society (Bosworth, 1998).

The discovery of New Holland’s east coast was made by Captain Cook. Cook renamed the coast to New South Wales. He sailed all over and had his allegiance to the British government and so he went and reported to them that he thought it was a good place to settle (Clyne, 1991). The British government however did not recognize the land as being that which belonged to the Aboriginals. This was due to the fact that the Aboriginals did not seem to have had any form of civilization going on in terms of agriculture and also structures.

The British thought it was a good plan that came at a fundamental time when they needed to decongest their cities due to a rise in crime in the urban world. They purposed to stop sending criminals in their jails and decided that the only way to deal with the overcrowding issue was to send away the convicts/criminals to the new land that was discovered by Captain Cook, which they referred to as a Penal colony.

Their idea was to make sure that once the convicts got there they would never return to Britain ever again. The British resolved to sending them away and made sure that they had enough supplies to last them until they became self reliant. Some of the convicts died along the way and never got to their destination; those who made it referred to the Aboriginal land as the ‘Land beyond the seas’ (Bosworth, 1998).

When they docked at the harbor they discovered that the land was not suitable for settlement probably because they were judging with where they had come from. They all decided that it was appropriate to move north because they lacked fresh water in the south. Others reasons that contributed to the migration to the north were; the soil was not good enough for agricultural purposes, they were to near the sea and it was quite open and this seemed to pose a big security risk to their ships (Jupp, 2001).

They however had a hard time starting off due to the fact that most convicts did not know how to farm; they all had to survive on rationed food before they could figure out what to do. The Aboriginal people were scared of the new people and did not want to go anywhere near them or associate with them in any way.

They referred to them as Indians. It is said that some convicts also escaped and tried to blend in with the Aboriginal people but were rejected. Some also dared to escape and were trying to get to China under rumors that it was not far off and that there were also other settlements nearby only to discover that it was not so. Upon returning back they were severely punished though most of them died in this pursuit and never made it back (Jupp, 2001).

The Aboriginal people survived on some local wild fruits and fish for their survival; however the new settlers found few of the foods there to be a delicacy. They are said to have been terrible fishermen and they had to rely on the shipment that was being sent to them by the British government from Britain.

This lack of food made the new settlers come up with new survival ideas which now included eating rats, dogs, crow, kangaroos and even emu. This they used as an addition to the normal food rations they were receiving from the British government.

Upon settling in this new foreign land, they had to start their lives all over again. They did not have sufficient building materials and they all seemed to have overlooked the aspect of clothing and shelter. The trees in Australia were enormous and lack of steady working tools made it very difficult for the new settlers to make any progress in terms of housing. By the time the second fleet was docking on the shores of Aboriginals land, both the convicts and the administrators were all dressed in tatters.

From the time the Europeans arrived in the Aboriginal land, the aboriginal people were denied the independence they had embraced and now they had to make peace with the fact that they were not the only race that existed in the world. They were somewhat depressed and viewed the British as a race that came in with strange diseases and was really inconsiderate of the people who they found where they came to live.

The colonialists however believed that this was a “no man’s land” that was probably discovered accidentally by Captain Cook who named Australia. The Aboriginals had a different lifestyle, that of a nomad. They would stay in one area for a period of six to eight weeks and then would move on to a more fertile land while their previous land was left to recollect the lost nutrients (Castles et al. 1992).

One of the things that are quite clear is that when the ships were docking on the shores of the aboriginal land, they were lined along the shores shouting and yelling in protest as a way to show they were not welcoming the new inhabitants of their land.

Tales handed down through generations prove that at the time, about a hundred and sixty men and women were transported to Australia to begin a new life there. Later on other immigrants started flowing there freely and joined the convicts to cohabit with them (Castles et al. 1992). This was as a result of the emerging opportunities that were cropping up.

Some of these reasons were the mining industries, wool industries and the gold rush of the eighteen fifties. Australia quickly became a land of opportunity and new money was being created in agribusiness, mining and trade. As all this was happening, the Aboriginal people who were indeed the rightful owners of the land continued to suffer severely through deaths, diseases, forceful internal displacements and death of their traditions (Clyne, 1991).

The new administrators who formed a new government to govern the new nation were on the track of creating something unique. They were also very keen to side step the causes of the old war. They dreamt of a unified Australia that was conflict free with a progressive mindset (Jupp, 2001).

They had the citizens’ interests at heart, they wanted to conduct polls through the famous secret ballot and democracy was to take centre stage. They were so keen to prove their independence that they decided to pass the Immigration Restriction Act in the early twentieth century. This in turn negated the migration of Europeans so as to avoid overpopulation of the newly formed state.

Despite all these changes, the Aboriginals had purposed to fight for their land. In the mid twentieth century, the Aboriginal people had formed a political party to look into this issue. Their issues are said to have been in place for over two hundred years.

They purposed to keep on with the struggle and they seemed to have made some progress in some key areas of land and the social aspects on life. One of the main causes of the struggles was the fact that the commonwealth act of early nineteen hundreds excluded the Aboriginals as citizens of Australia.

They therefore held a parallel rally claiming that the White Australians were contravening what they claimed to stand for in terms of progressive civilization and human rights advancements. In the mid twentieth century, the Aboriginals’ hardships had not ceased and their push for equality had not died down (Jupp, 2001). This made them push even more for a fair treatment.

The government did not seem to care about the Aboriginal struggles. This seemed quite evident when the Australian government, ran by whites, decided to separate the Aboriginals from their children and took them to missionary schools in total disregard of the parents consent.

When they got to theses mission, schools they were issued with new names and were subjected to harsh living conditions. They were subjected to a lifestyle they were not familiar with, which was referred to as the White man’s way (Clyne, 1991). This was in a bid to make them forget their cultures and conform to the new white European lifestyle.

They were then known as the ‘stolen generations’. The Aboriginal people made some great strides in the nineteen sixties but most of them claim that though this was a good thing, the changes were not rolled out fast enough to accommodate the Aboriginal people and make them feel at home in their own land. A protection policy came into place and seemed to prove that the cultures and beliefs of the Aboriginal people were barbaric and outdated and needed some sharpening from the western world.

They were however accommodated into government facilities and churches. Even though they seemed to have some form of independence, they were restricted from performing any traditional activities and they were also required to have the company of a white man when they were travelling out of government facilities (Commonwealth of Australia 1994).

One the main fights the Aboriginal people had been putting forward was the fight for equality, more so that of lands equality. This was perceived to have been a forward step when the Whitlam government created an Aboriginal Affairs Department and later put up Royal Commission which gave ownership of land to the Aboriginal people in the mid nineteen eighties. A breakthrough however popped up when the High Court of Australia approved the native title and this was a sense of satisfaction to the aboriginal people.

This struggle has been significant in creation of economic security. It is quite evident that the struggle by the Aboriginal people has been through a lot and it still is in a current part of reconciliation. After a century, the Australian government was termed as the country of luck (Commonwealth of Australia 1994). This however was not well received by the Aboriginals who were still fighting for equality then.

The Aboriginals have gone ahead to form two groups which they figure will represent their struggle for their rights. This however proved futile as the government did not recognize these two groups. The government did not protect and conserve the traditional ways of the Aboriginal people. Instead it went on to destroy and discourage them. Despite all the suffering, the Aboriginal people tried to see the English King and push for a seat in the Australian House of Representatives.

This was yet to take form. In the late nineteen thirties, the Aboriginal people held a crusade as a way of protest to show their dissatisfaction with the White Australians and told them off about their civilization and human rights policies, and how they came and took their land and they have refused to recognize them as equal partners in the nation of Australia. There was however no response from the White Austrian government.

Cultural safety is a unique tool brought forward by Madeline Dion Stout who is the past president of the Aboriginal Nurses Association and Bernice Downey who is the former Chief Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal Health Organization. They have come up with unique ways to blend in the struggle for the Aboriginal community and health in terms of nursing.

They have advocated for the cultural safety concept that includes both nurses and the natives. This kind of knowledge came in handy considering that nursing professionals were only equipped with knowledge which seemed to have been handed down to them by the Aboriginal people.

They have been able to scrutinize the assumptions and stereotypes related to the Aboriginal people and in turn shaped the nurses views. After the scrutiny, their potential in the nursing field is accentuated. Other key figures who have played major roles in creating awareness of the Aboriginal people and their struggles are Annette J Browne and Colleen Varcoe who have facilitated the ability of nurses to provide quality and sufficient health care (Henningham, 2004).

Since the arrival of the first fleet, it has been a tremendous yet difficult journey for the Aboriginal people who indeed were the native inhabitants of the now called Australia. Their struggle for equality still continues and might not be as rampant as it was but someday they will get to where they ought to be and where they truly deserve to be. Hopefully someday they will cease being a minority group to equal citizens of the New Australia.

List of References

Bosworth, M. 1998, Australian lives: A History of clothing, food and domestic technology. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

Castles, S., Cope, B., Kalantzis, M. and Morrissey, M. 1992, Mistaken Identity: multiculturalism and the demise of nationalism in Australia, 3rd ed. Sydney: Pluto Press.

Clyne, M. 1991, “Monolinguism, Multilinguism and the Australian Nation”. In Australian National Identity. C.A: Price.

Commonwealth of Australia.1994, Defending Australia: Defense White Paper. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

Henningham, J. 2004, Institutions in Australian society. UK: Oxford University Press.

Jupp, J. 2001, The Australian people: An encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins. UK: Cambridge University Press.


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