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Flash points
Justices Deane and Gaudron provide an example:

'The first days of the Colony were peaceful in so far as the Aboriginal inhabitants were concerned. They received numerous gifts from the new arrivals. They gave up, without dispute, the lands initially occupied by and in connection with, the penal camp.

As time passed, the connection between different tribes and groups and particular areas of land began to emerge. The Europeans took possession of more and more of the lands in the areas nearest to Sydney Cove. Inevitably, the Aborigines resented being dispossessed. Increasingly there was violence as they sought to retain, or continue to use, their traditional lands.

An early flash point with one clan of Aborigines illustrates the first stages of the conflagration of oppression and conflict which was, over the following century, to spread across the continent to dispossess, degrade and devastate the Aboriginal peoples and leave a national legacy of unutterable shame. It came in 1804 in the fertile areas surrounding the lower reaches of the Hawkesbury River. The Aborigines were said to have threatened to set fire to the settlers' wheat crops when they ripened. Governor King summoned three representatives of the Aborigines for questioning. They "readily came". [Historical Records of New South Wales, vol. 5, p 513]. In his despatch of 20 December 1804 to Lord Hobart, King reported that "they very ingeniously answered that that they did not like to be driven from the few places that were left on the banks of the river, where alone they could procure food; that they had gone down the river as the white men took possession of the banks; if they went across white men's ground the settlers fired upon them and were angry; that if they could retain some places on the lower part of the river they should be satisfied and would not trouble the white men. The observation and request appear to be so just and so equitable that I assured them no more settlements should be made lower down the river." In an earlier despatch to King, Hobart had expressly acknowledged the extent to which the practice in the colony had departed from "the wise and humane instructions of his predecessors" and that the Aborigines had been "too often" subjected to "unjustifiable injuries". In due course King's assurance that no more settlements should be made lower down the river was dishonoured.'

Keywords: colonial warfare, colonisation, Deane, Sir William, dispossession, european contact, Gaudron, Justice Mary, Hawkesbury River, resistance, Sydney, 1992

Mabo and Others v Queensland (1992) 175 Commonwealth Law Reports 1 at 104-105.
Author: Kenna, Jonathan
Source: Commonwealth Law Reports