Terra Nullius in Australia

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1. Posted by phileas (Respected Member 67 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!


I've recently arrived in Australia under slight duress I have to say. I was never 100% on visiting here, however the need to earn some proper cash made it a necessity, that and many people persuading me that it's a top place really.

Whilst I can see it's beautiful country, I guess one of the gripes I've had is Australia's history and it's treatment of the indigenous Aboriginee folk.

I've been reading around the history and found a rather good Lonely Plant entitled 'Aboriginal Australia & The Torres Strait Islands'. In the intro it mentioned the term terra nullius which is an international law which permits the peaceful settlement of an unoccupied territory.

It was under this guise, no matter how untrue it be, that the European invaders stole this country from it's rightful people. The atrocities that followed are beyond belief, and the more I read the more I want to leave. Further, although the culling has stopped ooh, all over 30 years ago, there's never been a treaty signed, that is to say Australia has never admitted it's fault, apologised or even offocially recognise the Aboriginal people

Ignore me trying to blind you with flashy terms, I'd thought I'd express and put this to you well educated and informed group.

I realise I risk deportation by what could be viewed as a government that endorces genocide but thought I'd take the risk.

  • has anybody had a similar thought/dilemna?
  • recommend any good reading?
  • have I got it wrong?
  • should the Aussie government be tried for war crimes?
  • why are 99% of travel stories about the 'new' australia
  • should I leave in protest?
  • have I upset any australians? (sorry if I have, justing speaking my mind)

Ta Phil

[ Edit: Edited on Feb 11, 2007, at 11:18 PM by phileas ]

2. Posted by erino (Budding Member 23 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi Phil,

Welcome to Australia. You make some very good points and a lot of Australian's would support your suggestion that more needs to be done on the issue of reconciliation.

I was a little distressed to read that you were thinking about leaving because of your discomfort with Australia's past. A few thoughts went through my mind a) are you going to limit all of your travels to countries completely free of any disharmony or unresolved conflict? or only those in which all groups believe that they are now being treated as complete equals...that sounds a little difficult. I'm not sure where you were from originally - is every social group completely satisfied there? but I guess that's all a little over dramatic... far more importantly, b) if it is something you feel so passionately about, why not stay and help! Maybe you can combine the goal to earn money and your views and find work in assisting Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander rights, access to health care etc. I can honestly say that although you're leaving may make you feel better for a little while, it won't change anything here one bit...

Maybe you can stay around til May 26...our national Sorry day? It might be useful to see the masses of Australians who agree with you out there on the street making their voices heard. Many political figures from all of our main political parties attend these events. So many people have recognised the insideous distruction caused to Aboriginals and Torres Straight Islanders. Believe me, we all regret the fact that our PM does not make the final official declaration for us.

Having said that, I really believe that we can make a difference without our PM's official stamp. Yes, it is disgusting that this appology hasn't been made official but Sorry day each year reminds us that recognising the damage is only the first step in the healing process and that this sentiment alone, shared and declared by many Australians, is great but it isn't enough to help people in need today.

The Australian government today should accept responsibility for the conditions of their people today. I completely agree here but Phil, I'm not sure about a trial for war crimes in this instance (e.g. terra nullius, the stolen generation) - generally, I thought it was individuals involved in the acts (or ordering them) that stood trial. It is unlikely to happen...It probably should have happened..but, in a perfect world the rights of all Aboriginal, Torres Straight Islander, and all women and children in every nation would have been solidified when white men got their rights...hmm.

I guess 99% of travel stories are about the 'new' australia because we only have just over 200 years of travellers 'visiting' the country. Before that our indigenous populations arrived, traded with other asian islands (in some cases) and that was the extent of 'tourism'...um, if you can use that term. Do you mean...why aren't there more books about Australian history written for travellers and why don't these books feature Aboriginal history...no idea. I guess they make the books they think people want to read....what if a bunch of travellers got together and told publishers that we wanted to read more about Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders and about the british settlers? could be helpful.

These days there are efforts to right the wrongs of the past. I'm involved with a road safety project in Northern Queensland. There are a lot of difficulties in conducting this research and trying to help people reduce road trauma...I'd be happy to talk to you a little about this off the post list.

Sorry, can't reccomend a great book for you but perhaps see 'rabbit proof fence' you should be able to hire it at most video stores.

Ok, I'm babbling now so I'll just say thanks for bringing it up - don't leave just yet - why not get involved and try to help.


[ Edit: Edited on Feb 12, 2007, at 12:11 AM by erino ]

3. Posted by erino (Budding Member 23 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!


You might have already seen this:


I found this section (posted below) really interesting...perhaps it will inspire you to stay on a little longer and contribute something to this worthy cause.

Best wishes for your travels,

l Australia is one of our trading partners, and fellow member of the Commonwealth and ally;
l It is obscene that in the rich 'lucky country' of Australia, Aboriginal people are suffering and dying in third world
l It is wrong that the special status and rights of the original inhabitants are not fully recognised;
l Britain granted full independence to Australia in 1900/1901 without ensuring proper recognition of or
safeguards for Aboriginal people; and
l We believe Britain has a moral and legal responsibility towards Indigenous Australians.

4. Posted by james (Travel Guru 4138 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

So where are you gong to go if you decide to leave - back to England?

You do realise the part the English played in this whole "discovering Australia" stunt, don't you?

5. Posted by sunraybret (Full Member 27 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi Phileas,
If you look back into history of any country, they are far from perfect in their treatment of other races. On a recent visit to London I was shocked to hear the treatment of it's people in the Tower of London. I guess the castles that are plentiful in the UK were not just there, as the tourist hotels today, they had a very gruesome past. Look into English history with the Irish and Scotish and you will soon see how your people treated their neighbours in the middle ages. You may wish to read some of Bill Bryson's books which give an interesting insight to this country. Did you realize that more that half of the Aboriginal people were wiped out by the original colonization by the English? Why has the Australian government not said 'sorry' before? In my opinion the words 'sorry' would be closely followed by the reply 'class action'. What our govenment did in those days was wrong and the actual government officials that instigated that action should foot the bill not the current government. Would you like to be tried for any crime committed by someone who worked in your job a century ago? Probably not. As erino said, the people of the country are sorry for the actions of the past. Do not judge us on our past, judge the people you meet on your travels as who they are. We are a very multi-cultural nation and I personally am proud of that diversity. We welcome people into our country regardless of their country's past. View us on who we are now. Australians will welcome you openly, if you give us a chance. On finishing just a quick biblical quote 'let he who is free of sin cast the first stone'.

Brett Styles

[ Edit: sorry no web site promos in the forums please ]

6. Posted by maba (Inactive 227 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Welcome to Australia Phileas,
You need to ligten up, acknowledge the past, learn from it but, look to the future. It seems everyone wants to blame someone else for the way things are. That's why we have so much conflict. Why not draw a line in the sand, shake hands, thank god for your health and get on with life and respect your fellow man.

Look at the wars, mostly based on historical revenge due to religion, tribal beliefs or fueds. What about the strife in Northern Ireland ! so called civilised people killing each other over the generations - what a waste. Has that been resolved or are there still bitter people that hanker for the 'good old days' and would love to take up arms against each other?

Look at the tribal clashes in Africa - a complete disrespect for humanity.

Life is to short - get out there and experience it. Spread a bit of joy and understanding and realise, that Australia as are many other countries, is made up of imigrants that came to start a new life and get away from the strife and poverty that is still rife on this planet.

Go sit on a quiet beach, look up at the night sky and be thankful you have been put on this earth.

7. Posted by Peter (Admin 6611 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I'm not sure why you think you risk deportation? Do you really think the situation is so draconian here?

Many Australians agree with you that the government needs to do more to help right the wrongs of the past. I also agree with you.

But I also can't help but wonder where the UK stands on this? Have they made their apology to Australia's indigenous population yet? Are you calling for them to take similar responsibility for their past as well? There are many countries around the world that long suffered (and still suffer) the consequences of British and European colonialism. Australia is one of them.

I do admire your passion for history. Without understanding history, it is impossible to really understand the present. If only the Australian government had a similar passion. Unfortunately, economic progress seems to be their only real concern and both the history and the long-term future of Australia seem to be disregarded in that quest.

8. Posted by stevieh (Respected Member 615 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi Phileas,
Your indignation is well intentioned, but use it constructively rather than just walking away. With your reasoning nobody would ever have visited Germany since 1945 would they? I don't expect people who weren't alive then to apologise for the "sins of their fathers", although I acknowledge that the aboriginal issue is the one stain on the history of what is otherwise a fabulous country.
Remember also that the first non-indigenous Australians were in fact us Brits. And I seem to remember that's where we invented the concept of a concentration camp. I think your conscience should push you away from the UK in the current climate. I'm quite frankly ashamed of what is happening in our name, and what might happen in the near future. Australia is at least moving forwards, not backwards.

9. Posted by HafJafMark (Respected Member 291 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

The reason that Australia hasnt apologised is a legal one. Under Austrlian law, if the government apologise, thery are admitting fault - which would lead to thousands of compensation claims. The governments position is that they cannot be held responsible for the crimes of a past government - the same position incidentally the British government take with Northern Ireland.

You would do well to reserve judgment though till you learn more about the plight of race relations in Australia. The aboriginal community is rife with alcoholism, drugs and violence. I have visited extremely remote outback settlements of Aboriginals (though White people are not allowed in the towns) and they have real problems. Kids and adults alike hang petrol cannisters around their necks to sniff all day. Hardly anyone works, and the few shops they do have are staffed by White people. They dont hunt or partake in any traditional aboriginal culture. They exist purely on government subsidy.

Im not being racist, but there are hardly any examples of successful aboriginal business, the only area they have flourished in is tourism. Its really sad, but they cant seem to adapt to a captialist society.

Have you heard about how Britian tested nuclear bombs on Aboriginal Land without evactuating the people?

10. Posted by wotthefiqh (Inactive 1447 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Quoting phileas


I've arrived in Australia under slight duress I have to say.

The only known methods of entering Australia under duress are -

1) criminal transportation from Britain which ended in the 19th century
2) 21st century sex slavery

You must either be one of the Dunedein, blessed with long life
an indentured male prostitute

No country or belief system is lily white, from the British Empire to Islam to China (invaded and annexed Tibet in the 1950's) to Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975.

You have every right to express your opinions about the treatment of indigenous Australians, but risking deportation would have to a nonsense, unless you are working illegaly.