– by Shenali D Waduge –
To those that do not know of Britain’s colonial crimes in their eyes Britain is the epitome of justice, equality, the nation that rears gentlemen of breed and holds the seat of democracy. To those that are aware of British mass murder as ordered by British Governments, the scale of cataloging these crimes becomes a task in itself and should nullify all claims of any gentlemanly behavior. The invasion and decimation of Aboriginal Australia was and is entirely a British affair. When Britain devastates a 65,000 year old culture in just 200 years and carries out unthinkable crimes to take over land and exterminate the indigenous population how do we term Britain other than a mass murderer? The Aboriginal experience is depressingly similar to that of Native Americans in the United States. European settlers viciously drove the Aborigines from their land, massacring thousands with impunity. Why does the world remain silent and ignorant of these crimes against humanity?
When the British arrived in Australia in 1788, Australia was NEVER a white country. It was occupied for over 65,000 years by indigenous black Australians later called ‘Aborigines’ by the British. How did these black Aborigines suddenly disappear? British colonial terrorism is the answer. How would the English, such respectable and gentlemanly people get rid of possibly close to 1million indigenous people and take over their lands after their arrival in 1788? How did the Aborigines become less than 100,000 by 1901? The very respectable English settlers cut their food resources and began genocidal massacres and David Cameron speaks to the world on HUMAN RIGHTS! Aborigines did not invade nations or take over lands – the British did and moreover these Aborigines were not warlike people – their culture and livelihood never left room for dissent of the kind that warranted defense.
The British transferred the land belonging to the Aborigines to the English colonial settlers and their descendants – would anyone disagree that this is nothing but theft and robbery by the British using the doctrine of terra nullius (empty land) to justify the theft (claiming the Aborigines had no law of ownership to land)? The Colonial Office treated Australia, for the purposes of its acquisition and the application of English law, as a settled colony, that is, one uninhabited by a recognized sovereign or by a people. The nation that boasts of treating people with equality treated the Aborigines as no different to dogs!
Thus there were no treaties concluded with Aboriginal group and no arrangements were made with them to acquire their land, or to regulate dealings between them and the colonists. The decision to classify the ‘new’ country of Australia as a settled colony, rather than as conquered or ceded, meant that the new settlers brought with them the general body of English law, including the criminal law. Aborigines became British subjects but had no land ownership or citizenship rights. Legally, Aboriginal people, like other Australians, were British subjects from the beginning of European occupation. In practice, however, they were treated quite differently. Aboriginal ownership of the land was not recognized, no treaties or agreements were made and no compensation was paid.
British law did not recognize Aboriginal laws and practices or their right to own property. Aboriginal people could be tried summarily for a range of criminal offenses; they could not press charges at law and were not permitted to give evidence in court. Frequently they were held corporately guilty for the crimes of others. Few white Australians were ever tried for the murder of Aboriginal Australians.
This was how British colonialists turned an inhabited country of indigenous Australians into a White Australia by first pretending to be a ‘friend’ and then exterminating them. The British termed the indigenous ‘Aborigines’ identifying their target to dehumanize. Massacres were carried out by colonial police with impunity. The Australian colonial government used eugenics and social-Darwinist ideology to legitimize a series of racist policies and colonial terrorism to disposses the Aboriginal population of their territory and their dignity. British colonial terrorism in Australia involved destruction of the lifestyles of the indigenous people in economic, political, social, cultural, biological, physical existence, religious and moral arenas. British colonial settlers confiscated land, took over economic resources, repressed indigenous cultures, reduced food and nutrients, obliterated indigenous self-government and replaced them with colonial governments, engaged in mass killings, destroyed indigenous religions by enforcing Western religion, western culture and values and began agricultural capitalism. This was the ‘civilized’ manner Britain adopted to exterminate ‘uncivilized’ indigenous population of Australia. One English juror called indigenous Australians “a set of [monkeys] and the earlier they are exterminated from the face of the earth better” (Kiernan, 2007, p. 286).
Colonial settlers simply shot all blacks on sight and took the children to work as unpaid labor. Mechanisms used by the British were shooting, food poisoning (distributing poisoned flour – premeditated murder) burning, biological warfare using variola, disease, rape and ethnocide as well as cultural destruction. Raymond Evans and Bill Thrope termed the terrorism and genocide adopted by colonial settlers as ‘indigenocide’ involving a)intentional invasions/colonization of land b)conquest of the indigenous people c) killing of them and bringing them to a level they cannot reproduce and come close to extinction d) classification as vermin by invaders e) attempted destruction of religious system. These mechanisms became a blueprint on every nation Britain stepped foot on. If that was not enough the British adopted divide and rule policy of dividing the indigenous people against each other creating a privileged group of people and getting them to do the dirty work of the British on their behalf.
The British that tells other nations to partner development, work in unity, devolve powers omitted Aborigines from the federal option. If Aboriginal people had any hopes of improving their plight through Federation, they were sorely disappointed. They were deliberately excluded from the federal sphere in the Constitution. Section 51 made Aboriginal affairs a matter for the States, empowering the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to the “people of any race, other than the Aboriginal race in any state”. Section 127 (xxvi) of the Constitution directed that “in reckoning the numbers of people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.” When the Commonwealth Electoral Act was passed in 1902, it gave women the vote in federal elections, but it still negated the right to vote in federal elections from those Aboriginal peoples not enrolled to vote in State elections. Section 4 of the Act states: No Aboriginal native of Australia, Africa or the Islands of the Pacific except New Zealand shall be entitled to have his name placed on an Electoral Roll unless so entitled under section 41 of the Constitution. Section 41 stated that those who had the right to vote in their State also had the right to vote in Commonwealth elections.
When white Australia celebrated 150 years of settlement on January 26 1938, Aboriginal people in Sydney marked it as a Day of Mourning. A manifesto written for the occasion, Aborigines Claim Citizenship Rights, stated that there was little for Aboriginal people to celebrate, and mocked the claims of white Australians to be a “civilised, progressive, kindly and humane nation”. The manifesto asked for justice and citizenship rights, an end to the exploitation of Aboriginal labour, freedom from the oppression of the Protection Acts and the abolition of the Protection Board. It concluded with the appeal:
After 150 years, we ask you to review the situation and give us a fair deal – a New Deal for Aborigines. The cards have been stacked against us, and we now ask you to play the game like decent Australians. Remember, we do not ask for charity, we ask for justice.
Some notable colonial legislation that targeted Aboriginal peoples included:
- 1816 Martial Law (NSW). This proclamation declared Martial Law against Indigenous Australians who could then be shot on sight if armed with spears, or even unarmed, if they were within a certain distance of houses or settlements
- 1824 (Tasmania). Settlers are authorised to shoot Aboriginal peoples
- 1840 (NSW). Indigenous Australians forbidden to use firearms without the permission of a Justice of the Peace
- 1869 (Victoria). The Board for the Protection of Aborigines is established. The Governor can order the removal of any child to a reformatory or industrial school
- 1890 (NSW). In a denial of human rights the Aborigines Protection Board could forcibly take children off reserves and “resocialise” them.
The 1948 Nationality and Citizenship Act in theory made Aboriginal people Australian citizens, because they were born in Australia. However it did not guarantee them citizenship rights – though they were living in Australia for over 65,000 years. They had no right to vote in Commonwealth elections, and those who lived in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory had no right to vote in state elections.
Thus, when Britain speaks of human rights it needs to first look in the mirror and question why Britain has never stood on the dock for its crimes against humanity.
- ‘sport’ of burying Aboriginal babies and children up to their necks and then kicking the heads until decapitation
- Shooting pregnant Aboriginal women
- Thousands of Aboriginal children ripped from tribes and parents in a nazi type effort to breed out aboriginality (Stolen Generations)
- In 1834 Black population of colonial Victoria was 5000-10,000 by 1886 the population was just 806. Between 8000-10,000 Blacks were killed in Queensland.
- 1956 British in collusion with Anglo-Celtic Australians conducted nuclear weapons testing in Maralinga South Australia poisoning the homeland and the Maralinga Tiarutia tribe.
- When British colonists arrived in 1803, the island’s indigenous people numbered a few thousand. Thirty years later, about 100 remained. British colonisation of Tasmania – Informal colonisation commenced in 1803 when small groups of British men employed in the sealing industry on the Bass Strait islands, initiated seasonal contact with Aboriginal groups along Tasmania’s northern coastline. They traded seal carcasses and dogs in exchange for Aboriginal women for sexual and economic purposes. Sporadic conflict over women took place but few records exist of the details. By 1821 a permanent community of Aboriginal women, British men and their children had emerged on the Bass Strait Islands which has since become part of the modern Aboriginal community today
- In the Gippsland district of Victoria, for instance, “a series of horrendous massacres” reduced the Aboriginal population from 2000 to 126 (Ben Kiernan)
- 1926 whites shot and burned to death 100 Aborigines at Forrest River in Western Australia. “The two police officers involved were acquitted and promoted.” (Ben Kiernan)
- 20,000 Aborigines were killed resisting the British occupation of Australia between 1788 and 1901 (Ben Kiernan – Phillip Knightley says these totals are much higher)
Dalaipi, a Queensland Black in the late 19th century said ‘We were hunted from our ground, shot, poisoned and had our daughters, sisters and wives taken from us….they stole our ground where we used to get food, and when we got hungry and took a bit of flour or killed a bullock to eat, they shot us or poisoned us. All they give us now for our land is blanket once a year’.
Britain speaks of gender equality, dignity and respect – they have forgotten that British colonial settlers raped women, slaughtered and massacred women and children even aged women, they kidnapped children and used them as unpaid labor. These same British colonial settlers used small young girls for sexual gratification. In 1825 Rev Threlkeld wrote that he was tormented ‘at night by the shrieks of girls, about 8 or 9 years of age, taken by force by the vile men of Newcastle. One man came to see me with his head broken by the butt-end of a musket because he would not give up his wife’.
Tasmania was where some of the worse abuses upon Aborigines took place. These black men were flogged, branded and castrated and mutilated. Sexual violence became a tactic of terrorism and genocide. Leave aside the physical pain have the British ever thought of the humiliation and loss of honor suffered by the original people of Australia? And do Britain think a simple 5 letter ‘SORRY’ would suffice? How have Britain ever made up for the forced impregnation, psychological trauma, degradation, demoralization and dishonor to the ethnic Aborigines. EVERY CRIME THAT TOOK PLACE WERE SANCTIONED BY THE BRITISH COLONIAL GOVERNMENT.
Catharine MacKinnon explaining this aspect of British crimes further says ‘rape unto death, rape as massacre, rape to kill and make victims wish they were dead. It is rape as an instrument of forced exile, rape to make you leave your home and never want to go back. It is rape to be seen and heard and watched and told to others; rape as spectacle. It is rape to drive a wedge through a community, to shatter a society, to destroy a people. It is rape as genocide’. What would David Cameron and William Hague have to respond to this?
What accountability has prevailed when colonial officials justified the total extermination of indigenous people by calling them nonhuman beings. Let us remind David Cameron that these English settlers engaged in trade in body parts of indigenous people for scientific purposes adding one more to the list of colonial crimes.
We are sorry to say that we do not buy any of Britain’s HUMAN RIGHTS notions until and unless Britain comes clean on all of its crimes across the world in what remains the worst forms of inhuman treatment upon fellow humans simply because Britain has saddled itself as the Commonwealth Head and uses its technological powers and political mileage to bully nations that it turned into Third World, we are sorry to say that those who know Britain’s dirty past can never look up to Britain for its contemporary crimes have been no better.
Thus, there is little difference in the manner Britain has functioned in colonial times or contemporary and it is better for people to be aware of the extent of crimes that Britain has committed without blindly singing Rule Britannia!
Australia apologized to the Aborigines in 2008 through the Rudd Government which angered many Anglo-Celtic Australians including former PM Howard who refused to endorse the apology. Howards’s theory was that ‘white’ Australia had nothing to apologize for. Where is the apology from Great Britain since Anglo Australia is still constitutionally ruled by the British Queen? The conditions of the Aboriginal groups was such that in 2009 the Aborigines petitioned the UN for Refugee Status IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY! And we have Cameron and Hague coming to talk tough in Sri Lanka after our soldiers saved 300,000 and simply because some find it a sport plucking numbers from the sky and making allegations and films!
The massacres by British upon Aborigines in their own native country has to be abhorred and put to shame for the very country that pretends it has not done a single crime and denigrates other nations has yet to even apologize or compensate for these crimes. These crimes by Britain have been calculated, premeditated and part of British Government policy. That these crimes committed during colonial rule has not seen any marked change in Britain’s present policies is something we need to take stock of.
Despite the veil of FIRST WORLD superiority we need to remind all First World nations that they are what they are because of the stolen riches of the countries they have turned into THIRD WORLD and continue to keep them as Third World nations by controlling world trade, the international laws, international rights and justice mechanism and the international media though they are being posed a challenge by Arab imperialism. Imperialism used by Christian West is now being challenged by Arab imperialism using Islam.
Our contention is that the terminologies of equality, justice, human rights are all fine concepts but they cannot omit the horrendous and barbaric past because the architects of the new human rights systems are the very party’s that violated them and continue to violate them. When analyzing the root causes of the conflicts that prevail today they all lead to these very same nations and Britain is one of them. It is based on this logic that we continue to say that until and unless the crimes of the past and present of the architects of these new laws, human rights theories etc are taken to the dock and punished it becomes a hypocrisy of justice simply taking the black, brown and yellow people to task and embarrassing their nations simply to hide their own sins.