In 1788 when the First Fleet arrived in Australia, the country was inhabited by an estimated 300,000 Aboriginals.

The British did not wish harm the Aboriginals - in fact, Governor Phillip began the penal settlement with the good intentions of "reconciling the Aboriginals to live among us, and to teach them the advantages they will reap from cultivating the land". But the newcomers assumed that their ways were superior to those of the Aboriginals, and that a people who were not Christians and who did not try to "improve" the land of their birth by agriculture were not only inferior beings, but also deserve to have their country take over.

Few attempts were made to understand the Aboriginals, their beliefs or their costum, or to understand how the Aboriginals had come to term with an often-harsh environment - an environment that ruined many early settlers and cause the dead of some white "explorers". Governor Macquire in 1816 invited the natives to "relinquish their wandering, idle and predatory habits of life, and to become industrious and useful members of a community where they will find protection and encouragement".

Not surprisingly, the Aboriginals did not want to give up their way of life and enthusiastically embrace the ways of the newcomers, who in turn found their reluctance only further proof of the Aboriginals inferiority.

There were no treaties to regulate the movement of the British on to Aboriginals land, and the attitude of the two groups towards land differed greatly. To the Aboriginals, to whom the land was part of his life and the future of his group, land was not something to be bought and sold - it was not a commodity for exchange. The British believed that land could not only be bought and sold, but taken to be exploited by productive agriculture, and that those who carry out this obligation had some kind of "moral right" to the land.

As the settlers moved inland, the Aboriginals began to lose their hunting grounds, their watering holes, in fact their source of life. They contracted diseases to which they had no resistance, they suffered from the effects of alcohol, and from fighting between groups.

Aboriginals resisted the advancing parties of the white man, sometimes so effectively that farming and grazing ventures had to be abandoned. Settlers retaliated and with their superior weapons sometimes wiped out whole groups of Aboriginals, justifying violence with the argument that these "savages" needed to be "taught a lesson" to ensure for future peace. Although the Aboriginals were supposed to be protected by British law, this protection was difficult to enforced - almost impossible at the frontiers of settlement.


Word Translation Word Translation
fleet die Flotte to inhabit bewohnen
estimated geschätzt to harm verletzen
penal strafbar intention Absicht
reconciliation die Versöhnung among zusammen mit
to reap ernten to cultivate bebauen
to assume voraussetzen superior überlegen
peoples das Volk agriculture die Landwirtschaft
inferior minderwertig to deserve verdienen
to take over übernehmen attempt der Versuch
belief der Glauben term die Dauer
harsh rau to cause verursachen
native der Eingeborene to relinquish aufgeben
idle nutzlos predatory räuberisch
habits die Angewohnheit industrious fleißig
encouragement die Unterstützung enthusiastically begeistert
to embrace annehmen reluctance die Abneigung
proof der Beleg inferiority die Minderwertigkeit
treaty das Abkommen attitude das Verhalten
commodity Artikel exchange Handel
exploit ausbeuten obligation die Verpflichtung
to contract erkranken an to resist sich widersetzen
to advance vorrücken venture das Unterfangen
to abandon verzichten to retaliate sich rächen
to wipe out vernichten savage der Wilde
to ensure sicherstellen although obgleich
to suppose sollen to enforce erzwingen
frontier das Grenzgebiet