The Sydney city council recently voted to re-word the official city literature so that the arrival of British settlers in Australia is now called a “European invasion” rather than the “European arrival”.
Here’s a Daily Mail article.
Some argued against the change of wording, either because the word “invasion” is rather unpleasant, or (more openly) on the basis that the change was merely semantic.
Despite the obvious devastation of the original Aboriginal population, and the fact that all Australians are taught about the horror of the Stolen Generation, it only really occurred to me in a meaningful way recently that my beautiful Australia would not exist except that it was built on a foundation of breathtakingly matter-of-fact racism. The phrase “Terra nullius” (empty land) really says it all.
So why didn’t I realise the truth of my own history (and the REASON for so many of the divisions between the first and third world) sooner, given that I knew the facts? Mostly because history is taught by the winners, and in Australia that is most certainly the Europeans. All my life in school I’ve been taught to see Captain Cook as a hero – a brave, brilliant, compassionate man (compassionate because he actually made an effort to ensure his entire crew didn’t die of scurvy). He probably was all of those things. But he was also the man who doomed hundreds of nations of one of the oldest, most interesting, most environmentally conscious, and most mysterious group of cultures on Earth.
It’s an uncomfortable truth that I am wealthy and safe and will (probably) live a long and healthy life because my ancestors committed horrible crimes against innocent people on a huge scale.
5 thoughts on “Oh, THAT invasion”
I watched Rabbit-Proof Fence again last night. It’s very good at getting my ire up. (Really, Australia? Up to the 1970s?)
W: Thanks for correcting my Latin (assuming I’m right and it is Latin), and sharing the ire.
I have the song “everyone’s a little bit racist” running through my head….
It’s a sad fact that we all do it. We all see other people through the blinkers of colour, clothes and preconceptions.
The justification of terra nullius rested not on the absence of people, but the absence of a culture that they could understand. No fields of crops, herds of animals or permanent housing structures? Too bad, you just aren’t human!
Ann: It’s true. We are all a little racist. All we can do is be aware of it, and catch ourselves before we do stupid things.