Check your watch. Look at the calendar. Yes, it’s 2014.
And this just happened.
The leader of our country, Tony Abbott, this morning declared that Australia was “nothing but bush” prior to British settlement.
Yep, those words you read are just correct: as New Matilda reports, our Prime Minister announced to an international audience (including British Prime Minister David Cameron) that there was literally nothing going on in Australia before Captain Cook et al sailed in, effectively erasing over 60,000 years of indigenous history and culture in this country.
Speaking at an international business breakfast in Sydney this morning, the Prime Minister reflected on the experience of the First Fleet’s marines, sailors and convicts on arrival in Botany Bay in 1788. To them, he said, “everything would have seemed so extraordinarily basic and raw…They must have thought they’d come almost to the Moon” He went on to praise their “extraordinary development” to create “a country which is as free and as fair and as prosperous as any”.
In making these remarks, our Prime Minister effectively reiterated the fiction of terra nullius: the view that Australia was a “land belonging to no one” prior to settlement. This historical lie was rejected by the High Court in the Mabo case more than two decades ago, when indigenous Australians were legally recognised as this country’s traditional owners.
This romantic, dismissive and revisionist version of Australian history is not only factually incorrect, it is offensive to all Australians – especially Indigenous Australians who appear to have been erased.
Watch it happen, here. (Post continues after video).
As you and I and any other person who ever read a newspaper or attended school knows, Australia’s indigenous population has inhabited this land for almost 60,000 years prior to British settlement.
And what happened to the original inhabitants of Australia after the arrival of the First Fleet is anything but romantic.
Indigenous Australians have experienced mass murder, displacement and any number of indignities and violations, including the forced removal of tens of thousands of their children, which led to the Stolen Generation. Even today, it’s hard to say that the experience of Aboriginal people in this country is “as free and as fair and as prosperous as any”.
For a Prime Minister who has sworn to prioritise lifting the disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, these remarks are nothing short of astonishing.
Here’s the full text of Abbott’s remarks:
“As we look around this glorious city, as we see the extraordinary development, it’s hard to think that back in 1788 it was nothing but bush and that the Marines, and the convicts and the sailors that struggled off those 12 ships just a few hundred yards from where we are… must have thought they’d come almost to the Moon.
“Everything would have been so strange…Everything would have seemed so extraordinarily basic and raw and now a city which is one of the most spectacular cities on our globe, and in a country which is as free and as fair and as prosperous as any.”
What do you think of Abbott’s comments?