Here we are doing another post on the history of Australian and Aboriginals, today I am going to talk about land ownership and the Aboriginals relationship with the land.
The first act of land ownership by Europeans came within four days of arrival when a group of men from the HMS Sirius went ashore to clear land to gain access to fresh water.
By 26 January, the First Fleet had found its way to Sydney Cove and landed there on the harbour. Those first Europeans had a dim view of the Aboriginal way of life, properly because it wasn’t a way of life they were used to but that is just my thought.
This excerpt is taken from the diary of Watkin Tench, an officer in the First Fleet:
It does not appear that these poor creatures have any fixed Habitation; sometimes sleeping in a Cavern of Rock, which they make as warm as a Oven by lighting a Fire in the middle of it, they will take up their abode here, for one Night perhaps, then in another the next Night. At other times (and we believe mostly in Summer) they take up their lodgings for a Day or two in a Miserable Wigwam, which they made from Bark of a Tree. There are dispersed about the woods near the water, 2, 3, 4 together; some Oyster, Cockle and Muscle (sic) Shells lie about the Entrance of them, but not in any Quantity to indicate they make these huts their constant Habitation. We met with some that seemed entirely deserted indeed it seems pretty evident that their Habitation, whether Caverns or Wigwams, are common to all, and Alternatively inhabited by different Tribes.
However, for the aboriginal people and those clans living on the northern shoes of Sydney nothing could have been further from the truth and what the colonists never understood and still many Australians now still have trouble getting is that the Aboriginal lifestyle was based on a total kinship with nature and the natural environment.
Of course wisdom and skills were obtained over time that enabled them to get the most out of their environment. For the aboriginal people killing animals for food and building shelter were steeped in ritual and spirituality and was carried out in perfect balance with their surroundings.
… from time immemorial, we believe as Aboriginal people, Australia has been here from the first sunrise, our people have been here along with the continent, with the first sunrise. We know our land was given to us by Baiami, we have a sacred duty to protect that land, we have a sacred duty to protect all the animals that we have an affiliation with through our totem system …1
Jenny Munro, Wiradjuri nation
For the Aboriginal food was in abundant, as was fresh water and shelter, they found everything needed for a healthy life was readily available. However, with the arrival of Europeans that would not remain the case.
With the new arrivals came armed conflict and a huge lack of understanding and some narrow minded people who thought they knew best. This heralded the demised of the northern Sydney clans as well as other Aboriginals from the Sydney basin such as the Dharawal to the south and Dharug to the west.
It didn’t take long for food shortages to become a problem as the large white population depleted the fish by using nets to catch large amounts of fish. The also reduced the kangaroo population with unsustainable hunting, they cleared the land and polluted the water, this caused the Aboriginal people to be close to starvation.
That will do it for this post, more to come later.