Monday, June 18, 2012

Australian Aboriginal Genocide

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Before researching Aboriginal Genocide in Australia I had dismissed the idea as an accusation. Genocide, to me consisted of the deliberate killing of an entire race or group; I had therefore assumed that this did not occur in Aboriginal Australian history, as many Aboriginal people still exist today. I now understand how naïve this was. Genocide is much more complex than just group murder

and after further looking into the idea, I have found personal justification of a form of cultural genocide in our Australian history.

Now, some might ask, what constitutes genocide? Genocide is committed if any one of the following is inflicted on a group

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Firstly the killing of group members- Aboriginal people were killed on numerous occasions by European’s and evidence of these many incidents is too concrete-even for Keith Windshcuttle. One example of these killings being the infamous Myall Creek massacre.

ndly the causing of serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group- Aboriginal people suffered from many injustices such as loss of land, spirituality, identity and denial of basic human rights; these injustices causing mental harm, resulting in problems such as depression and suicide.

rdly deliberately inflicting conditions of life onto the group causing physical destruction- conditions of life, such as exclusion from traditional hunting grounds, were not understood by Aboriginal peoples, so many Aboriginals were killed for trespassing.

4thly forcibly transferring children from one group to another group- the thousands of Aboriginal children, removed from their families and assimilated into white society.

Each of these acts constitutes, quite blatantly, genocide of Aboriginal people. Keith Windschuttle, however, would not agree.

He believes genocide to be an accepted premise, fabricated by acclaimed historians such as Henry Reynolds. Windshcuttle operates on the fact that if there was no written evidence, it did not occur. Clearly, a much more open mind is needed for this type of investigation, especially since Aboriginal history has largely been based on oral tradition.

On the other side of the debate is Henry Reynolds. He disagrees with the actual term “genocide”, noting that the government did not intend to kill, but to remove; his theory of ‘ethnic cleansing’. Both sides of the debate seem to have holes, but I do not believe that evidence was fabricated in an attempt to feel less guilty about our shameful past. Exaggerated yes, but not fabricated.

The exaggeration however, has been around as long as the crimes themselves.

At the time, missionaries spread stories of European violence toward Aborigines in an attempt to justify separating Aboriginal people from white society, proving that their missions were useful. Believing these exaggerated stories of violence made their institutions look like safe havens amongst the violent and racist world. This made it seem as though the missions were successful; meaning they would keep mission funding and their jobs.

Now, I do understand that genocide cannot exist without intent. Governor Arthur himself said that “the whole race of these ppl. may at no distant period become extinct”- therefore we can assume there was no intent from Gov. Arthur to wipe out the entire Aboriginal race. BUT, the Tasmanian story still strongly indicates genocide.

Just look at the facts. Aboriginal ppls and their culture had thrived for 10,000 years across Tasmania. Europeans arrived. Aboriginal ppls land, culture, food and lifestyle were altered. And just 7 years later, not one Aboriginal person was left on Tasmania. Whether explicitly intended or not the extermination of the entire Tasmanian aboriginal ppls occurred as a direct result of Government policy and action.

Many, Keith Windshcuttle included, would argue that the Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples died mainly from introduced diseases and were therefore not intentionally killed, thus not genocide. BUT, because the Europeans carried out no measures to help or protect Aboriginal people against theses diseases, they were actually aiding to their death.

Genocide by definition, is committed by organized groups, such as Governments. And in 18 the Tasmanian government appointed G.A Robinson to round up all remaining Aboriginal peoples and move them to an island in the Bass Strait. Another Government decision which constituted genocide was the infamous “Black Line’’. A literal manhunt carried out by thousands of soldiers, stretching out across Tasmania, to capture any Aboriginal persons they could find.

Mind you, it was not explicitly stated in the government policies to exterminate the race of Aboriginal peoples. HOWEVER, the actual outcomes of the supposed non-genocidal policies were exactly the same. Aboriginality, in every aspect still suffered destruction, despite the fact that the government conveniently did not detail genocide into their policies.

So to conclude, despite the heated debate that continues, genocide DID occur in out Australian past history, whether or not Keith Windshcuttle wants to hear it.

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