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Indigenous and settler relations

posted on 2023-05-22, 14:37 authored by Banivanua Mar, T, Edmonds, P

At the close of the eighteenth century, contact between Aboriginal people and Europeans was localised along coastal regions of the continent. Penal setdements at Port Jackson and in Van Diemen's Land sat at the edge of vast Aboriginal worlds. The crown's Instructions to Governor Phillip were to 'endeavour by every possible means to open an Intercourse with the Natives and to conciliate their affections', 'to live in amity and kindness with them', and to 'punish' those who would 'wantonly destroy them'. But small British military garrisons and coastal setdements were unstable contact zones in which rituals of diplomacy could mix easily with aggression. Contact, conciliation and conflict would always be closely intertwined.

Newcomers often depended on Indigenous knowledge for their survival. Acts of curiosity, accord and handshakes could be performed by British and Aboriginal people and then followed swiftly by ritualised acts of judicial violence: a highly choreographed British hanging, for example, or a closely sequenced Aboriginal spearing. In the early years, when debates over the reach of British sovereignty were in flux, the British responded to conflict with Aboriginal people in localised and disparate ways, and it was nearly half a century before the authority claimed by the British crown was setded legal doctrine.


Publication title

The Cambridge History of Australia: Indigenous and Colonial Australia


A Bashford and S Macintyre






School of Humanities


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

Melbourne, Australia



Rights statement

Copyright 2013 Cambridge University Press

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding Australia’s past

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