University Of Tasmania
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Aboriginal society in North West Tasmania : dispossession and genocide

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posted on 2023-05-26, 09:13 authored by McFarlane, I
As the title indicates this study is restricted to those Aboriginal tribes located in the North West region of Tasmania. This approach enables the regional character and diversity of Aboriginal communities to be brought into focus; it also facilitates an examination of the unique process of dispossession that took place in the North West region, an area totally under the control of the Van Diemen's Land Company (VDL Co). Issues dealing with entitlement to ownership and sovereignty will be established by an examination of the structure and function of traditional Aboriginal Societies in the region, as well as the occupation and use they made of their lands. Early contact history with the Europeans is examined to demonstrate that there was a real possibility of developing productive relationships with the indigenous inhabitants at the time the VDL Co. took up their land grants. The character of the VDL Co manager Edward Curr, his role in the development of the VDL Co and his harsh treatment of those under his authority, including the Aborigines is also an important area of study. While Company Directors were prepared to countenance the dispossession of the Aborigines and consequent destruction of their culture, Curr was content to preside over their physical destruction. This thesis will demonstrate that Edward Curr persistently ignored instructions from his Directors to the contrary and created, fostered and supported an ethos that encouraged the systematic eradication of the Aboriginal population on allocated Company lands. In 1834, after only eight years under the care of Curr's administration, less than one sixth of the original Aboriginal inhabitants had survived to be taken into exile by the Friendly Mission. Robinson's Friendly Mission provided the main physical contact between the North West Aborigines and Arthur's administration. Thus the activities of the Friendly Mission and its role in removing many of the Aborigines, by force in many cases, is detailed, as is their treatment and condition at the Wybalenna Establishment. The history of the North West Aboriginal tribes will continue by tracing the events and experiences that followed the exile to Flinders Island and Oyster Cove, concluding with the death in 1857 of the last survivor of the North West population. It will be established that the genocide perpetrated against these tribes, was initiated as part of local VDL Co policy, a process exacerbated through colonial administrative expediency and brought to completion by neglect. Finally, there is a brief review of the popular ideologies concerning race, current during the period under study and the extent to which these ideas moulded attitudes and policies relating to Aborigines both in the North West and in general.


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