Ah, The Lucky Country, a slogan that has been touted about for a few decades. Before we hit that 250 year mark from Cook’s 1770 landing, we need a recap.
The landing of ships during the 18th and 19th centuries saw the routine slaughter of Aboriginal peoples with the majority of the landing parties, as well as the introduction of European diseases that wiped out massive numbers of the Aboriginals. We call this genocide. HIStory is always written by ‘the winners’ (most usually, the white colonists).
Cook was not the first white to ‘discover’ Australia. The Dutch were all over it much much earlier. I don’t know if the Dutch landing parties were as brutal as their English counterparts, I would need to do more research. It does not mean that the Dutch were warm and fuzzy with foreign non-whites, as all the ‘great’ sailing nations of the time (Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French, English) all dabbled in the slave trade and conquering of various nations. As well as fighting each other at sea, whenever they encountered each other.
Of course, the Aboriginal peoples were the first settlers of the continent, arriving approximately 40,000-80,000 years ago. They may not have had ‘bricks and mortar’ settlements, but seemed confined to geographic regions, and possibly even some agricultural ways, as well as land management. They truly were ‘custodians’ of the land, and not exploitative like the later white colonists, who have over the years, introduced foreign fauna and flora, as well as huge mining operations.
It was not that long after Cook deemed his ‘discovery’ as Terra nullius (“nobody’s land”) that the English came up with the ‘bright’ idea of “hey, let’s set up a penal colony” and started shipping out prisoners from England from the late 18th to mid 19th centuries. Of course, the earliest prisoners had to not just build their own prisons, but the early settlement buildings as well. As they were an unpaid underclass, this was slave labour.
Not long after this transportation of prisoners began, they realised they needed women for prostitution, baby-making and sometimes wives. As women are, and generally always have been, far less criminally inclined (except for petty crimes of survival), many of those petty crimes that resulted in transportation were women. This was misogyny.
By the 19th century, when the free settlers started arriving, the resultant land grab for settlement and farming required either the slaughter of, or scaring off, of the existing inhabitants of the land, the Aboriginal peoples. Some settlers even hunted the blacks for sport, as they would animals, and regarded the Aboriginals as the same category. Back to genocide.
In the first part of the 20th century, white Australia was primarily occupied, at the behest of ‘The Mother Country’ (Britain) with the first two world wars in Europe, slaughtering other foreigners and getting themselves slaughtered in return. However, although the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children is reported back as far as the mid-19th century, it became a more widespread policy in the early 20th century and became even more widespread in practice after the Second World War. This was a form of cultural genocide, severing Aboriginal (and ‘half caste’ Aboriginal) children from their own culture and roots, and attempting to assimilate them into white culture (the main goal was really to sever them from the traditional ways and their own communities). Even though ‘assimilated’, these Stolen Generations were still treated as second class citizens, so it was an assimilation in name only.
After the Second World War, with such a huge reduction in the male populaton, a resultant increase in (white) ‘unwed mothers’ was the result, and thus began the Baby Scoop Era for unwed Australian women. Some of these children were used as profitable ‘adoption fodder’, others just langished in children’s home until reaching full age. Maltreatment and child sexual assault were rife. Some of the Australian mothers were used as unpaid labour (slavery again) until the birth, as per their English/Irish and even US counterparts.
A similar fate happened to the children in England and Ireland (dubious adoptions or children’s homes), but additionally, an estimate of some 130,000 English children defacto-illegally removed from their mothers were transported to Australia, and put into (largely religious-based) ‘care’ homes. In reality, more child slavery, and child sexual assault.
A brilliant film covering the child transportation subject, is the film ‘Oranges and Sunshine‘ (2010). Again, have the Kleenex ready.
While the Baby Scoop Era was largely phased out by the mid-late 1970s, the Stolen Generations for Aboriginal children is reported to have continued unabated, in figures that are even higher than the ‘officially recognised’ period. The cultural genocide continues.
Throughout the early-mid 20th century, the settled (white) Australians were periodically against certain sectors of immigration, generally under the White Australia Policy, even though previous influxes of non-whites had occured. Racism again. There was even a period where the existing whites looked down upon the “Ten pound poms“. Some kind of bizarre ethnocentric chauvinism? In the sixties and seventies, it was fashionable to get your racist hate-on for the Italians and Greeks. The current hate-fest focuses on Muslims, because according to our Prime Minister, there is a ‘War on Terror’, and “they’ll do” as an excuse for uber-militarisation when the economy is fucked-up, probably beyond repair. Of course, it’s always been fashionable to have the racist hate-on for the Aboriginal peoples, even though, we* are pretending (not convincingly) that we haven’t. *the majority of the country
How can we forget though, that Patriarchical perennial favourite, the Cold War on Women. Well, not totally cold, given the body count stacking up. Australia is shaping up to be the World Leader in femicides committed by male partners and ex-partners—the half-year stats for 2015 show that just under two-thirds of the homicides of Australian women are committed by male partners and former partners. The UK has a rate around 50%, the US a rate around one-third. Misogyny again. We also have to pretend that the 80 cents on the male dollar wage is not still a reality (that at least is part of the Cold War). Or look at the current Liberal-National Party upper cabinet of two women out of about 18 total. Yeah, that is looking so close to half…. if you are completely mathsphobic. A bit more Misogyny for good measure.
Of course, it was not always so obvious. Australia was one of the earliest countries to grant women suffrage (uniformly, just after Federation, in 1902).
But switch to the present, we have a rich white male, who is both a racist and misogynist, who appointed himself both the ‘Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs’ and ‘Minister for Women’. One would think that being either Aboriginal, or Female, would be the minimum requirement on each portfolio. Abbott appointed himself as minister for both, so not even a wiff of dissent would happen as he effectively worsened the status for both groups.
Currently, remote Aboriginal settlements are being forced out by various state governments, generally by shutting off services like water or power. The federal government (and the ‘Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs’) is doing exactly nothing to halt this. Most of these settlements are being closed for proposed mining operations. There comes a point where you ask, what on earth more can be done to the original inhabitants of this land? Because it is looking very grim indeed. Of course, in act supposedly to ‘help women’, our Minister for Women repealed the Carbon Tax, so women could happily do more ironing. Gee, thanks Tony. Great job.
In the continued capitalist looting of natural resources, not just Aboriginal communities are being displaced, but farmers in prime agricultural land in NSW (proposed mining) and also mining proposed that potentially threatens the Great Barrier Reef.
The “Lucky Country”. Well only if you are a (rich) white male, and not if you are Aboriginal, or Female.
To recap Australia’s ‘glorious’ HIStory:
18th century: Invasion, genocide, slavery.
19th century: More genocide, slavery. Misogyny, cultural genocide.
20th century: Genocide, cultural genocide, assimilation. Misogyny. Stolen generations, Baby Scoop Era, child slavery, child sexual assault. Various waves of racism. Oh and yay, women’s suffrage in the plus column.
21st century: Stolen generations, stolen communities, misogyny, militarisation, racism. Mining of natural resources threatening various communities and habitats. And a white male supremacist as a Prime Minister.
Postscript, 10 Aug 2015:
There are a few, well more than a few, who don’t ‘get’ why I intertwined the near-extermination of the Australian Aboriginal peoples, with just some of the things concurrently happening to women, throughout this piece.
Interconnectedness. They are interconnected, and the same ruling class was behind all of it. Men. In this case white men, but also I don’t let MOC off the hook either, as they are busy raping and torturing women and girls of colour too (eg Africa, Asia). It’s a global problem, and males are behind it.
Read this piece, by Lierre Keith, founder of Deep Green Resistance.
The real brilliance of patriarchy is right here: it doesn’t just naturalize oppression, it sexualizes acts of oppression. It eroticizes domination and subordination and then institutionalizes them into masculinity and femininity. Men become real men by breaking boundaries—the sexual boundaries of women and children, the cultural and political boundaries of indigenous people, the biological boundaries of rivers and forests, the genetic boundaries of other species, and the physical boundaries of the atom itself. The sadist is rewarded with money and power, but he also gets a sexual thrill from dominating. And the end of the world is a mass circle jerk of autoerotic asphyxiation.