NATIONAL: Earlier this month, the City of Sydney Council voted 8-2 in favour of using the word “invasion” in the preamble to its city plan for 2030. It followed lobbying by the council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory body. The decision immediately sparked controversy, lighting up talkback radio shows and spurring hundreds of online comments over the question: was Australia invaded, or was it peacefully settled?
Aboriginal dancers looking out onto Sydney Harbour during Australia Day celebrations - or Invasion Day commemorations ... depending on your perspective. (AAP IMAGE)
MICHAEL MANSELL ARGUES FOR…
The Daily Telegraph newspaper got upset at the Sydney City Council stating the First Fleet landing at Port Jackson was an invasion.
Although the newspaper gave no reasons as to why it believed Australia was peacefully settled, the Editor roundly condemned the Sydney Council’s position.
It claimed anyone who subscribed to the view that whites invaded Aboriginal people’s lands in 1788 should go back to where they came from!
In other words, if the argument cannot be beaten, send them home so we can ignore them.
It seems it does not pay to speak out in NSW.
The Daily Telegraph would do well to remember a dictum of one of its own, Winston Churchill: the truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it; but in the end, there it is.’
My dictionary contains a clear definition of invasion,
It is: ‘the act of invading as an enemy; entrance as if to take possessionor overrun’.
So what do we know of the landing in 1788?
Historians agree that of the nine British ships that made up the first fleet, two were warships.
These warships carried 18 cannons on deck.
They were backed up by 245 marines armed to the teeth.
A further 306 ship’s crews were on standby.
It was a small army backed up by a powerful part of Britain’s navy.
When they landed at Port Jackson in 1788, the 1,373 newcomers intended to establish a colony on the shores of the lands of Aboriginal people.
Just in case, a further six cannon were ready to be taken ashore to protect the colony against any opposition.
Their intention was clear: one way or another, consent of the natives was never a consideration.
If that landing could be described as a peaceful settlement, then so too could the US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.
Like the western invasion of the countries mentioned above, the British stayed here, created government, an economy and imposed their own legal systems with force.
Today “boat people” are told to get visas, and immigrants to learn the language and culture to blend in.
Strangely, ultra-right wing Liberal Senator Eric Abetz claimed the use of the term ‘invasion’ to describe events in 1788 meant native title could not exist.
It is because there was an invasion in the first place that the British legal rules for conquered peoples applied, one of which is native title.
Little wonder the good Senator declined Tracker’s^ invitation to elaborate on his argument.
The High Court regularly reminds us the invasion of a people’s country is a political and not a legal matter.
The white law does not consider the rights or wrongs of the invasion but simply applies rules to the consequences of that invasion.
Native title is recognition of Aboriginal land interests that survived the dispossession and slaughter.
The Daily Telegraph also urged the Sydney Council to stop looking backwards.