Reflections on 2018 camel trek

Nor did I have that much knowledge of the colonial history of Aboriginal people in the Flinders Ranges, which was the outer edge of the British imperial periphery. I knew that sovereignty and rights of property in land were not recognized by the imperial British government, but I did not know how the Adnyamathanha people responded to colonisation, British settlement and the expansion of settler colony. The British government at the time of the founding of the colony of South Australia had been granting land to settlers for 50 years on the basis that the Crown was the only source of title in land.

According to BaIn Attwood in his Empire and the Making of Native Title: Sovereignty, Property and Indigenous People the South Australia Act of 1834 had declared the land to be waste and unoccupied. Systematic colonisation, which was seen as an enlightened project that would create prosperous version of Britain in the Antipodes, was a land grab on a massive scale. The assumption by the Colonisation Commission that no Aboriginal people occupied, enjoyed or possessed the land in a manner that the Aboriginal people would be found to have legal title to the land. Nor did the British Colonial Office recognize Aboriginal rights to the land in the mid-1930s.Their concern was to ensure there would some protection of Aboriginal people and their interests from the worst ravages of colonisation.

The Colonisation Commission had no intention of conceding that any of the land in the colony of South Australia was in Aboriginal possession and thus needed to be purchased before it could be sold to settlers. The British government never negotiated with the Aboriginal people for the cession of sovereignty. The assumption is that settlers would be able to seize whatever land they wanted because they believed that Aboriginal people were an enfeebled people. The balance of power was tilted heavily in favour of the settlers.

This history is a long way from the settler history of land settlement and the pastoral industry and the battle to establish European agricultural systems in Australia. The enemy in this battle is nature; with failure on the land, due to bushfire, drought and flood, coming to be seen as the mythical forge for national character. This pioneer myth of the settlers as victims or survivors of a history of struggle is at odds with a history of the settlers as colonial aggressors who dispossessed the aboriginal people of their land.

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