Flight of the Gurrewa told of the impasse created when the first white man arrived to settle Australia. He quickly illustrated what he believed his right--to unsettle the Aborigine.
Son of Gurrewa thentold through white men’s eyes, how White Australia developed during the second ’white’ generation.
Dreamtime Drift tells of the Aboriginal demise through the eyes of both a white sympathiser and indigenous man; he of the misunderstood culture; he who day by day saw his heritage eroding like a tree-trunk with termites. The work’s second half is devoted to the settlement of Brisbane as a hard-labour convict prison, at the expense of the resident Aborigines.
Throughout Australia, Aboriginal lore, the people’s very culture, was irreparably abused during Whiteman’s frenetic determination to settle every inch of arable land. Bloody murder fed Whiteman’s greed.
One of the oldest homo-sapiens on Earth, the Australian Aborigine was wont, as a tribe, to settle areas ranging from a hundred to several thousand square kilometres. His instinctive understanding of purpose was firstly to succour the tribe’s families and secondly, to care for tribal land; the essential commodity providing everything to achieve the first. Despite he built no fences, borders of each tribe’s land were recognised by others as clearly as territory spoor-marked by animals. Visitors were welcome while observing protocol--not outstaying their welcome--the equivalent of today’s practice of issuing tourist visas. Weapons were artefacts crafted for slaying wildlife for food and skins. Metals and explosives were of another world; Aboriginal culture did not command sophistication. The people were nomads, happy in primitive brush shelters wherever greenery attracted edible wildlife. Tribal territories were large enough to relocate when greenery was exhausted, while growth regenerated. Most were coast-dwellers, their diet including exotic marine foods.
All physical needs of Aborigines were so simple as to leave them, like all the continent’s animals, naked.
They were, however, a spiritual people. Images of spiritual beliefs are still being discovered Spiritual idols were mountains, rivers, fauna and flora, even wind and rain--yet another reason why each tribe’s very territory was sacrosanct to his welfare--why he could never be content with life in other tribal districts. Away from ’home’, spirits were strange, even sinister--so the district each man was born to became essentially precious to his very welfare.
They were a peaceful people with no understanding of material possessions, greed, covetousness, lies, subterfuge, aggression, physical force, envy, urgency or power. It indeed made the Australian Aborigine a unique individual.
His every commendable instinct once the white man came, found him disadvantaged.
How could he cope with the expectation of ’moving over’ as Whiteman took his land?
He could but gape in awe as Whiteman scrambled to build on sacred land, what he called ’houses’ that developed into ’clusters of houses’ then into villages and towns.
In his countless thousands of years, the Aborigine had never constructed a house, let alone a settlement. He had never cleared forest that invited game, nor built fences that prevented the stalking of prey. Everything Whiteman did, had the native utterly confused.
A general impression in modern society beyond Australian shores is that its Aborigines had ever been desert-dwellers--a false assumption. The only reason they are today, is that that is all Whiteman was prepared to leave them. Coastal plains were the first territories usurped, quickly followed by whatever land was suitable for raising crops and grazing cattle and sheep.
Apart from the loss of natural habitat, a major fear for the native was the several diseases Whiteman brought. Cholera, smallpox, chickenpox, influenza, venereal diseases and measles spread in waves throughout the nineteenth century. Aboriginal people had no genetic resistance to such threats and died by the thousand.
European settlers gradually made their way into the interior, appropriating small but vital parts of the land for their exclusive use, denying Aborigines their billabongs; essential waterholes and soaks. The introduction of sheep, rabbits and cattle quickly denied the black man his essential needs of life--bush greenery. In Australia’s outback, sheep and cattle-stations often larger than British counties, robbed him of his very homeland.
Some tried working for the white man yet quickly discovered how poorly, as a human being, he was considered, and nor did the work ethic have a place in his karma. He was but poorly fed with unpalatable foods and denied every familiar custom. He turned for solace to tobacco and alcohol, to both of which his system lacked immunity. Each proved as destructive, over time, as the most debilitating disease.
From the very day Whiteman landed on the shore at Botany Bay in 1788, the livelihood of the Australian Aborigine, as a race, began its speedy demise.
Dreamtime Drift illustrates examples of how the drift became a surging torrent.