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      Lightbulb The british murder of tasmania

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      [ame=""]YouTube - THE BRITISH MURDER OF TASMANIA[/ame]


      L E C T U R E N O T E S


      To many, the mention of Tasmania evokes humorous recollections of the Tasmanian devil--the voracious marsupial popularized in American cartoons. Tasmania is an island slightly larger in size than West Virginia, and is located two-hundred miles off Australia's southeast coast. The aboriginal inhabitants of the island were Black people who probably went there by crossing an ancient land bridge that connected Tasmania to the continent of Australia.
      The Black aborigines of Tasmania were marked by tightly curled hair with skin complexions ranging from black to reddish-brown. They were relatively short in stature with little body fat. They were the indigenous people of Tasmania and their arrival there began at least 35,000 years ago. With the passage of time, the gradual rising of the sea level submerged the Australian-Tasmanian land bridge and the Black aborigines of Tasmania experienced more than 10,000 years of solitude and physical isolation from the rest of the world--the longest period of isolation in human history.
      It is our great misfortune that the Black people of Tasmania bequeathed no written histories. We do not know that they called themselves or what they named their land. All we really have are minute fragments, bits of evidence, and the records and documents of Europeans who began coming to the island in 1642.

      The Tasmanian aborigines were hunter-gatherers with an exceptionally basic technology. The Tasmanians made only a few types of simple stone and wooden tools. They lacked agriculture, livestock, pottery, and bows and arrows.
      The Black family in Tasmania was a highly organized one--its form and substance directed by custom. A man joined with a woman in marriage and formed a social partnership with her. It would appear that such marriages were usually designed by the parents--but this is something about which very little is actually known. The married couple seems to have remained together throughout the course of their lives, and only in rare cases did a man have more than one wife at the same time. Their children were not only well cared for, but were treated with great affection. Elders were cared for by the the family, and children were kept at the breast for longer than is usual in child care among Europeans.
      The isolation of Tasmania's Black aborigines ended in 1642 with the arrival and intrusion of the first Europeans. Abel Jansen Tasman, the Dutch navigator after whom the island is named, anchored off the Tasmanian coast in early December, 1642. Tasman named the island Van Diemen's land, after Anthony Van Diemen--the governor-general of the Dutch East India Company. The island continued to be called Van Diemen's Land until 1855.
      On March 5, 1772, a French expedition led by Nicholas Marion du Fresne landed on the island. Within a few hours his sailors had shot several Aborigines. On January 28, 1777, the British landed on the island. Following coastal New South Wales in Australia, Tasmania was established as a British convict settlement in 1803. These convicts had been harshly traumatized and were exceptionally brutal. In addition to soldiers, administrators, and missionaries, eventually more than 65,000 men and women convicts were settled in Tasmania. A glaringly inefficient penal system allowed such convicts to escape into the Tasmanian hinterland where they exercised the full measure of their blood-lust and brutality upon the island's Black occupants. According to social historian Clive Turnbull, the activities of these criminals would soon include the "shooting, bashing out brains, burning alive, and slaughter of Aborigines for dogs' meat."
      PART 2
      As early as 1804 the British began to slaughter, kidnap and enslave the Black people of Tasmania. The colonial government itself was not even inclined to consider the aboriginal Tasmanians as full human beings, and scholars began to discuss civilization as a unilinear process with White people at the top and Black people at the bottom. To the Europeans of Tasmania the Blacks were an entity fit only to be exploited in the most sadistic of manners--a sadism that staggers the imagination and violates all human morality. As UCLA professor, Jared Diamond, recorded:
      "Tactics for hunting down Tasmanians included riding out on horseback to shoot them, setting out steel traps to catch them, and putting out poison flour where they might find and eat it. Sheperds cut off the penis and testicles of aboriginal men, to watch the men run a few yards before dying. At a hill christened Mount Victory, settlers slaughtered 30 Tasmanians and threw their bodies over a cliff. One party of police killed 70 Tasmanians and dashed out the children's brains."
      Such vile and animalistic behavior on the part of the White settlers of Tasmania was the rule rather than the exception. In spite of their wanton cruelty, however, punishment in Tasmania was exceedingly rare for the Whites, although occasionally Whites were sentenced for crimes against Blacks. For example, there is an account of a man who was flogged for exhibiting the ears and other body parts of a Black boy that he had mutilated alive. We hear of another European punished for cutting off the little finger of an Aborigine and using it as a tobacco stopper. Twenty-five lashes were stipulated for Europeans convicted of tying aboriginal "Tasmanian women to logs and burning them with firebrands, or forcing a woman to wear the head of her freshly murdered husband on a string around her neck."
      Not a single European, however, was ever punished for the murder of Tasmanian Aborigines. Europeans thought nothing of tying Black men to trees and using them for target practice. Black women were kidnapped, chained and exploited as sexual slaves. White convicts regularly hunted Black people for sport, casually shooting, spearing or clubbing the men to death, torturing and raping the women, and roasting Black infants alive. As historian, James Morris, graphically noted:
      "We hear of children kidnapped as pets or servants, of a woman chained up like an animal in a sheperd's hut, of men castrated to keep them off their own women. In one foray seventy aborigines were killed, the men shot, the women and children dragged from crevices in the rocks to have their brains dashed out. A man called Carrotts, desiring a native woman, decapitated her husband, hung his head around her neck and drove her home to his shack."
      PART 3
      "The Black War of Van Diemen's Land" was the name of the official campaign of terror directed against the Black people of Tasmania. Between 1803 and 1830 the Black aborigines of Tasmania were reduced from an estimated five-thousand people to less than seventy-five. An article published December 1, 1826 in the Tasmanian Colonial Times declared that:
      "We make no pompous display of Philanthropy. The Government must remove the natives--if not, they will be hunted down like wild beasts and destroyed!"
      With the declaration of martial law in November 1828, Whites were authorized to kill Blacks on sight. Although the Blacks offered a heroic resistance, the wooden clubs and sharpened sticks of the Aborigines were no match against the firepower, ruthlessness, and savagery exercised by the Europeans against them. In time, a bounty was declared on Blacks, and "Black catching," as it was called, soon became a big business; five pounds for each adult Aborigine, two pounds for each child. After considering proposals to capture them for sale as slaves, poison or trap them, or hunt them with dogs, the government settled on continued bounties and the use of mounted police.
      After the Black War, for political expediency, the status of the Blacks, who were no longer regarded as a physical threat, was reduced to that of a nuisance and a bother, and with loud and pious exclamations that it was for the benefit of the Blacks themselves, the remainder of the Aborigines were rounded up and placed in concentration camps.
      In 1830 George Augustus Robinson, a Christian missionary, was hired to round up the remaining Tasmanian Blacks and take them to Flinders Island, thirty miles away. Many of Robinson's captives died along the way. By 1843 only fifty survived. Jared Diamond recorded that:
      "On Flinders Island Robinson was determined to civilize and Christianize the survivors. His settlement--at a windy site with little fresh water--was run like a jail. Children were separated from parents to facilitate the work of civilizing them. The regimental daily schedule included Bible reading, hymn singing, and inspection of beds and dishes for cleanness and neatness. However, the jail diet caused malnutrition, which combined with illness to make the natives die. Few infants survived more than a few weeks. The government reduced expenditures in the hope that the native would die out. By 1869 only Truganini, one other woman, and one man remained alive."
      PART 4
      With the steady decrease in the number of Aborigines, White people began to take a bizarre interest in the Blacks, whom Whites believed "to be a missing link between humans and apes." In 1859 Charles Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species, popularized the fantasy of biological (and therefore social) evolution, with Whites at the top of the evolutionary scale and Blacks at the bottom. The Aborigines were portrayed as a group of people "doomed to die out according to a natural law, like the dodo, and the dinosaur." This is during the same period in the United States that it was legally advocated that a Black man had no rights that a White man was bound to respect.
      William Lanney, facetiously known as King Billy, was the last full-blood male Tasmanian. He was born in 1835 and grew up on Flinders Island. At the age of thirteen Lanney was removed with the remnant of his people to a concentration camp called Oyster Cove. Ultimately he became a sailor and some years he went whaling. As the last male Tasmanian, Lanney was regarded as a human relic. In January 1860 he was introduced to Prince Albert. He returned ill from a whaling voyage in February 1868, and on March 2, 1868 he died in his room at the Dog and Partridge public-house in Hobart, Tasmania.
      Lanney, the subject of ridicule in life, became, in death, a desirable object. Even while he lay in the Colonial Hospital at least two persons determined to have his bones. They claimed to act in the interest of the Royal Society of Tasmania. On March 6, 1868, the day of the funeral, fifty or sixty residents interested in Lanney gathered at the hospital. Rumors were circulating that the body had been mutilated and, to satisfy the mourners, the coffin was opened. When those who wished to do so had seen the body, the coffin was closed and sealed. Meanwhile it was reported that, on the preceding night, a surgeon had entered the dead-house where Lanney lay, skinned the head, and removed the skull. Reportedly, the head of a patient who had died in the hospital on the same day was similarly skinned, and the skull was placed inside Lanney's scalp and the skin drawn over it. Members of the Royal Society were "greatly annoyed" at being thus forestalled and, as body-snatching was expected, it was decided that nothing should be left worth taking and Lanney's hands and feet were cut off. In keeping with the tradition no one was punished. William Lanney, the last Black man in Tasmania, was gone.
      "Not, perhaps, before, has a race of men been utterly destroyed within seventy-five years. This is the story of a race which was so destroyed, that of the aborigines of Tasmania--destroyed not only by a different manner of life but by the ill-will of the usurpers of the race's land.... With no defences but cunning and the most primitive weapons, the natives were no match for the sophisticated individualists of knife and gun. By 1876 the last of them was dead. So perished a whole people." --Clive Turnbull
      On May 7, 1876, Truganini, the last full-blood Black person in Tasmania, died at seventy-three years of age. Her mother had been stabbed to death by a European. Her sister was kidnapped by Europeans. Her intended husband was drowned by two Europeans in her presence, while his murderers raped her.
      It might be accurately said that Truganini's numerous personal sufferings typify the tragedy of the Black people of Tasmania as a whole. She was the very last. "Don't let them cut me up," she begged the doctor as she lay dying. After her burial, Truganini's body was exhumed, and her skeleton, strung upon wires and placed upright in a box, became for many years the most popular exhibit in the Tasmanian Museum and remained on display until 1947. Finally, in 1976--the centenary years of Truganini's death--despite the museum's objections, her skeleton was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea.
      The tragedy of the Black aborigines of Tasmania, however painful its recounting may be, is a story that must be told. What lessons do we learn from the destruction of the Tasmanians? Truganini's life and death, although extreme, effectively chronicle the association not only between White people and Black people in Tasmania, but, to a significant degree, around the world. Between 1803 and 1876 the Black aborigines of Tasmania were completely destroyed. During this period the Black people of Tasmania were debased, degraded and eventually exterminated. Indeed, given the long and well-documented history of carnage, cruelty, savagery, and the monstrous pain, suffering, and inhumanity Europeans have inflicted upon Black people in general, and the Black people of Tasmania in particular, one could argue that they themselves, the White settlers of Tasmania, far more than the ravenous beast portrayed in American cartoons, have been the real Tasmanian devil.
      The above article was written around 1997 and was a part of an ongoing series of articles designed to draw attention to the past and present, the history and the current status, of Black people around the world. In that sense I believe that it is basically a very good article. It should be pointed out though that it was written before my first trip to Australia. More and more, over the the course of time, I have come to find that travel is a wonderful educational experience indeed, and that during the process you often come across information not commonly found in books.
      In November 1998 I was invited to speak at the World's Indigenous Peoples Conference in Toowomba, Queensland, Australia. During my Australian sojourn, in addition to the Conference, I was able to travel to several regions and three states. For the first time I interacted with large numbers of Indigenous Australians. The Conference itself was magnificent; a real triumph and one of the great experiences of my life. Even before the Conference convened, however, I was shocked to meet for the initial time a Black man from Tasmania! He was professor Errol West of the University of Southern Queensland. Prof. West (a noted scholar and an excellent poet) and I quckly developed a close bond and soon became good friends. We talked and socialized together a great deal and it became readily apparent that only the full-blood Blacks had perished in the holocaust, and that there were Black people living in Tasmania today. Obviously, this was in stark contrast to all of the major writings on the subject. Prof. West also gave me a very different and contrasting view of Truganini.
      My trip to Australia gave me a great deal to think about and a lot to reassess. Eighteen months later I returned to Australia and saw even more of this fascinating country, and I have since learned a great deal more about the history and current conditions of the original people. And the education hasn't stopped. Several months ago I received a series of emails from a Tasmanian sister who expressed tremendous gratitude for the article and encouraged and assured me that the Blacks of Tasmania "are alive and still fighting for our rights and the recognition that we deserve as Indigenous peoples." In 2002 I plan to travel to Tasmania itself. And the education continues.
      [ame=" 190AB&playnext=1&index=17"][SIZE=2] 190AB&playnext=1&index=17[/SIZ"]YouTube - Aboriginal dancing at Barunga Festival, Australia[/ame]

      Australia Day and Night

      The good, the bad and the ugly. News and current affairs in the Australian political landscape.

      02 June 2007

      Aboriginal Holocaust in Tasmania

      The Aboriginals of Van Diemen’s Land lived for centuries in their country a happy and spiritual life. They found a way to compromise with the elements of nature and become able not just to survive, but also to create a culture and a society. In the beginning of the Nineteenth century, a new force of nature arrived on the island, the Europeans. The Aboriginals had to fight a new war for survival, and this time they would lose. In thirty years time, there would be almost no Aboriginal left on the island. It is irrelevant whether this was a genocide or just mismanagement of the colony’s affairs by the crown. The Europeans were the cause of this extinction and their action, or inaction, was a catalyst for the destruction of an indigenous nation who only wanted a place to stay, to feed their children and honour their ancestors.

      The island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt, as the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman named it, separated from the mainland about thirty five thousand years ago. The native population survived and prospered by taking advantage of everything the land had to offer. For food, they hunted animals like kangaroo and possums and ate the eggs of ducks and swans. Their whole diet came from the land. The animals were free to roam in the open fields and reproduce. The Aboriginals had found the prefect balance to live in the nature and by the nature, in a harmonious and respectful way.

      Before the English established a settlement in 1803, there were occasional visits by other Europeans on the Island. First the Dutch, who discovered the island as it lay on the naval route South of Australia towards New Zealand, and later the first British explorers and the French. There were no attempts for settlement at this time and all the witnesses of the first contacts were of a joyful nature, with the Aboriginals appearing to welcome the strange visitors and be willing to show them around their land. The French explorers went even farther by having cultural exchanges with the locals and by sharing a bit of their family ways and traditions in a spirit of friendship and acceptance. These were times “of promising warmth and openness, of recognition of a common humanity.” For a moment in time, it looked like two societies could coexist on the same land.

      The British colonisation of the island started with small steps, but no grand plan. The dawn of the nineteenth century saw the dire economic situation of New Holland pushing the colonials to look outside Botany Bay for food and trade. The hunting of seals brought them closer to Van Diemen’s Land where the first fishermen established a station in 1800. Convicts started pouring in, usually of the worst kind; repeat offenders who were unwanted in Botany Bay.

      The Aboriginals realised that these were different kind of whites. They did not arrive on the island to create links with them and they started coming in ever increasing numbers. Yet, this was no threat to their hunting grounds, as the initial establishments where only near the ports to assist fishing in the area. The first contacts between the natives and the colonials saw some tension and the occasional shooting, however nothing more than what was common from two civilisations colliding together. Furthermore, it was in the same volume as anywhere else in New Holland. The first twenty years saw a peaceful coexistence of the two nations with Aboriginals exchanging goods with the whites like sugar, tea, and blankets, while the Whites would receive sexual favours from Aboriginal women. The abduction and prostitution of females was a customary practice by the Aboriginals in their exchanges between their own clans. Even the native children would be seen playing games that would involve “kidnapping the girls”. The settlers, who were already classifying the Blacks as little higher than monkeys, would show no objection in accepting the sexual exploitation of women as a commodity, especially when there were very few female convicts in the settlement.

      [ame=""]YouTube - Australian Aboriginal Genocide[/ame]

      During this period, although there was some interaction between the two societies, there would be no real links created between them. It was more like an opportunistic exchange of goods than a true effort to create a base of friendship between the two worlds. That would have dire consequences further on when conflict would arise.

      The island was very promising for the free settlers. They started building up in numbers and would occupy increasingly more land for sheep-farming. For their workforce they would use convicts and aboriginals, as well as children. The Aborigines did not cause them any major problem and they would occasionally trade with them. In addition, there were attempts to “civilise” the natives. They created missionary camps and brought in Aboriginals to learn the way of the white religion. They forced the natives to be dressed and sing songs they would not understand. In most cases, they were there against their will. All those attempts failed because the natives had their own understanding of spirituality that could not be explained in the bible. If only those attempts were made by reconciling the spiritual needs of the natives, we might had avoided any future confrontation. Instead, the only attempt to bring the natives closer to the White civilization not only failed, but was also perceived as unjustified kidnapping by the Aboriginals.

      There were instances of positive outcome from this interaction of the two communities. Some Aboriginals who started working as servants, became accustomed to the British way, learned English and helped the British understand the natives’ way and land. Unfortunately for the British, those aboriginals ended up going back to their peers with valuable information about the white society that proved very useful in their fight against the invaders later on.

      In 1810, the colony entered a period of economic downturn. The officers, in their efforts to cut expenses, let the convicts free to find their own food in the bush. That created a new lawless tribe that were free to do as they pleased. The bushrangers, as they were called, entered the aboriginal territory and took away everything they liked, food and woman, creating a discontent of whites around the aboriginal tribes. They created slave camps where they became the absolute ruler of any human with dark skin captured. The Aboriginals perceived the way the bushranger treated them as a direct attempt to destroy their society. They could not separate those individuals from the rest of the white population. This left a permanent stain in the memory of the natives and damaged any chance of harmony on the island. It was a major downfall for the administration, as the control of the convicts in the bush would prove difficult to re-establish in the future, and at the same time, the torture of the natives would create a permanent hatred against the all the Whites.

      Besides all the confrontations with the Aboriginals, the numbers of settlers would steadily increase. They started using all the kangaroo fields for their sheep and that turned the situation in the bush to critical. Using the increasing mounts of free convict labour available to them, they annexed and fenced most of the land, closing the aboriginals off from any source of food. The Aboriginals felt that they were being put against the wall of famine and they had to fight back, not for their land, but for their lives. The settlers were counting on the lessons they learned about the natives from Botany Bay. There, they would push the Aboriginals away to use their land for agriculture and the Aboriginals would not come back, but disperse in to the bush. The Aboriginals, having an absolute knowledge of the land, would find another hunting ground and would avoid confrontation with the whites. However, in Van Diemen’s Land, there was an extra variable: There was a physical space limit at the island. The administration never considered limiting the number of convicts to an amount that the colony could actually support. The new shipments of convicts would arrive constantly regardless. There was no plan to allow some space for the natives to live. Eventually the Aboriginals ran out of hunting grounds and they were pushed into fighting back the invaders. There was no revenge, hatred, or savagery. The eminent starvation forced the natives to start war with the settlers.

      Over the next decade, attacks would become increasingly frequent and not just retaliation against specific cruelty by whites, but methodical warfare against the Europeans. They would hide in groups near a settlers’ outpost, wait for days and monitor the White man’s moves and when the farmer would leave his house or when he would be by himself, the Aboriginals would attack. They would lay fires to distract the settler away from his house and to avoid confrontation. Then they would enter his property and take what they needed. In a flash of a second, they would disappear into the bush. If the operations ended up being successful, the settlers would not even see any of the natives. This rebel tactic was perfect for the Aboriginals as they did not have to confront the British face to face, but they would use their knowledge of the bush and the information they gathered about the habits of the Whites, in order to succeed in taking what they wanted from them.

      This plundering would see the aboriginal life style changed as they started getting more used to European diet and habits like smoking, sugars, and drinking tea. The aboriginals were mutating to something like a homeless wanderer in an inner modern city. They lost their very nutritious diet with meat from the native animals and they became very dependant on European goods. The hunting culture of the Aboriginals had no knowledge of what is the best for them but what is easiest to catch and with the minimum of effort. In Van Diemen’s Land of eighteen twenty, the only thing that was up for easy grabs was European goods. That saw the gradual increase in incidents between the two nations and the demand for a solution. Settlers would form vigilant groups and try to hunt down the natives or push them away. However, the Aboriginals were still controlling the bush. They knew in advance of the settlers’ moves and would just move away and come back when the settler would get tired of hunting. If the settlers had adopted a rationing program near the edges of the settlements, where Aborigines would could come and freely take away food and blankets, without any other exchange or preaching, maybe the attacks would have stopped. Programs like that did exist to help currently unemployed convicts. However, no such policy existed for Aborigines and the more the natives would get hungry, the more they would resort in plundering attitudes.

      When in 1825 Van Diemen's Land separated from New South Wales and acquired statehood, the settler’s voice became evermore powerful. They were asking for a solution for years but no one really cared about the prison island. Their new Governor, George Arthur, would now be their own man to talk to and to demand from. Arthur would immediately declare the settlements as a forbidden zone for Aboriginals and organise shooting parties were they had permission to kill on sight any native that would dare to come close to the White farms. Now the settlers had the legal go ahead to act as they wished against the natives, and this time with the help of soldiers. However, once more, the natives would not engage in a normal, open field, army fight, but they would hide, wait, and hit only when they knew that they could win. The superiority of the British army could not compete against the Aboriginals’ rebel tactics.

      During this period of unrest in Van Diemen's Land, there were three different attitudes to the conflict and they all came clashing together in Eighteen Thirty, when they formed a committee to address the issue with the Aborigines. The settlers, living on the edges of the bushland and having to deal with the daily fear of the natives, would demand the extermination of the native population by hunting them down like animals. The crown would not even discuss anything that had to do with genocide of the native people. From the orders of the first fleet, it was clear that the natives would be left alone to live and their culture should be respected. London was too far away to hear the voice of desperation from the settlers. Britain wanted to hold high the label of the most civilised nation and there was no way that a convict colony would change that. However, the distance between Van Diemen's Land and London gave an advantage to the governors to interpret those orders according to their own wishes. After all, the only thing that the crown really cared for was that the colony was operational and inexpensive so they could keep on filling it up with more convicts.

      Governor Arthur found himself in the middle. He had to obey the crown’s orders, so any solution that would involve extermination was out of the question. However, he had to do something to keep the settlers happy. He ordered the formation of the Black Line, a physical line of 2000 armed men that would sweep the island from one side to the other, pushing the aboriginals to a reserve created for them in Tasman Peninsula. This managed to keep everyone happy. It settled the crowds for some time, although they failed to push the natives into the reserve. They did manage to force the Aboriginals away from the white district, but only to see them returning in later years.
      Once more, the iron fist proved to be inefficient as a solution to their problems.

      Governor Arthur had his own thoughts for accommodating the natives in a more respectful way. He created Aboriginal settlements in an effort to establish a place where they would be able to live without having to fight the whites. He became aware of the vastness of the problem they were facing in Van Diemen's Land and he blamed this on the early attitude of the settlers. Arthur believed that if there had been a different approach from the beginning, or maybe even a plan to buy the land of the natives as it had happened in other colonies, the hostilities would have been avoided. Regardless of his good intentions, his plan for enclosed settlements for the natives failed, as did all the ones that were tried by other governors before him. They badly managed the enclosures, which resembled prisons, where they imposed hard labour and christianity on the natives. They would not attract Aboriginals to come voluntarily and they would eventually close down. This was no reconciliation. Governor Arthur’s attempts to fit the British square peg into the Aboriginals’ round hole would never be seen in a positive light.

      By the middle of the 19th century there would be almost no Aboriginal left in Van Diemen's Land. Aboriginals were killed slowly on a daily basis by vigilante groups of settlers. This was no organised war, planned in the king’s court. This was a front line dispute between the aboriginal tribes and the settlers. With a constant stream of newcomer settlers and the gradually killing of aborigines, Tasmania would end up void of its indigenous population. It was not the actions of the crown that caused this genocide. It was its inaction to stop its citizens from slowly destroying the people who lived there for centuries. Beside the big rhetoric of respect for the natives and besides all the available opportunities created by other Europeans for reconciliation, Britain did nothing to prevent this catastrophe.

      Posted by The President of the Federal Republic of Australia at 07:10


      Peace be upon you
      Last edited by Pragmatic; 05-09-2009 at 05:00 AM.

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