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Tasmania is the smallest of the Australian states. It was colonised by the British in 1803. At the time, there were approximately 30,000 Indigenous Tasmanians, known as “Palawa.” By the 1870s, only a …

Tasmania is the smallest of the Australian states. It was colonised by the British in 1803. At the time, there were approximately 30,000 Indigenous Tasmanians, known as “Palawa.” By the 1870s, only a handful of Palawa had survived one of the worse genocides in recorded history.
This is a presentation on genocide in Tasmania by Angela Melville, the current Scientific Director at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law. She explains the history of the physical removal of the Palawa from their land. Genocide, however, is not only a physical act, and she also discusses ways in which the colonists attempted to remove all traces of Palawa culture including language.
Unfortunately, genocide has not been limited to the colonial period. Angela discusses more contemporary efforts to eliminate Indigenous culture in Australia. For instance from 1901 until 1972, Indigenous children where forcibly removed from their families, which has caused long-term harm to Indigenous communities. Sir Ronald Wilson, the author of the Stolen Children Report has said that describing the removal of children “genocide” has been an “unnecessary distraction.” However, without formal recognition of both historical and more recent genocide in Tasmania, there cannot be complete reconciliation with the Indigenous survivors.

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  • 1. Cultural Genocide in Tasmania Angela Melville http://www.iisj.es
  • 2. • International Sociology Association/ Basque government• Home of the international sociology of law community Masters programme Workshops and meetings Library Visitors Publications Grants http://www.iisj.es
  • 3. Van Dieman’s Land• 1800 approximately 30,000 Aborigines• 1803 Tasmania becomes a British penal colony• 1870 only 250 Aborigines still alive• 1878 Trugannini dies• One of the worse genocides in recoded history
  • 4. First contact• Convicts started to clash with Aborigines• Conflict worsened in 1818• Aborigines did not follow “the rules of propriety”• Local massacres, kidnapping of children, abduction of women• The state warned against hostilities or taking of children
  • 5. Black Wars (1823-1834)• Demarcation Proclamation• Removal was justified as protecting Aborigines from slaughter• Monetary rewards for capture• George Augustus Robinson: the “Reconciliator”• “Resettlement” to islands
  • 6. Escalating violence• “…they will be hunted down like wild beasts and destroyed.”• Roving parties• Black line (although only one boy was captured)• Massacres
  • 7. Massacres“It would be a waste of time even tocondense, in the most succinct relation, allthe incidents that occurred. Narrative istedious by the monotony of detail, and theevents themselves were recorded bythose who witnessed them, with ominousbrevity. Such crimes were of dailyoccurrence” (John West 1852)
  • 8. Cultural removal• Aboriginal people were not “civilised”• Banned from using their language, or even their own names “I gave names to some of the aborigines [sic], their adopted names being the most barbarous and uncouth that can be well imagined. The natives were highly pleased with the changes: it was what they desired…” (Robinson 1836)
  • 9. RenamingOriginal name 1st change 2nd changeTrowkebuner Rowlebanna AchillesMaleteherbargener Moutehelargine AjaxWowwee Warwee AlbertMoomereriner Long Billy AlexanderPlerpleropa.ner Big Billy AlfredMemerlannelargenna Charley AlgernonWoorrady Doctor AlphaMeenerkerpackerminer Big Jemmy AlphonsoTolelerduick Dray’s Jerry AndrewWetilleetyer Jemmy ArthurToyenroun Ben AugustusPendeworrewic Ben BenjaminTremebonener Little Jacky Buonaparte[Not identified] Dick ChristopherLenergwin Lenergwin ColumbusMoreerminer Big Jacky Constantine
  • 10. Why?• Terra Nullius• Protection of resources• Social Darwinism• Myth of the “dying culture”• Colonialism is also denial of violence
  • 11. Extinction myth• By 1870 only 250 Aborigines were alive• Trugannini died in 1878• To be an authentic Aborigine you must be “full blooded”• However, Palawa culture has continued• Eg effort to reconstruct languages
  • 12. Stolen Children• Sir John Wilson, Bringing Them Home: The Stolen Children Report (1997)• 1901-1972 official policy was to remove Aboriginal children from their families• “Breeding out colour”• Physical and culture assimiliation• In Tasmania, children were removed from 1930s onwards
  • 13. Stolen childrenI kept asking, ‘When are we going to see Mum?’ And no-one toldus at this time. And I think on the third or fourth day they piled usin the car and I said, ‘Where are we going?’ And they said, ‘We aregoing to see your mother’.But then we turned left to go to the airport and I got a bit panickyabout where we were going ... They got hold of me, you know whatI mean, and I got a little baby in my arms and they put us on theplane. And they still told us we were going to see Mum. So Ithought she must be wherever they’re taking us.Removal from Cape Barren Island, Tasmania, of 8 siblings in the1960s. The children were fostered separately.
  • 14. Child labour• Many other Aboriginal children worked as domestics and labourers• Paid in food: black tea & white sugar• Aborigines could not be paid in money
  • 15. Homes are sought for these childrenI like the little girl in centre of group, but if taken by anyone else, any ofthe others would do, as long as they are strong.
  • 16. Loss and griefWe may go home, but we cannot relive ourchildhoods. We may reunite with our mothers,fathers, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles,communities, but we cannot relive the 20, 30, 40years that we spent without their love and care,and they cannot undo the grief and mourningthey felt when we were separated from them.We can go home to ourselves as Aboriginals,but this does not erase the attacks inflicted onour hearts, minds, bodies and souls, bycaretakers who thought their mission was toeliminate us as Aboriginals.
  • 17. Additional harm• Loss of native title entitlements• Compared to children raised in communities, stolen children are less likely to: – Have post-secondary education – Have stable living conditions – Be able to call on support during a crisis – Have a sense of Aboriginal cultural identity• Also twice as likely to be arrested and have spent time in prison
  • 18. “Sorry, and not sorry” (Barta 2008)• In 2006, Tasmanian government paid compensation• In 2008, Australian government apologised for past mistreatment, especially stolen children• Sir Ronald Wilson: – “it was a mistake to use the word genocide” – created an “unnecessary distraction”
  • 19. Continuing discrimination• Aboriginal children are still 6 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-Aboriginal children: – High rates of poverty – Inadequate housing – Intergenerational effects of previous separations – Lack of access to support services• Lack of recognition within the Constitution• Average life expectancy (2011) Man Woman Aboriginal 67 years 73 years Non-Aboriginal 79 years 83 years
  • 20. ReferencesAustralian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (2012) Summary of Australian Indigenous health, 2011. http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/health-facts/summaryAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner (2011). Australian Human Rights Commission. Constitutional Reform: Creating a Nation for All of Us. http://humanrights.gov.au/constitution/reform/constitutional_reform2011.docBarta, T. (2008) “Sorry, and not sorry, in Australia: how the apology to the stolen generations buried a history of genocide” Journal of Genocide Research, 10, 2, 201-214.Bonwick, J. (1869) The Last of the Tasmanians; or the Black War of Van Diemen’s Land (London: Sampson Low, Son, & Marston).McCallum, D. (2007) “Informal powers and the removal of Aboriginal children: consequences for health and social order” International Journal of Sociology of Law, 35(1), 29-40.Melville, A. (2006) “Mapping the wilderness: toponymic constructions of Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia” Cartographica 14, 3, 229-245.Plomley, N. J. B. (1966) Friendly Mission: The Tasmanian Journals and Papers of George Augustus Robinson,1829–1834 (Hobart, Tasmania: Tasmanian Historical Research Association).Ryan, L. (1981) The Aboriginal Tasmanians (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press).Turnbull, C. (1975) Black War: The Extermination of the Tasmanian Aborigines (Melbourne, Australia:Lansdowne Press).Wilson, J. (1997) Bringing Them Home: The ´Stolen Children´ National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. Report:http://humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/bth_report/index.html
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