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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 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.