Impact of Colonisation on Indigenous Australians

Impact of Colonisation on Indigenous Australians

Indigenous people live all over Australia – from small country towns to large cities, from the fringes of central deserts to remote tropical coasts. They belong to different descent groups and speak many languages. The welfare and health of Aboriginal people living in large cities are different from those living in remote communities, which also differs from those living in Torres Strait. 

Approximately 700,000 Indigenous people live in Australia, comprising about 3% of the general population of Australia. These are descendants of people who occupied Australia over 60,000 years ago. There were about 320,000 Indigenous Australians living in Australia during European colonisation; many of them lived in the Murray River valley and its tributaries and in the southeast regions of the country. This article will discuss the effects of colonisation on Indigenous people in Australia–to learn more about Aboriginal diversity and inclusion, click here to read our latest article.

The Effects of Colonisation on Aboriginal Culture

Indigenous Australia has a common story of European colonisation and the forced removal of their children. Before European colonisation, Indigenous people lived in small groups that were part of larger cultural groups within specific territorial boundaries. These small family groups had rules and kinship systems for socialising; they had responsibilities and roles related to education, law, resource management, and spiritual development. Also, they had ceremonies, languages, traditions, and customs, as well as an extensive mastery of their surroundings–Indigenous cultures were incredibly well-developed and strong. Additionally, Indigenous people were self-sufficient, and their children were protected and nurtured.

British colonisation had adverse effects on Indigenous Australians. Indigenous people suffered a lot of injustices, such as being evicted from their traditional territories and being relocated to reserves and missions. They were also subjected to mass killings, and for those who survived, European colonists denied their customs and traditions. Subsequently, the Indigenous people lost many cultural practices. For Indigenous communities, colonisation means violence, massacre, loss, and disease.

European colonisation also resulted in stolen generations within Indigenous Australia–these stolen generations are comprised of Indigenous people who were taken away from their communities and families when they were children. 

The removal of Indigenous children occurred during the early days of European colonisation and up until as recently as the 1970’s. It broke vital spiritual, familial, and cultural ties and has left lasting intergenerational impacts on the well-being and lives of Indigenous people.

However, despite the adverse effects of colonisation, Indigenous customs, traditions, and kinship systems are still vibrant, and Indigenous people, communities, and families remain resilient and strong. Wanting to find out if you are of Aboriginal descent? Check out our latest article to learn how.

The Impact of British Colonisation on Indigenous Australia: Diseases

The most immediate impact of European colonisation was a wave of epidemic diseases, such as measles, influenza, and smallpox, which spread ahead of the destruction of many Indigenous Australians and the settlement of colonists. The sexual abuse and exploitation of Indigenous women and girls also caused widespread venereal diseases among Indigenous people.

The Impact of Colonisation on Indigenous Australians: Violence

It’s essential to note that throughout European colonisation, Indigenous people continuously resisted the infringement of their rights to own land, affecting their communities and cultures.

Nearly 20,000 Indigenous Australians were killed by colonial violence during colonisation, and between 1,500 to 3,000 Indigenous deaths resulted from frontier conflicts. According to historical records, Indigenous Australians were hunted and murdered on many occasions; massacres of Indigenous Australians often occurred in the form of driving large crowds of people off cliffs and during mass shootings. There were also many instances of European colonists giving Indigenous Australians food laced with arsenic and other poisons.

The Impact of Colonisation on Indigenous Australians: Agriculture

When Europeans arrived in Australia, they cleared and farmed the land, and came with their preconceived cold-climate ideas of landscape, agriculture, and land ownership.

Before European colonisation, Indigenous people used fire-stick farming practices to manage their land and ensure sustainable food production; however, the events of European colonisation caused profound changes and negative impacts across land and resource management.  

Final Thoughts

The Indigenous people fiercely resisted the colonisers. However, with Europeans’ vast weaponry, disease, massacres, and displacement of Indigenous Australians, European colonisation had horrific effects on Indigenous people, their culture, and their legacy that they are still working to reclaim and preserve today.

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