- This extract comes from a long letter written in 1846 by the Aborigines
- 'Aborigines' is a term most commonly applied to the native peoples
of Australia. However, in technical terms it can mean any native peoples.
This letter actually concentrated more on the poor conditions of native
North Americans and Africans. However, this section concentrates on
the situation for native Australians.
- The letter was written to William Gladstone. He was the minister in
charge of Britain's colonies in 1846. He later went on to serve as Prime
Minister on several occasions.
- When the British first arrived in Australia there was often open conflict
between them and Aborigines. As the settlers became stronger, the Aborigines
declined. Disease killed many of them. New farming methods and animals
(especially rabbits) caused environmental damage.
- From the arrival of the British in 1788 to about 1920 the Aborigine
population fell by about 90%.
- The British government did try to set up a scheme in the 1840s which
gave 15% of the proceeds of land sales on Aboriginal land to the Aborigines.
This was widely seen as a generous gesture. However, it was not always
done. Also, Aborigines felt annoyed that they were driven off their
land and then offered only 15% of its value.
- This source is a good example of the controversy stirred up
by the issue. Is it evidence that the British showed great concern for
the Aborigines? Or is it evidence that British rule brought misery to