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Invading the Australian mind: revisiting a twenty-year-old debate

In his TJRyan Foundation Research Report, eminent historian Emeritus Professor Clive Moore sets the debate, and the issues, into their historical context.

‘White and wrong: universities Cook the books as they rediscover language’ shouts the Courier-Mail in a banner headline (p.11), with a photograph of a statue of Captain Cook: ‘The Queensland University of Technology’s guidelines on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander terminology state it is “incorrect” that Captain Cook “discovered” Australia.’

‘Whitewash’ cries the Daily Telegraph, ‘UNSW rewrites the history books to state Cook “invaded” Australia’, with a photo of a painting of Cook.

Indigenous historian Jackie Huggins has responded: ‘We cannot deny our history. It’s a history that’s never fully been taught to us in our country. … For far too long it’s been very unfair on Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander people in terms of denying and having our history not even talked about at all.’

Of course Australia was invaded – massacres happened here less than 90 years ago

Bryce Barker writes in The Conversation (31.3.16) about the overblown public and media reaction to using the term ‘invasion’ to describe the process of European colonisation of Australia. He argues that recent research into conflict and dispersal on the colonial frontier leaves little doubt that this terminology is much more accurate than the peaceful connotations of ‘discovery’ and ‘settlement’.

‘Much has been made in the last few days of the University of New South Wales’ “diversity toolkit” offering teachers guidelines on Indigenous terminology.

‘The most controversial directive was a line about using the term “invasion” to describe Captain Cook’s arrival here:

Australia was not settled peacefully, it was invaded, occupied and colonised. Describing the arrival of the Europeans as a “settlement” attempts to view Australian history from the shores of England rather than the shores of Australia.

‘This story made the front page of the Daily Telegraph. Radio personality Kyle Sandilands quickly condemned it as an attempt to “rewrite history”.

‘But detailed historical research on the colonial frontier unequivocally supports the idea that Aboriginal people were subject to attack, assault, incursion, conquest and subjugation: all synonyms for the term “invasion”.’

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