Aboriginal Australians: Black Responses to White Dominance, 1788-2001

By Richard Broome | Go to book overview
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4
Cultural Resistance
Amidst Destruction

Within a short period after the arrival of the Europeans on the frontier, the Aborigines in the populated regions of southern and eastern Australia moved into the European settlements. In most areas this act of ‘coming-in’ was forced upon the Aborigines due to military exhaustion, disease and starvation. Others, especially those in areas where contact had been less violent, came in voluntarily to examine these pale intruders. For instance, the explorers were continually poked at and pulled by curious Aborigines. A few individuals in isolated regions, such as Barpoo, a Parkingee man of the Upper Darling, refused to accept the reality of European dominance and continued to use the land in the traditional way with the addition of the odd sheep to their diet. 1 However most Aborigines, even while floundering to work out some means of survival amid the new political realities, clung tenaciously to their culture.

While curiosity was often the initial motivation for the decision to approach Europeans, the predominant reason soon became the desire for food. Indeed many Aborigines came in to obtain European tucker well before the traditional foods in their area were exhausted. As Annette Hamilton has stated:

when the news came that the whites had abundant, if strange, food, more than they could possibly eat, this was like news of Eden—or the super water-hole, in Aboriginal terms. Hence, just as they had always moved to the sources of food—the ripening figs, the run of witchitties, so they moved to the whites, not in order to take part in white society, not in order to experience social change, but in order to beg the food. 2

Their hunter-gatherer lifestyle stressed the daily gathering of food for the least output of energy. If the Europeans were good or silly enough to give food away, why not come and take it instead of spending hours hunting for sustenance?

The lure of food was only outmatched by a desire for stimulants, namely tobacco, tea and sugar. Although it was thought that Aborigines

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