If we Australians are to face the future confidently, we must be fully aware of the forces that have shaped the Australian experience. We must know ourselves. The study of Aboriginal history is an important part of that self-knowledge. Through it, we can hope to understand not only the actions and attitudes of Aboriginal Australians, but something of the nature of European Australians as well. Australia's history since 1788 has been a story of black and white, acting upon and interacting with each other, in the great human drama we call colonialism. Yet for most of our past Aboriginal Australians rarely appeared in Australian History writing, so that we were presented with half a history—half an Australian Experience.
Indigenous–Settler relations in Australia have often been a raw history of European dominance over Aborigines due to superior numbers, resources and firepower. Both peoples have been changed and distorted by the colonial struggle. Aboriginal people have been denigrated and oppressed, while European Australians generally assumed the dehumanised role of oppressors, and held a false sense of their own superiority. All Australians should now see their history for what it was—both a dark moment in the colonial expansion of the West as well as the story of the growth of an admirable advanced democracy—before any mature Australian outlook can develop. Gallipoli and Myall Creek are central parts of Australia's past and we cannot understand our history without understanding both. Equity and justice for all Australians, and an end to the corrupting relations of dominance and subordinance, can only be achieved when Australians are honest about their past. Aboriginal people must find their rightful place in our national story. If the 1967 Referendum brought Aboriginal people into the census, and the Mabo judgement of 1992 ushered them into the common law, then Reconciliation may yet bring them into the nation. As tens of thousands marched in 2000 for Reconciliation, a new maturity appeared to be emerging in the heart of Australia.
This book has been one of the delights of my life. I wrote it with the modest intentions to explain two centuries of black-white contact in