The Gamaraigal Confront
It is now evident that the Europeans did not discover Australia. The Aborigines preceded them by well over 50,000 years. However, Europeans did invade Australia to found a gaol on the land the Aborigines had owned since the Dreamtime. On 26 January 1788 British ships containing 290 seamen, soldiers and officials and 717 convicts sailed into Port Jackson, to confront the Gamaraigal people of the Sydney area.
The Gamaraigal must have been completely bewildered by the arrival of these strangely clothed, pale-skinned people who travelled in weird water-craft. It was little wonder that they ran to the water's edge, yelling and lifting their spears with mixed feelings of anger, fear and curiosity. The Gamaraigal watched this large body of strangers, almost as numerous as their own tribe, unload their curious supplies. These invaders behaved like savages in the way they attacked the land: they felled trees, cleared the ground, gouged the earth, marked it out and pitched strange canvas shelters on it. The gentle rhythms of life around Sydney were pierced by noise, activity, shouts and parades. When the female convicts were landed, the Aborigines watched as amorous rum-primed men fell upon the women until cooled by a sudden down-pour. They were probably as astounded at this scene as the British officers.
In the succeeding months, the Aborigines' bewilderment increased as they saw overseers ordering convicts around, watched floggings take place, and witnessed several hangings. The Europeans even had the gall to poke about Aboriginal graves and unearth the bones. The Gamaraigal must have thought they were confronted by barbarians—which no doubt explains why they largely avoided the Europeans for the first two years.
However, some contacts were made. During the week at Botany Bay (prior to settlement at Port Jackson) several meetings occurred of which Governor Phillip and Lieutenant King have left written accounts. An Aborigine bravely approached Phillip who similarly showed courage in confronting a total stranger to whom he could not communicate his