Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History

By Bain Attwood | Go to book overview

6
LAW

In any nation, the principal role played by many historians has been one of telling stories in order to legitimise that nation. This is done primarily by providing myths to suggest that the nation was founded on both moral and legal principles as a way to handle the historical reality that contradicts this. 1 In the Australian case, nationalist historians have long claimed that the country was not only colonised peacefully by the British, but that this occurred on the basis of civilised values and the rule of law. According to this fiction, the country was settled, not conquered. Nothing has dismayed and angered settler Australians more in recent years than Aboriginal political figures and radical historians pointing out that this is quite evidently nonsense. Like any nation, but especially a settler one, Australia's origins lie in the revolutionary overthrow of the sovereignty and order of another people or peoples, namely that of the Aborigines. It had no sanction in any law other than the laws of the conquering nation (and other European powers). Many settler Australians have not taken kindly to being reminded of this. Indeed, they wish to deny it. Since the mid1980s, conservative public intellectuals in particular have made two moves. They have insisted on the relative absence of violence in the founding of the British colonies here; and they have insisted that these forerunners to the Australian nation had proper moral and legal foundations. These strategies go hand in hand. For his part, Keith Windschuttle has followed suit. In The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, he has presented an account of the colonisation of this country that is highly idealised and theoretical in nature rather than realistic and empirical.

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Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Telling the Truth About Aboriginal History *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Present 9
  • 1 - Nation 11
  • 2 - Democracy 36
  • 3 - Politics 60
  • Part II - Past 85
  • 4 - Genocide 87
  • 5 - War 106
  • 6 - Law 124
  • 7 - Culture 136
  • Part III - Future 155
  • 8 - History 157
  • 9 - Memory 170
  • 10 - Truth and Recognition 184
  • Acknowledgments 197
  • Notes 198
  • Index 259
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