TERRA AUSTRALIS INCOGNITA
Centuries before Europeans first set foot on the continent we now call Australia, the Greeks, the Arabs, the Chinese and the Indians had elaborate ideas about a land somewhere to the south of Java. These ideas were the product of imagination rather than experience. Their stories of palaces of gold, of fabulous birds of prey, of a kingdom of women or of dwarfs, were bound up in religious belief, or were extensions of their science.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, more prosaic images drew Western Europeans to seek this 'terra australis incognita': the profits of the spice trade, the souls to be saved, and the scientific curiosities awaiting discovery. Alvero de Mendana in 1567 and Pedro Fernandez de Quiros in 1605 set out from Callao in Spanish Peru to claim the unknown land for Spain and Catholicism but hesitated and turned back without seeing it. The Portuguese may have sailed along the east coast, to beat the Spanish to the continent's supposed riches, but if so they did not find the riches they sought. From 1606 the Dutch pieced together the coast-line of the continent in the north and west, and called it New Holland. They found no gold or spices, only sand, flies, naked savages and a few weird animals. In 1642, Abel Janszoon Tasman saw better country with good water and timber in the south, and named it Anthoony van Diemenslandt. Yet he thought so little of it that, for the sake of brevity, he left no detailed description. Although there was evidence that the land was inhabited, no contact was made with the natives, and there seemed to be little possibility of profitable trade.
The Spaniards, the Portuguese and the Dutch saw little in the new land to recommend it. They were to have no more to do with the development of the idea of what it meant to be Australian. The picture they drew stimulated no further interest, and the names that they had given it - Terra Australis, Austrialia did Espiritu Santo, Zuidland, New Holland, Van Diemen's Land - fell into disuse. Instead it was the English image of the new continent which was to prove most powerful and most lasting, and which was to attract more interest, promote its exploitation, and bring settlers to it. This was not due to any greater perseverance by the English, nor even to the fact that they came to the more fertile eastern coast of Australia. It was due, rather, to a revolution taking place in European attitudes to, and curiosity about, man, nature and science.
That revolution can be seen clearly if we compare the images of the continent popularised by two Englishmen, by Dampier at the end of the seventeenth century, and by Cook towards the end of the eighteenth. William Dampier made two voyages to what was then called New Holland, in 1688 and 1699. On each occasion his descriptions of the land, its flora, fauna and inhabitants, were more detailed but just as unfavourable as those of the Dutch. Like them he was full of complaints. The land was barren and fly-pestered; the water was brackish if any could be found; the trees were stunted and bore no fruit; and the animals that might provide food were not plentiful.
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He saved his most vivid language for the Aborigines. 'The poor winking People of New Holland', whose appearance and habits he set down in disgusted but picturesque detail:
The Inhabitants of this country are the miserablest People in the world. The Hodmados of Monopatapa, though a nasty People, yet for Wealth are Gentlemen to these; who have no Houses and Skin Garments, Sheep, Poultry, and Fruits of the Earth, Ostrich Eggs, & c. as the Hodmadods have: and setting aside their humane shape they differ but little from Brutes. They are tall, strait bodied, and thin, with small long limbs. They have great Heads, round Foreheads, and great Brows. Their Eye-lids are always half closed, to keep the flies out of their Eyes... They are long visaged, and of a very unpleasing aspect; having no one graceful feature in their faces. Their Hair is black, short and curl'd, like that of the Negroes; and not long and lank like the common Indians. The colour of their skins, both of their faces and the rest of their body, is coal black, like that of the Negroes of Guinea.
They have no sort of Cloaths; but a piece of the rind of a Tree ty'd like a Giordle about their wastes, and a handful of long Grass, or 3 or 4 small green Boughs, full of Leaves, thrust under their Girdle, to cover their nakedness.
They have no Houses, but lye in the open Air, without any covering; the Earth being their Bed, and the Heaven their Canopy. Whether they cohabit one Man to one Woman, or promiscuously, I know not: but they do live in companies, 20 or 30 Men, women, and Children together. Their only food is a small sort of Fish, which they get by making Wares of stone, across little Coves, or branches of the Sea... sometimes they get as many Fish as makes them a plentiful Banquet; and at other times they scarce get every one a taste, but be it little or much that they get, every one has his part, as well the young and tender, as the old and feeble, who are not able to go abroad as the strong and busy...
I did not perceive that they did worship any thing. These poor creatures have a sort of Weapon to defend their Ware, or fight with their Enemies, if they have any that will interfere with their poor Fishery... I saw no Iron nor any other sort of Metal; therefore it is probable they use Stone-Hatchets, as some Indians in America do.
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Clearly Dampier was not impressed. This passage, the first extended description of the Aborigines of Australia, was to set the pattern of European responses to the Aborigines for many years to come. His second voyage to New Holland confirmed his original opinion of the place, and again his description of the inhabitants was uncomplimentary: they had a 'natural Deformity' and 'the most unpleasant Looks and the worst Features of any People that ever I saw, tho' I have seen great variety of Savages.'
However such criticism says as much about the writer as it does about the Aborigines. Dampier was disappointed at finding no gold or spices or anything else worth trading. That, after all, was his purpose in making contact with the inhabitants:
I intended especially to observe what Inhabitants I should meet with, and to try to win them over to somewhat of Traffic and useful Intercourse, as there might be commodities among any of them that might be fit for Trade or Manufacture, or any found out in which they might be employed. though as to the New Hollanders hereabouts, by the Experience I had had of their Neighbours formerly, I expected no great matters from them.
There were no commodities fit for trade or manufacture, so it is not surprising that Dampier should stress the country's general barrenness, and the poverty and nakedness of its people. Even the possibility that the people might prove useful as labourers came to nothing. When Dampier performed lengthy charades to explain to the Aborigines that they should work for him, carrying barrels of water to the ship, they simply 'grinn'd like so many Monkeys'. So the land and its people were dismissed: he was motivated by a desire for profit, and there was no profit to be had there.
Dampier's comments were also the product of a particular view of the relationship between civilised man and nature. He was a contemporary of Daniel Defoe, whose Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719, by which time Dampier's account of his first voyage was in the fifth edition. both men's works reflected similar views of the world. The difference between European man and the save was civilisation, or as Dampier put it. 'Wealth'. This was measured in material terms: clothes, weapons, permanent housing and creature comforts were the signs of civilised man, who was distinguished from barbaric souls by his industry, his respect for material possessions and his reading of the Bible. Proof of the barbarity of the Aborigines lay in the fact that 'these poor creatures seem not accustomed to carry burthens', that they failed 'to admire anything that we had', and appeared to lack religion.
This outlook was to be challenged in the next hundred years. Even in Dampier's writing there were hints of a scientific interest that was much more marked in cook's journals. When Tasman's hopes for trade were disappointed, he shoed no further interest in his Van Diemen's Land, except for the wishful comment that in such an expanse there must be something of value somewhere. Dampier expressed his disappointment too, but the very length of the accounts of what he found reflected an interest that went beyond mere trade, and an awareness that there was a popular curiosity in new discovery. Dampier's journal was a success among the small but growing public that was supporting the beginnings of a scientific revolution in England. Already the Royal Society of London, for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, was 40 years old, and was providing a focus for that revolution - Isaac Newton was about to become its president. the society was largely made up of enthusiastic amateurs, but they were concerned to promote a professional approach to the collection of new knowledge:
To study Nature rather than books, and from the Observations, made of the Phenomena and Effects she presents, to compose such a History of Her, as may hereafter serve to build a solid and Useful Philosophy upon.
Thus they were interested in voyages of discovery for the sake of science, not for the sake of profit. They had formulated a set of 'Directions for Seamen, bound for far voyages' which were to be issued to men like Dampier so that science as well as commerce might profit from their discoveries. So when Dampier published his account of the first voyage, it was not surprising that he dedicated it to Charles Mountague, President of the royal Society, with the modest assessment of his discoveries:
As the scene of them is not only Remote, but for the most part little frequented also, so there may be some things in them New even to you; and some, possibly, not altogether unuseful to the publick.
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By the time of Cook's voyages round the world, this interest in science had become dominant. One naturalist, in introducing the public to the botany of New Holland, admitted that it so far offered little that was useful Instead he put the case of Science for Science's sake:
It is the peculiar privilege of reasoning man, not only to extend his enquiries to a multiplicity of attainable benefits to himself and his species... but also to walk with God through the garden of creation, and be initiated into the different plans of his providence in the construction and economy of all these various beings... In this point of view no natural production is beneath the notice of the philosopher, nor any enquiry trifling under the guidance of a scientific mind.
There was much more to voyaging then mere trade. The whole purpose of Cook's first voyage was a scientific one - to visit Tahiti in order to observe the transit of Venus across the sun in the hope that, from measurements made there, the distance between the sun and the earth could be calculated. It was undertaken at the direct request of the royal society for this the president of the royal society provided advice on how to collect specimens, record vocabularies and accurately observe the inhabitants, plants and animals. A second, more secret purpose was to try to settle the question of wh3ether there was a continent in the south seas. Cook set out with a large scientific party on board, in itself something quite novel. There were two astronomers, two naturalists (Joseph Banks, later to be president of the royal Society for a record term, and Dr. Daniel Solander of the newly established British Museum), John Ellis, an English naturalist, wrote excitedly to Linnaeus, the most renowned naturalist of the day:
No people ever went to sea better fitted out for the purpose of Natural History, not more elegantly. They have got a fine library of Natural History; they have all sorts of machines for catching and preserving insects; all kinds of nets, trawls, drags, and hooks ... many cases of bottles with ground stoppers, of several sizes, to preserve animals in spirits. they have several sorts of salts... in short, Solander assured me this expedition would cost Mr. Banks ten thousand pounds. All this owning to you and your writings.
They retuned three years lager, 'laden with spoils': 1000 new species of plants, 500 fish, 500 skins of animals and birds, innumerable insects, rocks and native artifacts and the vocabularies of unheard-of languages.
The scientific purpose of the voyage also meant that they returned with a new image of Australia. cook had not been able to find a southern continent, but had sailed along the eastern coast of that continent whose western side Dampier had so disparaged. As far as commerce went, Cook agreed with Dampier; although the east was not as barren and miserable as the west, and the hand of Industry could produce grain, fruits and cattle in the future, 'the Country itself so far as we know doth not produce any one thing that can become an Article in trade to invite Europeans to fix a settlement upon it'. So commercial interests continued to ignore Australia; for them it was as barren as it always had been.
For scientists, however, there were vast riches. The specimens which the naturalists took back from new continent firmly established it in the minds of scientists as a land of oddities. to be native to New Holland was to be, almost by definition, freakish and bizarre. cook had acknowledged the importance of the botanical discoveries when he named their fist landfall on the continent 'The great quantity of New Plants &ca. Mr Banks & Dr Solander collected in this place occasioned my giving it the name of Botany Bay.' Linnaeus called the plants that Banks and Solander took back 'a matchless and truly astonishing collection, such as has never been seen before, nor may ever be seen again'. The most remarkable thing about them was that they simply did not fit into the accepted botanical classifications of the day, which were those devised by Linnaeus. As Sir James Edward Smith, the first president of the Linnean Society, explained, anyone working on the botany of New Holland found 'himself as it were in a new world... Whole tribes of plants ... prove... total strangers ... not only all the species that present themselves are new, but most of the genera, and even natural orders'.
Yet even more extraordinary were the animals, the marvellous oddities of a topsy-turvy land. There was a fish which Banks found 'a very singular Phaenomenon', which not only jumped from rock to rock, but did not particularly seem to prefer water to land.' the activities of Australian ants were 'most curious' and most extraordinary (sic)' and 'probably in no country more admirable than in this'. One of the seamen came across a flying fox, which he described to Banks as being 'about as large and much like a one gallon cagg, as black as the Devil and had 2 horns on its head, it was but Slowly but I dared not touch it'. He would not have been the only member of the crew whose main concerns were drink and damnation. But strangest of all was the kangaroo which they finally tracked down and killed. It was a complete novelty. as Banks wrote, 'To compare it to any European animal would be impossible as it has not the least resemblance of any one I have seen'. Even the hard-to-please Dr Johnson was prepared to admit an interest in the kangaroo, and soon 'this unparalleled Animal from the Southern Hemisphere, that almost surpasses Belief' was being exhibited in the Strand, admittance one shilling.
The reason for the plants, animals and people of New Holland attracting so much scientific interest lay in the way they fitted into the eighteenth-century view of the universe. It was a common belief that every species of plant and animal had its own unique slot in a great chain of being that stretched from the highest form of life to the lowest, a chain which had been fixed at creation and would continue for all time. Naturalists believed that there were still gaps in the chain, and they looked to new botanical and zoological discoveries to fill them. the Pacific seemed to be providing two crucial links in the chain, the link between the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom, and the link between the highest animal and man himself. The plant-animal link was thought to be the zoophytes, the minute creators of the fantastic corals taken back by Banks, Solander and others. The link between the monkey and man was thought by many to be the Australian Aborigine, for no better reason than that he seemed to be furthest from European civilisation, which in their arrogance they assumed to be the highest imaginable form of human life.
Thus when Banks described the Aborigines as being 'but one degree removed from Brutes', he was mentally placing them on the chain just one step above the animal kingdom. similarly George Shaw, the zoologist, thought them 'less elevated above the inferior animals than in any other part of the known world'. Later visitors to New South Wales reinforced that view. Even in the 1840s it was still a common image of the Aborigine among the white invaders. They were 'the last link in the great chain of existence which unites man with the monkey' to Augustus Earle, the artist, and Peter Cunningham asked if they should be placed 'at the very zero of civilisation, constituting in a measure the connecting link between man and the monkey tribe? - for really some of the old women only seem to require a tail to complete the identity'. It was an image that conveniently suited those who were gradually destroying Aboriginal society in the name of 'civilization' and the expansion of their sheep-runs.
At the same time though, Australia was supplying evidence which increasingly challenged the concept of the chain of being. robert Brown, a naturalist with Matthew Flinders, had collected 1400 specimens in Australia, 2000 of which were new to science. When he published his findings in 1810, he abandoned the Linnean system of classification, arguing in nature the natural orders were linked 'more after the manner of a network than of a chain'. Francois Peron, a French naturalist, also found that New Holland mocks our studies and shakes to their foundations the most firmly established and mot universally admitted of our scientific opinions'. Here the order was confused. Here there were plants and animals that just did not fit into a place on the chain. Nature seemed to mix up the chain completely by, for example, attaching a duck's bill to a mole's body and calling it a platypus. for the logic of the chain to work, ducks should have nothing at all to do with moles, so when George Shaw saw his first platypus, he assumed it was a skilful hoax and tried to find the place where two different animals had been sewn together. Though such unnatural productions as the platypus, Australia, the land of oddities, contributed to the demise of the chain of being. Among scientists, it was to be replaced, later in the nineteenth century, by the theory of organic evolution, finally outline4d in Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species in 1859. It is significant that the three scientists who contributed most to that theory - Darwin, J.D. Hooker and T. H. Huxley - had all visited Australia. The land of oddities had become an essential port of call for anyone working on the frontiers of science.
The idea that Australia was a land of oddities also had a more popular vogue. In 1817, the Reverend Sydney Smith thought it a joke:
in this remote part of the earth, Nature (having made horses, oxen, ducks, geese, oaks, elms, and all regular productions for the rest of the world) seems determined to have a bit of play, and to amuse herself as she pleases.
Much play was made of the idea that in Australia there was an inversion of natural laws, an old idea but one that was popularised by Australia's zoological oddities. So Australia was the land which was upside-down, topsy-turvy, where it was day when it should have been night, summer when it should have been winter, where, it was said, grass grew on trees and rivers flowed uphill. It was an idea that continued to have a certain popular appeal for long afterwards.
The image of the Aborigines also contributed to ideas of what it was on the Australian. Those who saw the country as barren tended to view the Aborigines with disgust. Those motivated by an interest in science saw the Aborigines as yet another oddity worthy of observation; indeed, among scientists, throughout the nineteenth century, the word 'Australian' referred to the Aboriginal rather than the white population. both Banks and Cook viewed the Aborigines with a scientific curiosity and occasionally with the disgust of Dampier but at other times there was something that almost bordered on envy. It was as if, since Dampier's day, people had grown bored with the civilised life of Europe. Intellectuals had begun to idealise man in what they regarded as his 'natural' state, in which he knew nothing of the burdensome demands of civilisation. Damper had pitied the Aborigines because they did not know how to work - now men were asking might not a life without work, where all the necessities of life were provided by nature, be a very pleasant one? Dampier had been surprised that they had so few possessions, and pitied them when they did not admire European clothes and ornaments. Now Banks and Cook found they tore off and abandoned the clothes they had been given. to Banks this was proof that they could be quite happy without the clutter of European civilisation. 'Thus live these I had almost said happy people, content with little nay almost nothing'. He wondered how small are the real wants of human nature, which we Europeans have increased to an excess.'
As Cook left the Australian coast, turning back from the unknown to civilisation, he too began to idealise the life of the Aborigine:
|...they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans; being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous but the necessary Conveniencies so much sought after in Europe, they are happy in not knowing the use of them.|
These were a people who appeared totally uncivilised, without agriculture, without permanent homes, totally naked: according to Cook, 'even those parts which I always before now thought nature would have taught a woman to conceal were uncover'd'. Yet it seemed they had all they desired. This in itself made them interesting as scientific curiosities. However, the information that Cook and his party brought back did not only interest scientists. In the official account of Cook's first voyage, written by John Hawkesworth and published two years after Cook's return, Hawkesworth apologizes for the amount of detail that has been included for scientists, and comments:
It is however hoped, that those who read merely for entertainment will be compensated by the description of countries which no European had before visited, and manners which is many instances exhibit a new picture of human life.
He knew that the new discoveries would interest not only those primarily concerned with science, but also a class of general reader who, as Hawkesworth suggested, would wonder about the nature of human life, just as Cook had. Among such readers, Cook's voyages stimulated and reinforced a cult of the 'noble savage', a cult that was less scientific than philosophical. When Hawkesworth wrote his account, based on the journals of Cook and Hanks, he blithely ditched scientific accuracy and used their comments about the Aborigines of New South Wales to describe the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego. He was not writing for scientists but for a readership attracted by novelty or interested in a philosophical debate about civilisation. By the end of the eighteenth century there were several lines of thought concerning primitive man. first, there was an idealised picture of the noble savage and the simple life, which in Europe had been destroyed by civilisation. According to this view, natural man was far better off without the knowledge of civilisation. supporters of this ideal were later able to point to the ravages inflicted on the original inhabitants of Australia and the Pacific by the introduction of European disease, weapons and technology.
Cook's voyages stimulated this tradition, although it was the reports of Tahiti which captured the European imagination rather than the harder lives of the Australian Aborigine or the Patagonian. Tahiti, where cook's men cavorted with graceful 'dusky maidens', seemed like a Garden of Eden before the fall; shame and hardship were unknown; all the necessities of life were provided by a bounteous nature, with minimum exertion on the part of man. Hawkesworth's account of the first voyage, and the etchings that went with it, turned the people and places that Cook came across into noble savages and classical Arcadian landscapes for popular consumption. then on his second voyage, Cook returned with a noble savage in the flesh. Omai, who did the rounds of London society, generally to the admiration of all who met him. A meeting with him at her father's house caused the young Fanny Burney to contemplate man and nature, and is typical of the way in which cook's discoveries were received by the noble savage school. In her diary she compared Omai, who had 'no tutor but Nature', favourably with an acquaintance, who had received a rigorously systematic education from his father, and had had all the advantages civilisation could provide, yet had turned out remarkably awkward. She concluded: 'I think this shows how much more nature can do without art, that art with all her refinement unassisted by nature'.
It was only to be expected that with the various population of the Pacific confused in the popular mind, the Australians were sometimes seen in the same light. At other times they were seen as 'hard' primitives as opposed to the 'soft' primitives of Tahiti, but they remained just as noble, and to some - Cook, for example, preferable. so in the etchings produc3ed for the publication of the journals of Phillip and Hunter, the Aborigines were given classical physiques, classical posture and classical poses, even if the original sketches were for less flattering. The image of the Australian was being forced into a classical mould for the men of taste who were expected to buy these expensive volumes. this admiration filtered through to other perceptions. George Barrington, a convict whose aesthetic sense perhaps explains his propensity for picking pockets, left an admiring description of his Aboriginal companion in 1796:
a form that might serve as a perfect model for the most scrupulous statuary; her face ... of a perfect oval, or Grecian shape, with features regularly beautiful, and as fine a pair of eyes as can be imagined ... she was likewise of a much lighter colour than any of her countrywomen.
Similarly, Charles Pickering, who visited Australia with the United States Exploring Expedition between 1838 and 1842, thought that, while some individual Aborigines were of surpassing ugliness', others
had the face decidedly fine; and several of the young women had a very pleasing expression of countenance ... Strange as it may appear, I would refer to an Australian, as the finest model of the human proportions. I have never met with; in muscular development, combining perfect symmetry, activity, and strength; while his head might have been compared with an antique bust of a philosopher.
Pickering was aware when he wrote that his view of the Aborigine was no longer a generally accepted one. Even when Cook returned from his first voyage, the noble savage was being satirised in London. Dr Johnson was quite confident that civilisation was to be preferred philosophically, and in any case was rather more comfortable than the state of nature. He once dismissed the Aborigines as uninteresting on discovering they had no tails. Other satirists continued to attack the idea. Banks became a butt of their verse, especially when it was known that he had found, as he put it, a 'snug lodging' with some of the Tahitian women, and had taken advantage of the 'opportunity of putting their politeness to every test'. This satirical view of the noble savage led easily into a comic view of Aborigines, which was to be particularly popular in the colony itself. They were dressed in the comic cast-offs, of Europeans, loaded with alcohol, taught a few words of English, and set up as grotesque figures of fun. The casual jokes about the land of oddities had a darker side which was cruel and vicious.
A more powerful force than either the satirists or the admirers of the noble savage in shaping ideas about the Aborigines was the evangelical movement which was rapidly gaining influence at the end of the eighteenth century. The evangelicals condemned the idea of the noble savage because it implied that there were men who had escaped the fall. In their interpretation of the Bible, natural man was brutish and unregenerate, lacking shame and moral sense. They had evidence from Cook and other observers of nakedness, promiscuity, cannibalism, and infanticide. When Captain Watkin Tench reflected on the Australian Aborigines in 1793, for example, he wished that those philosophers who 'exalt a state of nature above a state of civilization' could learn that natural man was neither happy nor rational:
a savage roaming for prey amidst his native deserts, is a creature deformed by all those passions, which afflict and degrade our nature, unsoftened by the influence of religion, philosophy and legal restriction.
For such men, natural man was naturally evil. for some, that justified 'civilised' man's harsh treatment and dispossession of the Aborigines. It was a view which allowed British law to ignore the Aborigines' right to their own lands and was a popular belief when the Aborigines' lands became more valuable in the 1830s. For others, natural man needed to be civilised by Protestantism for the sake of his salvation. The accounts of the Pacific explorers jolted such men into action . the Missionary Society was founded in London in 1795, and soon missionaries were being sent to save the4 Tahitians from immorality and the Australians from ignorance. for the evangelicals, New Holland was a land sunk in depravity, a land awaiting salvation, and they set and with a good supply of trousers.
Even before European settlement in Australia, then, there were, among those who cared to think about it, well-established images of what is meant to be Australian. These images were the reflection not of a reality, but of the interests and assumptions of particular groups. for commercial interests, Cook had offered no advance on Dampier's damning picture of a continent which had nothing to trade. At most it could provide a base for whaling, and perhaps for the china trade, and the possibility that in the future something might turn up. For scientists on the other hand, the continent held out great botanical and zoological riches, including key links in both the great chain of being and the theory of evolution which overthrew it. but it was also a strange land, full of natural oddities that did not fit into the accepted order of things, a topsy-turvy world where nature seemed at odds with herself. For some it was a land untouched by civilisation, a primitive land in a perfect state of nature. Its inhabitants could provoke fashionable envy for their supposed pristine happiness, cynical amusement at their comical antics, or pious disgust at their depravity and barbaric ignorance.
These various images ebbed and flowed through the minds of those few Europeans who ever thought about the continent before British settlement. Something of each of them was to remain part of the image of Australia in Europe, long after the British invasion and even into the twentieth century. As these images jostled with each other the Aborigines lost out. The weird animals and plants became popular symbols of Australian identity. They were to appear on coats of arms and coins, and as company trade marks. They were elevated into the conventional, neutral symbols of Australia.
The Aborigines fared worse. In Europe they remained representative of Australia, placed beside the plants and animals as natural objects of curiosity. In Australia, as the idea of 'being Australian' developed among the European inhabitants, the Aborigines became less and less representative of 'Australia' until in the end they were quite dispossessed. For most of the settlers they were pests, sometimes comic, sometimes vicious, but always standing in the way of a civilised Australian community. Eventually they were to reach the indignity of being 'Our Aborigines', their image no longer representative of Australia except as garden ornaments in suburban backyards and ashtrays in souvenir shops.
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