A Concise History of Australia A Concise History of Australia 评价人数不足

A Nation, and on What It Is Based

之龢

In Flanders Field by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Australia, within 500 years, a nation modernised from tribes, is a good example for considerations regarding on what values, a nation is based on.

Contradictions

Australia has been standing with contrary opinions in various aspects within the short history.

Different Aboriginal policies have outlined the government’s changeable points of view since the European settlement. Like initially in many other indigenously habited areas, the Newcomers were helped, and in return responded with friendly gestures,[1] until both sides decided and realised that the ‘the intruders meant to stay’.<...ref="https://book.douban.com/annotation/49173195/" rel="nofollow">


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In Flanders Field by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Australia, within 500 years, a nation modernised from tribes, is a good example for considerations regarding on what values, a nation is based on.

Contradictions

Australia has been standing with contrary opinions in various aspects within the short history.

Different Aboriginal policies have outlined the government’s changeable points of view since the European settlement. Like initially in many other indigenously habited areas, the Newcomers were helped, and in return responded with friendly gestures,[1] until both sides decided and realised that the ‘the intruders meant to stay’.[2] The British settlers defined the land terra nullius, which ‘required no treaty or act of purchase from the inhabitants’,[3] with acknowledgement of the complexity of Aboriginal societies. Aboriginal population,[4] inhabitation,[5] even number of languages being spoken [6] obviously decreased due to bloody conflicts with as well as deceases brought by the Europeans. Either being pressed by the home country or responding internal calls, the colonial governors attempted protecting Aborigine rights, but with rare success during the rapid European expeditions. By the end of the 19th century, it was even believed that the ‘original people were incapable of adaption and therefore doomed to extinction’ in the name of ‘Darwinian science’.[7] While in early 20th century, Canberra, a local Aboriginal word, was adopted as the name for the national capital.[8] Prior to the Second World War, with the official objective of ‘raising their status to the ordinary rights of citizenship’, the practice of forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families were extended to deprive them of their culture, as Aboriginality was popularly associated with ‘dirt, disease and neglect’.[9] An official definition of ‘Assimilation’, ‘it is expected that all persons of Aboriginal blood or mixed blood in Australia will live like White Australians do’, further explained the objective, though acknowledged ‘many years of slow, patient endeavour’.[10] As late as 1992, an Australian prime minister apologised to the ‘stolen generation’.[11] Only after the Second World War, various civil rights were finally returned to the Aborigines responding to waves of Aboriginal movements. While the process of Reconciliation was ‘slow’ and ‘patient’ in a same way. A formal apologise, approved by and delivered in the Parliament, was offered by Kevin Rudd, then prime minister.[12] The official apology made less than ten years ago was the first, yet the last till now.

Parallel to the government’s Aboriginal policies, the government’s foreign policies on racism changed simultaneously. During the beginning years after the Second World War, Australia defended apartheid regimes in new Commonwealth countries.[13] While in late 1970s, ‘human rights became an important element’ of the foreign policy of Australia, a ‘courageous critic of apartheid’.[14] ‘The Chinese encountered the greatest hostility’[15] since the very first of them arrived in Australia as goldseekers in 1840s. In 1888, Hong Kong vessels were turned away at Australian ports regardless the Colonial Office ‘was antagonistic to immigration restriction based on overt racial discrimination’.[16] The Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 prevented arriving of new non-European immigrants as a result of the White Australia policy.[17] In 1947, during the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists, Chinese refugees were deported.[18] Responding to the need for additional human resources in 1990s, ‘Australia no longer discriminated’.[19]

Conciliations

Farewell to old England for ever,
Farewell to my rum coes as well,
Farewell to the well-known Old Bailey
Where I used for to cut such a swell.
Singing too-ral-li, oo-ral-li, addity,
Singing too-ral-li, oo-ral-li, ay,
Singing too-ral-li, oo-ral-li, addity,
And we’re bound for Botany Bay.

Echoing, is Botany Bay, a song of convicts banished to Australia.

Australia, the destination for the sentence of transportation, had been a land difficult to survive. The convicts as well as the European governors were brutal enough to ‘take the traditional lands and smash the traditional way of life’ and to ‘commit the murders’ as acknowledged by Keating’s 1992 address to an Aboriginal audience.[20]

With enormous prosperities brought by exports of wool, gold, oil as well as other merchandises, state and Commonwealth governments were set up as well as the representative system. Aboriginal rights continually being ignored and violated for greater economic success. With regard to non-European immigrants, both policies of racial discrimination and Australianisation have been politically right. ‘Aspirations’ of the politicians shared dramatically similar tones:

‘The unity of Australia is nothing, if that does not imply a united race. A united race means not only that its members can intermix, intermarry and associate without degradation on either side, but implies one inspired by the same ideas, an aspiration towards the same ideals, of a people possessing the same general cast of characters, tone of thought …’[21] said Alfred Deakin, deputy prime minister, in 1901.

‘We should have a monoculture, which everyone living in the same way, understanding each other, and sharing the same aspirations’[22] said Billy Snedden, Minister for Immigration, in 1969.

Following continual economic achievements, Aboriginal movements as well as Asian immigrations, Australia has turned, just in recent years, into a typical multicultural society which values equality of opportunity and access.

Considerations

A short history of the Australia, since European settlement till being a highly modernised country, brings questions on the foundations of a nation, as well as reflections on sufferings and successes a nation experiences. And the answers are open.

Is the modernity possible without initial and continual brutality brought towards the Aborigines and non-European immigrants?

‘Australian history now stretches over many millennia. In this dramatically extended past, the last two hundred years or so of European habitation might well be regarded as too close to discern its essential features.’[23] Instead of a ‘temporary interruption’,[24] the European development in Australia actually has been a new lease of life of the continent-country. Economic boosts of Australia were based on wool industry, mineral and oil discovery. Australia was not home to any breed of sheep. Wool industry developed upon breeds of sheep imported from Europe and rich soil taken away from Aborigines. Minerals and oil were found with assistances of western technologies. Initial international trade was made possible with the colony’s bond with the British Empire. Without European settlement and development, the continent, for a much longer period of time for sure, would remain based on hunting-gathering economy.

Do Aborigines benefit from the European-style modernisation?

European development and the lifestyle brought higher life expectancy as well living conditions. As late as late 1990s, Aborigines had a higher rate of unemployment and lower income levels. Their life expectancy was fifteen years below the national average ‘a quarter-century of government programmes that were meant to overcome their disadvantages’.[25] In Rudd’s apology, ‘the gap that lies between us (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity’ remained officially acknowledged.[26]

It is true that the Europeans initiated and has then been benefitted from the ‘modernisation’ of the continent. Asians, immigrated into the continent under the European system of government, were also becoming beneficiaries. Aborigines seems to be left far behind.

According to date by WHO, life expectancy at birth in Australia was 79.5 years in 2000. Comparatively in the Indigenously-inhabited neighbours, Micronesia was 67.0 years, Papua New Guinea was 58.9 years, Solomon Islands was 65.8 years, Vanuatu was 69.0 years, Fiji was 67.7 years, Samoa was 70.2 years, Kiribati was 64.1 years, and Tonga was 71.6 years.[27]

In terms of life expectancy, Australian Aborigines had bare advantages. While these island countries were identified by various cultures and customs, Australia remains a ‘western’ country with special fauna and flora, for the rest of the world. Australian Aborigines were not visible outside the continent.

Can ‘justice’ be really and fully done?

At initial stage of Reconciliation, returning of land rights was symbolic, as ‘largely confined to the desert and savannah regions of the centre and the north’.[28] The Mabo judgement of 1992 recognised the existence of ‘Aboriginal property rights that preceded the European settlement and continued past it’. ‘The subsequent Wik judgement confirmed that these rights could coexist with other property rights.’[29] Thus the land rights ‘coexisted’ and were ‘shared’. Australia ‘is a product of the European supremacy’. The process of decolonisation in different countries have been ‘influenced by the relative sizes of the indigenous populations’.[30] As of 2016, total population of Indigenous Australians was 649,171 or 2.8% of the total population.[31] Conclusively, ‘the pursuit of Reconciliation, made possible by the generosity of Aboriginal participants, depended in the end on the willingness of non-Aboriginal Australians to acknowledge past wrongs that could never be undone’.[32] Aborigines does not have many options, although the ‘generosity’ was not forced.

It is not imaginable if the current owners restore Sydney or Melbourne to their original status, and return to the original Aboriginal owners, no matter can be found or not. Destruction of modernised cities would bring no real benefit to any Aboriginal individual or groups. And at the meantime, it creates new injustice by damages upon current owners who didn’t obtain their properties in the cities as heritages of the earliest intruders. Therefore, sharing of the rights seems to be an ideal solution, but would never bring full justice to the Aborigines.

What is the ultimate nature of humanity?

‘Humanity’ is about the nature of human. ‘Humanity’ emphasises the aspects through which tells differences between human beings and other animals. However, human being, being a biological species, might has little to differ from animals.

Tracing back to the early years of the European settlement, brutality towards Aborigines were justified. When the majority of the newcomers were facing disastrous climate and repeated starvations, survival prioritised anything else. Brutality continued in the following decades during the crazy pursuing of wealth, especially when the expansion of their business unavoidably conflicted with Aboriginal rights.

Talking about ‘Humanity’, following ‘survival’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘seizure of resources’, there comes ‘kindness’, ‘benevolence’, ‘sympathy’ etc.

What labels civilisation?

The Reconciliation was only coming when the European settlers were quite highly civilised into a form of society which requires no more seizure of land or other resources from the Aboriginal communities, but required orders and disciplines.

With the non-Indigenous Australians closely bound each other with carefulness and spirit of social contract, it is too embarrassing to maintain degradation of Aborigines.

The Reconciliation responded more to new orders required by a changed society, rather than resistances made by the Aboriginal communities. Considering a neglectable 2.8% of total population, no resistance would make real significance.

Changing the phrase from ‘Australianisation’ to ‘Reconciliation’, Aborigines, the obvious minority of the country, remain the group of people to cope instead to be coped with. Dot-painted Qantas aircrafts are products of commercialisation rather than recognition of Aboriginal culture. Undoubtedly, when Rudd talks about the gap ‘in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity’, he was talking about modern medicine, college education and involvement of the financial system which were all invented and denominated by the ‘Europeans’. The government is no longer ‘stealing’ children from their parents, but the parents were de facto forced to contribute their children into the system as the Aboriginal system has already been too weak or unsustainable to support itself.

‘Equality of opportunity and access’ is talking about the opportunity to enrol schools, join governments or taking jobs instead of to paint dots, heal souls or hunt-gather; about access to public libraries, hospitals or universities instead of a pilgrimage at Uluru.

Is humanity degradable?

Yes. No achievement in social orders is unbreakable. On the contrary, it collapses unimaginably easy.

Convicts, who were sentenced to Australia for theft, violence or other minor crimes, admitted killing of human being and occupying Aboriginal lands.

If racial differences could be an excuse for the British convicts, massacre in Rwanda was totally a result of collapse of order. Such massacre happened often even during the recent years at various places around the world. Social order suddenly disappeared for different reasons.

Social order is never a milestone we lay down as a foundation.


[1] ‘Aborigines helped the newcomers with their fishing, and exchanged their tools or weapons for hatchets, mirrors or clothing. Europeans cared for those Aborigines who sought treatment for smallpox.’ Newcomers, c. 1600-1792[M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 33.

[2] ‘We do not have the direct testimony of those Aborigines who dealt with the first European newcomers, and cannot recapture how they understood their usurpation. We know from contemporary descriptions that Arabanoo, Bennelong and others were horrified by such barbarous excesses as flogging, terrified by demonstrations of musket fire, amused by European manners and forms of hierarchy. We can only guess at their reaction to violation of sacred sites, destruction of habitat, their ravagement by disease, and the growing realisation that the intruders meant to stay. Their society was characterised by a shared and binding tradition. Familial and communal restrains imposed order, mutuality and continuity. They were confronted by a new social order in which the autonomy of the individual prevailed and a form of political organisation based on impersonal regularity. Its freedom of choice and capacity for concerted action brought innovation and augmented capacity. Its self-centredness and moral discord generated social conflict, criminality and exile. Such an encounter could only be traumatic.’ Ibid. 35.

[3] ‘The British authorities took possession of New South Wales according to the doctrine, derived from international law, that it was terra nullius, land belonging to nobody. A territory might be acquired by conquest, consent or original occupation. In the first two cases, the acquisition of sovereignty did not extinguish the property rights of its inhabitants, but in the third case there were no such rights since the inhabitants were deemed to be in a state of nature without government, law or property. Cook had sailed in 1768 to search for the great south land with instructions “with the consent of the natives to take possession … or if you find the country uninhabited take possession for His Majesty by setting up proper marks and inscriptions, as first discoverers and possessors”. From their observations along the east coast in 1770, he and Banks judged that the Aborigines were few in number, mere nomadic inhabitants rather than proprietors. Accordingly they inscribed their graffiti on the trees and proclaimed British possession; and for the same reason the British government regarded New South Wales as a better site for colonial settlement than New Zealand because it required no treaty or act of purchase from the inhabitants.’ Ibid. 34.

[4] ‘Indigenous populations shrank dramatically (one national estimate suggests from 600,000 to less than 300,000 between 1821 and 1850), but disease, malnutrition and infertility were the principal cause: perhaps only one death in ten was caused directly by white violence.’ Emancipation, 1822-1850[M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 62.

[5] ‘So did the signs of human loss, the ruined habitats and desolate former gathering places of the Aboriginal inhabitants, the skulls and bones left unburied on the sites of massacres, and the names that became associated with some of them. There was Slaughterhouse Creek, on the Gwydir River of northern New South Wales, where perhaps sixty or seventy were “shot like crows in the trees” in 1838, Rufus River on the lower Murray where the water ran red in 1841, and other such places that recorded past atrocities with chilling frankness: Mount Dispersion, Convincing Ground, Fighting Hills, Murdering Island, Skull Camp.’ Ibid. 60-61.

[6] ‘After two centuries of loss that had reduced some five hundred Aboriginal languages to perhaps a score in common use, there was a revival.’ Reinventing Australia, 1975-1999[M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 262.

[7] National reconstruction, 1889-1913[M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 144.

[8] Ibid. 146.

[9] Sacrifice, 1914-1945[M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 186-187.

[10] Golden age, 1946-1974[M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 220-221.

[11] Ibid. 223.

[12] Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples [EB/OL]. (2008-02-13) [2017-11-10]. http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/our-country/our-people/apology-to-australias-indigenous-peoples.

[13] ‘It left Menzies’s regular trips to London for Commonwealth meetings and Test cricket as a nostalgic anachronism; his discomfort with the multiracial composition of the Commonwealth, as former colonies became new members, and his defence of the apartheid regime in South Africa made Australia seem another outpost of an obsolete white man’s club.’ Golden age, 1946-1974[M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 207.

[14] ‘On the other hand, Fraser’s relations with Thatcher were much cooler, partly because of arguments with Commonwealth forums over the white-supremacist regimes of Africa. Fraser was a courageous critic of apartheid, and human rights became an important element of his foreign policy.’ Reinventing Australia, 1975-1999[M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 248.

[15] In thrall to progress, 1851-1888 [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 103.

[16] National reconstruction, 1889-1913 [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 141.

[17] Ibid.143.

[18] Golden age, 1946-1974 [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 199.

[19] ‘Migration has always contained an element of economic choice. Just as the decision of the migrant to relocate carried an expectation of material improvement, so the willingness of the host country to accept newcomers was conditional on the need for additional human resources. But relocation is a traumatic experience that calls for readjustment to new ways, and Australia has always chosen settlers who would conform to national practices. The application of market principles to immigration policy relegated such considerations of compatibility to secondary significance. In contrast to other countries that retained a strong attachment to ethnic definitions of national citizenship, Australia no longer discriminated. It made the acquisition of citizenship easy and the privileges of citizenship slight. As a settler society, it exchanged the outworn emphasis on British descent for the postcolonial model of multiculturalism.’ Reinventing Australia, 1975-1999 [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 257.

[20] ‘His [Keating] 1992 address to an Aboriginal audience at Redfern Park opened with the conventional earnest of good intentions, and those of his listeners who had too often heard such pieties interjected their scepticism. Then came the frank recognition – “We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers…” – and the dissident voices fell away, replaced by growing applause as the litany continued.’ Ibid. 252.

[21] National reconstruction, 1889-1913 [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 143.

[22] Golden age, 1946-1974 [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 220.

[23] What next? [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 274-275.

[24] Ibid. 275.

[25] Reinventing Australia, 1975-1999 [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 261.

[26] Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples [EB/OL]. (2008-02-13) [2017-11-10]. http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/our-country/our-people/apology-to-australias-indigenous-peoples.

[27] Life expectancy Data by country [EB/OL]. (2016-06-06) [2017-11-10]. http://apps.who.int/gho/data/view.main.SDG2016LEXv?lang=en.

[28] ‘In Australia the altered relationship between coloniser and colonised became apparent in Aboriginal demands for self-determination. The Commonwealth’s land rights legislation in 1976 appeared to meet that call, but in fact the transfer of land to Aboriginal ownership during the late 1970s and 1980s was hampered by State governments and largely confined to the desert and savannah regions of the centre and the north.’ What next? [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 275-276.

[29] ‘The Mabo judgement of 1992 shattered this humanitarian framework. By their decision the judges of the High Court shifted the basis of Aboriginal policy from the operation of statutory law, where parliament authorised the restitution of Aboriginal land, to the very foundations of the Australian legal system. The court did not overturn the sovereignty of the government that had been established in 1788, but recognised the existence in common law of Aboriginal property rights that preceded the European settlement and continued past it. The subsequent Wik judgement confirmed that these rights could coexist with other property rights. The Commonwealth has since legislated to confine the ambit of the judicial decisions, but their implications have yet to be fully worked out and their import is irrevocable. The colonisers are confronted with the fact that they share the land with the colonised.’ Ibid. 276.

[30] ‘Australia, in name and substance, is a product of the European supremacy that began five hundred years ago and ended in the second half of the present century. In Asia and Africa the process of decolonisation saw the expulsion or withdrawal of the imperial powers and the creation of new states. The Europeans departed. In the colonies of settlement where independent nation-states had already emerged there was no departure, but it became necessary to rework the relationship between the settlers and the indigenous people. New Zealand and Canada provide some guidance on how this can be done peacefully. Zimbabwe suggests the consequences of refusal; in South Africa the outcome is still unclear. While the different paths to a postcolonial settlement are influenced by the relative sizes of the indigenous populations, it is clear that the claims of first nation peoples carry a much greater authority than before. That influence is unlikely to diminish.’ Ibid. 276-277.

[31] Indigenous Australians [EB/OL]. (2017-11-10) [2017-11-11]. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_Australians.

[32] What next? [M] // Macintyre. A Concise History of Australia. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999: 276.

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