Was European settlement an ‘invasion’?
At a meeting last Monday night, Sydney City Council resolved to change the wording of the preamble of its corporate plan to describe the beginning of white settlement at Sydney Cove as an “invasion” and “illegal colonisation” rather than “European arrival”.
The move drew strong support from prominent Aborigines, but state Aboriginal Affairs Minister Victor Dominello said it was not the language of inclusiveness and reconciliation; and historian Keith Windschuttle said the Council’s decision “fans hostility and hatred.” On the other hand, Paul Morris, head of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, said his people were invaded, it was the truth, and it shouldn’t be watered down.
Former federal Labor president Warren Mundine said the controversy showed “how far we have yet to travel towards achieving full reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.”
From the perspective of Aboriginal people in 1788, the arrival and expansion of European civilization probably did look like invasion. But no one can change the past. We need to look to the future – to a shared, peaceful and prosperous future. And that will take more than words.
Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 3 July 2011.