In the wake of Gough Whitlam’s recent death (one of the few Prime Ministers who actually gave a toss about the wellbeing of Australia’s indigenous), current Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared Australia was “nothing but bush” before its colonisation in 1788.
Speaking at a gathering held to welcome British PM David Cameron to Brisbane ahead of the G20 Summit this weekend, Mr Abbott sort of just forgot about the few hundred Aboriginal tribes that existed here before we did.
Mr Abbott described how it must’ve been so strange for the convicts and settlers stepping off the boat onto this new land, almost as if they were arriving on the moon.
These words do nothing but damage years of hard-fought reconciliation, from the overturning of “terra nullius” doctrine, to Sorry Day on the 26th of May.
Simply describing Australia, pre-settlement, as “extraordinarily basic and raw” is an insult to Aboriginal people and their way of life. Tribes dotted across the country were communities, with culture, systems of law, and they lived harmoniously with the surrounding environment. There was nothing basic about it.
According to Janet Albrechtsen of The Australian, Mr Abbott likes to write his own speeches, which seems reasonable because I doubt the speech writers he has hired to give him input would’ve let this fly.
Mr Abbott is a frequent ignorer of indigenous history in Australia, once calling the colonial settlement of Australia the country’s “defining moment”, even though Aboriginal people had already been here for some 60,000 years.
The Prime Minister also defined Britain’s settlement of our country as a form of “early foreign investment”, which was described as “silly” by Mr. Abbott’s own Indigenous advisor, Warren Mundine.