Aboriginal land was taken over by British colonists on the premise that the land belonged to no-one ('terra nullius'). The history of Aboriginal dispossession is central to understanding contemporary Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations.
The Stolen Generations (also known as Stolen Children) were the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian federal and state government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments.
The map above shows that between the establishment of the British penal colony of New South Wales in 1788 and the mid-1960s, Indigenous Australians were deprived and dispossessed of virtually all their land.
This happened from the mid-1800s to the 1970s. In the 1860s, Victoria became the first state to pass laws authorising Aboriginal children to be removed from their parents. Similar policies were later adopted by other states and territories – and by the federal government when it was established in the 1900s.
Why were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children taken from their families? The forcible removal of First Nations children from their families was based on assimilation policies, which claimed that the lives of First Nations people would be improved if they became part of white society.
For example, British colonialism with its eugenic character did not only export white “stock” to extend the racial reach of Empire, it also stole aboriginal children and placed them in white Christian families in a process of cultural genocide.
The islands were settled by different seafaring Melanesian cultures such as the Torres Strait Islanders over 2500 years ago, and cultural interactions continued via this route with the Aboriginal people of northeast Australia.
Natural resources were seized for the benefit of non-Aboriginal people only to mine the land or breed livestock. Premiers in Australia have simply seized Aboriginal lands when their patience to negotiate ran out. Destruction of culture. Traditional culture and language was forbidden and subsequently destroyed.
In NSW, under the Aborigines Protection Act 1909, the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board had wide ranging control over the lives of Aboriginal people, including the power to remove Aboriginal children from their families under a policy of 'assimilation'.
Since the colonisation of Australia by European settlers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have experienced extreme hardships, ranging from the loss of traditional culture and homelands to the forced removal of children and denial of citizenship rights.
Land rights legislation
The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 has resulted in almost 50 per cent of the Northern Territory being returned to Aboriginal peoples. Some state governments followed the lead of the Australian Government and introduced their own land rights legislation.
The true answer is First Nations peoples, whose ownership stems back 60,000 years. The legal answer is more complex. It's a mess of titles – freehold, pastoral leases, crown leases, public land, native title and land held by Aboriginal trusts.
On 13 February 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly to the Stolen Generations whose lives had been blighted by past government policies of forced child removal and assimilation.
'Cook explicitly states he personally fired the first three shots, the second of these struck the Aboriginal warrior,' FitzSimons said. 'Only after this second shot are spears thrown and Cook states he fired once more. So yes, Cook fired first and drew first blood at the first contact in New South Wales.
Many Aboriginal Australians were also forced into various forms of slavery and unfree labour from colonisation. Some Indigenous Australians performed unpaid labour until the 1970s. Pacific Islanders were kidnapped or coerced to come to Australia and work, in a practice known as blackbirding.
However, once European settlement began, Aboriginal rights to traditional lands were disregarded and the Aboriginal people of the Sydney region were almost obliterated by introduced diseases and, to a lesser extent, armed force.
Thousands of children were forcibly removed by governments, churches and welfare bodies to be raised in institutions, fostered out or adopted by non-Indigenous families, nationally and internationally. They are known as the Stolen Generations.
One of the earliest pieces of legislation in relation to the Stolen Generation was the Victorian Aboriginal Protection Act 1869, this legislation allowed the removal of Aboriginal people of mixed descent from Aboriginal Stations or Reserves to force them to assimilate into White Society.
More than 27,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over in 2018–19 were survivors of the Stolen Generations, according to new estimates in a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The English settlers and their descendants expropriated native land and removed the indigenous people by cutting them from their food resources, and engaged in genocidal massacres.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' rights and interests in land are formally recognised over around 50 per cent of Australia's land mass. Connection to land is of central importance to First Nations Australians.
A recent study estimates that indigenous people in the US “have lost nearly 99% of the land they historically occupied”.
A new genomic study has revealed that Aboriginal Australians are the oldest known civilization on Earth, with ancestries stretching back roughly 75,000 years.
'Indigenous Australian' is a very general term that covers two very distinct cultural groups: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.