Throughout my life, I have been vaguley aware of Aboriginal Australians but not really known the history of our (white Australia's) invasion, mistreatment and slaughter of Aboriginal people. In primary school, we did dot paintings. Family members would repeat racist myths like "we made life better for them, they're so ungrateful", "they get more from the Government than we do", "they're all paint sniffers and alcoholics". As a child, I believed what I was told and didn't know better.
In highschool, I was told a little bit more about Australian history but the impact it left was not strong; I remember pictures of Aboriginal men with spears, looking stoic (perhaps a summary would be 'noble savage' and 'white saviour' stories). I remember stories of settlers taking over a hard land and making a real go of it. I was never really interested beyond that, it never occurred to me to look further. I wish I had.
It wasn't until I did some sociology courses at Griffith University in ~2011 that I began to explore more. I had already started to become aware of other forms of oppression (e.g. sexism, animal abuse). I was generally aware of Australia being a rather racist country, with a white washed history that glorified wars overseas. I've been slowly trying to educate myself on important things over the last 5 years. My original focus was animal rights, then sexism, ableism, racism, prison systems, LGBTIQA+ rights and so on and so forth.
This book was hugely helpful. Reading it was an emotional rollercoaster. I was angry, frustrated, sad. I mourned the loss of those people whose land this was, I was sickened by what we (white Australians) did. I finally felt like I had a tiny insight into the real history of Australia, into what we have done wrong. I have no idea how we could ever even begin to fix it.
In this book, Reynolds talks about not only the numbers of people killed in the war for Australia, but also of the nature of that war; the skirmishes, the use of the Native Mounted Police, the discourse around the war and how it was 'forgotten' by modern Australia. It's as though this was a dirty secret we wished to sweep under the rug in the hopes that it wouldn't dirty the shiny imagery of our strong settler ancestors.
I recommend every Australian read this to gain a better understanding of our history, in the hopes that this knowledge will allow us to think of ways to move forward together and create a better future.
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