European settlers first arrived on the Australian continent in the late eighteenth century. In a manner very similar to Native American contact with Europeans, diseases for which Aboriginal peoples had no immunity quickly ravaged the population, which is estimated at over 750,000 before contact. Thus weakened, Aboriginal Australians struggled to resist colonial incursions by Europeans. Resistance to settlements still happened, though, and was met with brutal retribution by British settlers, who possessed weapons that Native Australians could not match. In a process that mirrored that of North America, enclaves of Aboriginal territory were gradually filled by white settlement throughout the nineteenth century, often through violence. At almost the same time as Native Americans were being forced to assimilate through such measures as the Dawes Act, Aboriginal Australians found themselves forced onto reservations and made dependent on the Australian government for sustenance. Many became laborers for white landowners. Today, much like Native Americans, Indigenous Australians contend for rights to ancestral lands, for expanded educational and economic opportunities, and other things. Change has come slowly. Racist assumptions about Aboriginal people, popular culture that has tended to brand them as less than "civilized," and other structural factors contribute to persistent social issues among Indigenous peoples on both continents. Aboriginal Australians were only first counted as citizens in the 1960s. Both populations suffer disproportionately from high poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide rates. Aboriginal Australians were only afforded voting rights in the last half-century, and Native Americans see their rights to traditional lands continually contested in the courts.
It should be noted that there were significant differences between settler colonialism in North America and in Australia. One striking difference is that there was no colonial rivalry in Australia. Native peoples (like in Australia, a very diverse collection of peoples) in North America could exploit the colonial struggle between Britain and France in Canada and the Ohio Valley, or between these powers and Spain in the southern reaches of North America. This enabled them to retain considerable power. Aboriginal Australians had no such "advantage." They faced British settlers who viewed them essentially as subhuman and who were bent on taking their lands. But the broad strokes of Australian and North American history are disturbingly similar, from an Indigenous perspective.