Aboriginal people, also known as Aboriginal Australians, are the native peoples of Australia. DNA shows that Aboriginals likely migrated to the Australian continent from Africa on boats over 70,000 years ago. They have lived in Australia for over 50,000 years, developing many distinctive cultural traditions. There were over 250 language groups. Historians split Aboriginal Australians into two groups: those who lived in Australia when Britain began to imperialize the continent in 1788 and the Aboriginal groups who resided in the Torres Straight Islands, also known as “Torres Straight Islanders.”
British colonization of Australia had many negative effects on Aboriginal populations. For one, Europeans brought many diseases that the Aboriginal people had never encountered before and that their immune systems could not fight. Epidemics of smallpox, measles, and influenza killed many and destroyed communities. British settlers also sexually assaulted indigenous women, spreading venereal diseases. These devastating epidemics made it easier for British settlers to take over indigenous lands. Furthermore, Aboriginal populations, much like Native American communities in North America, had a much different view of “land ownership” than European settlers. They believed that land was communal and could not be owned by any one person. Europeans were able to use this belief to their advantage, conning communities out of their ancestral, sacred holdings.
Violence between Aboriginal groups and the British erupted all over the continent. British colonizers expanded throughout Tasmania, Moreton Bay, and Port Phillip resulting in violence as Europeans and Aboriginals competed for land and resources. The British massacred large groups of indigenous peoples by shooting them or driving them off of cliffs. Over 20,000 Aboriginal people were killed through colonial violence, and many more were injured. The British looked to “Social Darwinism” to justify their cruel treatment of the Aboriginal population, reasoning that they were an inferior race of people and thus were dying off as nature had intended. European racism fueled British attitudes towards the Aboriginal peoples for many years to come, marginalizing them by any means possible.
In all, British colonization has had a devastating effect on Aboriginal populations and those effects have been long lasting and severe. Not only were Aboriginal populations decimated through violence and diseases, their culture and religion was systematically attacked by the British. The British introduced Aboriginal people to drugs and alcohol, creating high rates of addiction. They also sexually trafficked Aboriginal women, treating them no better than animals. A report from 1990 stated: “women were handed around from station to station, until discarded to rot away with venereal disease”. Aboriginal children who were taken from their parents between the 1890s to the 1970s were named “The Stolen Generation.” These children were cruelly put through forced assimilation in order to “break” them of their culture.
Today, Aboriginal peoples have extremely high rates of poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, teenage pregnancy, and suicide. This is directly a result of Australia's corrosive colonial policies. Much needs to be done to mend Aboriginal communities and undo Australia's long history of treating these communities as unworthy and less than European settlers.