Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal people

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Allen & Unwin, Aug 1, 2006 - History - 320 pages
The Original Australians tells the story of Australian Aboriginal history and society from its distant beginnings to the present day. From the wisdom and paintings of the Dreamtime, to the first contacts between Europeans and indigenous Australians, right through to modern times, it offers an insight into the life and experiences of the world's oldest culture. The resilience and adaptability of Aboriginal people over millennia is one of the great human stories of all time.

Josephine Flood answers the questions about Aboriginal Australia that Australians and visitors often ask: Where did the Aborigines come from and when? How did they survive in such a harsh environment? What was the traditional role of Aboriginal women? Why didn't colonists sign treaties with Aboriginal people? Were Aboriginal children 'stolen'? Why are there so many problems in Aboriginal communities today? And many more.

This rich account aims to understand both black and white perspectives and is fascinating reading for anyone who wants to discover Aboriginal Australia.

'Another enthralling account by Josephine Flood, of Australian Aborigines! Her ensuring respect for her fellow humans underwrites every part of her exploration of the life and times of the Aboriginal people.'
Pat O'Shane, Magistrate

This is an up-to-the-minute and balanced account of Aboriginal experience from earliest prehistory to today. Clearly written and well-illustrated, this is the best book to give someone who wants to know about Aborigines, their survival through the millennia, and the experiences they have to contribute to modern Australia.'
Emeritus Professor Campbell Macknight, Australian National University

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This is a well intentioned book and it tries to be impartial . The writing style is clear and the topics are generally well researched. However, I found it frustrating as some statements or opinions are drawn from limited evidence and occasionally applied to all aboriginals when an example may be specific to one area. There are also some contradictions - on one page it states that aboriginals produced little food above their day to day needs, the only exception being ceremonies. On the same page there is reference to aboriginal trade networks including food.
I found it disappointing that more information was not drawn from the earlier explorers. It is also disappointing that There is no significant insight into the smallpox epidemic of 1789, its cause and its eventual scope.
Nevertheless, it is a useful contribution to this topic.


1 Exploration European discovery of Australia
2 Colonisation Early Sydney
3 Confrontation Early Tasmania and Victoria
4 Depopulation A century of struggle 1820s1920s
5 Tradition Indigenous life at first contact
6 Origins The last 50 000 years
7 Assimilation A time of trouble 1930s1970s
8 Resilience The story continues
Abbreviations to the notes
Further reading
Photo acknowledgements

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Popular passages

Page 16 - You are also with the Consent of the Natives to take possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King of Great Britain; or, if you find the Country uninhabited take Possession for His Majesty by setting up Proper Marks and Inscriptions, as first discoverers and possessors.
Page 5 - Their eyelids are always half closed, to keep the flies out of their eyes, they being so troublesome here, that no fanning will keep them from coming to one's face; and without the assistance of both hands to keep them off, they will creep into one's nostrils, and mouth too, if the lips are not shut very close...
Page 18 - As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property.
Page 15 - Cook had written: from what I have said of the Natives of New Holland they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans...
Page 29 - You are to endeavour by every possible means to open an Intercourse with the Natives and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all Our Subjects to live in amity and kindness with them. And if any of Our Subjects shall wantonly destroy them, or give them any unnecessary Interruption in the exercise of their several occupations. It is our Will and Pleasure that you do cause such offenders to be brought to punishment according to the degree of the Offence.
Page 209 - The varieties of man seem to act on each other; in the same way as different species of animals - the stronger always extirpating the weaker.
Page 11 - The Natives do not appear to be numberous neither do they seem to live in large bodies but dispers'd in small parties along by the water side; those I saw were about as tall as Europeans, of a very dark brown colour but not black nor had they wooly frizled hair, but black and lank much like ours.
Page 18 - Europe, too closely pent up at home, finding land of which the savages stood in no particular need, and of which they made no actual and constant use, were lawfully entitled to take possession of it, and settle it with colonies.
Page 5 - They are long visaged and of a very unpleasing aspect, having no one graceful feature in their faces. Their hair is black, short and curled, like that of the Negroes, and not long and lank like the common Indians. The colour of their skins, both of their faces and the rest of their body, is coal black, like that of the Negroes of Guinea.
Page 10 - I thought that they beckon'd to us to come ashore; but in this we were mistaken, for as soon as we put the boat in, they again came to oppose us, upon which I fired a musket between the two...

About the author (2006)

Dr Josephine Flood is a prominent archaeologist, recipient of the Centenary Medal and former director of the Aboriginal Heritage Section of the Australian Heritage Commission. She has published a number of books on Australian archaeology and history, including the influential Archaeology of the Dreamtime and The Riches of Ancient Australia.

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