‘All Aborigines from Sydney onwards are to be made prisoners of war and if they resist they are to be shot and their bodies hung from trees in the most conspicuous places near where they fall, so as to strike terror into the hearts of surviving natives.’
Governor Lachlan Macquarie Orders to soldiers 1816
The British were a colonising power, and the First Nations of this land never ceded their claim to sovereignty, even though the existence of any such sovereignty on the part of the Indigenous population was denied by the Crown throughout the colonial period. It was convenient to do so, and they had the military might to put down any opposition. If the colonisers treated the Aboriginal people of Australia as equals, and allocated to them equal rights and privileges under the law and in everyday life, then the picture of Australia’s history would change significantly, as would official accounts. Now we are entering a phase of constitutional recognition, substantial Native Title agreements and treaties. The agreements and treaties are essentially acknowledging Indigenous sovereignty by their very nature. The future of Australia Day will remain contentious until this history is taken into account. Dealing with historical injustice and Indigenous sovereignty is an important step in the process of both reconciliation and self determination.