Stealing a continent: Establishing the legal framework for the colonisation of Australia

Authors: Louise Johnson*,
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: Australia, Indigenous, Post-colonial, Colonisation, Planning
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Grand Couteau, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is an inherent importance in the first moments and then years of occupancy of a colony and the terms of contact between original owners and imperialists. This is nowhere more obvious than in the case of Australia and its British “settlers” encounters with Aboriginal first nations. The assumptions concerning the “right” to occupy these “unoccupied lands” and others on the nature of “appropriate land use” and the various measures taken to administer the disposal of these lands – initial grants, then sales and acts to limit settlement and affirm the rights of pastoralists - set the foundations and legal framework for stealing over five million acres of Indigenous lands. While subject to active resistance, the impact such assumptions, decisions and actions upon the Indigenous population of Eastern Australia was catastrophic. Located within a postcolonial planning framework, this paper will document the assumptions, uneven geographies and key moments by which the legal framework was established and enacted to steal the continent of Australia from its Aboriginal inhabitants.


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