The historic apology offered by prime minister Kevin Rudd to the “stolen generations” was a crucial step for Australia, as Richard Flanagan wrote on these pages this week. But it does not make amends for the role played by the British in the destruction and degradation of the Aboriginal race. Initially soldiers, convicts and settlers killed Aborigines as if they were animals threatening the crops. Later, in the 20th century, Fabian socialists provided the intellectual justification for the eugenics policy that led to the stolen generations scandal.
The British exterminated the entire tribe of Tasmanian aborigines, leaving only 40 survivors who were herded off their land and placed on an offshore island gulag. The governor’s wife led the hunt for their skulls to decorate London mantelpieces. At least there was a parliamentary inquiry, which reported in 1836 that “not a single native now remains upon Van Dieman’s land … the adoption of any conduct, having for its avowed or secret object the extermination of the native race, could not fail to leave an indelible stain upon the British government”. That “indelible stain” was, a century later, termed “genocide”.
Go read the rest in the Guardian.