Invasion? A Better Approach To This Boring Argument
This controversy comes in cycles. Here we go again. Sydney City Council has generated excitement by referring to European arrival in Australia as “invasion”.
For Aboriginal Australians it an invasion. To this extent the council is right. But they are wrong – entirely wrong – to imply this is the only story about 1788 and the years that followed. It was not an invasion as far as the convicts and free migrants were concerned. Seen from this heritage – the heritage of European-derived Australia – it was the birth of a modern country. That is, a country linked to the world of trade, capitalism, imperialism, liberal ideas and Western notions of government.
For these people, who became Australians, it was not invasion but another chapter in the story of European expansion and one that produced a prosperous and democratic and happy colony within a few decades.
Here’s the point. Australian history is not one story. It is not just the story of colonisation and nationhood. It is not only the story of Aboriginal dispossession. They are part of it. It is other stories as well. It is the story of Aboriginal resilience and Aboriginal integration as well as the story of Aboriginal dispossession. It is the story of colonising successes and colonising failures.
When we grasp the point that Australian history is not one story but many we can levitate above this boring argument about the word “invasion”. To one part of the Australian people it was an invasion. To others it wasn’t. Australian history is many stories.
Grow up, my fellow Australians, grow up fast.