Did you know ... as European occupation spread, so did the violence, as Aboriginal people fought for their lands?

With the Industrial Revolution in full swing, in 1822 the British Government drastically cut the duty on Australian wool in order to encourage wool production in Australia. Consequently many thousands of sheep were shipped to Australia, and over a period of 28 years, more than 200,000 white immigrants poured in.

As European occupation spread, so did the violence, as Aboriginal people fought for their lands. The Aboriginal population around Port Phillip, estimated to be about 10,000 before white contact, was reduced by 85% in only 20 years, leaving survivors confused and devastated. In just one generation Aboriginal People experienced a total collapse of their world and a way of life which had successfully sustained them for more than 170,000 years (from archaeological evidence).

Racist assumptions, based on Social Darwinism, were that Aborigines were inferior to Europeans and would eventually die out. The denigration of Aboriginal people made it easier for the immigrants to take land, and Social Darwinism provided a neat explanation for the decline in Aboriginal numbers.

In 1860 the Victorian Government established a Central Board for Aborigines in order to control expenditure, establish reserves and to appoint managers, who were to control the lives of Aboriginal People. Nine years later this Central Board acquired the power to force Aborigines onto reserves. Eventually there were 19 reserves and missions set up in Victoria with six in the Geelong region: Winchelsea, Steiglitz, Mount Duneed, Birregurra, Elleminyt and Colac. However, about half the Aboriginal People in Victoria managed to avoid the controlled and restricted life on the reserves. These Aborigines preferred to dodge the authorities and try to eke out an existence as rural labourers or fringe dwellers, even though they suffered great uncertainties and hardships.

Despite the trauma their people lived through, Aboriginal reminiscences of the early 20th century are full of accounts of how the older people, against all odds, managed to teach their young hunting skills and traditional stories, which describe correct ways of behaviour. Aborigines everywhere battled on, trying to work out ways of surviving the increasing controls that were imposed on them by petty managers, missionaries and government policies devised supposedly in the name of protection.

Provided by Uncle David Tournier