Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020

Terminology used in Burke & Wills Web

Burke & Wills Web acknowledges that a rich indigenous culture existed across many different Aboriginal nations before the European settlement of this southern land. References to 'discovery' and 'new territory' etc. are from the nineteenth century Imperial, Eurocentric perspective by which they were written. Burke & Wills Web apologises for the use of any terminology considered derogatory to indigenous people which has been reproduced from historical documents.

The changing perception of early exploration today

There is an element of romanticism associated with the early explorers, settlers, convicts, swagmen, bush-rangers, gold-miners and pioneers who changed the face of this country. However, over the last few years the influence of post-structuralism and the rise of post-colonial/post-imperial history has changed the place of exploration in Australia's pioneering history. An increasing focus on indigenous histories has resulted in a shift in attitude towards indigenous peoples and the destructive legacy of European imperialism and colonisation in the nineteenth century. Explorers were invaders and exploration was expropriation. Burke & Wills Web does not wish to perpetuate the myth of the heroic explorer 'discovering' vast tracts of empty land. Whilst the modern concept of terra nullius has been retrospectively applied to Australia's past, (terra nullius was not a legal concept in 1860), there is no doubt that the arrival of Europeans in Australia has had a devastating effect on the indigenous population. Explorers paved the way for the violent destruction of some of the oldest surviving cultures on the planet.

acknowledging our past and working towards a better future

At the launch of his 1972 election campaign, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said:

'All of us as Australians are diminished while the Aborigines are denied their rightful place in this nation.'

Twenty years later, Prime Minister Paul Keating raised the issue again during the famous Redfern Address:

'We cannot confidently say that we have succeeded as we would like to have succeeded if we have not managed to extend opportunity and care, dignity and hope to the indigenous people of Australia.'

Keating went on to say:

'...it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practiced discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.'


Burke & Wills Web: Reconciliation Statement

Australia is a magnificent land.

To the explorers and pioneers this country was often seen as a strange and hostile environment. For the many indigenous nations that made up this great southern land, the arrival of the white man (balanda, migaloo, gubba, wajala, walypala) was an event which invariably led to the decimation of 60,000 years of traditional lifestyle.

Our current economic status is based on the acquisition of indigenous land and non-indigenous Australians have benefited greatly from the actions of the explorers and early settlers. However the prosperous lifestyles we enjoy today are a result of the displacement and marginalisation of the original inhabitants of this country.

While we should not be held responsible for actions perpetrated in the far distant past, we will be held responsible for the things we do today. Aborigines are among the most disadvantaged people in Australian society and many of their problems result from the impacts of colonisation.

Reconciliation is about respecting cultures. What are we doing today to ensure Aboriginal people can take a fair place in their home country ?

In the future, how will history judge us as a people ?

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix