Finally, I understand Australian history


  1. F.O. says

    Pretty much.
    Most pre-1788 First People worked 4 hours per day, 8 hours in times of scarcity.
    They enjoyed societies with relatively little conflicts, contact with nature, and strong social bonds.
    This thanks to 60 000+ years of learning how to run societies.
    Compare and contrast with our modern lives.
    Most white Australians are still convinced that they “civilized” the aboriginal.

    “Western culture” is superior in the same way a tumor is superior to the healthy cells of an organism.

  2. caeruleus says

    Could you maybe recommend some literature on this? I’ll soon be moving to Australia for my PhD, and I would be really interested to know more about the history and culture of the country I’ll be living in for three years, especially about the 99.6% of Australian history that are often neglected in the books.

  3. Rich Woods says

    About 30 years ago I was asked by an artist (who wished to enter a particular competition) to help him write a program that would display significant events in the history of human communication in sixty seconds, proportionally. A quick back-of-the-fag-packet calculation showed that we’d better skip over body language, gestures and speech and start with post Ice Age art. Even then we had thirty seconds of abstract symbolism before getting to tally marks and writing. Everything since the printing press was crammed into just two seconds. Thankfully this was all pre-Internet so I didn’t have to drop the timer interval into the single-digit millisecond range.

    (We didn’t win the competition.)

  4. nomadiq says

    I love the cartoon. It certainly puts things into perspective – when does natural history stop and human history begin? Never, of course, they are intimately intertwined. And I know the cartoon is a bit of a gag – but to be honest something very significant did happen almost 250 years ago on the continent and we should spend some time focused on it.

    It started with Captain James Cook claiming the continent for the (his) crown, the (that) crown deciding to set up a settlement (penal colony) and the execution of that order by Captain and then Governor Phillip. That history is ugly, bloody, criminal (even by the English’s own laws of the time) and genocidal. Short in duration, but dismally significant. To ignore it is a grave error of omission. To pretend it wasn’t that bad, or legal, is a grave error of commission. And just damn immoral.

  5. says

    The natural history of Australia, on the other hand, is just five minutes of horrified, anguished screaming, the sound of a soul that has gazed on Hell itself. Or maybe that’s because the presenter was stung by a box jelly on their way to the podium…

  6. unclefrogy says

    I just watched a Netflix spy thriller set in Australia that started with a “native” guide telling the story of a valley and ended with the same guide and an elder sitting side by side, there was a line delivered by the elder about how they will be waiting as they had been here for 60,000 years. i did not notice the perspective until a couple of days after I watched the last episode. It is something that I as an american with european ancestry often overlooks.
    uncle frogy

  7. weylguy says

    I visited Australia in 1985 with my wife and kids. My dark-skinned Egyptian wife was shunned, as were our kids. I left Australia thinking it was just like America was 30 years earlier.

    Hopefully things are better now. The Williams sisters can compete in tennis there without too much overt hatred, and I hear the whites are not hunting the Aborigines for sport anymore.

  8. chrislawson says


    It is difficult to estimate the average life expectancy of pre-colonial Australian aborigines. Evidence from other precolonial peoples such as the Huron is that some may have had longer lives than Europeans at the time. The Huron possibly had a life expectancy of 60 years in the 17th century. This is probably an outlier and most indigenous peoples likely had life expectancies around 30-35. But we have good evidence that life expectancy in C17 Europe was also ~35 unless you were an aristocrat.

    Then we have the fact that during the invasive phase of colonisation, life expectancy of indigenous peoples would have plummeted due to violence, infectious diseases, and displacement from traditional lands.

    And finally we have the fact that even today with all our modern medicine and social support programs, life expectancy for indigenous peoples in wealthy nations like Australia, the US, and Canada is lower than for the descendants of colonisers. In Australia, the difference is ~10 years — and that’s after major changes in public health policy designed specifically to address the problem (the program is even called “Closing the Gap”); not that long ago the difference was ~20 years.

    (It would be nice if we could pull up contemporary life expectancies for countries that were colonised and compare them to countries that weren’t. The problem is that there are only four (4!) countries that were never colonised or pulled into colonial influence by Europe: specifically, Japan, both Koreas, and Thailand. And Korea and Thailand were colonised by Japan in the C20! So that means the only country that was never colonised by Europe is…Japan. And guess what? It has the best life expectancy in the world at 83.7 years. South Korea does pretty well at 82.3, Thailand is not bad at 74.9, and North Korea is midtable at 70.6 if we can believe that figure. Meanwhile, the bottom end of the life expectancy table is dominated by African nations that were ravaged by colonialism over 3 centuries, where the number can be as bad as 50.1 in Sierra Leone.)

    In short, life expectancy for Australian aborigines is not a good fit for the “what have the Romans ever done for us?” joke.

  9. bargearse says

    weylguy @7

    Hopefully things are better now

    They’re not. I could go into a lot of detail but instead there’s one stat I find illustrative: Aborigines = approx 3% of total population yet are over 25% of the prison/jail population.

  10. sarah00 says

    @caeruleus, I can highly recommend Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, which really changed a lot of my unrecognised preconceptions about Aboriginal cultures. And while I haven’t read it yet, The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Gammage is on my “to read” list.

  11. says

    And our culture manufacturing PM has just announced a $40+ million re-enactment of Captain Cooks circumnavigation of Australia except he never did. This is in the same fake historical league as re-enactments of Captian Cook landing on the Kurnell peninsula in Botany Bay and claiming the land in the name of the Brutish king except he didn’t do that either. Cook claimed possession on Possession Island in the Torres Strait. Ironically the first successful aboriginal land rights claim was the Mabo Decision mad by Eddie Koiki Mabo a native from the Island of Mer in the Torres Strait. They don’t hunt aborigines anymore but several extreme right politicians can trace their ancestry to people that did. Now they hunt Muslims and African refugees instead. Thats what gets them just enough votes to hold the balance of terror in the Australian Parliement which like the United States is currently shut down because the government has lost its majority.

  12. codeslinger2001 says

    The last sanctioned massacre of aboriginals was October, 1928. The Coniston Massacre.

  13. chrislawson says


    I’ll look those books up. Thanks for the recommendation.


    Yeah, the current culture warriors need to be booted out of Canberra and never let back in. $40M to create a Captain Cook fantasy journey??? These are the same bozos who complain about historical revisionism any time they are confronted with information they don’t want to believe, even if it’s well-established.

  14. call me mark says

    I think the last sentence should have been “Then white people came on boats and ruined everything.”

  15. neptis says

    Meh. Those pictures with lots of text are not very friendly for people with visual impairments.

  16. caeruleus says

    @sarah00 and F.O.
    Thanks for the recommendations! I’ll add the books to my reading list.

  17. says

    I liked this comic although truth be told for any place in the world last 250 years should take more than 0.4% of the time spent.
    There is more history going on with 10 million people than with 100 000 people who live in a specific area, technological advancement made the pace of history much quicker – today our society changes more in 1 generation than in a millenia 10 000 years ago, the further in the past we go, the less we know about it and less influence it has on today.
    So last 250 years of Australia deserve more than 0.4% not because of whitecentric worldview but because it is true for almost every place on earth.

    Still, it works for the comic :D

  18. manytimesover says

    One book I recommend to anyone interested in pre-colonial societies, Australia in particular, is Dark Emu. Who believes that there was, or wasn’t, broad-acre grain based agriculture in parts of Australia before the invaders arrived?

    Bruce Pascoe is a really interesting bloke and most people would benefit from reading this and other books.