The Australian nation has reached an impasse in Indigenous policy and practice and fresh strategies and perspectives are required. Trapped by History highlights a fundamental issue that the Australian nation must confront to develop a genuine relationship with Indigenous Australians.
The existing relationship between Indigenous people and the Australian state was constructed on the myth of an empty land – terra nullius. Interactions with Indigenous people have been constrained by eighteenth-century assumptions and beliefs that Indigenous people did not have organised societies, had neither land ownership nor a recognisable form of sovereignty, and that they were ‘savage’ but could be ‘civilized’ through the erasure of their culture. These incorrect assumptions and beliefs are the foundation of the legal, constitutional and political treatment of Indigenous Australians over the course of the country’s history. They remain ingrained in governmental institutions, Indigenous policy making, judicial decision making and contemporary public attitudes about Indigenous people.
Trapped by History shines new light upon historical and contemporary examples where Indigenous people have attempted to engage and dialogue with state and federal governments. These governments have responded by trying to suppress and discredit Indigenous rights, culture and identities and impose assimilationist policies. In doing so they have rejected or ignored Indigenous attempts at dialogue and partnership. Other settler countries such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America have all negotiated treaties with Indigenous people and have developed constitutional ways of engaging cross culturally. In Australia, the limited recognition that Indigenous people have achieved to date shows that the state is unable to resolve long standing issues with Indigenous people. Movement beyond the current colonial relationship with Indigenous Australians requires a genuine dialogue to not only examine the legal and intellectual framework that constrains Indigenous recognition but to create new foundations for a renewed relationship based on intercultural negotiation, mutual respect, sharing and mutual responsibility. This must involve building a shared understanding around addressing past injustices and creating a shared vision for how Indigenous people and other Australians will associate politically in the future.
Darryl Cronin is Senior Researcher with the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education in Sydney, Australia.
Chapter 1: No Just Relationship
Chapter 2: The Intellectual and Legal Origins of Terra Nullius
Chapter 3: Promise, Hope and Disappointment 1970-1990
Chapter 4: Recognition and the Limits of Tolerance
Chapter 5: Dialogue and Indigenous Recognition
Chapter 6: The Pathway Ahead
Trapped by History is a must read for veterans of the movement and for those finding their feet in the struggle to change the relationship between Australia’s settler colonialists and its First Nations peoples. It is a work of fine scholarship which charts the sad history of enduring opposition to demands for justice and recognition and argues for a new dialogue.
A compelling read! Dr. Cronin has provided readers with an in-depth analyses of Australia’s master narrative relating to Indigenous Australians; and a detailed road map for Australia to move forward into the future positively. This book is accessible reading and would be helpful to those who are interested in the future of Australia as an inclusive nation.
A must read for anyone wanting to gain an understanding of the colonial experience of Indigenous Australians and why Indigenous public policy continues to fail us all.
Darryl Cronin paints Australian history on a big canvas targeting critical turning points with compelling granular detail through an Indigenous scholar’s lens. With sharp rigorous analysis he argues for a dialogue aimed at decolonising our Settler Nation State. For those seeking an understanding of Australia beyond the prose of the Uluru Statement from the Heart; this is a book for you.
This is the book Australia has long needed. Trapped By History explores in detail how erroneous assumptions from the colonial past continue to impede the relationship between Australia and its Indigenous Peoples, and what needs to be done about it. Darryl Cronin eloquently proposes a pathway to a future characterised by the establishment of a just relationship with Indigenous Peoples. This book ultimately, finally, puts right the wrongs of history