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Study Guide : Australia (1750-1918): The Impact of early colonisation on Indigenous people


Their cultures had developed over 60,000 years, making Indigenous Australians the custodians of the world’s most ancient living culture. Each group lived in close relationship with the land and had custody over their own traditional country. In 1770, during his first Pacific voyage, Lieutenant James Cook claimed possession of the east coast of Australia for the British Crown. Upon his return to Britain, Cook’s reports inspired the establishment of a penal colony in the newly claimed territory. 

The new settlement was designed to alleviate overcrowding in British prisons, expand the Empire, assert Britain’s claim to the territory against other colonial powers, and establish a British base in the global South. 

In 1788, two years after the decision to colonise Australia was made, Captain Arthur Phillip and 1,500 convicts, crew, marines and civilians arrived.

Source :Information taken from Australians together website

Dispossession and Government Control : Aboriginal History

The original version of the ground-breaking Indigenous rights documentary Our Generation. Winner "Best Campaign Film" at London International Documentary Festival 2011. For more information, visit:

Migration Impacts

The impact of early colonisation effects on Indigenous People : White Australia has a Black History

FIRST AUSTRALIANS : Episode 1 - They have come to stay

FIRST AUSTRALIANS : Episode 2 - Her will to survive

THE FIRST AUSTRALIANS : Episode 3 - Freedom for our lifetime

The impact of early colonisation on Indigenous People : 1778 - 1900

It is estimated that between 1788 and 1900, the Indigenous population of Australia was reduced by 90%.

Three main reasons for this dramatic population decline were:

  • The introduction of new diseases
  • Settler acquisition of Indigenous lands
  • Direct and violent conflict with the colonisers.

The impact of early colonisation on Indigenous People : Disease

The most immediate consequence of colonisation was a wave of epidemic diseases including smallpox, measles and influenza, which spread ahead of the settlement frontier and annihilated many Indigenous communities.

Governor Phillip reported that smallpox had killed half of the Indigenous people in the Sydney region within fourteen months of the arrival of the First Fleet.

Source : Australians together

The impact of early colonisation effects on Indigenous People : Sexual abuse and exploitation

The sexual abuse and exploitation of Indigenous girls and women also introduced venereal disease to Indigenous people in epidemic proportions.

Source : Australians together

The impact of early colonisation effects on Indigenous People : Dispossession

The expansion of British settlements, including the establishment of colonies in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), Adelaide, Moreton Bay (Brisbane) and Port Phillip (Melbourne), resulted in competition over land and resources, and quickly lead to violence.

“The Government is fast disposing of the land occupied by the natives from time immemorial. In addition to which settlers under the sanction of government may establish themselves in any part of this extensive territory and since the introduction of the numerous flocks and herds. . . a serious loss has been sustained by the natives without an equivalent being rendered. Their territory is not only invaded, but their game is driven back, their marnong and other valuable roots are eaten by the white man's sheep and their deprivation, abuse and miseries are daily increasing.”

Francis Tuckfield, Wesleyan Missionary, 1837

Source : Australians together

The impact of early colonisation effects on Indigenous People : Violence

 It is important to recognise that throughout the colonisation process, Indigenous Australians continually resisted the infringement of their rights to their lands, and its impact on their cultures and communities.

It is estimated that at least 20,000 Aboriginal people were killed as a direct result of colonial violence during this era of shared Australian history. Between 2,000- 2,500 settler deaths resulted from frontier conflict during the same period.

  • Historical records do document numerous occasions on which Indigenous people were hunted and brutally murdered .
  • Massacres of Indigenous people often took the form of mass shootings or driving groups of people off cliffs.
  • There are also numerous accounts of colonists offering Indigenous people food laced with arsenic and other poisons.

Source : Australians together

AUSTRALIAN MIGRATION : The Colonial era (1788-1900)

The Library is open 8.00 to 4.00 Mon-Thurs, 8.00 to 3.30 Fri. We also have a selection of games available to play during recess and lunch. Only games from the Library are to be played.