INJUSTICE - Appendix
After criminalisation and dispersal
Harold Finch-Hatton, like others, documented what he saw on his several-year stay in Australia. His stay was in northern Queensland, and he reported on the types of hunting available for the sportsman in Australia: “Away up north an occasional raid after the wild Blacks enlivens the monotony of life.” Every settler farm had a couple of “black boys” working stockmen but “they are not much use after they get about 20 years old. They generally get sent away and sooner or later die of drink.” (Finch-Hatton, Advance Australia!)
He wrote about the deliberate mass poisoning of Aboriginal people at Long Lagoon and on the practice of policing. “When the blacks are troublesome, it is generally considered sufficient punishment to go out and shoot one or two.” He reported that the Government resident was waging endless wars against the local tribal groups. And the widely-used native policeman “knows perfectly well that unless he manages to shoot down a decent number of (blacks) before they can escape his services will soon be dispensed with.
“Whether the blacks deserve any mercy at the hands of the pioneering squatters is an open question, but that they get none is certain. They are a doomed race and they will be completely wiped out of the land.”
Corroborating that prevailing attitude, in The Fatal Impact historian Alan Moorehead reported that in the mid-1800s: “Along the Murray River, which divides NSW from Victoria a series of pitched battles was going on between the settlers and the tribes, and it was nothing unusual for the whites to organise a day’s sport in the bush — a kangaroo or a man, it did not matter much what you bagged.” (Moorehead, The Fatal Impact, p170)
Moorehead tells us about the settler thinking in the case of the Tasmanians, who by the 1830s, with sheep farms dividing up the islands, had hardly anywhere to escape to. The same thinking came to apply on the mainland in the following decades. The Tasmanian Aborigines were deliberately hunted and exterminated by some 13,000 white settlers and convicts — “All of them eager for land and none of them disposed to let the blacks stand in their way.”
While the invaders of Tasmania accomplished well-documented annihilation of local people and culture by 1880, the full extent of Aboriginal massacres elsewhere are only now coming to light with one contemporary ‘mapping’ of massacre sites, counting more than 150 so far. (The Guardian, massacre map frontier wars.)
In the NSW Gwydir-region Myall Creek massacre of 1838, a vigilante settler group set out to “hunt some blacks” after a period of skirmishes and a longer history of total land dispossession. The vigilantes succeeded in chaining together, killing and burning the bodies of 28 Kwaimbal mainly women and children, resident at Myall Creek station. The men were away but there was a white witness. Returning, the station overseer reported the killers. At a subsequent trial that ended in hanging, (seen as a major win for justice since most white settlers brought to trial for killing first Australians were acquitted by their peers) the defence was that “they did not know it was illegal to kill Aborigines, as it was so common on the frontier”. (Flood, The Original Australians, p110.)
Another example of the conspiracy of death and silence was reported from Gippsland in 1846, by which time the south-eastern part of the country had been extensively subdivided for its grass lands and pasture possibilities. A young squatter (Henry Meyrick) wrote this to his English relatives.
“The blacks are very quiet now poor wretches. No wild beast of the forest was ever hunted down with such unsparing perseverance as they are…these things are kept very secret as the penalty would certainly be hanging…For myself, if I caught a black actually killing my sheep, I would shoot him with as little remorse as I would a wild dog, but no consideration would induce me to ride into a camp and fire on them indiscriminately, as is the custom whenever smoke is seen.” (Flood, p105.)
To which Josephine Flood, the anthropologist in whose 2006 book this quote appeared remarks: “Meyrick’s estimate (of 450 First Australians killed in the 1830s and ‘40s in Gippsland Victoria) has much weight as he admitted to the same base attitudes in himself and was privy to the secrets of other squatters.”
Queensland has been accused of the worst mainland record of massacres of Indigenous people — the same people who impressed Cook and Banks 70 years earlier, when they were fixing the Endeavour at present-day Cooktown and took copious notes. Those described the native peoples’ willingness to be friendly and their harmony with their environment. (Moorehead, p110 ff; Clarke, A Short History p15.)
The colonial killings in Queensland used native police from 1849–1900. A recent history describes the methods. As in Tasmania cross country drives and dragnets were employed; besides bullets they used strychnine and arsenic or drowning and drove people off cliffs. They ‘brained’ babies against trees. Author Timothy Bottoms in 2013 claimed 50,000 people were killed in those 50 years between the native police and the landholders. Coded language covered the killings for example: “No arrests made” and “dispersal” usually meant death. Cook and Banks and others described a sparse indigenous population. So 50,000 is a huge number in context. This did not count the deaths from disease that carried away many more people. (Bottoms, Conspiracy of Silence.)
If not an outright death sentence, enslavement and indentured work on the pastoral stations or in the west on pearling boats were also considered useful improvements to the previous state of tribal life.
The killing culture continued as pastoralism moved to the Top End and the Kimberley well into the 20th century. Some who chronicled the history of dispossession have said that invasion of the Kimberley for pastoralism was even more lawless and merciless than on the earlier eastern frontier (Flood, p109) Conflict followed by some collective punishment massacres continued there into the 1920s. (The Guardian, A very tragic history…)
Bottoms T, Conspiracy of Silence, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2013.
Clark M, A Short History of Australia, Penguin, 1963.
Dombrowski K, The white hand of capitalism and the end of indigenism as we know it, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 2010.
Finch-Hatton, H, Advance Australia! Allen & Co, Pall Mall (UK), 1885.
Flood J, 2006, The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2006.
Moorehead A, The Fatal Impact, Penguin, London (UK), 1966.
Mulvaney D J and Kamminga J, Prehistory of Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1999.
Pearson N, Up from the Mission: Selected Writings, Black Inc, 2011.
GOODBYE JOEY FILM-MAKER PETER CUNNINGHAM DESCRIBED HIS 1980S KANGAROO INDUSTRY INVESTIGATION TO AN ADVOCACY GROUP NEWSLETTER.
WYPERFELD: WHERE COLONIAL LAND CONVERSION MET MODERN MANAGEMENT A CASE STUDY SUPPORTING ‘AUSTRALIAN APPLIED ECOLOGY’
Where the shooting is called a ‘cull,’ everything is shot and the net effect may be population collapse, also foreshadowed by Peter Rawlinson and other independent biologists. A classic example of what happens was demonstrated in a northern Victorian national park in the early 2000s.
A 2006 shooting experiment in Wyperfeld National Park in northwest Victoria on mallee country demonstrated wildlife management and its outcomes conducted without baseline population and ecological studies. The experimental shooting set out to mimic dingo predation of an already modest kangaroo population of two kangaroos per hectare. The research reported on annual shooting but there was no mention of baseline populations studies, ongoing scientific monitoring or annual evaluation of outcomes. After eight years of shooting the population collapsed.
What became a national park offers a classic case study of sheep farming, land clearing, water diversion and finally blaming the wildlife for the enduring impacts of historic land degradation. Wyperfeld National Park was described by the cull researchers as having “no water” prior to the advent of Europeans, (despite having a lake and dry lake beds). Nevertheless, the report noted “thousands” of wild dogs in a landscape “swarming” with kangaroos when white man arrived.1
Settlement led to “heavy grazing” (20,000 sheep by the 1870s) and rabbit incursions. Faced with “poor hunting” (farmers killed the wildlife) and “the destruction of their wells by stock” (further begging the “no water” theory) the Wotjobaluk people “left” in the 1860s. “The Wonga Lake run itself was eventually in such poor condition that it was abandoned in 1880,” wrote the researchers. A critique of the culling experiment (citing such descriptions) further notes: The floodplain has not flooded since 1917–18, as “thousands” of kilometres of channels have taken the water for irrigation. “The progressive death of older trees continues”.2 Nonetheless, the Wyperfeld experiment authors suggested that “kangaroo numbers seemed to become particularly high” (the reported four per hectare is “overabundant” according to them). Kangaroo numbers were blamed for the poor recovery of vegetation in landscapes still recovering from 160 plus years of overgrazing by stock animals followed by water diversion.
1 Morgan, D. G., and Pegler P, ‘Managing a kangaroo population by culling to simulate predation: the Wyperfeld trial’, Macropods: The Biology of Kangaroos, Wallabies, and Rat-kangaroos (2010): 349.
2 Mjadwesch R, Critique of Wyperfeld experiment from Submission with additional information to the NSW Scientific Committee in support of 2011 Nomination to List the 4 Large Macropods as VULNERABLE under the TSCA 1995, 3 November 2013.
OUTLINE OF AN INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN CONDUCTED BY VIVA! IN THE 1990S AND EARLY 2000S.
EXPANSION FROM CHAPTER ‘INTERNATIONAL PUSHBACK’
VIVA!, the British vegan and animal welfare organisation, across two decades has successfully created a consumer campaign to stop the sale of kangaroo meat in that country’s supermarkets. They have been able to convince celebrities like footballer David Beckham to live without kangaroo leather. Here’s their story as told to me.
“In 1994, shortly after the launch of Viva!, our attention was drawn to a new ‘product’ range in Tesco’s meat chillers, simply labelled ‘kangaroo steaks’. We discovered that this so-called delicacy was the product of the largest slaughter of land based wildlife in history – hunted at night in the vast outback, with powerful fourtrack vehicles and mesmerising search lights, the startled animals are shot, supposedly in the head.
“We obtained video footage of a kangaroo shooter in action, exposing a cruel and barbaric blood bath. The footage showed animals being shot in the throat, their legs slashed open, a hook inserted and they were hauled on to the back of the vehicle, still gasping in agony. Large, still-conscious males were dragged up by their testicles.
“When females were shot, the first action of the killer was to search their pouches for babies. Having found one, he threw it to the ground and stamped on it, grinding his heel on the ‘joey’s head. He walked away, leaving it writhing. Obviously, there is no justification for this wildlife massacre and our research revealed the excuses offered by the Australian government were lies.
“Determined to stop this cruelty we targeted Tesco – persistently campaigning for two years to show the truth of the matter to consumers. We printed specific materials for their customers, organising hundreds of local groups outside their stores to distribute it, and supplied information to the media. The culmination was a double-page spread in the News of the World on kangaroo killing; Tesco dropped the trade four days later. That was 26 September 1997. As a result Somerfield also dropped sales, cancelling an entire frozen food range.
“In 1998, Viva!’s director Juliet Gellatley was invited to Australia by various wildlife groups and created a storm of controversy – doing about 50 media interviews and a press conference at Canberra’s Parliament House filmed live on national and regional TV news. She returned to the UK to reinvigorate the campaign – including a demonstration outside Sainsbury’s supermarket’s headquarters in London on 24 July 1998.
“Actress Pam Ferris, cut up her Sainsbury’s loyalty card in an act of defiance against the industry in front of Australian and
British radio and TV cameras. It was followed the next day with 100 demonstrations in the UK outside Sainsbury’s stores and in Australia at restaurants that sold the meat. “Representatives of the killing industry came to the Brighton demo, desperate to protect their markets. It did them no good because Sainsbury’s also dumped ‘roo meat, followed closely by
all major supermarkets – 1,500 stores in all. It led to Juliet being presented with the Australian Wildlife Protection Council award for services to wildlife.” Despite the victory in Britain, sales of kangaroo meat and leather continued in Australia and the global market was on the rise.
Hoping to spread the word and save “these unique and wonderful animals from further persecution” ’Juliet Gellatley returned to Australia in 2002. She appeared on the popular 60 Minutes, exposing key issues with the kangaroo slaughter. She visited the home of a kangaroo shooter to debate the industry. The hope was to build a collaborative network across countries. To some extent that has succeeded.
Viva! told me in 2006 they had another win when, after a four year campaign, David Beckham finally ditched his controversial kangaroo skin football boots in favour of synthetic ones reinforcing their Save the Kangaroo campaign.
Their next victory was in 2008 when they congratulated Booker cash and carry for taking an ethical lead and dropping sales of ‘exotic meat’, including kangaroo, to help preserve species ”after a meeting in which we provided compelling evidence of the cruelty and unsustainable nature inherent in the kangaroo trade. A second leading cash and carry company, Makro, removed sales of kangaroo meat due to similar concerns in 2009. Kangaroo skin football boots made the headlines once again in 2011, after it was discovered that large manufacturers (such as Adidas) were moving away from using the leather due to pressure from Viva! and other groups. The big four (Adidas, Nike, Umbro and Puma) continued using kangaroo leather to some degree –but became the focus of a US campaign in 2020. Kangaroo meat began making a resurgence in British supermarkets around 2013 when budget chain Lidl introduced a promotional burger range and the Viva! story continued. “We launched an ongoing campaign calling for an end to trade in kangaroo, which secured major press coverage in The Sun newspaper. It didn’t stop there as frozen food giant Iceland followed suit in 2015 with the
introduction of so-called ‘exotic meats’ – including kangaroo. “Another supermarket chain, Morrisons, was also slammed in
the national media for putting consumers at risk by selling kangaroo steaks and recommending the meat be cooked “medium rare”. Soon after the deluge of emails from Viva! supporters Morrisons too dumped the range,
“As kangaroo meat returned to both Tesco and Sainsbury’s Viva! moved quickly to condemn them publicly and soon both chains again dropped sales. The latest supermarket victory came with Lidland Iceland dropping their kangaroo meat lines in 2018. Iceland Lidl Significant animal welfare issues and health concerns had been forwarded to Lidl UK’s Managing Director.” This model campaign, carried out over two decades, showed how persistent the Australian kangaroo killers have been but also that persistence in return paid off.