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WHAT, White Possessive


In order to understand the full significance of Governor Bourke’s Proclamation (1835) one must look at a secondary source document. White Possessive (2015)  by historian, Aileen Morton-Robinson looks at White rule in Australia. Morton-Robinson’s theory asserts that Australia was a vacant land largely because this best suited the purpose of the colonizers who believed they were superior and therefore the rightful possessors.

Captain Cook perceived indigenous peoples as being an ‘inseparable part of nature’ and therefore denies natives as the rightful owners of the land by failing to acknowledge ‘personhood’. Morton-Robinson argues that Cook is perpetuating a ‘scientific lexicon,’ (a branch of knowledge that asserted white race superiority) written for whites by whites for their own hubris and power.

A key point to justify the colonizers stance is the bias that Indigenous people are inferior and deemed less evolved because of skin colour. Morton-Robinson points out that Cook perceived the Aboriginal people to be “living in a state of nature” wild and without will; a false belief fostered by the view of superior science and technological achievement attributed to the white race.

To support her theory Morton-Robinson looks at primary source documents such as a journal entry by Cook, July 19 1770 recounting the day Aboriginal natives came onboard the Endeavour and their reaction to the theft of turtles by Cooks Men. Cook wrongly perceives the natives interest in the turtles as ‘hunger.’

The natives are in fact angry about the theft of their turtles by the white men. In order to demonstrate her key argument about the misunderstanding that existed between white ‘invaders’ and the Aboriginal peoples of Australia Morton-Robinson looks at indigenous narrative and feeling primarily summed up by an old man called Hobbles about Cook.

Because it suited colonization, Governor Bourke’s Proclamation demonstrates a society, superior to the Aboriginals Natives, as judged by their benchmark. Modern day Romans, a society whereby trespassers are not welcome and natives are not landowners. Governor Bourke’s Proclamation is a knee jerk reaction to Batman’s Treaty with the Aboriginals over the purchase of land in 1835; this was in order to facilitate absolute control over the whole of the land for the Crown.

Reference material;

Governor Bourke’s Proclamation (1835)

The document is a primary source; a copy is available in the New South Wales Government Gazette No 3 411.

Bourke, R. (1835) Proclamation. New South Wales Government Gazette, NSW.

NGV International, The NGV Triennial 2020 various works by Dhambit Munungurr Djapu born 1968.  Photo’s Cristina Ceddia 8th February 2021.

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