The selected readings are both from the era of the colonization of australia

The selected readings are both from the era of the colonization of australia


The selected readings are both from the era of the colonization of Australia, from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 through the early settlement at the beginning of the 1800s. The two pieces of literature involve the interactions between the British colonists with the Indigenous communities of New South Wales Australia. Unfortunately, this is where the similarity ends between the two works, for while Bradley’s account addresses the earlier interactions when the colonists needed to ingratiate themselves with the natives, in Elder’s work the interaction turned deadly.

Elder’s work “Blood on the Wattle” refers to the bloody Massacre at Myall Creek, near Inverell, in 1838. This was a pivotal point in Australian history, as the unprovoked massacre of 28 Aboriginal women and children ultimately led to the first white criminal conviction for murdering an Aboriginal. Although Charlie Kilmeister along with ten other men was initially exonerated of any wrongdoing by the white jury, the retrial of seven of the settlers resulted in them being convicted and hanged. Unfortunately this epiphany in Australia history saw “thou shall not kill an Aboriginal” interpreted as “getting rid of the black menace or by death by stealth” (Elder, p. 94).

Bradley presents a firsthand account of the arrival in Botany Bay of the First Fleet’s Flagship “Sirius” and its later docking a little further north at Farm Cove. Bradley (p. 58) describes how they “without much difficulty met some of the natives on the Northern Side of the Bay” and the encounter appeared positive: “by Noon we saw that our people and the indigenous community mixed together” (Bradley, p. 58).

Writing 160 years after the events described in “Blood on the Wattle,” Elder takes an empathetic view of the Aboriginal people. He expresses an understanding of the suffering involved, as he addresses the intricate and macabre details of how the Aboriginals of Myall Creek were bludgeoned. Elder writes as if he was an eyewitness when the Myall massacre occurred: “Yintayintin followed and was confronted with a gruesome sight of 28 bodies lying in a lake of blood,” and as if he was within earshot to hear Kilmeister boast that he had “settled the blacks” (Elder, pp. 87-89). Thus in effect Elder presents himself as a historian who is sympathetic towards the plight of the Aboriginals, and as a modern author realizes the gross injustices of the past done to them at the hands of the white settlers.

Bradley’s account of the First Fleet’s encounter with the Aboriginals was positive, recording that “men, women and children were very friendly,” “quite sociable,” and even that they enjoyed one of the newcomers combing their hair for them (Bradley pp. 61-67). Bradley describes in first-person narrative the expedition he made with Hunter, focusing on the many details he observed, such as the Aboriginals having “paddles about two feet long and shaped like a pudding stirrer” and some of the men having “the teeth of some Animal and pieces of bone stuck in their hair with gum” (Bradley pp. 67-72). Bradley reports many such details of the people he encountered, and refers to the native flora and fauna in a matter-of-fact fashion. This reporting style is probably due to his being a legal representative in the initial approaches to the Aboriginals. The hostilities were to occur at a later date, when the settlers moved inland and lay claim to Aboriginal lands, as described by Elder.

Bradley approaches historiography from an objective point of view. He reports what he sees and does not elaborate or embellish upon facts. Physical appearances and gestures of the natives are presented without any auxiliary interpretations: “The men we met here were in general stout and well limbed the women excepting the very old woman, were young and in general shorter than the Men, very straight limbed and well featured…” (Bradley, p. 72) and “They received some trifling presents from [the Governor] which they handed to each other without much concern” (Bradley, p. 58).

Elder, perhaps because of his subject, allows emotion and personal views to enter his writing at times. When the murderers of the Aboriginal people are brought to Sydney, Elder reports: “It immediately exposed the hypocrisy which underpinned the fragile assumptions of the system. The theorists could protest that under British law both blacks and whites were equal. The reality was that, with a disturbing unanimity, the citizens of New South Wales agreed that no white man, not even an assigned convict, should be tried for the murder of a black” (Elder, p. 92).

Thus, the points of view of the authors and their historiography differ because of the vastly different eras in which they wrote their accounts.


Elder, B 1998, Blood on the wattle: massacres and maltreatment of Australian Aborigines since 1788, New Holland, Frenchs Forest, NSW.

Bradley, W ed., Voyage to New South Wales, Trustees of the Public Library of New South Wales, NSW.