Being Australian 16: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 9 – my tribes

The thesis sustaining this series is that we best regard as Australian anyone who holds Australian citizenship, no matter what their ethnic background, parent culture, religion or choice of food or clothing. I reject “Aussie” as a tribal marker aimed at excluding some citizens as “not Aussie”.  Australia has involved an inclusive multiculturalism which when understood properly is something of a benchmark for reconciling individual identities and communal harmony, which is not to deny that there are always points at which this is tested as individual migrants effect their own balance between what is and is not essential to their full participation in our multicultural society. The anti-multicultural rhetoric favoured by some here and overseas strikes me as having the potential to cause great harm, based as it is on an argument itself rooted in divisiveness (THEY are not US) while complaining that it is multiculturalism that is divisive. We do not need less multiculturalism; we need to embrace it even more warmly, because when properly understood it is a solid base for integrating our various communities.

The glue binding us all is that anything we are or do must be consistent with:

I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

Today I reprise a post from Australia Day last year. I notice it has had a lot of hits lately, and it fits well into this series.


A very personal Australia Day 26 January — my family

Go back, way back…

Family story has it that through one of my grandmothers I am of Aboriginal ancestry; one of my nephews went into this further finding the group we came from was the Dharawal – variously spelt.


Click that and you will find in very large format the map of all of Australia

Thanks to Five Steps to a Better Black Life in Australia by Chris Graham

The Dharawal Aboriginal people are the caretakers of the land on the south coast of Sydney, from Port Jackson to the Shoalhaven River, extending west to Camden. Organised by family groups as opposed to tribes, the Dharawal people lived harmoniously with the land, moving around with the seasons using both the land and sea as a food source. With the European settlement of Australia marked by the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, so too came diseases which had a devastating effect on the Indigenous communities in the neighbouring Eora land of Sydney. It is supposed that 50% of Dharawal people died from the smallpox epidemic of 1789 before even coming into direct contact with the settlers.

With settlement spreading beyond the colony in Sydney down the coast, the traditional hunting land of the Dharawal people was subsumed by farm land. This substantial land clearing dimished the traditional way of life for the Dharawal people. In addition to the loss of land, Dharawal people faced the very real threat of violence. The hunting of Indigenous people was common in the Illawarra region and it is supposed that a significant number of the Dharawal people would have moved inland from the coast to avoid the bloody confrontations with the new land owners. So severely diminished was the local Dharwal community in the Illawarra region that by 1900 there was only 33 known Dharawal people living in the region. The Aboriginal population of the traditional Dharawal lands now accounts for approximately 2% of the total population and is comprised of the descendents of a number of different Aboriginal clans and tribes.

See also Minto Dreaming.

Here is just part of their story: "Massacre at Appin in 1816" by Verlie Fowler.

When Europeans took up land grants, they cleared and fenced the land, irrecoverably changing the patterns of hunting and gathering that had been followed by the Dharawal people for tens of thousands of years.

Some European settlers formed a close rapport with Aborigines. Charles Throsby of Glenfield was accompanied by Dharawal men when he explored the southern highlands area. Throsby was a persistent critic of European treatment of the Aborigines. Hamilton Hume who, in 1814 with his brother John, made the first of a number of long exploratory trips southwards, did so in company with a young Aboriginal friend named Doual.

Whereas the "mountain natives" (probably Gandangara) had a reputation of being hostile in defence of their people and their land, the Dharawal were peaceful and had no history of aggression. Unfortunately few settlers could distinguish between the two groups.

In 1814, Macquarie issued an order in the Sydney Gazette, admonishing settlers in the Appin and Cowpastures area. "Any person who may be found to have treated them [natives] with inhumanity or cruelty, will be punished?." This followed an atrocity when an Aboriginal woman and her children were murdered at Appin…

Certainly my father’s family has very much lived their lives in Dharawal country – Picton, the Illawarra, even Sutherland Shire. I guess part of me is a traditional owner of all that… 😉 (I will demand rent from a number of you later.)

Unwilling immigrant 1822


That’s a convict muster list. The first name with full details is my grandfather’s great-grandfather!

This is the convict’s son, William. There are no pictures of the convict.


On my mother’s side – not convicts

National background should be obvious. Here is my great-grandfather.


All bloody migrants, you see… Except maybe for the first lot. See also Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days and Family stories 2 — About the Christisons.

We do well on Australia Day to quietly think of all such stories that make up our country, including all more recent arrivals from so many backgrounds who are all of them the reality that now is Australia.

Such as:

msplace021Linked picture.

M at his citizenship party.

One thought on “Being Australian 16: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 9 – my tribes

  1. Pingback: Scans worth preserving–5: Christisons 1–my mother’s family | Neil's final decade

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