“Bring this paper to the Good Governor”
Aboriginal Petitioning in Britain’s Australian Colonies
This chapter considers attempts by indigenous Australians between the 1840s and the 1880s to engage in peaceful political negotiations with colonial and imperial authorities. One key strategy was petitioning – sometimes for material items like boats, sometimes for the hiring or firing of particular white officials, but most strikingly for land. The chapter places these requests within a wider history of petitioning by subordinate groups in Britain and her colonies. It considers how petitions could be public and performative, how they emerged through relationships between indigenous people and sympathetic colonists, and how they drew on both indigenous and British traditions and the language of Christian paternalism. By approaching various colonial authorities as well as the British Crown, indigenous Australians made some progress in securing land, resources, and education. Given that local settler government and interests were in the ascendant, however, many of these victories were short-lived.
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