Neville, formally dressed, delivers a speech to the Royal Western Australian Historical Society. He stands on a podium in from of a portrait of the King, the Union Jack, and the flag of Western Australia.
The portrait of the King, Union Jack, and flag all give Neville a sense of authority bestowed upon him by his connection to Britain, which colonized Australia. Ironically, there is no gesture towards Australia’s indigenous population, only towards its conquerors.
Neville is ending a long speech, and concludes with a look back to the early days of Australian colonization. Captain Stirling had laid out rules regarding the treatment of Australia’s extant Indigenous population. Neville quotes Stirling, who wrote that anyone found behaving in a “fraudulent, cruel, or felonious manner” towards the Aboriginal Australians would be prosecuted as though they had committed a crime against a white person in their home country. However, later in the proclamation he also called for men to enroll in the army to protect their colonized territory from “the attacks of hostile native tribes.”
Stirling’s personal prejudice against Australia’s native population became government policy. Like Neville and Neal and later generations of public servants, Stirling claimed to protect the Aboriginal people in speeches and writing, while in reality enacting policies that were discriminatory when not actively destructive. “Hostile native tribes” is a vague enough term to describe any group angry that their land has been invaded. This is policy created specifically to give colonists free range to kill Aboriginal people and claim their land as their own.
Neville continues to recount the history of Stirling and his band of white colonizers. At first, Aboriginal inhabitants helped white explorers navigate and find food for the first eighteen months of their invasion, but when white settlers shot an Aboriginal Australian who stole some flour, it “was the beginning of the end.” Stirling and his white settlers waged a war on Australia’s native population, cutting off food and water supplies. Some Aboriginal men and women fought back, but white soldiers devastated their communities in retaliation.
Like with the Oombulgarri Massacre, white colonists used a single legal violation by an Aboriginal person as an excuse to wage war on the entire Aboriginal population of Western Australia. This response was not proportionate, and the settlers were clearly just looking for an excuse to wipe out a group they already had no respect for, and whose land and resources they wanted.
Neville concludes his speech by bringing up the genocide of Aboriginal people in Tasmania, which once had a native population of six thousand, and in the end “only one was left alive.” Neville compares that to South Western Australia, which in over seventy-two years reduced its own native population from 13,000 to 1,419, half of whom where half white.
Neville is proud that Western Australia has not devastated its Aboriginal population in the same way that Tasmania has. Still, only 10% of the population from seventy years ago remains, and it seems Western Australia is well on its way to systematically wiping out Aboriginal people entirely.