Australian Quotes & Notes

Australian Quotes and Notes

A 280,000-word timeline of events from the European discovery and settlement of Australia to the present day.

Edited by John Larkins

Victoria's catastrophic February, 2009 bushfire season ... 173 dead, 2030 houses lost, 78 towns burned, 400,000ha devoured ... ended with gentle drizzle and cooler temperatures in the first week of autumn. The State was left to grieve. But it was not alone. It seemed that the tears of the nation might quell the fires after that disastrous Black Saturday, 7 February ...

On 12 February, 2008, the international news agency, Reuters, told the world that that Australia had finally apologised to its aboriginal people for wrongs committed over the 220 years since European colonisation:

'Thousands of Aborigines and other Australians hugged, sobbed or stood applauding on Wednesday as the country united for a new era in race relations. In city plazas, gardens, schoolrooms and offices, millions were encouraged to pause as Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an apology for past injustices, including the forced removal of children, after a decade of conservative refusal.'

The apology was delivered in Federal Parliament in Canberra. Rudd said, in part: 'Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history. The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future. We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry. We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written. We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again. A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity. A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed. A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.' - The watercolour (right) by the Irish convict artist 'Richard Browne (1776-1824) is titled, 'Hump-back'd Maria, a female native well-known about Sydney, 1819' (Courtesy of the National Library of Australia) ... a calamitous outbreak of European diseases among Sydney aborigines was noted twelve months after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. See also 'Myall Creek Massacre' in 'Ancient Times until 1850' for a report on the execution of seven white men after the murder of aborigines in 1838.
(•The full text of the Apology is in Quotes, '1950-The Present', keyword 'Sorry').

First Fleet Females ...

(1) Misfortunes of future Sydney social butterfly!
William Garrow, a handsome, 26-year-old lawyer, rescued from the gallows the beguiling, beautiful, bewitching, unmarried, shamelessly pregnant, 15-year-old, doe-eyed (phew!) milliner, Esther Abrahams, charged on 30 August, 1786 with shoplifting 24 yards of black lace.
Later, he was the legal authority credited with introducing the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty'. As Sir William Garrow, he became Solicitor-General, Attorney-General, and a judge. His 'presumption of innocence' is said to be British justice's gift to the world.
But first, he had to rescue Esther Abrahams! The full text of the trial is under 'Ancient Times until 1850', keywords 'Esther Abrahams'.
(Hint: She came to Sydney, married very well, indeed, and has 400 honest descendants, at the very least).

(2) Gallows to Glory!
In the autumn of 1820, the wealthy ex-convict, Ann Inett (Robinson), aged in her sixties, boarded the Admiral Cockburn in Sydney to return to England where, 34 years earlier, she had been sentenced to death. Did she hope to meet the children separated from her for so long? And the two sons of the future Governor born while she was in convict slavery? Her extraordinary story is under the keywords 'Ann Inett' ('Ancient Times to 1850').

Tragedy at sea
'Within seconds, the German had hauled down her Dutch flag, dropped the doors concealing her guns, and opened fire on the Australian ship. Von Malapert recalled that Kormoran's shooting, especially at Sydney's bridge, was murderous, and he admired the bravery of the Australians who ran across the deck to man the Sydney's unshielded 4-inch guns.' - Obituary, London Daily Telegraph, 21 June, 2007, of Kapitan-Leutnant Reinhold von Malapert, signals officer on the German raider, Kormoran, Indian Ocean, 1941. All 645 crew of HMAS Sydney were lost. The wreckage of both ships was located in 2008.
See keyword 'Kormoran', under '1900 to 1950'. The Australian National Archive( has a complete record of the disaster.

Some more quotes from the 2000 in this chronology ...

'She could only receive six, as she fainted away, it is a thousand pities that she is an abandoned woman, for she is in figure a fine woman, and has a handsome face.' An officer's lament that a bare-breasted convict girl couldn't endure the full 25 lashes. Her crime? Going to town without permission, Norfolk Island, 6 June, 1791.

'I will not hang you; it is too gentle a death, but I will cut you to pieces.' Notorious ship's captain, Thomas Dennott, convict ship, Britannia, 1797.

Read the horse thief-turned-Sydney-businesswomen Mary Reibey's solemn assurances to the folks in Olde England that she used two violent emus in Sydney's CBD instead of guard dogs.

First fair dinkum fish finger ... 'A human finger was discovered on April 26 in the stomach of a flathead bought by a woman at Northcote (Vic).' Australasian Sketcher, 17 May, 1873.

We have detailed reports from people who were actually there at the goldminers' bloody uprising against their British oppressors, Ballarat, 1854. See keywords 'Eureka Stockade'.

'As the bodies of the felons that were gibbeted on Hunter's Hill were close to the place where the wharf is erected, and have become objects of disgust, especially to the female sex, they have been removed (by order of the Lieutenant-Governor) to a point of land near Queenborough, which will in future be the place of execution.' - Hobart Town Gazette, 8 June, 1816.

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