Introduction: transcultural studies in Australian identity
Place of Publication
School of Arts and Humanities
As a former colony of Great Britain, Australia has faced the dual challenge experienced by all settler colonies of forging an identity that allows it to distinguish itself from its ‘parent’ culture at the same time deal with its complicity in the colonization of the new land and the treatment of its original inhabitants. In the case of Australia, this situation has been further complicated by the fact that the land was simply taken –without a war, without a treaty and without negotiation. Throughout its European history, Australia has needed to perpetuate its founding myth of being a previously uninhabited land. The false descriptor terra nullius was the framing principle for a mythology and a moral platform with repercussions that are felt to this day. This principle has facilitated long- term ‘historical amnesia’ (Young 1990, 25) 1 and provided justification for ruthless racial policies designed to serve the dream of a young, white egalitarian society building a nation in a ‘new’ land. 2 Australian writer Peter Carey has commented, ‘We preferred to forget the doctrine of Terra Nullius to justify theft and murder’.