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indigenous Australians

Interview with Indigenous Advocate Richie Allan on Population Sustainability in Australia

In November 2016 I co-wrote an article for New Matilda exploring why it is important for those on the left to discuss population sustainability. Although the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, it was suggested that the debate is invalid unless it is inclusive of migrants or indigenous Australians. Which got me thinking …

The smallpox holocaust that swept Aboriginal Australia - Red hot echidna spikes are burning me

Editor's introduction Dr Jim Poulter's learned study has revolutionary consequences for much demographic theory on Australia's population pre-European settlement. This is a deeply satisfying analysis for specialist and enthusiast alike, given its knowledgeable attention to the role of the clan and skin system in ordering fertility opportunity; its integration of climate, space and tradition into the equation; and its careful use of European data on the effects and quarantine of smallpox in the years 1789 and 1828. Anyone studying the effects of smallpox anywhere, however, cannot escape being affected by its tragic and terrifying aspect - even across centuries - and the scale of its impact. - Sheila Newman (Population Sociologist)

Utilising both historical documentation and Aboriginal oral history, the author explores the impacts of the 1789 and 1828 smallpox plagues on Aboriginal Australia. Particular reference is made to the Wurundjeri people of the Melbourne area, where the plague entered their folklore as ‘the Mindye’. An analysis is made of the natural carrying capacity of the land for hunter-gatherer society in Australia in poor seasons and the pre 1788 population is estimated at three million people. The course of the 1789 smallpox plague along the coastal areas and inland river systems is briefly mapped. A death rate of 90% is established for populations having their first exposure to smallpox and the Australian death toll for the 1789 pandemic is estimated as at least two and a half million Australians. The original population of Woiwurung speaking people in essentially the Yarra Valley area of Melbourne is estimated at 20,000, with this being reduced to 1000 people after the second smallpox plague that began in 1828. It is concluded that the massive social dislocation and internecine conflict caused by the plague was then mistakenly seen and recorded by early settlers and historians as the ‘normal’ state of affairs. [About the Author - see end of this article]

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