Aboriginal and European Comparative Living Standards in the Early Days of Settlement

Aboriginal and European comparative living standards in the early days of settlement

As Geoffrey Blainey suggested, “Aboriginals in most parts of Australia appear to have had an impressive standard of living at the time of European invasion.”[1] By 1788, the British working class was in a state of turmoil with high unemployment, high crime rates and an ever increasing convict population which led to the decision to establish a penal colony in Australia.   This essay will outline and compare the aboriginal standard of living in respect to food, shelter and well being,   to British   living standards of this time.

The search for food was the most important activity in Aboriginal society, which involved everyone in the tribe.   It was organised through a division of labour with the men hunting, using spears, boomerangs or clubs and the woman gathering using their hands, digging sticks or line and hook. Although, this was not solely the case as the men would collect plant foods while hunting and the woman would catch small game as it came their way.[2] Unfortunately the very first colonists couldn’t master the problems of farming under Australian conditions.   First attempts met with disaster.   The hard Australian soil blunted their spades and picks. English wheat failed to germinate and the barley rotted in the ground.   As a result, they were very much dependant on the stores of flour, meat, Pease and butter which they brought from England and acquired from the Cape of Good Hope. These provisions kept them alive but they were in desperate need of green vegetable and fruits to supplement their diet.[3]

Aboriginals maintained their food supply by regularly moving and living in small groups so as not to exhaust the natural food sources. In October, 1788 Philip had sent some convicts and marines inland to Rose Hill to establish another settlement.   It was Philips intention to try and avoid the constant threat of famine by growing more food in the richer soils.[4]...