Ambiguity and Necessity: Settlers and Aborigines in Intimate Tension in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Australia
Using settler accounts of daily life on pastoral properties, this chapter demonstrates systemic links in the period of the 1830s–1850s between economic reliance on Aboriginal labour and ubiquitous violence. On pastoral frontiers in the non-convict colonies, settlers needed local Aborigines, yet their fundamental demand for the land allowed them to accept moral ambiguities and the use of violence. Sexual violence was woven into colonisation. Here, too, ambiguities abounded, and women’s own interactions with Aboriginal people could be fraught. Katherine Kirkland’s memoir of the years 1839–1841 on her family’s sheep station reveals the intimacy of interracial coexistence. From one particular incident when a large group of Aborigines visited, we can apprehend the tense intimacy of frontier life when violence was always possible—but did not always erupt.