Wadjela or Wadjella means white man (white people) in Noongar.
The coming of the Wadjela
|“||When the white people (jang’ga spirits, “white people”) came across the sea to Bibbulman country, the Kallupgur first thought that they were the spirits of their own Bibbulmun dead, men and women returning from Kuran’nup - the home of the Bibbulmun dead beyond the Western Sea. And all the Kallupgur were afraid of the returned Jangga.
But by and by as they learned more about the Jangga, and as they saw the jang’ga going into winnitch (sacred) places without any harm befalling them, the Kallupgur began to lose the respect and fear engendered in them in connection with their own laws and legends. They said “Doori-iring boya (hill, rock, stone) is not winnitch.” They ran up the hill and picked up some boya (stones) and rolled them down the hill and laughed because the Moolyin (meteor) did not fall down. But every Doori-iring man who ran up the hill, went away from his Kallup and the angry spirit-emu went inside him, and he ran and ran as the Wej ran from Jitti-jitti, and he vomited blood like the emu, and died amongst the jang’ga (white men), far, far away from his own Kallup.
For the first part of this story see the page 'Djiti Djiti (Willie Wagtail)'.
The Wadjela by and by dispossessed the Noongar from their traditional lands. They did not accept Noongar custodianship of the land. They had a concept of land ownership which was totally alien to the Noongar. The Noongar thought of the land in the same way we think today of the air - nobody owns or can own the air, the idea is ridiculous. When asked who owned the land the Noongar gave the same answer you would give today if someone were to ask you "who owns the air?". So the Wadjela stole the land, not knowing, or not wanting to know, the true relationship between Noongar and Boodjar. The Wadjela even came up with the idea that all of Australia was terra nullius, which means nobody's land, to justify them seizing the land.
Many Aboriginal people were killed in the frontier wars and massacres - see for example the Pinjarra Massacre and Kukenarup (Cocanarup Massacre), but the most devastating blow of Wadjela incursion came from the diseases they brought with them - smallpox, syphilis, tuberculosis, influenza, and measles (later, in institutional times, the killer diseases were tuberculosis, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhoea and dysentery). These diseases are what made the Noongar sick in the story Daisy Bates relates, so the story is true.
The first foreign epidemic to hit the Aboriginal people in South East Australia was smallpox, a terrible and deadly disease with a typical death rate of 30% even amongst populations who were commonly exposed to the disease. It left survivors deeply scarred with pock marks. In one of the major triumphs of 20th century medicine the disease was certified as being eradicated in 1980 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The exact origin of the disease among the Aboriginal people around the new British settlement of Sydney is unknown as the people in the First Fleet should have been clear of smallpox as they had effectively been in quarantine during the voyage from England. In all likelihood though smallpox came with the First Fleet. The death rate amongst the Aboriginal people is estimated to have been 50% to 90%. Indeed smallpox killed so many Aboriginal people that it is considered to be the primary reason why the British were able to overcome the Aboriginal people and settle Australia.
Overturning Terra Nullius
The 1992 Mabo decision overturned the doctrine of terra nullius in Australia.
In 1982, Eddie Mabo and four other Torres Strait Islanders from Mer (Murray Island) started legal proceedings to establish their traditional land ownership. This led to Mabo v Queensland (No 1) and Mabo v Queensland (No 2). In 1992, after ten years of hearings before the Queensland Supreme Court and the High Court of Australia, the latter court found that the Mer people had owned their land prior to annexation by Queensland. The ruling thus had far-reaching significance for the land claims of both Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal Australians.
The controversy over Australian land ownership erupted into the so-called "History Wars" which are still on-going.
- Intellectual Property (IP) for another example of how Wadjela think differently about individual and common ownership.
Ngiyan waarnk - References
- Daisy M bates (1927). "Jitti-Jitti and Wej : A Bibbulmun Legend". Western Mail (Perth). Thu 29 Dec 1927. Page 12. Retrieved 4 March 2019
- Note: Kallupgur means 'home people', from 'kallep' or 'kallup' - camp or home
- Peter J. Dowling (1997). "A Great Deal of Sickness" : Introduced diseases among the Aboriginal People of colonial Southeast Australia 1788-1900. January 1997. Retrieved 7 March 2019
- Ben Deacon. "The cause of Australia's first pandemic is still a controversial mystery 231 years on". ABC News. 29 March 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2020
- "OVERTURNING THE DOCTRINE OF TERRA NULLIUS: THE MABO CASE" pdf. AIATSIS, Native Title Research Unit (NTRU). Retrieved 7 March 2019
- "Indigenous people still battle for land rights: activist". ABC News. 3 June 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2019