Tuesday, 22 September 2015

White Settlement in Australia: Dingo and Aboriginal Parallels

I met recently with elders of the D’harawal Traditional Descendants and Knowledgeholders Council, Frances Bodkin and Gavin Andrews.

We were chatting about Berenice, who both were very close to, and I mentioned her belief that many of the attacks on sheep in the early days of white settlement were by young adult Dingoes separated from their pack because of indiscriminate slaughter.

Because the Dingo pack is like a family, young Dingoes are taught and disciplined by the older members. When these teachers are absent, particularly the alpha male and female a young Dingo can go rogue.

Gavin pointed out that it was the same with his people. White man’s diseases caused the deaths of the oldest members of the community as well as the young and the weak. With the loss of their teachers and disciplinarians the young bucks went rogue.

Another parallel was the loss of land. White settlers accused Aboriginal people of stealing crops and livestock resulting in mass slaughter and incidents like the Massacre in Appin (NSW). The white settlers had in fact taken over what was Aboriginal land, their food basket.

As settlement moved inland taking its sheep and cattle so these people took over land where Dingoes roamed resulting in the slaughter of Dingoes when they were caught attacking flocks.

In 1978 Berenice wrote a paper titled “The Australian Native Dog, The Dingo (Canis Familiaris Dingo): Moves to Develop its National Identity*. In it she asks several pertinent questions:

Why has it taken so long to stop and think; to question the wild claims of those who accuse the Dingo of such mighty feats as travelling 50 miles to kill 300 sheep, then returning to sleep it off; to state it takes a pack of domestic dogs to kill one Dingo; that Dingoes threatened the lives of settlers: Then claim the Dingo is a coward!!!!!
If the Dingo was such a rapacious killer, how come Captain Cook wasn’t met by an island of killer dogs?
 If the Dingo was capable of such feats of ferocity and stock killing, how come in 1788 when six head of cattle were lost form the first settlement, they were found some seven years later at Cowpastures near C
amden, the original six having increased to 61. (By 1801 the original herd had grown to 300 head – by 1811, known as the ‘wild cattle’, their numbers were estimated at around 4,000).

How come it was a prosperous business for bushrangers to hide stolen cattle in isolated valleys where the cattle thrived – and increased?

Those very same questions could be asked in relation to the Aboriginal people.

* I have used Berenice’s title for her paper however it should be noted that in 2015 it was confirmed that the Dingo is not a dog; it is, in fact, now its own species, Canis Dingo.

Pamela King (Ferrari)

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