It’s All Black and White to Me

Col William Croker, Commandant Bathurst NSW

From Roseville, NSW, Australia – ‘Wonderful hospitality and gracious (Hanover) house – very welcoming; many thanks!

I have been accused by Veronica of seeing everything in ‘black and white’ having come from a military background, however on that point I would strongly disagree, having been brought up to be a ‘Devil’s Advocate’, in other words being able to argue any position from that diametrically opposed to my own. That meaning of ‘black and white’ aside, this blog was really stimulated by an active discussion on Radio 4 today about the colonisation of Australia by the Europeans and the subsequent treatment of the native Australian Aborigines. (As an aside, Aborigine has often been used as definitive ethnic term for indigenous Australians, although it is actually a generic for indigenous peoples everywhere).

One of the problems in Australia was that the native population – although having come out of the African Rift Valley like the Europeans, and arrived and settled successfully in Australia long before their cousins reached Europe or Asia, (making them possibly the longest continuously established segment of the human race) – were treated as untermensch.  Consequently, like the bushmen of Southern Africa and other technologically deprived races, they were frequently exterminated by the invaders as being no better than animals. In the case of Australia, right up to modern times, Aborigine babies were ‘stolen’ and fostered or adopted by immigrants, in order to provide them with better futures. It probably worked but was at the same time socially unacceptable and undermined the Aboriginal racial mores.

Racial integration has become an important part of how parts of the world have developed – the British are on the whole a polyglot collection of different races, initially Celtic/Scandinavian/German – the Normans actually being ‘Northmen’ from Scandinavia, the same stock as those invading the north of Britain. But more recently the waves of Commonwealth and economic immigrants have provided an interesting and rich ethnic mix of races, which to make the nation work, will need to assimilate a national creed or ethos to prevent internal strife, rather like the US American model where patriotism, the flag, the Anthem etc are so important, even if the grasp on international affairs and their own definitive history might be a bit hazy.

Within our own family of nations, the English, Welsh, Scots and Irish all have clear ethnic divides in terms of culture and history but are linked by common language and family blood ties. In terms of DNA we are inextricably bound together, despite local petty tribal differences, most English people having close Scots, Irish or Welsh relatives. In former colonies like Canada and New Zealand the ties are equally close, and of the ethnically western european element of the US, clear Scottish and Irish ties are welcomed. Inside our own immediate family, no element is wholly one nationality or another, with strong cross-border blood lines evident within the researched family trees. It is now a matter of personal choice which nation we choose to support when it comes to ‘domestic’ international sporting events.  In the recent Rugby World Cup, different family members supported England or Scotland, then when they were knocked out, Wales against the rest, and finally the British/Scots-descended New Zealanders (conveniently forgetting the Maori element!) against the French (although they are our closest neighbours but also the nation we love to hate).  And so it goes on, borders blurring steadily in terms of DNA, but artificially politically sharp……

Hanover House’s connections with Australian Aborigines is through its erstwhile first occupant, Colonel William Croker, pictured at the top. While his regiment, the 17th (Leicestershire) of Foot served in Australia, on promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1832, he became commandant of the Penal Colony Bathurst in New South Wales, where he was also responsible for local administration and law and order, including control of the local indigenous population. By all accounts he was an enlightened and fair governor. His younger daughter, who also lived in Hanover House (www.hanoverhouse.org) was born at Bathurst.

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