The First Australians
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The First Australians

2008, History  -   61 Comments
Ratings: 7.13/10 from 46 users.

The First AustraliansFirst Australians is an Australian historical documentary series produced over the course of 6 years and first aired in October 2008. The documentary is part of a greater project that further consists of a hard-cover book, a community outreach program and a substantial website featuring over 200 mini-documentaries.

The series chronicles the history of contemporary Australia, from the perspective of its first people, or Aborigines. The series is essentially a synthesis of well documented historical information.

It relies heavily on archival documents and interpretations from historians and members of both the Indigenous and European community and leaders. The story begins in 1788 in Sydney, with the arrival of the First Fleet and ends in 1993 with Koiki Mabo's legal challenge to the foundation of Australia.

The series comprises seven episodes, in which it explores what unfolded when the oldest living culture in the world was confronted by the British Empire.

It explores the lives of particular individuals and uses their stories as a vehicle to explain the larger situations of the time. It explains violent aspects of European settlement of Australia, such as killings, battles, wars, as well as acts of friendship and decency between the early European settlers and Indigenous Australians.

Indigenous Australian history has until recently been clouded by the "great Australian silence" where ignorance of the real history of Australia can be seen as a way for non-Indigenous to hide shame for their own history.

In this respect it has been controversial in that many of these stories have not been portrayed on Australian television before and the Indigenous Australian perspective of European settlement is confrontational for many.

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61 Comments / User Reviews

  1. fed up

    The fact that some people think that the Australian aboriginals nor other indigenous people deserve the right to lands, money ect show how blatantly ignorant they are. The aboriginals have been on the Australian continent for at least 40 000 years, European settlement has been a small blip in that time line, and look what we have done to their amazing way of life. We have destroyed it, and caused generations upon generations of abuse and death. This is STILL happening all over the world to indigenous people. WAKE UP.

  2. Dbakeca Italia

    Very historically enlightening

  3. jimsim

    biological warfare is as old as the written word, there have been a number of accounts from the Deliberate contamination of food to poisoning of wells,even catapulting rotten bodies over castle walls. this list goes on time after time in history. But that side the English do have a record of taking over. hence why the film is in English, Most Australians are Christian, eat chips and junk food, drink beer watch to more TV and like sport shooting and blood sports the English don't really have a home, well a country, but basically we had the same problem as the first nation, we were just getting over a Roman invasion problem, Because they had to go home, leaving our country in a bloody mess, so it was decided we asked for some help because there wasn't enough of us life alive to run our country. well the Gail were moving into the western isle the Irish and Norse weren't helping fighting around the Irish sea, so we asked our so called euro friends, but they took advantage. on a weaker nation, these Saxon juts, Normans typical euro trash at the time, just over run us. and before long well few hundred years or so, they started making there own laws, like prima nocta, funny law that one, as history repeats it self, but I must say over time we've learnt to like these news invader well the sausages anyway, we even fort there wars with them. Yes!.. At the time when they first come here its was hard, being poor nation comparison to other countries ..but we've learnt to make them pay. Even had families, integrated had sex. only the rich ones mind.

  4. pipelineking

    Very historically enlightening...we seldom hear of the history of Australia and know very little of the development of the aboriginal people and the ways in which they got along with the unruly bunch of convicts that were thrown out of Brittain and shipped "Down under" to the furthest place available at the time...Australia, the island continent. The white folks have developed quite well here, despite the large numbers of poisonous snakes and the man-eating salt-water crocodiles and great white sharks, who still feed on "Rookie-surfers", brave enough to enter the ocean waters. Fortunately a peaceful separation from Great Brittain has given our Ausie neighbours an opportunity to develop their huge amount of natural resources, such as oil and natural gas and a large scale mining development, both of which only would seem to develop larger and larger, prompting all Australians to say "Good-day, Mate" and have good reason to mean it...hopefully the "First Australians" will have an opportunity to get involved with developing these valuable natural resources and have equal status with everybody after all...they are Australia's "First Humans" and I believe in a "Civilised Country", and as we say in's a beauty, eh...

  5. Ella Silver

    Question.. DRIEST continent? OLDEST civilization?

    So I might be wrong.. That's why i'm asking. But I thought those two distinctions were held by Antarctica and Africa..

    1. William Sisley

      Australia is the driest inhabitied continent, and the indigenous australians are the longest lasting civilization, some say over 100, 000 years old.

    2. rockdacasba

      50000 years old definitely.. some say 100000 years..

      they have dreamtime stories that talk about when all the landmass on earth was connected... and to put that into perspective thats 200 million years ago.

      Im an Australian and I wish I could turn back time and not have their culture destroyed... so we can learn from ancient ways.. today's 'instant gratification' society is so bad for the earth and for our future :(

    3. Kath Day-Knight

      1. Driest Continent - Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth. Its interior has one of the lowest rainfalls in the world and about three-quarters of the land is arid or semi-arid. Its fertile areas are well-watered, however, and these are used very effectively to help feed the world. Sheep and cattle graze in dry country, but care must be taken with the soil. Some grazing land became desert when the long cycles that influence rainfall in Australia turned to drought.

      2. Oldest Civilization - They are the oldest civilization meaning they had the most advanced state of intellectual, cultural and material development in human society. They were part of the first wave of migration out of Africa staying close to the oceans shores tracing a band along the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean including parts of the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and into South East Asia, down into what is now Indonesia and eventually reaching Australia..

  6. Alena_SC

    It is difficult for so many Australians to connect and feel a collective guilt for the past considering so much of the "White" population arrived (as "Boat People" I might add) after WWII as refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. I for one, sympathise with the Aboriginals and personally believe "Australia Day" should not be on the 26th of January - the Aboriginal "Invasion Day".
    To add to this, Australia is Australia. It shouldn't be considered a part of the British Commonwealth and the anglo population and quickly becoming a minority. Hopefully I see Australia become a federation in my life time!

  7. noboundryman

    Sad legacy of our primitive past. Genetic, socialized predisposition to violence in defense of every perceived threat to our survival. The sense of self is tied to the belief system we are raised in. Superstition in every form leaves us unequipped to deal with the realities of the world. We all live with the desire to preserve our extended family and community and will take outrageous actions to assure it. People left in out of control situations without hope of relief or protection will nearly always go to primitive and violent means to secure their safety and survival. America hasn't evolved to deal with things any better than 300 years ago. All European countries have their own abominable murderous tortures to account for. The idea that we all have the right to steal the land of another by virtue of strength or wealth or legalistic power is madness. The same thing is happening all over the globe still today sponsored and committed by the same types: corporate thugs protected by corrupt government quislings. Billions of dollars are spent to plant tyrants to serve us,to murder or kidnap legally elected officials, to besmirch anyone who gets in the way of big oil, big agriculture,big pharma,and the rest of the multinational corporate mafia. The expansion of a penal colony in Australia was never anything more than a corporate plan to enrich the already fabulously wealthy and corrupt English Aristocracy. Everything is for sale that's the "religion" of unfettered capitalism that will eventually destroy us all unless we evolve to a new method of survival and a new vision of humanity. One that does not include "might makes right",winner take all,cut slash burn rape,steal kill torture,to get not what you need but what you want.

  8. dyrstyrer

    i think its stupid to think that non.whites newer knew what rape murder and theft was, the australien land having been in war with the other clans for years before the white man appeared. they knew what battle and fighting was not on that scale but nontheless... im from denmark and im as white as is possible, but that does not mean i am better than my naboer who is black.
    I think white people who see them selves as supperior to other races should go and join KKK and other races join the group of their race as all races have a group like that. so we know who they are and can rid our society of they as they do nothing to a peacefull community.

    1. pizza.mcmahon

      hi guy look so sad

  9. dyrstyrer

    i dont see how anyone can think it to be the aboriginals foult... they where there and (White people) came to them not the other way around. the natives are not guiltless but they did what was rright for them where the white people took what was not theirs... anyone who see the white people to have no guilt migt as well join KKK. so we can see them for what they really are, racists and folk that shouldent be allowed a place in the 21st century. i truly hope we are going towards better times, times where no man is better than another. NO ONE MAN IS BETTER THAN THE NEXT, REMEMBER THAT AND LIVE BY THAT FILOSOFY AND THE WORLD MIGHT BECOME A BETTER PLACE. and by the way im from denmark being as white as man can be, i despair at the injjustice that was wrought on any human being white, black, red yellow green and blue dossent matter.

  10. David

    Yes "The White Man" is Satan's child while the rest of humanity are morally perfect beings. The non-whites never knew what rape, murder and theft were before those vile Europeans came along and spoilt The Paradise that Earth was before thier foul white presence besmirched the planet. As for western science, technology, medicine, philosophy etc, these are all of no use to the world or else they have been stolen from the Superior Non-Europeans to start with.

    1. marie karim

      as Isaac Newton said "I stand on the shoulders of giants". All our knowledge, science, engineering etc is based on what is referred to as ancient civilizations- what you might classify as non- whites. Before "modern man" arrived in Europe the native people of Australia had arrived and established themselves in that country. We, now, as "modern" so called," civilized people" have forgotten that the land should be used with respect and this is at all our peril. The question is what is civilization? I would say it is a society and that describes traditional lifestyle in tune with the land as well as the modern conceit of urbanised concrete cities.

    2. Stephen Washington

      You foul white demons have committed terror against every other race on earth, wherein other races were engaging in interracial violence, rape, murder etc., you maggot white devils, spawns from Satan, spread your version worldwide.

  11. LumumbaAfrica

    "There's nowhere on this earth that the white man has gone, where he and can say that he created peace and harmony"
    ~Malcolm X

    The most interesting thing that I learned in this documentary is that it turns out that the Europeans are in fact the REAL headhunters, not the non-white indigenous nations of the world!!

  12. sknb

    Incredible Documentary.

    The story of Traganini is remarkable, and terrifyingly sad.
    My heart breaks....

  13. Jarrad Hurley

    Most Australians dont really know our history, this show does put to rest the notion that the country was made in complete peace. Having said that, Its also evident that not every white settler was harsh on the aboriginals.. it looks like a 50/50 thing and looks like the polivies on aboriginal rights changed with every new government. I feel for the aboriginals of that era, however theres many today who do nothing but whinge and want things for free and drink and sniff petrol. the jails are something like 80% aboriginal and that has nothing to do with white man trying to just lockup the blackman, infact to the contrary theres always pathways and help for black people, subsidys and many things that white people dont recieve in what is now, our own country... Yes, Australia was essentially invaded by white people 200 years ago.... but since, white people have made this country what it is... have a look at the whole society, for better or worse it was made majorly by the white mans hands. so to say I am not Australian because I am white is a joke.. for all the aboriginals in the bush living the way they feel at home, fantastic... all the more power to you and congratulations on your peaceful integration with the land, there is nothing better and I applaud that. for the ones living like scum in the cities.. and who are really just living criminality, Wake up and be a better rolemodel and ambassador for your race!! that also goes for the white scum out there too

    1. sknb

      I am so sorry to inform you, because I think you must really not know, and might not care

      about how terribly racist you seem to be.

      Please, I urge you to see beyond phrases like "the ones" or "our country" or "ambassador to your race" and recognize the hate in your words.

      I am fascinated by this little rant as a scientist watching a mouse in a maze.

      Break out.

    2. Jarrad Hurley

      I donmt feel I am racist at all... in fact I have just finnished watching the whole series now and I am utterly appaled by the things that were going on to aboriginal people, and the things that continue to happen. completely disgusting and inhumane treatment, right up to more recently then I dared to ever think before. I once thought aboriginals were just complaining about 200 years ago but no, They have had to slowly chip away peice by peice at the white mans unjust laws till only recently have they been able to get some sort of true just treatment. In regards to it being our country.... I admit that yes, it was invaded, taken over, stolen if you will... but I hjave been here 8 generations, does that not count for anything...? or am I just an irishman who has never been to my true home? and in regards to my prior harsh comments in regards to SOME abnoriginals... i stand by them... for as long as there are many of them acting in less then becomming ways, then the average Australian will not involve themselves in ther eplight nor care, to be honest its taken alot for me to even care,... but now I do. I can see how the whitemans system has mentally and pohysically imprisoned these people, i can see how it still effects them today, I think some of the aboriginals shown on this series are mindblowingly tough magnificent people who truly fought unbelievbly hard battles... these guys are the martin luther kings and malcolm X's of our country.... if we could get a few more of these guys into the public conscience then the rather negative view white Australia does have on aboriginals would start to sway. When the media shows alot of negativity about them, and when you see the ones not acting so good, people are quick to typecaste them all that way. when I hear racist comments about aboriginals my skin crawls... especially nowdays...however fact of the matter is... alot of aborignals are not the best ambassadors for there race.... and because sadly yes, they are a minority group... its going to be the loud or innappropriate acting ones who are noticed... while the average aboriginal whos just trying to get by and work hard may just get overlooked when they are probably the majority. this show is definitely food for thought and has opened my eyes though

  14. Mazrim

    not so informative. i wanted to know what happened to the convicts that came with the first settlers. Were they integrated within the new society or were they still held as convicts when they arrived here?

    1. Nahtan Hgiheal

      They were imprisoned, read up on Port Arthur in Tasmania.

    2. Mick Cannon

      NOT SO INFORMATIVE?..The convicts werent "the first australians" mate. However a good place to starton European settlement is a non fic called 1788.

  15. Neville

    The British gave us many good things like Democracy,Rule of Law and I suppose the English language.But they were a Colonial Imperial Power that often left a wave of destruction behind.They never really respected this Country and I suspect still dont.Though I reckon a few of them wouldnt mind living here,especially these days.

  16. seoulman

    of course what happened to native people on the lands by capitalist foreigners is terrible.. but what can we do now? hand them back the country??
    ok they were there first. doesn't mean they own it.. this world is for all of us.
    I don't like how the maori of new zealand, or the native Indians of USA demand land, fishing rights, tax free holdings etc.. just because their ancestors were here hundreds of years ago. that's not fair to people living on the land today either. why do those kids go to college for free and ours don't?
    of course they were treated badly, and some whites familes today are benefiting from that (OLD MONEY etc) but that doesn't mean natives should be given billions of dollars today for something which happened 500 years ago. if so, then the white familes who are sitting on stolen land need to hand it back to the government...

  17. W_realist

    The documentary is emotive and no doubt some will feel guilty (and ashamed), but those who want to beat up on white people "generally" perhaps you should spend a bit more time studying history.

    Does anyone know what the moors did? the ottomans? lots of examples through history it's just that the British is a little more recent and they happen to be white.

    25% of Australia's population is migrant born and another 15% first generation migrant(of which I'm one, not British decent but I am white), I'm proud to be Australian, do I feel empathy for those who died, yes but do I feel guilty about being white...... wouldn't that be racist?

    1. Christine Thu

      You don't need to feel guilty about being white "generally", but aborigine people are still discriminated and at a disadvantage in australia and if you do nothing against that, then yes you should feel ashamed being white and thus priviledged.


    Tought luck for the aboriginees! same happened to all the other natives! either you fall in line , die of disease because your immune systems are not up to par with the ruling peoples, or you get what we always give a lesser peoples. ..everything they deserve for not recognizing who always wins and who rules this planet...NUFF SAID!!!

  19. Schweinchen Schlau

    @ flashman; i bet you'll complain when it turns out that you have to learn all their 'nothing' in order to survive becoz technology didn't work out...

  20. Guest

    Seems like a true "Third Party" documentary. Brit's style. Both parties (Indigenous and Brit,) witness & historians commmented.
    The "Almost" extermination of the natives didn't cause flagrant omission in history. Although, that documentary stop before modern age.

    Still, as any human beings do, natives who has better eductation do claim things like : "Small pox" was transmited intentionnaly.
    This, even thought the same phenomenon was observed in all "New Worlds" that were discovered by the Europeens in those days.
    And since all the natives didn't have the antibodies to fight back...

    Just to think about it, there was much more deaths in Ozzy than there were in WWII?

    If none of these cataclysm occured, how many would we be by now?


  21. trlrprkcon

    I started this with an eye toward learning about the original population of Australia. How they got there, how they lived, there customes. I didnt realize it was another bad bad white man story. I could have summed this up in ten seconds. More advanced people screw over less advanced people the end.

    1. Guest

      Well, not as bad and vicious as other colonisations!
      Quite a few Brits were wondering how they could instill more confidence into these natives.
      Confirmed by the old woman having a degree in history...

      I wouldn't expect that in other colonisations campaigns we seen in other country, continents.


    2. Kimberly Rabb

      That all depends on your definition of "advanced people" I do not think any group of people that systematically go around invading countries, people and what have you as being "advanced" I am so so sorry some white people are feeling like they are being picked on but BUCK UP! Face the facts then move on, geez, there is a terrible history regarding white people and basically the rest of the world. Yes, there are terrible histories within every cultural group, but never in the history of the world has one small group of people basically pissed on so many others. It is not being advanced, it is the opposite, it is very barbaric and backwards hinting at a god-complex, but stop whining about it, the facts or the facts and you look silly when you are white and complaining about history and facts just because it hurts your feelings or you feel you are being picked on...geez!


      Tough luck for the aboriginees... It happens like that sometimes. Either you fall in line when you see a smarter more advanced race coming along or you fall to the wayside, I mean all natives usually go go out with their much much weaker immune systems. That what usually happens if they are lucky. If some try to fightb back then well we all know what happens to them as well, As brave as some say they are and no matter how much they fight back it's all pointless when fighting a european or european based culture... as my screen name states in all wordly matters.. WE ALWAYS WIN!!!

    4. matt

      Well good luck with the world you've created. Soon it will be gone and western civilization would have been around a scant 2000 years, while Aboriginal people and Indigenous cultures around the world have been here for thousands of years longer and will be here long after your gone. You are a temporary nuisance to the planet, because you don't know how to live like human beings.

    5. Guest

      Umm I think when the white people cam to Australia they were the ones with smallpox, colds, flu's whatever... so talking about immune systems aren't the white less immune.and another thing what would you do if a guy comes up to your house and you have never seen him and he says this is mine. Wouldn't you fight back???

    6. Stephen Washington

      You white devils will burn in hell with your father Satan soon, you won't be winning then maggot.

  22. Sieben Stern

    It is amazing what horrible things mankind does to itself in the name of religion and evangelicalism. Oh, wait. It's not. Religion would not survive if it didn't give some people power over others.

  23. TonyIII

    Oh weeepy weepy weepy. Yes it was rotten; but it wasn't all awful about those white protestants . Others were involved.
    This work unfortunately suggests all sorts of revolutionary sentiments still alive today; so it makes one wonder abpout who owns Aussie propaganda today.
    This is so angry; but it is better than no History at all.t.

  24. roy

    Cheers cobber, nice to know something from the abbo's point of view. Good day blue

  25. PanicMerchant

    What a waste of time.

  26. Jaak Wassmuth

    You move your heart to fear, or love. Those are the names. I celebrate because the only activity left is mourning.

  27. flashman

    They bang on about the rich aboriginal culture but they couldn't find enough of it to fill ten minutes or the film. It was nothing until the British arrived.

    1. Aneleh Bulle Dans L

      Waw i cant believe you people can be so ignorant ! go and learn about life, people and cultures before putting such useless comments.

    2. teriblepeople

      nothing and so what!!... they were happy with their lives the way it was. something was nothing to them and they lived happily. But after the devilish english folk came their lives was a misery from thereof. in another words they had every thing, thats why the whiteman" wanted to exterminate them to get what belonged to them. I think you should read more of history...

    3. Drrdb

      Funny, what do you do for a living sunshine? I study culture do you know the meaning of the word? I bet you don't culture does not mean progress. Oh and just last week my scientific researchers and I found enough "culture" to fill hours of research. I bet you didn't even finish high school.

  28. jack1952

    @ daniel

    You've become what you hate. You just have a different name.

  29. corneilius

    This is at last trhe beginning of telling the truths of our Society, about Power Relationships, Dominance and Governance (Ruling) and how it poisons life, how it is not natural.

    The present is set in the context of history,and cannot be insulated from that past simply by the cliche'd and peurile comment "it's so long ago, it's not MY fault..." -

    'not politically correct' "One can take only that much amount of self righteousness and a stance of complete victimhood. Neither side is pure. In the aboriginal attempts to expel settlers they are just as “materialistic” and territorial as the colonialists were"

    That's like saying that if a child that is being abused doesn't fight back, if a woman is being raped, and doesn;t fight back than he or she is partly to blame....

    NPC yer logic is flawed,and yer attitude less than empathic.


    ALL organised POWER STRUCTURES are inherently the same -they are tools for the expression of POWER, and POWER ALWAYS retains it's POWER and expands it if it can, because at the psychological level, Power is A REACTION to INSECURITY.... it is weakness that drives it to create Institutions and Weapons to bolster itself.

    This is bourne out by the resurgence of Aboriginal Cultures in all those places around the Earth, where the colonial mind-set tried to extirpate them.

    Secure in their traditions and ancestral memories, in their essential sense of self, they fight back without recourse to violence..... good for them, and shame on Power and it's actors, and apologists.

  30. daniel

    f#@k christinaty p%$$e$ me off. is there anything in the world it hasn't f&%ked up?

    everything it touches turns to S%#T. watching those aboriginals in missionaries fills me with rage. christianity will die... and the sooner the better...

    1. Stephen Washington

      Not christianity but rather WHITE DEVILS

  31. Chuck

    This video brought tears to my eyes, from an array of emotions. I felt a lot of shame, for being of some British decent, anger, at the Brits, Aussies and most of all for my government here in the US, for doing essentially the same thing across the world right now. Bigotry is so ugly, maybe even uglier now, because we know the real truth so much better than we did.

    1. beepath

      The patriarchy must die!

  32. daniel

    i think it is sad that most australians do not know their own history. the average australian could not tell you who their first prime minister was. this is a very educational documentary and this is the second time i have seen it.
    life was rough for early settlers and aboriginals. British colonialism caused a lot of problems worldwide.
    also I am living in Parramatta.

  33. phill

    This just shows how hateful we became to our ancestors from who we all descended from before we lost our black skin pigment.
    White people are to stupid to realize that they are killing there own people. I am so ashamed to be white.

  34. not politically correct

    One can take only that much amount of self righteousness and a stance of complete victimhood. Neither side is pure. In the aboriginal attempts to expel settlers they are just as "materialistic" and territorial as the colonialists were. Presenting the natives as curiosity -- as something dreadful - is puzzling- were the white people not also seemed as curiosity to the aboriginals?

    I'm not racist just not naively self-hating.

    1. Sieben Stern

      the difference being that the aboriginals were on their own land and the colonists were taking it away? I find it asinine to think of that as being 'equally materialistic' and territorial.

      If someone pushed you out of your own home, you would just roll over instead of fighting for it? I think not.

  35. Melanie L

    Amazing doc! Incredibly informative and moving.

  36. umbra

    Great documentary. I am glad to ahve watched this

  37. Andrew

    thank you so much! I have been longing for a doco on Aborginal Australians!

    1. W_realist

      Before everyone keeps beating themselves up