john docker on settler colonialism and genocide in anglo-australian historical consciousness


John Docker, ‘A plethora of intentions: genocide, settler colonialism and historical consciousness in Australia and Britain’, International Journal of Human Rights (published online: 13 December 2014).

This article examines the implications for contemporary historical consciousness in Australia and Britain of the Tasmanian genocide, the destruction of the indigenous nations of the island by British colonisation in the early nineteenth century and the subsequent removal of the survivors to Flinders Island, where most died. The article explores the culture of denial that attempts to deflect the challenge of genocide scholar Tony Barta, that Australia is a nation founded on genocide. It deconstructs the argument of prominent historian Henry Reynolds in his 2001 book An Indelible Stain? The Question of Genocide in Australia’s History, that genocide did not occur in Tasmania since there was no intention to commit genocide. Reynolds’ conception of intention is analysed in terms of contemporary genocide theory. The article also explores the view of Holocaust scholar Tom Lawson in his 2014 book The Last Man: A British Genocide in Tasmania that, in quite fantastical ways, British historical consciousness later in the nineteenth century managed to confirm its claim to civilisational superiority by the Tasmanian genocide.

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