Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 July 2020
By examining Batman’s Treaty of 1835 we can put to rest the myth that British players never seriously considered treating with Aboriginal people for land, and that the treatment of sovereignty and rights of property in land in Britain’s Australian and New Zealand colonies was like chalk and cheese. The Port Phillip Association acted in the same manner as many similar groups in the British empire, making an agreement with native people to purchase their land and physically taking possession of territory in the hope that they might thereby be able to force government to concede its claim. But by the mid-1830s, the British Crown had been granting land to settlers for nearly fifty years as though it was the only source of title. This is what some historians would call ‘path dependency’. Moreover, there were no settlers who had no interest in any claim that Aboriginal people were the real owners of the land, and in the eyes of the government the Aboriginal people lacked the military power that would be needed to help bring into being, let alone uphold, a property regime that recognised native rights in land. Consequently, the native title was quickly unmade.