Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 July 2020
We can only understand the positions that British parties adopted in respect of Aboriginal interests in land of grasp that this matter arose only incidentally and that those positions were a product of political contestation between these players. Furthermore, there are no sound historical reasons for suggesting that the Colonial Office’s senior officials sought to uphold native rights of property in land in the colony of South Australia. They made vague and formulaic references to the possibility that there might be native peoples who had native title to land, but they did so in trying to rein in the colonisation proposed by the South Australia Colonisation Commission. It is naïve to suggest that their position on the native people’s interests in land was a product of a commitment to some high-minded religious, moral or legal principles. While they held that they had a duty to protect the interests of the native peoples, they were convinced that there were very real political limits to any attempt to uphold any rights that Aboriginal people might have. This conviction owed a good deal to their perceptions of the relative power of the imperial and colonial government, the settlers and the Aboriginal people.