Consider a notebook. Thick parchment, licked yellow by salty air, and brown ink in a grand loopy hand. It sits in the cabin of one James Cook, and specifies, in no uncertain terms, that a “discovered” land may only be claimed in the name of the King under one of two conditions – that it is unoccupied, or “with the Consent of the Natives.” But Cooky’s a boisterous sort, raised on Magellan and St George, and when they’re there and obviously not consenting he decides to seize it anyway with oratory and lead, notebook and orders be damned. This means that even under British law at the time the invasion of Australia was illegal.
The captain stabs the Union Jack into the continent and the blood seeps through the cracks in history; flows under the doors of bounty offices where severed black ears are exchanged for shillings; cascades from the feet of screaming mothers who run after tyre tracks and dust; trickles from the mouth of a kid with a broken jaw who lies on a lino floor beneath a starless prison ceiling, beneath a steel pole that could break any back, beneath a blue rag that flutters, mocking, on the wind that will carry him away. There is no pride in genocide. This always has been, and always will be, Aboriginal land.