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The Road to Botany BayAn Exploration of Landscape and History$
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Paul Carter

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780816669974

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816669974.001.0001

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Debatable Land

Debatable Land

(p.136) 5 Debatable Land
The Road to Botany Bay

Paul Carter

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the meaning of the phrase “Debatable Land.” Early maps showing aboriginal tribal divisions describe “Debatable Land” as either land that no one had laid claim to or land whose ownership was disputed. Either way, it was land that had not been settled. Whether the Aborigines saw it in this light is extremely doubtful: the phrase “Debatable Land” refers not so much to aboriginal beliefs, as to certain assumptions of their white interrogators. Implicit in the question, to whom does this land belong, are territorial notions possibly incomprehensible to those questioned. The phrase also reminds us that the process of settlement was not a laconic replacement of one culture by another, a simple, physical “taming” of the land, but a process of teaching the country to speak.

Keywords:   Debatable Land, claims, Aborigines, aboriginal lands

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