Sydney: British arrival 'invasion' of Australia
Councillors in Australia's biggest city have voted to officially declare the arrival of British settlers in 1788 an "invasion", following strong pressure from the Aboriginal community.
Sydney city council voted 7-2 on Monday to include the contentious description in its 2030 city plan, after intense lobbying from its indigenous advisors.
The document describes the "devastating impact" to the local Eora tribe of the arrival of British settlers on the shores of Sydney Harbour in 1788, resulting in the "occupation and appropriation of traditional lands".
"Despite the destructive impact of this invasion Aboriginal culture endured and is now globally recognised as one of the world's oldest cultures," the plan says.
The wording was fiercely debated before a public gallery packed with Aborigines, with some councillors objecting that terms such as "invasion" were emotive and divisive.
But a spokeswoman for Lord Mayor Clover Moore told AFP: "All councillors acknowledge the devastating impacts of European settlement on the Aboriginal population.
"The Council of the City of Sydney recognises that, by acknowledging our shared past, we are laying the groundwork for a future which embraces all Australians, a future based on mutual respect and shared responsibility for our land."
Arthur Phillip, the first governor of New South Wales state, estimated there were at least 1,500 Aborigines in Sydney at the time of white settlement, half of whom perished in a 1789 smallpox epidemic.
Others were killed under a programme offering bounties for dead Aborigines, or perished from disease.
Australia's original inhabitants, the country's most impoverished minority, are believed to have numbered around one million at the time of white settlement, but are now just 470,000 in a nation of 22 million.
© 2011 AFP