Law Text Culture


Postcolonial feudal concepts applied to the northern cattle industry demonstrate how wide-scale Aboriginal labour exploitation entailed both colonists’ usurpation of land and an acquiescence of Aboriginal land interests. The critical role of Aboriginal labour to the fledgling cattle industry drew colonists and Indigenes into a relationship that accommodated competing land interests. Anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt reported in 1946: Especially on the larger [cattle station] holdings, something very much like a feudal situation developed: an overlord, with a circle of serfs over whom he had almost absolute power. The Aborigines, whether full-time employees or simply dependents ... were allowed to remain there on sufferance (Berndt 1987: 272).