The Invention
of Terra Nullius

Michael Connor


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Michael Connor reveals terra nullius to be a mythical notion. It was never a phrase used in Australia in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries but injected into Australian political and legal debate only in the 1970s. Since then it has meant whatever its users want it to mean. The foundation of Australia was based on entirely different concepts and terminology.

The book investigates the historical writings of a number of prominent Australian academic historians and finds them sadly wanting — inaccurate and untrustworthy, not only on Australia’s foundation but on subsequent relations between colonists and Aborigines. The evidence for a number of incidents of violence — especially the controversial Convincing Grounds Massacre at Portland, Victoria — is either exaggerated, wrong or recycled from very dubious sources.

This book is not just a trenchant critique of recent historiography. It overturns the received interpretation of Australian history and puts a new perspective on this country’s beginnings.