Aborigines in their own society were a peaceful people.
In Britain officials influenced by the humanitarian movement of the time were anxious to give South Australia's Aborigines much greater protection and the blessings of British ways and the Christian religion.
Why, they asked, did Aborigines resent the new arrivals so much?
Far from being a model colony in its relations with Aborigines, South Australia resembled the other colonies in the rapid occupation of Aboriginal lands, the physical violence between the races, and the settlers' ignorance of the nature of Aboriginal society.
This was despite the appointment of official protectors of Aborigines, the founding of mission stations and schools, and an attempt to form a 'Native Police' force which recruited Aborigines themselves for police work.
Whites were unwilling or unable to understand the Aboriginal system.
The arrival of Lt James Cook in 1770 marked the beginning of the end for this ancient way of life. Cook’s voyage of exploration had sailed under instructions to take possession of the Southern Continent if it was uninhabited, or with the consent of the natives if it was occupied. Either way, it was to be taken. Upon his arrival, Lt Cook declared the land he called New South Wales to be the property of Britain’s King George III, and ignored the inconvenient fact that the land was already well populated. His failure to even attempt to gain the consent of the natives began the legal fiction that Australia was waste and unoccupied.
The spiritual basis of Aboriginal life was undermined.
Cook was followed soon enough by the arrival of the First Fleet, in January of 1788, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, whose mission was to establish a penal colony and take control of Terra Australia for settlement.
The Aborigines seemed part of a strange land with distinctive fauna.
The decline came despite the setting up of government ration-stations to distribute flour and blankets to needy aborigines, and despite the work of missionary establishments and official protectors of Aborigines.
Not all the Aboriginal groups died out.
Even where some land reserves were set aside for Aborigines, the colonial governments claimed actual ownership of the reserves and white pastoralists could often graze their stock there.
Aboriginal languages were dying out with the people.
Soon he declared martial law and began in 1830 an amazing military operation, in which five thousand whites attempted to drive the remaining Aborigines into the Tasman Peninsula.