Sydney officials decide Cook's arrival was really an invasion

THE arrival of Britain's First Fleet in Australia in 1788 has been officially described as an "invasion" by Sydney city council.

Following a heated debate, led by an Aboriginal Advisory Panel, the city of Sydney has taken it upon itself to wipe the traditional words "European arrival" from most official documents and declare the arrival of white settlers to be an illegal colonisation.

Sydney's Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, yesterday said she had tried to remove the word "invasion" during the debate, but added she had underestimated the depth of feeling on the issue. She said the Aboriginal people were the original custodians of the land and the term was important to them.

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"In respect to the Aboriginal community, it's something that is very important and needs to be used," she said.

During the lengthy discussion, deputy mayor Marcelle Hoff argued the phrase "invasion or illegal colonisation" should be used in the council's official documents. She read out dictionary definitions of "invasion" as "to take possession, to penetrate, to intrude upon, to overrun".

She said: "They came and they did not leave."

When other councillors described the term as offensive, Ms Hoff said: "It's intellectually dishonest to not use words that offend some people."

After a seven-two vote in favour, the term "this invasion" will be used in the council's Aboriginal policy, which appears in many of its official documents.

Ms Moore read out the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statement which says: "In 1788 the British established a convict outpost on the shores of Sydney Harbour.

"This had a far reaching and devastating impact on the Eora Nation, including 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."

Ms Moore also deleted a paragraph she proposed last week which said: "British settlement of Sydney and its surrounds is interpreted by some people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, as invasion. For others it is colonisation. History is interpreted by people differently according to their experience of its consequences."

Not everyone was in favour. Councillor Phillip Black - who is on Ms Moore's team of independents along with Ms Hoff - said the council should moderate its use of emotive language.

He said: "Healing the past will not be achieved by alienating others. The word 'invasion' has served its useful life. I do not believe it should be used in our documents."

But Paul Morris, an Aboriginal leader who pushed for the change, said: "We were invaded. It is the truth and shouldn't be watered-down. We wouldn't expect Jewish people to accept a watered-down version of the Holocaust."

Aborigines are estimated to have numbered around one million across the Australian landmass when Europeans first arrived. They now make up around 500,000 out of a population of 22 million.