The Introduction of Tobacco Smoking into Aboriginal Society with a particular focus on the Hunter Region of Central Eastern New South Wales from 1800 to 1850
This paper brings to the reader‟s attention a history of tobacco smoking that arguably had a negative effect on the health of Aboriginal communities in the Hunter region of central eastern New South Wales during the early colonial contact period from 1800 to 1850. Furthermore, it will also be shown that tobacco was used by colonists to engage the services of Aboriginal people, not only in Aboriginal communities in the Hunter region, but further afield across many other frontiers of colonial expansion in Australia in the 19th century. It will be demonstrated through primary archival and secondary sources that colonists utilised tobacco as a coercive agent to appease, befriend, pacify, coerce and remunerate Aboriginal People, resulting in widespread addiction. It is argued that tobacco smoking not only undermined the health of traditional communities, but also this unhealthy habit has been largely overlooked in measurements of the impact of colonization on the health of Indigenous people. While historians widely acknowledge that exotic diseases such as smallpox had a negative effect on the health of Aboriginal People, it is rarely considered in contemporary historical accounts that tobacco had an even more insidious effect on the well being of Aboriginal societies during the early colonial contact period. Furthermore, while diseases such as smallpox have hopefully disappeared forever, health destroyers like tobacco have endured and continue to impact on Aboriginal health. Finally, this paper recognises the enormity of challenges faced by health authorities, and indeed Indigenous Australians, in contemporary society in combating a chronic problem that has been embedded in Aboriginal post-colonial culture during the long course of European occupation.