Extract from ABC News
Photo: Prime Minister Tony Abbott launches the Defining Moments in Australian History project at the National Museum in Canberra. (AAP: Alan Porritt)
Indigenous figures including the chair of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council are furious that Tony Abbott has highlighted white settlement as the defining moment in Australian history.The Prime Minister made the comment while he was launching a project on the 100 Defining Moments in Australian History at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra on Friday.
"The arrival of the First Fleet was the defining moment in the history of this continent. Let me repeat that, it was the defining moment in the history of this continent," he said.
"It was the moment this continent became part of the modern world."
His remarks drew swift condemnation from Warren Mundine, the chair of the Prime Minister's own advisory panel.
"Well it was a defining moment, there's no argument about that. It was also a disastrous defining moment for Indigenous people," Mr Mundine said.
Mr Abbott said British settlement provided the foundation for Australia to become one of the most prosperous societies on Earth.
Mr Mundine said that is true, but not everyone is benefiting.
"Does that mean that Aboriginal people have prospered from that? Of course not," he said.
"We're miles behind everyone else and in fact I wouldn't be sitting in this job if Aboriginal people did prosper. There wouldn't be a need for the chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council or the council as a whole."
PM 'not speaking for all Australians'The head of the Stolen Generation Council for New South Wales and the ACT, Matilda House, said the Prime Minister's comments are ridiculous.
"I think politicians really don't think when they make these one-liners," she said.
"I can't fathom how a ship or a boat sailed into Sydney Harbour can overtake the 60,000 years before."
The co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, Kirstie Parker, said the Prime Minister is not speaking to all Australians.
"I think it speaks only to a particular section of Australian society. It doesn't speak to all Australians," she said.
"That's a pity because I think it sets us back somewhat.
"This notion that the real Australia, the true Australia, the good and modern Australia, started in 1788 is, of course, offensive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."
Six historians, including Professor John Maynard, who is indigenous, helped compile the list of 100 defining moments.
"We were a little bit disturbed to say the least by that particular comment, the way that it was framed," Professor Maynard said.
"But as I said, I mean, he's open to have his opinion."
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said white settlement is a significant part of Australia's history but it is not the only thing to be proud of.
He said it changed the country in very dramatic ways, but he acknowledged the contribution of the Indigenous population.
"There were Aboriginal people here before. Their way of recording history was different from what there has been since there has been European settlement," he said.
"We're proud of all of our past."
Last month, Mr Abbott was criticised after he said Australia had been "unsettled" before the First Fleet arrived.
"The comments were highly offensive, dismissive of Indigenous peoples and simply incorrect," Senator Nova Peris said.
Mr Abbott also nominated the birth of Rupert Murdoch's newspaper The Australian in 1964 as another defining moment.
Professor Maynard, who is director of the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle, also does not believe the establishment of the newspaper belongs in the top 100.
"I'm sure we could all put down 100 moments and we'd all have different perspectives on what those 100 would be, but no, I wouldn't have The Australian there as one of the 100 defining moments," he said.