Aboriginal Rights - Then and Now Australia is known throughout the world today as a land of opportunity. A land where freedom is sustained and all people are considered equal. However this hasn't always been so. Since the arrival of he Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet in 1788, the aboriginals of Australia have struggled to regain the independence they once had. Their quest for equal rights and recognition, which was only fulfilled late last century, was what they had been battling for since their home, for over 40,000 years was taken away. In 1788 when Britain established the first European settlement on Australian soil, there were at least 300,000 Aboriginal people here, possibly very many more. It is estimated that there were about 600 different tribes, each comprising several groups. Between them they spoke about 500 different languages, many of which were variants or dialects of another. This race of people, who were then occupying areas right across the continent, had, after 40,000 years become a vital part of this land. Since the prehistoric times this vast continent with its mountains, rivers, plains and beaches had belonged to them and they to it. Their dreamtime, their culture and their kinship with nature wawhy of life, were all expressions of this fact. Australia had belonged to them since the dawn of time and they assumed it always would. The arrival of the Europeans in Australia brought about the systematic destruction of Aboriginal society. Aboriginal lands where invaded and their resources taken over by pastoralists and farmers. The Aboriginal people were denied access to their land; their children were taken away and put in Christian mission stations, their waterholes poisoned and many of their people massacred. The Europeans did not understand the Aboriginal culture. Rather than regard the Aborigines as a well-established and well-organized civilisation, the Europeans considered them to be heathens who needed to be converted to Christianity.