This interpretation typically denies Aboriginal presence and agency, in its support of a colonial settler narrative of peaceful settlement of an empty land (terra nullius) and imperial expansion. It was European exploration that brought the land into existence and formed a starting point for Australian history.
Prior to the 1860s colonial settler Australians viewed the semi arid interior of Australia as “empty primordial land” as the unknown centre. It was a ghastly blank space, even though the explorers were passing through lands that had resident Aboriginal populations, territories that were already mapped and named.
The expedition of Burke and Wills, was designed to fill in this blank in the map of central Australia, and it has become a myth of colonisation. This narrative, which emphasises the brave and gallant feats of the white solo-hero explorer, is a narrative that has denied Aboriginal agency, resistance, the co- production of knowledge, actual becoming and belonging, and the mutual adaptation that occurred between explorers, settlers, Aboriginal people and the landscape.
There is a silencing and erasure of Aboriginal history and agency in the colonial construction of the barren and hostile landscape as ‘desert and uncultivated’. The colonial setter narrative constructs Aboriginal people as being a part of nature and as “hostile savages” or “ignorant blacks”. Settler colonialism strives for the dissolution of indigenous societies and it erects a new colonial society on the expropriated land base.
The colonial settler mythology that stresses settler struggle, courage, and survival, amidst pain, tragedy, and loss was part of the strategy to maintain legitimacy of settler occupation through telling stories of white Australians overcoming hardship and suffering and winning a battle against nature.