John Harris says we know exactly why Aboriginal people came so close to disappearing entirely in the 19th century.
Aboriginal population declined drastically in the 19th century. That is why even decent, good people who would never harm them still would say, “The Aboriginal race is disappearing”. It is why some Christian people thought it must be God’s will. They didn’t want it to happen but they observed it to happen, and so they thought “Well, this race is disappearing”.
The reason that they were disappearing is very, very clearly given by the sympathetic observers, and they always put them in the same order. One, massacre; killing by the colonisers. Two, venereal disease rendering the women infertile. And that’s not often enough spoken about. And three, European diseases to which they had no resistance.
The statistical report and the annual statistical reports collected of Aboriginal population – the statistical report in the 1830s from Lake Macquarie said that there were 28 men, two women, one boy, and no girls. Now, that needs hardly any explanation. There are hardly any women and there are no girls. Where are they? They are in the possession of predatory white men or they are dead.
Of course, European diseases were diseases to which they had lowered resistance, and of course they killed a lot of people too. But interestingly enough, they didn’t die from European diseases on the missions to anything like the extent that they died of European diseases outside the missions.