Terra Nullius, from the Latin, describes a land without an owner, an empty land. Whilst it may be inhabited, it is not actively farmed. During the colonisation of Australia by the British, the principle of Terra Nullius was evoked in a bid to legitimise the continent’s invasion. The indigenous population was considered to be an inferior race destined to become an insignificant part of the population, perhaps even to disappear over time.
On 28th April 1770, the British explorer James Cook declared the continent Terra Nullius. This declaration paved the way for the creation of a new penal colony: between 1788 and 1868, 165.000 British convicts were sent to this new continent by boat.
Over two centuries later, in 1992, the High Court of Australia declared the country never to have been Terra Nullius and retroactively invalidated this principle following a fierce battle for the recognition of Aboriginal land rights.
In 2012, Australia has a population of over 22 million inhabitants. The big majority of Australia’s population lives on the continent’s periphery in large cities such as the capital Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne. Nevertheless, about ten percent of Australians call the centre of the country home, otherwise known as the Bush and the Outback, an area which covers over two thirds of the territory.
The following photographic essay was largely undertaken in the state of Northern Territory, where time and distance seem endless, at 360 degrees, the horizon becomes an obsessional sight.
This essay was commissioned by the Museum of Millau, France, 2012.
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