Australia was populated by English felons, some of whom were convicted of very minor crimes for which the death sentence was demanded. Not all were hardened criminals, some were petty thieves, but all were pretty hopeless about their futures. In the late 1700's and early 1800's, they were pardoned from death sentences and sent to New South Wales, which was used as a penal colony.
What they found in Australia was not much better than what they left behind, perhaps far worse, but at least they were alive. Although they were granted clemency, they seemed to want to imitate their oppressors as they moved on in life, rather than learn from them. As they were indentured, they sought to indenture others they deemed lesser souls than they themselves.
The Aborigines were maltreated and murdered for transgressions they probably were not even aware of since the land was theirs and they had lived on it as they chose, taking from it what they needed, until these intruders arrived. The arrival of the white man with their huts merely changed the topography but not their way of life. Very little effort was made to integrate them into the society being developed...if one could call it that, at that time.
This book is about man's inhumanity to man. Mankind has not learned from experience when it comes to cruelty. The weak are always oppressed by the strong. It seems no matter how we mature, the same inability to get along with others who are different, still persists.
Although the book is written well, I did not find it to be a quick read because of the use of the old English terms, popular at the time the book takes place. I found them distracting. There were many times I was unsure of the meaning and had to stop and look them up. It would have been a smoother read for me if a glossary had been provided. I did want to finish the book once I began but sometimes I felt that I was plodding through the mud and mangroves with them.
The history of Australia drew me into the book and held me there. The hardships they faced were extraordinary, hardships that those of us in this modern age could not even conceive. It would be a better read though, if one had a little Oxford Dictionary nearby to make the reading more fluid and continuous.