Early Australian pioneers believed what they were doing was right and honourable. In fact, they believed they had a moral mandate to do it.
Someone once described the 1800s as the century that spawned great men. So I sometimes wonder whether our generation could benefit by rediscovering the values of the men of that era who helped shape such a humane Commonwealth of nations.
Considering the values of the New Testament Gospel, and also the values of the Old Testament Law and Prophets, I think we can say:
* It was Scriptural that 18-19th Century English evangelical missionaries came to teach the Gospel to Australian Aboriginal nations. (Matthew 28:19)
* It was Scriptural, whilst preaching and teaching the Gospel, that they lived here amongst indigenous nations, so long as they were still welcome. (Matthew 10:11-15)
* But they couldn't swim here - they needed to sail on ships. So it was Scriptural, in order to arrive here and preach the Gospel, that they traveled on secularly-owned shipping routes even though they may have been operating purely for commercial purposes. (Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey; St Paul sailed on Gentile-owned commercial ships). I find it interesting that they couldn't have fulfilled Christ's great commission if not for the existence of ships which had been built with commercial motive.
* Therefore it was Scriptural and honourable that believers were interested not only in preaching the Gospel to native lands, but also in trading with them and living amongst them for that purpose - so long as it was welcome, and was good, and was profitable for both parties. (Prov.14:23, Eph.4:28)
* Of course, not everyone always had such good scruples. But very often, when an unscrupulous man mistreated another, it was evangelical believers were the advocates for social reform - through speaking about righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come. (Acts 24:25)
* When convicts were deported to Australia perhaps unjustly, God was working in the circumstances to use it for the furtherance of the Gospel, i.e., for the overall good of future society. (Acts 25:12, Gen.50:20, Rom.8:28)
* Despite any undesirable circumstances which may have come about in history as a result of men's sins, God was working in the nations to bring about the overall good of future society. (Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound).
* And where should non-indigenous Australians live? It seems to me to be Scriptural, and just, despite the rights or wrongs of Australia's colonial past, that all present-day Australian citizens, whether indigenous or not, should have the right to remain living in Australia - since that seems to me to be the most peaceful, least disruptive, and most mutually beneficial option for everyone in society. It is the option that best upholds Christ's new commandment of "love" - to "love thy neighbour as thyself" (I Cor.7:15,17,20).
It all comes down to love. Anything that we do in love, with respect to person's and private property, with honour, with humility - whether the activity is missionary, commercial, educational, civil, governmental, or corrective - if it's done in love, then it's Gospel, it's Lawful, it's expedient.