• Indigenous rights campaigner Rodney Dillon says Tony Abbott needs to confront the truth of Australia's history. (NITV, AAP)Source: NITV, AAP
Invasion, what invasion? Tony Abbott causes uproar for saying Australia was ‘settled’.
Andrea Booth

23 Jun 2016 - 11:40 AM  UPDATED 23 Jun 2016 - 3:18 PM

Tony Abbott MP, former Prime Minister and Prime Minister of Indigenous Affairs, told commentator Andrew Bolt in an interview on Wednesday that the British did not invade Indigenous Australia in 1788.

Mr Bolt asked Mr Abbott: "Do you agree Australia was invaded by whites?"

"I certainly wouldn't use the word invasion," Mr Abbott, who is re-contesting his seat of Warringah in the 2016 federal elections, replied.

"The terminology I use is settlement.

"If that's too benign, fair enough, say Australia was occupied if you like."

'Comments like this stop Australians bonding'

Amnesty International rights campaigner Rodney Dillon told NITV News Mr Abbott was wrong.

“It’s a pity that [Tony Abbott] can’t come to the truth of the invasion and the massacres that happened as well, the Conniston Massacre, Myall Creek Massacre, massacres in Western Australia, South Australia, in Tasmania,” Mr Dillon says.

"If that's the way to have a settlement, I mean he must have a really twisted mind about what settlement means, poor fella."

Mr Dillon says it's important Mr Abbott acknowledges Britain's wars against Indigenous people.

"That will help this country bond together when we start talking about these issues. It’s not about making them guilty about what happened, it’s a country reflecting on our past.

"I hope that that’s when we can get true reconciliation, when we understand what we’ve done and the repercussions of that.”

'A typical conservative view'

Rod Little, co-chair of National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, told NITV News it's a "typical conversation you would have among conservatives" that "draw out the denial and bias of the truth, the facts".

"That's basically what it is, it's prejudice that is coming to the surface."

Mr Little says instead Indigenous people's land was taken without permission when British colonisers arrived to Australia. But he adds it's a "debate we need to have" to arrive at a resolution.

Explainer: What is a treaty?
A look at what a treaty is and how the adoption of a treaty might change the political landscape for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Mr Abbott's conversation with Mr Bolt follows Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledging that the British "invaded" the continent.

"Well, I think it can be fairly described as that and I've got no doubt obviously our first Aboriginal Australians describe it as an invasion," Mr Turnbull said.

"But, you know, you are talking about an historical argument about a word. The facts are very well known. This country was Aboriginal land. It was occupied by Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years – 40,000 years."

He expressed this stance after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten suggested on ABC’S Q&A program that he might support a treaty.

“I do think there needs to be a discussion about should you have a treaty or shouldn't you have a treaty. What I'm not going to do is give all the answers on one spot at one time."