FIGHT FOR RIGHTS The Aboriginal Story
Many changes in Aboriginal rights and freedoms occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. In time the government introduced legislation and polices that promised to create opportunities for Aborigines, reduce discrimination in Australian society and remedy past wrongs. What caused these changes? • International climate and overseas scrutiny • New labour government committed to reform • Organised protests by Aborigines • Shows of public support by white Australians
The 1960s and 1970s are remembered as protest decades because “minority” groups sought recognition and improved rights and freedoms. • However Aboriginal activists had spoken out against inequality much earlier. • What event are we referring to?
Aborigines had already experienced decades of mistreatment at the hand of “white” Australians. The policies introduced by the government failed to improve the quality of life of Aborigines. These policies included… Dispossession Protectionism Assimilation These would later change to integration and self-determination. Why were Aborigines Protesting?
DispossessionDispossession occurred in 1788 with the arrival of British settlers. Aborigines’ link with the land was severed based on the concept of ‘terra nullius’. Given the significance of land in Aboriginal identity, this had enormous long term psychological affects. It also affected the Aborigines chances of survival and made them increasingly dependant on whites.
Protectionism • Protectionism involved the further removal of Aborigines from their traditional land. Aborigines were placed in missons and reserves. • The Aboriginal Protection Board was established in 1863 which placed enormous restrictions on the lives of Aborigines. • There was a belief that the Aborigines were "dying out” and it was necessary to make decision for the Aborigines, to “save them from themselves” by putting them under white care.
Assimilation • In post war Australia, it became evident that Aborigines were not ‘dying out’ so the government adopted a policy of assimilation in regards to the Aborigines. • The idea was to make Aborigines think, look and act like White Australians in the hope their ‘blackness’ could be bred out.
Assimilation also involved the removal of Aboriginal children from their homes and families. This group of children is called The Stolen Generations.
Despite the promise that Aborigines could be just like whites, they were not citizens. In fact, the census did not even recognise them. • Only if an Aborigine renounced his background could he receive a certificate of exemption. • In the 1940s, certificates of exemption were issued to Aborigines who were of “good character, industrious habits and who had stopped contact with other Aboriginal people.”
The Freedom Rides, 1965 Student-led protest which aimed to bring to the attention of the nation the discrimination faced by Aborigines in many country towns.
1967 Referendum • In 1962, the Voting Rights Act (Cwlth) was passed, which meant all Aborigines could vote in federal elections. • Although they now had some of the rights of citizens, they were not counted as citizens. • In 1967, a referendum was held to recognise Aborigines in the census and enabled the Federal government to make laws for indigenous. • The referendum resulted in the constitution being changed. It was supported by all political parties and the majority of the Australian population.
Activism led to a changes. In 1967, assimilation was refashioned into integration. This occurred because assimilation was a failure. The aim was to encourage Aborigines to become part of the community but retain aspects of their culture. However this policy change still failed to take the wishes of the Aborigines into account. By the 1970s, the government made a commitment to self-determination. This was based on the premise of self-management. In 1990, ATSIC was set up to mange indigenous affairs. However there remained a number of unresolved issues. Policy Changes in the 1960s and 1970s
Key Issue: Land RightsAcknowledging indigenous traditional, cultural and spiritual links with land and sacred sites
In 1966, more than 200 Gurindji people walked off the job at Wave Hill Station in The Northern Territory, protesting their unfair pay, terrible living conditions and land exploitation. • The protest strike was recognised as the start of the land rights movement. In 1975 the government returned their traditional land to them.
What is an EMBASSY? In 1972, Aborigines confronted the issues of inequality and land rights by setting up an embassy on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. Despite causing much controversy, Aborigines were proud of their embassy and it received international attention. The Aboriginal flag was also flown for the first time around this time.What can these pictures tell us about the Tent Embassy? The Aboriginal Tent Embassy 1972 1999
The Mabo Decision, 1992The turning point in Land Rights issue In the 1970s, Eddie Mabo led a group of people from Mer Islands in The Torres Strait in a land claim against the Queensland state government. The case ended up in the High Court where the concept of Terra Nullius was challenged. The case took 10 years but in the end the High Court rules that the indigenous people were entitled to possession, occupation, enjoyment and use of the islands. The decision was important because it recognised that the descendants of peoples living in Australia, long before white settlement, still had a claim to ownership of the land. Terra Nullius was now fiction! The Wik Decision was similarly important.
In the following years, politicians passed legislation regarding land rights and in some cases, returned land to the indigenous owners, eg. Uluru. • However land rights is a controversial issue and a lot of Australians, including some politicians do not support the claims- Often because they don’t understand the issue… Cartoonist‘s take on the Native Title Amendment Act, 1993.
Key Issues: ReconciliationBuilding a relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and addressing past wrongs
The Stolen Generation • In 1969 the government ended its policy of removing indigenous children from their families. • This marked a move towards self-determination. • In 1997 “Bringing Them Home”, an inquiry into the practice, was published. • Sadly the government hardly responded except to say there would be no apology or compensation. • However Aboriginal people are still waiting for an acknowledgement of past wrongs. Sorry Day 1998
Aborigines are more likely… To die young Dropout of school To be arrested To suffer serious health problems, especially alcoholism And less likely to… Get a university degree To get a job Own a home Earn the same wage as a White Australian Self-determination looks good on paper but few could argue that it has made Aborigines equal to white Australians. There is a constant need to address the social disadvantages experienced by Aborigines. The statistics are horrifying… Protests at Parliament House in Canberra over Aboriginal Deaths in Custody