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Aboriginal Australia Changing Rights and Freedoms. Changing government policies towards Aboriginal peoples over time. Protection, Assimilation, Integration, Self-determination. The Policies. For policy you will need to answer the following; What was the policy – definition Time period

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aboriginal australia changing rights and freedoms

Aboriginal AustraliaChanging Rights and Freedoms

Changing government policies towards Aboriginal peoples over time.

Protection, Assimilation, Integration, Self-determination

the policies
The Policies

For policy you will need to answer the following;

  • What was the policy – definition
  • Time period
  • Features of the policy
  • Consequences
  • Why abandoned (if relevant)
  • Evidence
  • There were many well-meaning people who, through a sense of moral conviction or religious faith saw it as their duty to help Aboriginal people.
  • Paternalism is the practice of treating a group of people like a parent would treat a child. This is how indigenous people were treated in the period to the 1950s under the policy of “Protection”
  • A government policy

controlling all aspects of

Indigenous peoples’ lives

  • The policy aimed to;
  • Separate Aboriginal people from white people for their own good
  • Put Aboriginal people onto government reserves or religious missions. In 1883 the Aboriginal Protection Board was set up to manage the reserves. There were 114 in NSW by 1894.
  • No respect given to indigenous languages, cultures or spirituality
  • From 1857 to 1911, the Australian Aborigines were officially regarded as a dying race.
  • The large number of deaths resulted from massacres, loss of land, food supplies, diseases – small pox, measles, whooping cough and influenza.
  • Malnutrition and appalling living conditions also lowered the birth rate.
  • Life under the policy
  • Aboriginal people could not leave a reserve and go into town or marry, or get employment without permission
  • Could not own property
  • Were paid ‘in kind’ for work done – not in money
  • Could not speak own language or practise traditional ceremonies
  • Could not have or control money or personal possessions
  • Mission education was basic and aimed at converting to Christianity

Aborigines Protection Act 1909 (NSW)

“There shall be a board for the protection of Aborigines and it will be headed by the Inspector-General of Police.

The duties of the board will be to:

  • Control the money for assisting Aborigines
  • Distribute blankets and clothing to Aborigines
  • Have custody of Aboriginal children and educate them
  • Manage Reserves
  • Supervise all matters affecting Aborigines”

Aborigines Act 1886 (Vic)

“The Governor in Council may make regulations and orders;-

For prescribing the place where any aboriginal or any tribe of aboriginals may reside...

For the care custody and education of the children of aboriginals...

All bedding, clothing and other articles issued or distributed to the aboriginals...shall be considered on loan only, and shall remain the property of his Majesty...”

  • Many Reserves were closed down and land given to white farmers – WWI Soldier Settlement
  • Aboriginal people were resettled without consultation – lost all links and ties to their land and families
  • Indigenous people were not dying out

"We do not ask for your protection. No thanks! We have had 150 years of that! We our only ask for justice, decency and fair play. Do not be guided by religious and scientific persons...let the Aborigines themselves tell you what they want."

William Ferguson & Jack Patten26 January 1938, Australian Hall, SydneyDay of Mourning and Protest

  • A policy that encouraged indigenous people and migrants to take on Australian ways and customs.
  • Had to move away from traditional life, culture and thinking, and adopt white ways
  • The 1951 Assimilation Conference confirmed this policy
  • The policy of removing mixed-blood children from Indigenous communities continued right up until the late 1960s – aimed at assimilation
  • The main supported was Paul Hasluck – Territories Minister.

From the 1961 Native Welfare Conference: All Aborigines and part-Aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, hopes and loyalties as other Australians.

From the 1965 Aboriginal Welfare Conference: The policy of Assimilation seeks that all persons of Aboriginal decent will choose to attain a similar manner and standard of living to that of other Australians and live as members of a single Australian Community.

  • It was possible for an Indigenous person to receive a certificate from the government indicating that he or she had rejected traditional ways and had adopted white ways.
  • Aboriginal people called it a “dog licence” or a “beer ticket” as the certificate enabled a person to be able to drink in a pub.

The forced removal of children from their families took place under the regulations and guidelines of the Assimilation Policy.

"We have power under the act to take any child from its mother at any stage of its life... Are we going to have a population of one million blacks in the Commonwealth or are we going to merge them into our white community and eventually forget that there were ever any Aborigines [sic?] in Australia?"

A O Neville, Chief Protector of Aborigines, WANative Welfare Conference, 1937Quoted 'Sorry', Sydney Morning Herald 30 May 1998, p.41


David Hollinsworth in his book Race and Racism in Australia, quotes:

"Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white."

Dr. Cecil Cook, NT Chief Protector 1927-39:


MOREE, Saturday. - Mob violence exploded here today as student freedom riders were attacked by a crowd crazed with race hate. White women spat on girl students and screamed filthy words as the students tried to win Aboriginal children admission to the town baths.Several people were arrested and the town's mayor, Alderman William Lloyd, pitched into the battle, grabbing students by the scruff of their necks and hurling them out of the way.Throughout the fighting a barrage of eggs and rotten fruit rained on the students.Mr Jim Spigelman, a 19-year-old student from Maroubra, was smacked to the ground while the 500 strong crowd roared its approval.

February 21, 1965

  • The policy did not work;
  • Indigenous people and migrants did not want to disregard their culture
  • Indigenous leaders, the Labor Party and churchmen were now suggesting that the policy should be abandoned
  • Many Aboriginal people were forced off reserves into towns or cities – some set up fringe camps on the outskirts of towns
  • Assimilation forced Aboriginal people into abandoning traditional values and community life – it did little to help them
  • Although it offered opportunities – it came at the cost of destroying traditional Aboriginal life
  • While espousing the benefits of assimilation to Aboriginal people, the policy still denied their basic rights, even in the 1960s.
  • It stopped them from raising their own children, stopped freedom of movement, having access to education, receiving award wages, marrying without permission, eating in restaurants, entering a pub, swimming in a public pool or having the right to vote.
  • 'We are different hearts and mindsIn a different body. Do not ask of usTo be deserters, to disown our mother,To change the unchangeable.The gum cannot be trained into an oak.Something is gone, something surrendered, stillWe will go forward and learn.Not swamped and lost, watered away, but keepingOur own identity, our pride of race.‘
  • Assimilation-No! Oodgeroo

“The common saying of the staff [to the Aboriginal girls taken to the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls] was “live like a white person”...They were making us white – think white – look white – act white. [We were told] “there is a good chance that you will marry a white man and your children will be lighter...and their children will be lighter until they are completely white.””

Kathleen Miller’s oral history record, 1982

  • Policy of acceptance of migrant and Indigenous cultures, but with a desire for these groups to become Australian
  • Governments now tolerated the traditional culture of indigenous people and accepted its coexistence with white cultures.
  • It recognised that Assimilation had failed
  • Formally instituted at the 1965 Aboriginal Welfare Conference.
  • Integration recognised Indigenous culture, and allowed for Indigenous people to express their cultural identity

“In time...[the assimilation] policy came under attack, with critics pointing to its denial of aboriginal culture, the arrogant assumption of the superiority of the white culture, and the dependency that it helped engender. For a time, ‘integration’ became Commonwealth policy, though it was difficult to detect the differences between ‘assimilation’ and ‘integration’. With attitudes this changing – though not in Queensland, which remained determinedly assimilationist in its approach until well into the 1980s – the other State governments began to reform many of the laws that denied Aborigines equality with the rest of the Australian community.”

Scott Bennett, White Politics and White Australians, 1999

self determination
  • Policy allowing Indigenous people a say in policies affecting them.
  • With the election of the Whitlam government in 1972, there was a shift in policy towards Indigenous people.
  • Aimed to end paternalistic attitudes and practices, to remove notions of racial superiority and to allow Indigenous people to have a say in policies that affected them.
self determination1

In 1990 the Australian government established the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). The government body formally involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the processes of government affecting their lives.

In the early 2000s the ATSIC became more and more embroiled in controversy over its finances, powers and the activities of its last chair.

In March 2005 the Howard government succeeded in abolishing the ATSIC

self determination2

Nearly five years after the abolition of the ATSIC the Australian government announced that it would support a new national representative body for Aboriginal Australians.

The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples emerged from a series of Aboriginal community meetings throughout the country, peak body talks, a national forum and written submissions

Tom Calma

self determination3

A new national Indigenous representative body will be called the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples. Social Justice Commissioner Calma, who has convened the independent Indigenous Steering Committee since December 2008, announced the name after the Federal Government confirmed it had accepted the recommendations of the Committee's report, Our future in our hands, and agreed to initial funding of the organisation until December 2013.

Commissioner Calma said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been without a representative voice for too long.

He said that setting up the new body was a monumental task that would require a development phase until the end of 2010. The Government is providing $29 million over four years for the policy and an advocacy body which will not be delivering programs and services.

self determination4

Imparja Television is an Aboriginal-owned broadcasting station in Alice Springs, NT, operating since June 1988. Its services include National Indigenous Television (NITV) which was launched in mid-2007, and eight Aboriginal radio stations [3].

Nine Imparja has the largest broadcast area in Australia, covering 3.6 million square kilometres across six states and territories with an estimated audience of 430,000 people. It comes free-to-air and competes with the national market for advertising revenue.

self determination5

Indigenous Business Australia is a government agency which

assists and enhances Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-management and economic self-sufficiency and

advances the commercial and economic interests of Indigenous people by accumulating and using capital assets.

One of the tasks of IBA is to help Aboriginal people achieve home ownership. In 2001 Indigenous home ownership was at 32% while the national non-Indigenous average was 68% [1]. IBA wants to raise this rate to 40%. In 2008 its customers come from NSW (29%), QLD (27%), NT (16%), VIC (10%) and WA (8%).

self determination6
  • Features of Self-Determination included;
  • Instead of white authorities handing down decisions – these was a process of consultation.
  • Gradually more indigenous people would take on positions of responsibility and decision-making
  • Indigenous people would be allowed to choose how to live their lives
  • They would receive the same rights and freedoms as other Australians
  • Many argue that events like the shutting down of ATSIC (2005) and The Northern Territory Intervention (2007) signalled the end of this policy
self determination7

Many Australian governments have been quick to determine what's 'best' for Aboriginal people failing to consult them in the process. But "initiatives developed on the ground, by the people for the people, have a far greater likelihood of working. It's a model for self-determination," says Linda Burney, NSW Community Services Minister and Wiradjuri woman

"We've settled our governance arrangements by ourselves; it's been many years of work by people who have been prepared to put their differences aside and work together on shared goals. The fact that we've taken ownership of the problem is 50 per cent of the solution," adds Sam Jeffries, head of the MurdiPaaki community leader group

We are the people we've been waiting for. —Mary Victor O'Reeri, Aboriginal community of Billard, Western Australia

  • On the 13th of February 2008, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, tabled a motion in parliament apologising to Australia's Indigenous peoples, particularly the Stolen Generations and their families and communities, for laws and policies which had 'inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.' The apology included a proposal for a policy commission to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in 'life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.'

Changing Rights and freedoms

Continuity and change

Rights – education, health, representation, choice of religion, culture, shelter, food

Freedoms – speech, choice, movement, relationships


How have things stayed the same – continuity

How have things changed - change