Discrimination against Australian Aboriginal

 

 

 

The discrimination of the Australian Aboriginal people in terms of the stolen generation era and land rights for the past 200 years has affected the relationship between white Australians and the Aboriginals in terms of inability for reconciliation in the contemporary era.

 

Imagine the government officials calling on your family to remove your children permanently from your care” (Barbara,1990) because they are black and they have a different religion. Now is the time to ask ourselves about the real reasons for the alcoholism, homelessness and other problems of the contemporary Aboriginal society and tie Aboriginal past with their circumstances in the present time.

 

In 1910,  The policy of “half castes” was introduced by the Australian settlers towards the Aboriginal people. The new policy was introduced in order to solve the problems with them, which, by that time was becoming bigger. One of these policies was responsible for what we now call the stolen generation. This policy has caused a destruction of the identity and culture of the children who were taken away.

 

These policies were supported by white Australians including both civilians and States and Federal Government. John William Bleakley, who used to work as the director of Native Affairs from 1939, was one of the people that had a strong opinion in regards to the issue of the half castes’’. By looking at Bleakley’s policies during his work term, we can see that one of his theories was to take the indigenous children as early as they could from the influence of their tribe. Moreover it included the total disconnection from one tribe to another.

 

According to Barbara Cummings in her book titled ‘Take this Child’, Bleakley’s policy was:

‘…one of biological as well as cultural assimilation and depended firmly on the control of the breeding habits of those who were ostensibly in the process of becoming ‘more European’. (Barbara,1990,13).

 

By looking at some of the cases dealing with the removal of the native children, we realise how tragic it was. Ethel for example was taken from her family in Katherine, to be in a half-caste home with a part-Aboriginal boy  and girl. Ethel says:

 

I went to Katherine to look for some people that might know me but nobody knew me. They all died. The old people that knew me or my father, they died”. (Barbara.1990,21-22.)

 

The authorities had given Ethel a new birthdate and new surname. Furthermore they had changed her name from Dassy to Ethel because there were many Dassy’s with them.  By focusing on Ethel as an example of these children who had been taken, we can see that the new life for them was not better than the one they had with their parents.  There was not enough food for them and generally they struggled.

 

Roach is a different example of children of stolen generation era.  He was taken from his family for the reason that he had a relative from his white grandfather, knows what they went through his new parents treated him well but his life was shocked when he received a letter from his sister, the letter told Roach that his mother died.

 

As a result of the stolen generation era, we can see the effects that this has had on contemporary Aboriginal society.  For Aboriginal society in Victoria, for example, there are more than ninety percent of Aboriginals who had been stolen from their families worked in legal service for criminal charges in 1976.  Roach my second example after reading the letter from his sister, he ran away from his home and lost the next 14 years of his life drinking alcohol, sleeping in parks and playing guitar to earn money for more alcohol as many others Aboriginals all over Australia had done.

 

Effects

Yes

No

No answer

Total

Physical ill-health

21.4%

36.6%

40.0%

100%

Mental problems

14.1%

48.4%

37.5%

100%

Substance abuse

16.4%

44.7%

38.9%

100%

Imprisonment

25.3%

40.0%

34.7%

100%

Effects of forcible removal relying on the Australian social justice statistics -1994.

 

For Roach’s situation it has been said that “there are two sides to his life, the pain of the separation on the one hand and the artistic achievement on the other. That’s true for many thousands of removed children, which presents a particular responsibility to all historians of the stolen generations.” ( Peter Read. 1998).

 

It’s obvious that the stolen generation has effected Aboriginal people and modifies their behavioral which can lead them to alcoholism, homelessness and other psychological problems. Yet the discrimination against Aboriginals wasn’t only seen with stolen generation. Land rights issues are  still considered as another big issue which has effected the reconciliation between Aboriginal and white Australians.

 

            After the British came to Australia, many Aboriginal people were driven out from their lands, forced into reserves, and killed in battles for their land. They were no longer allowed to live as they had done for tens of thousands of years, and they were not able to become equal partners and citizens to the people who had taken their land.

 

To clarify the issue of land rights we have to comprehend the relationship between Aboriginal and their land. Professor Stanner had said in his description of this relationship:

“No English words are enough to give a sense of the links between an Aboriginal group and its homeland.  Our word ‘home’, as warm and suggestive though it be, dose not match the Aboriginal word that may mean ‘camp’, ‘heart’ ‘country’, ‘everlasting home’, ‘totem place’, ‘life source’, ‘spirit centre’ and much else in one”. (Yunu Pingu G. 1995,42)

 

As a result of these links, it’s clear that land has always been a fundamental factor for Aboriginal society. It has a physical and spiritual importance for them. In addition Aboriginal culture has been always relied on the land for the reasons of subsistence and because every Aboriginal generation has been born in this land.

 

There is absolutely no doubt that the issue of land rights has a strong impact on modern Aboriginal society. Indigenous communities are the most disadvantaged communities in Australian society and many official reports concluded that as a result of land rights impact for the past 200 years. For instance there are sixty percent or more of the Aboriginal people who do not have the same standard of living that white Australians have.( Yunupingu G,1997,40 ) And by looking to Australian social indicators, we can see that the most poor, uneducated, unemployed, unhealthy people are indigenous.

 

Moreover, as we have seen the strong links between land and Aboriginal culture, we can understand the destruction to the Aboriginal identity where they do not have access to their land.

 

 “land rights is a social justice issue because the result of not having access to your land is the destruction of culture, language and spirituality”. (Yunupingu G,1997,40)

 

            On the other hand there has been some positive result of the land rights impact on Aboriginal society. Aboriginal people now have the right to own and control their lands in some places, after the implementation of act called the “Native Title Act”.  This means the recognition of Aboriginal land rights, and claims to land.  In Queensland for example, Aboriginal people who live in some part of this stat like Murray Island had the right to own their land by a decision of the High Court on 3 June, 1992, which was an historical decision.  This  came after more than two hundred years font refusing the subsistence of Indigenous traditional rights to land.

 

            The Mabo issue led by an Aboriginal man called Eddie Mabo and another four Meriam people who asserted that.

 “the islands had been continuously in inhabited and exclusively possessed by their people who lived in permanent settled communities with their own social political organization” (Ronald P, 1995).

 

By focusing on the issues of the stolen generation and land rights we can reach a summary that these two issues have one of the most strong impacts on the inability for reconciliation between both sides.  They are the main reasons that have effected the relationship between these two groups.  Therefore, I believe that in order for reconciliation, Australians must do a an official and National apology to these people whom they had taken from their families and try by all the possible ways to help them in order to have a good life as the rest of the Australians.  And in the same order Australia should give the Aboriginal the right to own and control their land.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Books

v     Cummings,B. (1990) Take This Child:Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Cannbera

v     Yunu Pingu,G. Dodson,M and Mla,J,A,K.(1997) Our Land Is Our Life: University of Queensland. Queensland.

v     Brennan,F. (1995) One Land One Nation:University of Queensland.Queensland.

 

Journal Articles

v      Brief Article (2000) The Stolen Generation,16 March2002

v     Read P (1998) The Return of the Stolen Generation,17 March2002

v     Hinkson,M (1999) What Future for Land Rights,20 March2002

v      Hill,R.P (1995) Blackfellas and Whiterellas,15 March 2002

Internet

v      Australian Human Rights & Equal Opportunity. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples(http://www.hreoc.gov.au/social_justice/statistics/index.html) [Accessed,25,April2002]

v      Australia for Native Title and Reconciliation.

              http://www.antar.org.au/ [Accessed,15,April2002]