Aboriginals in Australia

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ANTH1150 - THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLE OF AUSTRALIA

The Aboriginal people of Australia have been an ostracized ethnic group throughout their native land since being discovered by the English Captain James Cook on April 23 1770, which marked a dramatic turning point for the last significant land mass to be colonized by European settlers. The development of the Aborigines class status, welfare and rights have gradually evolved to a somewhat humane level over the past four decades, significant government amendments have been made to counteract what was a very ‘Un-Australian’ (Rudd. K, 2008) perception of its indigenous peoples. However the struggle of the Australian Aborigine in 21st century Australia is still riddled with prejudice and problems. In what follows a detailed analysis will describe the nature of what it means to be an Aboriginal in Australian society today and how that came to be. As well as exploring foreseeable outcomes for the future in terms of status, welfare, existence, recognition and possible impact and influence as a struggling indigenous community in it’s multicultural homeland.

To fully comprehend the problems deeply imbedded in today’s Australian Aboriginal culture, an understanding of their history is needed. Prior to white settlers discovering Australia, the countless indigenous tribes, spread all over the land with very minimal communication (each tribe had a very unique and different language) between one another were a very spiritual collective as a whole. The Aboriginal ‘Dreamtime’ is a homage to the ancestors who had previously occupied the land mixed with religious beliefs, a very sacred and varying set of rituals, stories, dances and paintings relevant geographically and culturally to each tribe still exists, however they are relatively mute in influencing the rest of Australian society. Most tribes abstained from any type of intoxicating drugs with the exception of alcohol in the form of fermented coconut in the far North of Australia, so up until the late 1700’s pre-colonized Australia was sober and a relatively peaceful land aside from occasional tribal disputes. Following 1788 when white settlers first inhabited the land, the Australian Aborigine has been forced to fight for its very existence. With an estimated pre-colonial population of 500 000 - 750 000 people (ABS, 2007), there was a form of organised assimilation committed by the European settlers which quickly turned genocidal. The slaughter of approximately half the indigenous population in the ensuing century threatened the future of the existence of any Aboriginal in Australia (Manne. R, 2001).

Fast-forwarding to Australia’s federation in 1901 a ‘White Australia Policy’ came to fruition, stopping all immigration from non-caucasian countries and introducing a systematic cultural assimilation process to eliminate the Aborigine. In conjunction with the White Australia Policy the ‘Stolen Generations’ represent the most blemished historical standpoint and darkest chapter that the young nation has (Rudd. K, 2008). The Stolen Generations were Aboriginal children bore from Aboriginal mothers and white settler fathers most commonly as a result of sexual assault, or promises of false security. Referred to as ‘half-castes’ or ‘creamies’, these children were shunned by their tribes and not able to fit into white Australian society either. Along with the Australian government the Catholic church started a scheme in which the ‘half-caste’ children were taken from their tribes and introduced to missionary camps across the country. In these institutions they were to be introduced to Catholicism and ‘trained’ to become a part of Australian society, part of a program to bare quarter-caste children to eventually eradicate the full blooded ‘genetically inferior Aboriginal’ (Noyce. P, 2002) .

The results of this scheme are treacherous to the aboriginal population today, the White Australia Policy officially ended in 1953. However the entire...
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