AUSTRALIAN ASSIMILATION AND THE IMPACT ON ABORIGINAL HEALTH: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Australia and its Indigenous Society:
Australia is one of the world’s most culturally diverse societies and it is commonly assumed that the country offers free and fair opportunities to all its inhabitants. However, on close observation it is clearly evident that the country’s indigenous population is at a social and economic disadvantage when compared to their non-indigenous counterparts and as a consequence the present aboriginal health is in a grave situation. The purpose of this report is to critically analyze the effect of the Australian assimilation policy on the current health status of the aboriginals through various factors such as education, unemployment and housing. The Intent of the Australian Assimilation:
Australia was originally inhabited by aboriginal people. However, Europeans migrated into the country from the year 1788 and federated themselves into colonies and a nation called as Commonwealth of Australia was formed in the year 1901 which formulated the policy of Assimilation to integrate all Australians including the aboriginals into the English Speaking culture under which all new immigrants were expected to learn English (Australian Government 2008 pp.23-24). Under this policy the aboriginals were housed in reserves where grave restrictions were imposed on every aspect of their lives. They were either involved in menial jobs or provided by the government (Encarta 2008 p.4). Though assimilation was officially agreed upon by the heads of State and Territory Aboriginal affairs authorities in 1937 it was only by the year 1951 that all Australian governments adopted the policy (Australasian Legal Information Institute 2008). According to the Native Welfare Conference of Commonwealth in the year 1961 the policy of assimilation
“means that all Aborigines and part-Aborigines are expected eventually to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, as other Australians” (Encarta 2008 p.5). The intent of the assimilation policy was to include all aborigines into the Anglo Celtic Australian society completely eliminating their indigenous cultures and traditions in addition preventing the growth of the native population. Assimilation measures even included drastic ones such as removing aboriginal children of mixed parentage from their families and adapting them into the white Australian culture. Though the Assimilation policy was officially discontinued in 1960 it has had a devastating effect on the aboriginal population. The intention of the policy was to protect the indigenous population however, it has managed to wipe out the race completely except in some isolated parts of Australia who live under constant socio economic pressures. Aboriginal Health-Past and Present:
Prior to the European immigration the aboriginals were healthy with no conspicuous diseases that plague them today. However, at present there is a serious health inequality between the aboriginal and non aboriginal population. The neglect, racism, inequality, the social and economic disadvantages such as lack of education, poor nutrition, poverty, unemployment, lack of proper housing and infrastructure facilities have all contributed to the present poor state of aboriginal health which is analyzed in the following pages. Education:
It is generally believed that education plays a significant and positive role in improving the health and welfare of the aboriginals. An educated aboriginal community would be able to utilize the various community health care services optimally. It is a fact that educating aboriginal mothers brings down the infant mortality rate in addition preventing minor accidents and sicknesses in their children. Educated aboriginal adults...
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