“I wanted to go to school but my parents told me, 'No they might take you away for good.' And they ran away in the bush. Bonny Tucker, Punjima woman, Western Australia”.
(She refers to the Native Welfare taking away Aboriginal
children of mixed descent. www.creativespirits.info)
These mini essays will discuss Aboriginal Australian history and it’s connections to official education policies both past and present.
What is the connection between official education policies and key events in Aboriginal Australian history? How have Aboriginal people responded to these policies? Key events in Aboriginal Australian history stem from the time Australia was first discovered in 1788. For instance, when Federation came into existence in 1901, there was a prevailing belief held by non Aboriginal Australians that the Aborigines were a dying race (Nichol, 2005:259) which resulted in the Indigenous people being excluded from the constitution except for two mentions – Section 127 excluded Aborigines from the census and Section 51, part 26, which allowed States to govern Aborigines rather than to the Federal Government (http://reconciliaction.org.au). Aboriginal people were officially excluded from the vote, public service, the Armed Forces and pensions. The White Australia policy was a group of historical policies that were initiated in response to regulate non-white immigrants but was also used to wield power over Indigenous Australians. By 1973 this policy was abolished (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Australia_policy ) . Parbury (1999:64) states that Aboriginal education “cannot be separated” from the non-Aboriginal attitudes (racially based ethnocentricity that was especially British ie. white and Christian) towards Aborigines, their culture and their very existence. The Mission Schools are an early example of the connection between official education policies and key events in Aboriginal history. Aboriginal children were separated from their parents and placed into these schools which according to McGrath (as cited by Parbury, 1999:66) it was recommended that these establishments be located ‘as far as possible’ from non Aboriginal residents so as to minimize any heathen influence that Aboriginal children might be subject to from their parents. Mission Schools not only prepared Aboriginal youth for the manual labour market but also, adds Parbury (1999:67) their aim was ‘to destroy Aboriginal culture and replace it with an Anglo-European work and faith ethic.’ Despite the NSW Public Instruction Act (1880) which made education free, secular and compulsory for all children Aboriginal children could be excluded from public schools based on prevailing dominant group attitudes. Consequently, the NSW Aborigines Protection Act (1909) was introduced as a result of a perceived public education crisis. Previous legislation similar to protectionist type policies had been passed but this Act empowered the State to remove Aboriginal children from their families and sadly this period of time has become known as ‘Stolen Generation (http://reconciliaction.org.au, accessed 27th Aug, 2010) ’ It was during this time that Aboriginal children were segregated from mainstream schools. (Parbury 1999; Lippman 1994).
According to Keefe (1992:53) “Aboriginality is a complex social reality, only artificially explained by the abstract divisions of resistance and persistence’ and modern history demonstrates the connections between official education policies (or attitudes used by the dominant group) and key events in Aboriginal Australian history. Aboriginality as Persistance or Resistance are two key responses which on one level seem contradictory yet their common ground is based on the desire for a unified and self determinative identity. An example of Aboriginality as Persistance is notion of ‘sharing is caring’which was compared to the selfishness of stereotypical dominant other. The connection between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal...
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