Essay Example on Indigenous Australian Peoples and the Policy of Assimilation

Published: 2022-12-26
Essay Example on Indigenous Australian Peoples and the Policy of Assimilation
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories: Policy History World Community Civil rights
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1210 words
11 min read


Non-Aboriginal people have done the design and implementation of the government policy related to the people since the European invasion until recently. The justification that has been used to refer to the Aboriginal policies commonly is that they were for their good. Policies that have existed include policies for protection, reconciliation, self-determination, and assimilation. However, it has now come to light that the lives of the Aboriginals and the other Australian inhabitants have not been made any better by these policies as compared to how they were before the invasion.

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In 1901 when the six Australian colonies became a federation, there was a belief by the white federation that the aboriginals were a dying race and only two references were made to them by the constitution. The Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginal got excluded from the consensus by section 127. Section 51 gave power to the state over Aboriginal rather than to the federal government. Until the 1967 referendum when a vast number of Australian voted to have the Aboriginals included in their own country's consensus, this was the condition. Through the poll, the Aboriginal people finally got recognized as citizens in their land (Gibson & McAllister).

The women acquired the right to vote in NSW in 1902, except for the Aboriginal women. In 1929 when compulsory voting got introduced, there was still the exclusion of Aboriginal people under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. There Federal Government in 1962 gave an optional right of voting to the Aboriginal people. However, the natives still got classified by the State laws as wards of the state, and due to this, they still could not vote in the state elections (Gibson & McAllister). To understand the evolution of approaches to the Australian policy for indigenous people and how they are positioned, I have chosen to elaborate on two historical events in the history of Australia, one in the pre-1967 and the other in the post-1967. The pre-1967 event is the Policy of assimilation that occurred in 1951, and the post-1967 even is the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

The policy of assimilation - 1951

The primary aim of the assimilation policy was to absorb the Aboriginal people into the white society by removing children from their families, with the ultimate intention of destroying the Aboriginal community. The policy had several goals including creating a solution to the following problems.

Housing: despite the significant progress that had been made, the Aboriginals still faced a shortage of housing, and they were also ready to accept the employment opportunities. The opportunities would allow the Aboriginals to occupy their position within the society and this was a significant factor in militating against assimilation. Aboriginals to fill their position within the community and this was a substantial factor in militating against conformity. To meet this general problem, there is a special need to increase resources.

The removal of mixed race children and the Aboriginals children from their families was aimed at absorbing them biologically via eventual marriage with the whites and through assimilating them culturally into the white society either through work or adoption (Hasluck, 8). According to Armitage, this was a deliberate, systematic effort aimed at educating, training, and employing the Aboriginals children. The target for such changes was to change the lifestyle but not race according to the Hasluck-Geise Welfare Administration from 1951 to 1972 (Pascoe, 143). The critical policy was assimilation, and the primary goal of this policy was to remove the Aboriginals from their traditional ways of living and breakdown the conventional Aboriginal community.

Due to the beliefs that the whites were superior and due to the racial differences, the Aboriginal people got perceived as being less civilized, and this led to the government taking control of the Aboriginal peoples' lives. The Aboriginal children were taken away from their parents by the Aborigines Welfare Boards and placed with white adoptive families and into educational systems. As a result of this, the Aboriginals culture significantly got threatened since the structure of their culture got broke down (Hasluck, 8). To promote the assimilation process, the government depicted the relationship between Aboriginal children and white families as not affected by racial discrimination or differences but rather loving.

There was an increasing questioning against the general notion of assimilation. The resilience or value of the Aboriginal culture was not taken into account by the Policy; neither did it allow the seeking and maintaining of their traditions and language by the Aborigines might. One assumption made by the policy is that the Aboriginals would easily give in to becoming like the white Australians in their beliefs, lifestyles, and customs ((Pascoe, 159). However, there was a discretization of the arrogance and paternalism of such assumptions. Also, the non-Aboriginals had more excellent knowledge and awareness of the problems of the Aboriginals.

There was the abandonment of the language of assimilation, especially with the assumption that the only way to achieve the equality of the Aboriginals was to lose their originality. The assimilation critics sometimes used the term integration to refer to a policy that had the culture and values of the Aboriginals at heart and their right to retain their customs and language. However, deliberate efforts were made on the part of Commonwealth authorities to avoid describing the process in one word, but instead to focus on the development of new approaches to the problems and not the long-term aims. Improving the programs and increasing funding in sectors such as health, employment, and education was the primary emphasis on the efforts to try and achieve formal equality by real economic and social advances. However, there were also measures aimed at increasing funding for the development programs for the Aboriginal communities, and the granting of land rights was the first step. There was an establishment of a separate federal Department of Aboriginal affairs in 1972, and in 1973, there was the appointment of the Woodward Commission to investigate the way towards the implementation of the Aborigines land rights. Eventually, their Aboriginal land rights were finally achieved through the report.


Foley, G. (2017, May 27). Harold Holt's death and why the 1967 referendum failed Indigenous people. The Guardian. Retrieved September 10, 2018, from

Gibson, R. K., & McAllister, I. (2015, June). New media, elections and the political knowledge gap in Australia. Journal of Sociology, 51(2), 337-353.

Golash-Boza, T. (2016). A Critical and Comprehensive Sociological Theory of Race and Racism. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, 2(2), 129-141.

Moran, A. (2011). Multiculturalism as nation-building in Australia: Inclusive national identity and the embrace of diversity. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 34(12), 2153-2172.

Parry, N. (2007). "Hanging no good for blackfellow": looking into the life of Musquito. In I. Macfarlane & M. Hannah (Eds.), Transgressions: Critical Australian Indigenous Histories (pp. 153- 176). Canberra: ANU E Press.

Pascoe, B. (2012, Winter). Andrew Bolt's disappointment: why didn't you ring their mums? ("I think it's reasonable for Australia to know if people of pale skin identifying as Aborigines are fair dinkum ..."). Griffith Review, 36, 226-233.;dn=201205219;res=IELAPA

Hasluck, S. P. (1961). The Policy of Assimilation: Decisions of Commonwealth and State Ministers at the Native Welfare Conference, Canberra, January 26th and 27th, 1961. AJ Arthur, Commonwealth Government Printer. Retrieved February 7, 2019, from

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