Aboriginal and Anglo-Australian Contact
The colonization of Australia by Great Britain began in 1788 and was strengthened all the way to the 19th century. Compared to the Aborigines occupying the land that time, the colonizers had more military and political superiority. The native people had primitive weapons and few soldiers. Likewise, the people who colonized the land during the middle of the 19th century had knowledge of racial theories (Mann). For nearly two hundred years, they occupied majority of the land paving the way for the displacement of the Aborigines. Most of them got sick and died, killed by the colonizers, and transferred to another place (Reynolds).
The battle plan of the settlers was clear at the onset. Initially, they tricked the natives by promising protection and making the Aborigines civilized people. However, the British colonizers needed very little workers from the natives. The Aborigines began resorting to stealing cattle, sheep, and even killing them hoping that it would drive the colonizers away (Mann).
The Battle for the Land
Fresh from the Industrial Revolution, the British started to exploit the land as their own. They brought with them sheep and cattle which eventually destroyed edible plants. The Aborigines were forced deep into the barren regions of Australia. They were left with nothing to eat until they eventually starved to death (Mann).
From the 1960s to the 1970s, the aboriginal people batted for equal treatment. After being placed in government reserves where the conditions were poor, protests from various aboriginal tribes were launched against the government. The Yolngu tribe in the Northern Territory filed a petition against the British government condemning the bauxite mining activity in their lands. Likewise, the Aborigines held a strike to reveal the poor conditions and low wages of the Aborigines. Due to these reactions, the government changed its stance on the rights of the Aborigines to their lands (Reynolds).
Extermination of the Black Fiends
One of the most popular theories that existed during that time was Social Darwinism towards the middle of the century. For the British colonizers, the Aborigines were worthless and had no part in their plan for Australia. They felt that there was no room for Aborigines. Eventually, the number of settlers was greater than the natives. The colonizers prevented couples from reproducing. Aside from that, the British also induced diseases such as small pox and measles to kill the natives. There were many skirmishes and in one of them, over 20,000 Aborigines were intentionally killed (Mann).
Government Policy from Colonization to Present
In 1973, the British government set-up a commission which would put in place measures that would fully entitle the Aborigines to rights to their land. Adhering to the recommendation of the commission, the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was enacted in 1976. Under this law, a huge parcel of land in the Northern Territory would be given to the Aborigines as well as to other communities if they can prove that they had some spiritual attachment to these lands prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Likewise, the act established four aboriginal land councils that would supervise the transfer of lands. At the same time, land commissioners were designated to judge the legitimacy of any claim. With the passage of the Act, 40 percent of the Northern Territory were transferred to and now owned by native Aborigines. Part of the land handed over the local people was the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. The piece of land is now occupied by the Australian Parks and Wildlife Service (Reynolds).
However, the Aboriginal Land Rights Act had a very limited scope. The natives could not claim ownership of the towns, farms, and lands occupied by non-Aborigines even though it originally belonged to the natives (Reynolds).
The South Australian government also returned the native lands of Pitjantjatjara and Maralinga Tjarutja communities. These vast lands are located in the most desolate portion of the region which is very distant from any large town. Today, the Maralinga Tjarutja land still has remnants of contamination from the nuclear testing conducted by Great Britain during the 1950s and 1960s. However, not until the Native Title Act of 1993 did the Aborigines owned a huge parcel of land. Prior to the enactment of the Act, Southern Australia and the Northern Territory were the only regions fully transferred to the Aborigines (Reynolds).
In 1993, the Native Title Act was enacted. With the law, a Native Title Tribunal will determine the legitimacy of claims. If the tribunal finds such to be valid, the Aboriginal community will be granted a native title. However, this does not give them the right to own a land. The title only gives the owner the privilege to resume the usual activities such as hunting, living, and practicing their religion. Majority of the Aboriginal Australians cannot claim land based on the Native Title Act as they lost their right to claim their native land when they started residing in towns and cities. The British colonization of Australia forced some of the natives to reserves during the 19th and 20th centuries. Although these people own these reserves, they are only small portions of land (Reynolds).
There were some controversies in the passing of these acts. The economy of Australia relies on mining of bauxite, gold, and aluminum in distant regions. The acts that were passed contained provisions that allow mining, although such activities would have to get the consensus of the Aborigine community. There are instances when the native people gave their consent for a price which may be in the form of jobs or royalties (Reynolds).
Reynolds, Christopher. “Aboriginal Land Rights Acts.” Microsoft Encarta
Online Encyclopedia. 2008. 16 May 2008
Mann, Michael. The colonial darkside of democracy. The Global Site. 2001. 17 May 2008.