Aboriginal Ardor at the Anglo-Saxon Encounter
The Aborigines are the well-known indigenous peoples of Australia of vague prehistoric desaboricent. Some scientists theorize that the Aborigines colonized the Australian continent as modern human beings 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. Other scientists speculate that they have been living off the land for the past 120,000 to 150,000 years (Siekman, 2008). Since 1788, when the first Britons, led by Captain Cook, landed on Botany Bay, contact with the Anglo-Saxon culture has gradually led to a state of demise for the aborigine culture. This has been apparent in their economic marginalization, loss of political independence and nutritionally-eroded diets. To promote he assimilation of the aborigines into the British settlers’ way of life, wars, religion and labor systems have been used in the succeeding years.
The ‘pacification’ of the aborigines ensued throughout the 1880’s. These wars decimated the aborigine populations, and even drove some groups to extinction. During the 1940’s, church missions introduced the Anglo-Saxon religion while most were employed in subjugating and underpaid jobs. (Infoplease Almanac, 2008). During 1869 to 1969, many aboriginal mothers lost their children to state authorities that were given to settler families spur assimilation. These later on became known as the Lost Generations. Though heavily influenced by the Anglo-Saxon settlers, aborigines still remain culturally distinct by an unwavering belief in the Dreaming (the Aboriginal creation theory spurred primordial supernatural “Ancestors”) which is promulgated via folk songs. They believe that every great geographic feature has been shaped by the dreaming.
During 1976, The Australian Government enacted the Northern Territory Act that returned land ownership by native occupation to Aboriginal Groups. Other legal actions in 1992, 1996 and 2006 have restored a degree of autonomy via ancestral land occupancy.
Though Australian History shows that the interests of the Aborigines in all aspects of their lives are recognized and addressed via legal means, it also shows the long series of oppression by the white society, which makes the self-determination of the Aborigines an even more complex issue. When the six Australian colonies became a Federation in 1901, white Australia overlooked the Aboriginal sector and the Australian Constitution made only two references to them: Section 127 did not consider the Aborigines for the census and Section 51 (Part 26) gave the State the power over Aborigines rather than to the Federal Government. The Aborigines were only included in the national census when an Australian majority voted so in 1967 (Heiss, 2008). The improved aboriginal living conditions are reflected in the recent increase in their population although their standard of living and life expectancy are far below that of most Australians (Infoplease Almanac, 2008).
Today the Aborigines are threatened by the forces of urban life. Many have migrated to the cities which exposes their rich culture to erosion. Because Aborigines are widely discriminated against, there is a 40% unemployment rate in many Aborigine populations (Seikman, 2008). This is comparable to the American Apartheid. Though the racism was eventually overcome, the process was long and complex. During the early 19th century, the nationalism of Australia’s democracy stressed ‘racial unity’ as ‘racial purity’, which should lead to national greatness. This inevitably justified the seizing of lands from Indigenous communities (Noran, 2005). As expressed by Anthony Moran, “White peoples”, represented in Australia by British settlers, were pitted against “Negroid”, “Colored”, “Oriental” or “Asiatic” peoples, for control of the world’s land and other resources. Some in Australia, like the influential Charles Henry Pearson, argued that Australia was needed for the “white race” in order to continue its development as a civilization.
The discrimination continues until today though the severity has lessened considerably. An Aboriginal woman has been recently voted into Australian parliament and last Wednesday, an Apology to the Indigenous People (notably to the members of the Stolen Generations) was delivered by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The Australian Government has also issued an official in 1999 apology for aborigine abuses but it has so far avoided a formal National Apology demanded by the Indigenous peoples as this may entail further demands for compensation.
These are evidences of the gap that exists in the society of today’s Australia. It’s not only discrimination by origin but also discrimination by opinions. An aborigine would regard the ‘Uluru’ a gigantic sacred place, while the government would have the ‘Ayer’s Rock’ scaled by tourist without regard for its cultural value. This schism between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Populations is something that has taken root in the very founding of the Australian nation. The dispossession of the Aborigines is something that can still be resolved now. The Australian government should delineate more Indigenous domains where aborigines may live his life the way his ‘ancestors’ did in a discrimination-free and non restrictive environment.
“Australian Aborigines.” 16 May 2008. Infoplease Almanac. 16 May 2008. ;http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/society/A0805377.htm;l
Heiss, Anita. “Indigenous History of Sydney City”. 2002. BARANI. 16 May 2008. ;http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Barani/main.html;
Moran, Anthony. “White Australia, settler nationalism and aboriginal assimilation”. 2005. The Australian Journal of Politics and History. 16 May 2008. ;http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-4388545/White-Australia-settler-nationalism-and.html;
“The Australian Aborigines.” 16 May 2008. ;http://members.tripod.com/siekman/index.html;