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In this essay, we will investigate how western society and culture has affected aboriginal people of Australia, both historically and in the current day. We will define indigeneity, whiteness and racism by looking at their historical links to colonialism, white supremacy and the Australian government. By looking at literature from Indigenous Australians we can explore how they have experienced these connections between racism, colonialism and western society.
One of the main issues that has affected indigenous Australians throughout European settlement is the separation of Aboriginals into racialised groups based on physical appearance or social status among other things. When Europeans arrived to Australia they began a process of colonisation that changed aboriginal culture forever. Being seen as inferior to Europeans meant that Aboriginals were treated differently under colonial law. This led to a change in Aboriginal identity itself because many would avoid being identified as Aboriginals for fear of mistreatment.
Many European settlers believed that the land was uninhabited and available to be settled by them without regard for its prior inhabitants. As a result, many aboriginal people were dispossessed from their traditional lands and relocated to reserves where they began to lose elements of their traditional culture such as language, songs and rituals. In some cases, whole groups of Aboriginals were moved together so they could "civilise" together under white guidance. Indigenous Australians who were removed from their own land had trouble finding work because the land was owned by either European companies or individuals. This meant that Aboriginal families needed government assistance in order to survive which resulted in their disenfranchisement from society.
A Brief Introduction: Who are Aboriginal Australians?
In Australia, Indigenous Australians are classified as a racial group and treated differently from other racial groups. In one case, a white man could sell a house to an Aboriginal person but the same Aboriginal person would not be allowed to buy that exact house from the same owner . This is because Section 9 of the Queensland Act made it illegal for non-Europeans to purchase land. In addition, Aboriginals were often paid lower wages than their white counterparts simply because they were off reservation and therefore assumed to have been assimilated into Australian society so their employers did not have any legal obligation to pay them equally or offer them equal work opportunities.
In 1966, Indigenous Australians began fighting for equality which led to the referendum in 1967. This resulted in a vote to change Section 51 (xxvi) and Section 127 of the Australian Constitution which allowed for Indigenous Australians to be counted as a separate population. It was not until 1984 that Aboriginals began to receive equal wages with white Australians. In addition, in 1992 an act passed making it illegal for Europeans to enter sacred Aboriginal places.
In 2008, Australia's government decided to implement a "Northern Territory Emergency Response" or "NTER". This legislation included the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act so police could control movement out of communities in order to stop sexual abuse against aboriginal children. Under this policy, aboriginal-owned land is being leased at cheaper rates than market value by the government to aboriginal-run businesses. Some could argue that this is the Australian government's attempt to "help" Aboriginal communities by providing financial benefits rather than addressing historical injustices.
How has western society affected aboriginal?
Aboriginal people have been severely affected by the invasion of western society. This is because they do not have as much power as white settlers, so government decisions often affect them adversely. Although some Aboriginal people have prospered greatly from developments in Australia, particularly those brought about by mining companies, many others live under poorer conditions than non-Aboriginal people and a significant proportion live in extremely poor conditions.
For example, Aboriginal people are less likely to finish school or obtain a university degree. They are unemployed at twice the rate of other Australians and have an infant mortality rate that is over three times higher than that of non-Indigenous infants. In addition, many communities frequently lack adequate water supplies and electricity, and many houses are poorly built.
As mentioned earlier, the Australian government has made certain decisions that have had a particularly harsh effect upon Aboriginal people. One example is the Northern Territory Emergency Response Act, which was introduced in 2007 to “combat child abuse” in Northern Territory communities. This act suspended the operation of many parts of the Northern Territory Land Rights Act, removed the permit system for all visitors to Aboriginal land and included compulsory acquisition of townships. It also facilitated income management, under which 50% of welfare payments are directed into an account that can only be used for essentials such as food and clothing. Many Aboriginal leaders viewed this legislation as racist because it allowed white officials to control what happened on Aboriginal land without consulting those who live there. The reason for this harsh response was a government report that claimed child abuse in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory was occurring at a rate 500 times greater than the rest of Australia.
However, a 2009 review by Pat Anderson and Rex Wild QC found these claims were either unsubstantiated or false, in some cases deliberately so. For example, they found no evidence of widespread sexual abuse of children and noted that neglect, which is considered to be more prevalent among Aboriginal people (and therefore may contribute to harm) has not been subject to similar attention. Nevertheless, it appears unlikely that the Australian Government will abandon income management or permit system control over visitors to Aboriginal land because doing so would appear weak on law and order.
As far as resource development is concerned, mining companies are free to mine Aboriginal heritage sites without permission. For example, the Mirarr people protested against some of Rio Tinto's mining proposals because they were particularly concerned about losing sacred sites within the area to be mined. However, under Australian law mining companies have an obligation to consult with Aboriginal groups on who has ownership rights over particular areas and what impact mining activities might have. This means that the interests of all stakeholders must be considered fairly, rather than simply those of profit-making corporations.
Another problem for Aboriginals is that their land was not officially recognized as being in Australia until 1994. The reason for this was that so many Aboriginal lands were seized by white settlers before 1788 that there was no clear indication of which bits were owned by the Aboriginal people. To try to rectify this situation, a referendum was held in 1967 to change the Australian constitution so that Aboriginal people could be included on the census and have their rights defined. However, there wasn’t enough support for it to pass.
Finally, some believe that the Commonwealth Government has not done nearly enough about providing opportunities for employment or education for Aboriginal people. For example, in 2007 around 30% of non-Aboriginal Australians aged between 15 and 24 enrolled in tertiary institutions but only 10% of Indigenous young people did so.
As we can see, while white settlement has brought about considerable changes in Australia over time, these have affected Aboriginals adversely in many cases.
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