In most practical ways, Australia is an egalitarian society. This does not mean that everyone is the same or that everybody has equal wealth or property, just that we accept all. As a country, Australia aims for the equality of all citizens; Indigenous, European and other, however these were not always the intentions of White Settlement, on the land we call home. European settlement had a severe and devastating impact on Indigenous people. Indigenous people called Australia home many hundreds of thousands of years before White Settlement came.
Sadly, including the fact that the Europeans were intruding and taking over land that was not their own, the Indigenous Australians still fell victims of the invasion and sadly became slaves on their own soil. Not only did the European Australian’s discriminate against the Indigenous Australians; they murdered them too. In the 1800’s two years after the British flag was raised in Van Dieman’s Land, settlers were authorised to shoot Indigenous Australians. The displacement of Aboriginal peoples from their land resulted in a drastic decline in their population.
While many Aboriginal people were killed in violent clashes over the rights to settle on the land, a vast number also died from malnourishment. But the European settlers did not stop there. From about 1910 until at least 1970, the intention of governments and Aboriginal welfare officials was to assimilate them into white society and, by controlling who they associated with and married, to eventually ‘breed out the colour’ and thus rid Australia of its Indigenous people. One of the ways they tried to achieve this was through The Stolen Generation.
Children were removed to separate them permanently from the rest of their race and around 100,00 children were taken from their families. Ronald Wilson and Mick Dodson, the commission’s chairman and social justice commissioner, declared: “Nationally we can conclude with confidence that between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period from approximately 1910 until 1970. ” Up until a certain point in history, Australians didn’t even believe that the Stolen Generation occurred and continued to ignore the rights of Indigenous Australians.
However, Australia has in fact realized that these events against the Indigenous people of our land were wrong, and should never be repeated, and since then action has taken place. In 1997, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission made the most notorious accusation ever directed by a government body against Australia. It accused this country of committing genocide against the Aborigines by stealing their children. Australia has tried to make progress since acknowledging these wrongs.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1962 entitled all Indigenous Australians to enrol and vote in Commonwealth elections. The 1967 Referendum allowed the Aboriginals to become part of the Commonwealth and removed part of the Parliament statement that discriminated against the Indigenous, allowing them to not make ‘special rules’. As a result the Indigenous Australians now have more equality in terms of the laws within Australia and the Constitution. The Redfern Address in December 1992 by Prime Minister Paul Keating was another step forward for Australia and Indigenous Rights.
Keating truly connected with Indigenous Australians, making a speech to the Indigenous community of Redfern, NSW, openly and boldly admitting that Australia was to blame for the suffering of Indigenous Australians. He acknowledged on behalf of the country, the responsibility for the injustices done to Australia’s indigenous peoples. Additionally, February the 14th 2008 saw an incredible event in history for the development of Australia as a country, in accordance to Aboriginal rights, as well as being a huge importance to the Indigenous people.
In Parliament, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd officially offered a broad apology to all Aborigines and the Stolen Generations for their “profound grief, suffering and loss”. He said there came a time in history when people had to reconcile the past with their future, and that as a country “we apologize. ” Since recognizing the wrongs of our country, Australia has developed in accordance to Indigenous Rights. Indigenous Australians hold the status of original peoples of this land.
By the Australian Government, laws now state that Indigenous Australians have the rights to: – A distinct status and culture, which helps maintain and strengthen the identity and spiritual and cultural practices of Indigenous communities, – The right to self-determination, which is a process where Indigenous communities take control of their future and decide how they will address the issues facing them, and – The right to land, which provides the spiritual and cultural basis of Indigenous communities.
Although it is evident that Australia has moved forward as a country in terms of accepting and recognizing the rights of Indigenous Australians, we do have room to move even more forward. Australia still has room for improvement and further development- we are not fully satisfied and have not yet fully achieved development when it comes to Indigenous Australians. From the time they first arrived in Australia, the white settlers had attempted to ‘civilise’ the Aboriginal people. The impact of the white settlers changed their lives, and the lives of future generations, forever.
The drastic effects we had on Indigenous Australians are still there. And even though Australia now accepts Indigenous people as equal citizens, they still appear to be underdeveloped. The intervention was wrong in the first place, because there was no negotiation and understanding towards the Indigenous culture. However it is too late now to walk away, attempting to create peace when harm has been done. Australia should assist in areas of Indigenous welfare, education and health, and should also continue educate white Australians to maintain a deep respect towards the Aboriginal culture, the original owners of our land.
Courtney from Study Moose
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