The present day Australia is widely known as a beacon of multiculturalism. Every year, more and more immigrants are settling down in the country in a bid to seek better employment, education or even advance their quality of life in general. It is a policy that has strengthened the cultural development of the nation. Australia’s census in 2011, which is the official count of a population, reported that one in every four Australians is born overseas. This clearly demonstrates Australia’s vast idea of unity in diversity.
Despite the movement of accepting multiculturalism into the nation, Australia is still involved in one of the biggest racial injustices in history by trying to breed out Aboriginal heritage from their land. Starting from the year 1910, the Australian government carries out actions to breed out the Aboriginal bloodline. They hoped to end the Aboriginal culture within a short time and get rid of the “Aboriginal problem.” In the early 20th century, a new policy started in which about 100,000 children were forcibly removed from their parents by the Australian government. This policy of removing children is infamously referred as the “stolen generation,” which this essay will be heavily based upon. Due to the vast amount of topics that Australia’s “stolen generation” covers, this essay will discuss how the Aborigines settled on Australian soil, the motives behind the “stolen generation” and attempts of reconciliation from the Australian governing bodies.
Having lived in the land thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Europeans, Aborigines are one of the most primeval settlers of the Australian land. However, the arrival of British captain James Cook in 1770 marked the beginning of the end for the native Australians, as he claimed the land to be in possession of his home country, ignoring the fact that the land was already densely populated. All indigenous rights are extinguished ever since as they have no British citizenship rights. Captain James Cook claims that the Aborigines had no laws towards the ownership of the land.
Taking social Darwinism into account, this would be one of the major reasons on why the British has taken abrupt control over the Aborigines or why the “stolen generation” is occurring. The theory of social Darwinism strongly believes that only the strong will survive. The Europeans saw themselves to be superior towards the Aborigines hence their ruthless move to gain control on the Australian acreage. This case is further validated when the power-hungry Europeans conquered the African continent. Various European countries colonized the African land in mid 1880s, leaving only Liberia and Ethiopia as the remaining independent countries.
Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating also acknowledged that European settlers were the ones who were largely responsible for the injustices caused to the Aboriginal people during his speech in 1992. Dubbed as the “Redfern speech,” it was largely known as one of the most notorious in Australian history. Publicly expressed to a large number of Indigenous Australians, Paul Keating expressed culpability over how Aboriginal people were treated.
The people thought that the Aborigines were to have a better life if they were to become more like them, and this policy led to an act of injustice which was referred earlier as the “stolen generation,” and the children with Aboriginal descendant were separated from their parents and were institutionalized in secluded camps. The mentality of the white society was that it would be the best decision to remove the children from their parent’s influences and abandon their former lifestyle.
In almost every state and territory in Australia, the children were forced into labor and received little or no education. The girls did domestic chores such as cleaning along with cooking while the boys mainly worked as stockmen. They worked in unfit working conditions. Their food was unclean and was infested with maggots. Despite working from the early hours for seven days a week, the children were only rewarded with a small amount of money or even worse, they receive nothing at all. The children were physically abused for speaking Aboriginal language and those who were sent to prison for rebellious acts often committed suicide. More children were taken as they were not as resistant compared to the Aboriginal adults.
These actions were tremendously exhibited in Phillip Noyce’s film called “The Rabbit Proof Fence” which was released in 2002. Receiving numerous accolades, the story follows 3 aboriginal girls- Molly, Daisy and Gracie who escaped from an institution after being forcibly removed from their families to be trained as domestic staffs. They travelled as far as 2,400 kilometers on foot, hoping to return to their home. The movie was adapted from a book of the same name which was written by Doris Pilkington in 1996.
Most of these acts finally stopped when many people who were inspired by the Civil Rights movement in the USA, saw the poor conditions that the Aborigines were living in and decided to take acts about the problem. In the year 1967, they met up with the Aborigines and they took steps towards a fairer treatment and attempted to change how the natives were treated in society. The revolution took steps but it worked and settled in well. By 1990, large amount of the land were returned to the Aborigines and they were able to have rights towards an equal citizenship, along with the power to vote. Steps towards reconciliation continue to take place until today, although the past acts have created a lasting, negative feeling towards the locals.
The governments have also played an instrumental role in these attempts of reconciliation. This was signaled by former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s apology in 2008 towards the native Australians for their “profound grief, suffering and loss.” Thousands of Aboriginal Australians gathered in Canberra to watch the historic event which was also televised around the nation. On February 2009, the Australian government established the “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation” which is designed to deal with the trauma of the Aboriginal people after the effects of the conducts of the “stolen generation.”
Financial supports have also been generated by the governments. In 2012, they announced that a total of $35 million will be spent to assist healthcare for the native Australians. Another $28 million will also be shelled out to upgrade houses in the remote areas, enabling better accesses to transportation routes, medical centers among other essential services in the particular areas. A total budget of $206 million has also been green-lighted to support the lives of over 18,000 Aboriginal Australians living in rural areas. The area of education has also been a key improvement towards the Aborigines. In the 2011 Australian census, about 27% of the native Australian population have completed year 12 or it’s equivalence, compared to 22% in the 2006 census and a mere 20% in the 2001 census.
More Aboriginal people are also getting widespread recognition for their achievements in today’s society. Widely known as one of the best female tennis players of all time, Evonne Goolagong’s efforts has led her to 14 Grand Slam titles. A testament to her talent materialized in 1976 as she was named as the best female tennis player in the world. Numerous Aboriginal Australians have also been noted for their remarkable contributions to Australian politics. People such as Neville Bonner and Aden Ridgeway has been named as the first Indigenous Australians to be named as the senator of Queensland and the senator of New South Wales, respectively.
Although there have been numerous reconciliation attempts by the governing bodies, the removal of Aboriginal children is still widespread throughout Australia. As of 2013, almost 14,000 children has been removed. The Australian government, however, has denied any accusations towards the matter.
The reason why the Aborigines doesn’t find it easy to forgive and forget alone is the reason why I think the Australians should say sorry to the Aborigines. Thus, I conclude that after numerous years of prejudices, I feel that these acts of injustices should be stopped. Numerous apology and reconciliation attempts for the injustices are desperately needed to set an example for the younger generation, to prove that Australia has a proud and forgiving historical legacy, not a cruel and prejudiced country as exhibited beforehand.
Courtney from Study Moose
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