A. Issues of injustice before the 1960s
Aboriginal peoples in Australia believed that they were being denied many basic rights and freedoms. The first half of the 20th century saw Aboriginals receiving different treatment to other Australians under the **Protection** Act of each state. The policy of protection meant State Protection Boards were given control over many aspects of Aboriginal life: marriage, work, travel, place of residence etc. Many Aboriginal people were required to live on reserves at this stage.

In the 1950s, Paul Hasluck, minister for Territories in the Menzies' Government, introduced a new policy of Assimilation, believing this would improve the quality of life for Aboriginals and reduce discrimination. Aboriginals were encouraged and assisted to move to cities and towns and adopt mainstream 'white' values and blend in. (A similar policy applied to migrants also). However, racism in these places reduced options for housing and employment. State governments continued to exercise control over many aspects of Aboriginals lives and made exercising citizenship conditional - e.g. rejecting traditional culture.

For an excellent account of how this played out in our own local area read this great history by local elder, Mick Leon.

If you want to learn more, explore this web site.

B. Aboriginal protests and actions to bring about change before the 1960s
While there had been violent clashes in the (19th and early (20th, Aboriginal peoples used peaceful and legal methods to bring about change for most of the (20th. In the 1920s, the Australian Aborigines Progress Association lobbied for improvements to Aboriginal living conditions and for legal justice. In 1938, the 150th Anniversary of white settlement, Aboriginal leaders staged a protest called "The Day of Mourning". In the 1950s the various action groups united into one National group - Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI). This group lobbied for changes in the areas of poverty, justice, and legal status. A key issue was the need to change the constitution to remove unfair status for Aboriginals. Leaders wrote letters, canvassed groups for support, sent a petition to Parliament, held talks, meetings and protests. A wide range of white Australians also took up their cause - from Communists to church leaders.

C The 1960s - important events and changes
There were 3 key events in the 1960s that signalled significant change in attitude and in rights and freedoms for aboriginals.
1. The 1965 Freedom Ride(Charles Perkins) or here
problems addressed
methods used
results - what changed?
  • racism
  • discrimination
  • travel in bus to worst towns- protest
  • use media - especially -TV coverage
  • public made aware
  • increased sympathy and support in mainstream Australia
2. The 1967 Referendum
problems addressed
methods used
  • change discriminatory clauses in constitution
  • different laws in different states
  • Aboriginals did not feel they had full citizenship rights
  • FCAATSI presented a petition to parliament every time it sat for 10 years
  • lectures and letters and protests
  • referendum to change constitution held in 1967 and over 90% voted yes
  • allowed Federal Government power to oversee Aboriginal affairs and enact reforms
  • Aboriginals were to be counted in the census

3. The Wave Hill walk-off (1966-75) - and hear the famous song
problems addressed
methods used
results-what changed?
  • loss of traditional land
  • lower wages than whites
  • poor conditions
  • strike
  • supported by trade unions
  • petitions
  • eventually given back control of some traditional land
  • equal wages
One result of the campaigns during the 1960s was a move by governments toward a policy of Integration - i.e. a recognition of the value of culture and the rights of Aboriginals to have both equal citizenship and keep traditional culture.
D Experiences of a selected group: The Stolen Generations
Read Prime Minister Rudd's Apology from Feb 13 2008 here.
What specific wrongs against Aboriginal people does he name?
The Reconciliation website provides good information about these events. Read through the section called Forced Removal and identify 5 facts and 3 subjective opinions. What does this tell you about the nature of this topic?
How would advocates of forced removal have argued their case?
Mission near Darwin in 1930s
Mission near Darwin in 1930s

*Why were so many children taken from their mothers?
  1. government policies of Protection and Assimilation: i.e. views that Aboriginal people were unable to care for their children adequately, and desire to see Aboriginal children (especially "1/2 caste" children) assimilate and blend into white culture
  2. some genuine concerns for the welfare of neglected or unwanted children
  3. racist attitudes that devalued Aboriginal culture (note too, that immigrant children were also encouraged to change their names and assimilate)
  4. a different culture -removal of white children was also common at that time - e.g. of unmarried mothers or from very poor homes. There were many childrens' home before the 1970s. However white women were not usually forced or tricked into releasing their children into care.

*What have been the effects?
  1. Possibly up to 10% Aboriginal children grew up without knowing their families or culture during these years of forced removal.
  2. Increased sense of being lower class and devalued
  3. institutionalization - abuse, poor relationships, limited opportunities
  4. ignorance of these events in the broader community
  5. campaign for recognition - "Bringing them home report" 1997 (Note that during the 1960s the term 'stolen generations' was not used)

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