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The Australian government implemented the policy of assimilation with the aim of making Australian Aborigines and part-Aborigines attain the same lifestyles as other Australian communities and forego their cultural and traditional practices. Additionally, the policy of assimilation also aimed at defining the difference between the Indigenous Australians and the White society. This essay will demonstrate the various ways in which the Aboriginals viewed the policy of assimilation as a form of cultural genocide.
The policy had various strategies that were to be employed with the aim of integrating the Aboriginal people into the Australian community. The government’s major concern was to eliminate the Aboriginal race through encouragement of inter marriages between the white society and the Aboriginal people. These attempts had numerous implications on the livelihood and family relations of the Indigenous people. This policy was a form of oppression to the natives through the introduction of laws governing their lifestyle and cultural practices. In addition, their physical characteristics were also a major issue with the administrative authorities hence the latter’s attempts of encouraging inter-racial marriages. According to the propositions of the policy, the government initial aim of adopting it was to breed out the Aboriginals. This clearly shows the malice behind the government’s adoption of the policy aimed at eradicating the cultural and traditional characteristics of the Australian Aboriginals.
Despite the Aboriginals being the original inhabitants of Australia, the government viewed their culture and traditions as primitive and thus could not be integrated into the general community. According to Rowley, the policy of assimilation was indeed a form of cultural genocide as it aimed at eradicating full blood Aboriginals from the country (Rowley, 1971). The government adopted the policy so as to control the livelihood of the Aboriginals in all spheres. For instance, Aboriginal children who were under 16 years of age were taken away from their biological parents and adopted by foster parents to prevent them from acquiring the Aboriginal culture which was considered as being uncivilized.
Social integration was aimed at ensuring that the mixed race and the White society while discriminating against the full blood aboriginals who were forced to live in the reserves and the fridges of the city. Consequently, family ties and cultural practices were lost due to the implementation of the assimilation policy. Contrary to its main objective of mainstreaming the racism that existed between the natives and the ‘new citizens’, the policy ended up creating differences between the two groups (Rowley,1971). The Department of Native Affairs, whose role was to ensure an all-embracing culture, ended up making the Aboriginals highly dependent on the system whic eventually found it difficult for them to exist independently. Additionally, the Aboriginal people were required to apply for citizenship rights and this created more feuding and fragmentation between the various tribes and relatives. The application for citizenship was also developed as a way of assessing an individual’s ability to live according to the ‘White standards’. The application process was essentially a list of questions posed to the natives and which resulted in the breaking of ties between family members as they tried to live according to the set standards, as well as increased feuds between the various communities living within the country.
The education reforms initiated in the 1950’s, in mainstream schools, was a form of assimilation policy aimed at giving the Aborigines an opportunity to acquire formal education. Initially, introduction of compulsory education in schools was a positive move in eradicating the level of illiteracy within the Aboriginal children, but it ended up creating difficulties for them as they tried to understand their own cultural identity. Therefore, these children never realized the importance of the western education as many viewed it as a form of mental confusion in their attempt to know their true identity. In addition to these difficulties encountered by the Aboriginal children, their parents were also against the idea of sending their children to school since their reading and writing skills did not improve. With regard to the acquisition of academic knowledge, children felt lost in the system which was created for the middle class children by the White educators. Racism was still practiced in school thus making them feel discriminated by the education system.
The children had already become accustomed to the cultural practices and found it difficult to adopt the rule-and- environment. Traditionally, these children had no socializing skills and therefore, found the system oppressive and difficult to adopt. In addition, they were discriminated against by others and teased as being of a different race. Such discrimination made it more difficult for them to establish good relations and strong ties with the settlers. Some parents also reinforced the views of racial prejudice which aimed at making the Aboriginal children feel more inferior and less important in the education system. Such discrimination made the Aboriginals develop a negative attitude towards the settlers as they realized that the assimilation policy was aimed at eradicating their culture and traditional beliefs so that they would adopt the western culture.
With regard to justice, the Aboriginals experienced a lot of problems due to the assimilation policy. For instance, conflicts arose between the Aboriginals’ traditional beliefs and the interpretation of the laws by the White Australians. This often resulted in the imprisonment of the Aboriginals and sometimes a double punishment would be passed onto the Aboriginal offenders. Consequently, the Aboriginal people developed anger and hostility towards the law enforcing agencies and the police. As for the police, they viewed the hostility defensively and this fueled the Aboriginal’s anger towards the judicial system and other law enforcement agencies. Such discrimination by the settlers and the government made it impossible for the Aborigines to interact and co-exist harmoniously with the former.
Intermarriage with the Aboriginal people was highly encouraged with an aim of eradicating Aboriginal physical characteristics. Some activists on Aboriginal affairs highly advocated the eradication of Aboriginality as they viewed it as an uncivilized culture. In addition, the authorities compelled the Aboriginals to forego their cultural, social and traditional practices and instead buy the Western culture for them to mingle freely with the white society. Many people believed that the Indigenous society would eventually abandon its social and cultural practices as their interaction with the white society increased. The fact that the settlers and the law enforcing agents within various areas of jurisdiction coerced the Aborigines to abandon their culture was a clear indicator to them that their culture was slowly being eradicated.
In the late nineteenth century, the territory government began the isolation of full blood Aboriginal people from the rest of the community by forcing the Aborigines to reside in reserves. Administrative and ideological functions were divided along ethnic lines as well as skin color and this was the basis by which the government determined who would be protected legislatively. In the 1930s, the administrators begun to take measures aimed at addressing the issue of Aboriginal people in Australia. For instance, the government embarked on plans to regulate the people classified as pure Aboriginals as well as incorporating those deemed as capable of adopting the White culture. According to Clark, these moves became evident in 1937 when the administrators, drawn from the various territories as well as the state, met to discuss the issue of indigenous policies (Clark, 1971). During the conference, the stakeholders unanimously agreed to integrate the mixed race into the white culture and leave out the Aborigines as the latter were deemed too traditional. In its view, the government expected the Aboriginal people to behave like other Australians and attain the same living standards as the rest of the community. Additionally, they were also expected to enjoy the same privileges, have the same common beliefs as well as observe the same customs. This essentially made the Aboriginals view the assimilation policy as a form of coercion and a way of eliminating their own cultural and traditional beliefs.
Some chief protectors of Aboriginals rights advocated for social assimilation as attempts to breed out color became a major issue with the administrators. The social assimilation policy was therefore preferred to the biological assimilation policy as the former would give the Aboriginals independence and thus reduce their reliance and dependency on the government. The policy makers later realized that separating the indigenous and non-indigenous encountered various challenges as the population of mixed-race children increased. However, the policy was vague and thus made some assimilation activists advocate for the integration of the mixed race with the non-indigenous Australians while others sought the implementation of policies aimed at eradicating the Aboriginal race. Consequently, they sought to force the Indigenous Australians to forego their social and cultural ties with the promise of ultimate absorption of all races. With such attempts, the Aborigines felt that the policy was being adopted with an aim of eliminating their community and cultural practices.
The education system that was being advocated for by the administrators aimed at discriminating against the illiterate Aboriginals. For example, the administrators resolved to educate the aboriginal children in accordance with the white standards and later provide them with jobs. This move, in their view, would eliminate the cultural, social and traditional beliefs between the Aboriginals and the settlers. Additionally, the children were restricted from interacting with their tribe and a larger number of the Indigenous Australians being placed under state control. Additionally, the Aboriginals were barred from enjoying the benefits which others took for granted. For instance, freedom of movement and interaction was greatly inhibited by the government through the placement of Aboriginals in reserves. Drinking laws for the Aboriginals also became tighter as they were denied their rights to enjoy a drink in public. The administrators believed that the destiny of the Aboriginal people lay in the absorption of their race into the Commonwealth as exemplified in a conference held in 1937 to discuss the issue of Aboriginals. Various attempts were therefore implemented to breed out the Aboriginal race and they included the encouragement of inter-racial interaction as well as breeding out of the racial characteristics of the Aboriginals.
In conclusion, Aboriginals were discriminated against by the administrative authorities, over the years, due to their cultural practices and traditional beliefs. The policy of assimilation became the basis of discrimination contrary to its initial objective of integrating the Aboriginal people with the rest of the community. Various attempts by the policy to eradicate the Aborigines through the imposition of restrictions with regard to their freedom made it impossible for the natives to view it as a noble initiative. In addition, the government advocated for interbreeding between the Indigenous Australians and the Whites so as to eliminate the former’s physical characteristics thus making the Aborigines view the policy as a form of cultural genocide.
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