Topic: ‘Historically, various government policies were enacted for the control and assimilation of Australian Indigenous peoples. Examine and outline these policies and their impact on Australian and Indigenous people’. Introduction

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Topic: ‘Historically, various government policies were enacted for the control and assimilation of Australian Indigenous peoples. Examine and outline these policies and their impact on Australian and Indigenous people’.

• Hi everyone, (introduction)

• We will be conducting a workshop with you today in order to assist you in gathering 1. some crucial information about the various government policies that were enacted for the control and assimilation of Australian indigenous people throughout history and today and 2. how these policies in turn have impacted the lives of Australian indigenous peoples.

• First of all though, could everybody please grab out an A4 piece of paper (demonstration on board)

• This will be your timeline (that may double as your study guide later on). At each point along the line throughout our presentation you should aim to write down dates and titles of the times in history that we cover and the specific policies that have influenced and impacted the lives of aboriginals throughout history. This information will also be useful for exam study and participation in our activity at the end.

• So I want everybody to keep their ears open and take notes as we will be asking questions throughout our presentation and as I said we will have an activity at the end, all rewarded with yummy treats . Woohooo!

• It is important to note that when teaching Australian history to children you must not start in 1788 when Europeans discovered Australia, you must think way back, be sensitive to the traditional owners, both past and present in Australian history. By doing this, we as teachers are assisting in ‘closing the gap’ which is a current federal policy put in place to do just that ‘close the gap’ that past policies introduced at both federal and state government levels have failed to do by attempting to control the lives of aboriginal people.

• The subsequent information in this presentation will look at the time line of these government policies and the significant impact that they have had on the lives of indigenous Australians.

Protection era (mid-1800s-1930s):
The Protection Era is known as the point in time where Colonial and State Aborigines Protection Acts were passed in each Australian state during the mid 1800s-1930s. During this time a Chief Protector was appointed to each state who had great powers over the Aboriginals, and was to administer the laws in relation to Aborigines. The Acts changed the legal status of the Aboriginal people under their jurisdiction from British subjects to wards of the state.
The Chief Protector had significant control over Aboriginal marriages, employment, and rights, as well as control over sexual contact. Government authorities disapproved of relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, so any conceived children were taken and put into institutions or homes where they were trained to be or turned into white children, as they were forced to live as ‘whites’.
Within this period of time the Native Institution was established in Sydney to educate Aboriginal children. Aboriginal children were forcefully removed from their parents to go to the institution for education, and usually were never seen again, therefore being known as members of the ‘Stolen Generation’. This institution eventually failed as Aboriginal parents refused to give their children away to the school.

Missions and Reserves:
Missions and reserves were established in the 19th century or 1911, as you can see on the timeline, across Australia to civilise, Christianise and educate Aboriginal people. At this point there was already 115 Aboriginal reserves in NSW. These roles were taken in places such as Yarrabah and Cherbourg in Queensland, Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Moore River in Western Australia and Oyster Cove in Tasmania. Within these states Christian texts were used to guide and justify the Aboriginal actions, missionaries encouraged Aboriginal people to move into mission settlements and join small European Christian communities in these States or Territories.
Missions and reserves were established within this time line not only to educate Aboriginals but also to protect them from the Europeans. At this time in settlement the Europeans continued to kill Aboriginals which included the Conistion massacre in 1928.

Assimilation policy:
• Between 1937 and the 1960’s the Assimilation Policy was put in place. Consequently, under this policy of assimilation “Aboriginal people were then expected to live like white people and to adopt the white ways and language” (Harrison, 2011, p.27).

• The policy of assimilation stated that “all aborigines and part-aborigines were expected to eventually attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, hopes and loyalties as other Australians”

• Question: so if you could all turn to the person next to you and discuss a few prominent words that would best describe feelings you would feel if you were to be put in such a situation such as this? If ‘You were forced to assimilate’!

• For example: just imagine if the Chinese took over Australia and you were suddenly striped of your being. You no-longer had the right to your current beliefs, hopes and loyalties and were forced to adopt a totally different culture and way of life. How would you feel?

• (hands up for some prominent words that came about in your discussions) - (Answers) - all of these words are the unfortunate reality.

• The Assimilation was something that dominated most areas of the Aborigines lives at the time. They were forced to have lower wages, restricted of movement, were given limited access to social security services, enforced isolation, not allowed or given little access to mainstream services (for example- they were made to walk in the back door of hospitals and then forced to occupy separate hospital wards), and holistically denied their identity with a new one strongly imposed on them. They were forced to fit in with the culture, ignore their heritage and assimilate to the culture that the majority complied to.

• They were denied the right to take control of their own lives or that of their children’s.

• At this time also, due to principle discretion or community objection, aboriginal children may have been excluded from school purely because they were aboriginal. It was argued that “Aboriginal children must ‘regrettably’ assimilate to a competitive society if they are to succeed at school”

• Therefore the aboriginal society’s action and reaction to such a situation was to form feelings of distrust and suspicion, passive resistance and endurance to the situation and growing public anger at society and its discrimination.

• However, the assimilation policy later came under attack due to its intentions to deny aboriginals of their language and culture and its attempt to promote the Australian culture as far more superior.

• Aboriginal people began to be able to apply to be exempt from these policies if they were to choose to become a ‘non-aborigine’ or ‘cease to be aboriginal’ (Hollinsworth, 2006, as cited in Harrison, 2011). This involved them agreeing and displaying all qualities of a white person and ceasing contact with any non-exempt aboriginals (excluding immediate family). With this certificate (also known as ‘dog tags’) they were then allowed freedom of movement, permission to drink alcohol and to own land.

In the 1960s, the assimilation policy was replaced by integration. Integration still required the Aboriginal people to live like white Australians, however allowed Aboriginals to choose how they would do so. During 1964 it was suggested that the Aboriginals ‘join the white community on equal terms’ and at the same time hold on to their rights to their cultural and physical identities. The Aboriginal people were then able to choose and keep their own style of living and were given the same rights as religious and ethnic minorities in Australia. However, there was still a clear segregation and exclusion of Aborigines throughout the 60’s as racial discrimination was evident as highlighted through the famous Freedom Ride of 1965. The Freedom Ride consisted of a group of university students who travelled within Australia to draw public attention to the poor state of Aboriginal health, education and housing. The students aim was to help point out and lessen socially discriminatory barriers that existed, as well as to encourage and support the Aboriginals to resist this discrimination. The Freedom Rides were known world wide, although the 1960’s still involved many fights for rights in regards to Aboriginal people, and eventually access was achieved to local council services, shops and hotels.

1967 Referendum:
In 1967 the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement started a campaign on the legal rights of Aboriginal people in Australia, this was called a referendum. For the referendum to take place the Aboriginal’s published a legal discrimination which was experienced by Aboriginal’s living in various states or territories. In May of 1967 two amendments of the referendum was approved to respect the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Often people assume this referendum was for Aboriginals to gain citizenship and the right to vote in federal elections, however this is not true. Aboriginals had already become Australian citizens in 1948. The 1967 referendum helped to amended sections or remove them from the constitution. The first amendment was to section 51; this originally stated that ‘the federal government had power to make laws with respect to the people of any race, other than the Aboriginal race in any State, for who is deemed necessary to make special laws’. This section was changed to remove ‘other than the Aboriginal race in any State’; this then gave the Commonwealth the power to make laws specifically in relation to Aboriginal people. The second amendment was section 127; this section originally stated ‘in reckoning the number of people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, Aboriginal natives shall not be counted.’ This section was reviewed and deleted from the constitution.

The Wave Hill walk-off and land rights:

  • In 1965 it was decided by the Federal Arbitration commission that ‘there must be one industrial law, similarly applied to all Australians, Aboriginals and not’ (Broom, 2010, as cited in Harrison, 2011).

  • But contrary to this policy decision, the commission decided to delay the implementation of equal wages until 1968.

  • Due to this decision the Gurinidji people (stockman workers of the Wave hill cattle station) in the Northern Territory were not prepared to wait another 2 years with inadequate pay and intolerable working conditions compared to that of the ‘white people’ , lead by Vincent Lingiari, participated in a walk-off as a protest against the pay and working conditions (Australian Government, 2011).

  • This dissatisfaction then stemmed further leading the Gurinidji people to submit a land claim.

  • Play song – i want to show you a song written by( a singer song-righter of this time- Ted Egan who wrote ‘ Gurindiji blues’ in order to record the Gurindiji peoples views as he had a close association with them at this time). * pass around lyrics

  • Can you tell me some of the emotions you think Ted Egan was trying to express in this song, that of what the Gurindiji people may have been feeling due to the conditions they were in?

  • Evidently 10 years later the land claim was successful and was one of the first of many land claims given due to basic human rights (Indigenous Australia, 2010)

Aboriginal tent embassy: Canberra, 1972:
The establishment of the Tent Embassy in 1972 aimed to publicise and address some of the inequalities that still existed and continued between both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people within Australian society. This began on the 26th of January 1972 when a group of young Aborigines erected a beach umbrella on the lawns of the Parliament House in Canberra, with a sign reading “Aboriginal Embassy”. The Tent Embassy went on to capture national and international attention, as thousands joined in with the demonstration.
The Embassy was organised by some of the more famous Aboriginal people, such as Gary Foley, Roberta Sykes and Dennis Walker, who then went on to play a significant role in Australian politics. It represented the frustration felt in regards to the government’s failure to act on the lack of access to power that the Aboriginal people had over the control of their own lives. As well as the representation of frustration, The Tent Embassy was seen to represent a symbol of the struggle for land rights in Australia which lasted over the next thirty years. Due to the publicity that was brought towards the continuing inequality, the Labour Government then attempted to address the issues of power and control through another policy.

In December 1972 after more then twenty years the labour government was reinstated and the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam moved to change the Aboriginal policy. His policy was then added to ‘restore to the Aboriginal people of Australia their lost power of self-determination in economics, social and political affairs’. This government moved forward to establish the first Aboriginal elected policy committee which was called The National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. This helped gain first land rights, spending on affairs was increased and health services.

Self-determination brought forward the outstation movement, this helped Aboriginal people move out of the homogenous communities back to the traditional lands in which they had total control over law and lifestyle.

Land rights 1990’s; Mabo and Wik:

  • Another land rights case important to Australian history was the Mabo vs. Queensland case when Eddie Mabo made an application to the high court of Australia in 1992.

  • Previous to this, federal governments justified their opposition to their land rights due to the concept of ‘terra nullius ‘. The argument was that Aboriginals did not cultivate the land or have a document or system in place staking there ownership, therefore did not own the land they rightly discovered first.

  • Until a man called Eddie Mabo from Murray Island in the Torres Strait disagreed and took the Queensland government to the high court of Australia to argue his peoples rightful ownership of the land on Murray Island.

  • The high court rejected the concept of terra nullius and confirmed Murray Islanders as the custodians of their own land.

  • This decision led to Aboriginals in other parts of Australia being able to claim land in which they had maintained continuous contact with as long as the land was owned by the government.

  • This then was also further extended in 1996 when policies were passed, allowing Aboriginals to also claim their land that had been leased to pastoralists.

The Redfern Statement:
In December 1992, then prime minister of Australia, Paul Keating made a momentous speech at Redfern recognising that the Australian Government was responsible for the injustices that have been done to Aboriginal people. His speech stated and admitted that we took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life, bringing diseases and alcohol, committing murders, and taking children from their mothers. He further recognised that ‘we practiced discrimination and exclusion, it was our ignorance and prejudice, and our failure to imagine that these things could be done to us’. He then went on to suggest that a new partnership be made with the Aboriginal people, challenging Australians to imagine how we would feel if we were suddenly cast out from the land that we had lived on for 50, 000 years and to be told that it had never been ours.
Paul Keating’s statement immediately spread through the Aboriginal communities as it was the first time that the Government had taken fault and responsibility for the appalling treatment of Aboriginal people in Australia. As the Redfern Statement was the first formal recognition of responsibility, it was followed shortly after by further recognitions and apologies, where the extent of the affect that all Aboriginal families faced when their children were removed was highlighted.

Apology to the Stolen Generations:
Before I talk about the Stolen Generation I have a question, if you were taken away from your family when you were a child, do you think you would still be sitting here today?

The Stolen Generation, which is also known as the stolen children, is a term used to describe the children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions. The removals occurred in the period between approximately 1869 and 1969, although in Queensland the last child was removed from their home in 1972. In February 2008 Kevin Rudd who was Prime Minister delivered a formal apology to the Stolen Generations. This was formally recognised by many Australians at the time; however some Australians are now questioning the ongoing benefits for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Clip (41 seconds)
After the apology was given Rudd’s government also included a new policy of ‘Closing the Gap’ between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people Kevin Rudd stated, “Too much time - too many decades - have already been lost”. The policy contains information to help with health, education, employment and housing.
Over’s today’s lesson Lisa, Jacqui and myself hope that you have gained knowledge or expanded on your prior knowledge of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We hope that you are able to now sit down within your future classroom and explain to children why and how events such as the Protection Era, Referendum, Land rights and many more have happened. Remember good teaching about Aboriginal education is more so about using the ‘right’ words and avoiding terms like discovery.


  • Hand out laminated things and switch to slide

  • Now we want everyone to discuss with the people around you whereabouts your laminated piece fits in on the timeline. Some of the pieces will be the title of the policy or event in history surrounding the policy and the other pieces will be a few sentences outlining a few key elements that surrounded the particular point in time and policy it is relating too.

  • We will be nominating each table at a time to come up and put your piece along the timeline where you think it fits.

  • This will be a test (rewarded with treats offcourse) to see who listened 

Any questions?
Lisa and Ashleigh are just handing out our 500 word statement. We decided to prepare it as a timeline and in sections with the hope that it strongly relates to the way we presented our presentation and it is useful for exam study and as a teaching resource. 
Thank you all for listening, I hope everybody takes away from today they key policies throughout history and their strong influence and impact on Australians and Indigenous people!

Altman, J.C. (2009). Beyond closing the gap: Valuing diversity in Indigenous Australia. Australia: The Australian National University.
Australian Government. (2011). Fact sheet 224: Wave Hill walk-off. Retrieved from:
Forbes, C. (1997). Reconciliation : The task ahead. Australian Educator, 15, 10-12. Retrieved from A+ Database.
Harrison, N. (2011). Teaching and learning in Aboriginal education. (2nd Ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
Indigenous Australia. (2010). Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Retrieved from: embassy.html.

Jens-Uwe Korff. (n.d). Aboriginal timeline (1900-1969). Retrieved from: timeline-early-20th.html.
Mountain Man Graphics. (1992). The Redfern statement. Retrieved from:
National Museum Australia. (2008). Collaborating for Indigenous rights. Retrieved from:
NSW Government. (2011). Environment and heritage. Retrieved from:
The Australian. (2011). Kevin Rudd's Closing the Gap report speech to Parliament. Retrieved from: closing-the-gap-speech/story-e6frgd2x-1111118975152.
Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey. (n.d). Educating Aboriginal children – issues, policy and history. Retrieved from:

Jacqueline Doyle- S00100671

Lisa Hohns- S00102813 Tute: Wednesday 3pm-5pm

Ashleigh Newman- S00102855 Joy Kennedy

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