Indigenous Culture in Australia Has Been Systematically Broken Down Since White Settlement Essay

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Indigenous Culture in Australia Has Been Systematically Broken Down Since White Settlement

The indigenous people have been subjected to severe violations of their rights and suppression of their cultural traditions. Wars and massacres, destruction of homes, forceful separations and restriction to reservations, the Australian colonization has negatively impacted the lives of aboriginals in many ways. The stolen generation has suffered the most with their lives taken away from them at a young age and their cultural and traditional practices destroyed due to the loss of contact with their family and their heritage. Western colonization has no doubt destroyed the cultural traditions of the aboriginals in a systematic manner leaving them isolated and in a cultural dilemma.


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The trend of Western colonization during the last few centuries has had tremendous impacts on the lives of indigenous people throughout the world. In many continents including America, Asia, Africa and Australia the native population were attacked, abused and their rights stripped off. Since 1770, when Captain James cook landed in the eastern Australian coast, indigenous people were ruthlessly killed, separated from their families, forced into slave labor and restricted to confined dwellings called reservations and their culture systematically destroyed. The cultural systems and practices of Aboriginal people of Australia have been suppressed by the disposition of the native people of their lands and the prevalence of British sovereignty over the native aboriginal laws. Also, western missionaries influenced the native Australians to embrace Christianity in lieu of their own traditional spiritual beliefs creating conflicts among the aboriginals. From 1909 to 1969, the Australian government continued with its White Australia policy and more and more aboriginal children were removed from their families to be placed among Europeans, which is viewed as one of the direct attempts against the destruction of the native culture. [Dr. Michael Halloran] A brief discussion of the topic will help highlight that western colonization in Australia has created a cultural trauma among the aboriginal population.

Essay on Indigenous Culture in Australia Has Been Systematically Broken Down Since White Settlement Assignment

A Historical Purview

A brief historical analysis is essential to understand the extent of trouble and travails underwent by the aboriginal people of Australian continent under the British occupation. According to historians, aboriginals inhabited the Australian continent more than 40,000 years ago. The aboriginals are made up of many different tribal groups such as the Korris, Murris, Noongars, etc. The landing of the British in the eastern coast in 1770 marked the decline of the aboriginal people and their culture. Constant wars with the aboriginals and mass murders over the years saw a drastic reduction in the aboriginal population from roughly around a million people in 1788 to barely 30,000 in 1930. It is estimated that the small pox and other infections acquired from the European settlers lead to the death of roughly 50% of the aborigine population living in the eastern coastal area. Over these years, there was a systematic suppression of the aboriginal population. Between the 1920's and the 60's literally thousands of young aboriginal kids were forcibly taken away from their families as part of the assimilation policy laid down by the government. Widely known as the 'Stolen generation', most of these aboriginal kids never got to see their parents again in their lives. For these outright violations of the rights of the aboriginal kids, the United Church of Australia had issued an apology to the aboriginal communities in 1996. [UNPO]

In 1951, the federal government implemented the official assimilation policy, which totally stripped off aboriginal identity and acquired all aboriginal land and property in clear violation of the individual rights of the native Australian people. In the backdrop of growing protests against the plight of the aboriginal community and their poor social status, the Australian government established the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 1972. In continuation with the developments was the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill of 1976, which handed over almost 30% of the northern territory back to the aboriginals. However, in 2004, the ATSIC was abolished by the federal government owing to widespread corruption in the implementation of the financial assistance programs. [UNPO] These historical briefings clearly testify the sufferings of the aboriginals under western colonization and highlight how their culture and lifestyle practices were clearly undermined by the European settlers.

Stolen Generation (Cultural Alienation)

As discussed above the official policy of the government allowed the forcible removal of half blood Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children for purpose of assimilation into the culture of the majority white population. This policy has had significant negative impact for these aboriginal children as well as their family members. Though at the outset the publicized aim of the policy was to provide a better education, life style and living standards for these children, it is well-known that the chief aim of the policy was to "breed out' the aboriginal race. In 1909, the Aborigines Protection Board (APB ) was constituted and the removal policy was managed under its supervision. Under the special powers endowed with the APB, the removal policy could be executed without the consent of the parents. This horrendous practice of forcible removal of aboriginal kids continued well into the late sixties and the effects are many. The family structure was destroyed and the cultural link was broken delinking the kids from their traditions and practices. Most of these kids were housed in missionaries and much later in the 1950's in white families. Here they were taught to embrace Christianity and reject their aboriginality.

However, majority of the children who were adopted into these programs had to undergo severe trials and tribulations including sexual and physical abuse. As one of the unfortunate aboriginal girls who were segregated from their families reported, "We was bought like a market. We was all lined up in white dresses and they would come round and pick you out like you was for sale." [Reconcili Action Network] The important report published by the 'Human rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, called 'Bringing them Home' highlighted that forcible removal policy destroyed whole communities as it broke cultural, religious and family ties. Dr. Jane McKendrick, a psychiatrist who contributed with the preparation of the report says, "when (Aboriginal people who were removed) come to have their own children they've really got no idea how to parent in either the conventional Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal way & #8230; so their children are very often removed from them (by welfare agencies) which sets up this terrible cycle which goes on for generations." [Reconcili Action Network] These children could not track down their heritage and those that managed to do found it very hard and estranged in their own families. This policy therefore was catastrophic for the native culture as it created a generation gap and culturally alienated the younger generation of aboriginals from their parents.

"With a view to encouraging the conversion of the children to Christianity and distancing them from their Indigenous lifestyle, children were housed in dormitories and contact with their families strictly limited" [HREOC] The children who were housed in the church homes were forbidden to communicate with their native language, perform rituals that were a natural part of their lives and cultural heritage and forced to learn western languages and mannerisms. In fact this assimilation policy and the forced removal of aboriginal kids from their family roots is identified as the single important factor to negatively affect the practice of native culture in Australia. The stolen generation suffers from the loss of parental and community contact leading to the loss of inherited customs, arts, language and spiritual traditions. In South western Australia it is reported that a very high number of aboriginal Australians succumb to alcohol addiction, psychological stress and high rate of suicides. As Dr. Jane McKendrick says over 50% of the deaths investigated by the 'Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths' are made up of people from the stolen generation. [Reconcili Action Network] As one of the survivors of the stolen generation puts it " We were under siege and that's what happens to people under siege. There is a complete breakdown of culture, of life, of existence'. [Youtube]

Cultural Alienation (Acknowledging a Mistake)

"A lot of people say that they don't know what exactly they are, whether they're white or they're black. Where exactly they belong." [Reconcili Action Network] This is the commonly shared predicament of the 'Stolen Generation' and clearly highlights the culture crisis. The failure of the 'removal policy' and the destruction it brought to the native culture is clearly evidenced by the recognition of May 26th as the National 'Sorry day'. The labor Prime minister Mr. Kevin Rudd issued an official government apology to the stolen generations on Feb 13th 2008. "We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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