The Assimilation Policy and the Uniform White Australian Culture.In a bid to create what was termed the uniform white Australian culture, the Australian Government formulated assimilation policies that were implemented sometime from the 1900s up to the 1960s. This was based on the belief and notion that the whites were superior and blacks were inferior.
However, these policies only did more harm than good; causing decades of pain and trauma to the indigenous people of Australia who have had to deal with the lingering effects up till now.
How it All Started
In the 1950s, there was this notion that the indigenous people of Australia will eventually die; making Australia “white”. Contrary to this notion, there was a growing population of people who were referred to as “half-caste”. These people had indigenous and white parents.
As their population grew, it appeared that what the Australian Government called “the Aboriginal problem” wasn’t going to go away as soon as they thought. According to the government, the solution to this problem was to implement the assimilationist approach.
The purpose of the assimilation policy was to end the protection policy that allowed the indigenous to live separately on reserves and away from the white society. By adopting the assimilation method, the full-blooded aborigines were left to the idea that they will die out from natural elimination
The half-castes, on the other hand, were absorbed into “white Australia”; dropping their own culture, norms, and traditions, and even names to adopt those of the white Australians. Visit this website to read more about the Uniform White Australian Culture.
The assimilationist policy was adopted based on the theory that blacks were inferior and whites were superior. This was why part-aborigines were encouraged to drop their cultural values and traditions and adopt the white culture so that they could enjoy the same benefits as the white citizen.This was a rather costly assumption because, in reality, the assimilationist approach only succeeded in further depriving the aborigines of any of such benefits. The deep-seated racism prevented them from accessing meaningful work, education, and even public facilities and events.
Effects of the Assimilation Policy
One of the effects of the assimilation policy was stolen children, which is more precisely referred to as Stolen Generations where indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families. This removal was spearheaded by the Australian government’s agencies and some church missions between 1910 and the late 1970s.
The focus of the assimilation policy was on children because they were perceived to be more adaptable to the white society when compared to the indigenous adults. Children who were born to aboriginal and white parents and were referred to as “half-caste” (a term that is considered offensive and derogatory today) were even more vulnerable to this forcible removal because of their light skin colour.
The idea was that their skin colour made it easier for them to be assimilated into the uniform white Australian culture that the policy sought to achieve. .Most of the children who were separated from their families were put in institutions where they were either neglected or abused. And those who were adopted by some white families were made to do domestic work and had no sense of belonging. They were prohibited from speaking their traditional languages and had to adopt names other than the ones their parents gave them.
Till today, the effects of children being removed from their families still linger on in indigenous communities. Families of such children and the children themselves have had to deal with years of pain, loss, and trauma.
In the period where children were separated from their families, they had little to no access to education. They were expected to work as laborers and domestic servants at a rather young age and earned peanuts for a living if they ever earned.On February 13, 2013, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology on behalf of the Australian Government to the Stolen Generation.In his opening statement, Kevin Rudd acknowledged the decades of atrocities done to the indigenous people.
He tried to honor them and called attention to the fact that they had some of the oldest cultures that still continued to date. He apologized for both the past mistreatment and the role the government played in bringing about what is now referred to as the Stolen Generation. You can watch and listen to the full speech here.
A Life of Penury
The indigenous people initially lived on reserves but several of them were displaced when the government began to reclaim the reserve for mining and housing purposes. This still doesn’t mean it was a bed of roses on the reserves. There was a lot of oppression on the reserves.However, having been displaced from a place they called home, finding meaningful work in the city was difficult for them because of racism. They were not allowed to access public facilities and services like pools and hospitals. The ostracism and deep-seated racism caused the indigenous people to live in penury at the edge of town.
It is one thing to not be accepted in a society that thinks some people are better than you because of the colour of your skin. It is another thing for such an idea to be supported by government authorities.
Well, this has been the harsh reality of the indigenous people of Australia who have had the shorter end of the stick with policies like the assimilation policy – a policy that sought to “whiten” Australia. For decades they have been considered a minority group and have had to compromise their culture, lifestyle, and traditions to be accepted. Yet, without access to the rights and privileges that the average white Australian enjoys.
While it is true that some reforms have been implemented and a few amends have been made over the last few years, there’s no denying that the effects of the mistreatments still linger on till today. Up till now, there’s a comparatively wide gap in the quality of life that indigenous Australians have access to.