Aboriginal Civil Rights
Aboriginal peoples were forced to endure a tremendous amount of cultural, political, technological and religious change because of British colonization and continuing discrimination by the Australian national government. Thousands of their people were killed in frontier wars with settlers and thousands more died from European diseases such as smallpox and influenza (Jonas 2). Today most of their tribal homelands have been taken away by the Australian government and their cultural lifestyle is now confined only on the select few reservations they still own. On top of this the Aborigine peoples still face problems such as: insufficient medical treatment and medicine, lack of proper education, extreme poverty on their reservations, lack of representation in political offices, alcohol and drug abuse and less than sufficient housing (Brennan 1). No peoples should be neglected the way indigenous peoples are in today’s world, if anything they deserve our utmost respect. Indigenous peoples such as Aborigines deserve proper health care, better job opportunities, better public school systems and representatives in national governmental affairs, if these requirements are not met then it should be considered an act of human rights deprivation, and U.N. intervention and counseling should be put in place. If Australia and other nations with indigenous populations believe in human rights activism and the equality of all people they will make the well being of native peoples one of their primary domestic affairs.
Charles Perkins Freedom Ride Video Clip
Poverty in Aboriginal Communities
Aboriginal Tribal Lands Prior to 1788
Map of Australia 1865 - 2013
A History and Background
On the Continent of Australia, Indigenous peoples have lived for thousands of years practicing rich tribal lifestyles that celebrated and respected the animals and environment. They remained peaceful with each other, interacting economically for trade purposes. These people were also excellent in the fields of astronomy and navigation using the stars and tracks of animals as guides to certain destinations. They were also deeply spiritual and held prayer ceremonies within the tribe often playing loud music, dancing and painting their bodies with dyes to ward off evil spirits (Welch 1). There were an estimated seven hundred and fifty social groups, or tribes on the Australian continent with around two hundred and fifty different spoken languages, but all that changed with the arrival of settlers from across the world. Australia, the last discovered continent by Europeans would be claimed by the British and used as an asylum for convicts from the rest of the British Empire starting in 1770. As time passed and towns and trading ports sprouted up along the shoreline, settlers came to Australia in search of a new life, escape from religious persecution or for reasons of national pride and to spread the glory of the British Empire (Broome 2). As the settlers moved farther and farther inland they soon realized that they were not the only people on this vast new land, the Aboriginal peoples had lived here long before them. In the 19th and 20th century a massive new influx of Europeans and settlers from around the world would devastate the aboriginals with diseases such as smallpox and influenza, overpower them with guns, swords and steel weapons along with many other European warfare technologies, and force them into almost complete dependence on British goods as their land was turned into cities, agricultural facilities or industrial areas (Cameron 1). Australia’s native people were killed by thousands over the course of three centuries. They were never consolidated for the sacrifice they were forced into and were not even recognized as citizens let alone people until the mid -twentieth century.
The First Australians Documentary
Frontier War Illustration
The Stolen Generations
The Two Sides of the Story
There have always been only two sides to this issue, the one of the settlers and the one of the native peoples. The settlers where ruled by the British Empire during Australia’s early years but where then governed by the Australian national government after the country established its Colonial Laws Validity act of 1865, in which it remained part of the British Empire but would manage its own affairs without having to consult British parliament first (Broome 7). The Native peoples never had a singular voice of leadership, as they were all part of separate tribes. The views of the settlers could be different depending on the individual or group he or she belonged to, but for the most part their goal in Australia was to create a western society modeled after that of Great Britain. A common belief that they shared was that because this land was wild and rich in resources, they had the god given duty to use its resources in order to create a sophisticated, modern human society. They often viewed the Native Australians as savage, immoral, and incapable of creating a lasting society because of their hunter-gatherer lifestyles (Abolition of the "White Australia" Policy 2). Europeans celebrated the birth of the first white children on the continent an in frontier towns because it represented the expansion of the European world and the decline of the Native practices (Abolition of the "White Australia" Policy 2). Aboriginals initially viewed Europeans as friends from another land. There are many accounts in which Native Australians traded with South East Asian peoples in the northern parts of the continent, so it is most likely they believed the Europeans had come simply to trade (Welch 1). When the Europeans began using vast amounts of land and water resources the natives lost all respect for them and the tensions between the two escalated. These two very different ways of life, combine with their different beliefs may have been the undoing of any prospects of peace during the colonial age of the continent.
N.G.O.'s- Domestic and Foreign Involvement
The Human rights watch and the Australian government felt agitated at one another after the U.N. criticized Australia about its treatment of aborigines in 2000. Although Australia fully supported indigenous civil rights abroad the human rights watch felt they were not meeting the global standard ("Indigenous peoples’ rights 2). Since then Australia has improved its outreach programs to Aborigines. A group called the “National Congress of Australia’s first people” was set up with help from the Australian national government as a governmental voice for all aboriginals of Australia and the Torres Straight Islands. The National government has also taken attention to the alcohol and substance abuse amidst Aboriginal communities and has sponsored organizations such as the Aboriginal sobriety Group (ASG) and the council for aboriginal alcohol program. Because of lack of proper medicine in aboriginal communities groups like Oxfam Australia, Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association (AIDA) and numerous others such as; Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses (CATSIN),Co-operative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance (AMSANT),National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization (NACCHO) and Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of New South Wales have taken action (Links to Human Rights Organizations and Resources 1). Aboriginal media has also grown greatly, some major incorporations include; the National Indigenous Times (NIT) and the Imparja Television network.
National "Sorry" Day in Australia, 2008
Significance and World Impact
For citizens of the United States there is not much we can do to help fix the problems that currently face the aboriginal peoples of Australia, we can however make sure that our fellow citizens know about indigenous cultures outside of the United States and the American continent. We can also make connections between the destructive ways early settlers dealt with the Native American communities in our country to possibly help us understand the challenges the Aboriginal people of Australia have in 2013, and how the Australian government has taken action to help them keep their cultural identity yet still become part of a modernizing country. Making people aware of this issue is the best way to help the Aboriginal people, it is also important to learn about their amazing artwork, storytelling and celebratory traditions that have been around for thousands of years. Aborigine is the oldest still existing society on planet earth so it is important to respect them because they can help us understand humanity’s past and help drive it towards a bright new future.
Butupa. "SORRY over Sydney Opera House 'Apology Day' National Sorry Day." Flickr.com. Yahoo.com, 6 Feb. 2011. Web. 23 May 2013. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/25792994@N04/5424377128/>.
Canberriwren. "Australia- Aboriginal Ceremony." Flickr.com. Yahoo.com, 23 May 2008. Web. 23 May 2013. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/12969287@N05/2515325447>
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The First Australians. Dir. Rachel Perkins. Prod. Darren Dale. S.B.S Special
Broadcasting Service, 2008. Film.
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Charles Perkins - Freedom Ride. Australian Biography Series. 1999. Film.
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(2010):n. pag. Print
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“Heritage and Culture: Aboriginal culture.” Dia.wa.gov.au. State of Western Australia. n.d. Web. 6 May 2013. Http://www.dia.wa.gov.au/en/Heritage-and-Culture/Aboriginal-culure/
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples." Humanrights.gov.au.
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Organization Page Sources
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E-Book, Literary and Film Sources
Lake, Mariyln. Faith: Faith Bandler, Gentle Activist. Sydeny: Allen & Unwin, 2003. E-Book.
Broome, Richard. Aboriginal Victorians: A History since 1800. Sydney: Allen &
Unwin, 2005. Print.
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National Geographic 10 Dec. 2004: 1-2. Print.
Golosky, Lauren. "Aboriginal women fight for missing women." HerizonsSpring 2013: 6+. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 6 May 2013