Australian Indigenous Rights Essay Example
Australian Indigenous Rights Essay Example

Australian Indigenous Rights Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1634 words)
  • Published: August 25, 2017
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For the past century, Australia has faced issues regarding Aboriginal civil rights. While many events occurred during this period, such as the constitutional referendum of 1967, this text will focus on pre-1920s. During this time, the foundation for Aboriginal political activism was established and significant events like the Day of Mourning and Cummeragunja walk off took place. The late 1930s and 1940s saw increased political activism among Aboriginal people and international pressure on the Australian government that propelled the movement forward. To understand this trajectory from the 1920s to the 1967 referendum, it's important to examine Aboriginal rights prior to this timeframe. When implemented in 1901, the Constitution categorized Natives as a "state responsibility", which marginalized them from citizenship and political power. Two sections of the Constitution resulted in prolonged debates and a struggle lasting for over seven decades towards advanc


ing their rights; Section 51 granted Parliament power to create laws about peace, order, good governance concerning races other than Aboriginal race in any state requiring specific laws - however some believed that it excluded Aborigines' application of laws according to Chesterman.Despite Section 51(xxvi) of the Australian Constitution being primarily aimed at managing "alien races," rather than indigenous groups, confusion arose due to states' control over Aboriginal affairs in their jurisdiction. Additionally, Section 127 of the Constitution highlighted a significant racial issue during that era by intentionally excluding Aboriginal natives from Australia's population count. As a result, the Commonwealth effectively denied Native citizenship rights when enacting both sections in 1901. The Commonwealth Franchise Act of 1902 further reduced Aboriginal peoples' rights by barring Indigenous people from voting unless entitled under Section 41 of the Constitution.

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This exclusion was rooted in racial politics and disenfranchised Aboriginal people for almost six decades until political groups advocating for their rights began to emerge in the 1920s, such as the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association (AAPA), established in 1925 and led by Fred Maynard (Maynard, 1997). Despite its short lifespan, AAPA set a precedent for other protest groups by speaking out against political oppression faced by Indigenous Australians.During the 1920s and 1930s, Aboriginal people in Australia became increasingly politically active, leading to the formation of various political organizations across different states. These groups included the AAPA, Native Union, AAL, AAA, Euralian Association, and APA. Their main objective was to fight against provincial and federal statutes for Aboriginal rights related to civil and land rights as well as Indigenous assimilation efforts. While all these groups focused on similar causes primarily at a local level, two organizations - the Australian Aborigines League (AAL) and Aborigines Progressive Association - were able to become national entities by working together on significant events in the 1930s. The AAL was founded by Arthur Burdeu and William Cooper; while both believed it represented "the Aboriginal job from the dark man’s point of view," Cooper felt it was "the Dark Man’s ain ameliorating attempt for his ain race." Despite their differing views, both men championed speaking out for the Aboriginal population in Australia through their organization's focus.The Aborigines Progressive Association (APA) was established by Jack Patten, William Ferguson, and Pearl Gibbs to promote the assimilation of Aboriginals into white society and secure citizenship. However, such efforts were met with racism as many believed that the Aboriginal population would eventually die out. In 1938,

the APA organized the Day of Mourning protests which raised awareness about past issues faced by Australia's Indigenous people and demanded equal rights in education, opportunities, rewards, property ownership and autonomy. The Australian Aborigines League (AAL) and APA relied on conventional interest group tactics like meeting with state and federal officials to voice grievances during this period. According to Alexander (1997), these protests marked a revolutionary shift towards more radical forms of protest needed to awaken public consciousness about exclusion against Indigenous people. Leaders from both groups argued that many Indigenous individuals deserved full citizen rights as they were civilized and deserving of these basic entitlements.The APA and AAL organized their second major event in response to the 1939 Child Welfare Act, which allowed for the removal of children deemed unmanageable or neglected from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal families. The Cumeragunja walk-off symbolized direct action taken by Aboriginal people against declining on-the-job conditions and a lack of policy change response. Complaints were made about Arthur McQuiggan's rough behavior as director of the Cummeragunja station, but requests for his removal submitted by Cooper and Patten to the Board were ignored. Occupants took further action and participated in a walk-off across the Murray River. Although not all actions resulted in immediate statute law changes, events like the Day of Mourning and Cummeragunja walk-off brought national awareness to Aboriginal struggles during late 1930s. These events greatly influenced public sentiment but lost momentum due to World War II onset.The New South Wales Aborigines Welfare Act of 1940 was passed following the Cummeragunja walk-off, APA's propaganda efforts, and a critical report by the Public Service Board; however, it took almost

ten years to become effective. In the 1960s, Aboriginal political activism prompted changes in Acts and legislation, supported by international pressure that advanced civil rights. Australia's membership in the United Nations proved influential with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 exposing numerous violations of articles 1, 3, 7, 9 and 13 in Australian States from early1900s to1950s. Although lacking legal enforceability, this declaration condemned race-based discrimination and encouraged Australia's support for national human rights agencies abroad. Nonetheless, integrating universal human rights domestically while participating in UN human rights discussions remained a challenge for Australia raising doubts about their ability to uphold these basic principles. As a result of ongoing civil rights concerns for Aboriginal people at that time there were negative international scrutinies as responsibility for Aboriginal affairs primarily rested with provinces not Commonwealth. In his statement on hopes for implementing UN Declaration of Human Rights Henry Wardlaw highlighted Aboriginal people's expectations in1951.According to Chesterman, Australia's treatment of its Indigenous population resulted in valid criticism for failing to uphold human rights. He suggested using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a basis for reforms in their treatment. This led to increased pressure on Australia and prompted political activist groups to become more effective in enacting legislative changes. In 1959, access to social security benefits such as maternity allowance, widows' pensions, and old-age and invalid pensions were granted to non-mobile or crude Aboriginals by the Commonwealth. These changes were significant for Indigenous Australians, highlighted by Chesterman. The late fifties saw greater pressure on Australia for fair treatment of its Indigenous population due to decreased acceptance of government-sanctioned discrimination worldwide. Activist

groups became more active and influential thanks to this increased attention which also brought international awareness to Aboriginal rights issues in Australia, giving these political organizations more sway over governmental policies. However, despite the 1948 Nationality and Citizenship Act that aimed at improving citizenship acquisition processes, there was little improvement due to limitations on personal rights at both Commonwealth and State levels.During the 1960s, mounting pressure from both domestic and international sources prompted the Commonwealth to take significant steps towards addressing past failed legislation. One such step was amending the Franchise Act in 1962, which allowed all adult Aboriginal people to vote in Commonwealth elections without restrictions – a landmark move in Australia. After years of international pressure and embarrassment, Aboriginal political organizations successfully achieved their rights. The widely regarded 1967 Constitutional Referendum amended sections 51 and 127 of the constitution, granting the Federal Government responsibility for managing Aboriginal affairs rather than neglectful state authorities. This ensured elimination of racial discrimination, grant citizenship rights to Aboriginal people, and recognition of their equality. H.C Coombs recommended establishing a small council with strong research capabilities that would examine issues and advise on policies as well as administrative and executive measures for government action.The referendum held in 1967 was significant, but it wasn't until the Labor Party gained power in 1972 that the Federal Government fully utilized the powers granted to them. It took almost 60 years for the Australian Government to address Aboriginal rights, resulting in negative international press coverage and protests by Aboriginal political groups. The struggle for Aboriginal rights is documented by various sources including Alexander, Attwood and Markus, Barker, and Broome. Relevant sources on

Aboriginal autonomy and citizenship include Naval Special Warfare: George Allen & Unwin Australia Pty Ltd., Citizens without Rights: Natives and Australian Citizenship by Chesterman.J. & Galligan.B., Defending Australia's Reputation: How Indigenous Australians Won Civil Rights Part One by Chesterman.John., and Aboriginal Autonomy Issues and Strategies by Coombs.H.C.The following texts discuss various aspects of Aboriginal history and rights in Australia:

- "The Original Australians: Narrative of the Aboriginal People" by Flood.J. (2006), published by Allen & Unwin in Crows Nest, NSW, Australia;
- "Outcomes of Public Protest Among Australia's Natives" by Gurr.T. (1983) from the American Behavioral Scientist journal, with a volume number of 26 and issue number 3, spanning pages 353-373;
- "Fred Maynard and the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association" by Maynard.John (1997), found in issue 21 of the Aboriginal History publication, covering pages 1-13;
- "Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights!" by Patten.J. T. and Ferguson.W., which can be found in J Horner's book titled "Vote Ferguson for Aboriginal Freedom" (1974), published by Australia and New Zealand Book Company in Sydney, Australia on pages 192-199;
- "A Concise Companion to Aboriginal History" by Prentis.M. (2008), released through Rosenberg Publishing in NSW, Australia;
- "Indigenous Citizenship: The Politics of Communal Capacities" written by Rowse.Tim (2000) as part of Change: Transformations in Education journal's third volume's first issue on pages 1–16;
-The Council for Aboriginal Rights' letter to Rt Hon.Paul Hasluck.Minister for Territories dated August 28th,1951 regarding The1967 Referendum document numbered at page fourteen between pages ninety-nine and one hundred signed off Henry Wardlaw.Secretary.

All sources pertain to issues surrounding Indigenous culture and politics within Australian society.

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