Racism can 'destroy the personality and scar the soul. ' Martin Luther King Australian society is made up of a wide variety of groups. These groups of people have different cultural traditions and economic and social background. The success of the communication and interacting of these groups depends largely on the attitudes, values, and behaviour of people towards different groups. Racism is probably the first form of discrimination we think of. It is the belief that some races of people are inferior to other 'races'.
Racism usually involves negative acts against the group of people considered inferior. Genocide is the deliberate extermination of a whole race or ethnic or religious grouping of people. The impact of racism on the Aboriginal people is not just horrific but genocidal. Racism is a problem for Aboriginal Australians. This includes occupation of Aboriginal land under the 'Terra Nullius' principle, assimilation, the stolen generation, and Aboriginal Australian's health. Before the arrival of European settlers, Australia was probably inhabited by as many as 500 different tribal groups of Aboriginal peoples.
Many of these groups, their cultures, and their languages have been wiped out by white settlement. Aboriginal Australians traditionally owned land on a group or tribal basis according to birthright. Being a member of a tribe entitled an individual to dwell on a certain designated area of land and to utilise the natural materials from that land. The land was inalienable, that is ownership could not be transferred, because no one really 'owned; the land in the European sense of the word therefore disputes about land did not arise between Aborigines. Upon European settlement in Australia, all useful available land was carved up by the settlers according to the notion of possession of land based on English law.
This division of land failed to recognise any land rights held by the original dwellers. Dispossession had a devastating effect on Aboriginal society To the Aborigines the land was part of their very being. It had a special religious significance and they believed there was a direct relationship between the spirit and the site from which the spirit came. That place was the person's life force and that person was inseparable connected with it and these sites were considered sacred. Within a generation of the first white settlement, many tribal groups were decimated or wiped out.
By the 1850's many were on the point of extinction, others were extinct. In the Port Phillip area, for example, government records show that a pre-contact population of about 10000 was reduced to less than 2000 in only eighteen years. White violence was mainly responsible for this appalling death rate. From peace to slaughter. A quiet rural settlement in Queensland; the first contact with British settlers' and then, Truganini who was the last female left in Tasmania after the black population had been wiped out by whites (she died in 1876). Therefore it is evident that the impact of racism by the Europeans who claimed the land to be 'Terra Nullius' is not just horrific but genocidal.
In the second half of the nineteenth century many of the remaining Aborigines in the eastern colonies were 'rounded-up' and kept of reserves, which were often administered by Christian missionaries. Both Church and state were anxious to 'Europeanize' native peoples. The establishment of reserves made it possible to enforce this policy of 'assimilation'. The lives of Aborigines were heavily regulated and controlled by white 'protectors' on reserves throughout the colonies. Aborigines required a permit to enter. Children became wards of the state and could be removed from parents by white authorities (stolen generation).
The rights to consume alcohol control one's own financial affairs, or to vote were denied those detained on reserves. These reservations governed the lives of a large number of Aboriginal people for generations. Today, in all but a few isolated parts of Australia, only remnants of traditional Aboriginal cultures, social practices and languages remain, and these are still under constant threat from European pressures. Yet some Aborigines have survived and some tribal groups have retained their cohesion, despite the horrors of the nineteenth century and the racism they have encountered.
Statistics on Aboriginal health reveal most clearly the neglect and racism from which these people have so long suffered. European colonization introduced new diseased, notably leprosy, syphilis and trachoma. Since then inequality, poor social conditions and vicious cycle of poverty and government failure to provide accessible medical service have all contributed to this situation. Today, Aboriginal life expectancy is only about 50 years.
The number of infant deaths is at least three times higher for Aborigines than for whites. Aboriginal children are many times more likely than white children to suffer serious diseases. Other problems include the law, housing, and even political participation. But, things have been done to overcome this and other problems just mentioned above. Since the 1967 Referendum gave the Commonwealth government greater powers over Aboriginal Affairs, many changes have taken place. The years of the Whitlam Labor government, 1972-75 greatly increased spending through a new Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Land Rights Councils were set up and the National Aboriginal Consultative Council gave Aborigines a voice, even if it was an advisory one, n determining government policies. Some improvements in health care, education, and housing have resulted, but as the above facts indicate, much remains to be done. In recent years Aboriginal organisations have begun to pay and increasing role in society. Some examples are: Land Rights Councils, the 'Tent Embassy' outside Parliament House in Canberra, the Aboriginal voter-registration drive in Western Australia, formation of Aboriginal dance and theatre groups, urban renewal programs by Aboriginal communities, notably in Redfern, Sydney, and the emergence of community groups which aim to improve such things as access to education and revive traditional Aboriginal learning, culture and languages. The demand for land rights and genuine 'self-determination' is the most obvious example of the desire of the Aboriginal community to overcome the disadvantages they encounter at present and of the past. In conclusion, the effects of racism by Europeans through assimilation, the stolen generation, Aboriginal Australian health, education and law have not just been horrific and destructive but genocidal as the evidence show above suggests.
The Aborigines face problems in their struggle for equality of opportunity and toleration. Generations of Europeans have attempted to exterminate the Aboriginal Australians or to exclude them from the mainstream of Australian society. The Aboriginal people have revealed considerable resistance and cohesion and laws introduced by Europeans has helped to create and preserve the present condition of Aborigines, and changes to that condition depend largely on changes to the law and its administration..