There are various ways in which the policies of the state and federal governments have impacted the aboriginal people. The government policies includes; the policy of paternalism, Protectionism, Assimilation, Integration and Self – determination. These policies have impacted the aid of Aborigines due to the fact that the governments thought that the Aboriginals were a species that needed to be protected but instead had the reverse effect. The policy of Paternalism was a policy that regarded the Aboriginals as their children and Australians themselves as fathers.
The definition of Paternalism is a policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities. Although the ‘frontier’ period of Australian history can be viewed in the terms of war, there were also many white settlers who were appalled at the treatment of the Indigenous people and wanted to help them. Some of those who tried to help were government officials, others were Christian missionaries. These people truly believed that the Aboriginal people needed their help and without it they would die out.
Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution and survival of the fittest were wholly accepted by the settlers. They believed that Aboriginal people were weaker and inferior because of the color of their skin. They judged the Aboriginal peoples by their own European standards and decided that they were primitive and uncultured. They became convinced that the ‘black races’ had to die out, and so they thought they could make that process better for Aboriginal people by placing them on government reserves or in church missions where they could die in peace. This new approach to Aboriginal affairs was known as ‘Protection’ policy.
Unfortunately like many other initiatives to help Indigenous people, the protection policy did not protect their freedoms or their way of life – it only helped to further destroy them. The policy of Aboriginal protectionism is linked with paternalism. This policy stated out in the 19th century. In 1909, the Aborigines protection Act was passed to New South Wales. This led to two white people having control over many Aboriginal people; the Victorian policies act also put Aboriginal affairs into other hands. The policy was described by one authority as to ‘smooth the pillow of a dying race’.
Under the policy of protectionism, Aboriginal children would be taken away from their families and sent to homes where they would be trained as servants or farm laborers. The board for the Protection of Aboriginals was headed by the Inspector-General police. The duties of the board were to control the money for assisting Aborigines, distribute blankets and clothing, have custody over Aboriginal children and educate them, manage reserves, supervise all matters affecting them and remove Aborigines from reserves who should be earning their own living.
In 1911, control of the Northern Territory was transferred from South Australia to the federal government. The federal government established an Aboriginal Department under a chief protector and allowed for creation of reserves. The chief protector had power to take any Aboriginal person into custody and could arrest them without the need for warrant, also all marriages between an Aboriginal person and non-Aboriginal person could only occur if permission of the minister for external affairs. In 1914, the Aboriginal people were forced to accept protectionism.
Continuing difficulties, and criticisms of the treatment of Aboriginal people especially in central and northern Australia, led in 1936 to demands by the States and by voluntary bodies for increased Commonwealth involvement in Aboriginal affairs. At the 1936 Premiers’ Conference in Adelaide, it was agreed that while Commonwealth control might not be practical there should be regular meetings between the State and Commonwealth officers responsible for Aboriginal affairs. In sense ‘assimilation’ was that aspect of the policy of protection concerned with the ‘future’ of Aborigines, ‘mixed blood’ in settled areas.
In the 1950s ‘assimilation’ became a widely accepted goal for all Aboriginal people and was adopted as policy by the Commonwealth and by all State Governments. The policy of assimilation means that all Aborigines and part-Aborigines are expected to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single Australian community, enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs as other Australians. Steps were taken to achieve this result.
Expenditure on health, housing, education and training programs began to be increased in the Northern Territory and in the States. In the 1960s a concerted effort was made to review and repeal restrictive and discriminatory legislation, especially by the Commonwealth Government, and the mechanisms of ‘protection’ were phased out. Access to social security benefits for Aborigines came in 1960, Aborigines became entitled to vote at federal elections in 1962, and the ward ship system in the Northern Territory was dismantled in 1964.
In most jurisdictions Aborigines became entitled to full award wages. In 1967 the Constitution was amended by referendum so that Aborigines would in future be counted in the Census, and to authorise the Commonwealth Parliament to pass laws specifically for the benefit of Aboriginal people. An Office of Aboriginal Affairs was established by the Commonwealth Government to instigate and oversee programs of assistance for Aborigines. While these developments were taking place, the general notion of assimilation was itself increasingly being questioned.
That policy took no account of the value or resilience of Aboriginal culture, nor did it allow that Aborigines might seek to maintain their own languages and traditions. A basic assumption of the policy was that Aborigines would inevitably, and probably willingly, become like white Australians in terms of their ‘manner of living’, ‘customs’ and ‘beliefs’. The paternalism, and arrogance, of such assumptions was discredited. There was also a greater awareness of Aboriginal problems by non-Aboriginal Australians.
The language of ‘assimilation’, with the underlying assumption that Aboriginal equality could only be achieved by the loss of Aboriginal identity, was abandoned. The term ‘integration’ was sometimes used by the critics of the assimilation policy to denote a policy that recognized the value of Aboriginal culture and the right of Aboriginals to retain their languages and customs and maintain their own distinctive communities, but there was a deliberate effort on the part of the Commonwealth authorities to avoid one-word descriptions of complex policies, and to focus on developing new approaches to problems rather than on long-term aims.
The initial emphasis was on increased funding and improved programs in areas such as health, education and employment, to try to ensure that formal equality was accompanied by real social and economic advances. But measures were also adopted to increase funding for Aboriginal community development projects, and the first steps were taken towards the granting of land rights. In 1972 a separate federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs was established, and in 1973 the Woodward Commission was appointed to investigate how land rights for Aborigines could be implemented.
The Report led eventually to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. In recent years the policy of the Commonwealth has been based on what has been described as ‘the fundamental right of Aboriginals to retain their racial identity and traditional lifestyle or, where desired, to adopt wholly or partially a European lifestyle’, and has encouraged Aboriginal participation or control in local or community government, and in other areas of concern.
This approach, variously described as a policy of self-management or self-determination, has been accompanied by government support programs managed by Aboriginal organizations. For example the Aboriginal Development Commission was established in 1980 to help further the economic and social development of Aboriginal people, to promote their development and self-management and to provide a base for Aboriginal economic self-sufficiency.
The functions of the Aboriginal Development Commission are to assist Aboriginal people to acquire land, to engage in business enterprises and to obtain finance for housing and other personal needs. Other Aboriginal organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, are proving increasingly important: these include land councils, incorporated community support groups, child care agencies, alcohol rehabilitation services, medical services, hostels, legal services and cultural organizations.
Attempts have continued to establish a body which can represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander opinion on all matters of policy, through giving advice to the Commonwealth and in other ways. In conclusion the policies: Assimilation and Protectionism, Assimilation, Integration and Self- Determination, are all policies that were raised by the state and federal governments to treat and provide the Aboriginals with a better country. These policies however had the reverse effect, harming and damaging the aboriginals until they are the races that are looked down on the most in Australia.