Sunday, May 23, 2010

A couple of days exploring Aboriginal culture

On Thursday and Friday I went to Dubbo to participate in two days of Cultural Awareness training.  It was both an enlightening and confronting experience.  Here are some of the highlights that I thought were worth sharing.

A snapshot of the timeline of the European - Aboriginal relations:

1770 - South Eastern Australia declare "Terra Nullius" by Captain Cook

1882 - Aborigines Protection Policy introduced. This involved the segregation of Aborigines onto Aboriginal Reserves and most public schools did not allow Aboriginal students (determined by the local whie community)

1901 - Federation of Australia.  Aboriginal people not recognised at all in the constitution - they are denied citizenship.  The White Australia Policy was the first Act of the Federal Parliment.

1920 - the Aboriginal population estimated to be at its lowest.  Down from an estimated 300 - 750,000 in the late 1770's to about 60,000.

1936 - the Assimilation Policy formalised.  Aboriginal people were to be assimilated into white Australia - those that did not conform were segregated from society. The future of Aborigines were decided by their Aboriginal Protectors.

Here's a list of some of their restrictions:
  • banished from towns forcing them into humpies on the outskirts
  • were banned from the streets after 6pm
  • required to get leave permits to visit nearby towns
  • in country hospitals they had to wait until doctors had attended all white patients before they could receive treatment
  • were not allowed to drink alcohol
  • they were discouraged from fraternising with white Australians and not allowed to marry them without permission
Further to this, they had to apply for official exemption from these conditions to become citizens of Australia.

1967 - Referendum - The Australian Consitution recognises Aboriginals and Torres Straight Islanders as Australian citizens.  They now have the righ to vote. Prior to this any census on Aboriginals was done alongside flora and fauna surveys.

1972 - the Aboriginal tent embassy set up in Canberra in protest of Federal inaction on Aboriginal issues. The NSW Director-General of Education approved the withdrawal of the section of the Teacher's Handbook which dealt with Principles rights to refuse enrolment to Aboriginal children because of home conditions or substantial oppostition from the community.

1992 - Mabo descision that overturned the concept of Terra Nullius.

While covering these confronting facts in the morning sessions, we were able to explore more of the local Dubbo Aboriginal culture and connections to land by exploring for samples of worked stones..

seeing a magnificent canoe tree..

visiting the local Aboriginal fish traps at a poular fishing spot..

and then visiting a site with lots of axe gringing grooves..

A special thanks should go to those who shared so much of their personal experiences with us over the two days - and I am looking forward to working more closely with you through my work at TAFE and in Landcare.

It was a great experience, and although we as a family try to learn more about Aboriginal culture in our local communities and when travelling and camping - days like this are always confronting and rewarding. 

I have on my reading list a few articles / books to read more about Aboriginal culture in the Central Tablelands... more specifically about the Bathurst Wars and the Wiradjuri warrior Windradyne.  Also the books Blood on the Wattle and Why Warriors Lie Down and Die.

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