Aborigines And Their Place In Politics Essay

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Aborigines And Their Place In Politics Essay, Research Paper For much of their history, Australia?s major parties did not perceive a need to have ?Aboriginal affairs? policies, but this altered in the 1960s and 1970s as the Aboriginal interest came to occupy a more prominent position. The policies of recent major governments, those being the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Coalition, consisting of the Liberal Party and National Party, have changed drastically since the Federation of Australia. The approaches throughout history of these major parties will be discussed briefly in order to gain an understanding of the foundation of each party?s beliefs and platforms in regards to Aborigines. The main political issues facing Aborigines in society today will be identified,

and subsequently the main political parties approach and policies will be distinguished in relation to each issue. Finally, recent policies and legislation introduced by the main political parties will be introduced and discussed. From 1937, the approach of all governments was one of ?assimilation?, whereby Aborigines would submit to indoctrination in white ways before taking their place in the general Australian community. However, in time this policy came under intensifying attack on all sides, with critics claiming the policy denied these individuals of their Aboriginal culture, and enforced the notion of the superiority of the white culture. For a time, ?integration? became a policy of the Commonwealth, though it was hard to identify the distinction between ?assimilation? and

?integration?. As attitudes changed, State governments began to amend many of the laws that denied Aborigines equality with whites. In 1967, all parties maintained the proposed Constitutional amendment. Although attitudes had begun to change, little had been done to encroach such altered attitudes in definite government policies. The Labor Party made the most positive pitch for these interests, and at its 1971 Federal Conference, Gough Whitlam led the party into conceiving the most detailed Aboriginal affairs policy yet adopted up until this period, by a major party. This called for the establishment of a full Aboriginal affairs department. Whitlam guaranteed that a Labor government would not falter to override any State laws ?which discriminated against Aborigines, or which

supervised Aborigines, or which reduced the opportunities for Aborigines to conduct themselves as they wished?. Shifting aside ?assimilation? and ?integration?, Labor adopted ?self-determination?, a policy which spoke of Aborigines ultimately being able to ?decide the pace and nature of their future development?, where they would ?take a real and effective responsibility for their own affairs?. After becoming Prime Minister, Whitlam took it further with his talk of restoring to Aborigines ?their lost power of self-determination in economic, social and political affairs?. Within a year of its election, the Whitlam government was discovering that its position among Aborigines was sliding outrageously. There was also indications that advancement on land rights was frustratingly

slow. Despite Aboriginal complaints, there is no doubt that the Whitlam government did a lot for the Aboriginal people. Apart from the creation of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) and the passage of anti-discrimination legislation, a lot of money was spent, much of it usefully. During the Fraser years, Labor was proud of the work of the Whitlam government, which, it claimed, had ?developed achievements and advances, which remain unparalleled in the history of our politics since the British occupation?. The Liberal Party was slower than the ALP in devising policies in these areas. However, the party did support the 1967 amendment, and soon after, the Coalition moved to establish the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, an advisory body that was given considerable funds to