How the segregation & assimilation policies impact

ed on Aboriginal fam2. Compare and contrast the segregation and assimilation policies in relation to the impact they had on the Aboriginal family life.

Aboriginal family life has been disrupted and forcibly changed over the last two hundred years, as a result of the many segregation and assimilation policies introduced by Australian governments. Often a combination of the two was employed. The policy of segregation has impacted upon Aboriginal family life, for through this policy, Aboriginals were restricted and prohibited to practice their traditional culture, hence, resulting in the loss of their Indigenous identity and limiting the cultural knowledge for future Aboriginal generations. The segregation policy also achieved in disfiguring the roles of family members, primarily the male’s role within the family. The policy of assimilation, in comparison to the segregation policies, has also affected Aboriginal family life, because through the removal of children from their Aboriginal homes they to as a result were deprived of their Indigenous identity and cultural links. However, the policy of assimilation has had far greater an impact upon Aboriginal family life, for it has not only separated families and communities, but denied the parenting and nurturing of a generation of Aboriginal peoples and has also attributed to breakdowns in relationships between the non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal parent.

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As European domination began, the way in which the European’s chose to deal with the Aborigines was through the policy of segregation. This policy included the establishment of a reserve system. The government reserves were set up to take aboriginals out of their known habitat and culture, while in turn, encouraging them to adapt the European way of life. The Aboriginal Protection Act of 1909 established strict controls for aborigines living on the reserves . In exchange for food, shelter and a little education, aborigines were subjected to the discipline of police and reserve managers. They had to follow the rules of the reserve and tolerate searchers of their homes and themselves. Their children could be taken away at any time and apprenticed” out as cheap labour for Europeans. “The old ways of the Aborigines were attacked by regimented efforts to make them European” . Their identities were threatened by giving them European names and clothes, and by removing them from their traditional lands and placing them on centralised reserves among Aboriginal people from many different tribes. The policy of segregation had an enormous impact on the lives of aborigines. Despite being discriminated against, the aboriginal people were being deprived the right to practice and maintain traditional aspects of their culture, thus their children were being taught to reject their aboriginality. “In turn the rapid decline in population meant that many elders were dead and thus many rituals and traditions were lost” . The loss of elders and the prohibition of practicing rituals impacted on aboriginal family life, as a result of being unable to show their children traditional dances, native language and stories of the dreamtime, cultural knowledge was not sufficiently carried on or passed down to the next generation therefore hindering Aboriginal traditional life and depriving Aboriginal children of their indigenous identity. The reserves also held repercussions for the structure and roles within the aboriginal family. “The role and status of men more than women was effected, thus many Aboriginal men, especially unemployed, slipped into aimlessness” . Traditionally the male role within the family was that of hunter and gatherer. It was the husband, or father’s role to find and provide food for his family. As a result of Aboriginals being considered inferior’ to whites, thus acquiring a lower rate of pay, many families became dependent on food handouts provided by the missionaries and reserves, thus the fathers role of gathering for his family was subsequently lost, in turn isolating and alienating him from his family. Due to what was seen as the Aboriginal father’s inadequacies, despite having been placed in areas where there was little employment, segregation had accentuated assimilation, for the preparation’ had been adequately achieved.

In comparison, to the policy of segregation, the policy of assimilation introduced the separation of Aboriginal children from their parents and the indoctrination of the children into non-Aboriginal ways, thus having a profound influence on Aboriginal family life.

The policy of “assimilation” was officially adopted in 1937; its essence was the concept of “one Australian society” . The ideal of the government policy was to encourage the “absorption of Aboriginals both racially and culturally, into mainstream white society” . The policy of assimilation coupled with the poverty of many Aboriginal families attained from the exploitation of working in the reserves proved to be a double bind. Aboriginal people were supposed to assimilate into the dominant Australian society despite the prejudice and racism, which confronted them. In turn, this “failure” to assimilate and the impoverished circumstances of many Aboriginal people provided the grounds for the removal of Aboriginal children . The Australian government believed that although it may have been to late to assimilate adult aborigines into Australian society, that wasn’t the case for the next generation of aborigines, the children. It was believed that by removing the children from their aboriginal parents and placing them among other non-indigenous peoples that the process of assimilation would be easier and that over time, indigenous culture and identity would disappear, thus, that it would not be possible to tell indigenous and non-indigenous people apart . The removal of children from their families had similar consequences to that of the segregation policies in relation to Aboriginal family life. In connection to the impact segregation policies had on Aboriginal family life, the removal of children deepened the loss of cultural knowledge and further hindered indigenous identity. One principal effect of the forcible removal policies was the destruction of cultural links. “Culture, language, land and identity were stripped away from children in hope that the traditional law and culture would die by losing their claim on them and sustenance of them” . As noticed in the segregation policies, cultural links were lost, while living in non-indigenous homes the children were discouraged or prevented from seeing their aboriginal families, in turn this denied the child any involvement in his or her traditional origins, thus due to not being able to communicate with elders they in turn did not learn about their spiritual beliefs, ceremonies or traditional song or dance. “These children were deprived of their right to the songs, and the spiritual and cultural heritage that was theirs” . The response of some people brought up to be white’ is to deny their heritage . In turn their descendants are disinherited. This loss of identity, their strong sense of not belonging either in the Indigenous community or the non-Indigenous community, had ramifications for individual’s well being and in turn the well being of their families.

The other comparison between the segregation and assimilation policies and the impact they had on Aboriginal family life is in accordance with the traditional male role. Following the removal of their children, Indigenous men generally lost their purpose in relation to their families and communities. Often their individual responses to that loss took them away from their families: on drinking binges, in hospital following accidents or assaults in the gaol or lock-up, or prematurely dead. ” For Aboriginal boys, the compromise of traditional and contemporary role models resulting from the father’s absence or functional unavailability has damaging impact on the development of male identity” . There is enough evidence, however, to suggest that despite their apparent similarities, the removal of children, thus policy of assimilation, has had a longer lasting affect on Aboriginal family life, as opposed to the segregation policies.

As opposed to the policy of segregation, the forcible removal of children has had a far greater impact on Aboriginal family life for it has impacted on the way future Aboriginal generations parent and not only hurt Indigenous peoples, but also non-Indigenous parents who lost their half caste’ children through the removal.

Most forcibly removed children were denied the experience of being parented or at least cared for by a person to whom they were attached. This is the very experience people rely on to become effective and successful parents themselves, for this reason the assimilation policies have had the far greater affect on the functioning of Aboriginal families. As expressed in the Inquiry into the removal of Indigenous children, this was the “most significant of all the major consequences of the assimilation policies” . The fact that many children from the stolen generation’ missed the experience of being properly parented has widely impacted on Aboriginal family life, for the denial of this experience has resulted in “individuals whose ability to parent his or her own children is severely compromised” . As a result of being raised were there is no history of family caring or nurturing, which there was a “fair degree of in the institutionalisation upbringing, people who were removed don’t have the social and emotional skills to cope”, thus the child has been deprived of its role models . In contrast, the policy of segregation separated Indigenous from non-Indigenous, while still allowing Aboriginal families to remain together, thereby in contrast to the policy of assimilation, children were still able to learn from role models and form bonds of affection with their parents, factors that removed children were greatly denied. The other primary factor that distinguishes the impact both segregation and assimilation policies had on Aboriginal family life, arrives from the fact that because mixed race’ children were particularly targeted for removal, non-Indigenous parents and families also lost children. This impacted on Aboriginal family life because in some circumstances it led to breakdown in those relationships between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parent. “How do you tell your father that it’s okay: that it wasn’t their fault; and that his whiteness and maleness in a patriarchal society that should have been enough to protect any person’s family, did no good because of the nature of the relationship with his partner?” As opposed to the policy of removal, the segregation policy discouraged only Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations, therefore the children who were born half caste’, usually had a European parent who accepted having nothing to do with them. While on the other hand, many whites who had chosen to raise their half caste’ children only to have them also removed, despite them being white, experienced equally the trauma and grief, capsulated also by the Indigenous parents whose children were also taken. Despite having no intention of harming non-Indigenous peoples, many were hurt and this impacted on further relations with their children.

In conclusion, Aboriginal family life has been widely affected by the combination of segregation and assimilation policies passed by Australian governments. Both policies equally impacted on Aboriginal family life in regards to the prohibition and discouragement of the Aboriginals involvement in their traditional culture. This in effect, prevented the continuation of an ancient culture, depriving many Aboriginal generations of cultural knowledge and in turn not understanding their Indigenous identities. The segregation and assimilation policies additionally had an impact on the role models and roles within the Aboriginal family. The policy of segregation impacted on the fathers position in the family, for as a result of the exploited labour, many fathers were unable to provide for their families, thus primary provider for the Aboriginal family came from the handouts given by the managers on the reserves. Despite both policies having an equal amount of impact upon Aboriginal family life in relation to lost cultural links and family members roles, there is evidence to suggest that the policy of assimilation, thus the removal of children had a far longer lasting affect. The assimilation policies not only contributed to the separation of families and whole communities, but also affected both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples and is the result of many inter-generational problems among Aboriginals, such as parenting, thus overall has had a greater impact on Aboriginal family life.

Word Count:1457BibliographyBringing Them Home Report, (1997) (August 2002).

Broome, Richard. (2001) Aboriginal Australians: Black Response to White Dominance 1788-1980, Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Harvey, Timothy. (1995) Australian History, Sydney:Hodder and Stoughton. Povinelli, Elizabeth A. (1993) Labor’s Lot: The Power, History & Culture of Aboriginal Action, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Trigger, David S. (1992) Whitefella Comin’: Aboriginal responses to Colonialism in Northern Australia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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How the segregation & assimilation policies impact. (2019, Feb 16). Retrieved from