Assimilation (1940s to the 1960s)
In 1937, the Commonwealth Government held a national conference on Aboriginal affairs which agreed that Aboriginal people ‘not of full blood’ should be absorbed or ‘assimilated’ into the wider population. The aim of assimilation was to make the ‘Aboriginal problem’ gradually disappear so that Aboriginal people would lose their identity in the wider community.
Protection and assimilation policies which impacted harshly on Indigenous people included separate education for Aboriginal children, town curfews, alcohol bans, no social security, lower wages, State guardianship of all Aboriginal children and laws that segregated Indigenous people into separate living areas, mainly on special reserves outside towns or in remote areas.
Another major feature of the assimilation policy was stepping up the
forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families and their
placement in white
institutions or foster homes.
Face the facts p 45
Dates and facts
1937 - The Commonwealth and States agree that the process of assimilation be adopted. The destiny of the (half caste) natives lies ‘In their absorption into the white community'. The era of assimilation continued until the mid 1960's.
January 26 1938 - The first Day of Mourning for Aboriginals was held in Sydney. Delegates came at great personal risk to themselves; some were banned from returning to the settlements and missions to their families. On this same day, Aboriginal performers who were forced to perform in a re-enactment of the landing of Arthur Phillip. All of these people came from western NSW, and all were threatened with loss of rations and liberties if they did not consent to participate.
1939 - The Cummragunja Aborigines protested over bad treatment and malnutrition on the mission.
1941 - Child endowment was introduced to all non-Aboriginal Australians.
All children in the NT missions evacuated to Victoria, South Australia and NSW following the bombing of Darwin (some say this was to prevent Aboriginal people collaborating with the Japanese forces).
1946 - Aboriginal children were allowed to attend public schools only if they had a medical certificate allowing them to, and if all the parents of the white children were agreeable.
1948 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is adopted by the United Nations with Australia's support.
1949 - The Convention of Genocide is ratified by Australia.
1953 - The first round of Atomic bombs were tested in South Australia.
Source: Australian Museum
Australian Human Rights Commission
The history of the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families
Kinchela Boys Home
The Kinchela Boys Home was a controversial residence for Aboriginal boys taken from their families. But now - the building has been converted into a family rehabilitation centre (Benelong Haven).
O. Benelong Haven (2 min 16 sec)
P. Kinchela (3 min 37 sec)
- Reading 1D Under the Act
Aboriginal Australia Aboriginal People of NSW
Produced by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission 1997
(c) Commonwealth of Australia 1997 ISBN 0 664 10152 0
- Reading 5B Assimilation 1937-1975
- Reading 5E Children's experiences
Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Upper Hunter Case Study
READING 103A : Railway
tents, 14 pound hammers and assimilation
"My name is Glen Morris. I was born in 1951 in Kempsey on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. Me family lived on a Reserve there called Burnt Bridge. There was four of us in the family, me elder sister, myself, younger sister and younger brother. My father worked at the Golf Links as Green Keeper at Kempsey."
- READING 104C : Burnt Bridge, The Welfare Board, Doctors
- READING 104D: Living on the Reserve in Armidale 1950s/60s
- READING 104F : Discrimination - swimming, movies, education and jobs
Reading 11G Railway tents, 14 pound hammers and assimilation
My name is Glen Morris. I was born in 1951 in Kempsey on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. Me family lived on a Reserve there called Burnt Bridge. There was four of us in the family, me elder sister, myself, younger sister and younger brother. My father worked at the Golf Links as Green Keeper at Kempsey.