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The Whitewashing of a Race

The doomed race, the Aboriginal problem—just some of the names used to segregate white from black. An apartheid we overlooked, which begs the the question: amalgamation or segregation?

Assimilation is a familiar word in this era, with the most migration we have ever seen. The Oxford dictionary definition states : "Absorb and integrate (people, ideas, or culture) into a wider society or culture."

Let me begin by differentiating the two types of assimilation. The first we would describe as cultural; that is teaching people to be like (in this case) white people. The second is biological absorption; changing physical attributes by encouraging interracial liaisons.

After the invasion by James Cooke in 1788, the Aboriginal population was under threat. Even though they were the larger population, by 1900 their community had declined by 90 percent due to introduced illnesses such as smallpox and colonial violence.

The British wanted a "White Australia," so the remaining population were encouraged to "assimilate." Cultural assimilation was compiled of three elements: "Christianity, education, and ownership of private property." The British, contrary to their efforts had little faith in this system of cultural assimilation. Biological absorption, therefore, was their answer. In the late 19th, early 20th century, there was a huge emphasis on biological assimilation in the Northern states of Australia. It became the main focal point of reaching a "White Australia."

In 1901, the restriction of Pacific Islanders and Asians into the country meant the goal of "White Australia" would have seemed achievable. However, Kombo-ism (sexual relations between white men and Aboriginal women) were not as common as relations between Aboriginals and these other migrant populations. As James Isdell concluded, they were creating a "piebald" race, not a white one, and this created a huge amount of tension.

As a result, biological absorption was managed through controlling Aboriginal marriage. The aboriginal population soon had to get permission from a "Protector" to get married. Even though the role of a "protector" was looking after the welfare of the Aboriginals, it also included social control. The Northern Territory and Western Australia were the first to put laws in place, and the neighbouring states soon followed suit. The future of "White Australia" depended on those of mixed blood to get married to people with less Aboriginal ancestry and so the white gene became stronger over generations. God forbid the country should go "back to black."

In the Southern states, however, different methods were undertaken to achieve the same goal. The South had less white occupation than the Northern states, but little non-white immigration, so different issues arose. Rather than amalgamation, they adopted segregation according to racial categorisation. Separation of "mixed descent" and "full descent" was fully underway with the "mixed descent" group treated like white people. However, they were only permitted to marry each other or the white population. The second method consisted of singling out children, again according to racial lines, and integrating them into the white community.

This whole process did not really work. As the immigrant populations grew, the ideal of creating a society by breeding the white gene seemed further and further away.

Regardless of the methods of amalgamation or segregation, this assimilation phenomenon was inhumane and immoral. The indigenous population still live on the cusp of society, unfortunately. With a lot of indigenous people outside the system, it’s not easy to progress. Very few Aboriginals are in positions of power and there are still a lot of issues surrounding them including recent problems of police brutality towards them. A formal apology has been made by the government, saying the time has come for them to "right the wrongs of the past." The apology, I think, has been well-written, and is one of sincerity, but Australia has a lot of work to do to move on with confidence into the future.  

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