Aboriginal Issues


There are a number of cultural, historical and ethical issues facing the contemporary Aboriginal community in Australia. Listed below are a few of the current debates. This is by no means a comprehensive list.

Preservation of Language and Culture: Many Aboriginal communities and languages no longer exist due to genocide, disease and assimilation. Recent generations have pushed for bilingual education in classrooms, greater funds from the government to protect Aboriginal artwork and relics and the general embracing of Aboriginal life and culture, including music, storytelling and subsistence living.

The Stolen Generation: The Stolen Generation refers to the Australian governmental practice of removing Aboriginal, especially “half-caste”, children from their homes and places them with white families, without regard for the child’s actual well being. A 1995 inquiry into this practice resulted in the 1997 report Bringing Them Home. The inquiry found that the practice was at its peak between 1910 and 1970. During this time, between 10 and 30 per cent of indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families. While money has been set aside for counseling, studies and network, the Australian government has issued no apology or compensation.

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Debate Over Land, Human Remains and Burial Grounds: Although the 1993 Native Title Act recognized common law native title rights of indigenous peoples to their country, Aborigines are still fighting for lands they feel belong to them, especially those with burial grounds. The earth is sacred, as is death. Disturbing the land, or human remains, is considered offensive. Although Aboriginal burial rights are protected, many scientists and anthropologists who wish to study the community and its ancestors fight to examine exhumed remains, especially that of the oldest skeleton, that of the Mungo Man.

Peaceful Settlement?: When the British settled Australia, it is known that the diseases they brought with them killed thousands of Aborigines. However, there is a debate among historians, and Australia, regarding Aboriginal resistance. Some historians claim that it was a peaceful settlement, while others allege up to 20,000 Aborigines were killed in staged massacres and clashes.

Racism: Racism is very well documented in Australia. Aborigines were not even allowed to own property or given full citizenship rights until 1967! The slogan, “White Australia has a Black History” is seen occasionally painted on billboards and buildings to remind Australians that Aboriginal issues have not faded away. There is still a lot of tension between Aboriginal communities and Australians, with advocates on both sides working toward better understanding.