четверг, 1 ноября 2012 г.

The good, the bad and the ugly

One family which owned several stations in the Kimberley region of WA was concerned about the future of Aboriginals, only recently advanced to the level of serfs, if they were forced onto the fringes of towns and within reach of white vices but without any practical skills to adapt. They ceded parts of their leases to the local people, then ceded a little more to allow a government school to operate away from the town, then ceded even larger slabs of their leases, encouraging the state government to step in and provide proper housing.

Thousands of Aboriginals ended up living on the fringes of towns as a result of this wage decision. Without housing or proper amenities or any chance of keeping themselves ‘presentable’, their rejection became complete.
The Kimberley was not only a remote area: For most of the region the sole industry had been the pastoral industry, so there were few towns with any infrastructure at all. Some towns were no more than a general store and a pub.

As happened when Aboriginals were first forced onto reserves or missions, people from different clans and language groups were thrown together on country that was not their own, and the whole of their social fabric was in tatters.
Some station owners forced people off passively, by refusing to give them transport to find firewood, and no longer providing rations or any other assistance.

One station owner waited until ‘his’ Aboriginals were away at a picnic race meeting, bulldozed their humpies and possessions and shot their dogs. When they came back, he simply told them they had 48 hours to clear out.

Needs claims

Many pastoralists moved Aboriginals away from the vicinity their homesteads, onto other sections of their property, ceding a portion of their lease to Aboriginals as ‘needs claims’. This reflected the fact that a lease is not ownership, that Aboriginals were still entitled to stay on their land to live in the manner they always had [allowing for the disappearance of a great deal of their natural food sources or water].

These removals were a physical signal to governments that pastoralists no longer accepted any responsibility for Aboriginals, though it meant that there was still a pool of workers nearby if needed.

Once again, whitefellas get it terribly wrong

As traditional Aboriginal life had adapted so well to station life, the displacements following the equal wages case were almost as destructive in spiritual and cultural terms as the first displacements caused by white settlement.
Perhaps the only difference is that Aboriginals were now less likely to be shot.

Before the equal pay decision, station children were still learning to be traditional Aboriginals with all the freedom, relationships, skills, practices and values of their forebears. They were still valued members of their own community. If moved on as a result of the equal wages decision, the prospect of a future was suddenly snatched away. They were now required to live an alien life, learning about new authority figures, attending white schools, and being restricted in their movements by a whole new set of social assumptions.

For many other Aboriginals unlikely to be ‘hired’ as skilled stockmen - older Aboriginals, women, or mothers - equal wages robbed them of their access to country, and a chance to contribute to their station dwelling community by performing regular tasks such as tending gardens, sweeping, chopping firewood, or passing on laws and traditions which required access to country.

Few skilled Aboriginals were westernised enough to consider being cut off from their own communities, just so they could stay on stations and work for wages.

For all Aboriginals who had lived through the killing times and the worst of the child theft, who had had a [short lived] taste of equality during World War II, the outcome of the equal pay case could only confirm their suspicions there was no place for them in a white world and, if there was, they would be crazy to want it.

вторник, 30 октября 2012 г.

After Neville

Leprosarium at Derby opens, offering the first live-in care in WA. Sufferers of leprosy are no longer mandatorily shifted to Northern Territory.
To minimise the spread of leprosy, WA’s northern Aboriginals are prevented from travelling south beyond the 20th parallel [the ‘Leper Line’]
the federal government makes child endowment payable to ‘detribalised’ Aborigines
[federal] age and invalid pensions extended to Aboriginals
[federal] unemployment and sickness benefits extended to Aboriginals
WA Native (Citizenship Rights) Act provides a Clayton’s form of citizenship available to Aboriginals
Bateman provides a report on Native Affairs. He recommends a new policy of assimilation and supervision, but with separate education for Aboriginal children.

SG Middleton, the new Commissioner for Native Affairs ushers in an era of reform. Nothing moves quickly, but by the mid 1950s things are improving.

In 1954 a new Native Welfare Act was passed in Western Australia.
  • Aboriginals were no longer barred from towns and cities;
  • penalties for ‘cohabitation’ were removed;
  • Protectors could no longer demolish camps, move residents on or restrict them to one area;
  • Police could no longer force Aboriginals to leave a town for loitering or for being poorly clothed.

The next major steps forward in Western Australia were taken in 1972.

Mary Bennett and H B Moseley

In 1933, Mary Bennett read a paper “The Aboriginal Mother in Western Australia’, to a women’s league gathering in London. The British were scandalised by reports of Aboriginal slavery, and the scandal created headlines back home. Not for the first time, the WA government was under pressure to enquire into the condition of the state’s Aboriginals.

The Royal Commissioner of the new enquiry, H B Moseley, dismissed complaints about pastoralists’ treatment of Aboriginals as isolated incidents.

With respect to Aboriginal wages in the Kimberley region he reportedly said
“as he never had any money and would not recognise it if he saw it, he [the Aborigine] is not deprived of anything.”
To support this argument, he pointed out that Aboriginals had been paid wages in the Pilbara for some time, and had only developed an insatiable desire to spend their money.

In 1936 the 1905 act was replaced with a new Native Administration Act, written with a great deal of input from Neville. In exchange for increased responsibility for any destitute Aboriginals on their station, pastoralists were given strict control of Aboriginal wages.

By the end of the 1930s there were 40 segregated native camping reserves in the state. Neville remained in charge of Aboriginal Affairs until 1940.

Frederick Aldrich

In 1920 the state was divided along the 25th parallel of latitude into two administrative districts.
Frederick Aldrich was appointed Deputy Chief Protector of Aborigines, and responsible for administering the southern portion of WA.

Instead of rounding up Aboriginals and removing them to settlements when white people complained about Aboriginals in their towns, Aldrich saved money by gazetting native camping reserves, including Albany, Gnowangerup, Katanning, Pinjarra, Williams and York.
New reserves were added and some were shifted further out of towns as more and more Aboriginals struggled to eat during the depression. By 1937 Aboriginals who weren’t already permanent residents needed a pass to go into Perth.

понедельник, 29 октября 2012 г.

A O Neville

When he was appointed Protector in 1915, Neville took over a system which was already more or less segregated. The whites, originally not too shy about creating a mixed race population, now had a better ratio of males to females, and had decided to shun their darker skinned relatives.

Neville did not set out to actively harm full blood Aboriginals, though he certainly did neglect them.

I suspect what he saw was that although full blood Aboriginals were supposed to disappear through a process of natural selection, the half-caste population was not likely to disappear: The ‘problem’ would not go away and must be dealt with. He set out to make the most of the segregation already in place, perhaps believing assimilation would be preferable to annihilation.

While no state can reasonably claim that its hands are clean, Western Australia was the most blatantly racist in its determination to take mixed race children from their families.

As part of his plan for miscegenation, Neville closed ration depots, cutting funding to missions so they would concentrate on religion rather than providing accommodation or education.

Perhaps as a side effect of Neville’s focus on half-castes, pastoral stations became de facto ration depots and welfare bodies for any Aboriginals not targeted for assimilation.
Pastoralists were not required to pay wages, nor was their treatment of Aboriginals properly monitored.