The Lost Generation of Aboriginals
It is estimated that the Aborigines arrived in Australia some 40,000 years ago. They were nomadic hunters, living primitive lives, and they had their own culture and habits. They were approximately 300,000 in number, and they spoke in the region of 500 different languages!
With the arrival of the Europeans, the Aborigines were forced off the fertile coastlands, and sent to the rugged inland areas of the Australian outback.
Many Aboriginal children were taken away from their parents to be brought up in white homes and missions. This was an effort to "introduce them to civilisation". Missionaries did their best to convince the Aborigines that Christianity was the only religious course worth taking, despite having their own age-old spiritual beliefs. This generation is called the 'lost generation'. They not only lost their freedom, but also their cultural identity. The widespread problems with alcohol, violence and abuse in Aboriginal communities today may largely be explained by this.
The most prevalent cause of death among the Aboriginals was the contraction of foreign diseases which their immune systems were not able to combat. A simple head cold often proved fatal for an Aborigine. Some were also hunted by white settlers and killed like animals.
Population and Rights
By 1920, only 60,000 Aborigines remained in Australia. Since then their population has increased, due to higher birth rates and the revival of Aboriginal culture, music and crafts. The last census showed that there were approximately 250,000 Aborigines and 27,000 Torres Strait Islanders in Australia. Sadly, the last Tasmanian died in 1978.
Today, the Aborigines have their own Land Council in every Australian state. They have been granted the rights to certain land areas, such as Uluru (Ayers Rock), which they consider holy.
On the 13th of February 2009 an apology to Australia's indigenous peoples was given by the Australian Prime Minister in the House of Representatives.
- That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
- We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations—this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.
- The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
- We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
- We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
- For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
- And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry. We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
- For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written. We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
- A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
- A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.
- A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
- A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
- A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.
Tasks and Activities
Watch the video and discuss: The Aboriginals - Video and Tasks
- In New Zealand the relations between the aboriginal population and the white population are a lot better than in Australia. Discuss what it takes to build bridges between native populations and white populations.
- Do little research and read up on the Pintupi Nine. Supposedly they were in complete awe about the fact that fresh water could be obtained in abundance from pipes. What other aspects of modern civilization would be surprising to them, having grown up completely cut off from it?
- Use the Internet to search for statistics regarding: life expectancy, health and employment indicators for the Aboriginal population.
- Read about the UNESCO World Heritage List and tourism at Uluru (Ayers Rock). Afterwards, discuss the phenomenon of tourism at ancient, sacred places for the Aborigines. On the one hand the Aboriginal communities make money from tourism; on the other hand tourism in itself may be felt as yet another disrespectful white intervention.
- Use www.flickr.com to find examples of Aboriginal art and cave paintings. Do you find any typical characteristics of Aboriginal art? If so, which are they?
- Use the Internet to search for: Aboriginal, origin, creation, dreamtime. Australian creation myths are very different from Christian creation myths. How are they different?