Aboriginal Day of Mourning Essay Example

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2Aboriginal Day of Mourning

Aboriginal Day of Mourning


Aboriginal communities are the indigenous Australians and the Torres Strait Islander natives of Australia. For many people, the day of Mourning will never be taken as a celebrations day. This is because the landing marked the start of brutal and unnecessary deaths, bitter wars, and the Aborigines continued to struggle to survive in Australia. In 1888, the Centenary was a celebration by British and Australian where they proudly celebrated their achievements. The day of mourning recognized the history of Torres Strait Islander people and the Aboriginal people, which is the trauma that was caused by policies of separation and assimilation that made the Aborigines to part with their traditional culture and land. It also included the recognition of frontier wars that brought about violence, and a conflict period between the settlers and the Indigenous people, lasting from 1788 up to 1928 during the Coniston massacre (Clark, 2008). Although this day reflects the pain and suffering of Aboriginals in Australia, it is a very important day in the history of Australian communities because they recognize the challenges and oppression that their forefathers went through to liberate their country. This paper will delve into providing comprehensive information on Aboriginal Day of Mourning in general and its importance in Australia of history.

During early 20th century, Aboriginal activism was difficult since the people could not organize themselves in campaigning against the mistreatment since their movements were only limited to their reserves. The Aborigines activism had started in 1937 when civil rights activists submitted a petition which had been signed by 1800 Aborigines in Australia; they sought to be represented in the Parliament. William Cooper was behind this petition as he had traveled countrywide collecting signatures. They addressed this appeal to the British Monarch which was ruling by that time. However, the federal Cabinet did not see any purpose of forwarding it to the king, and thus it was never sent. Before the Sesquicentenary time in 1938, Aborigines in Sydney had started organizing their pollical activities. William (Bill) Ferguson planned the initial meeting of the “Aborigines Progressive Association” in the year 1937 with the aim of preparing for an event aimed at protesting against 150th anniversary for the arrival of British (Clark, 2008).

The conference on 26th January 1938 was organized by Bill Ferguson, Margaret Tucker and William Cooper the leader of Australian Aboriginal League; they called the day “Day of Mourning Conference”. This day marked the first gathering of the National Aboriginal civil rights activists. The conference was a huge step towards addressing the sufferings by Torres Strait Islander peoples and Aboriginal (Peterson, and Sanders, 1998). This had an impact in bringing media into an attention and in making the Prime Minister agreeing to receive the delegates. This would eventually lead to protection board significant reforms and to the 1967 Referendum which approved that the Aboriginal people be counted in the National Census and ensured that the Commonwealth had the power to govern them thus making sure the state law was overruled. The referendum held on 27th May 1967, had the largest ever some “yes” votes that changed Australian Constitution. The majority of the Aboriginal people believed that it was essential to change some parts of the federal constitution to ensure that their existence in Australia was recognized formally. It is now accepted that the “yes” vote was the first step that led to full rights being granted to the Aboriginal people (Peterson, and Sanders, 1998).

Aboriginal day of mourning provided an opportunity for the Aborigines to endorse their policies which were later presented to the Australian Prime Minister. The plans were submitted on 31st of January 1938. The aborigines asked the matter to be considered as urgent since their people were dying due to starvation. They urged the Commonwealth Government to support the aborigines financially to improve their standards of living.

The aftermath of the conference was the endorsement of policies in which a list of ten points was presented to the Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons for consideration. They requested for creation of a National Policy for their people and advocated for the Commonwealth Government to be in control of the Aborigines affairs. They suggested that a Commonwealth Ministry for their people’s affairs is created and that the minister is ranked a full cabinet. They suggested that an Administrative Head is appointed to lead the Aboriginal Affairs Department, the administrator is getting advice from an advisory board that would consist, six persons, three of whom to be aborigines nominated by a Progressive Association (Attwood, and Markus, 1999).

Consequently, the Aboriginal Affairs Department aimed at raising the aborigines and according them full citizen status and have civil equality like the whites in the Australia. In this regard, the Aborigines were to be entitled to the following; they were to enjoy same educational facilities and opportunities as what the white people enjoyed. They were to receive labor registration benefits such as Court Awards, Arbitration as their white colleagues. They were to have full worker’s benefits including insurance and compensation. They were to receive old age benefits and pensions regardless of whether living in the Aborigines settlements or not. They were to own property and land, and be allowed to have personal bank accounts where they would save their money, and to be governed by the same law as whites in relations to transmission and intestacy of property (Attwood, and Markus, 1999).

In addition to the policies presented, they recommended that the Half-castes and Aborigines be entitled to the same laws guiding the marriages as white people and be allowed to marry any partner regardless of their color. They recommended that their people be entitled to the same housing facilities as their white worker’s colleagues. They suggested a land settlement policy be put in place to ensure that the Aborigines who desired to settle in their land be given the same priority as their white counterparts. They recommended the civilization of the Aborigines whereby patrol officers, teachers, and nurses, both gender, of Aboriginal nature were to be trained specially by Commonwealth Government. They recommended all Half-caste and Aboriginal women be entitled to free hospital treatment and maternity services without any discrimination and be given baby welfare instructions as to those granted to women of white origin.

Finally, as they opposed segregation policy, they urged that during that period of transition, the Aboriginal Reserves be retained to act as a sanctuary for incompetent or aged Aborigines who would find it difficult to fit into white community due to the way they were neglected by white people policies (McGregor, 1993). However Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons did not heed to the demands of the Australian Indigenous people and the Aboriginal delegates as they continued being excluded from the Australian Census, they could not take part in the voting process and were denied registration as citizens. During the reign of Prime Minister, Harold Hold is when the Aboriginal people started receiving equal rights (McGregor, 1993).

The 1960 decade was a time when the Aborigines protested racism. In 1965 in Sydney, Charles Perkins, who was the first among the aborigines to acquire university education, joined hands with other students and activists in the “Freedom Rides” in an aim to increase public awareness on racial intolerance in Australia. In this case, their intentions were exposing racial segregation and shaming the Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal people. They used non-violent protest in the form of literature as employed by African American civil rights organizations (McGregor, 1993). The “Freedom Ride” bus traveled from Sydney University campus by African Americans voices singing a protest song “We Shall Overcome.”

The conference led to the reconstitution of the Aborigines Protection Act of 1940 that established the Aborigines Protection Board. The board had duties in applying and distributing relief money for the benefits of Aboriginal people, assisting in getting employment, maintaining those in employment, supporting the Aborigines to be assimilated into the current way of life, distributing blankets and clothing to the Aborigines. The board had an obligation to protect the Aboriginal people against social injustices, maintaining indigenous children and inspecting the institutions of learning and training regularly (Paisley, 2010).

In conclusion, the paper establishes the grief and losses that the Aboriginal people faced before deciding to act against the segregation policies by the ruling Government. Trauma and grief were the most concerning issues. They were both related to the loss history, traumatization, and due to current losses resulting from high mortality rates. The traumatic injury caused mental health problems among the aboriginal people. This led to the emergence of activism groups starting with the petition presented to the ruling British Monarch by William Cooper in 1937. The petition was however declined by the federal Cabinet, and thus it was not submitted to the King. This was followed by the conference during the Day of Mourning in the year 1938 whereby the Aborigines delegates presented their grievances and among them were accredited full citizenship and to be represented in the parliament. As a result, the representatives could submit their objections to the Prime Minister. This would later lead to a referendum in 1967, in which the Aboriginal people were included in the National Census and were given full rights as Australia’s indigenous people.

Reference List

Attwood, B. and Markus, A., 1998. Representation matters: the 1967 Referendum and

citizenship. Citizenship and indigenous Australians: changing conceptions and

possibilities, pp.118-40.

Attwood, B. and Markus, A., 1999. The struggle for Aboriginal rights: a documentary history.

Allen & Unwin.

Clark, J., 2008. Aborigines & Activism: Race, aborigines & the coming of the sixties to

Australia. Pearson Deutschland GmbH.

McGregor, R., 1993. Protest and progress: Aboriginal activism in the 1930s 1. Australian

Historical Studies, 25(101), pp.555-568.

Paisley, F., 2010. Resistance in Exile: Anthony Martin Fernando, Australian Aboriginal Activist,

Internationalist, and Traveller in Europe. Transnational Lives: Biography of Global

Modernity, 1700–Present, pp.183-94.

Peterson, N. and Sanders, W., 1998. Citizenship and indigenous Australians: changing

conceptions and possibilities. Cambridge University Press.