Evaluation investigating the history of the treatment of Indigenous Australians over the last century.


Case Study

Table of Contents

Case Study 1

Evaluation Investigating the History of the Treatment of Indigenous Australians over the Last Century 3

1.0 Introduction 3

2.0 Treatment of Aboriginals over the Last Century 4

42.1 Discrimination and Segregation

52.2 The Stolen Generations and Forcible Assimilation

63.0 Impact on Engineering

3.1 Communicating With Aboriginal Communities and Representatives as an Engineer 7

4.0 Conclusion 8

5.0 References 9

Evaluation Investigating the History of the Treatment of Indigenous Australians over the Last Century

1.0 Introduction

Australia has been inhabited by the Aboriginal as well as Torres Strait Islander peoples since millennia, and their ceremonies, laws, cultures, and connection the land is enduring and very strong. Without a doubt, the colonisation of Australia had a negative impact on the Indigenous Australians considering that before the British settlement, Australian continent was inhabited by close to 750,000 Indigenous persons. The Aborigines’ cultures had existed for more than 600 centuries; thus, making the custodians of Australia. Between 1788 and 1900 it is estimated that the population of the Indigenous Australians was reduced by 90 per cent. Such a dramatic decline of population was caused by three main reasons: acquisition of the Indigenous lands by the settlers; the emergence of new diseases; and violent conflict between the Indigenous community and the colonisers. Colonisation resulted in various epidemic diseases such as influenza, measles, and smallpox, which annihilated scores of Indigenous Australians. Smallpox singlehandedly killed almost 50% of Indigenous Australians that were living in Sydney region in a period of fourteen months after the First Fleet arrived. Basically, the sexual exploitation and abuse of Indigenous women and girls also brought about venereal disease within the community in epidemic proportions. In this paper, the history of the treatment of Indigenous Australians over the last century and its impact on the ethical practice of engineering is investigated.

2.0 Treatment of Aboriginals over the Last Century

As noted above, the issues that face Indigenous Australians are varied broadly across the country. After various epidemics, the remnant groups worked either for the settlers or crowded together on the towns’ margins. Ultimately, legislation was enacted by the state governments with the goal of tightly controlling the lives of Indigenous Australians. Such oppressive and ruthless laws ensured Aborigines are regulated in terms of where they can or cannot live, who to marry, where to work and how much they should earn, and various aspects of their everyday life.  In 1897, Queensland State enacted a law dubbed The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act that stripped the Aboriginals all human and civil rights with the objective of ‘protecting’ them from themselves as well as from the evils that the immoral settlers had introduced (Hollinsworth, 2010). For almost a century, Aboriginals living in the Queensland have been suffering from this law as well as various amendments. 

2.1 Discrimination and Segregation

Some Australian states created segregated missions or reserves where families of the Indigenous Australians were separated from other societies. Any Aboriginal that infringed the oppressive laws would be taken by the law enforcers and permanently incarcerated. Besides that, their properties such as land were seized from them and the children were separated from their parents. At first, such gulags were believed to be short-term, as in due course the poor Indigenes would become extinct. As a result, nothing was done to stop deaths of Aboriginals instead they were denied access to adequate nutrition, healthcare, education as well as housing. Scores of Indigenous residents, together with adolescent children were forced to work for the British settlers, and were paid below standard rates. Most of their wages were stolen by the government and used for personal needs or utilised for general public purposes such as hospitals and roads. Aboriginal girls were raped by the in what they claimed was ‘loving’ relationships. The emergence of more complicated ancestries resulted in the invention of racial engineering calculus prior to the comprehension of the genetics. This was further complicated by the mixing of Aboriginal women with Asian men, particularly in the remote northern zone. This led to the decline of the self-styled “full-blood” Aborigines and resulted in the rise of the part-Aboriginal populace, which was considered as a threat to racial purity and national integrity. 

2.2 The Stolen Generations and Forcible Assimilation

Racial science was used in the 1930s by different officials to dispute that Aboriginality was becoming recessive; therefore, there was a need to ‘bred it out’ by merging low-class whites with lighter castes through strict regulation. Even though this experiment was never endorsed completely, thousands of Aborigines’ children, particularly girls, were forcefully taken from their families and brought up as ‘whites’, taught to reject and look down on their Aboriginality. Such children together with their generations according to Hollinsworth (2010)are known as the ‘Stolen Generations’. The number of children that were forcibly removed from their families between 1910 and 1970 is projected to be almost one-third of Indigenous children. Even though the removal of children continued after 1970 inconsistently, they were done under laws of child welfare. The goal of separating the children from their families in earlier times was to make them stop being Aboriginal, an activity that has since 1946 been controversially deemed by the international law as genocidal.

The government worked determinedly to eradicate Aboriginality within Australian families; therefore, assimilation policies was adopted wherein Indigenous Australians were encouraged to leave fringe communities so as to live amongst the white population in line with their behaviours, lifestyles, and values. Non-English speaking Australians were forced to assimilate into the Anglo-Australian ways. The assimilated families still experienced marginalisation, poverty, and racism from the hostile neighbours and officials. The population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as of 2011 was 458,000, and more than 50% of them were residing in just two states: Queensland and New South Wales. Most of them (69 per cent) lived in the rural and remote areas. The majority of them are socio-economically disadvantaged, which includes poverty, homelessness and unemployment. They have higher levels of excessive consumption of alcohol, poor nutrition as well as smoking. Such factors have resulted in the severity of mental and physical illnesses amongst Aborigines.

3.0 Impact on Engineering

I think the history of Aboriginals treatment has an impact on the ethical practice of engineering in terms of participation in the higher education since the number of Indigenous Australians pursuing engineering is very low as compared to other Australians. The institutions and government, in my opinion, have done little to increase the rates of participation among Indigenous Australians. Racial discrimination and social economic advantage that was experienced by Aborigines since the time of colonisation have made them reluctant to respond to various scholarship, outreach, as well as support programs that are provided by NGOs, government, and universities. The challenges that Aboriginals face at higher education normally lead to drop out; thus, reducing the number of those who complete the engineering degree. These challenges are related back to the Indigenous Australians’ dominant cultures. Australia’s engineering education is shaped by Western cultures that place emphasis on concepts and facts in a decontextualised manner. On the contrary, the worldviews of the Indigenous Australians focus on the spirituality, value as well as holistic understandings. Without a doubt, this brings about the clash of cultures, which generate significant ethical challenges in engineering when such conflicting worldviews and values are not acknowledged as well as accommodated. I think the low number of Indigenous Australians participating in engineering profession is very low because of the beliefs that Australian education is western oriented (Goldfinch & Kennedy, 2013).
I think there is need to integrate the Aborigines views into engineering knowledge through engagement between the engineering profession and the Indigenous communities to prevent any ethical issue that can arise. This may be enhanced by involving Indigenous people in the in engineering projects’ decision making. The universities should ensure there are policies that protect Aborigines from discrimination and ensure education scholarships are mostly given to members of this community.

3.1 Communicating With Aboriginal Communities and Representatives as an Engineer

Communicating effectively in my view is important to all human interaction, and should be a two-way process of sending as well as receiving messages. Australia population is defined by cultures; therefore, there is a need to understand how to communicate effectively with people from different cultures. Poor communication between professionals from different fields and Indigenous Australians has often led to a crisis. Therefore, for an engineer to communicate effectively he/she must have a cross-cultural communication skills. Although verbal communication is widely utilised and is considered a convenient means of communicating with aborigines, I think non‐verbal communication cannot be underestimated. The challenges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced since the millennia have enabled them to perfect their non‐verbal communication cues, which includes body language. To successfully communicate and engage with the Indigenous communities, as an engineer, I must appreciate the cultural competency with the view to their cultures, history as well as modern social dynamics (Hunt, 2013).

4.0 Conclusion

In conclusion, the paper has investigated the history of the treatment of Indigenous Australians over the last century and its impact on the ethical practice of engineering. As mentioned in the paper, Indigenous Australians have experienced different forms of discrimination, segregation, sexual abuse and exploitation. In consequence, most of them were left social-economically disadvantaged, homeless, with no land, and education. Some of them are physically and mentally challenged. Therefore, there is a need to understand the different challenges they experienced in the hands of the settlers, government, and other communities while trying to communicate with them to avert any possible crisis.

5.0 References

Goldfinch, T., & Kennedy, J. (2013). Understanding Indigenous consultation and engagement in engineering education. Association for Engineering Education Annual Conference (pp. 1-10). Wollongong NSW : University of Wollongong.

Hollinsworth, D. (2010). Racism and Indigenous People in Australia. Retrieved from GLOBAL DIALOGUE : http://www.worlddialogue.org/content.php?id=484

Hunt, J. (2013). Engaging with Indigenous Australia— exploring the conditions for effective relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.